20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that the Bight Honorable Lord Cherwell of Oxford, Paymaster-General of the Government of the United Kingdom, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair. .
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
LordCherwell thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information to give to the House about the acceptance or otherwise by the Japanese Government of the licensing system for pearl fishing introduced by legislation recently passed by both houses of the Parliament?
– I have no information to give to the House.
– In view of the decision of the Japanese Foreign Office to ignore the legislation for the control of pearl fishing in the Arafura Sea and other territorial waters that was recently passed by this Parliament, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House what action, if any, the Government proposes to take to compel the Japanese pearl fishers to obey Australian laws? Is there any likelihood that the Government will accede to Japanese demands in connexion with this matter?
– In the first place I am not aware of any decision that has been reached by the Japanese foreign office upon which the honorable member has based his question. The new law under which pearling vessels and persons who engage in pearl fishing in northern Australian waters must be licensed will not come into effect until the 12th October. Other events must await that date.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council inform me whether any firm arrangement has been made for the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Newcastle next year? If such an arrangement has been made, what time has been allowed, first, for the Royal processions and displays by school children, and, secondly, for Her Majesty’s visit to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited? Does the
Minister consider it more appropriate that Her Majesty should be shown one particular industry in that great city than the men, women and children who am associated with all the city’s industries? In view of the doubt about whether the Royal barge which is to carry Her Majesty from the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to Stockton can negotiate the approach to Stockton wharf at low tide, will the Minister discuss with the State authorities the possibility of Her Majesty proceeding to Williamtown Royal Australian Air Force base after her visit to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, via Mayfield, Hexham and Tomago, thus ensuring the safety of Her Majesty and allowing thousands more citizens - particularly those living in my electorate - to see their monarch?
– I suggest that the honorable member should direct his question to the New South Wales Government, which is entirely responsible for Her Majesty’s itinerary in that State.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that strained relations exist between the Commonwealth and New South Wales about the arrangements for receiving Her Majesty the Queen at Farm Cove, on the 3rd February next? Is it also a fact that negotiations between New ‘ South Wales and the Commonwealth have failed to settle such differences, and that an early conference is contemplated between the Premier of New South Wales and the right honorable gentleman Y Is it further a fact that the Premier of New South Wales has the right to take priority in his own State over the Prime Minister ? Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that this matter will be resolved?
– I anticipate that later this week I shall have some conversation with the Premier of New South Wales, which I am sure will, as usual, be quite friendly. As to the rightful position of the Commonwealth, I merely say that this happens to be the Parliament of the Australian nation. This Parliament, like the Parliament of New South Wales, is elected by the people. The same people vote, in one aspect, to elect members to the
New South Wales Parliament, and in another aspect to elect members to this Parliament. It could hardly be expected by any honorable member of this House, that Her Majesty’s Australian Government should take second place to any other government in this country.
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform me of the principle that is to be observed in the absorption of immigrants under the new plan adopted at his recent conference with State authorities? Is land settlement a part of the plan? How have the quotas of immigrants to be absorbed into manufacturing industries been fixed?
– There is no new plan other than the modification of the British assisted immigrant scheme which I discussed with State Ministers. Under it a certain number of British immigrants who have indicated their keen desire to come to this country, but so far have been unable to do so because of a lack of sponsors, will be sponsored by the Australian Government and will be housed initially in Commonwealth hostels. The basis on which we are working is the capacity of the Australian economy to absorb immigrants to this country, from wherever they come. I am glad to be able to report to the honorable member that, after the State Ministers responsible for immigration had examined the facts with me yesterday, they said they supported the programme that I had outlined and shared my confidence that we should be able to cope quite successfully with the suggested intake of immigrants.
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether, at a conference which was held yesterday and attended by the State Ministers for Immigration, the question of recompensing the States for additional community services required to be provided as a result of the influx of immigrants to this country, was discussed ? If it was, can he say what decision was arrived at?
– I was able to point out to State Ministers yesterday that there has been a remarkable increase in the amount of money made available by the
Australian Government, either through its influence in relation to loan raisings and other finances for States works programmes, or through the contribution which is made under the tax reimbursement formula. The figures for the last three years of the administration of this Government, when compared with those for the last three years of the previous Administration, indicate a really remarkable increase in what has been done for State governments. I was also able to point out that the increased national income, from which those funds were provided, waa due, in no small measure, to the productive efforts of the new settlers in those years. We agreed that we should make a closer analysis of the effect on State finances of the influx of new settlers, and, at the same time, of the effect on the national income of this additional productivity. We also agreed that, when these facts are available, they should be presented to the Treasurers of our respective governments, who, after all, are responsible in this matter, and considered at the conferences between them which take place periodically.
– As the Minister for Immigration has stated that the intake of immigrants this year will be in accordance with the capacity of the Australian economy, can he inform the House of the main industries in which such immigrants will be employed?
– It is not easy to give a detailed analysis in answer to a question without notice. Officers of the Department of Labour in the various States are able to secure such information without any difficulty. At the conference to which I have referred, I was able to indicate some labour shortages which exist in certain sections of industry at the present time. With the very marked improvement in the demand for labour, we are being faced with a shortage of suitable man-power, not only for skilled occupations but also, in many instances, for relatively unskilled occupations. In recent weeks, I have received requests from major industrial organizations, and from at least one major State instrumentality, for additional unskilled labour which, it was suggested to me, could not be procured locally.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say whether there have been any further developments with regard to the continuation of the war service land settlement scheme in Queensland? If not, will the honorable gentleman state the present position of the scheme in that State ?
– During the last two weeks, there have been no further developments in this connexion. The acting Premier of Queensland wrote to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister replied to him. We are awaiting a further communication from Queensland, which I expect will be received shortly. Until it has been received, I cannot properly or usefully give any further information to the House.
– Is it true that, during the last two general election campaigns, the Prime Minister, as the leader of the coalition parties, stated that those parties believed that no private industry should be nationalized or brought under government ownership unless such a decision had been confirmed by the people at a referendum? If so, will the right honorable gentleman say why the Government is not prepared to seek the opinion of the people at a referendum before selling out to private interests government-owned enterprises such as the Commonwealth shipping line and the whaling industry?
– If the honorable member will be good enough to look at my 1949 policy speech, to which he has made a glancing reference - if he has not a copy of it, I shall secure one for him - he will find in it a precise statement of the attitude of the government parties to public enterprises. The Government has not contemplated a departure from the policy then advanced and approved by the people.
– At the next meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, will the Minister for Civil Aviation raise the question of excessive form filling on international air routes? Does the Minister believe that the maiden name of the mother of a passenger’s wife or the date of marriage of a passenger’s parents should affect right of entry to any country? Will he press for a complete abolition of forms of that kind, particularly on the EnglandAustralia air route, on which passengers are required to spend only a few hours in the countries through which they pass?
– Questions of the kind to which the honorable member has referred are not always included in forms at the behest of the Department of Civil Aviation. Frequently, they are required by government departments in other countries. My department only distributes the forms required by the countries concerned. We are trying to ease the burden that the filling in of forms imposes on air travellers. I shall give every consideration to the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the House of the proportion of the sum of £2S,000,000 made available this year in respect of war service homes that will be allocated to Queensland for the purchase of war service homes ? How much money will be. allocated for the purchase of new homes, as against the purchase of existing homes ? As there is a long list of applications for the purchase of existing homes, will the Minister increase the allocation made for that purpose during this financial year so that all such applications can be dealt with expeditiously?
– I oan give the honorable member the precise figures that, he has asked for. For the purchase of existing homes in Queensland, £1,042,431 will be expended, and for new homes in Queensland, £1,386,102.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. , A report is being circulated that the Premier of Victoria has stated that he will not be dictated to by the Commonwealth about the matter of fixing a home-consumption price for wheat. Has the Minister any knowledge of this report, and has he done anything on behalf of the Commonwealth that could be construed as dictation?
– I have learned from a certain publication that the Premier of Victoria made a statement last night to the effect that he would not be stampeded into deciding the matter of a homeconsumption price for wheat. I have been negotiating about the homeconsumption price of wheat with the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, and other State Ministers of Agriculture for about nine months. I also negotiated about the same matter with the Victorian Government chat preceded the present one in an endeavour to reach some understanding upon a home-consumption price for wheat, which is a matter for decision by State governments. Far from being stampeded, the Victorian Premier has refused to agree to the home-consumption price already agreed upon by four other State governments, and is unwilling or unable to make up his mind about any price at all. That is certainly not stampeding by the Australian Government. The point is that the delays over this matter, which have been caused by the Victorian Government, have already lost the wheat industry any chance of having a continued wheat stabilization plan. That loss is squarely the responsibility of the Victorian Government. Moreover, the delay of the Victorian Government has had further effects. I notice that the Victorian Premier has stated that he has informed me that I can go ahead and sign the International Wheat Agreement, and that he will put his wheat in the Commonwealth pool. I do not know how the Victorian Premier normally does his business, but I hope that he does not expect me to introduce into this Parliament legislation to ratify an international treaty merely on the ground that in a telephone conversation the Premier of Victoria said that his wheat would be available. I expect him to regularize the position and not rely upon a mere telephone conversation. The Victorian Premier, far from being stampeded, has put this Parliament into a position where, if orderly marketing of wheat is to continue in Australia, it must pass the necessary legislation, before it is prorogued in approximately two and a half weeks’ time. There must also be State legislation. If a decision by the Victorian Government prevents that uniform legislation from being passed that Government will destroy Australia-wide orderly marketing. I do not want the Victorian Premier to force me to ask this House, and also the Senate, to rush through legislation without due consideration. After nine months have elapsed, the Victorian Premier is still talking about being stampeded. I suggest that if he would make up his mind about some figure as the local selling price, and announce his decision, we should know where we are going.
– In view of the decision of the Japanese Government to embark upon a policy of general rearmament, which will result in Japan being placed, upon a substantial war footing, can the Prime Minister inform the House whether this Government intends to take action to increase the strength of our naval, air and army defences in the far north of Australia?
– The Minister for Defence made a statement on this matter only a few days ago in which he pointed out that the whole conception of Australian defence is, under modern circumstances, fluid. We do not defend the north of Australia by putting garrisons or fixed defences on the north coast of this continent. We defend the north of Australia, in common with the rest of Australia, by having balanced forces of all arms capable of great mobility. That is, in substance, what the Minister for Defence said. He expressed the views of the Government and, incidentally, of all the expert advisers that the Government has.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Supply by stating that, in reply to questions directed to him recently, he denied that Australian uranium was being sold at bargain rates, and refused to divulge the actual price received, for reasons that he alleged to be connected with security. Will the Minister now say whether the price being received by Australia for uranium sold to other countries is equal to that being received by other producing countries, particularly Canada? If Australia is not being paid the top price for its uranium exports will the Minister state the reason for the disparity?
– I have already dealt with this matter during the debate on the Estimates, and I have nothing further to add to the statement that I made then.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that a map showing discoveries of uranium in the Northern Territory, which was prepared by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, was made available for public information in Darwin at 11.30 a.m. to-day and that three minutes later, a telegram was received from Canberra cancelling the distribution and withdrawing the map? Can the Minister give the House the reason for the original instruction and for the subsequent cancellation of it?
– I shall have the matter examined and furnish the honorable member with a reply later.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that, whilst addressing a meeting in Sydney last week on compulsory unionism, he stated that it was wrong in principle because it struck at traditional democratic rights guaranteeing freedom of thought and action to the individual. Is the Minister aware that his colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, when speaking on the same subject last week stated -
Compulsory unionism in Queensland seems to have worked quite satisfactorily, and it has not the terrors for me that it might appear to have for some of my colleagues.
Will the Minister state, in view of these differing statements on this subject, whether he, or the Minister for Trade and Customs, was expressing the Government’s attitude on the matter?
– The honorable member has quoted one sentence, so far as I am aware correctly, from a lengthy survey, which I gave to a meeting in Sydney on Friday, of what I believe to be the principles, some of them highly objectionable, involved in the policy of compulsory unionism which, is at present being enforced on the people of New South Wales by their State government. There are strong objections, in principle, to compelling people to join an association against their will. I was under the impression that that was the official attitude of at least some leading members of the Labour party. Expression to such an attitude is certainly given in the Labour party’s support of the decision of the conference of the International Labour Office that not only should an individual be free to join an association, but should also be free to decide whether or not he should join. I understand that honorable members opposite have adopted the principle of freedom to join, or otherwise, in relation to the supreme obligation of defence. The right of persons to object, on conscientious grounds, to service of a military character, has been recognized and protected by legislation supported by all parties in this Parliament. The Government believes in trade unionism. It has established its good faith in that matter by encouraging immigrants to join the trade unions appropriate to their callings. It has given them every encouragement and advice to enable them to do so. The Government, however, does not believe in compulsory trade unionism, which might enforce obligations on an unwilling citizen. So far as that goes, I am not aware of any disagreement between myself and any other member of the Government, or, for that matter, any other member of the Government parties.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. As an alternative to compulsory unionism the members of the Labour party are advocating absolute preference to unionists. If the latter were adopted would it be irrespective of the principle of preference to exservicemen ?
– I understand that the latest proposal is, in effect, to enforce a policy of compulsory unionism by adopting a policy of preference to unionists. I have not considered the relationship of the proposal to the principle of preference to ex-servicemen ; but the honorable member will recall two other manifestations of the Labour party in this direction - one the support given to the Declaration of Human Rights and the recognition that membership of a union was entirely a matter of freedom of choice of the individual, and the other the practice, which was adopted by the previous Labour administration for a number of years in this place, of paying differential rates of pay to members of the Commonwealth Public Service according to whether or not they were members of unions. These, I believe, are inconsistent attitudes which honorable members opposite may well reconcile.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of his great interest in closer union between the components of the British Commonwealth of Nations, he will discuss with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the Prime Ministers of the other dominions, the adoption of an Empire flag, which will be the Union Jack with a symbol added to indicate that it is the flag of the dominions and colonies as well as the flag of the United Kingdom.
– I shall take into consideration the suggestion that has been made by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether the Hospital Benefits Act as amended by this Government provides that the additional Commonwealth benefit of 4s. a day shall be payable only to citizens who become members of approved organizations ? Docs he regard that as a form of compulsion to force citizens to belong to approved organizations ?
– In the first place, the subsidy of 12s. a day is paid to all pensioners who come under the social services legislation. They do not have to join an organization. Other citizens are at liberty to obtain the 4s. a day or leave it alone as they wish.
– Has the Minister for Health received any report from the American health experts who visited this country several months ago at the invitation of the Government? If so, will he table that report for the information of honorable members?
– I have received the report and I shall be pleased to make it. available to honorable members.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that the Auditor-General in his report for the year ended the 30th June, 1952, stated that, in his opinion, the figures in the balance-sheet of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission relating to stock on hand did not present a true picture and that accordingly he withheld his certificate? If that statement has been brought to the attention of the Minister, what action has been taken by him in connexion with it?
– The statement was brought to my notice and about that time I became aware that the records of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission with regard to stores were unsatisfactory. 1 assure the honorable member that vigorous action was taken as a result of that knowledge. It is not anticipated that there will be any difficulty in obtaining the Auditor-General’s certificate after the accounts of the commission for 1952-53 have been audited by his officers. The transactions in the year that the honorable member has mentioned are still being examined and I hope that the position in that connexion will be rectified also.
– Can the Prime Minister give to the House any definite information about the likelihood of the proposed Korean peace conference opening’ at an early date, as is so much desired by members of the United Nations whose forces participated in the recent fighting? If not, will the right honorable gentleman indicate the factors that are preventing that conference from being held?
– As the honorable member will realize, I would prefer not to make a statement on that matter offhand. However, I shall have the facts examined and see whether a statement can be made to the House afterwards.
– I address a question to the honorable member for Warringah in his capacity as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Has he read the statement issued by the Treasurer in respect of receipts and expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the year ended the 30th June, 1953’?- If so, has he noticed that defence expenditure for that financial year exceeded the budget estimates by £15,291,634? Will he take the earliest opportunity to examine defence accounts in order to ascertain the reason for this excessive expenditure and report the finding of the committee on this matter to the Parliament as soon as possible and with as much detail as possible?
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Of course, one will accept your ruling on this matter. I should like to know under what standing order an honorable member is enabled to address a question to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee on a matter that falls within the administrative function of the Treasurer. I could understand a question being put to an honorable member in respect of a matter of which, under the Standing Orders, he is in charge and, therefore, a question being put to the chairman of a committee in relation to a report which the committee has brought up; but if, because the committee happens to be the Public Accounts Committee, questions may be freely put on matters of Treasury administration before they have fallen for investigation by the committee at all, we shall arrive at some odd results; and, indeed, the chairman of the committee can be placed in a singularly embarrassing position.
– Although there has been no ruling on the matter, I understand that the chairman of a committee can properly be asked questions dealing with the performance of the duties of the committee; and it would be convenient, I submit, if such questions could be asked of the chairman of a committee on matters concerning the expenditure of a department not being a matter of executive responsibility but a matter of parliamentary interest. Although this matter has not been raised before, I submit that it is in order for an honorable member to address a question to the chairman of the committee as the honorable member for Banks has done.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 143 clearly covers this matter. That standing order reads -
Questions may be put to a Member, not being a Minister, relating to any Bill, Motion, or other public matter connected with the business of the House, of which the Member has charge.
I submit that not by any stretch of the imagination could the question put by the honorable member to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee be a matter of which the honorable member has charge.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service, in quoting Standing Order 143, has saved me the trouble of doing so. In my view, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and also the chairman of the Public Works Committee must report not to any individual member, but to this House. Furthermore, I take it that the House would agree that the chairman of a committee appointed by this House to investigate certain public accounts is not in a position to answer questions with respect to finances of any department. Questions On such matters should be addressed to the Ministers who are responsible for them and who are normally in their place here to answer such questions. I shall have a further look at the matter within the next 24 hours; hut, at present, I rule that the honorable member’s question is not one that should be addressed to the honorable member for Warringah.
– As you propose to give further consideration to this matter, Mr. Speaker, perhaps you will consider the fact that chairmen of committees have been asked questions in the House on previous occasions regarding the work of their committees. For that reason, I submit that the question asked by the honorable member for Banks is not covered by the standing order that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has read, because that standing order deals only with matters of which an honorable member has charge. As the House is entitled to the fullest informa tion, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you have a look at that practice.
– I undertake to look at the matter and to give a considered opinion on it to-morrow.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the fact that a Sydney businessman in the Five Dock area has decided to give to all age and invalid pensioners 2s. 6d. a week until such time as justice has been done to them by the Commonwealth Treasurer? Will the right honorable gentleman be big enough to give to pensioners at least an additional 5s. a week and so remedy the blunder that the Treasurer has made?
– It can hardly be supposed that I shall accept the statement that the Treasurer has made a blunder, since if it is a blunder, it is one for which 1 share responsibility. The decision in relation to the pensions rate was a decision of the Cabinet. Indeed, I think I am almost right in saying that it is now a decision of the Parliament. I have not read about the gentleman in Five Dock to whom the honorable member has referred. The honorable member must tell me about him later. Is he confining his efforts to a particular number of people ?
– To every pensioner in the Five Dock area.
– Well, I should be glad to have the name of the gentleman who seems to be behaving in a very kind manner.
– Will the Minister for Social Services state whether it is the practice of his department to require unemployed persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit, in addition to registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service, to peruse the newspaper advertisements of vacant positions and follow up any which would seem to offer suitable work ? If so, in view of the inadequacy of the present rate of unemployment benefit, will the Minister take up with his Cabinet colleagues the question of making available an additional allowance to cover the cost of newspapers and fares which is incurred by unemployed workers in complying with the Government’s requirements ?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “. The answer to the second part of the question is also “ No “.
– I invite the Minister to be present in the House when the motion for the adjournment is moved to-night, because he is not telling the truth.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney should not accuse the Minister of not telling the truth.
– I shall prove it.
R.bpobt of Public Accounts Committee.
– As chairman, I present the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the following subject: -
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 2nd October (vide page 997).
Proposed vote, £2,674,000.
A USTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
Proposed vote, £2,405,000.
Proposed vote, £58,300.
Proposed vote, £5,931,700.
.- The proposed vote of £5,931,700 for Papua and New Guinea compares with the %’ote of £5,654,700 last financial year. Having been privileged to tour New Guinea with a party of parliamentarians, I realize fully the tremendous possibilities of that magnificent, fertile country. It has been truly said that New Guinea is a stepping-stone to Australia’ and that, ultimately, the nation that controls New Guinea will control us. The area of Papua is about 90,000 square miles and that of New Guinea about 93,000 square miles. Collectively, those countries are almost equal in area to Great Britain. Of course, due to the presence of a volcanic arc and huge mountain ranges, New Guinea is dissimilar from the British Isles. I remind the committee that the battle of the Owen Stanleys, the battle of the Kokoda Trail, and the Coral Sea Battle were all, in effect, battles for Australia. Although the proposed vote is almost £300,000 more than the vote last year, in view of the strategic importance of Papua and New Guinea to Australia, I urge the Government to increase the proposed vote. If I have sufficient time at my disposal I shall deal with the training of the natives, and their welfare generally, as well as the utilization of the land of that great country. While these matters are under consideration, I feel that I should express the opinion that Australia owes a great debt of gratitude to a former Prime Minister, the late Mr. William Morris Hughes, for his tenacity in obtaining from the League of Nations a mandate for Australia in respect of the Territory of New Guinea. Mr. Hughes had serious disputation with the then President of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson, over this matter, but his insistence won the day. His wisdom and foresight have been proved by subsequent events. I mention, in passing, that Australia now holds New Guinea as a trust territory under the United Nations Charter ; Papua has been an Australian territory for many years.
Over the years, Germany and Japan, and, more recently, Indonesia, have looked with envious eyes at New Guinea. The Japanese have not yet completely abandoned hope of obtaining a foothold in that part of the world for their surplus population. The first of our 60,000 dead in World War I. fell at Rabaul, then a German possession, and our troops landed in New Guinea only one week before the arrival of the Japanese. We recall only too vividly the threat to Australia that developed when the Japanese became established in New Guinea in World War II. At the present time, Indonesia is casting covetous eyes at Dutch New Guinea. As is known to honorable members, the Dutch Parliament of 300, by a majority of sixteen votes, has expressed its determination that Dutch New Guinea shall not be transferred to Indonesia, but shall remain a possession of The Netherlands. I seriously question whether the Government has made a sufficient amount of money available for Papua-New Guinea, bearing in. mind the vital importance of that land to the security and well-being of Australia. Is the Government taking action adequately to develop this territory, which is only one hour’s flying time from Australia? The population of Papua and New Guinea is approximately 1,500,000 natives, 12,000 Europeans and 2,000 Chinese. A few moments ago, I said that Australia owes a debt of gratitude to the late William Morris Hughes. I also believe that this Parliament owes a debt of gratitude to the former Minister for External Territories, Mr. Ward-
Government supporters interjecting,
– The labour code introduced by the former Minister, in effect, abolished slavery, and forced labour, which had previously prevailed. I remind the Government supporters that the labour code also made provision for the introduction of a 44-hour working week. Prior to that, no restriction was placed on the number of hours that an employer could require the natives to work. The code also banned the employment of juvenile labour, and the employment of female labour was not permitted, except for domestic purposes. The matter of indentured labour, with which the former Minister for External Territories was dealing: at the time of the defeat of the Labour Government in 1949, should be seriously considered by the present Government.
– The honorable member is not “ game “ to praise the former Minister in New Guinea.
– I am prepared to praise him in this Parliament, where he introduced the legislation to give effect to the reforms I have mentioned.
– In certain areas of New Guinea, he simply could not be praised.
– I realize that the blackbirders would not praise him because they were affected by the reforms that he introduced. The professional recruiters of labour went out of business when the former Minister introduced his labour code. The plan formulated by the Labour Government for the marketing of the products of the numerous planters, ex-servicemen and others has been curtailed by the present Government, which, in effect, has given a complete monopoly to firms such as Burns Philp and Company and W. R. Carpenter and Company Limited. For many years these firms have not dealt with the small planters very satisfactorily. At times they have left the crops of returned servicemen lying on wharfs in New Guinea because they have been more concerned about material of their own. It is necessary that the Government should look carefully into this matter and destroy the control of big business over the territory.
The Government has proposed to make less than £6,000,000 available for the requirements of this territory. At present the only people who pay tax in New Guinea are our servicemen and the natives who pay tax through the village cooperatives. If the Government is able to make £200,000,000 available for the defence of Australia and £35,000,000 available as a contribution to the United Nations, surely it could make a contribution greater than £6,000,000 for the well being of Papua and New Guinea, which is important to our well being and defence. I repeat that the only people in New Guinea who pay tax are the serving members of our armed forces, and the natives, who pay tax through the village co-operatives.
– I presume the honorable member is referring to the export duty charge?
– A little over £2,250,000 is collected in customs duty. At the same time, huge establishments which are making their profits in New Guinea are not contributing a penny to the welfare of the territory. If the Government finds difficulty in making money available for the welfare of the territory I invite its attention to the fact that the profits of these companies are a potential source of revenue that should be tapped.
– How much would the Government obtain from that source?
– I do not know. But I do know that Burns Philp and Company and W. R. Carpenter and Company Limited as well as a number of other firms and individuals are making huge sums of money by exploiting the natives, the majority of whom they pay only ls. a day. Hospitals, both for white people and natives, are in a deplorable condition. At Rabaul, I found that the Administration was paying £100 a month as rental for ground which was being used for the purposes of a hospital. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the Government might well examine these matters.
I wish to express my respect for the administration, which is doing a good job in Papua and New Guinea. I want to express my respect, also, for the missions, which are doing a magnificent job. This territory is a stepping-stone to Australia, and Indonesia, Japan, Germany and other countries realize that the country which controls New Guinea ultimately will control Australia. With that in mind, this Government must do its utmost to promote the development of New Guinea in the interests of Australian security. As honorable members know, two-thirds of the world’s population is undernourished. New Guinea, if properly developed, can fill an important role as a food-producing country. This Government, therefore, should proceed with the development of New Guinea with the least possible delay.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One of the sad and disappointing features of the rapid growth of our urban populations over the last few years has been the ever-decreasing number of people who are really interested in the effective occupation and development of our vast continent and in the discharge of our immense territorial responsibilities. It would come as a complete surprise to many Australians to learn that this Parliament is required to make provision for the administration of the combined territories of Papua and New Guinea to the amount of about £6,000,000 _ in the current financial year. But the time has come to go beyond our financial responsibilities and look to the future of these territories in the interests of our own security, if for no other reason, because, as a result of the development of modern transport systems, they lie within two hours’ light bomber range of the City of Townsville, three hours’ light bomber range of the City of Brisbane and four hours’ light bomber range of the City of Sydney. To those of us who know our history, the ownership of Papua - as distinct from New Guinea - that vast area embracing 90,000 square miles of extremely fertile land, should never be in dispute. It became a Crown possession as long ago as 1883, and it has remained a Crown possession ever since, authority having passed to the Commonwealth Government of Australia as far back as 1902, 51 years ago.
Our title to the rest of the territory is not quite so clear, although in my humble opinion it is clear enough. We should remember that in 1884 that part of the territory that is now called New Guinea became a German possession. However, a few days after the outbreak of World War I., an Australian expeditionary force, including units of the Navy and the Army, forced the Germans out of that territory. Possession should have passed then from Germany to the British Crown. The fact that appropriate action was not taken at that time may be described as a tragic blunder for Australia. The ownership of New Guinea, instead of passing, as I claim it rightly should have passed, to the British Crown, went to what ultimately became the League of Nations, a nebulous organization that had but a short time to live. In 1920, the New Guinea Act gave effect to the mandate conferred by the League of Nations on the Commonwealth of Australia for the government of New Guinea. Because we found it convenient and expedient to consolidate the administration, it might be argued that, to some degree, we prejudiced our title to Papua. That is the cause of much confusion to-day. The facts are, however, that whereas the ownership of the territory of New Guinea has been suspended, one might say that Mahomet’s coffin, the ownership of the territory of Papua has lain exclusively with the British Crown. With the outbreak of World War II.. the death of the League of Nations, and eventually the Japanese invasion, the civil administration ended in 1942 and for the second time in about 60 years, administration of the territories came under military control. After the war, civil administration was restored, and Papua remained Papua, but New Guinea became a trust territory under what is euphoniously called the United Nations, but which perhaps could be more appropriately described as the disunited Nations. So long as the United Nations survives - and it is no better equipped for survival than was the League of Nations - we have a duty to that organization. That duty is being discharged faithfully, I am proud to say, by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), by the Administrator and his most industrious wife, by an administration which in general terms must be described as magnificent, and by the splendid people in the territory. Private enterprise is functioning in a way that can only excite the admiration of the whole world. In a short space of time the scars of war have almost completely disappeared. That has been accomplished by the industrious and energetic people engaged in’ various private enterprises throughout the territory.
We have a duty to the 1,500,000 natives who are utterly dependent upon us for their safety, their security, and all the civilizing services and influences they are ever likely to know. That duty is being discharged by noble men and women, drawn from a great many parts of the world, imbued with the Christian spirit, and aided by an enthusiastic administration. We have a duty also to ourselves and it is to this duty that I shall refer particularly. If we fail in our duty to ourselves, we shall fail the United Nations, we shall fail the natives, we shall destroy our history, and we shall betray our future generations. The territory must be developed. We must inaugurate comprehensive schemes of land settlement and utilization. The territory is wide open to our enemies. It could be invested by any of our enemies in a single day. It is a fabulously fertile land, larger than England and Wales. Papua has an area of 90,000 square miles and New Guinea 93,000 square miles. The territory includes about 600 islands. So long as part of the territory remains a trust territory - a veritable no-man’s land - the whole of it can serve only to excite the cupidity of our enemies. That is what is happening to-day. The fact that there are approximately 1,500,000 natives, 12,000 Europeans and 2,000 Chinese already in occupation of the territory, would present no insuperable difficulties to a ruthless invader. The Germans, who claim to be a comparatively civilized race, found no difficulty in destroying 10,000,000 Europeans in the short space of three years, and the Chinese, another race that claims to have a long history of civilized society, found no difficulty in slaughtering 20,000,000 of their own people in a similar period. So I say that the natives, the Europeans, and the Chinese already inhabiting the territory could be destroyed in a matter of weeks, months, or, at the most, years. It is our duty to ourselves, to the natives whom we have already failed once in our short history, and to the United Nations, to reaffirm our clear title to Papua and, having done that, if we are to continue to make capital investment in the territory and expect our people to populate and develop it, it is our manifest duty to make application for a title to that part of it known as New Guinea. The temporary arrangement under which this vast no-man’s land is administered faithfully by a tenuous trust, could terminate at the whim and pleasure of the United Nations, or at the end of that organization. So, in my humble opinion, it is a vital necessity that Australia should have a clear title to New Guinea also. Until we get a clear title, schemes for land settlement, industrial development and the provision of all the amenities of modern society must, of necessity, be impeded. With other honorable members, I had the privilege to visit the territory only a few weeks ago. We were faced by literally hundreds of Australian men and women, eager and willing to take up land. We were faced with an administration eager and willing to grant land to applicants under some kind of reasonable tenure, but, because the title to the territory itself was not clear, very little could be done.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Earlier in the debate on the Estimates, I said that the budget would be disastrous for the Northern Territory and would cause widespread unemployment there. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) then cited figures with which he sought to show that this Government was doing more to develop the territory than its predecessor had done. The figures proved that this Government had expended more money on the territory than the Chifley Government had expended during the last few years it was in office. Total expenditure on the Northern Territory in 1948-49, the last full year of office of the Chifley Government, was £1,669,000. In 1951-52, under this Government, the figure was £3,170,000, and in 1952-53 it was £4,280,000. There appeared to have been a fairly large increase of expenditure on the territory after the Chifley Government left office, but the Minister did not refer to the difficulties that were experienced there when Labour was in power. During the years just after the war, when people who had been evacuated from the territory during the war were returning, labour was scarce and materials were even more scarce. Under such conditions, large sums could not possibly have been expended.
Let us e’xamine expenditure on the Northern Territory by the present Government parties when they were in power once before. In 1938, 1939 and 1940, we should have been making every endeavour to strengthen the defences, developing tha resources and increase the population of northern Australia. Yet in 1938-39, under a non-Labour government, only £402,000 was expended on the Northern Territory. Expenditure in 1939-40, when war had broken out, was only £382,000. The record of the present Government parties in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory is not very good. Honorable gentlemen opposite should be the last people to point a finger at a Labour government because it could not do some of the things their parties had refused to do. In the pre-war years, the Government parties missed a glorious opportunity to develop the north of this continent. Consequently, when the Japanese entered the war we were nearly overrun and had to evacuate people from the north.
I have said that I believe that the inadequacy of the funds provided for the Northern Territory will cause widespread unemployment there. The Animal Industry Branch is the Government instrumentality responsible for all development work for the stock industry in the Northern Territory from Newcastle Waters to the South Australian border. Probably it deals with nine-tenths of the cattle in the Northern Territory. It is charged with responsibility for water and road development. In this financial year, it will have only enough money to build one dam. We cannot say that the Government does .not give a damn for the Northern Territory, because it is providing the Animal Industry Branch with enough money to build one dam. Although we have been told that the Government is trying to develop the interior of Australia so that, in the future, we shall be able to produce there a large proportion of the meat required for consumption in this country and for export, the Animal Industry Branch is being allocated only enough money to build one dam. That fact was revealed to me only because I made a visit to Alice Springs. Having regard to the manner in which the budget papers have been prepared, it is very difficult to find out the amount of money that is being provided for works in the Northern Territory. We have to go to the departments concerned and inquire how much money they will be given for works during this year. Work on urgently needed extensions to schools at Alice Springs and Darwin has been halted. A scheme for the building of a residence for nurses at Alice Springs has been scrapped completely, although the work was considered to be urgent three years ago. Provision for the necessary money was made in the Estimates, but, unfortunately, owing to a lack of contractors, no tenders were received for the job. Now, apparently, the work is not regarded as necessary, and the idea of providing accommodation for nurses in the centre of Australia, and probably also in the north, has been dropped. Apparently that has been done in order to make a surplus available for concessions to taxpayers in the south of the Commonwealth. We have heard much of the Government’s intentions with regard to native affairs, but my information is that according to these Estimates not one additional school, hospital, or other building for the benefit of the natives, will be erected in the north. It is true that some work that has already been started will be completed, but no new works will be put in hand during this financial year. Of course, the Government’s excuse for that state of affairs is that there is not enough money available. Because the Government does not intend to put in hand an adequate pro.gramme of public works, wholesale dismissals of employees must take place in the Northern Territory. Works and housing projects must be greatly reduced, and many contractors who have been persuaded to transfer their activities to the territory to work on public buildings and other projects, will have to disband their staffs. However, it is by no means easy to get a staff of skilled technicians and competent workmen to work in the Northern Territory. If these contractors dismiss their employees, there will be no other work available for the men in the territory, and they will have to go south in order to find jobs. It has taken quite a long time since the end of the last war for contractors and builders in the territory to assemble adequate staffs of tradesmen and technicians, and yet overnight the whole structure will be destroyed by this Government’s financial policy.
I notice that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is not present in the chamber at the moment. However, his colleague, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) is here, and I shall put certain questions to him, through you, Mr. Chairman, in the hope that when he speaks on this matter he will be able to give honorable members adequate replies. I ask that honorable members should be informed of the number of new houses that will be built in Darwin and throughout the Northern Territory during this financial year. Not very long ago, a housing scheme was introduced into Darwin, but I do not know of anybody who has yet taken advantage of it. I believe that nobody has been able to do so. Moreover, I understand that not one additional house will be built by the Government for its own employees, because of the inadequate finance contemplated by these Estimates. I also ask that honorable members should be informed about the nature of the developmental work that will be undertaken in the Northern Territory during this financial year, the mileage of the additional roads that will be built to open up some of the outback areas and give better access to some other areas, the number of new dams to be sunk and the number of new bores to be provided for the growing cattle industry in the Northern Territory. I should also like to be informed of the nature of any railway development that is to take place.
I notice that this Government does not intend to undertake any additional capital works for the health organization in the Northern Territory. It is true that a new leprosarium is being built on the outskirts of Darwin, but in the light of the financial provision of this Government, J do not know the fate of that project. This building was commenced last year and I should certainly like to know whether sufficient money will be provided for it to be completed this year. Honorable members should also be informed of the Government’s intentions with regard to hospitals, schools and other educational facilities for the natives of the territory. I believe that the whole of the works programme for the Northern Territory has been scrapped so that the Government may finance the completion of a wharf at Darwin, the building of which was started last year. I agree that the Government had to build a new wharf at Darwin, but according to my investigations the Government intends to spend the major portion of the £4,000,000, to be voted for maintenance and administrative works, on this new wharf at Darwin. It appears to me that most of the governmental activity in the Northern Territory will be brought to a standstill so that the Government can devote a major part of the money allocated to the Northern Territory to the completion of the wharf. I conclude with the words of a prominent departmental officer of the territory. He said that this budget is the worst since the depression years of the early thirties. If that is not a sufficient indictment of the budget I do not know what is.
– I desire to support the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). All honorable members in this chamber will agree that he is a very able representative of the territory, and has a profound knowledge of its requirements. He has brought to this Parliament a knowledge of and sympathy for the needs of the territory that had previously been sadly lacking. He has put forward his views in a constructive and able manner, and has shown clearly to honorable members the shortcomings of the present Administration in regard to the development of the Northern Territory. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has been responsible for stimulating interest in northern affairs to a degree unknown in the past life of the Parliament. In the last few years, perhaps more honorable members have visited the territory than ever before, and the whole Parliament is now much better informed about its requirements than it was before the election of my honorable colleague. It is amazing to me that this Government has provided only enough money to build one dam in the territory, although the whole area is crying out for the development of water supplies so that the great cattle industry can progress. In the light of that fact, surely it is effrontery for the Government to suggest that it has brought down a good budget for the whole of Australia. The honorable member stated that the Government was committed to the erection of a wharf at Darwin, but surely there is no justice in diverting money from all other developmental works in the territory in order to devote it to the completion of one project.
The last war showed quite clearly that we must develop the Northern Territory, and this Government should be in a position to provide whatever money is necessary to carry out the schemes suggested by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. It is pertinent to ask what the Government is doing about supplying urgently needed roads and adequate railway services, as well as the many dams and water works required by the pastoral industry of the territory. Two hundred million pounds has been allocated by the Government for defence. Surely the Government could have made available many millions of pounds of that money for the development of the Northern Territory in order to provide adequate defences, and necessities and amenities so that a much larger population would be attracted to the territory and thus in a most effective way strengthen its defences. It is amazing that the plans to establish a nursing home in Alice Springs should have been completely abandoned. Surely such a home is essential in that part of Australia-? The curtailment of the Government’s programme for the development of the Northern Territory has been responsible, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has said, for unemployment of skilled artisans and tradesmen. If such men are obliged to leave the territory because there is no work available for them, the benefit of their experience will be lost. I contend that the budget should provide for a full range of developmental works, particularly those which require the labour of skilled artisans and tradesmen.
In all parts of the Commonwealth, including the Northern Territory, housebuilding is lagging because of the present restrictive credit policy of the Government.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! That matter has nothing to do with the proposed vote for the Territories of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory sought information concerning the number of houses which will be provided under the Estimates for the Northern Territory. Honorable members on this side of the committee have yet to be convinced that housing is not lagging in that part of Australia as it is in almost every other part of the Commonwealth. The honorable member wanted to know the number of houses which the Government proposes to erect this year at Darwin, Alice Springs and other parts of the Northern Territory. I hope that the Minister will reply to that question, for the benefit of not only the honorable member, but also the people of the territory who are urgently in need of homes.
Several months ago the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) visited the Northern Territory and, as a result of his visit, made some scathing comments concerning the administration of that area, particularly in regard to defence matters. He criticized not so much the internal administration of the territory as the way in which the Government has neglected the defences of the territory. That criticism has not yet been refuted.
– Order! The proposed votes for the Defence Services have already been dealt with.
– With respect, Mr. Chairman, surely I am in order in referring, while these Estimates are being discussed, to defence works which I consider to be necessary in the Northern Territory?
– Order ! The honorable member may not do so. He must obey the ruling of the Chair.
– The point that I wish to make is of vital importance to the proposed vote with which the committee is now dealing. The construction of roads, railways and wharfs is tied up, in an inextricable way, with the defence and development of the north of Australia. Unless provision is made in these Estimates for such works, I submit that the defences of the area will be inadequate and will constitute a weak link in the defences of the nation as a whole.
– Order ! If the honorable member continues to contravene my ruling, he will have to resume his seat.
– I have no wish to contravene your ruling. I am merely making a passing reference to the need for the committee to be informed on the Government’s intentions in relation to the defence and development of the Northern Territory. I am amazed to see that the Estimates provide for a total expenditure of only £2,674,000 in the Northern Territory this year. That territory has a population of more than 16,000 people, and its area is approxi mately one-sixth of that of the continent. Yet, under the present budget proposals, it will receive scant financial assistance. I believe that, only for the outspokenness of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who has consistently criticized the Government for its failure to foster the development of the territory, a sum considerably less than £2,674,000 would have been provided. Earlier to-day, the honorable member pointed out that, although there had been abundant opportunities for anti-Labour governments to develop this part of the Commonwealth, those opportunities had been neglected. Even now, despite the fact that this Government must appreciate the vital importance of the territory to Australia, no adequate provision is being made in these Estimates for such development. In my opinion, the false approach of the Government to this problem is indicated by the miserly allocation contained in these Estimates.
I hope that the Minister will answer the charge made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory to the effect that public works are being confined to Darwin instead of being spread over the territory. Surely, there is sufficient money available to-day to provide not only the best possible wharf at Darwin but also other developmental works which are required. There should be no excuse at this time, for the lack of such works.
– Or at any time.
– I am not interested in the interjection of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), because he is a member of a party which represents only a small percentage of the people of Australia. I should not expect him to support a more generous allocation of funds for the Northern Territory. It is because Australia has had so many governments supported by people such as the honorable member that the development of the Northern Territory has lagged so tragically. Those governments have not been able to see the vital importance of that area. Whilst I am gratified that even this limited financial provision has been made in the Estimates for the Northern Territory this year, I criticize the Government because the smallness of the allocation will condemn the population of the territory to a miserable existence.
.- I should not have joined this debate had it not been for the apathy which has been displayed by the supporters of the Government to this section of the Estimates. That apathy has been characteristic of the members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties for a long period of years. The present backward position of the Northern Territory is due largely to the fact that governments of the same political colour as the present Australian Government were continuously in office for more than twenty years after federation. None of the real problems associated with the development of the Northern Territory was ever tackled until a Labour government came into office. The Curtin Labour Government directed a great deal of its attention to the development of the territory during the war period, and after the war the Chifley Labour Government laid the foundations of a development scheme which is still the only existing scheme for the development of the territory. The present Government has done little except continue with the programme launched by the Chifley Government, and what it has done has been done in a scrimping fashion.
The Northern Territory has a sad history. It is an area of great possibilities and potentialities, but realization can only be given to them if the problem of the territory’s development is correctly handled. For many years lease-holders, many of them absentee lease-holders who live on the other side of the world, have owned millions of acres of good land, which they have allowed to depend solely on natural resources. They have made no effort to conserve the natural resources of the land, in consequence of which valuable water holes and rivers silted up and became dry. Bore holes and water holes conserved in good order were unknown until the Labour Government came into office. Stock which was overlanded to the Queensland border had to travel distances of as much as 30 miles without water. The Labour Government provided the necessary bores along the stock routes so that stock overlanded to Queensland could travel under reasonable conditions.
Reference has been made to the townplanning of Darwin. Some honorable members have said that the Darwin plan was over-ambitious. Possibly it was. The town-planning of Canberra was probably also over-ambitious, but it has been amended from time to time. Surely no honorable member would like a return to the pre-war conditions when Darwin included a large area covered by tin huts occupied by Chinese. The Labour Government realized that Darwin was Australia’s front door, and that its pre-war condition gave overseas visitors who arrived by air a bad initial impression of Australia. . To-day, Darwin is classed as a capital city. The Labour Government set out to make it a city that would be an advertisement for this country and would give overseas visitors a good impression cf Australia. The Darwin plan, even as amended to-day, will make Darwin a city nf which we need not be ashamed.
I cannot think of one single thing that the Government has done for the development of the Northern Territory that was not merely a continuation of something that was begun by its predecessor. We have heard a great deal recently about uranium production. It was the Labour Government which launched the production of uranium in Australia, and provided rewards and incentives to prospectors. I have said in this chamber many times, and will never tire of saying, that until such time as lease-holders, particularly absentee leaseholders, are compelled by legislation to administer their lands properly, and to install such necessary equipment as fences, yards, and water-holes, the Northern Territory will never get a fair deal.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) attempted to-day to impress on the Government the urgent necessity for some real action to develop the Northern Territory, but the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) was not in the chamber to hear the honorable member’s remarks on the subject. That fact is an additional proof, if one were required, that the Government is not interested in the development of the territory. In fact, it is not interested in the development of any of the outback areas of this continent, and the sooner we have in office a government that will pay some attention to the needs of the whole of Australia instead of concentrating its attention on the already congested cities, the better it will be for the nation as a whole. I do not think that the people will have long to wait for a change of government. Possibly if I deal with the subject of defence I may be called to order by the Chair, but I wish to say that until the Labour Government came into office no provision was made for the defence of the country, either in the Northern Territory or in north-western Australia.
– Order ! This proposed vote makes no provision for expenditure on defence.
– May I then say, Mr. Chairman, that there was not one single landing field-
– Order ! The item before the committee has nothing to do with defence.
– I do not want to get excited about the matter, but each time this subject is debated I become more and more disgusted with the lack of action in relation to matters that are vitally necessary, not only in the interests of the Northern Territory itself, but also in the interests of Australia as a whole. However, as the Minister for Territories is still not in the chamber, any effort I may make to-day will be wasted, just as such efforts- have been wasted ever since the Government took office.
.- I bad the privilege recently of spending about fourteen days in the Northern Territory. I do not claim to be competent to write a book about the territory as a result of the knowledge that I gained on that trip. In that respect I differ from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who spent about 48 hours in the territory and then broadcast an extraordinary statement that could not possibly have had any relation to the facts, because it is impossible to appreciate the position in an area of 500,000 square miles after having seen only 50 square miles, or even 50,000 square miles, of it It is impossible, having seen even 50,000 square miles of the area, to give an authoritative opinion about the other 450,000 square miles of it.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that the honorable member for Melbourne spoke scathingly about conditions in the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Melbourne does not confine his scathing remarks to the subject of the Northern Territory. He makes them about everything in all seasons, and most of them are like bricks that are dropped where they are not wanted. I consider that the honorable member was ill-advised to make the statements that he made on the radio after his short visit to Rum Jungle.
Honorable members opposite have had much to say about the development of the Northern Territory. I wish to know what they mean by the word “ development “ in that instance. The honorable member for Grayndler, who has no high opinion of me, but whose opinion of me is still higher than is mine of him, is one of those people who can talk for hours and say nothing. He is recognized as being clever, and is indeed clever, in the position of Opposition Whip. I consider that the Northern Territory should be above party politics. Honorable members opposite profess to have the same belief but they peddle party politics all the time in relation to the territory. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), who, I believe, is well informed on the subject of the Northern Territory, made an extraordinary statement. He told us about the need to develop the territory, but he did not tell us what he meant by “ development “. Honorable members opposite use that word a great deal, but they do not define its meaning. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said that all that this Government has done in relation to the territory was carry out the policy commenced by the Chifley Government. The honorable member for Grayndler said that that amounts to nothing. The Labour Government had five years after the war to develop the Northern Territory and did nothing, and if this Government has continued that policy, what is the Opposition worrying about ?
My visit to the Northern Territory indicated to me that this vast area has great possibilities, but it also has limitations that only nature could overcome. The pastoral industry there is conducted mainly by private enterprise. Some sections of the country will carry only one bullock to 4 square miles of land. That position can be remedied only by consistent rains. Bores will not solve the problem. The bores will only provide water for the animals. It will not grow pastures. Other areas of Australia are much more prolific. In Gippsland, the farmers talk in terms of 600 bullocks to a square mile. I agree that the capacity of land in the territory where there is grass could be increased considerably by boring for water. However, the people who live in the territory have informed me that each bore costs about £4,000 and an immense amount of capital would be involved in extensive boring. That is not a government responsibility. Bores have been put down along the stock routes every 16 miles or so, and a stockman can travel stock practically from the Kimberleys to Queensland and find water every second day. Those bores were the work of the Australian Government, and I pay a tribute to the Government that was responsible, whatever its political colour, for that magnificent achievement. I agree that the supply of water along the stock routes was properly a government responsibility, but such responsibility should not be extended to the pastoral areas generally.
The Northern Territory has extensive mineral assets that are capable of development, but most of the minerals that are to be found there have no market value. Gold, copper, tin and uranium deposits are being developed, and I believe that the honorable member for Melbourne will admit that the development of uranium in the last twelve months, under government direction, represents a splendid achievement. The other metals, however, are being produced by private enterprise and those responsible are accomplishing by work and enthusiasm much more than could be achieved by government interference. Many of the men who are engaged in mining, on their own initiative, are working 60 hours a week. They are enthusiastic and have no time for dargs or go-slow policies. I gained the impression in the Northern Territory that the people there have no interest in the rest of Australia. They are a community of their own and to all intents and purposes they are in a separate country.
The Department of Works is grading roads hundreds of miles long into the bush in the territory, but such roads cannot be regarded as permanent structures. Those roads cannot be gravelled or treated with bitumen. The work is beyond the capacity of Australia’s population of 8,000,000 people. A population of 180,000,000 would be required to provide sufficient money to develop the Northern Territory as honorable members on the Opposition side suggest it should be done. Their, glib references to defence are utter nonsense. One does not go to the Northern Territory to determine the nature of the defences. To get that information one should go to the head-quarters of the services in Melbourne, or wherever they may be. The defence of the Northern Territory must be part of a general strategic plan. It is not a matter of putting a machine gun on every rock and hill, or establishing a radar unit in every tree.
Honorable members on the Opposition side are not conversant with the subject and they should admit it. They want to make the Australian people believe that the Northern Territory is completely neglected. That is not true. The Government is doing magnificent work in the Northern Territory within the limits of its powers and the machinery, men and money available. Opposition members have referred to a vote of £2,500,000 as though it were 2£d. That is their evaluation of the vote when they are not in office as the government. When a Labour government is in office, the Northern Territory is lucky if it gets £1,500,000. The most important objective is to get value for the money that is expended. In recent years, the States and other sections of political life in Australia have become accustomed to talking in terms of countless millions as though they were handling a few pence. The little that can be shown for the expenditure of huge sums of money is scandalous. I would rather see works worth £100,000 achieved from the expenditure of that amount than see £1,000,000 so wasted that little could be shown for it. The money that is found for works has to be borrowed or obtained from the taxpayers and it should be expended to the best effect.
I should like to see more realism and less party politics in the approach of honorable members to the Northern Territory, which is a big Australian province. Honorable members should take a genuine interest in the development of the territory instead of using it as the last leg in a paltry attack upon the budget. Honorable members on the Opposition side are simply trying to get a few miserable votes at the next general election in the hope that they will put the Australian Labour party back into office. I hope that honorable members will direct their remarks to the true interests of the Northern Territory and its value to Australia instead of trying to use the territory for the benefit of party politics. If the Labour Government did as much for the Northern Territory as honorable members opposite have claimed it is remarkable that it should now be so barren as they have described it. The Labour Government’s town-planning scheme for Darwin has already been scrapped. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) .can correct me if I am wrong in saying that it has been either scrapped or altered.
– It has been modified.
– That is the next best thing to being changed. The scheme that was intended to impress overseas visitors has been modified because it was unworkable. Many houses are wanted in Darwin and the people there deserve homes, but they get the same quota of houses as the residents of any other part of Australia. I agree that they do not get them fast enough. Some of the residents of Darwin are not eligible for houses. Principally the houses are allotted to public servants. Others, including waterside workers, have to do the best they can until more homes are available. I should like to hear from Opposition members more of the truth about the Northern Territory so that the public will get a proper appreciation of the conditions there, and not the false picture that Opposition members have drawn for them.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has compared the Northern Territory with Gippsland. He has said some land in “Victoria has a carrying capacity of 600 bullocks to the square mile, whereas in the Northern Territory the capacity is one bullock to 4 square miles. I agree with him that Gippsland is one of the best provinces in Australia. However, honorable members on the Government side have to be stirred into speech. Most of those honorable members have refrained from participating in this debate. Yet, the honorable member for Gippsland has pleaded with the Opposition to make constructive suggestions for the development of the Northern Territory. The proposed provision of £2,500,000 for the Northern Territory is entirely inadequate. I shall not he in order in dealing with the. subject of defence, but it is obvious that the first prerequisite for effective defence is the attraction of a greater population to the northern areas of this continent. Government supporters have failed to approach this problem in a realistic way. Has any honorable member opposite suggested that a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the development of the Northern Territory in association with that part of Queensland north of the Tropic of Capricorn and that part of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel, as those areas have a community of interests with the Northern Territory?
Development of those parts of Australia could be encouraged by a scheme of land settlement on the principle of making land grants as has been done in the northern regions of the United States of America and in Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company was granted millions of acres because it had the resources to develop unsettled lands rapidly and effectively. The Government could apply that principle in the development of the Northern Territory. It could make grants of land to large corporations with a view to constructing roads and railways to attract additional population to those areas. I do not claim to have a detailed knowledge of conditions in the Northern Territory. In the course of this debate, I have heard a lot of remarks about scrub bulls and dry bores.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who has just interjected, is invariably a dry bore when he is speaking. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that the Parliament should leal with this problem not on party lines, jut on the basis of national development. The Northern Territory and the adjoining areas in Queensland and Western Australia are now only sparsely populated. The Government has made no attempt to arrange for the resources of those areas to be investigated by an independent body. It should seek the cooperation of the Western Australian and Queensland Governments in setting up a royal commission for the purpose of making such an investigation. If this Government had’ any virility at all it would promptly act on that suggestion since it has no plan of its own. Unless effective methods are devised for the development of that part of Australia we shall not get very far. Plans for railways which were projected during the war for defence purposes have been jettisoned by this Government. The Chifley Government had evolved a definite scheme for the development of the Northern Territory. I have no doubt that members of the present Government are aware of the details of the scheme which Mr. Nelson Lemmon, when he was Minister for Works, submitted to the Chifley Government. However, that Government was defeated not on its merits, but mainly on misrepresentation by supporters of the present Government. Had the Chifley Government remained in office, the development of the Northern Territory would now be well under way particularly having regard to the discovery in recent years of rich mineral resources in that area. Any effective plan of development would involve the provision of roads in the Kimberleys. The famous air beef scheme was developed when I was Minister for Air. Mr. Horace Miller, who was one of the pioneers of civil aviation in that country, requested me to make an aircraft available for the purpose of inaugurating that scheme. I readily acceded to that request, and the scheme has been -operating successfully since that time. Under it, cattle which cannot be taken overland because of lack of stock routes are slaughtered in central Australia and the carcasses are flown to the meat works at Wyndham, where they are exported overseas. That scheme is being subsidized at the rate of Id. per lb. of beef.
I have no doubt that honorable members on both sides of the chamber really desire that the Northern Territory should be developed as quickly and as effectively as possible, hut whilst the Chifley Government made a constructive approach to the problem, this Government has failed to do anything effective in that direction during the four years that it has been in office. It has been content to shelter behind its notorious “ red “ bill. On numerous occasions, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has directed the attention of the Parliament to the urgency of developing the Northern Territory. That honorable gentleman has lived in the Northern Territory all his life, and he is familiar with its requirements.
I repeat that the proposed provision of £2,500,000 for this purpose is entirely inadequate. We should deal with this problem as a matter of urgency, having regard to the fact, as we are always informed, that the Northern Territory would be the primary target of any potential enemy which sought to attack this country. It should be possible to revolutionize conditions in the territory by the provision of air services and, subsequent to the extension of settlement, by the provision of roads and railways. The establishment of civil air services would, perhaps, be the cheapest way of undertaking this development, because aerodromes suitable for use by small aircraft can be. constructed at a cost of approximately £100,000 or less, and such aerodromes can be strategically located throughout the territory. I cannot visualize any Government being able to provide adequate railway services in the territory during the next four, or five years. The expenditure involved would be too great, having regard to man-power requirements and the high rates of wages that would have to be paid as well as, thanks to this Government, high rates of interest. Whereas the ruling rate of interest was 3- per cent, when the Chifley Government was in office, to-day it is from 4£ to 5 per cent. As all honorable members are aware, the value of the resources in the territory has been emphasized by the discovery in recent years of uranium deposits. The development of such deposits will attract increased population just as the discoveries of gold attracted population to other areas in the past. I urge the Government to develop the territory, It should concentrate upon attracting population there, because, to-day, if a powerful foe landed on our northern shores we should be obliged to retire almost instantly.
I again urge the Government to seek the co-operation of the Western Australian and Queensland Governments in a appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the potentialities of the area and to report to the Parliament on the best methods of developing the territory. I have no doubt that such a report would be a valuable guide to honorable members in considering this problem. However, the Government is doing nothing effective in this direction. One wonders whether it possesses any initiative other than for the production of budgets under which, it alleges, taxes will be reduced. The Government is humbugging the people about the Northern Territory. If it agreed to the appointment of an independent commission of competent persons to inquire into these matters, we might get somewhere. At present we are making no progress. However, having regard to the limitations that have been placed upon this debate by the Government and by the ruling of the Chair, it is useless for me, in the brief time available to me, to attempt to convince the conservatives who sit opposite and masquerade under the name of Liberals of the steps that are necessary to be taken to develop the Northern Territory. While some of them in ay be stung into replying to my words, most of them appear to be willing to sit in silence. They say, in effect, “Here are the proposed votes for the Territories of the Commonwealth. The Government has imposed a time-table covering the debate upon them. You must agree to them whether you like it or not “. Worthwhile debate on these matters is discouraged. We have been told that during the consideration of these proposed votes we may not deal with matters pertaining to the defence of north Australia, which is a most important subject, particularly in view of the discovery of rich uranium deposits there, which will be coveted by our enemies. If we are unable to touch on the defence of north Australia, discussion of these proposed votes is almost futile. I hope that at least some honorable members opposite will support my proposal that a commission of inquiry be appointed to investigate and report upon the best means of developing and populating the Northern Territory. Such a body might well adopt as the basis of its investigations the excellent scheme that was formulated by the former member of this Parliament and a Minister of the Labour Administration, Mr. Nelson Lemmon. We should consider the problem of the Northern Territory from the point of view of Australia as a whole.
.- The proposed votes for the Territories of the Commonwealth are of vital import’ance, not only to north Australia, but also to Australia as a whole. Our northern areas are probably equally as valuable as, if not more valuable than, the remainder of the Commonwealth. The development of north Australia is of the utmost importance, not only as a defence necessity, but also as a means of enabling us to absorb large numbers of immigrants to swell population there. Many people in the southern parts of Australia have no conception of the possibilities of the Northern Territory. They do not appear to realize that a great many commodities which we now import could be produced there. The discovery of gold in the early days of Australia’s history resulted in the opening up of hitherto undeveloped ‘areas. As the gold gradually petered out, agricultural communities were established in the gold-field areas. That experience may be repeated in the Northern Territory as the result of the discovery of uranium there. Australia urgently requires metals of all kinds for the manufacture of farm machinery and machinery of all kinds. Nature has provided these metals for our people, but the labour of man has to be applied to their winning. The wealth of the Northern Territory is not confined to its mineral resources. Recently the Parliament passed the Pearl
Fisheries Bill, which defined the continental shelf in relation to sea foods and sea products in waters adjacent to the northern parts of Australia. Not long ago I reminded honorable members that farmers in the Cape York Peninsula are now engaged in the growing of rice. When I first went to North Queensland the whole of the coffee consumed by the people there was grown in that area. Tea has been grown in small quantities and cotton could be produced there in abundance if we prohibited the importation of cotton from other countries. Flax and many other products such as jute, which we import from India for the manufacture of wool packs, sugar sacks and the like, could also be grown in that area. Whilst I agree that our defence force must be a mobile force, it is also true that a large population in the north of Australia engaged in ordinary vocations would constitute a valuable front line of defence. If we had not abandoned the practice of importing kanaka labour most of the areas in north Queensland would be controlled by the overseers of large holdings each employing large numbers of kanakas. , The abandonment of that system enabled us to develop a virile white population in North Queensland which played a mighty part in the defence of Australia. During the war no fewer than 100,000 troops were under training in the Atherton Tableland area alone, but since the war ended neither the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) nor the Minister for Defence (Sir ‘ Philip McBride) has thought it worthwhile to train young men in that area.
– Order! The committee is considering not the Atherton Tableland but the proposed votes for the Territories of the Commonwealth.
– It is obvious that, in the interests of defence, we must greatly increase the population of the Northern Territory. I have already referred to the discoveries of uranium there. Other valuable metals, necessary for the development of our economy, have also been discovered there. The Government should arrange for a scientific investigation to be made to ascertain how those metals can best be won. In the mining areas of Queensland approximately seven people are needed to cater for the requirements of each individual who works in a mine. The proper development of the metalliferous deposits of the Northern Territory would result in the building up of a large population there. There is an unusual position in this country to-day in connexion with our immigrants, many of whom are being paid for doing nothing. They could be engaged in worthwhile employment in the Northern Territory. First, however, the Government must decide on the activities that shall be pursued there. As honorable members are aware, the beef contract with Great Britain has a number of years to run. If the Northern Territory were developed properly, mostly by the putting down of bores - some artesian, bores are already in existence - the cattle industry could be expanded tremendously. lu past years large tracts of land in the Northern Territory have been leased to companies on the understanding that they would put down bores, but they have not done so. I consider that the leases of those companies which have failed to honour their undertaking should be cancelled and the land divided into smaller areas and leased to people who are willing to undertake developmental work. In addition to strengthening our economy, that would assist to increase the production of beef needed for Australia’s increased population, and also enable us to honour our commitments overseas.
During the recent drought there was ample grass on many of the big leases, but water was not available. This Government should look into the matter and take action to ensure that the country will be developed as was originally intended. When the road from Mount Isa to Alice Springs was under construction artesian water was obtained readily at many points by putting down bores to a depth of 300 feet. It is not right that millionaire companies which, hold vast areas of land within a few miles of that road should be allowed to continue to hold their leases unless they undertake to sink bores and develop the land. Although the present Government is not wholly to blame for the present state of affairs, nevertheless it should look into the matter immediately and initiate developmental work on those leases. I assure supporters of the Government that any such work that the present Government commences will be carried on by Labour after the next general election. Visitors to this country from overseas have been astounded to learn that in the Northern Territory, which is capable of producing almost everything that mankind requires, the population comprises only approximately one man to the square mile. It is the bounden duty of the government in office, irrespective of political colour, to develop the Northern Territory in the interests of our economy, the welfare of om- people, and defence.
I am not quite sure that I will not be in conflict with the policy of the Australian Labour party in relation to the matter that I am about to mention, but my personal opinion is that it would have been preferable, when separating what is now known as the Northern Territory from South Australia, to have established a separate State. While I do not wish to speak disparagingly about public servants, who are quite good people, it is indeed extraordinary that a public servant should have been appointed to administer such a huge and wealthy part of Australia as the Northern Territory. No matter how good may be commissioners or independent representatives, they cannot hope to administer an area of the size of the Northern Territory as efficiently as could be done by a separate government. Irrespective of party, we should all strive to clean up this matter and ensure that the Northern Territory shall receive all of the support and consideration’ that it deserves.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), who is a most honest fellow. He frankly admitted that he did not know what was Labour’s policy. I assure him that no member on this side of the chamber either knows what that policy is. It is evident that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has been listening to gossip, because any one who listens to gossip very often gets the wrong news. Apparently he has been misinformed very badly by some members of the administration, perhaps in the Northern Territory, about the amount of money that is being expended, or not being expended there. The honorable member should be better informed on the subject. Critics of this Government have stated that it has not pushed ahead sufficiently rapidly with the development of the Northern Territory. I remind them that we have pursued a most vigorous policy in connexion with locating deposits of uranium, and developing those deposits. Some honorable members opposite have referred to the system of land tenure in the Northern Territory. I addressed myself to this subject during the debate in this chamber on Friday last, but as many honorable members opposite were absent at the time, I shall repeat some of my remarks. This Government - no other government - has written into many leases in the Northern Territory a condition that the lessees must install bores and fencing, and a proviso that if they do not do so their leases will be forfeited. Although the previous Labour Government did not make any such stipulation, honorable members opposite still persist in telling stories about the leases in the Northern Territory being exploited, because developmental work has not been undertaken on them. I point out that this Government has not renewed the leases of some large companies, and has made . the land so released available for settlement by resident land-owners, who have been granted security of tenure. There has been written into their leases conditions to ensure that the land shall be properly and progressively developed and utilized to the full. Opposition members who think that we are the friends of the big companies should read some of thc statements that those companies are . making about us. We at least have had the courage to tackle this problem realistically, and make the big companies use the land. There is room in the Northern Territory for the resident settler, and the large company, but both, must use their land to the best advantage, and raise cattle.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory has tried to show that this budget, in its application to the Northern Territory, is the worst since the depression years. Once again, he has been badly misinformed. He should know that the Animal Industry Branch, about which he has spoken, has the responsibility of providing stock facilities, and issuing advice on cattle in the Northern Territory. The honorable member has contended that the branch has not sufficient money to finance the construction of one dam. Apparently, he has not even troubled to refer to the Estimates. If he had done so, he would have seen that an amount of £250,000 is provided this year for the provision of water supplies, roads, and stock routes for pastoral purposes, and that the expenditure on such works last year was £174,7S0. Yet he tries to confuse honorable members by making the nonsensical claim that the branch has not sufficient money to finance the construction of one dam. The honorable member has also insinuated that not one house is being -built by the Northern Territory Administration. Obviously, he has not referred to the Estimates. He has simply made wild accusations in the ‘hope that they will not be answered. The fact is that an amount of £414,500 is set aside this year for the erection of 77 houses. The honorable member has also tried to convince us that the public works programme has been abandoned so that all efforts may be concentrated on the construction of the Darwin wharf. Let the honorable member say without’ equivocation whether he is in favour of the abandonment of the work on the Darwin wharf. Out of the total vote for public works, an amount of £250,000 is set aside this year for the Darwin wharf. If the honorable member believes that the Government should not proceed with the construction of the wharf, let him inform the people of Darwin of his view. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot emphasize the need for the development and defence of the Northern Territory, and, at the same time, object to the construction of the Darwin wharf, which is urgently required.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory should also be aware than an amount’ in excess of £140,000 has been allocated for the leprosarium, compared with an actual expenditure prior to the 1st July last of £33,000. The honorable member has also asked a Question about hospitals in Darwin. His complete disregard of the Estimates enables him to make a very happy approach to these matters. By not taking the trouble to inform himself of the true position, he is able to ask why money has not been voted for this work and that work. Obviously, the honorable gentleman has listened to gossip, and has not bothered to ascertain the facts by an examination of the Estimates. I now inform him that an amount of £200,000 is set aside this year for hospitals for Darwin, compared with an actual expenditure last year of £116,000. Consequently, the financial provision this year, together with the actual expenditure last year on Darwin hospitals, exceeds £300,000. Yet the honorable member has stirred up his colleagues about the position, and they are rushing in to criticize the Administration in the belief that the honorable member for the Northern Territory has stated facts.
Last year, the provision for capital works and services for the Northern Territory was £1,149,946. For the current financial year, the vote is £1,967,000, which includes an amount of £250,000 for the Darwin wharf. If the vote for the Darwin wharf is excluded, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory apparently wishes, the provision this year for capital works and expenditure is £1,707,000, compared with an actual expenditure last year of £1,149,946. Therefore, the Government has increased the vote for works in the Northern Territory by approximately £550,000. However, man-power and materials are not yet freely available in the Northern Territory. The true state of affairs in that respect is revealed by the expenditure compared with the vote last year. This Government is substantially increasing the public works programme in the Northern Territory, and will use manpower and money to the fullest advantage. The honorable member for the Northern Territory talks nonsense when he refers to the dismissal of workmen, and to failure of the Government to use labour and materials to the best advantage. His statements are completely denied by the substantial increase of the works programme in the Northern Territory.
Honorable members who have visited the Northern Territory, and informed themselves to the true position there, have noticed a new spirit among the residents. They display greater confidence, and an eagerness to make progress. I do not claim that this Government is completely responsible for that new spirit, hut I believe that it has helped to put the residents on their feet, and has made this progress possible, because it realizes, as every Australian should realize, that the Northern Territory must be developed to its fullest capacity. That is essential for defence considerations, inter alia, so that we may continue to hold this country. The Government is not failing in any way to push ahead with a vigorous developmental programme. We welcome constructive criticism. As more people, particularly members of this Parliament, learn about the Northern Territory its progress ‘ will quicken. However, criticism which does not help the Northern Territory is that which springs from ignorance, or a failure to examine the Estimates, and results in vague, general and untrue statements about the Government’s intentions in that part of Australia.
– The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) has made a suggestion that will appeal strongly to the politicallyminded inhabitants of the Northern Territory. He suggested that a great mistake was made when the area was not made a State after South Australia had transferred it to the Commonwealth. I am sure that my friend, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) about whose work in that part of Australia I propose to speak in a few moments, would welcome such a move to distribute some of his responsibilities. He is the sole representative in the National Parliament of the Northern Territory. His comparatively few electors live in an area exceeding 500,000 square miles, and he has a heart-breaking task in looking after their needs. I am sure that he would welcome any move to lighten his burden. However, I point out that if the Northern Territory were created a State, ten senators would represent it in this Parliament, in addition to a number of members of the House of Representatives. .Then there would be great scope for politically conscious people in the territory who might aspire to the distinguished title of senator.
Although I was one of a party of honorable members who recently visited the Northern Territory I would not venture to suggest that I know the answer to the vast problems of the territory. The main value of the trip was that honorable members at least became aware of those problems and realized their immensity. We made a comprehensive tour of the territory and obtained some insight into the various aspects of life there. We saw something of the mining industry and its potentialities. We saw the agricultural industry and its great possibilities. We saw the pastoral industry with its appalling inefficiency and mismanagement. We saw examples of the perplexing problems relating to the native population. We saw enough to appreciate the great problems involved in trying to develop that part of Australia. One of my lasting impressions of the trip is that the honorable member for theNorthern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has been criticized by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), is held in the highest repute throughout the territory. As I travelled throughout the length and breadth of that territory, through hamlets, townships, mining communities, agricultural settlements and cattle stations, I found the honorable member for the Northern Territory well received everywhere. The people came and put their problems before him. He was extremely well informed. He understood their problems and, as far as I could see, he knew all the answers. It is the general opinion that he is doing a fine job and that he is a credit to the territory and this Parliament. Another impression that I gained is that the Northern Territory seems to be one of the remaining areas in Australia where the true pioneering spirit is still in evidence. That spirit has done much to develop this country in the past, and I do not think there is another part of Australia where the venturesome in spirit who wish to brave the unknown have so much scope. The people of the territory, in the true pioneering spirit, certainly showered their hospitality on the visiting members of the parliamentary delegation. Their hospitality was so tremendous that it was embarrassing. I should like to express my appreciation of the efforts of the private citizens and public officials whom we met.
Looking back on my visit, the thought that is uppermost in my mind is the tremendous strategic significance of the Northern Territory to Australia, and the fact that it is virtually unpopulated and undeveloped and unguarded. In Darwin the scars of Japanese bombs are still visible as a grim reminder of the vulnerability of that area. Darwin is the gateway to Australia. It is in close proximity to areas that could be used as bases from which to bomb this country. In the main street of Darwin stands a building owned by the Bank of New South “Wales the outside of which bears the scars of Japanese bombs and the inside of which has been gutted by a direct hit. It is a grim reminder of the fact that Darwin and the Northern Territory are very close to those areas through which a potential enemy could come. In that unhappy event, the northern parts of our country would be found unguarded and unprepared. There are areas in Arnhem Land that are better known to the crews of Japanese luggers than to Australian citizens. There are vast stretches of land that the white man has hardly seen. Some of this land has been reserved for natives. It would be possible for intruders to come to these areas and remain for a long time without our being aware of the fact that they were in our country. The development and population of the Northern Territory should be the vital concern of the people of Australia.
Speaking with some diffidence after such a short visit to the territory, I believe that the main scope for quick development in the Northern Territory lies in a rapid exploitation of the mineral resources of the area. We might find a parallel for the possible development of the territory in the development of Victoria which took place about a century ago. Victoria was then under-developed and under-populated, but it progressed rapidly because the gold diggings attracted a lot of people who came to mine and remained to become farmers and settlers. . I think that the only way in which we can attract a
Mr. TP. M. Bourke. vast number of people to the territory quickly is by the exploitation of the tremendous mineral resources which abound in the area. In addition to uranium, those resources include silver, lead, tin, copper, gold, wolfram and other metals. Although it is my general view that the “ little “ man should be given preference, I must confess that enterprises with a large amount of capital are necessary for the development of the mineral resources of the Northern Territory. It is to be hoped that some of the large-scale mining enterprises such as the Zinc Corporation will extend their activities and pour tens of millions of pounds of capital into that area.
At the moment the main industry in the Northern Territory is the cattle industry. I have no practical knowledge of that industry but even to my inexperienced eye it was apparent that it was conducted in a most inefficient manner. Alexandria Station is over 12,000 square miles in area, Coolibah is over 7,000 square miles in area, and many other stations have over 4,000 square miles. These stations are of such a tremendous size that it is quite impossible for the managers to make any pretence of managing them properly. Many stations have no boundary fences around them, let alone sub-divisional fences. I did not even know what a “ scrub bull “ was when I went to the Northern Territory. We soon learned about scrub bulls. The destruction of these animals seems to be one of the main industries of the Northern Territory. On some of the big stations where the cattle have run wild men are paid large salaries merely to shoot scrub bulls by the thousand, which is an admission of the appalling inefficiency of the lessees. They should not be allowed to continue to hold large tracts which they cannot manage economically. Stations in the Northern Territory should be subdivided into reasonable living areas capable of carrying between 5,000 and 10,000 head of cattle so that the land can be properly used.
We frequently read in the newspapers of the importance of extending the railway line from Dajarra, in Queensland, through the Barkly Tableland, to Newcastle Waters. Before this project is undertaken, the large stations on the very rich Barkly Tableland should be subdivided into living areas, which should be leased subject to a provision that would compel the lessees to live there and develop their holdings in the interests of the territory and the rest of Australia. The closer settlement that I envisage would not involve the subdivision of the land into blocks as small as farm or grazing units in the southern part of the continent, but the areas should be much smaller than the present extravagant units. I endorse the proposal to construct a railway’ line from Dajarra to Newcastle Waters, because such a link would foster the development of the cattle industry by providing a means of transporting beef to the southern States. Nevertheless, I believe that, before we proceed with the work, we should lay down a principle in relation to the use of adjacent territory that I consider to be of the utmost importance. The community will be required to provide millions of pounds for this work, which will open up much undeveloped territory, all of which is held on lease. A strip of land extending for 50 miles on each side of the line should be resumed by the Government so that the development of the area will be of benefit to the community at large instead of to a few fortunate lessees. The land can be used in various ways for the public good including the disposal of portion of it at the higher price that would result from the construction of the railway. Finally, I wish to make a brief reference to the disturbing and perplexing problem of the aboriginal population of the Northern Territory.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As a member of the parliamentary delegation which visited the Northern Territory recently, I wish to refer to various aspects of the development of the territory and its administration. At the outset, I express my appreciation of the non-party spirit that prevailed in the delegation. If the problems of the Northern Territory can be dealt with in the same friendly and co-operative manner in this chamber, the territory will benefit from our deliberations. Therefore, I shall not attempt to score political points off other honorable members who took part in the trip. The Northern Territory is Australia’s problem child. It is beset by many problems that do not arise elsewhere in Australia. For this reason, we must consider its needs from an entirely fresh standpoint. The Northern Territory is a vast vacuum. It covers an area of over 500,000 square miles and has a white and halfcaste population of 16,000 in addition to the aboriginal population of 12,000. Obviously there is plenty of elbow-room there. The climate varies from subtropical to intensely tropical. Although ‘ residents of the Northern Territory have the advantage of the much-publicized and extremely valuable flying doctor service, a two-way radio communication system and the school of the air, in addition to such amenities on station properties as air-strips, they are still in the pioneering stage. Station properties may be equipped with all modern conveniences, but the amenities are still far behind those of the more closely settled areas of the continent and the women still live on the frontiers of civilization.
Members of the delegation were deeply impressed with the progressive spirit and outlook of territorians, who are, in the main, doing an excellent job. I join issue with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), the theme of whose speech unfortunately suggested that the territory was being neglected and had not kept pace with the advances that had been made in other parts of Australia in recent years. Honorable members who are acquainted with the history of the Northern Territory know that it has developed in intermittent spurts over the last 100 years. It has experienced gold rushes and abortive attempts to establish settlements on its shores. I say without hesitation that it has never known such advancement as has occurred there during the last two years. As the honorable member for .Calare (Mr. Howse) has said, there is a progressive spirit abroad in the territory. Much of the credit for this spirit is due to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who has been reproached for his absence from the chamber this afternoon although he is attending to more important business elsewhere.
– Nothing is more important than the Parliament.
– That interjection is typical of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). The reports of speeches in this chamber can be studied by the Minister at a later stage. The honorable gentleman takes a very practical interest in the welfare of the Northern Territory. As members of the parliamentary delegation are aware, he travelled for many thousands of miles through it four weeks in advance of the -delegation. He made this strenuous trip in a utility truck so that he could study the country at first band and learn by personal observation of its needs. The fact that he is not present this afternoon 1does not indicate that he is not interested in the territory. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) has said that the honorable member for the Northern Territory is well thought of in his electorate. The status of the Minister with the residents of the territory is equally as high as that of the honorable member for the Northern Territory. A fine example of his and his Government’s foresight was its selection of the present Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr. Frank Wise. I am sure the honorable member for the Northern Territory will admit that during the term of office if this capable gentleman the needs of the Northern Territory have been splendidly cared for. He is a conscientious administrator who has vision, enthusiasm and initiative. He is devoting himself to the advancement of this part of the Commonwealth in a manner that has no parallel in the history of the Northern Territory. The spirit that he has instilled into the administration has to be experienced to be appreciated. I am happy to say that public servants, too, in the territory have a pioneering outlook. Hours of labour mean nothing to them. They feel that they are working for the development of the Northern Territory and, therefore, of the Commonwealth as a whole and they are devoting all their energies to their important work. As one who saw them at work, I have no hesitation in paying a tribute to them.
We frequently hear the assertion that the large estates of the Northern Territory should be broken up into smaller holdings as a means of developing the territory. Some large companies, it is true, have taken quite a lot of money out of the Northern Territory, but let us be frank and admit that had it not been for the attraction of profits, people withcapital would not have invested their money in the territory and it would not have reached even its present stage of development.. Therefore, whatever view we may take to-day of the existence of large holdings in the Northern Territory, undoubtedly the proprietors of those holdings have played an important part in its development. The cutting up of large estates would not result in any substantial increase of population. After all, a property of 15,000 square miles could be cut up into only three properties of 5,000 square miles, or two of 7,500 square miles, and no great increase of population would result. Smaller holdings would not be economic.
Another line of argument that we frequently hear is, “ The territory will grow anything. Let us settle hundreds of thousands of people there “. It is easy to say that, but when one is on the spot and speaks to Northern Territory residents, one gets an entirely different picture. A vast amount of research has yet to be done before agricultural industries can be established on a large scale. Then there is the problem of markets. Produce would have to be transported from the Northern Territory to the southern portions of the Commonwealth, and that would be expensive and prohibitive to sales. Competition with locally grown products would ‘be difficult. Whilst it is true that there are some lands in the Northern Territory that will literally “ grow anything “, these are relatively small areas. Very often, a fertile strip of land is, for some unaccountable reason, surrounded by land that is completely unproductive. There is no assurance that people who migrate to the Northern Territory will automatically be able to make a good living. The contradictions of the territory would defeat many of them as they have defeated thousands in the past. The Katherine River district is productive at present, but that is said to he due mainly to the fact that during the war years the military authorities >put thousands of pounds’ worth of superphosphate and other fertilizers into the soil and the ground is still deriving some residual benefits from that treatment. However, speaking of the Northern Territory generally, whatever else may he done, hard work and enterprise will always be necessary to ensure some reasonable prospect of success. The Government is of the opinion that it must hasten slowly with its plans for the Northern Territory. Research stations are experimenting with such crops as pineapples, cotton, sorghum, rice and tobacco. Whilst results are encouraging in some directions, many problems are liebig encountered. For instance, in some areas tobacco plants will produce a beautiful leaf but it will not ripen. It is the task of the scientists to find out why. It would be foolish, therefore, to assume at this stage that tobacco can be successfully grown in large quantities in the Northern Territory. To induce people to go to the territory to grow tobacco without carrying out further experiments might involve serious losses and those responsible would have to shoulder the blame. For a number of years experiments have been proceeding to determine exactly what treatment the soil needs for various types of agriculture. That is a big responsibility in itself. We cannot expect any large-scale influx of people into the Northern Territory, desirable though that may be for defence purposes, until they can be assured of a good living. Our planning must be balanced. It must be based on a true sense of values. Honorable members opposite who proclaim so loudly that the Government should be spending millions of pounds in developing the Northern Territory would be the first to complain if southern taxpayers had to pay higher imposts for that purpose. If taxation were increased, the Opposition would immediately shift its ground and attack the Government for having imposed an additional burden on the people.
I come now to uranium, about which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) seems so eager for me to speak. Undoubtedly the uranium find in the
Northern Territory has given the greatest impetus to development that we have ever known. Any one who has spoken to mining officials cannot help but be fired by their enthusiasm, and impressed by their interest and confidence in the Northern Territory. There is common agreement that the best hope of attracting population to the territory lies in its mineral resources. It is a quirk of human nature that people will face hardships and disappointments in a land where wealth may be found. Undoubtedly thediscovery of valuable mineral deposits hasbrightened considerably the outlook for the Northern Territory. The discovery of uranium is one of Australia’s greatest; romances and the rapid development of* the uranium deposits is a tribute to theenthusiasm and devotion of all those: officials who have been associated with this important work. After Jack White produced his samples of uranium-bearing ores, the sinking of the shaft and the proving of the, rich mineral deposits took two years. I am informed that much of the credit for what has been achieved in the uranium fields is due to mining officials who have had the greatest confidence in the future of the deposits. They have done hard physical work in country where such work is not easy.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- .The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) asked where the moneywas to come from for the development of the Northern Territory. The obvious reply is that the money should come from the sale of uranium mined in the Northern Territory. Just as we have hypothecated a certain amount of money from the sale of gold in New Guinea, so, some of the money from the sale of uranium should be used to develop the Northern Territory. However, it is not with the Northern Territory, but with the Territory of Papua and New Guinea that I shall deal now. I regret that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is not here, because I am certain that honorable members would like to hear from him a statement, of the policy of the Government in relation to education in New Guinea. I have received inquiries from people in New Guinea about a recent decision by the Government to cease to supply mission schools there with ordinary school requisites which previously had been supplied free of charge, and about the Government’s policy under an education ordinance that was passed recently.
I say quite frankly that unless the Government is very careful and unless it reverses the policy which, I am afraid, it seems to be following at the moment, we shall have in New Guinea eventually, a- very severe outbreak of what, for convenience, can best be described as Mau-mauism. All the terror and outrage that we saw in Kenya will be repeated in a territory under the control of this Parliament unless the Government takes note of . what happened there and realizes where the real seedbed of the Mau-mau movement was. The seedbed of the Mau-mau movement was in the schools oi Kenya. The authorities there closed 137 schools in an attempt to deal with Mau-mauism. If I repeat statements that have been made in relation to Kenya by some authorities, the committee will gather what I am driving at. One authority, speaking about outrages and terrorism in Kenya, said -
All this, almost certainly, would have been avoided had the Government heeded the missionaries’ repeated warnings since 1930. At that time there was a tendency to secularise the native elementary schools of the colony.
Another authority, dealing with the secular native schools at the time the Government of Kenya was taking action to close them, said -
These schools have become sheer hotbeds of materialism, unsound patriotism and ugly gangsterism.
The truth of those words is shown by the fact that the administration found it necessary to close 137 schools in Kenya in an attempt to deal with the seedbed of the Mau Mau movement. No wonder there are outbreaks of murder and terrorism in Kenya when the authorities educate the natives in European techniques and European standards of spelling, writing and arithmetic, turn them loose, without having, in effect, destroyed their basic native philosophy, which is still witchcraft or voodooism, and expect to achieve the same results as are derived from the education of white people, who are heir to 2,000 years of Christian civilization. If we look at our own record over the last 2,000 years, we see that it does not take much to make us revert to barbarism. It is little wonder that that system of educating the natives in Kenya has produced the results of which we know.
Let me quote the remarks of one of the heroes of the Mount Lamington disaster. The Reverend R. G. Porter, speaking to the Anglican Diocese of Bendigo Synod, said he felt there was a certain tendency to take education out of the hands of the missions, and that that was a matter to which- the people, as electors of the Government, should give some thought. Ho went on to say -
Australia has nearly two thousand years of Christian tradition behind it, but just imagine the Papuan children taken out of a village surrounded by superstition and fear and given only a secular education.
I share the fears expressed by the Reverend R. G. Porter and by missionaries of all denominations operating in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea at the present time. The Government has ceased to supply mission schools in New Guinea with articles such as chalk, blackboards and dusters, with which it supplied them formerly, and an education ordinance has been passed which, so far as I have been able to ascertain from a quick study of it in the Library, follows very closely the lines of the ordinance in Kenya which produced the results that I have mentioned. The ordinance provides only a framework within which the New Guinea advisory committee on education must operate, but I hope the committee will not follow the example of similar committees in Kenya, which operated under very similar ordinances.
The general policy of the Government seems to be to encourage the natives in each district to establish their own native school, under native control, even though a mission school may be operating quite successfully in the district. The policy of the Government seems to be also that the natives, in establishing their own schools, shall not be permitted to nominate mission schools as the schools they desire to be established in their districts. It is true to say that, prior to the war, all education in the territory was carried out by missionery authorities. It is true to say also that, owing to the tremendous financial and other difficulties under which those authorities laboured, in many instances the educational standard was not as high as we would have liked it to be, or indeed as high as they would have liked it to be. When we consider that the missionary schools had very slender resources and that they had to do the best they could with those resources, the wonder is that they achieved the results that they did achieve.
It is a matter for regret that the Minister for Territories is not here, because I hoped that he would announce the policy of the Government on a matter that concerns all missionary authorities in the territory. The policy seems to be to allow the mission schools to continue to do the pioneering work and, when they have done sp, to move in with government schools and a completely secular system of education. Such a policy would lead only to what similar polices have led to in Kenya and other parts of the world. Unless we provide the natives with a basic philosophy to which they can relate their education and by which they can govern their conduct, unless we provide them with a basic philosophy to replace witchcraft, voodooism or native superstition, by educating them we shall be educating them only for disaster. Australia will have a very awkward and nasty problem on its hands before very long if the Government follows a policy of the kind that I have described. I do not know what the Government’s policy is, but, so far as I have been able to gather, it is causing a general feeling of disquiet among missionary authorities throughout the territory.
Certain steps have been taken which, although not of great importance in themselves, give an indication of the Government’s desires in this matter. School requisites are no longer “ supplied to mission schools and an education ordinance has been passed, framed in terms that would permit the disastrous policy adopted in Kenya to be adopted also in “New Guinea, a territory under the charge of the Australian people. It is probably true to say that, prior to World War I., most of the French ministers were violent atheists. “Nevertheless, their colonial authorities realized the sheer impossibility of attempting to civilize stone-age primitives without enlisting the aid of religion. I feel that this Government must be made to realize that, if we are to carry out successfully the long and painful process of lifting to a state of civilization a stoneage primitive people committed to our care, we can do so only in the same way as we raised ourselves, by very painful stages over a period of 2,000 years, to the state of civilization which we call Western Christian civilization, although in many respects fail to measure up to its standards. If we are going to leave the mission schools to do the best they can without aid from the Government in areas where the natives can be persuaded to establish their own native schools, under native councils, obviously there will be no future for the education of the “New Guinea natives except under a government system. The missions will not be able to carry on unless they receive government assistance. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) whether he will convey the information that I have mentioned, which has been given to me by the Anglican and other religious denominations, to the Minister for Territories and request him to make a declaration of policy to the Parliament. If that is done, this Parliament will have an opportunity of debating the Government’s policy, and honorable members will understand the position and be able to realize the disasters that will follow if the Government adopts a completely secular policy. That appears to be an imminent danger, according to an ordinance recently published in the territory by the Department of Education. If that department follows the lines that it apparently intends to follow, then I am afraid that many honorable members will be disgusted.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall be pleased to place before the Minister for Territories
– I consider the matters put before the committee by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) to be very important. In a short space of time we must take these native people through a course of evolution that has taken us some thousands of years to go through. We are dissolving tribal customs and old superstitions, which worked well for the native people in their primitive environment. While we are driving out one devil we do not want to leave his place vacant for the other six, each worse than the first. Now, considering the matter from the lighter and more material angle, we have failed to some extent in the development of the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea. During the last 30 years of our history we have failed to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities for developing a flourishing economy that have been offered to us by those territories. The reasons for that failure are first, overcentralization of administration and, secondly, the adoption of socialism in preference to private enterprise as a philosophy for the material development of these areas. This Government has done much to overcome both those evil tendencies, but I hope that it will do much more and do it much faster.
We should break the dependence of the territories on the bureaucracy in Canberra. In the Northern Territory and in Papua and New Guinea, we have set up an administrative system which is gradually achieving independence. However, we are still hampering the administration by preserving a works system in the Northern Territory which is responsible to the central office at Canberra, rather than to the Administrator at Darwin. That is not of overall importance, but it is an example of the centralizing tendency which is still proceeding. We should alter that tendency. I know that it is difficult to confer full statehood on the Northern Territory, because it has a small population which is probably not representative of the population which we hope to have there within a short time. We should try to alter the present system in which the will of the Minister can override the will of this Parliament, and where there is no coherent legislature to withstand his will. At present the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is able to appoint the members of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory at his own pleasure, and consequently he can control the council. This Parliament is unable to review the acts of that council, because those acts need only ministerial ratification. This state of affairs should be quickly changed. By similar methods we should try to break the centralization of power and give gradually - ‘but not too gradually - more autonomy to the territories, which could become as populous as the present Australian mainland. In any event there is no reason why New Guinea should not support as large a population as Australia, because it has immense undeveloped resources. Moreover, we must use our power to build up resources in our territories as a framework upon which private enterprise can develop. There must be much public: money expended there, but it should be spent to make a framework rather than to dominate the economy.
The development of the Northern Territory is largely a matter of increasing transport facilities which, in terms of cost, determine the economic value of industries. For example, many ores in the territory are unworkable, even though the deposits may be six times as rich as those in the more populous States, simply because of, the cost of transport. In considering such costs, we should remember two important matters. The first is that the balance between land and sea costs is not constant. Technical advances in the last few years have vastly altered the balance in favour of land transport, so that there is a real case to be made out for trunk railways - not simply feeder railways which can do the work that road transport could do better - but trunk railways, which will strengthen our defence system and make possible the establishment of new industries. Secondly, there is a case to be made out for the improvement of port facilities in the Northern Territory. That matter would require public investment, but it is not to be a means of socializing the country but rather a means of making private enterprise more profitable and more highly developed. I stress the prime importance of developing the Port of Darwin. This Government has made tremendous strides in that direction, and the inauguration of the new wharf at Darwin is something that we are proud of and something that will make a great improvement in the economy of the whole territory. However, that is not enough. I believe that at Darwin we should be putting in a loading and unloading plant to deal with the mineral products of the territory. The mineral resources of that area are tremendous. Besides uranium ore, which is likely to be the most important mineral for the next few years, there are copper, tin, lead, zinc and a number of other ores, which should by now be coming out of the territory. The reason that they are not being produced is largely the absence of reasonable port facilities. The great delays and the tremendous handling costs on the Darwin wharfs are well understood by honorable members.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I shall not detain the committee. Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had said that it would be advisable, in order to develop mineral production in the Northern Territory, to build, in the vicinity of Darwin, loading facilities similar to those which the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has erected at Whyalla. In that way, pressure on the Darwin wharf would be relieved, and the concentrates could be shipped at reasonable cost and also with reasonable regularity.
– I feel that I should explain to the committee, and at the same time express regret, that I was unable to be present during the debate on the Estimates for the territories this afternoon. At that time I was engaged in a Cabinet committee on a matter of the utmost importance to the territories. Indeed, without being disrespectful to the committee, that matter is likely to be of even more vital importance to the future of the Northern Territory than was the debate this afternoon.
– I rise to order. I notice, Mr. Chairman, that you have departed from the usual practice, which you have rigorously followed in the past, and have called two consecutive speakers from the Government side of the committee, instead of calling them from alternate sides.
– Order ! I think that it has always been recognized that when the Estimates are being debated, the Minister in charge of the department concerned has the right to reply. If the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) casts his mind back to the debate this afternoon, I think he will agree that speakers from his side of the chamber received the call more often than did speakers from the Government side.
– I again rise to order. I point out that the position to which you have referred, Mr. Chairman, existed only because honorable members opposite did not rise to speak. If you persist in your ruling, of course, I shall formally move dissent from it.
– It is the usual procedure to give Ministers priority. I therefore call the Minister for Territories.
– Then I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
Mr. Daly having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling,
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. P. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Opposition members interjecting,
According to the information I have received he directed his remarks to the Government’s attitude towards Christian missions in New Guinea, particularly regarding their educational activities. He also made some remarks to the general effect that the Government was increasing the danger of Mau Mau terrorism in the territory. I suggest that anybody who at this stage talks about Mau Mau terrorism in connexion with Papua and New Guinea is not only being frivolous but also mischievous. There is no basis for that sort of talk. It is the sort of talk which is likely to lead to consequences that I am sure the honorable member himself would not wish to see.. Dealing with the particular points about education raised by the honorable member, I should like to say that the education ordinance -
Government supporters. - Hear, hear !
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £428,260,000 for the services of the year 1953-54, viz.: -
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1953-54, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £276,606,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Eric J. Harrison and Sir Philip McBride do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Eric J. Harrison, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Additions, New Works and other
Services involving Capital Expenditure.
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1953-54 - be considered as a whole.
Proposed vote, £94,998,000.
– I direct the attention of the committee to the amount of £28,000,000 that is to be set aside for war service homes. In my opinion that amount is not sufficient. The Government has claimed that it is trying to stimulate industry by providing money that will set the wheels turning. Of the amount of £28,000,000 that is to be voted for war service homes, £7,250,000 will be paid back to the Government so that the effective amount of new money that is tobe expended on war service homes is £20,750,000. The Director of the War Service Homes Division has had some interesting comment to make upon this matter in his report. He stated that if more money could be made available, more applications could be met. The number of applications from ex-servicemen for war service homes is increasing. Builders are completing houses more quickly, but because the amount of money available is inadequate, the War Service Homes Division has had to limit the loans and spread them over a whole year. There is a big waiting list and that should not be permitted to continue. Many ex-servicemen have waited for years for houses and they are still waiting.
In his report, the Director of the War Service Homes Division stated that the provision of additional money had become even more necessary unless the waiting period was to increase progressively. He also reported that because of the increase in the number of applications received, it had been necessary to place various types of applications on a priority list to be dealt with in order according to the date of lodgment of applications. The provision of more money would mean that more homes would be provided and industry would be stimulated. The Government claims that that is its objective, but it will not be achieved by limiting funds. If the money is not provided for homes for exservicemen the materials and labour that are abundantly available will go into other forms of investment, such as blocks of flats and luxury hotels. The report of the director shows that the cost of war service homes has increased tremendously in recent years. The average cost of war service homes under construction throughout Australia now is £2,980. In 1949, when the Labour Government handed over the reins of office, the cost of war service homes with land was £1,850 each. Since this Government took office, therefore, the cost of each war service home has risen by £1,130. That is a substantial sum to add to the amount that ex-servicemen have to repay. Any increase in the number of war service homes completed will be received by Opposition members with pleasure, but the figures must be considered in their true perspective. The progress that has been made by the War Service Homes Division is evident from the number of contracts that are let each year. Throughout the term of office of the Chifley Government, contracts were let at a regular rate. When this Government was elected that rate was maintained but the number of houses completed each year has varied considerably. In the last three years of the Chifley Government’s term of office 12,340 applications were received. Contracts signed in the following three years under the present Government totalled 12,306. The figures were similar, but the number of houses completed has altered considerably because of the improvement in the supply of materials. That might be expected after the conversion from wartime to peace-time conditions. Honorable members cannot emphasize too strongly the need for more money to provide homes for ex-servicemen. They have only one opportunity to get a war service home and the Government would be acting correctly if it allotted more money for the purpose.
– I made reference in this chamber last week to the provision of war service homes. I wish to supplement those remarks now and support strongly the case that has been put before the committee by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). I expect that when I resume my seat a Minister or a supporter of the Government will rise to renew the claim that because there are more ex-servicemen among honorable members on the Government side, that is proof positive that they are doing more for the exservicemen. I am more interested in facts, and the fact is that the official figures printed this year indicate clearly that the demand for war service homes is higher than it has been at any previous period. The Government cannot be blamed for that. It is good to see that the number of applications before the War Service Homes Division is a record.
That fact indicates that, more and more, the average Australian family man desires to get away from the age-old practice of renting a home. He desires eventually to own his own home, and to be able to finance the purchase of it at a reasonable rate of interest. At this stage of Australia’s development, when the Government should be providing every facility to encourage home life, the average Australian desires to obtain a home promptly. He does not want to incur any delay. However, we find that notwithstanding the fact that the number of applications for war service homes is greater than ever before, the homes that it W1 be possible to construct with the provision proposed to be made for that purpose this year will be fewer than was constructed last year. That is not a very encouraging outlook for ex-servicemen who have been waiting years for the opportunity to acquire a war service home. An additional delay of from fifteen to eighteen months will be caused because of the Government’s inability to find the requisite moneys. The director of the War Services Homes Division and the deputy directors in the several States are now obliged to say, in effect, to an applicant, “ We are very sorry. You cannot have a home that has been built by a contractor because if we finance the purchase of that home on your behalf a further delay will be caused in the building of homes by the division. But there is nothing to prevent you from arranging finance privately, and after you have made such an arrangement, if you are lucky to get the money, and have arranged to pay interest at a higher rate, the division will eventually take over your liabilities at a substantially lower rate of interest “. Of course, the exserviceman will need to be lucky, indeed, to obtain the finance that he requires because, having regard to the period that has now elapsed since the end of World War II., the average ex-serviceman cannot afford to pay a deposit equal to 10 per cent, of the purchase price of a home, which, for war service homes purposes, is limited to approximately £3,000. That is a serious state of affairs. It is outrageous. Yet it is tolerated by a government which boasts that it has among its supporters more ex-servicemen than were to be found among those of any previous government.
There was a time when, owing to shortages of building materials including timber, fibrous plaster, spouting, water pipes, tiles, bricks, roofing and other materials, as well as a shortage of labour, the programme that could be undertaken was severely limited; but to-day there is no substantial shortage of building materials. There is now no reason for the hold-up of construction of war service homes other than the inability of this Government to provide the requisite funds to enable any ex-serviceman to select a house and, provided that it conforms to the requirements of the War Service Homes Division, to have his liabilities transferred to the division. Many contractors now make a practice of building homes for the express purpose of offering them for sale to ex-servicemen who are entitled to war service homes. Hitherto, no bar has existed to prevent the War Service Homes Division from taking over an ex-serviceman’s liability in respect of a home which he selected, provided that it conformed to the requirements of the division. But that procedure has been revised as from the first of this month and, in future, the unfortunate ex-serviceman will be placed in the invidious position of being obliged to raise the requisite finance from a private financial agency. In these circumstances, only ex-servicemen who can be financially assisted by friends will be able to obtain the requisite finance on the off-chance that after the lapse of twelve, or eighteen, months the War Service Homes Division will take over his liabilities in respect of a home. Therefore, I charge the Government with failing to honour the promise that it made to ex-servicemen, as it has failed to honour the promises that it made to electors as a whole. Even though it has failed to honour its promises to the community with respect to land settlement and the stabilization of the currency, I appeal to it, even at this eleventh hour, to honour the promise that it made to ex-servicemen that it would enable them to acquire a war service home. The problem of financing war service homes is accentuated by the fact that the proposed provision of £28,000,000 for this purpose during the current financial year will not be equivalent in terms of purchasing power to a sum of £14,000,000 when the Chifley Government was in office. That is the primary cause of the difficulty that exists in this sphere. On a previous occasion, I cited figures to show that during the four years that this Government has been in office the cost of constructing war service homes has increased tremendously in each of the States whether it is governed by a Labour or a Liberal government, or even by a half-baked Labour-Liberal administration. Compared with the cost of constructing a similar home in 1948-49 when the Chifley Government was in office, the cost has increased by £1,300 in South Australia and by £1,100 in Victoria, whilst the increase in each of the other States has exceeded £1,000. I cannot think of a more glaring example to indicate the degree to which the purchasing power of the Australian £1 has decreased since the present Government assumed office.
The Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) is an ex-serviceman with a nota’ble war record, and he is keenly interested in the welfare of exservicemen. I appeal to him to use his weight in the Cabinet in order to ensure that strong action shall be taken to provide additional funds for the purpose of providing war service homes for the ever-increasing number of applicants. During the year ended the 30th June last, according to the annual report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division, the number of applicants for homes totalled 23,000 and, according to an analysis made by that officer, at least 60 per cent, of those applications are still effective. The other 40 per cent, are not effective because those applicants have become tired of waiting for a home. They have become tired of being told of unavoidable delays, and that the division cannot construct homes quickly enough to meet the demand. They have become tired of being told to select a house, or to get a contractor to build a house, and that, if the division approves of the building, it will take over the ex-serviceman’s liability in respect of it. But even in respect of privately built houses, the ex-serviceman, who is prepared to purchase, has been told by the deputy director in his State to go and see a kindly old financier and, if he is lucky, obtain a. loan for twelve months elmore and at the end of that period the War Service Homes Division might take over the house as a war service home and make it available to the applicant concerned. I believe that ex-servicemen who follow those instructions will find that when they ask the division to take over their obligations in respect of privately constructed homes, the Government will be in an even worse position financially and the division will not be able to take over their liabilities. The Government must be up and doing in this matter. It is useless for its supporters to claim that it has constructed more war service homes than were constructed when the Chifley Government was in office. Of course, that is true; but one would be surprised if that were not the case, having regard to the period that has now elapsed since the end of World War II., and having regard also to the fact that no other country emerged in a more prosperous position from that conflict than did Australia due to the wise policy that the Chifley Government implemented during the transition period from war to peace. The Government stands condemned on its record in this sphere. I ask the Minister, when he is replying to this debate, not to make excuses but to indicate that the Government intends to repair the damage that has been done and to cancel the instruction that has been issued to the Director of the “War Service Homes Division and the deputy directors to advise applicants to arrange for finance privately. The Government should undertake to make available sufficient loan money for this purpose, either by arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank, or even by the issue of treasurybills. The labour is available; building trade workers are not fully employed and sawmills are not working at full pressure. To my astonishment I saw a few days ago an advertisement that had been published at great cost in the daily newspapers by the associated tyre manufacturers of Victoria, who constitute a gigantic combine, stating that tyres of all sizes are freely available. There is no shortage of goods of any kind. In these circumstances, let the Government put its brains trust to work to ensure that the necessary finance shall be provided to enable all ex-servicemen to get a home over their heads. As everybody knows, there is no greater stabilizer of the economy than a community in which every man is given an opportunity to live and rear his family in his own home.
.- I rise’ to counter a lot of the humbug that has been indulged in by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in an attempt to criticize the magnificent record of this Government in the provision of war service homes. In the last three and a half years this Government expended £89,000,000 on war service homes compared with an expenditure of only £52,000,000 by all governments in the preceding 30 years. In the last three years this Government built more war service homes than did any other government in the history of the Commonwealth. It has built as many war service homes as available finance has permitted: The honorable member for Lalor well knows that loan moneys are provided, not by the Government, but by the Australian Loan Council.
– Why does not the Government obtain money for this purpose from other sources?
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor has already spoken in the debate. If he is disorderly he will not be permitted to remain in the chamber to hear the reply to his speech which is being made by the honorable member for Sturt.
– The Australian Loan Council consists of representatives of the Commonwealth and of the six States. On the council the Commonwealth has two votes and the States have six votes. On the basis of political party affiliations there are three Liberal-Australian Country party votes compared with five Labour votes. If there is a complaint about the amount of loan moneys approved by the council that complaint must be levelled at the Labour Premiers who virtually control it. The truth of the matter is that the Australian Loan Council has approved of the raising of larger slims of money than the people are prepared to provide and that as a result insufficient money has been provided to finance all the works that are required by the Commonwealth and the States. The States have been extraordinarily greedy in the allocation of such loan funds as have been made available. They have taken for their own purposes every penny that has been provided by the Australian Loan Council and as a result the Commonwealth has had to provide for war service homes a record amount of £28,000,000 from revenue, or, in other words, taxation.
Every member of this chamber wishes as much money as possible to be made available for this worthy purpose.’ The budget was designed to encourage saying. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other Ministers have appealed to the people to save more money. If more money is saved, and more money is subscribed to the present loan and to future loans, more money will be available for war service homes purposes. The answer to this problem rests with the people. We should have more war service homes : we could have more of them ; but whether or not we shall have more of them will depend upon whether the people of Australia will be prepared for the time being to consume less and to save more.
– The honorable member for Lalor has said that the solution of the problem of financing the war service homes scheme is to be found by the issue of treasury-bills. As every intelligent person well knows, the issue of treasury-bills would be straight-out inflation. If, at this time, when the economy has been stabilized, the Government issued treasury-bills to the value of £2S,000,000 it would so increase costs that in the final result it would obtain fewer war service homes instead of more of them. At present the Australian economy is in a more favorable position than it has been in at any time since the war. The Government has brought about a condition of stability. Goods are in ample supply; there is full employment; and there are signs of prosperity on every hand. If the people respond to the appeal made to them by all political parties to subscribe more freely Ito government loans, we shall be able substantially to increase the allocation of money for war service homes purposes. The people of Australia want to be told the facts and not to be humbugged by a lot of nonsense such as has been indulged in by the honorable member for Lalor, who is well aware that if the provision of war service homes were financed by the issue of treasury-bills the balance of our economy would be completely destroyed.
– It was rather strange to hear the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) suggest that an issue of treasurybills would be inflationary. That statement is, of course, only relatively true. As far as this year is concerned, this Government seems to be committed to the issue of about £100,000,000 worth of treasury-bills in connexion with its works programmes and those of the States. However, I remind the committee that we are considering the financing of a proposed expenditure of about £100,000,000 from revenue. As has been pointed out already, the decision to finance such expenditure from, revenue, or by means of treasury-bills, is largely a matter of expediency, and necessarily a flexible policy must be applied. This is proved by the words of the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who stated during his budget speech in 1950 -
For a number of years .past it lias been the practice in Commonwealth budgets to show that item of expenditure (except Advances to States for Housing) as charges to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Any deficiency between revenue and expenditure has been shown as a charge to Loan Fund for War Services. This practice had advantages under war and postwar conditions when there had to be a greater degree of flexibility than usual in budget procedures to meet rapidly changing and unforeseeable circumstances.
I emphasize the following passage : -
However it conflicted in various respects with sound accounting principles, especially where capital items of a recoverable nature were made a charge against revenue. Thi* year-
He referred to the financial year 1950-51- it is proposed to vary the procedure by excluding two such items of expenditure - War Service Homes and War Service Land Settlement - from Consolidated Revenue and charging them along with Advances to States for Housing to Loan Fund.
I point out to the honorable member for Sturt that it has not been the invariable practice of this Government to finance expenditure on war service homes exclusively from revenue. During its first year of office they were financed from loan funds. The passage that I have quoted from the Treasurer’s budget speech of 1950 shows that the policy must be flexible, because it may become necessary to vary it from year to year. Therefore, to say coldly and deliberately that the use of treasurybills is inflationary is most inaccurate and misleading. Two years ago this Government issued treasury-bills for an amount of £40,000,000, and during the last financial year for £70,000,000. It is expected that treasury-bills will be issued in this financial year for at least £100,000,000. Therefore, it is not a matter of this Government being right in issuing treasury-bills, and another government wrong. However, the amount of treasury-bills issued varies from year to year, according to circumstances. It makes no difference to an ex-serviceman whether his home is financed out of revenue or provided from loan moneys, because he is charged a similar rate of interest in each case. However, I believe that the time is fast approaching when there should be a reduction of interest rates on war service homes loans when the money is provided from revenue, in connexion with the obtaining of which the Government has not incurred any cost. Why should such loans bear the current rate of interest? During the last twelve or eighteen months interest rates have risen, in accordance with the policy thai has been applied by this Government. Interest charges now bear heavily on all persons buying homes. The Australian Government is the only government in this country that may exercise a luxurious choice whether certain works shall be financed from revenue or from loan moneys. From the point of view of the community as a whole, it makes no difference whether a new hospital, which is a State facility, or a new post office, which is a Commonwealth facility, is financed from revenue, from loan moneys, or by expansion of credit. All that members of the public are concerned about is that such facilities shall be provided in their proper priority. There should .’be more co-ordination and less wrangling between the Commonwealth and the States in matters affecting our national development. Honorable members who live in the States know the very difficult problems that confront the States to-day. Although many important facilities are needed, the State Premiers do not know until after they have attended a meeting of the Australian Loan Council the amount of loan money that will be sought.
– Order ! Loan funds are not under consideration.
– I do not think that the loan problem can be considered separately from proposed expenditure from revenue and the issue of treasury-bills. The Commonwealth is in a more advantageous position that the States in relation to the planning of its works programme, because it can determine the amount of money that will be provided for that purpose from revenue, the amount from loan funds, and the extent to which it will be necessary to expand credit. The unfortunate States are bound by decisions of the Loan Council. During the last two years expenditure of about £28,000,000 a year on war service homes has been financed from revenue. However, I emphasize that the recipients of war service homes loans are not concerned whether the money is provided from revenue or from loans. There is a moral obligation on the Commonwealth, when it finances its war service homes programme from taxation, which is costless in the interest-hearing sense, or by an expansion of credit, which also is a costless process, or virtually so, to allocate money for expenditure on capital works in a particular year in proportion to the sources from, which the money is derived. Why should not the rate of interest on loans for State works be averaged according to the proportion that revenue from taxation bears to credit expansion ? That would result in a lower rate of interest being charged on wai service homes loans. Each 1 per cent, of interest charged saddles a mortgager with an additional capital liability of from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent. If this Government genuinely desires to provide homes for the people, whether war service homes - its direct responsibility - or housing commission homes, which are established by the States under an entirely different arrangement, it should realize that each new home fills an important need in the community to-day. It is all very well for the Commonwealth to offer to restore the taxing powers of the States, when it has no intention of doing so, and is satisfied to allow the States to solve their problems in their own way. Each of us is a part of one Australian community, and the test that we should apply is not whether a function is primarily one for local government, State Government or Australian Government. We should determine the jobs that are of major importance and allocate priorities to them. In addition, finance should not be the dominant factor. The primary consideration should be whether we are using the physical resources of the nation to the best advantage. The States say we are not doing so at the present time, and claim that many works, which we could be carrying out at a far more active rate, are being retarded because of insufficient revenue.
The source of the revenue is not important to my submission. The money may be paid by the Commonwealth as grants to the States, or may be provided loan allocations, but in any case, it is inadequate in total, and for that reason, many works which should be undertaken are not being carried out effectively.
The degree to which works have been retarded in the community generally is revealed in the proposed vote for the Department of National Development. The advance for the stockpiling of coal last year was £2,000,000. For the current financial year, no provision i3 made for the establishment of reserves of coal, which industry has urgently needed in the past. Since this Government has been in office, industry has declined in activity to such a degree that more coal is being won at the coal face to-day than is needed for industry. Economic activity should be stimulated, but under this Government, full employment no longer exists as a reality in the Australian community. This failure to provide money for the stockpiling of coal this year is a sad commentary on economic progress in Australia. The reports of the Joint Coal Board for 1950-51 and 1951-52 disclose that that authority had in mind a coalwinning programme of 18,000,000 tons annually, which was the estimated quantity necessary to meet Australia’s requirements at the then-existing level of economic activity, and taking into account the growth of the working population due to the natural increase and immigration. But in the last financial year Australia was able to get by with approximately 14,000,000 tons of coal, and the much-vaunted capital expansion programme had to go by the board, not because development was not necessary, but because financial considerations had precedence over the economic welfare of the community. This condition of affairs is an indictment of this Government, and a tragedy for the present and future of this great country.
.- I have’ seldom listened to a speech by an honorable member whose memory, or perhaps I should say “ f forgettery “, has proved so convenient as has that of the honorable mem ber for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). I remind him that when the present Government assumed office in December, 1949, the reserves of coal in Australia were not equivalent to one week’s supply. To-day, there is four or five months’ supply of coal for practically every activity, and a stockpile of 1,500,000 tons. Industry throughout the whole of Aus.tralia is buoyant, employment is general, and a sense of security and confidence is developing throughout the country at large. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also confused Commonwealth and State finances and I assume that he had the listening public in mind when he did so. He delivered a diatribe on the financial position of the States, and complained that their public works programmes were dependent on loan moneys whilst the Commonwealth was able to finance its public works programme out of revenue.
I shall remind the honorable gentleman of the position that has obtained during the last two years. In 1951-52, the Commonwealth found out of revenues that it had raised an amount of £125,000,000 to assist the States to carry out their public works programmes. In tha last financial year, the Commonwealth made available more than £100,000,000 to the States for the same purpose. The Commonwealth will raise a similar amount from revenue sources this year for public works. I am not one of those who believe that public works should be financed from revenue. The erection of war service homes is most important, and I venture to say that this form of activity is the best investment known in this country, because the expenditure on such homes in the last 30 years has resulted in a loss of less than 1 per cent. It seems absurd that we should be forced, by recent difficulties on the loan market, and the national and international situation, to finance developmental works out of revenue, but it is preferable to finance such works out of revenue than not to undertake public works at all, which was the policy of the preceding Labour Government.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has admitted that this Government is providing a similar amount of money this year for war service homes as has been provided in the two previous years. I shall cite the relevant figures. The Commonwealth Statistician, the trade unions and employers agree on the following building costs in the respective States : -
That is to say, the amount of £1,000 will pay for more squares to-day than a year ago. Yet the honorable member for Lalor has contended that the Government’s activity in the erection of war service homes is less now than it was twelve months ago. I shall also cite some interesting comparisons for the information of the people who make such a fuss, and claim that so little is being done at the present time. For three financial years in succession, this Government has provided approximately £28,000,000 per annum for war service homes. A similar sum is provided for the current financial year. In all, the amount of £117,000,000 has been made available for this purpose in four and a half years. The preceding Labour Government provided £22,000,000 for war service homes in three and a half years, or only one-fifth of the sum that the present Government has provided in four and a half years. The honorable member for Lalor complains that under the present Government, the construction of war service homes is too slow. The preceding Labour Government provided money for the financing of 10,729 war service homes in three and a half years. Approximately 33,000 war service homes, or three times as many, have been financed during the three and a half years the present Government has been in office. What kind of tortoise-like pace was the rate of construction under the preceding Labour Government? The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who does not appear to agree with my statement, complained for a quarter of an hour that wages were constantly rising. I thought that it was part of the policy of the Australian Labour party to increase wages. Now that wages have been increased, the honorable member blames the Government because it cannot build more houses. He cannot have it both ways.
Whilst the Labour Government was in office, from the 1st July, 1946, to the 31st December, 1949, 16,51S houses were either constructed or purchased with funds advanced under the war service homes legislation. During the last three and a half years, 48,784 houses, or three times as many as during the former period, were so acquired. The number of homes built under the legislation has increased from 5,7S9 during the former period to 15,731 during the latter period. Houses, the purchase of which has been financed under the legislation have increased from 10,000 to 33.000. In other words, the present Government is progressing three times as fast as the Labour Government. Because the Labour Government is now out of office Opposition members pretend that the Government is doing something scandalous. If their government had been responsible for the same performance they would have been giving it a pat on the back. Considering the difficult financial position which has obtained in this country and throughout the world, it has been a masterly stroke of financial genius on the part of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to provide £28,000,000 a year for war service homes. During this period, when loans have been restricted for all purposes, especially housing, the War Service Homes Division has maintained its rate of spending.
Opposition members have asked why applicants for war service homes have to wait so long in order to have their applications dealt with. It is because of the popularity of the War Service Homes Division. The activities of this division ar.e almost unique. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite should condemn the War Service Homes Division which is doing a magnificent job which is well recognized by the people.
.- I desire to say a few words on the subject’ of war service homes. In spite of the facts that the Australian £1 has been bleeding to death slowly during the last four or five years; that costs have increased until war service homes cost £1,000 more than they did when the Labour Government was in office; and that the number of applicants waiting for homes is still rising, the Government has provided only the same allocation for war service homes in this financial year’ as it provided last year. In any case, the Government did not spend £28,000,000 on war service homes last year, as is indicated in the budget papers. This is a. frozen figure. Apparently it must not rise above £28,000,000. Apparently the Government considers that it would be dreadful to spend another penny on such an item as war service homes in spite of the great increase in the number of applicants for homes. The Government has allocated £200,000,000 for defence in peace-time.
– Order! That vote does not come under this item.
– I only mention that in passing. Why should the Government not allocate ‘ £10,000,000 of that £200,000,000 to the War Service Homes Division? I want to give an illustration of what is happening under this Government’s administration. We have been blinded by figures. Let us consider human factors. To-day I received representations from an- elector who applied last August for a loan of £1,500 for the construction of a war service home. He is an ex-serviceman with four years’ service in the last war and he is batching in a shack which is 9 feet long and 8 feet wide. His eligibility for a loan was established by the office of the War Service Homes Division’ in Hobart. He had far more security than he needed for the loan. He had purchased a block of land which had been approved by the division. Last week he received a letter to say that his loan would not be considered until September, 1954. That man will have to live in a shack 9 feet by S feet for another twelve months before lt is loan is considered. Only then will be be able to start building his house. It will be at least 18 months before he can step into a war service home, although lie fought for four years in the last war.
That case demonstrates the Government’s niggardly approach to this matter.
I will admit that the Government has built- more war service homes than the preceding Government, but during the years 1946 to 1948 the country was still suffering from the effects of the greatest war through which we have ever passed. So this Government is not in a position to boast of its achievement in having built three times as many war service homes as the previous Government. Just as many homes would have been built regardless of the government in power. The figures and percentages that have been mentioned by honorable members opposite will have no effect on men such a3 the one that I have mentioned. He will not even have his application approved until December, 1954. Fortunately, before that time, war service homes finance will have been provided on the basis of estimates prepared by a Labour government.
.- I think that every honorable member of this National Parliament would like to see every returned soldier in possession of his own home. It is most desirable that every Australian citizen should own his own home. Notwithstanding that the efforts of the Government to cater for the demand for homes by ex-servicemen have been so great, it has not been possible to meet all requirements, due to the heavy demands that have recently been made for these homes. It is a fact that homes which have been built under the war service homes legislation by this Government during the last three and a half years total 15,731. The total number built over a similar period when the Opposition was in power was a paltry 5,789. That comparison does no credit to the Labour party, whose members to-night have lamented the alleged failure of this Government to meet its responsibility. But the comparison does not end there. Consideration of the finance that this Government has provided for the purchase of existing properties and the discharge of mortgages shows that, in three and a half years, it has financed 33,050 homes, compared with a paltry 10,729 provided by the Labour Government over a similar period. Again, this Government has done three times as much as the Labour Government did over a comparable period. The total number of homes provided by this Government under the War Service Homes Act has been 48,784, compared with a mere 16,518 provided by the Labour Government during the last three and a half years of its term of office. Opposition speakers suggested earlier that a comparison of the funds appropriated did not convey an accurate picture of the achievements of the respective governments and that the only way to make a true comparison was to consider the number of homes that had been provided. That is why I have cited the statistics of houses that have been provided. The figures reflect no glory upon the Labour party.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) dealt with the financial aspects of this issue. Appropriations for war service homes that were made under the Labour Government, in three and a half years totalled £22,2S7,817. Under this Government, over a similar period, the total sum appropriated has been £S9,663,020, which is four times as much as was provided during the Labour regime. These facts do great credit to the Government and must indicate clearly to everybody who is not hopelessly prejudiced that it is doing its utmost to cope with the demands of exservicemen and to honour its obligations to them. However, the problem of war service homes cannot be considered in isolation from other problems of housing. There is at present an absolutely unprecedented demand for war service homes, and there is a good reason for this state of affairs. The reason is that, at the present time, housing generally is under the control of the State governments. I raise this aspect of the matter merely to indicate why the demand for war service homes has increased so greatly and why this Government has discovered that, if it is to overtake the lag in the provision of war service homes and meet the current demand, it would have to appropriate approximately an additional £100,000,000 during the current year. Under the terms of the Commonwealth and .State Housing Agreement, which is based on a socialistic theory that has proved itself to be a complete failure, the States have failed to make efficient use of available supplies of building materials in order to provide homes for the people. Building materials, time, and money have been wasted. The best people in the community, those who want to own their own homes, are unable to find accommodation under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which provides that they must become tenants of the State governments. They do not want to have State governments as their landlords. They want to raise their families in homes that belong to themselves.
– Order ! The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument because it does not refer to the purpose of the proposed votes.
– I am trying to explain why there is such a tremendous demand for war service homes to-day and to demonstrate that’ it is not the fault of this Government that such a huge sum is required for -the purposes of the war service homes scheme.
The truth is that, if this Government were to provide all the money that would be needed to satisfy the demands of exservicemen under the terms of the War Service Homes Act, the building industry would not be able to cope with the demand and the number of houses required could not be built within the next twelve months. I have obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician figures which show that only certain sections of the building industry would be able to meet any undue expansion of the national building programme. Therefore, I suggest that the solution of the war service homes problem to-day does not lie in the provision of additional finance, which can be obtained only from one of three sources. Finance can be obtained by a fiduciary issue of bank credit, from loan funds or from revenue. No reasonable member of the Government would suggest that £120,000.000 of new money should be flooded into the economy, and our loan funds are completely committed to the use of the State governments, which are crying out, as it is, that they are not obtaining sufficient money. The Queensland Government, for example, had a surplus of £9,500,000 last year, but it still complains that the Australian Government is starving it of funds. The only source from which additional money for war service homes could be obtained is revenue. Surely no honorable member would suggest that industry could bear the terrific weight of the taxation that would have to be imposed in order to satisfy all the demands of Commonwealth and State expenditure, especially in view of the irresponsible claims of the State governments.
A simple and definite solution of the war service homes problem is at hand. We should immediately terminate the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and, with the money thus made available, make advances through a special section of the Commonwealth Bank to those members of the community who wish to own their own homes. By this means, the Government would cater for the best citizens - those who want to own their own homes, but have no desire to become tenants of State governments. Let us purge ourselves of all socialistic thinking, cancel the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and concentrate our efforts on the task of providing homes for the people who require them. The pressure on the War Service Homes Division would be relieved if money were advanced to home-seekers through a special section of the Commonwealth Bank, as I have suggested. The officers of the division, who are struggling manfully to cope with the 2,000 applications which flood in every month, would find that the pressure of work would ease and they would be able to deal more courteously and efficiently with the demand for war service homes than is possible under existing conditions. The complaints of members of the Opposition that this Government has not made adequate funds available for war service homes are exposed as completely false in the light of the figures that I have produced. The whole trouble has arisen from the socialistic theory, which the former Labour Government, endeavoured to put into practice, that no man should own his home lest he should become a little capitalist. “Let us make the State the landlord so that every citizen will live in a home owned by the State “, was the cry of that Labour Government. All the criticism by honorable members opposite is sheer humbug. I congratulate this Government upon the fact that, “in three and a half years, it has been able to make available over £89,000,000 for the purpose of enabling ex-servicemen to own their own homes.
.- After the confused thinking and muddled explanations of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) it is time we got back to some sensible reasoning. The main point that emerged from the entire diatribe to which we have listened is the fact that the honorable member for Lilley has suggested seriously to this committee that instead of the Parliament of the Commonwealth providing money at a low rate of interest for war service homes, a special department of the Commonwealth Bank should provide funds for this purpose, at, of course, a higher rate of interest. Summed up, the honorable member’s argument t was that we should forget about the war service homes scheme and allow ex-servicemen to make the best arrangement they can with the Commonwealth Bank or with some other banking institution. However, as a humble member of the Opposition I still believe that the Parliament has a duty to ex-servicemen to assist them to obtain homes. I am prepared to play my part in discharging that duty, and that is why I rise to-night. In the course of this debate, figures have been quoted to show what has been done and what is being done. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) explained, apparently quite seriously, that one reason why the Government was providing only £28,000,000 this year for war service homes was that the Loan Council would not make any more than that available. But when I look at the budget papers, I find that the Loan Council has nothing whatever to do with the matter because the £28,000,000 is being provided from Consolidated Revenue. It is true that £7,000,000 is being provided from loan funds for war service land settlement, but no loan money is being made available for war service home3. As has already, been pointed out, expenditure on war service homes has been frozen at £28,000,000 a year. Earlier this year I drew the attention of the Parliament to the waiting list for war service homes.
In February and March many complaints were made to members of the Parliament generally about the delays then occurring, in the provision of money, not only for the erection of new homes, but also for the purchase of existing dwellings. In March of this year certain applicants were informed that they would not be able to obtain advances for war service homes until about October. They were told that the funds allocated for war service homes had already been expended, and that any ex-serviceman who wanted a war service home would have to put his name on a waiting list. That waiting list is now so long that the placing of names upon it is a mere formality, because any ex-serviceman who adds his name will be an old man before his turn comes, unless of course special reasons entitle him to a high priority. The delay is such that a system of priorities is being introduced. Apparently the state of affairs that has existed amongst people waiting for telephones for the past few years is- also to exist amongst applicants for war service homes. It does not matter how many houses this Government has provided compared with the numbers provided by previous administrations. It does not matter what amounts of money this Government has provided in comparison with the amounts provided by previous governments. The stark fact facing us is that when Labour was in office there definitely was not a long waiting list of applicants whereas to-day there is such a list.
There are many reasons for the present state of affairs. One, of course, is that the number of ex-servicemen entitled to war service homes is more than twice as great as it was in the early post-war years. Many ex-, servicemen who were very young when the wai- ended are now marrying and settling down. They want homes of their own. It is only natural to expect, therefore, that there should be a large number of applicants for war service homes. There is another reason, however, and it was referred to by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to-day. This Government must accept much of the responsibility for the drying up of the flow of loan funds out of which, normally, provision would be made for war service homes. Largely because of this Government’s faulty administration the loan market has become exceedingly weak. War service homes finance is the best for home building in Australia today and it is only natural that exservicemen should want to take advantage of the most attractive loan proposition offering. But it is also natural to expect that a government which shouts from the housetops about its loyalty and its sympathy for ex-servicemen, should consider itself morally bound to carry out the wish of the Parliament as expressed from time to time, that ex-servicemen shall be provided with war service homes. It is all very well to say that applications for war service homes are coming in at the rate of 2,000 a month. If applications are coming in at the rate of 2,000 a month, this Government has a responsibility to deal with them at the rate of 2,000 a month. A few years ago the excuse could be offered that building materials and man-power were scarce. That is not so to-day. Brickworks and tileworks are not operating at full capacity, and quite a number of timbermills have closed down because the demand for building materials has slackened considerably. If the War Service Homes Division is prepared to provide the necessary money, it will be able to obtain all the materials it needs, and will have no difficulty in getting either contractors or workmen to do its jobs.
The Government itself is responsible for the only shortage that exists to-day - the shortage of capital. Only this Government can provide the money required to pay for the construction or purchase of homes for ex-servicemen. The provision of £28,000,000 this yearthe same sum as was provided last year - will not cope with 2,000 applications a month. The Government boasts that it is providing 14,000 houses a year. I do not complain about that. It is most commendable, but the provision of 14,000 this year will not satisfy the demand for 24,000 houses. At the end of the financial year when the £28,000,000 has been spent, there will be 10,000 unsatisfied applicants. If only £28,000,000 is provided next year, the deficiency will be 20,000 houses. It is useless for the Government to cry, “ We provided £28,000,000 for war service homes last year, and we shall provide another £28,000,000 this year. We built 14,000 houses under the scheme last year, and we shall build another 12,000 this year. We have done a much better job than any other government has done “. Even if this Government has done a better job than any other government has done in relation to war service homes, that will not satisfy the people who cannot get houses under the scheme. This week I brought to the notice of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) the case of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who applied four or five months ago for a loan to finance the purchase of a house and is still waiting for the money. His home has been broken up. He is living in Geelong, his wife is living in Broadford and his two sons are boarding in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. He was evicted from the house in which he was living. He applied four or five months ago for a loan from the War Service Homes Division, but he has not got the money yet, although, I understand that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are given a high priority by the War Service Homes Division. Unless additional money is provided for the scheme, that man and many thousands of other ex-servicemen will be unable to buy houses.
I appeal to the Government to reconsider its decision in this matter. I am trying not to make political capital but to do something for people who are entitled to live under decent conditions. I say that the Government, without any trouble, could provide another £28,000,000 this year for war service homes. There are a number of ways in which it could raise the money. It could reconsider its decision to reduce company tax and to give big hand-outs to people who do not need them.
– Order! Company tux is not under discussion.
– I say in passing that the money that the Government proposes to give to big companies by reductions of company tax could be used to provide war service homes. The list of applicants for war service homes is increasing gradually. The time has come to take action to make up the leeway. The vote for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department this year is £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 less than last year, which means that I shall continue to hear the old story about the waiting list for telephone services. Some people have been waiting for telephones for six or seven years. If the Government persists in being niggardly about the provision of money for war service homes, the waiting list for war service homes will become as large as the waiting list for telephones. I suggest that one heavy waiting list is sufficient weight for any government to carry.
Neither a shortage of materials nor a shortage of labour can be used as an excuse for failure to provide houses under this scheme. It is also not an excuse to say that too many people want to buy existing houses. If an ex-serviceman wants to buy a house already erected, it takes him anything up to twelve months to get the money from the War Service Homes Division, although all that has to be done is to examine the house to see whether it is worth the money asked for it. That entails only two or three days’ work by one man, but there is a delay of anything up to twelve months. The necessary money can be found. If the Government really prides itself on the services it is rendering to ex-servicemen, it will increase the proposed allocation of £28,000,000 sufficiently to enable the waiting list to be wiped out.
.- In this debate the Labour party has adopted its usual practice of trying to gain political capital from the sufferings of the Australian people. We know that many ex-servicemen who have applied for assistance under the war service homes scheme have not yet got houses. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) said that we should raise the money required for war service homes, not from revenue but by floating a loan. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) said just the opposite. He said that the money should be raised from revenue, not by a loan. I do not know where the Labour party stands on that matter. I am certain that the people who are listening to the debate realize that the remarks of honorable members opposite are only in the nature of political catch-cries designed to help the Labour party. Those honorable gentlemen know that thousands of ex-servicemen are waiting for war service homes, but they have not made the slightest attempt to deal with the fundamentals of the problem.
I agree, as a matter of principle, that money for war service homes should come normally, not from revenue hut from loan’ funds. But everybody in this country knows that it is impossible to raise more money by means of loans than is being raised at the present time. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has pointed out that the amount of money to be raised by loans is determined by a body other than this Parliament. It is determined by the Australian Loan Council, on which both the .States and the Commonwealth are represented. Loan raisings and the purposes for which loan moneys arc expended are decided by the Australian Loan Council, on which there are more members of the Labour party than of any other party. We must ask ourselves why loan money is not more freely available in Australia. It cannot bc denied that, from the viewpoint of expenditure from revenue, £28,000,000 is a very substantial sum.
The record of this Government in connexion with war service homes will withstand any investigation. Indeed, the Government should be congratulated by ex-servicemen throughout Australia on the magnificent job it is doing in that field of activity. The war service homes scheme was instituted in March, 1919. In 1949, the Labour party went out of office. In those 30 years, about £52,000,000 had been expended and about 54,000 houses had been built under the scheme. This Government, during the three and a half years it has been in office since 1949, has spent about £90,000,000 on war service homes and has built 49,000 houses under the scheme. Those sensational figures are a complete answer to any charge by the Labour party that we have not done a magnificent job for Australian ex-servicemen. Let me point out to honorable members opposite that, since the inception of the war service homes scheme, a greater number of exservicemen have financed the purchase of their houses by means outside the scheme than have utilized the services of the War Service Homes Division.
We are reaching a strange position in this country, and it is about time the people realized it. The belief is growing that for every purpose under the sun, whether it be for building homes, for capital works or for making up deficits in State revenues, the money should be furnished by the central government. If we finally get to the stage where people want everything from the central government, we shall have a complete socialist state. It is about time that the people thoroughly understood that, and took steps to avoid such a calamity. Since the beginning of the last war in 1939, there has been a consistent and insistent attempt by Labour governments, throughout Australia, including the previous Federal Government, which held office for nine years, to bring about a complete state of socialization in the country and to destroy the incentive for private investment. That activity is still proceeding, although this Government is doing everything in its power to unravel the socialist tangle. But, as some one has said, it is very difficult to unscramble scrambled eggs. While the Government is attacking that policy, five State governments under Labour control are doing everything in their power to destroy all incentive for private investment in Australia.
– Order ! I am afraid the honorable member is straying from the subject-matter of the debate.
– I suggest that my remarks fall well within the scope of the debate, because honorable members’ opposite have asked why money is not available for the building of homes for exservicemen. I am endeavouring to point out in answer to that query, and in answer to statements made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), that it is impossible to get loan money in Australia to-day because the incentive to lend of the people who have the money has been destroyed by controls, inhibitions and actions of Labour governments all over Australia during the last twelve years or so. It has been the policy of the Labour party to tear away the freedom and the rights of the people in relation to private ownership. That policy has been pressed forward . to the point where nothing is safe in the hands of private individuals. I say quite definitely that the people should realize that no private property of any kind is any longer safe in the hands of private people, because of the policy and activities of the Labour party. At present there is more than £1,000,000,000 in savings bank deposits in Australia, and about £900,000,000 in the credit accounts of the trading banks. Therefore, almost £2,000,000,000 of savings are in the hands of the people of Australia. They will not do anything with that money, because there is no incentive for them to use it. They dare not invest it in property, because of the activities of successive State and Federal Labour . governments. Consequently, a financial source that used to be available to ex-servicemen, and others, for the building of homes is no longer available.
At one time trading banks, insurance companies and other investment organizations were eager to lend money to ex-servicemen, but now they are not able to do so. Therefore, the ex-servicemen in their thousands and tens of thousands approach the War Service Homes Division to try to get money to build houses for themselves. I say that ex-servicemen should be allowed to build their own houses. They deserve to be a.ble to do so, perhaps more than others, and something must be done to ensure that they shall get their homes. But we shall get nowhere if we are to insist that all the money to finance them shall come from revenue, or be a commitment of a central government. It has been said that the cost of war service homes and other homes is rising. Of course it is. Let us consider the factors that are causing the increase of costs. The introduction of a 40-hour week certainly increased the cost of building, and I ask the Labour party to consider the contribution towards the cost caused by the darg which was introduced during a Labour government’s regime, and was supported by the Labour party. Consider the increase of costs when a man, instead of laying 900 bricks a day, lays only 300 a day. It is factors such as that that have increased building costs. Then there is the increased cost of transport, which is another factor in high building costs.
It has been said that building material is available at present. It is available solely because of the activity of this Government. When the Government assumed office we were short of coal, steel and all the basic materials for homebuilding. This Government has relieved all those shortages, and we have now reached the stage where the building trade is fairly fully occupied. No doubt more could be done to increase production, and this Government will do it if it is allowed to put its policies into effect. This Government has appropriated out of taxation in this year about £28,000,000 for war service home-building. To be perfectly logical, when the Opposition demands that that sum should be increased it should demand that taxation be increased. Yet, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has advocated further reductions of taxation. The arguments of the Opposition are so inconsistent that one gets tired of listening to them. Let us consider the demands of honorable members opposite. Do they want the Government to vote more than £28,000,000 for war service homebuilding? If they do, they must advocate that taxation should be increased to find the money. I suggest that we should not be taking the £28,000,000 out of our revenue at all. We should be obtaining it from loan funds. We would be getting it from that source if the Labour party had not ruined the people’s confidence in investment. If that confidence could be restored to the people who own the £2S,000,000 for war service homebuilding a proportion of that sum would flow into the investment market.
There is no doubt that during this debate the Opposition has attempted to make political capital out of the unfortunate position of ex-servicemen. That is a diabolical act, because after all exservicemen are people who perhaps above all others deserve houses. It is right and proper that they should be encouraged to own their own homes. To-day exservicemen have no alternative other than to approach the War Service Homes Division, because they cannot get private loans for the reasons that I have stated, and they cannot get rented homes because of the policy of State Labour governments. We have reached the extraordinary position in Australia, which the people do not seem to understand yet, where no one in the country can afford to build houses to let. Only governments can do that. At present, because the central government is the source of all investment moneys, it is only the central government that can provide money to build homes to let. The position is absurd, and it will not be cured until the confidence of private owners of money has been restored. The housing problem is indivisible. It is not an exserviceman’s problem and a private citizen’s problem. It is all one problem. Unless the people can be given confidence in investing so that they will be able to use their savings and know that they will be safe, we shall not be able to get a free flow of money into the channels that will make it possible for people to be able to build and own their own homes. To-day, because of the compounds in which we have fenced ourselves, we are concentrating the demand for money upon one source and young ex-servicemen and others are being forced to commit themselves to liabilities beyond their means. The reason for that sorry state of affairs is that the whole of the property assets that exist in Australia have been frozen because of the policy of State Labour governments which has been built on the foundations so well and truly laid by the Curtin and Chifley Governments during their nine years of office.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Almost four years ago, when this Government was elected to office, it promised the people of Australia that they would be housed. The supporters of the Government did not then differentiate between ex-servicemen and other members of the community. They said that homes would be built for all who needed them. The Government has failed to honour that promise. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who comes from New South Wales, where approximately 150,000 people are homeless, has attempted to play off the housing position of ex-servicemen against that of other people in the community. The honorable member had a record of failure in New
South Wales, and he seems to be continuing that record while representing a federal electorate. It may be remembered that about three years ago he propounded a plan to house the people. Apparently that plan has been dropped because nothing more has been heard about it.
In my electorate of West Sydney, every Monday morning women come to me and tell me that they have two or three children and are living in a couple of rooms. Sometimes they say that they are living in only one room. If the present Government parties, which enjoy a majority in this place and also in the Senate, cannot obtain, in bountiful times, sufficient finance with which to build houses, it is indeed a hopeless outlook. If the Government is unable to get the money, why does it not tell the people so? It is not right that exservicemen should be obliged to wait for sixteen or eighteen months for finance with which to build homes under the war service homes scheme. If this Government remains in office much longer, many ex-servicemen will no doubt be forced to live in settlements such as Happy Valley, as they did during the days of the depression.
When Labour was in office, thousands of houses were built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In addition, we were providing accommodation for large numbers of immigrants who were being brought to the country. Far from following that example, this Government has even failed to import sufficient prefabricated homes although it promised to do so. It has not honoured that promise, or any of the other promises that fit made to the people.
– Order ! The honorable member must not continue to debate the general housing vote, which comes out of loan funds.
– I agree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I point out that the people who are listening to this debate to-night and who heard the speech of the honorable member for Bennelong are homeless. There are also many homeless people at Lord Howe Island, which I visited last month. When they asked me if it were true that money was not available for bousing purposes, I was obliged to inform them that this Government has no firm housing policy. Those people fear that they may be hungry before Christmas because the shipping company which operates a service between the mainland and the island has decided to terminate the service next month. I point out that of the small population of the island, 30 persons enlisted in the armed forces during World War II. Two of those paid the supreme sacrifice, and the other 28 returned to the island. This Government has failed those exservicemen, not only because it is denying them homes but also because it will be responsible for denying them a shipping service.
Honorable members will remember that before being elected to office, the present Government parties proposed to make every Australian a little capitalist by providing him with sufficient money to build or buy a home. Yet it has done nothing to build those homes, despite the fact that in New South Wales ample materials are available and contractors are looking for contracts. The proposed expenditure for housing during this year is, according to honorable members opposite, twice as much as that which the Chifley Government provided for that purpose during its last year of office. The supporters of the Government do not add that, during the regime of the Chifley Government, the basic wage was between £5 and £6 a week, whereas it is more than £12 a week to-day. Under this Government the people have lost their incentive to work. I assume that the Liberal party in New South Wales is similar to the Liberal party in this Parliament. Yet, when elections were held in New South Wales some time ago, the Liberal party supporters did not advocate returning to a 44-hour week.
– Order ! The honorable member must know that that subject is right outside the vote with which the committee is now dealing.
– It may be, Mr. Chairman, but you allowed the honorable member for Bennelong to deal with it fully.
– Order !
– While the honorable member for Bennelong was engaged in local government affairs in New South Wales he helped to destroy home-building activity in that State. He was then called “ Calamity Cramer “ for ‘the very good reason that he was in charge of the Sydney County Council-
– Order! If the honorable member continues in that strain, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I wish to bring home to the committee the fact that the speech made by the honorable member for Bennelong represented an attempt to delude people who are looking for homes. Neither he nor the Government which he supports has done anything to enable the people to live as they should. Although there are many thousands of Australians who have been waiting for houses for long periods, this Government claims that it has brought the housing position to a level. It has brought it to a very low level. I hate to think that the people who have been awaiting relief in relation to home building will have to wait for another six months before a Labour government will come into office and implement the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It will ensure that finance is available for the building of homes. The Commonwealth is able to find the money for home building, so why do honorable members opposite always blame the States for the housing lag? They claim that loan raising for home building and other State purposes is under the control of the Loan Council. That is a mere fiction. At the last meeting of the Loan Council the Treasurer told the States they could have no more than £200,000,000, and that they could take it or leave it. Five State Labour governments were represented in the Loan Council on that occasion, but their representatives had no say when the Treasurer cracked the whip. When a Treasurer comes before the people and says that that is the best he can do-
– Order! The honorable member had better resume his seat, because he is not keeping to the subject.
– I desire to move -
That the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) be further heard.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has no right to do that. I call the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton).
Air. Daly interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member should know the
Standing Orders. I have called the honorable member for Canning.
– Then I wish to move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– Order ! The honorable member may not move dissent from my ruling. I have given my decision and have called the honorable member for Canning.
– The honorable member for West. Sydney (Mr. Minogue) was somewhat confused, and honorable members opposite who preceded him in the debate-
– I rise to order. I have formally moved dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and I was in the course of writing it out.
– Order! I want to lay it down that the honorable member has no right to move dissent from my ruling after I called the honorable member for Canning. That is the position according to the Standing Orders.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman.
– If it is the same point of order, I have already ruled on it.
– You must be clairvoyant, Mr. Chairman.
– The honorable member will sit down.
– I wish to take a point of order.
– Unless the honorable member has something fresh to say, I have ruled on that point of order, and he should sit down.
– You should wait until you hear what I have to say.
– I was prepared to do so, but I told the honorable member that unless he had something fresh to s’ay he should sit down, and he sat down.
– I want to know which standing order gives you the right to refuse to accept a motion of dissent from your ruling, as moved by the honorable member for Grayndler.
– I did not give a ruling. I call the honorable member for Canning.
– I rise to another point of order. You said, very distinctly, a few moments ago, Mr. ‘Chairman, that you had given a ruling. The words you used were, “ I have given a ruling “.
– Order ! I said, “ I have given a decision “.
– You said, “ I have given a ruling “. Now you say that you have not given a ruling. I say that you have, and dissent has been moved from the ruling you distinctly gave. I wish to know which standing order gives you the right to refuse to accept a motion of dissent from your ruling?
– If I said that I gave a ruling, it was ‘ a ruling that the honorable member for Grayndler had no right to move dissent from my ruling. If the honorable member is going to keep interrupting the proceedings of the committee I shall order him out of the chamber.
– I rise to order. I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to Standing Order 279, which reads -
If any objection is taken to a ruling of the Chairman of Committees, such objection shall be stated at once in writing, and shall be forthwith decided by the Committee; and the proceedings shall then be resumed where they were interrupted.
– The honorable member for Grayndler intimated that he desired to move -
That the honorable member for West Sydney bc further heard.
I gave my decision that the honorable member for Grayndler had no right to move such a motion. Standing Order 86 deals with the matter.
– I was not present when the motion of dissent was moved, but I consider that under the Standing Orders honorable members have a right to object to any ruling or decision. I point out that Standing Order 86 deals with irrelevant and tedious repetition, and that the power of the Chairman to act under it may be questioned by the committee, just as any other action may be questioned by it. The power to direct an honorable member to discontinue his speech may be wielded only under certain conditions. It has to be shown that there was persistence in this instance.
– A motion was moved that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) be further heard.
– The honorable member for West Sydney should himself have moved a motion that he be further heard. He did not do so.
– The decision I gave was that the honorable member for Grayndler had no right to move that the honorable member for West Sydney be further heard. Only the honorable member for West Sydney had the right to move that motion. That is why I immediately called the honorable member for Canning. If honorable members would familiarize themselves with the Standing Orders they would not waste the time of the committee by raising insupportable points of order and moving motions that are not in order.
– I desire to move -
That the honorable member for West Sydney bc further heard.
– I have already given the call to the honorable member for Canning.
– I rise to order. I distinctly stated that I wished to move dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and you said you would not accept a motion of dissent from your ruling. I have not yet been satisfied that it is within .your authority to take such action, and I should like to know on what standing order you based your decision.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. This matter has been proceeded with apparently only to waste time, because Standing Order 86 is clear. It states -
The Speaker, or the Chairman, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member, who persists in irrelevance, or tedious repetition either of his own arguments, or of the arguments used by other Members in debate, may direct him to discontinue his speech: Provided that such Member shall have the right to require that the Question whether he be further heard be put, and thereupon such Question shall be put without debate.
Therefore, I hold that you were correct in not accepting the motion of the honorable member for Grayndler. If the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) had exercised his right to move that he be further heard, that would have been a different matter. You then called the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who was on his feet speaking when the honorable member for Grayndler moved dissent from your ruling.
– Has the honorable member for West Sydney now got the right to move that he be further heard ?
– Standing Order 86 permits an honorable member to move that he be further heard, but I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that ‘ the honorable gentleman did not take the opportunity to so move.
– I was about to remind some honorable members opposite of their short memories, and to inform the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) that he had the facts of the housing problem, completely mixed up. He said that the Government intended to raise only £28,000,000 this’ year for housing purposes. That statement is incorrect, because the fact is that the amount of £28,000,000 to which he referred is for war service homes only, and that an amount of £37,000,000 is to be raised by way of loan for general housing purposes. That second sum is in addition, I am reminded by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), to the £2S,000,000 to which the honorable member for West Sydney referred. If the honorable member would examine the figures he would find that the allocation of funds for housing this year is £11,000,000 more than it was three years ago.
– What right has the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) to reply to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), when the honorable member for West Sydney was not allowed to complete bis speech? In accordance with the Standing Orders I move -
That the honorable member for Canning be not further heard.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority … . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the honorable member’s time be extended.
– During the debate on war service homes, honorable members on the Government side have accused Opposition members of inconsistency. They have charged the Australian Labour party and its supporters with having tried to make political capital out of this matter. At the same time, they have made extravagant claims regarding the Government’s housing achievements. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) cited figures in connexion with housing construction, including war service homes. I have before me housing statistics prepared by Elder Smith and Company Limited, an organization that cannot be claimed to be in sympathy with the Australian Labour party. The statistics show that in 1949, 4,022 houses, including war service homes were built in the metropolitan area of Adelaide. The Labour Government was defeated in December, 1949, and many houses were then in the course of erection: When this Government assumed office in 1950 it had at its disposal the whole of the requisite machinery to increase building activity that had been evolved by the Chifley Government; and in that year the number of houses constructed in South Australia increased to 6,775 compared with 4,022 constructed in the preceding year, an increase of 68 per cent. From 1950 onwards, the Government could claim really to be responsible for any increase of the construction rate of nouses. But in 1951, the number of houses constructed, instead of increasing, actually decreased to 6,672, a decrease of 1.52 per cent, compared with an increase of 6S per cent, in the preceding year. During the year ended the 31st December last, the number of houses constructed totalled 6,712, an increase of only .6 per cent, compared with the number constructed in the preceding year. Those figures refute the claims made by Government supporters that the Government has achieved a wonderful record in construction of houses.
Those honorable members have also complained about the record of State Labour governments in this sphere. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) said that the existing position should be rectified by abandoning the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which, he declared, only encouraged socialization. South Australia, which is the only State at present that is not governed by a Labour government, ha3 not been a party to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, but it will become a party to it this year. The Premier of that State, Mr. Playford, has expressed pleasure at the fact that South Australia will receive the sum of £1,000,000 for the construction of houses under that agreement. Apparently, the only Liberal Premier in office in this country to-day approves of this kind of so-called socialization. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) declared that State Labour governments had discouraged the construction of houses. In 1936, the Liberal Government in South Australia established the Housing Trust in that State and provided that that organization was to build houses for letting purposes only. None of its houses was to be sold. Yet, Government supporters in this chamber claim that such a system is a feature of socialization. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot boost the Liberal Government in South Australia on the record of the Housing Trust in that State, and, at the same time, declare that they do not want socialization applied in the housing sphere. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) said that more war service homes could be constructed if only the people would invest their savings in government loans. However, no mention is made of war service homes construction in the list of projects in respect of which loans are to be raised during the current financial year. The construction of war service homes is to be. financed entirely from revenue. Yet, in the course of this debate Government supporters have objected to the financing of war service homes from revenue. Those honorable members also are never tired of pointing out that this Government has expended from revenue three times as much money as the Labour Government did on the construction of houses; but they have failed to point out that this Government is now collecting three times the amount of revenue that the Chifley Government collected.
The figures that I have cited completely refute the claims made by Government supporters that the Government is doing more in this sphere than the Labour Government did. At the same time, this Government denies a fair share of public revenue to the States in the form of tax reimbursements. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) declared that whilst this Government had constructed so many houses, the Labour Government had done nothing in this sphere. The figures that I have cited disprove that claim. The honorable member for Bennelong said that the reason for the increase of the number of applicants for war service homes was due to the fact that exservicemen could not now obtain adequate finance from banks or building societies. An urgent demand exists in every State for an extension of the housing programme. I appreciate what the Government has done in this sphere, particularly in the construction of war service homes. The honorable member for Bennelong said that, to-day, no person could afford to finance the construction of a house for renting and that only government instrumentalities could do so.
– Those instrumentalities are not subject to the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act, and, therefore, can charge whatever rent they desire to charge.
-.The Housing Trust in South Australia, in which State, as I have already said, a Liberal government has a decisive majority in both houses of the Parliament, administers the Landlord and Tenant Act. Government supporters have claimed that if a Liberal government were in office in New South Wales similar to that which is in power in South Australia it would be able to meet the demand for houses. But as the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) has said, the Housing Commission would not be subject to the Landlord and Tenant Act.
– I said that the State housing commissions do not come under the Landlord and Tenant Act.
– That is so; but those instrumentalities construct houses which they let at an economic rental. For instance, in South Australia the Housing Trust is letting new houses for £3 5s. a week. Other rental’s of houses under the control of the Housing Trust in that State have been increased during the last few years from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week and from 17 s. 6d. a week to £2. I urge the Government to shoulder its responsibility in respect of house construction.
Government supporters claim that they are experienced in business and, invariably, apply sound business practice in government whereas members of the Labour party are incapable of efficiently managing the affairs of the country. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fifth report of the Public Accounts Committee which was issued to-day and which deals with the Department of Works. That report gives an illustration of the wonderful business acumen of this Government. The Chifley Government, just before it relinquished office, decided to enlarge the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome. The proposal involved the reclaimation of a large area of land. Booster units were required in order to assist dredge units to convey sand-water material from Botany Bay to the site. No units were available in Australia, and inquiries revealed that submarine engines in the United Kingdom were available and would be suitable for the units. The Labour Government approved of the Department of Works acquiring three submarine engines from the UnitedKingdom at a cost of £stg.500 each. The report to which I have referred states that, although technical information was available early in 1950 to show that the cost of the engines would inevitably be in excess of £10,000, no new estimate of cost was obtained. When the new Government came into office it apparently forgot all about them. Time went on and when, ultimately, the first two submarine engines arrived in Australia the Government found that they cost not £10,000 but £65,000 and even then they were not required. If the Government is as business-like as it claims to be, why has it so frequently fallen down on the job?
There are many other projects in respect of which the Government’s record is equally bad. Honorable members can see for themselves from the report of the Public Accounts Committee the chaotic state of the timber-yards in the Australian Capital Territory. Although stocks were shown in the balance-sheet of the timber-yards to be valued at approximately £150,000, in fact the stocks had not been checked for three or four years. When, finally, a check was made, it was found that the amount stated in the balance-sheet was approximately £50,000 in excess of what it should have been. The report also states that the AuditorGeneral reported that no stock had been taken of the assets of the timber undertaking during the period between 1947 and 1952. We could cite instance after instance of that sort of thing under this Government’s adminis*tration. Last year the Government was compelled to write, off losses amounting to £25,000 on the brickworks in the Australian Capital Territory. A similar amount has again been written off this year. The Government sent an officer abroad to consult experts and brick manufacturers. It purchased new plant at great expense, but after investigation the Minister realized that its use would involve the Commonwealth only in still further loss. If the Government is as business-like as it pretends to be, why does it allow these things to go so far before it does anything to correct them?
It is high time that the Government improved its administration of the nation’s affairs.
– A few minutes ago I was endeavouring to place before the committee some figures in respect of war service homes-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) rose at the same time as did the honorable member for Canning, who was given the call from the Chair.
– The point of order is not upheld. The Chair decides the order in which the call is given.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) confused the general housing programme with the war service homes scheme. In the course of his confused remarks he stated that in New South Wales brick kilns had ample supplies of bricks, which could not be disposed of, that building materials were freely available everywhere and that contractors were chasing contracts. If that is so, I suggest that the honorable member should inform the Premier of New South Wales, particularly in view of the fact that this Government is making available an additional amount of £7,000,000 for the construction of houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) referred to the building position in South Australia. I understand that he cited figures in relation to the metropolitan area of Adelaide.
– That is so.
– I have been reliably informed that last year 8,000 houses were built in Adelaide and not 6,000.
Opposition members have confined their criticism of the proposed votes for additions, new works and buildings almost entirely to the number of outstanding applications for war service homes. They will agree that in the period from 1946 to 1949 ample funds were available for the provision of war service homes because we were then living in the socalled golden age. The figures relating to outstanding applications in the years from 1946 to 1953 are somewhat startling.
Prior to the introduction of the last Chifley budget at the 30th June, 1949, 22,677 ex-servicemen were waiting for war service homes. They could not obtain information from the Chifley Government about when they could expect to have their requirements met.
– Now, no fewer than 24,900 ex-servicemen are waiting for war service homes.
– At the 30th June, 1953, there were 14,378 outstanding applications. My authority for these figures is the War Service Homes Division. I shall cite the figures for each successive year. At the 30th June, 1946, there were 15,839 outstanding applications. By the 30th June, 1947, the number had increased to 18,937.
– Which government was then in office?
– The Chifley Government. At that time we were told that we were passing through the golden age, but although the Labour Government was able to obtain all the money it required for war service homes no fewer than 18,937 applications were unsatisfied. All the talk indulged in by Opposition members about war service homes and repatriation in an endeavour to win the votes of ex-servicemen is nothing but hypocritical humbug. At the 30th June, 1948, the number of unsatisfied applications for war service homes was 20,743.
– The Labour Government was still in office then?
– Yes. And at that time almost unlimited amounts of investment money were channelled into Commonwealth loans. Opposition members continually boast that during the regime of Labour governments Commonwealth loans were invariably over-subscribed and that savings bank deposits were increasing by leaps and bounds. Yet, at the 30th June, 1948, there were no fewer than 20,743 outstanding applications for war service homes. At the 30th June, 1949, the number of outstanding applications increased to 22,677. That was the year in which Mr. Chifley introduced a budget which made provision for a deficit of £35,000,000. On the 10th December, 1949, the Chifley Government was soundly defeated. By the 30th June, 1950, the Menzies Government had reduced the number of unsatisfied applications for war service homes to 22,492. It was able to do that and to grant many concessions to ex-servicemen and to pensioners generally, but it did not close the accounts of the financial year with a deficit of £35,000,000. At the 30th June, 1951, the number of unsatisfied applications for war service homes dropped to 18,523.
– Because the cost of house construction had by then greatly increased.
– I am referring to the number of unsatisfied applications for war service homes. Opposition members contend that nothing is too good for the ex-servicemen, but many thousands of ex-servicemen were still waiting for war service homes as a result of the failure of Labour governments to carry out their obligations. During the so-called golden age, Labour had control of all loan moneys in this country - because capital issues were rigidly controlled. Money could not be invested privately. It had to go into the Government’s coffers. However, this present Government vacated the loan market, with the exception of loans for the purpose of general housing and war service land settlement. Immediately money is raised for those purposes it is given to the agent States. Each year since this Government came to office the amount so raised has been increased. This Government introduced the system of financing war service homes from revenue, and each year since we came to office the waiting list has been reduced. In 1952 the number of applicants waiting for homes was reduced to 16,402. At the 30th June this year the figure was 14,378, and about 2,000 applications a month have been since received. Although the figures in relation to this Government’s activities in this field have been mentioned several times to-night, they stand repeating.
I shall refer to the report of the Director of War Service Homes for the financial year 1952-53 that was presented in another place recently. When this Government came to office it endeavoured to rectify the faults in our economy that developed during the so-called golden age of the previous Labour Administration. Although honorable members opposite have referred to the budget that was introduced in 1951 as a horror budget, its provisions have done much to correct our economic ills. In 1945-46 the previous Labour Government provided 576 war service homes. I concede readily that the war was still in progress during a part of that year. In the next financial year the Labour Government provided 2,508 war service homes, and in 1947-48, 3,876 such homes. In 1948-49 it provided 6,200 war. service homes. I shall now relate this Government’s record. In 1950-51 it provided 15,500 war service homes; in 1951-52, la,S00; and in 1952-53, 13,000 such homes. Admittedly there was a slight decrease in that year compared with the previous year. Between the 1st ‘ January, 1950 and the 30th June, 1953 this Government has provided 48,784 war service homes, at a cost of £89,663,000, out of revenue. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has already pointed out that we have expended almost four times as much money on war service homes as the previous Labour Government.
– Does the honorable member call it money?
– Yes. This Government has been providing about 15,000 war service homes a year, compared with a miserable 5,000 by the previous Labour Government. In a period of three years we have provided 4lS,000 wilt service homes, compared with 16,500 by Labour. If we have not expended money I do not know how else to describe our expenditure. I am sure that the ex-servicemen of this country would be glad to obtain as much of that kind of money as they could, in view of the number of homes that have been provided by its expenditure. In this financial year we will provide at least as many war service homes as we did last year, because £28,000,000 will be appropriated for that purpose out of revenue. We make no apology for finaning the provision of war service homes from revenue. Honorable members opposite should have regard to Labour’s history in this matter before mouthing stories such as were mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) as synthetic sympathies. The figures in relation to the provision of war service homes are a disgrace to the previous Labour Administration and a credit to this Government. As I have said, we are providing £28,000,000 for war service homes in this financial year. We will provide at least that amount in the next financial year,- and in the year afterwards and the year after that.
.- I wish to make a few references to the report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year 1952-53, which was presented in another place last week. I point out that the figures published in that document and referred to by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) were the only verifiable figures that he quoted. The plain fact is that -never before this year have so many applications for war service homes been received; and never have so many applicants remained unsatisfied; and never before has the waiting list been so long. In each year after the cessation of hostilities in World War II. the previous Chifley Government ^doubled its appropriation of the previous -year for war service homes. Now, however, we are commencing the fourth successive year in which the appropriation :by the present Government for war service homes has remained virtually stationary. The cat was let out of the bag by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who likes to barken back to the pre-war years when the provision of housing was regarded as a legitimate field for private investment. It is no longer so, and the provision of war service homes is to him and persons of similarly antiquated views merely an example of socialism. If this is socialism, returned soldiers will want very much more of it, because this socialist enterprise has been progressively successful, whenever it has been allowed to be successful, for more than a generation. The present Government has adhered to its usual attitude towards socialist enterprises by trying to hamstring them. The Chifley Government met the demand for war service homes ; this Government fails and refuses to meet it. I shall now quote precise figures from the director’s report, insofar as they were not quoted by the honorable member for Canning. In 1946-47, the Chifley Government expended £2,071,828 on war service homes, and in the following year, £4,439,912. In 1948-49 the expenditure for that purpose was £8,551,902, and in 1949-50 it rose to £16,154,388. In the following year, the first full year of office of the Menzies Government, £25,071,548 was provided for that purpose, and in each of the two succeeding years a mere £28,000,000. The number of houses provided in those years increased, as the honorable member for Canning has said, from 2,508 in the first post-war year when the Chifley Government was in office, to 10,303 in the last year of that Government’s administration. There was a continued increase to 15,165 in the first year of this Government’s term of office and to 15,388 in the following year. Last year, however, the figure dropped to 12,422, the first decrease since the war. The honorable member, quoting from page 6 of the report, said that the number last year was 13,070. If he had read the first sentence of the report he would have seen that the total number of war service homes provided during 1952-53 was 12,422, and from the information on the intervening pages it is apparent why the figure that he mentioned is 600 out. That report is the first report of the Director of War Service Homes in which any reference has been, made to priorities. He stated -
The rush of applicants for assistance to build under the Act has been so great that it has been necessary to place all applications on a priority list . . . this has caused the greater accumulation in New South Wales than in the other States . . . This accumulation will have to be reduced over a period as, for obvious reasons, it is not practicable to deal immediately with such a rush of applications … A record total of 24,906 applications were received during the year.
The director then made the following recommendation, which has been ignored : -
The waiting list has increased progressively, because the amount of the appropriation has not increased. There is one particular illustration of that in a letter which was sent on the 3rd of last month from the director of the division to the deputy director in Melbourne. Reference has been made to that letter by the honorable member for Lalor, but I shall quote it in greater detail. It reads as follows: -
In future, however, there is to be a waiting period in respect of the purchase of new homes . . .
An applicant should be given permission to raise temporary finance pending the date upon which he will reach his turn on the priority list for processing for assistance under the act.
Honorable members will see from the letter that during the year’s wait which the applicant will have before he gets the money, he may go to private financiers ; but such a course will not give him the benefit of a low rate of interest, or his dependants the benefit of security in case anything happens to him. The new procedure also will not give him the benefit of lower insurance premiums. But why should he have to go to private financiers, for whom the honorable member for Bennelong speaks in this debate, instead of getting the assistance, to which he has been entitled hitherto, from the War Service Homes Division ? The letter continues - . . Settlements are to be effected in respect of all applications received prior to the 31st October, 1953 . . . These settlements will be spread over the period to the 30th June, 1954, . . .
The effect will be that at the 30th June settlements will have been effected in respect of all applications for completed homes received up to the 31st October and at the same time, the November and ^December applications, will be in process for settlement during the early months of 1954-55.
Honorable members will observe that the persons in Victoria who apply for war service homes in the first four months of this financial year, are the only ones who, during this financial year, will receive housing loans. Only one-third of the applicants this year will receive the money this year.
– The others have to wait for a year.
– Yes. Applications made in November and December this year will be dealt with, and will be ready to be granted, in July and August of next year. I have heard the phrase “ hypocritical humbug” used earlier by some
Government supporters. I, of course, would not use such an unparliamentary expression, but it aptly describes the attitude of those honorable members who say that a splendid job has been done by the War Service Homes Division under this Government. For the first time in a generation, a system of deferment has been promulgated and applicants will have to seek assistance from private financiers, and “ pay through the neck “ for the money. No greater appropriation has been made this year than was made last year for war service homes. Only 12,422 houses were built last year, compared with 15,388 in the previous year. A similar drop will occur this year, because the cost of home building is increasing.
The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) claimed that the cost of home building decreased during the last financial year. Reference to page 7 of the report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year 1952-53 reveals that the cost of erecting a war service home in every State and the Australian Capital Territory in the last financial year increased by some £400. We should note a piece of chicanery and juggling with figures. The appropriation for war service homes is the same this year as it was in the last three years, yet the amount of repayments by the applicants, who are already in their homes, will be greater this year than in any previous year ; and, consequently, the actual number of pounds which will be spent on war servicehomes this year will be less than this Government has spent in any year it has been in office. Building costs and repayments are still rising, but the nominal figure remains unchanged, and the number of houses that will be provided will decline accordingly.
I feel loath to refer to the Joint Opposition Policy 1949, but honorable members will find the following statement by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on page 26 : -
Except in relation to the Territories and War Service Homes, the direct responsibility for housing is with the State Governments.
The corollary is that the direct responsibility for housing in relation to war service homes lies with the Commonwealth Government. Never has a trust been so betrayed, as it bas been betrayed by the present Government, by freezing the amount of money made available for war service homes, whether it was provided from revenue, as in the last three years, or from loan money, as in 1950-51. This Government has proved recreant to its trust in dealing with ex-servicemen as in all the other matters which have already been debated in committee.
Many muddled statements have been made to-night by Government supporters about the ‘ financing of war service homes. References have been made to loan money, as distinct from provision from Consolidated Revenue, for housing this year. The matter of loans is completely beside the point in this discussion. But one notices the reappearance of the old error, that the functions which the States carry on out of loan money are somehow of less virtue, validity and necessity than the functions which the Commonwealth undertakes. Only the Commonwealth has the option, under bur Constitution, to grant or withhold credit, to raise or refund loans and, in general, to levy or rebate taxation ; and it. is completely beside the point to say that the Australian Loan Council has anything to do with war service homes this year. I emphasize that war service homes are the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Indeed, they have always been the Commonwealth’s responsibility, whether they have been financed out of loans or, as more generally since the last war, out of revenue. The present Government, by freezing the amount spent on them, is evading its responsibility, and thereby does itself no credit. Honorable members who have referred to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the Financial Agreement are irrelevant and ill informed. The Government has chosen this year, as in previous years, to finance war service homes out of revenue. By leaving the amount of finance at the same static figure, the Government reduces the number of war service homes available to ex-servicemen, whether they served in World War I., World War II., or the Korean war. The demand for war service homes is greater than it has ever been; the waiting list of applicants is longer than it has ever been; and for the first time, we find an organized system of priorities to fob off two-thirds of the people, who will apply for financial assistance this year, into the next financial year.
– In the short time that remains for this debate, I shall try to put this matter into its proper perspective. It is so easy to be emotional when we are discussing this subject. Some emotional speeches have been delivered this evening by Opposition members, but it will not escape the observation of the committee that not one socialist member has offered a solution of the problem. Perhaps, I should qualify that statement. Two solutions have been offered, if they can be regarded as such. One is the rather extraordinary plan that defence expenditure should be cut. It is quite easy to be histrionic about this matter and talk about the £1 bleeding to death, and use expressions of that sort. What, in fact, has the socialist party offered us except; in a vague way, more socialism? Honorable members opposite have constantly demanded a reduction of taxation. Their other alternative was that company taxation should be re-imposed. I presume that if that taxation did not produce sufficient they would recommend increasing all taxation. Honorable members opposite could have discussed many items in addition to war service homes under the terms of the motion before the committee. They could have referred to the £2,000,000 proposed for the Department of Health, to the £13,000,000 proposed for the Department of National Development, to the £348,000 proposed to be expended on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or to the £5,000,000 proposed for expenditure on the Department of Shipping and Transport. But they have not referred to any of these items.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) is holding a loud conversation with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin).
– Order! Honorable members will remain silent.
– These honorable members have no interest in war service homes.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to keep quiet. If he does not keep quiet he will have to go outside.
– Honorable members opposite have tried to gain political capital from this debate. The only complaint of any substance that they have made has been that war service homes expenditure is being financed from revenue. The Opposition did not complain when the Government provided £153,000,000 from revenue for the States in one year. So how can they logically complain that the Government should have provided the £28,000,000 needed for war service homes from revenue? The honorable member forWerriwa said that when the Chifley Government was in office the demand for war service homes was far less than it is now. During a period of office equal to the present Government’s term of office, the Labour Government built fewer than 6,000 houses. How would the Labour Government have fared had it been called upon to meet the present demand for homes ? The present Government has provided well over 15,000 war service homes. The long, specious argument of the honorable member for Werriwa about frozen funds did not touch the facts of the matter. The facts are that in three and a half years the Labour Government built approximately 5,700 houses. It financed the purchase of 10,700 houses which makes a total of 16,400. Under this Government 15,700 homes have been built and 33,000 financed, a total of48,700.
– A magnificent record.
– It is a magnificent record.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is distinctly out of order in interjecting from outside the chamber.
– The present Government has provided three times the number of war service homes that was provided by the previous Government and it has provided many times the amount of money provided by the Labour Government. It has provided £89,000,000 for the construction of war service homes, compared with £22,000,000 provided by the Labour Government. The facts speak for themselves.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question he now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £94,998,000 for the services of the year 1953-54, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz. : -
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1953-54, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, there , be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £62,721,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Eric J. Harrison and Sir Philip McBride do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Eric J. Harrison, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Earlier to-day I asked a question-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented -
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When will plans and specifications be prepared for the new post office building at Torrensville?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Preliminary planning workfor the new post office at Torrensville, South Australia, is in hand and the Department of Works will be requested to proceed with preparation of sketch plana and estimates when other high priority work for telephone exchange and trunk-line buildings has been completed.
a asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tariff Board Reports.
s.- On the 1st October, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ewert) asked the following question: -
Has the Government received the annual report of the Tariff Board which is required by statute to be submitted by the end of August? Why was the report not tabled in the Parliament within seven days of its meeting as required by section 18, sub-section (2.) of the Tariff- Board Act? In view of the growing difficulties which Australian industries face for the cost of uncontrolled inflation, will the Government table the report without further delay ?
I now inform the honorable member as follows: -
It is a fact that the Tariff Board Act- requires the Tariff Board to make a report to the Minister for Trade and’ Customs within 60 days after the 1st July in each year, and that the act further requires that the report be tabled within seven days of its submission, if the Parliament is then sitting. Otherwise it is to be tabled within seven days of the meeting of Parliament. The Government has received the board’s report for this year. If the honorablemember has made even a cursory study of the form which this report usually takes he will realize that it is a very voluminous document which takes a lot of digesting. The Minister for Trade and Customs, who, in common with the rest of the Cabinet, is an extremely busy man, followed the practice of referring the report to his department in order that they might extract an easily readable story from it and report to him. This practice, I might mention, has also been followed in the past by Labour governments. The department performed their duty in this respect, within a matter of a few days, but then there arose the question of having sufficient copies prepared for the information of honorable members, the press and other interested people. In this regard the pressure of work that has accumulated at the Government Printing Office has caused further delay. Since the honorable gentleman is so concerned with the tabling of the report, I am sure his interest would lead him to desire that he, in common with other honorable members so interested, should have a copy to study at his leisure. I would remind the honorable member, since he seeks to take the Government to task on this matter, that in 1944 the report was tabled on the 19th September; in 1945 on the 3rd October; in 1946 on the 8th November; in 1947 on the 6th November; in 1948 on the6th October; and in 1919 on the 20th October. The present report will be’ tabled aB quickly as the existing difficulties can be overcome.
Mr. PETERS asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many temporary public servants who had over eight years’ service with the Government have had their services dispensed with since the 30th June, 1952?
How many of them have ‘ received longservice leave or pay in lieu thereof i
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The information asked by the honorable member is being obtained. It is expected, however, that some time may elapse before complete figures can be furnished. I shall inform the honorable member accordingly as soon as they are available.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531006_reps_20_hor1/>.