21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether, on the Estimates of the services departments and of his own department, he can have available to the committee more detailed particulars of some of the items contained therein so as to inform honorable members, so far as it is possible and permissible for him to do so, as to how those items are made up. Some items run into very large figures, and I think the committee will probably require some more particulars of them.
– I shall have a look at the Estimates to see whether I can get a dissection made and, if possible, make the information available to honorable members.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform me whether a grant has been approved towards the cost of the Judge Book Memorial Home for aged people at Eltham, Victoria? If so, what is the amount of that grant, and when is it expected that the first instalment will be paid?
– A loan has been approved for a home situated at Eltham in Victoria. I understand that the home is to be erected by the Melbourne City Mission in honour of a gentleman who formerly gave great service to the community, and to the town of Eltham and surrounding districts. The amount is, I think, £12,850, and the department is waiting until the foundations are laid and the buildings commenced. As soon as it can possibly do so, it will be only too happy to make its share of the moneys available.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, who is acting for the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank is limited by act of Parliament, to the amount of £1,750 for housing loans, which is quite inadequate to build even a small house, and also in view of the fact that a number of people who borrowed from the bank some years ago are unable to raise anything over the limit for necessary extensions, will the Government give consideration to amending the Commonwealth Bank Act to allow the bank to lend money up to the same amount as is lent by the War Service Homes Division?
– I am not entirely familiar with the point which the honorable member raises. I shall find out about it, and I shall give the honorable member an answer as if his question were on the notice-paper.
– I address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is it a fact that reports were received yesterday of spectacular rises in the prices of butter and cheese in the United Kingdom? Are these prices actually above those fixed by the British Ministry of Food before changes in control were effected in the United Kingdom, and will these prices mean the addition of another £2,000,000, or even more, to our export income? Is it a fact also that the consumption for August and September is even larger than that for April and May and that as a result this will mean considerable additional income for those industries? Can the Minister say when the farmer will begin to feel the effects of these buoyant conditions?
– I am glad to be able to confirm that, in the last few weeks, there has been a very substantial rise of the London value of butter and cheese and, of course, the values in London will be reflected in all export markets. In the last three weeks there have been four separate rises amounting, in respect of butter, to 33s. per cwt., sterling, which is close to 5d. per lb. in Australian currency. This occurs at a time when we have not yet any of this season’s butter in the United Kingdom for sale, but I believe that there is reason for confidence that this indicates the level of values that may pertain when our butter is received there. The price rises in the cost of cheese have been more than comparable with that of butter. I am having some calculations made in order to ascertain just what this will mean to the dairy-farmers. The honorable member has asked whether it would be worth £2,000,000 to them. It may well be that its worth will depend finally, more than anything else, on the total volume produced this year, and therefore the volume available for export. But I can say this to the dairying industry: If the production of butter this year were no higher than it was last year, when the high level of production of 188,000 tons was attained, if the level of local consumption is sustained, as I believe it will be, at 120,000 tons, and if to-day’s level of London values persists for the whole of our export season, all those three circumstances will, I believe, result in the dairy-farmers receiving Sd. per lb. more for butter fat than they received in the present interim payments this year. That would be a magnificent result.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether he has concluded his conference with the shipowners who want to increase overseas shipping freights by 10 per cent. ? If he has done so, will he say whether any .practicable results were achieved ?
– I have had a conference with the shipowners. Prior to that, I had a formal conference with representatives of the shipper interests of Australia. Following the latter conference, and some revision of the calculations which the Department of Commerce and Agriculture had been making at the request of Australian shipper interests, the Australian shipper interests made specific counter proposals to the representatives of the conference line shipping companies. Upon hearing that that was being done, I asked ‘ immediately - by telegram - that the shipowners should not reject that offer without first conferring with me. They accepted that suggestion, and had a conference with me. In the result, they indicated their decision to make certain submissions to their London principals. I am expecting that any day now they will receive, and transmit to me, the re action of their London principals. I am optimistic that the result of all this will be favorable to the Australian export economy.
– Will the Minister for Health give to the House the latest information on the efficacy of Salk vaccine in the prevention of poliomyelitis? Is he yet satisfied with its use in Australia ?
– The departmental estimate of the safety and efficacy of Salk vaccine was determined after a consultation with Dr. Bazeley, of the Epidemiological Committee, a week or so ago, immediately after his return from America. I had an interview with Dr. Morgan, the head of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Dr. Bazeley and my senior departmental officials only this morning. Dr. Bazeley said that, having examined carefully during the last two months all the methods that had been adopted in America to ensure that the vaccine is 100 per cent, safe, he had come back ready to put them into effect and to institute additional safeguards, with regard to testing, so as to put its safety beyond all doubt. The results of the tests already instituted by the American and Canadian governments will be availed of to the full, and additional tests will be made to put beyond question the efficacy, and especially the safety, of the Salk vaccine. It will take some time to manufacture the vaccine and then to make these additional tests in the field. As a result, there will inevitably be some short delay in the use of the vaccine throughout Australia in the age ranges already determined. In November, the poliomyelitis committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council will meet to decide when the scheme should begin to operate. The Ministers for Health in the various States will then be informed of its advice. It has been suggested that the most appropriate time would be in, say, April or May, when there is not ordinarily an epidemic of the disease. By then we shall have accumulated sufficient stocks with which to embark upon a programme that will cater, within three or four months, for all the children in the various age ranges who are to be given the vaccine.
– Last Friday, the Minister for Supply, in opening the Bell Bay aluminium plant, expressed, clearly, two doubts regarding production. He said that the plant could produce only if power were available and a satisfactory price for it could be arranged. Can the Minister intimate what action is being taken to remove these doubts? “Was an undertaking given by, or a contract made with, the Tasmanian Government for the supply of power at a certain price before or during the building of the plant ? Would a substantial increase of power charges endanger the future of the industry there ?
– I do not wish to say anything that might promote or continue public controversy on a matter of this sort. Such problems as may have arisen are best settled by friendly discussion around a table. However, in explanation of what I said on Friday, I might add that at Bell Bay we have established a very valuable industry. Its economic success, that is, its ability to produce ingot at prices competitive with those of smelters elsewhere in the world, depends entirely, I think, upon the availability of sufficient electric power at a proper price. We have had difficulty in getting sufficient power. This year, there will not be enough power to provide the maximum 13,000 tons production that we require. There will be only sufficient power for the production of 6,000 tons this year, and for the production of somewhat more next year.
– Because the Hydroelectric Commission of Tasmania has not been able to provide sufficient power. We require roughly 43,000 horse-power, and the Hydro-electric Commission has not enough power to enable us to achieve maximum production. That matter is entirely outside the control of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission or this Government. The second matter relates to the fact that if we are obliged to pay for this power prices which are far in excess of the price of power to smelters in other parts of the world, obviously, it will be difficult and, indeed, impossible, to produce ingot at prices competitive with those smelters.
Therefore, discussions have been taking place on a departmental level and will be continued on a ministerial level in order to try to work out a formula which will ensure that a reasonable price is charged for power. It has been suggested that, because power from the Hydro-electric Commission in Tasmania costs - so it is alleged - half what power costs on the mainland of Australia, that fact should be sufficient to enable the Australian Aluminium Production Commission to produce ingot at competitive prices.
– That ought to be taken into account.
– It ought to be and it will be taken into account. But it begs the question because the Government would never have built - and I imagine that the Labour Government which initiated the project would never have built - a smelter on the mainland or anywhere else if electric power were only available at that rate. Electric power from thermal sources, that is, coal, is too expensive, and if it had been necessary to rely upon such power, either no smelter would have been built, or one would have been built alongside a hydroelectric project. Competitive production does not depend on the relationship of the price of Tasmanian power to the price of mainland power, but on the relationship of the price of Tasmanian power to the price of power in other parts of the world. That is the problem. I have already had discussions on this subject with the Premier of Tasmania, and those discussions will be continued. I hope that some sort of formula will be worked out which will enable this project to operate at a profit, otherwise the burden will be borne by the Australian people, and the Government does not think that that would be proper. I think that the honorable member asked me whether another contract had been signed. It is true that, under the previous Government, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, with the authority of the Labour Minister concerned, did sign a contract with the Hydro-electric Commission in Tasmania for some £10,000. That contract contained a formula which involved amortization of the Trevallyn scheme and covered a lot of other matters which are difficult to interpret. I am not satisfied with that contract. The matter has to be further discussed and negotiated and a proper basis reached.
– Has the Minister discussed this matter with the Premier of Tasmania? What is the policy or plan of the Government in relation to this project? Does the Government intend to go on with the project, or to postpone it until this matter is settled?
– If 43,000 horse-power of electricity were available, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission would be producing 13,000 tons of ingots a year, which is its maximum production. That answers the question whether the Government is going on with the project. Of course, we are going on with it! If it had not been for this Government, the project would not have been finished and in production. I have been having discussions with the Premier of Tasmania and, for that reason, did not wish to say anything-
– It was a pre-arranged question. The matter has not been raised here for six months.
– It was not a prearranged question. Discussions have been taking place. They will continue, and I hope that we shall reach a satisfactory conclusion.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say what the present position is with regard to the funds held by the Commonwealth, the ownership of which is disputed by the private wool dealers represented in the Poulton case? Has any of this money been paid to wool-growers to whom, the Commonwealth considers, it belongs? If so, how much has been paid, and how much remains unpaid? Has any progress been made in discussions with those dealers who undertook to refund the money to the wool-growers in any event?
– This is a matter in which the honorable member has interested himself greatly, and it is of great interest also to the wool-growers. Mr. Poulton has given the Government’s solicitors to understand that he intends to exercise his right of appeal to the
Privy Council against the decision of the High Court which has ruled that the profits derived from the sale of the wool at stake belong to the growers and not to the dealers. Mr. Poulton will argue before the Privy Council, so we understand, that that decision should be reversed. The amounts, which are held by the Australian Wool Realization Commission pending the final resolution of this matter as a legal issue, total some £2,900,000.
– This is a prepared answer to a prepared question.
– It is the desire of the commission and the Government that the money should be distributed to whomever it is legally due, just as soon as possible. Indeed, the Australian Wool Realization Commission has made it clear, with the approval of the Government and its legal advisers, that if any dealers who are prima facie involved in this matter are prepared formally to renounce their claims, the commission will distribute the funds so released to the growers concerned and I think that that has been done in some cases.
– This is a “Dorothy Dixer “.
– Since that offer was made a long time ago one or more dealers have acted accordingly, and I think about, eighteen growers have received about £7,000. The commission is prepared at any time, if any dealer renounces his claim, to make a distribution to growers just as soon as the issue is legally resolved. There would be no point whatever in a final distribution until then.
– I rise to order.
– What is the point of order? The honorable member for East Sydney will cease interjecting when Ministers are answering questions, or I shall deal with him.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– Order ! Sit down while I am on my feet !
– I am speaking to my point of order.
– I asked the honorable gentleman to state his point of order, and he sat down. I call the honorable member for Grayndler.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence Production. I ask the Minister to tell me where the head office of the department which he administers is located; how often he visits that head office; how many staff members are employed there; how many times he has been there in the last twelve months; and any further details in respect of his conduct of the business of that important department.
– The honorable member is in a rather curious frame of mind. I remind him that the House will soon go into committee in order to debate the Estimates, and I shall then be pleased to answer any questions he may care to put to me as Minister in charge of that particular department.
Dr. Evatt interjecting,
– Order !
– May I say that I do not follow the procedure followed by the Leader of the Opposition in junketing all round the world. I do the job associated with the department under my control; nor do I act like the honorable member for Grayndler, who has in the past indulged in the same kind of junketing.
– I address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Has the right honorable gentleman received from representatives of the dried vine fruit-growers a revised plan for the stabilization of the Australian dried fruits industry? If so, does the plan meet the requirements specified by the Minister at a recent meeting with representatives of the growers? If further adjustments are necessary, will the Minister advise the representatives of the growers accordingly, for it has. become urgently necessary that the industry be stabilized ?
– As I have intimated in the House in reply to the honorable member for Mallee, the honorable member for Angas, and other interested members, I met in Melbourne, several weeks ago, subsequent to my having stated in this House the official reaction to an earlier plan, representatives of the dried vine fruits industry to hear them propose a new plan. The representatives did not bring another plan with them.
– I was there.
– The honorable member introduced the deputation. He knows that the representatives of the industry did not submit another plan. Since that meeting, the industry has formulated and submitted a plan, which has been studied by officials of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I shall examine it within the next day or so. I have given to the representatives of the industry an undertaking that if there are in the plan at present proposed elements that I regard as fundamentally unacceptable to the Government, I shall not just reject it, but shall go into conference with the representatives and see whether they can agree upon a proposal that will warrant consideration by the Government.
– In the absence of the Treasurer, I address a question to the Prime Minister. Does the right honorable gentleman agree that some of the lower denominations of the Australian coinage are almost useless? Does he realize that most ministers of religion would welcome the abolition of what they call the “ miserable threepence “ ? Is it not a fact that the halfpenny is worthless as a medium of exchange and serves no purpose except to cause grave inconvenience when it is added to the prices of beverages? Will the right honorable gentleman consider a revision of the circulating coinage?
– I confess that I have not given this problem the thought it deserves. I can betray one of my secrets by saying that I keep a little box on the mantelpiece. Every time I find myself in possession of a threepenny piece, a penny, or even a halfpenny, I put it in the box, greatly to the advantage of my grandchildren. May I suggest that if all honorable members will put their threepenny pieces, pennies and halfpennies in a money-box for the benefit of their grandchildren, their thrift not only will have a very good effect on the future of the country, but also will add considerably to the savings for which I asked last evening.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. Following the appointment this week of the new Minister for Shipping and Transport, will the Prime Minister consider a reorganization of functions to place the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board under the control of the Department of Shipping and Transport? Will the right honorable gentleman particularly consider the fact that all the worst and most difficult problems of shipping - indeed, of transport generally - in Australia arise from the slow turn-round of ships in our ports, caused by problems of loading and discharging cargo and of port facilities, and also the fact that a Minister in charge of shipping who cannot deal with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board cannot touch the real difficulties of the industry with which he is concerned ?
– I shall give very careful consideration to the honorable ‘ member’s proposal.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the urgent economic situation that, in the opinion of the right honorable gentleman, faces Australia, will he give a lead to the nation by reversing the decision to proceed with the £27,000,000 ammunition filling factory at St. Mary’s? This project must aggravate inflationary trends and divert urgently required man-power and materials from housing.
– I suppose the last thing one should do in these days is to argue about arithmetic, but the last time I heard of it, it was £23,000,000 not £27,000,000.
– Inflation is running riot.
– I admit that there has been a lot of hot air since then. Still, it was £23,000,000. We should not judge the validity of the St. Mary’s project merely by saying, “ This requires a lot of money, a lot of materials and a lot of labour “. Before this scheme was approved by the Government we had the assurance of the Defence Department, the whole of the services and the service departments, that the creation of this new filling factory had to be given priority Al if the defence forces of Australia were to be ready in some event for war.
Mr. Fuller interjecting ,
– The honorable member may brush it off, but the last position that we want to be called upon to excuse in this country is that we have trained forces - people with uniforms and people with weapons - but no general munitions for war.
– Like yours.
– If I were the honorable member, I should speak with a falling inflexion. A long farewell to all my glories !
– He will be back.
– Does the honorable member think so? Not in my time!
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Do any of the international treaties or agreements to which Australia, is a party restrict our ability to subsidize exports or give help to export industries? Can the Minister tell us whether there is any possibility or likelihood of any change of the position as it exists to-day occurring in the near future?
– The subsidization by certain countries of export goods competitive with Australian export production has troubled this country and caused it great loss and embarrassment over the years. It is an issue about which we have been very concerned and about which we expressed ourselves when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was in the course of negotiation. The direct answer to the question is that under the revised agreement, which is still subject to confirmation by some countries later this year, subsidies on the export of manufactured goods are banned. On the other hand, the agreement is not quite so explicit with respect to subsidies on exports of primary products, but there is a general declaration that the subsidization of exports of primary products is bad and is to be discouraged, and that any country which is regarded as engaging in the subsidization of exports of primary products, subject to something that I will say in a moment, may be called upon to explain and, if possible, defend its action in the arena of the organization. There is a limitation to that. Subsidies on the export of a primary product are permitted so long as they are not designed to procure for the exporting country a greater share of the world market in the product than it had been enjoying previously. In defining what represents an export subsidy, the traditional Australian two-price system, which we have in wheat, dairy products and so on. is excluded. It is not technically an export subsidy for the purposes of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That, briefly, is the position. The present state of affairs has been promoted very largely by Australia. It does not conflict with the Australian interest, present ov in prospect. It defends the Australian interest and leaves us enough latitude to practise the policies which we have been practising, or to make such an extension of them as this Government may wish to make.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House when he intends to table the report of the Commonwealth-State Apprenticeship Inquiry Committee? Is it a fact that this inquiry was commenced in February, 1952, and that the last public sitting was completed on the 4th March, 1953? Why is the Minister delaying the tabling of this report, thus depriving the huge army of apprentices to the various trades of the substantial benefits and concessions that were recommended in the report? Further, would the Minister inform the House of the cost of this inquiry?
– To the best of my recollection, at the time when the report was completed I advised honorable members that it was available, and that those who were interested could obtain copies of it. If that is not so, I shall investigate the practicability of making a copy available to the honorable member and others who may bc interested. I cannot tell him offhand the cost of the inquiry, but I shall see if I can obtain that information.
When we are discussing the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service I shall make a more detailed statement of developments since the report was received by me than it is perhaps convenient to make at question time. I hope to make that statement later this afternoon.
– The Leader of the Opposition asked me yesterday whether I would give him some information regarding the supply to certain organizations by the Department of Immigration of details of persons who become naturalized. T have checked the position and I find that what I told the House on the two principal points was correct, namely, that it is a statutory requirement that we publish the name of the person naturalized in the Gazette, and so the information is clearly available to any purchaser of the Gazette, and that when this matter was first raised with me by way of request from one organization, I issued an instruction to the department that there was to be no discrimination between the recognized political parties in the distribution of these lists, which are merely copies of the list supplied to the Gazette. The right honorable gentleman asked which organizations are now actually in receipt of this information. I find that all those which have applied for it are receiving it, and up to the present time those which have applied are the Liberal party, federal secretariat, the central office of the Australian Country party, and the New South Wales and Queensland divisions of the Australian Labour party. If there are other political organizations, or divisions of the Labour party which require the information, it will be made available.
– Does the Minister for Health know that the chairman of the Cancer Research Council of England, who recently lectured members of the medical profession in Sydney, denounced the use of surgery and raytherapy as treatments for cancer, on the ground that neither is a true cure and therefore must be false? If so, what action does the right honorable gentleman propose to take to enable cancer sufferers to be safeguarded against what, in the opinion of the highest cancer research authority in Great Britain, are false therapies and can never gain a true cure for cancer, and thus reduce the everincreasing mortality rate of this disease, which rate at present suggests that 2,000,000 Australians in our current population of 10,000,000 are inevitably doomed to die of cancer?
– I do not know whether that report is true or false. About three weeks ago I had the opportunity of lunching with a very notable British surgeon who had specially come here to lecture to Australian specialists. He told me that the results that he had obtained, both from the utilization of deep X-ray therapy and radium combined with surgery, had been very, very good indeed. I could name hundreds of persons who have been cured as a result of such treatment, despite the statement of the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Recent amendments of the Immigration Act have removed the necessity for new Australians to advertise their intention to apply for naturalization. Is it a fact th at, under the existing arrangements, all naturalization certificates are presented at public functions organized by local authorities, with, consequent publicity when names are normally published in the press following the ceremonies? As there are some new Australians who, for obvious reasons, do not wish to have any publicity associated with their naturalization, can special arrangements be made for certificates to be presented in private in such cases?
– Presumably, the honorable member has in mind new Australians who have come from behind the iron curtain, and who fear reprisals against their relatives. This matter has been raised on a number of occasions. For obvious and desirable reasons most persons receive their certificates at public ceremonies, but the legislation does not require that a public ceremony of naturalization shall be conducted. In suitable cases the ceremony is conducted in the office of the Department of Immigration. We cannot avoid publicity altogether because, as the legislation stands, publication in the Gazette is a statutory requirement. I shall examine the point that has been raised by the honorable gentleman to ascertain whether other arrangements can be made in such cases, but it seems that an amendment of the statute would first be required.
– ‘Will the PostmasterGeneral say what precautions he has in mind to guard against mail-bag robberies, which have become a frequent occurrence? No doubt the honorable gentleman is aware of the mail-bag robbery on the Sydney-Mudgee train last week when 30 bags, involving a large monetary loss, were stolen. That was not the first robbery on that line. Can the Minister say whether senders of valuable articles through the post are fully compensated when mail matter is lost in this manner and, if not, why not?
– Very stringent checks are applied to the supervision of mail by the mail branch, the Railways Department and the various other persons who carry it. We do not know where these robberies are occurring, but we suspect that the last one occurred in the railway van. I think 30 bags were involved. They were all checked in at the van and a signed receipt was given by the railway guard or official showing that all the bags were intact when they were delivered into the van. Later, when the van was cleared, it was discovered that they had been very carefully opened and had been placed hack in such a position as not to disclose immediately the fact that they had been opened. As I have stated, very close checks are made, but, of course, one cannot always prepare for the scheming of a person who intends to execute a robbery. In respect of compensation, valuable articles forwarded by post are registered or insured. As far as I am able to understand, most of the recent losses, particularly of money in transit between banks, have been covered by insurance. The Postal Department is very concerned about these repeated mail-bag losses, and investigation officers from that department, the Police Department and the
Railways Department are doing everything they can to trace the persons concerned. Indeed, I think an arrest has been made in connexion with the last robbery.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation Bill be varied as follows: -
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 27th September (vide page 993).
Proposed vote, £1,543,000.
Proposed vote, £1,931,000.
Proposed vote, £843,000.
Proposed vote, £4,449,000.
Proposed vote, £582,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
Mr.KEON (Yarra) [3.17]. - I wish to refer to the Estimates for the Department of National Development, and in doing so, I draw attention to the answers supplied to me by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in connexion with steel supplies in Australia at the present time. I have spoken in this chamber on a number of occasions about the necessity for taking some steps to cope with the acute shortage of steel, which is having a serious effect on many aspects of our primary and essential basic industries. So far, the remarks that have been addressed to the Government do not seem to have had any effect, and I draw the attention of the committee to the answers provided by the Minister. They clearly disclose that at the present time there is a serious shortage of steel, that the plans for the expansion of the steel industry are not sufficient to meet the anticipated future demand, and that the Government is quite prepared to leave this vital matter simply to the will of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited monopoly.
The Minister stated, in his reply, that the estimated consumption of steel and steel products for the current year in Australia was in the vicinity of 2,100,000 tons, but he also pointed out that the estimated production of steel, including steel products, was only 1,700,000 tons, so that at present there is a deficiency of 400,000 tons. Before dealing further with the deficiency, I point out that the position is being made more acute because approximately 8 per cent. of our production of steel is being exported for the benefit of the shareholders of the steel monopoly. I have asked the Minister and the Government a number of questions relating to the export of steel at a time when our primary producers and the manufacturers in heavy industries are crying out for supplies of steel. I am told that the justification for the export of a vitally needed product of the country is the preservation of the overseas markets of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. What is the anticipated demand in Australia for steel over the next ten or twenty years? It is obvious that Australia can absorb every ounce of steel that might be produced by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in that period, and, therefore, any suggestion that this monopoly should be permitted to export steel at a time when we need it in this country, merely in order to keep export markets which are not needed to sell its product, needs a great deal of explanation.
I ask the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is sitting at the table, to explain to the committee why it is that, at a time when we need this steel, the Government continues to permit its export to New Zealand. It is obvious that there is no need at present for export markets in order to absorb the product of the industry because, in the foreseeable future, every ounce of steel that will be produced by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited can be absorbed by Australian industries. I hope that members of the Australian Country party, who occasionally seem to display some interest in primary production, will join with me in demanding that the Government prohibit the export of steel while primary producers are crying out for posts and various other products of the steel industry. There is not the slightest justification for exporting steel at the moment. The industry does not need the export market because, as I said a moment ago, Australia, in the foreseeable future, can take everything that the industry can produce. The only effect the continued permission to export can have is to enable greater profits to be returned to the shareholders of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I hope the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is interjecting, will join with me in these representations. He is a most vociferous man, and I am confident that he will show that he is “ fair dinkum “ in this matter by strongly attacking the Government for allowing the export of this vitally needed product to continue.
– I think we would be, provided we were attacking the Government.
The export of steel, however, is only one aspect of this question. The simple position as disclosed by the opinion given by the Minister for National Development is that, at the present time, even if we do not export any steel, we are not producing enough to meet Australia’s requirements. I emphasize that his answers also go to show that even when all the expansion that is planned for the steel industry is completed, we shall not he able to meet the estimated demand of the Australian community in the years that lie ahead. The only people who are able to supply a solution to this problem in the present circumstances are the directors of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, because the various State governments have given that organization complete and absolute rights over all the high-grade iron ore reserves in Australia. That grant of rights was a disgraceful procedure that should never have been tolerated by the governments which were responsible for it. Nevertheless, these people have complete and absolute monopoly over the production of steel in Australia because they have a complete and absolute monopoly of the essential raw materials. It is not good enough for this Government to answer our questions about the necessity for an expansion of the steel industry merely by saying that it is simply a matter that must be left to Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– The Government did not say that.
– Representatives of the Government have said it here repeatedly when this matter has been raised on the motions for the adjournment. All the Government can do is to say that Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is a wonderful industry that is producing steel at a very cheap rate, and all the rest of it. I do not propose to argue the point about that. I am arguing that the future development and expansion of Australia make it essential that steel production be expanded, but Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited does not propose to expand its steel output to an extent adequate to meet national requirements.
– But the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has expanded its plant.
– The Minister shows his ignorance of the subject bv talking about the plant that was recently opened as if it was producing all the basic raw steel that was required. The new rolling mill at Port Kembla will only make a greater demand on the raw materials available. It will not produce basic steel. It will fabricate steel into certain forms for the use of Australian industry, but it will not make any attack on the problem of the basic shortage of steel. The interjection of the Minister for Supply, who is at the table, a moment ago, clearly indicates that he knows nothing whatever about this problem. If the Government is interested in the expansion of Australian industry, it must accept responsibility to see that the requirements of all industry, whether primary production, manufacturing, or any other industry which uses steel, are met. But this Government proposes to do nothing about the present severe shortage of steel, and the future shortage, which will be even more acute. The Government should take a stand and say, “We will not leave this matter to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. If the national requirements make it necessary for us to expand steel production, we shall have to facilitate that expansion because a monopoly by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, no matter how efficient that company has been in the past, cannot be allowed to prevent the expansion and development of Australia.” The Government should provide to the people of Australia an answer to these simple propositions. First of all, steel is vital to development and expansion, which is at present being held up because of the shortage of steel. Secondly, the present output of our steel manufacturers is not sufficient to meet the increasing demand for steel. The Government should admit that fact, but the Minister did not do so in his reply to my question. Thirdly, the present monopoly will not be able to produce sufficient steel to meet the demands in connexion with our future expansion. What does the Government propose to do in the light of these facts? Does it propose to permit another steel industry to be established in Australia, or does it intend that the progress and development of this country shall be hindered and held up simply because .it is afraid to break the monopoly of the Broken Hill Proprietary
Company Limited? The Government should tell that company bluntly that unless it produces sufficient steel to meet this country’s requirements, the Government will do something about the matter.
As the Minister knows, as fuel oil becomes available in greater quantities from the refineries that have been established in Australia, conditions in the coal industry will worsen considerably, and the industry will have to look for other markets. As far as I can see, it is not likely to be able to regain the markets that it has lost as a result of the increased use of fuel oil and the use of brown coal for gasification. The refineries will produce about 106,000,000 gallons of bulk fuel oil, and any price at which they sell will result in profit, because they must dispose of their by-products in some way. I suggest seriously to the Minister that the coal industry might soon be in difficulties. One way in which the Government could assist that industry to rehabilitate itself would be by the establishment of another steel industry, if the Government is not prepared to break the monopoly of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. We are able to obtain large quantities of iron ore from New Caledonia, which, by modern treatment, could be used in conjunction with Australian coal in the production of highquality steel. I am sure that French companies and other companies would welcome the invitation to establish a newsteel production plant. I urge the Government to investigate my proposition, because iron ore is available in New Caledonia and coal is available in New South Wales. It will become available in even greater quantities as oil replaces coal as fuel in certain industries.
If the Government seriously desires to overcome the thorny and difficult problem now facing the coal industry it should put in hand the setting up - by the Government itself, or otherwise - of another steel industry. That would not only assist the coal industry, but would also make available additional steel for the expansion of other industries. I suggest to the Minister for Supply that this problem cannot be laughed off. The Government must face up to the breaking of the present steel monopoly, in the interests of the future development of the nation. I ask the Minister to tell the Australian people what the Government proposes to do in the matter. It has a number of alternatives. It can attempt, with the assistance of the State governments - and I am quite sure that the South Australian Government in particular desires to have a further steel industry established in South Australia - to break the monopoly of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, because there are sufficient iron ore resources in Australia to justify the establishment of another steel plant. Alternatively, it can say to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, in conjunction with the State governments, “ If you are not willing to expand your plant sufficiently to meet the national requirements of steel, you can expect trouble”. The Government can either force the company to increase it3 production of steel, or set up another company, under either government or private control - I am not arguing as to the merits of various forms of control - in order to overcome the position. Steps should also be taken promptly to remedy the position in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales by importing iron ore from New Caledonia to use in conjunction with Australian coal in the production of steel in a new plant, and so break the monopoly exercised by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The problem in the coal-mining industry will become more acute unless this is done.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– During the debate on the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) referred to the National Field Station, Gilruth Plains, Cunnamulla, and the control of noogoora burr by biological means. As these are matters which are of real interest not only to the honorable member for Maranoa, but also to all honorable members, I have obtained some information about them. I should like to say that, at this stage of the development of the experimental programme at Gilruth Plains, it is considered not desirable to exhibit livestock. The stock at present on the station virtually are in quarantine. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is anxious to protect valuable breeding stock from any chance of infection. Stock taken away from the Gilruth Plains are not permitted to return. The graziers are most welcome to visit Gilruth Plains to view the experimental work in progress. The staff of the station is encouraged to give the local agricultural society every possible help in the organizing of shows, and they did in fact take an active part in the organizing of the first show of the local agricultural society, which was held in May of this year.
The problem presented by noogoora burr is an unusually difficult one. This serious weed can be killed by weedicides, but in many extensive areas this cannot be done at an economic cost. Before the war, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization carried out long-term studies into the possibility of . controlling noogoora burr by insects. The only insect which was considered entirely safe was introduced into Australia and established, but proved ineffective. All the other insects investigated, when subjected to food tests, attacked some other plants of minor economic importance, and fell below the standard of safety used by the organization when it recommends the introduction of insects for weed control. It is argued that some of these insects should be introduced because the possibility of controlling such an important weed should take precedence over possible damage to minor economic plants. This may be so, but all of the States are affected by insect introductions which are not restricted by State boundaries. For this reason, the matter has been referred to the standing committee of the Australian Agricultural Council on several occasions, though without a decision being reached. A technical conference upon it will be held shortly and an attempt will be made to circumvent the difficulties inherent in the problem. I assure honorable members that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is especially interested in the problem of the noogoora burr and is endeavouring to obtain the approval of the States to the introduction of other insects which it thinks are. at present, within the reasonable danger limit so far as the possibility of affecting other plants is concerned. The matter is being actively pursued. I hope that in the near future a decision will be reached and further experiments will be possible.
– I should like to refer to the Estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service, and especially to those for the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. En 1954-55, £697 was spent on its work and this year £1,900 is to be spent. I am concerned at the high incidence of accidents in industry. Apparently the Government is not doing very much about this important matter. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) admits that industrial accidents cause a greater loss of working time than do industrial disputes. In the Perth Baily News of the 9th February, 1955, the following report appeared : -
Industrial accidents have caused a greater loss in working time than industrial disputes over the past few years “, said Minister for Labour, Holt. Mr. Holt is Chairman of the Labour Advisory Council. Apart from the suffering and distress to the victims’ families, he said, the loss of output to industry and the economic loss to the community were unnecessarily heavy burdens. The council felt co-ordination between the Government and private organizations on industrial safety and inspection of safety precautions could be improved.
The Department of Labour and National Service has produced figures showing that in 1951-52, the estimated loss of working time as a result of industrial accidents was 18,000 man-years or, in other words, a period equivalent to a year’s absence on the part of 18,000 men. That is a colossal waste of manpower at a time when, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), speaking of the economic situation, has said that there is a great shortage of man-power. The figures also show that in the three years ended June, 1954, the time lost as a result of disputes averaged 4,000 man-hours annually, or less than 25 per cent, of the loss resulting from industrial accidents. Therefore, this is a very important question for industry and something should be done urgently to solve it. But the allotment of only £1,900 for the work of the advisory council this year does not indicate that the Government intends to do very much about this problem. The industrial accident rate is very much higher in Australia than it is in other countries. The rate in the United States of America is between 30 and 35 per 1,000 members. In Canada it is between 30 and 35, and in the United Kingdom it is between 35 and 40. In Australia it is between 70 and 75. There must be some reason for the remarkable disparity between those figures. Why should the accident rate here be twice what it is in the United States and Canada, and almost twice what it is in the United Kingdom? The figures that I have given are the official estimates of the Department of Labour and National Service.
Accidents in industry result in grave financial loss because of damage to plant, disruption of production and the spoiling of materials. The estimated financial loss in Australia as a result of industrial accidents is in the vicinity of £75,000,000 or £100,000,000 per annum. That is a colossal figure, and it is very annoying to see that so little is being done about it by the Government, which should be finding out what safety measures are applied in the other countries that I have mentioned, and what private enterprise is doing about the problem here. Something drastic should be done to reduce the accident rate and so relieve the manpower shortage from which, if we are to accept the assurance of the Department, cf Labour and National Service, industry is at present suffering.
I should like also to refer to production generally. From time to time we hear it said that the Australian worker is not producing as he should. Given proper equipment and power, he is just as efficient as is the worker of any other country. That is borne out by National Development, the journal of the Department of National Development. In the issue of March, 1954’, the following statement appeared : -
For the past 20 years, Australia’s great frontier of development has been in the factories.
During this period, the volume of factory output considerably more than doubled, while rural output increased by about one-quarter and mining output increased bv about onethird.
The rate of this increase in Australian factory output has been roughly comparable with that in the United States and Canada during the samp 20 years and considerably greater than that in the United Kingdom and other industrialized countries.
Moreover, in recent years, productivity in Australian factories has increased substantially. The increase in output per man-year which has taken place compares favourably with the challenging standards set by the United States. In the best equipped and best managed factories, the current level of productivity of Australian workers and factories is good by any standards.
I draw special attention to the words, “ In the best equipped and best managed factories”. According to a report published in the West Australian of the 13th July, 1955, the Minister for Labour and National Service made a similar statement. He said that people who criticized the productivity of the Australian worker compared with the output of the American worker should remember that the latter was far better equipped. He had S.5 h.p. to help him, compared with 4.5 h.p. for the British worker :md only 4 h.p. for the Australian worker.
When the Prime Minister opened the first section of the Snowy Mountains scheme, he also had something to say on this matter. He said -
When we can supply our own work forces with power at a cheaper rate we will see our production rise and our costs fall and we will be in a better competitive position in a highly competitive world.
So when honorable members opposite criticize the Australian worker, they should remember that hp has not the power available to him that is available to the workers of more highly industrialized countries. The Australian worker, as a worker, is as good as any other worker, and better than many other workers, in other countries.
Another matter to which I want to refer concerns the same department and relates to the Commonwealth-State apprenticeship inquiry. The expenditure in connexion with that inquiry in 1954-55 amounted to £16 of the £100 that was voted for that year; but no amount has been set apart for this purpose in 1955-56. The expenditure for 1953-54 was £1,035, and for 1952-53 it was £4,479. This inquiry was sponsored by the Government and approved by the
Premiers Conference. It is to be regretted that nothing has been done to implement the decisions which resulted from that inquiry. The terms of reference were very broad, and can be seen on the first page of the report of the committee. The first task of the committee was to inquire into and to report on the present and future requirements for skilled tradesmen. The second task of the committee was as follows: -
To make such recommendations as arc necessary, and in particular the measures that commend themselves to the committee as desirable if the requirements of Australian industry for skilled tradesmen are to be met.
The committee of inquiry was presided over by Judge Wright, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It consisted of representatives of various sections of industry and other interested parties. Although the committee made inquiries which extended over approximately two years, and although its report was furnished in March, 1954, nothing has been done since then to implement the recommendations. The point that I am concerned about is that the Government has spent thousands of pounds on the setting up and on the conduct of the inquiry, yet nothing has been done to implement the decision of the committee. The main reason for setting up the committee was the shortage of apprentices in industry. That shortage still exists. It seems to me to be a colossal waste that nothing is being done to implement the recommendations of the committee for the purpose of overcoming the shortage of skilled men.
One of the recommendations of the committee dea.lt with the subject of the payment to apprentices of a wage which would be a percentage of the tradesmen’s rate. After conducting a thorough inquiry, the committee thought that an apprentice who used the tools normally used by tradesmen and who operated the equipment used by a tradesman should receive at least a percentage of the tradesman’s rate. Yet the Government, which has many departments that employ apprentices, has not done anything, so far as I am aware, to implement that recommendation. Speaking from memory, I think that an industrial authority in Victoria recently granted the apprentices in the building industry a percentage of the tradesman’s rate. The Commonwealth, which was responsible for the inquiry, should ensure, as a first step, anyhow, that the apprentices that come within its authority receive a percentage of the tradesman’s rate.
Another recommendation of the committee was that the Commonwealth should legislate in order to remove apprentices from the jurisdiction of conciliation commissioners and the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration; and that it should ensure that its employing agencies implement the recommendations of the tribunal. In the appendix to the report, at page 113, the committee points out how the Government could, under its presentconstitutional powers, do quite a lot to assist the apprentices. The report points out that the social service power would enable the Parliament to provide benefits for students. The report says -
There appears to be no room for doubting that apprentices undergoing technical education duringapprenticeship, orextra-curricula study,are “students” within the meaning of this provision.
The report covers the territorial power and points out how something could be done for apprentices working in the Australian Capital Territory. In connexion with the public service power, the report says -
Under the constitution the Commonwealth has full power to keep a public service establishment for the execution of its functions of government.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to refer my comments to the proposed votes for the Department of National Development and, in particular, to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. The Estimates before the Committee of Supply make provision for the payment of some £14,600,000 in order to enable this authority to carry on its work for the year. As you know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that figure represents only a portion of the vast sum of money that will be spent on that project eventually. It is difficult to estimate what the final expenditure willhe, but it is not unreasonable to guess that it will be somewhere in the vicinity of £100,000,000.
But that is only a part of the story, because the ramifications of the whole scheme, when in full force and working to capacity, will exert a wide influence over large areas of New South Wales and Victoria. So we have to regard this scheme as having a much wider effect on the national economy than is indicated by the actual amount of capital that we arc spending on it this year.
The point that I want to raise concerns a rather complicated subject, namely, the protection of the upper catchment area of the Snowy Mountains scheme. A number of bodies throughout Australia which are far more competent than I am to discuss this subject, have, from time to time, sounded some notes of alarm in connexion with the state of the catchment area on the Snowy Mountains. I feel that if this matter is not studied very closely, a situation could easily arise in which the full force and value of the scheme could be lost, not only to our generation, but to future generations of Australians. Whilst it is ridiculous to be an alarmist about the developments that might take place in the catchment area, we would be wise to keep them well within our view, particularly in relation to what has happened in similar schemes in other parts of the world. It is common knowledge that there has been very substantial siltation of the main reservoirs of the Tennessee Valley scheme in the United States of America, and that that siltation has reduced the capacity of those reservoirs very considerably. I think that you will agree with me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that we who have some say in the conduct of this great project should give at least some attention to this problem of erosion. There are two particular features of the halting of soil erosion in this case which appeal to me. First, there is the regrassing and restoring of that area in the vicinity, shall we say, of the actual workings themselves, which, I believe, is being undertaken with the full force of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority at the moment, and in respect of which the authority has made considerable progress. But there is the wider area of the catchment which is under divided control, and it is in that area, which perhaps is not quite so spectacular, but which provides most of the water for the whole of the catchment, that the problem can lie. I wish to refer briefly to notes in the last available report issued by the authority, which is for the year ended the 30th June, 1954, that relate to this very subject. On page 19 the report states when dealing with soil conservation -
The conditions in the Snowy Mountains have presented serious problems, which differ in many important respects from those encountered elsewhere in Australia.
One of the main points in which the geology of this area differs from that of other areas is that those mountains are earth mountains, not rock mountains and, as you will appreciate, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and as members of the committee will appreciate, the possibilities of erosion of earth mountains are infinitely greater than would normally be expected in rock mountains. It is on that interesting feature that I wish to elaborate to some extent. Over a period of years the upper areas of the Snowy Mountains have been used for grazing, mainly of cattle, and it is quite obvious that during that period there has been a deterioration of the natural covering of that area. Probably when the white man first came to Australia there was there a substantial growth of bush and the heavier grasses, which maintain and hold the soil together. Over the years, as a result of grazing, and that complement of grazing, burningoff, a great deal of this covering has been removed’ and to-day, where no remedial steps have been taken, the vegetation is gradually disappearing. That would not be so bad if the area were above the constant snow-line, because it would then have the protection of the snow cap. But, as you know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, during the summer months the snow recedes and the soil under it, as a result of the grass having been used for so long for grazing purposes, and having been burned off again and again in order to sweeten it for grazing, has been gradually loosened. The point I want to make in connexion with this problem is that, while we accept the fact that the authority is doing a good job in connexion with the restoration of those areas close to the actual working portion of the scheme - in other words, around the reservoirs and various pipe lines where roads have been made, and other works of that nature - we still have the legacy of the past to overcome. The authority itself appreciates that point because it states in its report as follows : -
Grazing has been prohibited from the higher levels in the so-called “ Summit Reserve “, but-
And I repeat, but -
A greater measure of control is required to enforce this prohibition.
That is where I believe the weakness lies. I think that it would be fair to state that, if we are to preserve this scheme in some reasonable working condition over a great period of years, it is absolutely necessary that grazing be completely prohibited in the whole of the catchment area.Not only that, butI believe that to enforce this prohibition it should be within the province of the Minister for National Development to call a conference with New South Wales, which is vitally concerned, and with Victoria, in which lies the electorate that you so ably and diligently represent here, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and which contains part of the catchment area. I suggest that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is at the table, bring to the attention of his colleague, the Minister for National Development, the suggestion that I have made. This is a matter which, I believe, should be treated on an immediate and priority basis. There should be immediately formed some co-ordinating authority, probably under the control of, or at least under the major influence of, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority itself, to take over the safeguarding and preservation of this catchment area.
I suggest that, with the co-operation of the New South Wales soil conservation service, the authority could gain, through either State or Federal means, the necessary legal status to enable it to enforce its policy in regard to restoration of the catchment area. This is a national matter, which concerns not only this generation, but also future generations, and the people who have the say in these matters would, in my opinion, be failing in their duty if they did not give this problem the really serious consideration it deserves. I understand that there is a tendency to disregard the problem of the upper areas. They have been largely despoiled in the century of the white man’s occupation of the area. Due to the grazing of cattle the tundra pools and ponds that were there have been trampled in, and due to the burning off the grass has been destroyed and the scrub has been disappearing. But it would be within the power of the present generation to remedy the despoliation of the past, and I suggest that the Minister at the table bring this matter before the attention of the Minister for National Development, with a view to having the whole problem examined, with the aim of co-ordinating existing powers so as to enable the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to act for the preservation of the wider catchment area which is the subject of my remarks.
Mr.BRUCE (Leichhardt) [4.2].- I intend to speak on subjects that affect both the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). However, as the subjects dovetail, I shall be able to deal with them together. Over the week-end the Bell Bay aluminium plant was opened. It is a very fine project indeed, but I am sure that the 2,000 or so people who were present at the opening, as well as the people who listened to the broadcast of the ceremony, must have been astonished when the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) detailed the activities of the Commonwealth in every State and territory except Queensland. He was forced to bring the Northern Territory into his speech because of the rich uranium resources at Bum Jungle in which the Government was forced to take some interest; but he did not mention Queensland, which indicates clearly that Queensland receives no consideration from the Department of National Development. The Minister for Immigration has a duty to bring suitable immigrants to this country to assist in the development of Australia. We have many thousands of young Australians who are anxious to go on the land, and there are undoubtedly many thousands of land-minded people among immigrants, who also are anxious to go on the land. We have thousands of square miles of land in the north of Queensland which is suitable for settlement. I do not imagine that we are doing a great deal for the national economy, or the development of Aus tralia as a nation, by bringing immigrants here and allowing them all to take up jobs in the various capital cities. There is land available for them to work, and the Government should appoint a commission to develop the land in the same way as it appointed a commission to conduct the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric power scheme and a commission to run the aluminium industry at Bell Bay, with the idea of thereby assisting in the development of the nation. The commission could send to North Queensland surveyors, Australian bushmen and new Australian settlers who could all set to work in dividing, classifying and settling that land. Immigrants could be allowed to occupy the land for five or ten years free of cost. After that period they would be subject to the normal payments required of other land-owners. The immigrants would have to be provided with materials and machinery needed to develop the land, and with some of the commodities that they could not provide for themselves.
I suggest that, within ten years, the scheme would settle a mighty population of farmers who would produce the pro1 duets that the world requires at the present time and will require to a greater extent in the future. This great population of immigrants, being well settled on their own land, would acquire the Australian outlook much more quickly than do immigrants who are brought into the country under the present system and settled mostly about the capital cities. The land to which I refer, in the area behind Cooktown, is capable of producing many products. It has extensive tracts of timber. It already produces tobacco and peanuts, and is capable of growing cotton, which is immensely valuable in the world economy. It is so valuable that Russia has offered, in return for cotton, to supply Egypt with all the military equipment it requires. We should emphasize more than anything else the value of cotton as a commodity of world trade.
Immigrants settled on the land to which. I refer would not suffer hardships greater than were those experienced by the early pioneers. However, times have changed, and it would be necessary for governments to provide them with certain amenities and facilities, such as telephones.
The principal need is a network of roads. The settlement of large numbers of immigrants in the area behind Cooktown would have an important effect upon the harvesting of sugar cane, which is at present subject to numerous difficulties because many of the seasonal workers who harvest the cane know that they can obtain jobs in the cities and need not return to harvesting sugar cane in the next season. However, if they were farming they would he used to farm work out in the open and would have the opportunity to undertake the harvesting of sugar cane each year to make a little more money for themselves. The whole scheme would link the existing industries and the ideal of the permanent settlement of immigrants on the land.
Much development is taking place in projects such as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and the Bell Bay aluminium enterprise. However, those are industrial undertakings. We must give attention to primary production and achieve a proper balance between primary and secondary industries. There is no doubt that the scheme that I propose t-ould be undertaken as effectively as other development projects have been undertaken, and that it would be of even greater value, because it would develop intensively a large area that is at present mainly cattle country. It would give Australia the best possible return from the introduction of large numbers of immigrants and it would make land-minded immigrants good citizens because it would enable them to own their own land. Men of the first and second generations of families that came to this country as immigrants years ago have served in the Australian forces in war-time and played a big part in both the defence and the development of Australia. If we want immigrants in the future to play their part in defence and development, we must guarantee them a. stake in the country, which would automatically make them good Australian citizens. Families reared in Australia by immigrant parents would be Australians because they would have been brought up in the Australian way of life.
Many development projects merely supplement the use of land that is already well settled. The extensive areas of unsettled land are the real danger to Australia, both because they constitute a weakness in time of war and because other nations may press us to allow coloured people to enter Australia to populate those areas. We have seen what happened in Fiji, where a few Indian labourers were introduced to supplement the labour force. In Fiji, 48 per cent, of the population is now composed of Indians, who control most of the businesses and industries. Australia cannot afford to take the risk of something similar happening in this country. Many thousands of people in the Latin and Nordic countries in Europe, and in Great Britain, would be anxious to come to Australia if they were guaranteed a stake in the country and a place on the land. I emphasize that, even if national development projects cannot be put in hand immediately, the Department, of National Development should give thought to them and undertake the preliminary investigations that must be made for all projects of this type.
Should we experience a depression in the near future, we would see a battle between old Australians and new Australians for the available jobs. Many of the immigrants that have come to Australia have jobs in the metropolitan areas, and a shortage of employment would cause friction and trouble between them and old Australians. That is a factor that does not attract much attention to-day, because we now have full employment. However, if unemployment existed, clashes would inevitably occur in the competition for the available jobs. We want to avoid strife of that kind. We should settle as many immigrants as possible on the land. Those who have technical knowledge applicable to the land should be settled on the land. Those with technical knowledge applicable to secondary industry could be employed in secondary industry. We must open up and develop this land. Despite the fact that some experts have decided that Australia can support only a relatively small number of people. I say that my electorate alone, properly handled, could carry 5,000,000 people, without crowding. But we could start with a much smaller figure in mind. We could work on the basis that 1,000,000 people could be settled there within a period of ten or fifteen years if the problem were tackled properly. There are good ports available. Different areas of land could be used for different purposes. There is good cattle fattening country there. Almost the only rural activity that we could not undertake is sheep grazing. Many of the commodities that we require to adjust our balance of trade could be produced in this area if this proposal were taken up by the Government. I am quite sure that if this Government took up the project, all future governments would carry on with it, because they would find that, although it cost money - and all these projects do cost money - it would be greatly to the advantage of Australia.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Most of the attention of the Department of National Development seems to have been concentrated on helping private enterprise in the search for natural oil in this country. Even the most hard-bitten speculator will admit that that search is a sheer gamble and that it may continue for very many years, untiloil is found in payable quantities or hope is abandoned. In Canada, the search went on for 30 years before oil was struck finally, and cost many millions of pounds. I believe that the time has come in this country, particularly in view of the present economic situation, when the Government should step out of this field and leave the search for natural oil to private enterprise. I believe also that now, more than at any other time, the Government should attack the problem of practical forms of national development.
There is a lesson to be learned from South Africa, where, as in Australia, there is no natural oil. The South Africans import 330,000,000 gallons of petroleum a year, as against our importation of 860,000,000 gallons a year, yet as far back as 1927 the South African Government took active steps to investigate the possibility of producing oil from South African coal. Those investigations continued for many years, and now the South Africans have reached the stage at which they have started to produce one- sixth of their petroleum requirements. They are producing the petroleum at an economical figure.
I have some details of the undertaking, which is backed by the South African Government. It is partly governmentowned and partly privately-owned. It is called the South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation. It was established in September, 1950. It has two subsidiary companies, one controlling the township that was set up at the site of the industry and the other marketing the product. The capital of the parent company is £25,000,000. The South Africans aim to produce 71,000,000 gallons of petroleum a year after the construction of the plant has been completed in about a year’s time. The company employs approximately the same number of people as is intended to be employed at the St. Mary’s filling centre outside Sydney. The number is approximately 4,000, including native staff.
An interesting fact about the process used is that it was developed primarily by the Germans, in collaboration with the Americans, before the war. During the war, there was a separation, and each country developed its own particular process. The difference lay in the catalysts used to break down the coal. The South Africans have been able to combine two processes, the one used by Germany during the war and the one now being used in America. Those, briefly, are the details of the undertaking which has been started in South Africa and which is going into production now.
– Has the honorable member any figures showing costs of production there?
– Unfortunately, there are no figures showing costs of production in the document that I have, but I understand they are competitive. The arrangements for the marketing of the product indicate that that is so. In some cases, the product will be blended with imported spirit and, in other cases, it will go on the market on its own.
– The total capital cost is over £30,000,000?
– It is £25,000,000. The intention is not to sell all of the petrol produced by the corporation under a separate brand, but to market about two-thirds of it through existing trade channels, under agreements with the four importing oil companies. The balance will be sold as a high-quality “Sasol” blend. That is the trade name that will be used. I think we can take it that the product will be able to compete on the South African market with imported petrol.
– The plant has not been fully developed to the extent to which they intend to develop it eventually, has it?
– It will be fully developed shortly. It was expected that the first products would be on the market by the end of 1954. In fact, they are on the market now. The plant should be in full production towards the end of this year, when it should be producing at the rate of 71,000,000 gallons a year. The only development along those lines in this country occurred in 1939, when the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels furnished a report to the Government. One of the recommendations of the committee was -
That all possible steps should be taken to secure information promptly and continuously of any developments overseas, with a view to Australia reaping immediate advantage from these developments by the establishment of hydrogenation and synthesis plants in Australia working on indigenous materials if and when economic and other conditions become favorable.
I think we can take it that economic conditions are favorable, because plants of this type are working in a number of countries, apart from South Africa. There is one in the United States of America, and there is one about to start production in Rhodesia. In spite of the recommendations of the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels, nothing has happened in this field in Australia since 1939. I believe that, in view of our import difficulties and in view of the need to defend the country properly, the Government should immediately set up a committee to see what can be done to establish a key industry of this kind here at the earliest possible date. The coal resources of Australian are immense, being estimated at some 57,000,000.000,000 tons. I believe that we can produce oil from coal as cheaply as it is produced in South Africa or any other part of the world.
.- I am very concerned indeed about conditions in the coal industry. I have never worked in any other industry, and I can see coal-miners now in dire distress, all of which has been caused by this Government. Yesterday, I listened very attentively when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke about restriction of imports. One of this country’s imports is killing the coal industry, which is one of our basic industries. I refer to residual oil, which is being refined in various Australian States and is now in such competition with the coal industry that there is no market for small coal. Day after day, coal mines are closing down and thousands of workers are becoming unemployed. I have been a member of the Parliament for 27 years, and throughout that time I have been advocating the production of oil from coal. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Allan) referred to the production of oil from coal in South Africa. Great Britain, Germany, France, Holland, Japan and the United States of America are also engaged in thi3 process. In America, where we obtain much of our well oils, it is realized that in 50 years well oil will be exhausted. Combustion engines have to be fed, and they will go out of existence unless the necessary fuel is obtained from solids. Germany has the best process for producing oil in this way ; it is known as the “ Fishatrops “ process. In South Africa, great advances are being made in the use of a combined German, British and Dutch process. Holland, as well as producing oil from coal, also produces valuable chemical byproducts. The production from sixteen Dutch coal mines exceeds that of 200 Australian mines, simply because of their superior mechanical development. I visited Holland and, on my return, made a report, and some of my recommendations were adopted by governments of the past. ‘The Newstan colliery has implemented some of my recommendations for the transport of coal by conveyor belt from underground to the pit top.
Figures regarding the output from oil refineries in various States are alarming to the coal industry. Instead of having a positive programme for production of oil, gas and chemical by-products, as advocated by me over a period of years, we are being deluged with imported slush in the form of residual oil for the benefit of overseas monopolies, at the expense of our own basic coal industry. This is a lasting condemnation of the Government, and probably is one of the conditions demanded by America before it advances loan money to this or any other country. In other words, this Government, with its neck deliberately placed in the yoke of Wall-street domination, is bogged to the hocks’ in its own economic quicksand. Honorable members opposite might ask why Labour did not adopt the policy which I have advocated for so long. Labour gained office when we were in the throes of World War II., when an anti-Labour government could not carry on. The Tory Government broke down because it could not carry out the war programme. Later, the Labour Government had to deal with the aftermath of war, and all its energies were, devoted to reconstruction for peacetime. Therefore, it could not proceed with the production of oil from coal, as I am sure it would have clone had it been returned at the last election. It was not our fight alone. The people had the remedy in their hands. A split in the Labour party had to be fought. Some of our own people helped to defeat Labour by saying that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) could not carry out his programme for the abolition of the means test as applied to pensioners. It appears that the present Government does not desire to produce oil from coal. It is getting itself into an economic jam similar to that which existed in 1929, when Bruce brought about his own defeat in order to put the Scullin Government into office. I tell the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that it is not a laughing matter. He was not here then; in those days he was only a little boy. The Bruce-Page Government deliberately put Labour into office. I shall never forget poor “ Jimmy “ Scullin, who stood in this place and said that he had never thought the day would come when he would have to go back on his own tracks in regard to’ the socialization which he had been advocating for years. That was a course which he regretted having to take. He went grey during the twelve months that he was Prime Minister, but he did the job. Now, the anti-Labour forces are again angling to put Labour into office in order to clean up the mess. I tell the Leader of the Government now that 1 shall never stand for another Premiers plan. I did not stand for it in the thirties, and I shall never stand for it.
– Order !
– I can see that you an.’ about to stop me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, so I shall pass from that subject. Honorable members opposite want a pool of unemployed persons. For some time they have advocated such a policy, in order to bring economic pressure to bear on the workers so that they will do as they are told. However, instead of having a tranquil pool, they will have a swirling vortex of unemployment, which will suck the Government down in oblivion. Surely the middle and business classes in our society can see the result of the gradual worsening of the economic position and retrenchment in industry.
– Who wrote that?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) did not write it; he would not be capable of doing so. Where there are no wages, there is no purchasing power, and where there is no purchasing power there are no sales. The stock remains on the fixtures in the shops. It cannot be sold, and the storekeepers are forced out of business, as they were in 1929. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, unlike me, was not here then. The small business people will become bankrupt if this Government remains in office. It can see what is coming, and it is angling, as did the Bruce-Page Government, to go out of office and to let Labour clean up the mess once more. If the Government remains in office, we shall witness the wholesale repossession of homes, and various articles. During the last depression, I knew people whose homes were repossessed when they had paid off all but £100 of the money owing.
I note, furthermore, that the Government is trying to curtail hire-purchase finance. Only the workers have to take advantage of that form of credit. I admit. that the rates of interest are somewhat high. I have never engaged in any hire-purchase transactions myself,but, if the Government remains in office, many people who have almost paid for articles that they have acquiredby this means will lose them by way of repossession. The Government is of the opinion that a depression will come, and the average Australian citizen now discovers that he has been tricked into thinking that this period of uncontrolled inflation or gilded poverty is a period of prosperity.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the Estimates. He has wandered far enough.
– I wish to deal with the Estimates as they relate to the coalmining industry, which is a basic industry. The miners, who for years have been contributing to a pension scheme - it is wrongly so-called because it is really a superannuation scheme - are exposed to the danger of losing much of the benefit of it because, whereas originally it was established on a per ton basis, it is now on a per employee basis, and the owner does not contribute to the same degree as was originally intended. The miners are now contributing 6s. a week. Even a boy starting in the mines contributes that sum. If that lad were to leave the industry before he reached 60 years of age, he would not receive a refund of the money that he had paid into the scheme. The Government proposes to expend £200,000,000 on defence. Moreover, it has, in effect, a surplus of £70,000,000 from the last financial year. Why does it not utilize that surplus for the extraction of oil from coal? The committee has heard me speak about the extraction of oil from coal over quite a number of wars, and the honorable member for Gwydir also has advocated it.
In a report on the coal industry, I have recommended, not only the extraction of oil from coal, but also the introduction of stowage systems in mines that are collapsing. I have seen the stowage system in operation in Great Britain, France and Belgium. I was about tosay in Africa too, but, although I visited that country, I didnot go down into a mine.
In those other countries 89 per cent. of the coal is extracted from the seams, whereas in the Greta series of mines, where the coal is the richest in the world and has the greatest oil and gas content of any Australian coal, only 35 per cent. is extracted. Another result of the lack of the use of stowage is the subsidence of the surface which has necessitated the removal of a house. In the town of Pelaw Main, in which I lived before I was elected to the Parliament, two streets of houses had to be moved because J. and A. Brown, the owners of the mine in question, had allowed the surface to cave in. Fortunately, they were able to recover many of the houses that were affected.
The mining areas could produce the millions of gallons of residual oil that are being imported. I am tired of writing, and I am certainly tired of talking, about the extraction of oil from coal. I conclude by quoting the following lines : -
The warning pen shall write in vain-
Yes, my warning pen -
The warning voice grow hoarse:
This Guvment leaves in tragic train,
The stricken mining corpse.
That is what the Government has almost done. I have quoted other poems such as “ God give us men “, against the Government in the past, but I shall not requote them now. Government supporters skite about a surplus of £70,000,000, but they are prepared to see the coal-mining industry go to waste. Men, women and children are poverty stricken and face starvation because the Government will do nothing. But it can do something, and I plead with honorable members opposite, in the name of God, to do something in the interests of the mining fields.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Iam reluctant to take up some of the limited time that is available to the committee to discuss matters associated with the departments that I administer. Although I do not intend to reply at this stage to the various matters that have been raised by honorable members, I am glad to note their interest, and I can assure them that I shall examine closely the points that they have made.
However, I felt that I was under an obligation to give to the committee a report on developments since the Government decided, some years ago, to conduct an inquiry into Australian apprenticeship matters. I decided, shortly after assuming office, that there was a need for an examination of the apprenticeship system, and at a Premiers conference in 1950 I sponsored the formation of a committee of inquiry into the workings of the apprenticeship systems in the various States. The conference agreed that there should be a joint Commonwealth-State examination of apprenticeship matters and that I should proceed with the constitution of a committee. In February, 1952, a committee consisting of nine members, with Mr. Justice Wright of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration as chairman, was appointed. It included representatives of employer organizations, trade unions, and State apprenticeship and technical education authorities. It commenced its public sittings in April, 1952, and concluded them in March, 1953. It held further deliberations in private, and finally handed its report to me in March, 1954. I presented that report to the House of Representatives in April of that year. That fact may interest the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), because he has asked me when it would be tabled.
The committee made a total of 90 recommendations, the implementation of which it considered to be desirable if the apprenticeship position was to be improved. It found, basically, that the -existing apprenticeship system was soundly based, that it had operated satisfactorily in the past, -…. that it should continue to provide the large majority of skilled tradesmen for industry in the future. Immediately the report of the committee of inquiry was made available, it was examined by the department with a view to ascertaining what action could be taken by the Government to implement it. It was found that most of the recommendations either fell within the province of the States or required joint action by the Australian Government and the State governments. Accordingly, the
Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) wrote to the State Premiers and suggested that, after they had studied the report, discussions should be held to ascertain to what degree agreement could be reached on the matters on which some concerted action by the Commonwealth and the States would be necessary. He suggested that those discussions should be conducted first at the departmental level between the Department of Labour and National Service and such State departments as the States chose to nominate, and later at the ministerial level. Those letters were forwarded on the 12th April, 1954, and it was not until the 29th June, 1954, that the first reply from any of the States was received. This was merely an interim reply from Western Australia which did not give any answer on the question of a conference. Following that, a reply was received from the Queensland Premier on the 2nd August, 1954, agreeing to a conference. As no further replies were received, the Prime Minister again wrote on the 20th October, 1954, to the five Premiers who had not indicated their intentions at all. By February, 1955, replies had been received from the Premiers of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. They agreed to the conference.
In April of this year, the apprenticeship inquiry report was raised at a meeting of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council when information about the progress of negotiations between the Commonwealth and States for ;i meeting was given by the representative of the Commonwealth, and was discussed by the meeting.
Following the meeting of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, a meeting of the Department of Labour Advisory Committee, a body representative of Commonwealth and State Departments of Labour, was held in Melbourne in June. At that meeting, representatives of all State government departments were present. The report of the Committee of Inquiry into Apprenticeship was discussed broadly at this meeting, and the question of the proposed conference between the Commonwealth and the States was fully discussed. Some difficulties which the State representatives raised were disposed of, and at this meeting there was ultimately general agreement, except from Western Australia, on the need for the conference between the Commonwealth and the States to consider the report. The representative of Western Australia, however, said that his Government dissociated itself from the report, and proposed no further action. The New South Wales Premier, in July, agreed to participate in the conference between the Commonwealth and the States. No further reply has been received from Western Australia.
I am proposing to try, through the secretary of the department, at the next meeting of this Department of Labour Advisory Committee in October, to get agreement on a date for the conference between the Commonwealth department and the departments of the five States which have agreed to participate. It is hoped that Western Australia will also agree to be represented at this conference. In the meantime, work is proceeding on the preparation of an agenda to be discussed at the conference.
Concurrently with these negotiations with the representatives of the States, our Department of Labour and National Service has been discussing with the various Commonwealth agencies concerned those recommendations in the report which are within the province of the Commonwealth. Considerable correspondence between the Department of Labour and National Service and these agencies has taken place, and we are now about to convene a conference at which they will be represented. This conference will have two objects. The first will will be to formulate the attitude of Commonwealth departments to the recommendations affecting them, which would be the subject of discussion at the conference of the Commonwealth and the States, and the second will be to consider to what extent the recommendations of the committee that solely affect the Commonwealth can be implemented.
Apart altogether from the action the Commonwealth has taken to try to get a conference with the States, and to examine the report as it affects the Commonwealth solely, the department has devoted much action to one feature of the committee’s report. In one of its particular conclusions, the committee pointed out that there are marked deficiencies in the intake of new tradesmen in some trades. It also suggested in one of its recommendations that training along the lines of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme should be adopted, where practicable, in those trades in which insufficient apprentices are being recruited.
Most honorable members are aware of the fact that there is an acute shortage of skilled tradesmen at the present time. Although we are trying to supplement the supply of such tradesmen from immigrants and although we have a record intake of apprentices, the growth of Australian industry in recent years has been such that the supply cannot be maintained at the desired level even from those combined sources. This committee did see the problem, and made the recommendations which I have outlined to honorable members. In recent times, there have been negotiations between myself, officers of my department, representatives of the trades unions and of the employers in the hope that we might be able to arrive at an acceptable scheme for the training of tradesmen, and to bring them within the general- category of skilled tradesmen.
– That fell flat.
– It fell nearly as flat as the voice of the honorable member for Watson, for reasons which might commend themselves to him, but which would not commend themselves to most people. The honorable member is not unaware of the influences which were at work.
– The Minister knows they will not accept it.
– I do not know why the honorable member should be so confident. The trade union movement showed sufficient sense of responsibility to accept a trainee-tradesmen scheme of that kind during the war years, and it has shown a very high level of co-operation in connexion with other industrial problems ii> recent times.
– In war-time.
– Not only in war-time. Committees are still at work deciding, for example, whether an immigrant measure? up to the standard required before he is taken into a skilled trade. I can only hope that there will be some prospect of reaching some agreement along the lines I have mentioned, and responsible figures in the trade union movement have given me cause to believe that this may be possible. .
– Some time.
– I do not know whether the honorable member is hoping that there will be no time-
– The Minister should go to meetings of my union.
– I do not know whether the honorable member is hoping that we shall not be able to reach agreement along those lines, but most responsible Australians who have studied the position realize that there is a serious shortage which is hampering the industrial development of this country, and they would like to see some practicable and realistic method worked out to preserve the interests of the tradesmen and at the same time give to industry that supply of skilled tradesmen which we so sorely need.
I merely indicate that these discussions have been proceeding,- and I hope that we are not doomed to continue to experience frustration in our efforts.
.- I propose to relate my comments to the new Commonwealth and State housing proposal, which the Department of National Development submitted to the States recently. I feel that this proposal is cruel to the home-hungry people of Australia because it will mean the building of fewer homes during the next five years. It will also mean higher rentals, and it will jeopardize that great social service aspect of rental rebates. It will also create a financial dictatorship under which the Commonwealth will simply dictate the amount of finance to be allocated to the States. For those reasons, I feel that the whole purpose of the proposal is to destroy the agreement.
The Government has not had the courage to cancel the agreement. Instead of terminating it, the Government has said, “ We are not prepared to wipe it out, but we will subject it to a process of gradual strangulation over the next five years”. It is obvious, from the conditions laid down, that the Government is hoping that in the next five years, the agreement will die of strangulation.
The original agreement operated for ten years. It was felt that this was a reasonable period because it was a new approach to home construction in Australia. It was thought that adequate experience would be gained during a period of ten years, and that at the end of that time another agreement could be entered into for a further period of ten years, or possibly for fifteen or twenty years. Surely the fact that more than 100,000 Australian families were successfully housed under that scheme during the ten years that it has operated was sufficient justification for the scheme being extended for at least another ten years under the same conditions as those set out in the original agreement, or under terms even more generous, designed to provide more homes for the people. But again, a limit of five years has been specified. When the Labour Government was in office in 1949 the price of a. threebedroom, 12£ squares home was £1,800. A similar house of that size to-day cost? £3,800. In 1949, the right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey), who is now the Minister for External Affairs, said that home construction should be subsidized in order to enable greater numbers of people to become home owners and so be better and more stable citizens. That cry was echoed by members of the Opposition in those days, who now form the Government of this country. But what do they do to-day? On the first occasion that they had an opportunity to have a “ go “ at the agreement, they have increased the interest rate, in order to make rents dearer. I said during this debate last week that the economic rent was based on 6 per cent, of the capital cost of a house. I regret to say that J was in error to the extent of .4 per cent. In other words, due to increased costs, the economic rent of 6 per cent, of the capital cost, which was agreed to by the Chifley Government, has risen to 6.4 per cent, of the capital cost. That percentage is made up of 3 per cent, for interest on the cost of house and land and 3.4 per cent, to cover administration, rates, taxes, maintenance and other essential cost items.
Therefore, as I have said, to-day’s economic rent is 6.4 per cent, of the capital cost. But this Government is not satisfied with that, and proposes to increase it by three-quarters of 1 per cent. Under the old agreement, the economic rent of a house costing £2,900 was £3 lis. 6d. ; under the Government’s proposal, the rent of such a house will rise to £3 18s., provided that the States abolish the rental rebate system. If they want to retain the rental rebate system, the Commonwealth will compel them to charge another three-quarters of 1 per cent, interest, and so the economic rent of a house costing £2,900 will be increased to £4 4s. 6d. This proposal has been made by a government which states that it wants to stop inflation and to halt rising costs. This same Government said to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, in effect, “ In the interests of the national economy, the workers’ wages should be pegged “. Now, on the first occasion that the Government has an opportunity to review the housing agreement, it proposes to increase the economic rent of a worker’s home costing £2,900 from £3 Ils. 6d. to £4 4s. 6d. - that is, if the States want to continue with rental rebate systems.
The figures that I have cited are my own. The Liberal Premier of Victoria has stated that the rent of a four bedroom brick home will be close to £5 a week. That shows that the figure that I mentioned was low, although it is still far too high. The figure mentioned by the Premier of Victoria may relate to a brick home with more elaborate fittings than are provided for the people of New South Wales.
What will be the position in relation to people who have reared their families? If the Government’s proposal is implemented, their rent, if they occupy such a house, will be increased to £4 4s. 6d. a week, on the basis of an increase of threequarters of 1 per cent, or to £3 18s. a week if the States abolish the rental rebate system. If the States decide to retain the rental rebate system, they will have to increase the rent of that house by threequarters of 1 per cent, and apply the additional rent so received to subsidy payments. If the States do not do that - and it is very doubtful whether they can do it, although the subsidy has gone - the result will be that a person who is in receipt of an invalid or age pension of £4 a week will have to pay out in rent the amount of £3 18s. 6d. a week. A married couple, both pensioners, will have to pay in rent almost 50 per cent, of their combined pension of £8 a week. Under the proposal, persons in receipt of age, invalid, service, and widows’ pensions will be the losers. Apparently, the Government does not regard housing as a form of social services to be provided for those in the low-income groups, but favours a reversion to the conditions that existed prior to the war, when the activities of speculators in housing were governed by the expected yield. In those days, the provision of shelter for the workers waa approached in a cold, calculating manner.
The Labour Government produced a new charter in relation to the housing of people in the lower-income groups. Whatever opportunity they had of ultimately owning a home under Labour’s agreement will be destroyed by the Government’s proposal, in view of the present high cost of building. Under the proposed new agreement, the Commonwealth, which should provide adequate finance for housing, says to the States, in effect, “ If you agree to our figure, we will give you so much. If you do not do so, we shall deal with you through the Australian Loan Council, and you will have to be content with what you get ‘”. The Commonwealth further says to the States, in effect, “ By the making available of finance to the cooperative building societies, more homeswill be provided “. The fact is that fewer homes will be provided. I base my opinion on the views that have been expressed by Mr. E. R. Tytherleigh, the president of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies, who stated recently that homes built by the State housing commissions cost £2,300, while some homes built by co-operative building societies cost £5,000. That figure takes account only of the cost of labour and material used in the construction of the home. The value of a home simply represents the value of the materials and man-power used in its construction. The same value of materials and man-power is involved whether the home be constructed by a co-operative building society or by a State housing authority.
I have often heard the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) say that project building should be resumed. I point out that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement makes ideal provision for project building. It has been stated on behalf of New South Wales builders that the cheapest method of construction is to build, concurrently, five or more houses to a standard design, so that the tradesmen can move from one construction to another as required. This Government’s proposed new housing scheme will destroy the finest housing programme that has ever been submitted to this country. I believe that, if we are to get more homes, the following programme should be put into operation. The Government should give to the building industry, not a limited guarantee, but a guarantee that a continual flow of finance will be available for the construction of homes until the people of Australia are adequately housed ; the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement - particularly the retention of the rental rebate system - should be continued; the Government should direct the Commonwealth Trading Bank to open a special department for home finance to assist people to build and own their own homes and to make finance available for cooperative home building societies, &c. ; the expenses of this department should be underwritten by the Commonwealth Treasurer to the extent of £100,000,000 over the next ten years; such moneys should be made available at the rate of 2 per cent, interest; the maximum loan should be £4,000, and the deposit 5 per cent.; the value of a block of land should be taken into consideration as the deposit or a part thereof, having regard to its value; such department to operate its own insurance, as is done by the War Service Homes Division, which insures at approximately 50 per cent, of the ordinary rate. The Commonwealth Government should make finance available through the Commonwealth Bank to small building contractors, so that they may develop from single-home building to project building with a guarantee of continuity. This would ensure better job organization and continuity of employment, and would result in cheaper construction and cheaper homes for the homeless. In the event of any housing material being in short supply, the Government should allow importation duty ‘free. Further, if the Government really believes in assisting people to own their homes it should make available, under the War Service Homes Act, adequate finance for the construction of new homes, the purchase of existing homes and the taking over of mortgages held by private institutions on servicemen’s homes, so that they shall enjoy the full benefits of the act, which provides for cheaper interest and insurance rates. That programme would provide more and cheaper homes for the people. It would give the building industry a guarantee upon which it could go ahead. It would give to the timber, brick and glass industries an assurance that there would be no limitation on finance until people were adequately housed.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose this afternoon to reply to the attack that the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) has just made on the Government’s housing scheme. No doubt, at some subsequent opportunity in. the session, when honorable members have had time to digest the scheme more thoroughly, it will be debated in this chamber and thoughtful contributions on this subject will be made. My object in rising this afternoon is to say a few words on the Estimates for the Department of Immigration. At the outset, I would like to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), who, I understand, is unavoidably absent at the moment, on the continued smooth operation of the Commonwealth migration scheme. This is a subject which commands general assent, I take it, from all corners of the chamber, and it must be a matter of satisfaction to all of us that the Government, fairly recently, has been able to increase the quota to an annual intake of 125,000.
I hope that nothing that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said last night in his attempts to prevent a worsening of the present economic situation will deflect the Government from its objective of continuing unbroken this stream of immigration to Australia. There are, I know, great temptations ‘at a time such as this, especially on grounds that the migration programme may be to some degree inflationary, to curtail it. But this is a thing that we cannot do by way of starts and stops. Three or four years ago, when, owing to a temporary recessional period, it became necessary to reduce the immigration quota, considerable harm was done to the cause of Australian immigration in those countries abroad, and especially the United Kingdom and western Europe, from which we hope to receive the great bulk of our migrants. I know this from my own experience, and from inquiries that I made when I was on the other side of the world two years ago. I hope that the Government will profit by that lesson and will not entertain any idea of diminishing the flow during the measurable future. I think that all honorable members would agree that neither the vital urgency of developing this continent as quickly as we can, nor the very pressing international considerations with which we are perpetually clouded, should permit of any postponement whatsoever of the current immigration programme.
Having said that, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to raise before the committee, and the Government particularly, two aspects of Government policy. First, it has been apparent for years that many settlers are continuing to arrive in this country without any knowledge whatsoever of the English language. This has obvious disadvantages. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) interjects that some honorable members of this chamber are in the same predicament, but at least they can make themselves understood in varying degree. The settlers that I have in mind are in the unhappy situation of not being able to ask for even a cup of tea or a. piece of bread and butter. This inflicts, indeed, a very big and real hardship upon them for some months, because quite clearly they cannot be placed in suitable employment, or into the kind of work which they can perforin to the utmost of their efficiency. I would imagine that this defect, and it is a formidable defect, could be corrected by classes in English for intended settlers, once their application for entering into Australia has been granted. This could be done either in their country of origin, or, if they do not happen to be living there, in their country of residence immediately prior to embarkation. That is something which could very easily be established by the Commonwealth immigration authorities in Western Europe. Secondly, I would suggest that if it is not possible or convenient to have the classes that I have described they can most readily be held during the month’s voyage between Europe and Australia. I feel that if these two things - or one of them - were done, a lot of these people would arrive better and far more readily equipped to take their place in the social structure and thereby eliminate an economic time-lag which is a detriment to themselves, and which is, of course, a disadvantage to the national economy.
The other thing that I want to say concerns the shortage of domestic workers in this country. I, for one, want to take up the cudgels - which are very seldom raised, I have noticed, in this chamberon behalf of that new oppressed class in Australia, the housewives and the mothers. I am going to make an appeal to the Government to do all that it can to bring far more domestic workers into Australia. It is no use replying that they are hard to get. Certainly, they are virtually unobtainable in our midst, but from inquiries that I have made they exist in plenty both in Italy and in Austria. 1 am also informed that many thousands of these people, both men and women, but women particularly, would most readily come into Australia for domestic work should they be given the necessary opportunity. We are continually reminded, and it is, of course, true, about the unparalleled prosperity that Australia is enjoying. We know perfectly well thai for years now we have enjoyed the benefit of a short working week - a mere 40 hours. That applies purely to the masculine element of the community. It is no exaggeration to state that, since the war, the ordinary housewife and mother has worked harder and more consistently than she has ever worked within the last 50 or 60 years. I do not see bow we in this Parliament can acquiesce in a situation in which our womenfolk are working incessantly from morning to night, very often for seven days a week, while we throw our hats in the air and proclaim the virtues and glories of a 40-hour week. Now, we are told that, in a few years, we shall enter an industrial El Dorado of a 35-hour or even a 30-hour week, should the claims of certain unions be granted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I appeal to the Government and to the Minister for Immigration in particular to remedy this situation by approaching countries such as Italy and Austria - these are the ones I can speak of from my own knowledge and my own inquiry - from which thousands of domestic workers could be recruited and brought to Australia in order to relieve this very pressing need of the womenfolk of this country.
It is not only in the home that work of this nature is so urgently required. If one goes to any of our hospitals, whether in the great cities or in the country ; if one goes to any government institution, particularly any State government institution ; or if one puts up with some of the barbaric conditions in many country hotels and even in some metropolitan hotels, one will find lack of service and inefficiency which are a reflection on the community and which results from the scarcity of workers. So, sir, I hope that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) will pass on to his able, energetic and enthusiastic colleague, the Minister for Immigration, those ideas; and I hope that the Government in its totality will do something in the next few months to rectify this injustice and at long last to strike an effective blow in order to improve the conditions of the wives and mothers of the people of Australia.
.- I wish to reply briefly to the statements of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer). The honorable member made the point extremely well that there is a need to teach English to foreign immigrants to this country. I should tell the honorable member that I have just been reminded - and I remember from my own experience as Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration - that an elaborate arrangement exists for the purpose of overcoming the difficulties of foreign immigrants to this country who do not know our language when they leave their own country. Instruction in the English language is now arranged wherever . possible prior to embarkation. If it is known that a group of people who cannot speak English will be coming to Australia, arrangements are made to have elementary instruction in English given to them in the country from which they are to come. Furthermore, an officer who is, in effect, a teacher of English is placed on board any ship that is bringing a group of foreignspeaking immigrants to Australia. On the voyage to Australia, everything possible is done to make sure that when immigrants land here they will be able to ask for the bread and butter and the cup of tea to which the honorable member for Angas referred.
The honorable member will understand, however, that people vary enormously in the readiness and facility with which they pick up the language of another country. The English language is not the easiest language in the world to learn. It is not surprising that adult people who have not learned our language in their youth, which is the easiest time to learn it, find it a little difficult to master the obscurities, intricacies and esoteric qualities of the English language before they arrive in this country. But the department is aware of the need to enable these people to have sufficient knowledge of our language to avoid giving rise to that sort of subconscious hostility which large numbers of Australians have towards foreignspeaking people. For all those reasons, definite and active steps are taken to overcome the difficulty. Nobody pretends that our system is 100 per cent, perfect, or that it could not be improved, but the department does what it can.
On the subject of domestic help, I entirely agree with the honorable member for Angas concerning the position of women in the home.
– I rise to order. The last honorable member who spoke on the Estimates was a Government supporter, who discussed the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration. It is usual that, after a Government supporter has spoken, a member of the Opposition should receive the call. I know that a Minister always receives preference over honorable members on the Government side in receiving the call, hut my experience is that a Minister only attempts to get preference over a member on the Government side and not over a member on the Opposition side of the chamber. I also invite your attention, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to the fact that the Minister for Supply has been replying to criticism of the Department of Immigration, and that he has no control over that department. The Minister for Immigration is not present, but if any explanation of immigration matters is required, it is the duty of the Minister for Immigration to get the call and make a reply. It is unfair to honorable members on this side of the chamber not to call an Opposition member after a Government supporter has spoken.
– Order! There is no point of order. It is a well-established custom for a Minister who is in charge of the Estimates of one of the departments under consideration to receive the call whenever he wishes to speak.
– I do not wish to hold up the business of the committee, but I want to know whether a Minister is entitled to get the call in order to speak on the Estimates of a department over which he has no control, when an Opposition member is due to receive the call.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Minister will continue.
– I was speaking on the second matter that was raised by the honorable member for Angas, namely, the subject of bringing as many domestic workers as possible into this country. Everybody knows that there is a shortage of domestic workers, and that the shortage bears very hardly upon the womenfolk of this community. From time to time, the department has had in operation schemes for bringing domestic workers to Australia. At this moment, a concerted effort is being made in that direction, and substantial numbers of foreign workers from the countries that the honorable member mentioned, and from other coun tries of Europe, are on their way to Australia. I hope that that statement will not cause anybody to be killed in the rush in making application for domestic workers.
– I am intrigued by the novel suggestion made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) about domestic servants. I listened with a great deal of interest to his proposition, and I agree entirely with his remarks concerning the new oppressed class in the community, namely, the mothers and wives. I could not agree more heartily with his statement. They are, indeed, an oppressed class because, as he rightly said, men generally do their 40 hours of work a week, and in most cases that is all they have to do; but wives and mothers have to work every day from early in the morning until late at night. So there is a very strong case for doing something to give them some domestic assistance. The only flaw in the honorable member’s proposition - and it is a very important one - is that he did not tell us how the man on the basic wage can afford to pay for domestic help.
– There is nobody on the basic wage.
– I thank the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) for that important information. How can the man who is receiving the average weekly wage of £16 as set out in the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, afford to keep, and pay wages to, a domestic servant, whether that servant comes from Italy, Austria or anywhere else? Does the honorable member for Angas suggest that these people should be brought out as a kind of slave labour, and not be paid at all?
– Do not be silly! The honorable member is doing himself an injustice by making that statement.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to say, if he will be so kind, what wage he proposes that domestic servants should be paid. Once he has nominated that wage, and has calculated the cost of their keep, will he then be so kind as to tell me how a man on £16 a week can afford to pay the wage that the honorable gentleman has in mind, plus the cost of the servant’s keep, and at the same time properly clothe and educate his family - because I remind the honorable member that the mothers of the largest families are the ones who have the greatest claim to domestic help. Yet those mothers with large families would find it impossible to pay, out of an average wage of £16 a week, the wages of a domestic assistant and the cost of that assistant’s keep. So, although the honorable gentleman’s proposition is quite a good one in theory, in practice it will not stand up.
– Nothing of the kind! The honorable gentleman is confining himself to only one particular section of the community.
– Ah! As I thought, the honorable member for Angas wants to help only one particular section of the community. If the honorable member for Angas really believes that every family should have the benefit of domestic help, whether the family income is the average wage of £16 a week, or £60 a week, then I repeat my previous question : Will the honorable gentleman tell me how a man on £16 a week can afford to pay the wages of a domestic, plus the cost of the domestic’s keep, and at the same time properly clothe, educate and feed his children?
– He might not be able to pay the wage for a full-time domestic, but could very well afford to pay for a part-time domestic, and I can assure the honorable member that it would be a very great assistance to his wife to have domestic help even for only one day a week.
– Now the honorable member is suggesting that the domestic help be on a part-time basis, and again I ask him this question-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman will ask his questions of the Chair.
– Then I ask the Chair, how could a man on £16 a week, and with a family to keep, even afford to pay one day’s wages to a domestic, plus the cost of the domestic’s keep for one day? I think that before an honorable member puts forward a pro- position that would mean additional expense, to be met out of the average wage of £16 a week, to cover domestic help, he ought to be in a position to say, “ I myself have done it, I know it can be done, and therefore I know other people can do it “.
– Well, there are some who could on £16 a week.
– Is the honorable member for Hindmarsh against bringing domestic help into the country?
– Now the honorable member makes it fairly clear that the only mothers and wive3 who ought to be given domestic help - because in practice others are prevented from getting it by lack of means - are the wives and mothers of the wealthy, not the wives and mothers of the ordinary working men. I favour the bringing of domestic servants to the country, and if the honorable member for Angas had said that, during their six months’ period of training while they were learning the English language, the Government should have them placed in workers’ homes free of charge, and that the Department of Immigration should pay their wages and thus help the wives of poor men with large families to get domestic help, I should have applauded his suggestion; or if he had suggested that, instead of having the immigrants housed in hostels at Bonegilla or some other place while they are being taught the English language, they should be placed in workers’ homes at the cost of the Government and taught English there. Perhaps that would not be a very practicable proposition, but at least it would be more practicable than the honorable member’s proposition.
I believe that more single women immigrants have to be brought into this country, and quickly, or the difficulties arising from the unbalance of the sexes in our population will become worse. A few weeks ago, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) said that the position was not so bad as we thought, or as some people alleged. I think he said that there were only about 110,000 more males than females in Australia, which was not an excessive disproportion. The important tiling that the Minister overlooked was that the figures he gave were arrived at after taking into account the age group from 55 to 75 years and over, in which the number of females greatly exceeds the number of males. But if we take the age group from 20 to 50 years, which is the group of marriable age, we find that the proportion of male3 is 107.4 per cent., which is the highest, taken on that basis, of any country in the world. As against that, we find that in Greece the percentage is 98 per cent., in Italy it is only 95 per cent., and in England only 92 per cent. In Scotland it is 91 per cent., and in Germany SS.3 per cent. I see nothing wrong with the attempt of the Government to cure the unbalance in the countries that I have mentioned by bringing to this country single women from the excess of women in the populations of those countries. Visitors to Germany have told me that, when walking through the streets of almost any city in Germany, one notices the scarcity of men between the ages of 28 and 40 years, and the excess of women. I believe that we ought to do what we can to bring women here from Italy, Germany or anywhere else to assist in hospitals and in other essential work in the community, and if the Government is prepared to adopt my suggestion that working men’s wives should get domestic help, paid for by the Government-
– But the honorable member’s wife must not have any assistance, is that it?
– My wife has no domestic assistance, because I cannot afford it.
– That is because the honorable member does not let her have it. He is a rich man according to his standards. He is not on the basic wage.
– If the Minister can arrange with his friend and colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), to get the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, to let me have sufficient extension of overdraft to pay a domestic servant, I will employ one to-morrow morning. That shows how impossible it would be for a person who earns £16 a week to be able to afford the domestic help suggested by the honorable member for Angas.
Before I leave the subject of immigration, I wish to state that a sufficiency of brick bats has been thrown in this place at the Department of Immigration, and I wish to say a word of appreciation of the way that the department has performed its duties. I know of no Commonwealth department that deals with the problems of immigrants more sympathetically and with greater understanding than does the Department of Immigration. I pay a special tribute to the officers of the department in South Australia. I pay tribute especially to the secretary of the department, M.r. Heyes. I have never known an occasion when a member has not been able to obtain a personal interview with that very busy gentleman. The administration of the department is excellent. I have no fault to find except that there is a.n unbalance between the sexes among the immigrants that the department lias brought to Australia. That unbalance is clue, not to the administration of the department, but partly to the policy of the Labour Government and partly to the policy of the present Government. Both administrations considered that the most important need was to bring men to Australia, and therefore the department was directed to bring men here in numbers greatly exceeding the numbers of women immigrants. Surely we have now reached the stage at which that unbalance should be corrected quickly.
The Government should announce the plans that I understand it already has in mind to give assisted passages from the countries mentioned by the honorable member for Angas to single women nominated by people in Australia who wish to obtain domestic help. I am sure that there are in Australia thousands of wealthy people who would be glad to avail themselves of the opportunity of obtaining domestic help from the countries mentioned by the honorable member for Angas, and from Germany, if they only knew of the Government’s plans. I am sure that they would readily arrange to nominate single women. I suggest that the Government station immigration officers in the countries concerned. Those officers could be informed of the kind of home for which domestic help was required ; whether there was a family of children, and, if so, the ages of the children; and of various other circumstances inthe home concerned. The immigration officers could then ascertain whether itwas possible to obtain suitable immigrant women for those homes. This scheme would also make it easier to replace domestic help if an immigrant left the home in which she was employed. It would do much to overcome the difficulties that I have mentioned.
In the remainder of the time available to me, I wish to refer to the Department’ of National Development. The department should long ago have examined the need for a uniform-gauge railway between Brisbane and Perth. It is a shocking indictment of the governments, in both State and Federal spheres, which have been responsible for the neglect, that ten years after the conclusion ofWorld War II., during which we saw how necessary it was to have a uniform-gauge railway between the east and the west of the continent, there is still a narrow-gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Perth. The most urgent requirement is the speedy extension of the standard-gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Perth. The next step should be the extension of the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge railway from Broken Hill to Port Pirie, to complete a direct link between the east and the west. While work on that link is proceeding, the governments concerned should begin extending the standard-gauge line beyond Brisbane, if possible. I find myself compelled again to remind the committee of a very thoughtful speech on this subject made several years ago by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who at that time informed honorable members of something that I and many other honorable members had not known before. He told us that almost the entire railway system in Australia had been constructed by our grandfathers, and pointed out that hardly 10 miles of railway has been constructed in the last 30 or 40 years.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.FAIRBAIRN (Farrer) [5.39].- I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) that it is time something was done to standardize railway gauges in Australia. I considered that the appropriate Estimates on which to discuss this matter were those for the Department of Shipping and Transport, and therefore I referred to it yesterday. Nevertheless, I state now that I agree entirely with the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
I wish to discuss the Estimates for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, for which £4,449,000 is to be voted. The Commonwealth is lucky to have an organization of this sort. It is a first-class body which has saved Australia many millions of pounds. The introduction of myxomatosis and the consequent reduction of the rabbit population have alone been worth millions of pounds because the wool clip has increased substantially as a result. The original successful introduction of the myxomatosis virus in rabbits occurred in my electorate. Inoculated rabbits were liberated in four areas. Those liberated in three districts died without spreading the disease. I am glad to be able to inform honorable members that, within a few months, the disease had spread from the Farrer electorate almost throughout Australia. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has shown great resource in many matters. I read only recently of the experiments that it is undertaking in the Kimberleys region in Western Australia in an effort to understand the habits of kangaroos and to perfect a method of reducing their numbers. As all honorable members are aware, kangaroos are a very great nuisance in the Kimberleys, and it is necessary to reduce their numbers by shooting and trapping. Officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization hit on the clever method of marking kangaroos by attaching reflector tape to them. The water supplies at which kangaroos drink are doped. The animals become unconscious after drinking the doped water and the reflector tape may easily be attached to them. The tape enables the scientists to follow the movements of the animals when they move about again. If any honorable member happens to see a kangaroo with reflector tape attached to it when he is driving through the desert country of Western Australia, he will know how the tape came to be fixed to the animal.
However, I consider that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has fallen down on its job with respect to a major stock disease to which it is not giving sufficient attention at the present time. This disease causes great economic loss throughout Australia - probably the greatest loss from disease now that some of the worst pests such as blowflies and rabbits are under control. The disease to which I refer is contagious footrot, which is prevalent almost throughout the improved pasture areas of Victoria, throughout most of eastern New South Wales, in South Australia, especially in the rich region in the southeast, and in the south-west of Western Australia. It has been estimated by veterinarians that contagious footrot reduces the wool clip of an affected property by as much as one-fifth. As Australia’s wool cheque last financial year was approximately £360,000,000, it is evident that contagious footrot causes losses of perhaps £10,000,000 or £20,000,000. The only reference to the disease that I have been able to find in the last annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is to an expenditure of about £300 on research into the disease. I might state, at this point, that it is unfortunate that one is not able to obtain the latest reports of many government bodies in time to discuss them when the Estimates are under consideration. I know that the compilation of a report of the size and nature of the annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization must involve a tremendous amount of work, but three months have passed since the 30th June. I believe that governmental organizations should do their utmost to distribute their latest reports in sufficient time to enable honorable members to discuss them in detail when the Estimates are under consideration.
In the report of the ‘Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the year 1953-54, the only reference that I can find to footrot is a statement that about £300 was spent on some experimental work at the McMaster laboratory in Sydney on the use of Chloromycetin and on some trials carried out on three properties. I think that 700 infected sheep, all told, were tested. In addition, there was a field day at Young at which a number of officers were present. I do not think that that work is anything like adequate, having regard to the severity of the disease. No really major work has been done on the disease, or no major discoveries have been made since Dr. Beveridge discovered the germ - I think it is called fusiformus nodosus - which causes it.
The discovery that the disease is caused by a germ or organism was an enormous step forward, because until then the idea was prevalent throughout the country that if there were long, wet, rank grass on a property, the sheep automatically got footrot. The work done by Dr. Beveridge - some of which, I might mention, was done on my father’s property - has shown that there are three completely different types of footrot. One is the normal scald, as we call it. The flesh between the toes of the sheep gets wet and a certain lameness occurs, but we know now that, unless this germ is present, contagious footrot - the disease which is responsible for so much economic loss throughout the country- - does not appear. It was found that the germ could live for only a few days in grass. When that discovery was made, we knew that all that we had to do to prevent the disease from spreading was to eliminate the carriers and put the other sheep on to clean paddocks which had been spelled for long enough to enable us to be certain that the germs had died. In that way, it is possible gradually to eliminate the disease on a property. I stress that it is a very difficult task. Every sheep on the property must be turned up and inspected very closely. Any sheep that are infected must be run off the property. Sometimes it might be necessary to turn up 5,000 sheep, and even then, if one infected sheep were missed, the disease would spread like wildfire.
Since Dr. Beveridge discovered the organism responsible for the disease about eighteen years ago, the only increase of our knowledge of the disease is that we have found that Chloromycetin is more potent as a remedy than formalin or Milestone, which were used previously. But the trouble with Chloromycetin is that it is very expensive, as a friend of mine said recently. He held up a little bottle of the stuff and said, “Do you realize that I could get two bottles of Napoleon brandy for the price of this ? “ Obviously it is not possible for the ordinary land-holder to fill large sheep dips with Chloromycetin.
I think there should be a three-stage approach to the problem by the people in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. “First, I think they should put on to the work the most competent officers they have. They may say, “ That is all very well, but we have not got the money and we have not got the officers needed to do the work “. I know that they are engaged on many things, but why cannot they examine the existing projects with a view to seeing whether it would be possible to do without them?
– Such as rain-making.
– The honorable member suggests that it would be possible to do without the rain-making project. I was reading a paper published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on the Superb Parrot in southern New South “Wales. That investigation took up the time of two officers. If those two officers had been diverted, to work on the footrot problem, we should not know what the Superb Parrot does in New South Wales, but we might have found out a little more about footrot. As I have said, I think there should be a three-stage approach to the problem. First, we must find a new antibiotic that will assist land-holders to eliminate the disease from their properties. After all, a very large number of antibiotics has been developed recently, and many of them can be produced reasonably cheaply. Even with such an antibiotic, the elimination of the disease would still be a very long and arduous task. So we want the services of a most active and efficient research officer. If necessary, we should bring him from England. With a team working under him, he should try to find out what can be done by individual land-holders to eliminate the disease. That should be the first step.
As a second step, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should make recommendations to the State governments about the laws that should be enforced in their territories for the elimination of the disease. At present, such laws are in force in some States, but not in others. In Western Australia, there is a law which prohibits any land-holder whose sheep are infected from sending them off his property. In that State, infected sheep cannot be taken through another property cn which the disease is not present’. I believe there is a similar law in force in Tasmania, but in New South Wales there is no such law. If I have a property that is entirely clear of footrot, a neighbour, or any one else, can ring me up and say, “ I am bringing a mob of sheep through your paddock “. Provided there is a road through the paddock, he can take his mob of sheep through it, and there is nothing I can do about it, even though his sheep are down on their knees with footrot. That seems to me to be most unfair to the conscientious laud-holder who has clone his best to clear his property of the disease. Therefore, I think the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should make recommendations to the State governments for the introduction of legislation with a view to eliminating the disease. We know that the task of the State governments would not be an easy one. At present, the stock inspectors in most States are heavily overworked, and it is obvious that, whatever we do, it will throw a certain amount of extra work on them, even if all they have to do is to come along, take a slide and put it under a microscope to decide whether sheep are infected.
Thirdly, I suggest that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should try to discover some method of fumigating vehicles used for the transport of stock. It is useless for people to buy sheep which are clean at the time they huy them if subsequently they are put into trucks which just previously were used to carry sheep which had the germ, because the clean sheep will become infected. It is the same with road transport. It may be possible to find some means of spraying, fumigating or putting some kind of disinfectant in yards and trucks to make certain that the disease will not spread.
This is obviously a subject on which one could speak at very great length. All that I have tried to do is to bring to the notice of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization the urgent necessity to divert more of its funds to the task of eliminating what I believe to be one of the most serious sheep diseases in the country and one which certainly is reducing the value of our annual wool clip.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, would this be an appropriate time to suspend the sitting ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I am sorry, but I cannot suspend the sitting now. As the “ guillotine “ is in operation, time is most important, and seven minutes is too much to waste.
– I heartily agree with you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, although I am inclined to think that some honorable members would like you to suspend the sitting now. It is appropriate that every consideration be given to the Estimates for the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission because, in considering those Estimates, we are considering matters of very great importance to the development of Australia. I wish to say a few words about each of those departments and organizations, because they are all very intimately associated with the development of our country.
I think every honorable member must be concerned about the lack of development that is taking place in Australia at present. The development to-day is spasmodic and haphazard. The only really worth-while scheme of national development in operation is the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which was initiated by the Chifley Labour Government. It seems to me to be necessary that the Parliament should appraise the situation, and determine the best course to be taken for the development of our country. The Auditor-General’s statement discloses that expenditure by the Department of National Development amounted to £1,195,000, whereas £13,264,000 was expended on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. Those figures seem to be out of balance and out of proportion. One would imagine that other important works would be in train, including those which have been advocated from time to time by honorable members. Standardization of railway gauges should be tackled, and not merely for the sake of national development. The interests of the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service would be closely linked with those of the Department of National Development in such an undertaking. No one who is concerned with the development of Australia and the fostering of immigration could think of a more urgent work than the standardization of railway gauges.
Other honorable members have referred to the need for a national roads programme, something that has an important bearing on national development. I consider that it is necessary to go far beyond the completion of speedways between capital cities. To enable real development, good roads must be constructed from town to town,, and from village to village, throughout the country. I can speak with a great deal of conviction about this matter, as I have an intimate knowledge of the subject. Representing, as I do, a country division, I have been obliged from time to time to traverse roads that were virtually impassable. I have come to rivers that were flooded by summer storms or the thawing of winter snows, and been obliged to turn back without reaching my destination. This problem should be tackled without delay, if we are to foster national development and add to our national income. Many man-hours are lost because of the inability of country people to travel from one town to another, from town to market, or from farm to market. Unless the problem is tackled seriously we shall be unable to make our utmost contribution to rural production and expansion. This matter is very closely linked with national development.
We cannot conceive any worth-while plan of national development unless we have a satisfactory programme for the provision of homes in country districts. I regret to say that this Government has failed to meet its obligations in this regard. It is true that, in 1949, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in a policy speech, promised that £250,000,000 would be made available for rural development. That promise has been dishonoured. One would think that now, having regard to the imbalance in our economic structure, and the need to build up our reserves overseas, the boosting of primary production would proceed with greater vigour than ever before.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had been referring to the need for an adequate housing programme. I had expressed the view that without such a programme there could not be national development in Australia. I now wish to bring to the notice of the committee the serious situation that is developing in the coal-mining industry. The importance of coal cannot be emphasized too strongly. In former times, the importance of coal was constantly before the Parliament. To-night, I ask the committee again to pay attention to the needs of this industry, which needs stability as much as does any other industry. If the Government is concerned about our economic structure, it cannot afford to overlook the importance of coal. Three weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister, as leader of the Australian Government, for certain information in relation to the future of this industry, but I regret to say that so far that information has not been furnished. The need for stability must be apparent to all honorable members, but it seems that this Government is indifferent to the interests of the industry.
What is this crisis in the coal-mining industry? Has it been caused by those persons who own the mines? Has it been caused by the men who work in the mines? I suggest that those last two questions may be answered in the negative. The crisis in the industry is due largely to the fact that the oil cartels have been allowed to expand in this country, to destroy our indigenous shale oil industry, and to take charge of our fuel oil requirements and our fuel requirements generally. Issue No. 42 of Fads and Figures, a publication of the Australian News and Information Bureau, a section of the Department of the Interior, made some disturbing references to the coal-mining industry. In relation to the making of gas, the journal stated -
The Australian Gas Light Company, which is the largest producer of town gas in Australia, recently signed an agreement under which half of its 1956 production of gas will be derived from oil. Another project is being discussed which would increase the proportion to two-thirds.
One can readily imagine the effect that those arrangements will have upon the coal-mining industry. The use of oil, the importation of which is causing Australia to lose its overseas trading surplus, will be accelerated, whilst our indigenous coal-mining industry is neglected. In addition, men who served this country extremely well during World War II., and in the years of peace that have follow-ed, will be neglected and allowed to go unwanted.
Issue No. 44 of Facts and Figures clearly reveals that those persons who are engaged in the coal-mining industry will be at the mercy of the oil cartels. That booklet, in its reference to the refining and consumption of oil and the effect upon the coal-mining industry, states -
Considerable disruption could take place if fuel oil, temporarily available in surplus quantities, displaced coal to a substantial extent in the markets if normally supplied. For instance, every 500,000 tons lost from markets for coal from underground mines meant the displacement of 750 mine workers.
That statement, which ‘was made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), continues in the same strain. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall have the following additional paragraph incorporated in Hansard: -
Information obtained at discussions between representatives of the oil industry and officers of his department, said Senator Spooner, showed that the operating plans for the new refineries had been so arranged that there would be little production of fuel oil surplus to the requirements of the Australian and ex- port markets. It had been thought that during the next few years residual oils which the new refineries would produce could substantially displace coal as a fuel. It had been considered that this would be a passing phase and that the increasing demand for all fuels would in time correct it. Concern had, however, been felt that for a period the coal industry would face severe competition and be unable to find a market as large as at present. Present indications were that competition from fuel oil would not trouble the coal industry to the extent that earlier estimates had suggested.
The seriousness of the situation is agitating the minds of my constituents. Such headlines as “126 Dismissals - 42 Jobs Available “, “ Miners’ Federation Faces Grave Crisis “, and “ Conference Decision on Miners’ Position “, which appear in the press day after day, give prominence to the problem that is arising. It may seem to be far removed from this chamber, but to the people of my electorate it is an all-important topic. I ask the committee to treat the matter seriously, and to consider the human beings who are involved, and who may be thrown out of work and compelled to leave the district in which they live to go elsewhere in search of employment. To find employment to-day is not easy. Moreover, the restrictive financial policy that has been adopted by the Government aggravates the situation. There is need for a longrange programme to provide continuous employment for those persons who are engaged in the coal-mining industry so that their services may he available in the event of an emergency.
To import oil and to depend upon the freedom of the world’s sea lanes is to adopt a false policy. The coal-mining industry, which is so important to the maintenance of our favorable trade balance, should be preserved. Industries should be established for the production of oil from coal and for the making of briquettes. We should also explore the possibility of obtaining more markets. If the committee will give consideration to the stabilization of the coal-mining industry, it will be doing a worthwhile job of work, not only for those men who are engaged in the industry, but also for the whole of Australia. One of the most disturbing matters that comes before my mind is to-day’s announcement that freights to the South Pacific area will be increased by 10 per cent
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to deal particularly, or at any length, with the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) in relation to the coal-mining industry, but I think he will agree - because I believe him to be fair-minded - that a lot of the trouble in the coal-mining industry, which has resulted in the forcing ahead of oil production, is due to the fact that those persons who were engaged in that industry would not accept advice about what might happen in the future. I agree that it is necessary that something should be done to assist, the industry. We cannot say that, because those persons were so foolish, they must be put to one side; but we must bring to their notice the fact that a tremendous amount of the trouble and the difficulty that exist to-day are the result of the leadership of the employees over the past ten years.
I wish to direct my remarks principally to immigration. Probably, I would not have made the speech that I propose to make if the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown), who is the chairman of the Immigration Advisory Committee, had been present, because, when past Estimates have been debated, he has dealt very effectively with this subject. I trust that he will be completely recovered from his illness and with us again very shortly.
A topical subject is immigration. This week it was reported in the press that 3,500 immigrants entered the country during the last week. That was the greatest number to enter at any one time in the memory of the immigration officials, and if those newspaper reports are correct, it is a clear indication that this Government is vigorously pursuing its immigration policy to the fullest extent. Australia’s immigration policy is one of which we can justly feel proud. Its perfection has evoked the admiration of other countries. Some of us can remember other excellent schemes that were in operation either at the beginning of or before the introduction of the present immigration policy. One outstanding example was our Empire air training scheme, and although I may be digressing a little in referring to it, that scheme too, showed our capacity for initiative and thorough planning. It was another example of the speed with which we can draw up and embark upon technical training schemes. I can remember the days when we were sending air crews overseas. Their standard of training and perfection evoked the admiration of the world. The same devotion and interest as were applied to that scheme were put into the development of our immigration policy.
This afternoon, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) surprised me. After having condemned our immigration scheme prior to the last election, he gave it his approval to-day, and if he approves of it, then certainly very little can be said against it.
But the scheme is not perfect. In my own electorate of Corio, for example, the Belmont hostel has been established too close to the river. Every time there is heavy rain, or the likelihood of floods, the theme song of the hostel is, “River, stay away from my door “. I am confident that if it were possible to turn back the hands of the clock, that hostel would be erected in a higher position; but we have to accept it where it is, and even in that situation, it has done an excellent job. To balance the budget, as it were, on the score of hostels, we have the one at Narlane. It is placed in a sensible strategic position, close to the industries, and has proved excellent for the purpose. Because of its position, workers are enabled to get across quickly to their work and to the housing settlements.
Over the years, one has noticed great improvement and progress in this work. The accommodation has improved, while the food and amenities are excellent. I have made several snap inspections; there was no “ dolling up “ for the benefit of a visiting member of Parliament; and I found the food, cleanliness and amenities to be of the highest possible standard on all occasions. These factors are important from the psychological point of view. It is accepted that when people are eating in the one room, seeing the same faces day after day, these things tend to alter their ideas of the situation, although the situation itself has not changed. The minds and the outlook of the people have changed. It is to the credit of the hostels that there have been very few complaints about either accommodation or food over the past two years. Taking our assisted immigration plan as a whole, I should say it is the best in the world because we have excellent hostel accommodation associated with it. Last year, when I was abroad, I had the opportunity of comparing our scheme with those applying in South Africa, Rhodesia and Canada. What I saw there made me realize that we in Australia are doing an excellent job in the immigration field.
Perhaps one of the most difficult problems is to assimilate immigrants from overseas into our Australian way of life. It must be admitted that before the war, when Australians were situated six weeks’ journey from Europe, we were in comparative isolation from the rest of the world, and we became insular and parochial in our outlook. Customs and practices that were acceptable on the other side of the world were looked upon as curious and strange by Australians. In those days, the sight of a beret or the strange cut of clothing or the sound of another language was not only a matter of interest, but frequently provoked laughter and derision.
For those reasons, I admit that in the early stages of our immigration policy, I viewed with some apprehension the impact of perhaps thousands of people from overseas on the Australian people. It speaks volumes for the tolerance of the average Australian that once he got to understand the immigrant he accepted him in a spirit of companionship. The fact that 1,000,000 immigrants have been absorbed into our economy with so little trouble since the war is amazing. This has been made possible through the efforts of the Good Neighbour Council, which has done outstanding work in welcoming immigrants into our midst and giving them such amenities as would make them feel as much at home here as possible. Church organizations have also done splendid work. Shire councils have displayed extreme tolerance towards them in connexion with building regulations.
I can remember when we had in my own district probably one of the greatest influxes of immigrants that we have ever known. I know that at that time the local authorities were apprehensive about the establishment of shanty towns. At the same time, they realized that it would be to the benefit of their districts and the industries conducted in them for them to assimilate the immigrants, and they exercised tolerance. When the immigrants said that they were building temporary abodes, and that when they had the money they would build decent homes, the local authorities trusted them. They exercised leniency and tolerance in the administration of their building regulations, and their trust in the immigrants was wellfounded. As a result of the attitude adopted by these local authorities, we have houses and villages that stand out as monuments to the trustworthiness of the people we brought to this country.
It disturbs me at times to find that there are people in the community who hold the view that our immigration policy is, in effect, a one-way traffic policy. They assert that we bring these people to our country, give them homes, and find employment for them, and that they do not return value to us. It is gratifying to he able to refute such claims by quoting statistics to show what these new Australians mean to this country. In the brick and tile industry, which is an essential part of the building industry, 14.2 per cent, of the employees are new Australians. In the earthenware, china, porcelain and terra cotta sections, 14.1 per cent, of the employees are new Australians. In the glass-making industry, they represent 3’6 per cent, of the employees. In the fibrous plaster and products, lime and asphalt sections, 14.4 per cent, of the employees are new Australians. In the Portland cement industry, they represent 12.6 per cent., while in the asbestos cement sheeting and moulding industries, 24.5 per cent, of the employees are new Australians. All these people are engaged in making materials that are used in the construction of houses. In other cement goods, the new Australians represent 29.7 per cent.; and in smelting, converting, refining, and rolling of iron and steel, they represent 22 per cent.
Coming to public works construction and maintenance, we find that the percen tages are as follows: - Railways - in which we have been very short of staff in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania - 17.2 per cent.; water construction works - all States except Queensland - 21.7 per cent.; and power works in New South Wales and Tasmania, 35.2 per cent. In private building, in which there is only a relatively small number of major contractors, the percentage was 14.3. These figures indicate that the establishment of the houses in which Australians are living was contributed to very materially by new Australians. This is the answer to the suggestion that the flood of immigrants coming into the country is making it more difficult for the people to obtain accommodation. If there is any parochial attitude - fear and a stiff-necked attitude - towards immigrants, I believe that it is confined to the executives of the trade unions. I do not believe that the rank and file of persons who work alongside immigrants in industry adopt that attitude. On the other hand, certain union executives consider that they should resist the policy to bring in additional immigrant tradesmen. Prom time to time, I have received complaints from persons from the other side of the world to the effect that tradesmen from certain countries are not being recognized in Australia as tradesmen. Statements of that kind make it more difficult for us to obtain immigrant tradesmen.
– Does the honorable member include the executive of the British Medical Association?
– I know that prospective immigrant tradesmen submit their papers to a special committee, but the bias that has been caused as the result of skilled immigrant tradesmen, working as labourers on jobs under relatively unskilled tradesmen, can be understood. Although I should not do so, perhaps, I suggest to honorable members opposite that they should look into this matter because if skilled immigrants get the idea that the trade unions are not looking after their interests, they might not vote for Labour candidates at future elections. I should like it to be understood that I tender this advice for what it is worth, in the interests of the immigrants themselves rather than those of the Labour party. I know of one instance in which a union official said to an immigrant who had taken his papers to him, “ What are you going to do when you get your ticket?”, to which the lad replied, “I am going to join the Air Force”. The union official said, “I do not admire you for that “. Such happenings do not encourage but bewilder immigrants. In conclusion, in an effort to be constructive, as Australia is such a vast country, and is subject to considerable variation of climate and outlook, I consider that full information on all aspects of the Australian way of life should be given to prospective immigrants in order to enable them to size up the local situation, and that our Australian papers should be forwarded to them so that they would have a better idea of the country to which they are going.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall direct the attention of the committee to certain aspects of the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service. I wish to refer to the urgent need for the leaders of the trade union movement to give a positive lead to unionists regarding the economic problems that are facing Australia, and to the urgent need, also, for leaders in the field of commerce to give a lead to members of their organizations in connexion with this matter. Many of these organizations have failed to rise to the occasion by giving the necessary lead.
Last night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the course of his survey of the economic problems which are facing Australia, referred to the problem of inflation and the great need to increase our exports in order that we might earn more money with which to pay for imports that we need to maintain our standard of living. But the right honorable gentleman made no reference to what I regard as two essential matters with which we must deal in order to solve our economic problems. The first relates to wages, and the second to productivity. It is in regard to those two matters that we should consider the responsibilities of trade union leaders and leaders of the business community, from the point of view of their giving a lead to the members of their organizations. In my opinion, the leaders of the trade unions have a responsibility to ensure, not merely that justice is done to their members, but also that regard is had to the needs of the nation as a whole. When the problem is considered in the light of our national needs it becomes clear, I think, that a policy of restraint in relation to wage claims should be adopted. I consider that the leaders of the trade unions have fallen down on their responsibility in this connexion, by not giving a lead on this vital matter. Likewise, I consider that the leaders in the field of commerce and industry should give a lead by adopting a policy of restraint as far as dividends are concerned. I have seen no evidence to suggest that that has been, or is being, done. In that respect, therefore, the leaders in the commercial and financial spheres are not discharging their responsibilities at a time when we are facing serious problems.
Similarly, in relation to productivity, I do not think there is any doubt in the mind of any thinking person in the community that we must produce more if we are to continue to improve our standard of living. We must increase our productivity. I believe that we should all work harder - that everybody in the community should work harder. The trade union leaders should drop the shillyshallying that they have been indulging in for a long time on the subject of incentives. They should encourage the introduction of proper incentive schemes with adequate safeguards to ensure that there shall be no abuse of the incentive system. The trade union movement should give a lead in this matter, as its contribution towards increasing productivity. There can be no question that if we are to raise real wages and improve our standard of living, and if we are to solve the problem of our declining overseas balances, we must attain greater productivity. In order to do so, a responsibility devolves on both the leaders of the trade unions and the leaders in the business world. Leaders of industry should not merely increase prices whenever their costs rise. They should adopt more efficient methods instead of sheltering behind tariff protection which shelters them from competition. They should increase their efficiency to obviate continually increasing prices. By so doing, they would contribute to the attainment of greater productivity and keep down the prices of goods in the community.
By way of contrast, it is worth looking briefly at the position in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In the United States, of course, the trade unions fight vigorously and effectively for their members, but they do realize that if real wages are to be increased, there must be greater production. That is their policy, and it has. achieved beneficial results for their country and their members. It is very refreshing to see that at the recent Trades Union Congress in the United Kingdom, Mr. C. Gr. Geddes, in his presidential address, showed quite clearly that the British trade union leaders were alive to their responsibility in these economic matters. He made remarks that we certainly would not hear at an Australian Council of Trades Unions congress in this country. The outlook of trade union leaders in the United Kingdom and in this country seems to be entirely different. I quote from the London Times of the 6th September, 1955-
Mr. Geddes, in his presidential address to the trade union congress, began by expressing surprise at the result of the general election earlier this year. Many workers, including trade unionists, had decided to return the Conservatives to power with a considerable majority instead of the Labour Party.
That position seems to prevail in this country also. I should like to quote at length what he then said because I think that it is worth putting in the records of this Parliament. The Times report continued -
The unions, went on Mr. Geddes, could not evade their own responsibilities in the economic position. If it changed drastically for the worse, their members would be the first to suffer. They had believed in the past that when they worked to improve their own conditions, they were working also for the benefit of their children, but if they were not careful now they would be working for themselves at their children’s expense. If full employment were over-exploited, their children might be exploited by unemployment.
That very sane and responsible utterance was made by a trade union leader in the United Kingdom. It would be very refreshing and encouraging if responsible utterances of that type came from every political leader of the Labour movement or the trade union movement in this country.
– Why does not the honorable member say something about excessive profits?
– I am quoting what Mr. Geddes, the president of the Trades Union Congress of Great Britain, said recently. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) disagree, they are merely emphasizing my point that in the United Kingdom there is a sense of responsibility amongst political and industrial leaders that is lacking in this country. Also, employers in the United Kingdom are aware of their responsibility. I shall quote an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 14th September, 1955-
The British Employers’ Confederation, whose members employ almost 70 per cent, of Britain’s man-power, launched the campaign. . . .
The campaign was aimed at reducing the cost of living. Their economic problems are very similar to ours -
In its manifesto the Confederation admitted the need for lower dividends as well as wage restraint. . . . The inference is that if the unions are willing to go slow on new wage demands, the employers are willing to go slow on dividends.
Honorable members on the Opposition benches laugh, but I can see nothing humorous in the statement that I have just read. It is a sound, common-sense policy of the kind that I hope will some day prevail in this country. The report continues -
Mr. George Pollock. Q.C.. director of the confederation, said in the survey - “ Where a company is earning substantial profits its first interest should be a reduction in prices. Then a slab of the surplus should go for machinery and new methods; and the balance should be divided between shareholders and wageearners.”
Those are sentiments with which I quite agree. They show the contrast between the leaders of industry, on both sides, in the United Kingdom, and those in this country. There is no doubt that one of our greatest needs is increased production. There seems to be a clear responsibility not merely upon the leaders of business, who must do their part by being more efficient and bringing costs down, but also upon the trade union movement. It is regrettable - and I address my remarks to the front Opposition bench - that there has been no call from the political leaders, or the industrial leaders, of the Labour movement for greater productivity. The last call from that quarter that I can remember was made by Mr. Chifley. He was aware of the mounting danger of inflation in this country and appealed, on more than one occasion, for greater productivity and lower costs. He pointed out that this was essential if Australia was to fight the mounting menace of inflation. So far as I am aware, since Mr. Chifley died no utterance of that nature has come from any responsible leader of the political wing, or of the industrial wing, of the Labour movement. It is a great pity that no statement similar to that made by Mr. Geddes in the United Kingdom emanated from the last trade union congress in this country. It is pertinent to ask why the leaders of our trade union movement are not prepared to face up to their responsibility and give the lead by calling upon their members for increased productivity as a vital contribution to the tackling of the economic problems that lie before .us.
– Why should they when they would get no benefit from it?
– One of the reasons why we have not seen the responsible trade union leaders give a lead in this matter is that the poison of Marxism has permeated the thinking of men who are not Communists but are obsessed by this Marxist rubbish of class warfare. They have adopted the fantastic notion that if one works harder and produces more, one is merely helping the boss. If any evidence is needed that that silly, outmoded idea does prevail in the trade union movement it is to be found in the interjection of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who asked why people should work harder, as they would only be helping the boss.
– I said that greater productivity would boost profits, from which they would derive no benefit.
– Did the honorable member for Fawkner sign the Marxist pledge?
– It is not surprising to find that so many honorable members of the Opposition in the chamber support the economic principles of Marxism. That is actually what the honorable member for East Sydney is doing. Under those circumstances we must despair of ever getting a constructive lead from trade union leaders on this very vital question.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to make some remarks upon the Estimates for the Department of Immigration. They may also be of interest to the Department of National Development.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! I must ask that the private conversation cease.
– I wish to speak on the degree of encouragement and assistance that is given to potential immigrants from the United Kingdom, both of Australia House and at the agencies, which are maintained in the United Kingdom by the State governments. We have, in Australia, a very valuable export industry in the crayfish industry.
Honorable members interjecting,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! My request for silence applies to both sides of the House.
– According to figures of the United States Bureau of Census, in the eleven months from January to November, 1954, Australia exported 3,683,000 dollars worth of crayfish to America, nearly a million dollars more than the value of crayfish exported by our two major competitors, South Africa and New Zealand. . The major part of those exports came from Western Australia, where the crayfishing industry is a very substantial industry
– Order ! On what item is the honorable member speaking?
– My remarks are relevant to the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration. In order to stimulate and expand this industry, one of the business people who are engaged in it in Western Australia went to England with a view to inducing British fishermen to come to Australia with their craft and engage in the industry. Now honorable members will see the relevance between my remarks and immigration. The people whom this man represented were prepared to spend their own money to assist in bringing these very valuable immigrants, and their still more valuable plant to Australia. They made inquiries at Australia House and also approached people engaged in publishing news concerning fishermen. They secured the support of a lot of people who were concerned in the fishing industry in the United Kingdom, and ultimately they got a publication called the Fishing News to give them free advertising space in order to publicize the Australian industry and induce British fishermen to come to Australia with their craft. The editor of this newspaper went to Australia House, and he subsequently wrote a letter, which reads as follows: -
Arising out of your visit to my office this morning in connexion with your friends in Australia who are desirous of inducing a number of British fishermen, with craft, to proceed to Western Australia to engage in crayfishing, I am happy to say in the first place that we are quite prepared to give publicity to this venture as and when the road is cleared for that activity. Assuming the necessary official background has been established, my suggestion is that your Australian friend should formulate the exact facts he wishes to put across to British fishermen and we would give cooperation in licking them into shape for an advertisement in FishingNews. For a supporting article on that occasion we would like to have as much information as is available concerning the growth of the market, its scope, the way it is conducted, the exports to America, the way the men live and work and any other relevant details together, if possible, with a few photographs of their activities. This would provide the basic material for a good illustrated article for our columns. As an Australian myself, I rang Australia House this morning to see if they had any photographs or facts relating to the industry which might be useful when the time comes. The Australia House referred me to the Western Australian Government . . .
He then went on to make some very scathing and critical remarks on the information that he obtained from the Western Australian agency in London. He said that the man from whom he obtained his information at that agency was a Perth man who had been to Geraldton and who knew the “ layout “ and operation of the industry. That man gave him entirely false information, and revealed a tremendous ignorance of the industry.
– I rise to order. Do you not think, on reflection, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the honorable member is stretching the crayfish’s tail when he says that he is dealing with immigration?
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members must not interject. What is the point of order?
– The point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is that you called the honorable member for Moore to order for dealing with crayfish because the Estimates before the committee concern the Department of Immigration. He has continued to ramble on about crayfish tails, pretending that he is discussing immigration, merely because half a dozen English fishermen might happen to come here when the venture commences. Do you not think that he is making a laughing-stock of you and the committee?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Moore is in order inasmuch as he is discussing the administration of the London office of the Department of Immigration.
– If it were not for the fact that I am aware that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is not very concerned with increasing the productivity of this country, I would be inclined to think that he was being facetious in wasting my time; but I know that the honorable member is sincere in his desire to cramp the development of Australia as much as he can. In view of the fact that the Western Australian agency appears to lack the information which is available at Australia House, I suggest that the Department of Immigration should advise Australia House that, when inquiries of this nature are received, the officers at Australia House should give the information that is required without consulting the State agency.
In spite of the discouragement which was received at the State agency, the people concerned proceeded in their efforts to obtain immigrants for Australia. One of the principals of a Western Australian business went to England. He took with him what information he could, and went to Australia House. I have a letter in which he writes in the highest possible terms of the assistance which he received from the officers of the Department of Immigration in London.
The immigrants whom it is desired to bring to Australia are experienced British fishermen who are accustomed to fishing under the most adverse conditions. They include North Sea fishermen with the capital and craft which we so urgently need in this industry. The information that was given by the Western Australian agency to the inquirer was that there was a limited market in the United States of America for crayfish tails. The true position is that the market for this product in America is nowhere near to being satisfied. It has tremendous possibilities. This matter might also engage the attention of the Department of National Development, which might co-operate with the Department of Immigration in encouraging the expansion of this industry, which offers every opportunity to those who want to engage in it. There is an opportunity of conducting the industry along the entire length of the coast of Western Australia. As a matter of fact, so little does that particular individual know about the circumstances in his own State that he said that the catches were limited, and operated in only one small part of the State. How wrong he was ! Catches are limited, in one particular part of the State, under legislation, but the fishermen can go elsewhere. The major catches are made in places where there is no restriction except the restrictions that are imposed by seasonal conditions. He had no information whatsoever in connexion with the matter. That is an object lesson to the Department of Immigration and I hope that the department will take it to heart and ensure that we shall not lose future opportunities.
I wish to refer now to a matter which comes within the ambit of the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization which, I believe, justifies the making of some immediate and substantial inquiries by that organization. I refer to theloss than we are already suffering, and are likely to continue to suffer, as a result of the infestation of our very substantial wheat crops by weevils, and the depredations of those pests. I know that some inquiries have been made about the possibility of fumigation being used to diminish the ravages of weevils, but whatever has been done has not made any great impression on the problem. I do not generally speak derogatively of my electorate, but in some places in it it is almost impossible for people to live because of the tremendous numbers of weevils.
– Order ! Weevils have nothing to do with the proposed votes now under consideration.
– I am appealing to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and I do not know what other authority I could appeal to in order to have this necessary and important job done. Iam asking that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization undertake an investigation into this very serious problem. It is indeed very serious, particularly as it would appear that the volume of wheat in store is likely to increase rather than decrease. Wheat, as I have said, is being very badly affected by the depredations of weevils, which are so bad in some places in Western Australia that they are spreading to adjacent residences and affecting the comfort of householders. A major reason for inquiry into this evil is that we have to save as much of our export commodities as we can.
I wish to suggest also that the Department of National Development take up with the Prime Minister the question of assisting in the development of the Australian gold-mining industry. We are in urgent need of exports which are certain of sale overseas. At our hands we have aconsiderable volume of gold which is capable of being exploited to a far greater extent than it is being exploited at present. Some encouragement of the industry is required in order to induce people to prospect for gold and to undertake the opening up and development of lowgrade mines. The gold in even low-grade mines is of value. I have noticed that, according to reports in the press, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in spite of his very earnest endeavours, was unable to induce the international monetary authorities to increase the price of gold. It does not make any difference whether or not we get an increased price. What we require in this country is stimulation of gold production, including production from low-grade mines, and the opening of new low-grade mines. I know that the gold-mining industry is already subsidized in respect to some of thosemines, but that subsidy is not sufficient to make the winning of gold from low-grade mines attractive. I consider that the Department of National Development should be concerned to assist in increasing the production of gold from such mines.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Two of the proposed votes with which we are dealing are for departments which are under the Minister for Immigration and Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), and I am astonished and disappointed that he has not been in the chamber to-night.
Mr.Beale. - He has gone to Queensland on official duty.
– Too many Ministers of this Government are on world tours and interstate tours, &c.
Mr.Gullett. - At least, they go on government business.
– Is that so?
Mr.Haylen. - The Minister’s place is here.
– Order ! There is too much interruption.
– I am sure that it would have to be a very important task in Queensland in order to keep the Minister away from this chamber while the Estimates for his own departments are under consideration.
– It is an important task he is engaged on.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! If the honorable member for Wilmot will speak to the Estimates he might get on a bit better.
– I am criticizing the absence of the Minister who is in charge of the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service, because, in making the remarks that I wish to make about those departments, I might as well, in the absence of the responsible Minister, talk to the air. I do not think that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is at the table, is in charge of any of the departments whose proposed votes we are dealing with at present.
– The honorable member is wrong again.
– He is acting as a stand-in for the Minister for Immigration. I am sincere in my disappointment at the absence of the Minister for Immigration from the chamber, and I am also sincere when I congratulate him on his handling of his department. I have had a lot to do with immigration matters, and have found the Minister to be very helpful and considerate, and responsive to requests made to him. However, those qualities do not atone for his absence from the chamber when the proposed votes of his two departments are under consideration. I should like also to pay a tribute to the Department of Immigration itself, and its permanent head, Mr. Heyes, who has had a long and distinguished career as head of this department, which is one of the biggest and most important departments in postwar Australia. There is no problem connected with the department to which both he and his officers are not prepared to give of their time, in an effort to make this great immigration programme of ours work smoothly and with justice to all. I should like also to pay a tribute to Mr.
Mellor, who is in charge of the department’s activities in Tasmania and who, like the departmental heads in the other States, is a very able officer in the carrying out of his duties in accordance with the principles laid down by the previous Minister for Immigration, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), in the way that we expect them to be carried out.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that he is not carrying out the policy of this Government ?
– -No, I say he is carrying out the policy of both of the major parties in this Parliament.
– The Labour party has not a policy.
– Order !
– As far as I can see, there is no difference between the immigration policy now being implemented and the policy implemented by the Chifley Government.
I should like to say a few words about the Department of Labour and National Service, and to advert to statements made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke). He made an astounding speech to-night for an honorable member who has only recently left the Labour party. His criticism of the worker, and his attaching to the worker blame for most of the economic ills of this country, made his speech one of the most one-eyed speeches I have heard for a long time. In fact, his speech was further to the right, politically, than are the speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself. Surely the honorable member for Fawkner is prepared to concede that the workers of Australia have had their wages pegged, for two years, as a result of the freezing of the basic wage in November, 1953. During that period there have been no controls at the top, that is, at the level of management in big business. Profits have not been controlled during those two years. Big business enterprises have been enjoying bonanza profits because the wages of the workers have been pegged and also because, during that time, as a colleague reminds me, the workers have been producing more, as statistics show. In addition, the margins case has been shelved from time to time, and even men who are morally entitled to margins have not always got what they have rightly asked for. So to blame the worker for the present economic state of the country is one-eyed.
– I did not blame the worker. I mentioned the trade union leaders.
– I shall also mention trade union leaders.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The honorable gentleman will address the Chair.
– The recent congress of the Australian Council of Trades Unions was noted for the moderation itshowed in its handling of the industrial programme throughout Australia. The conclusions of that congress, I am sure, point to restraint exercised by the general leadership of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I did not read of any extravagant claims made at the congress that would have justified the charge made this evening that the workers have not played the game and that their activities have weakened Australia’s economy. We were given evidence last evening that we are entering upon an era of government by exhortation by an Administration that is afraid to introduce controls that it knows to be necessary, and that allows its supporters to blame the workers for the state of the economy.
I should like to refer also to national development. The Department of National Development deals with everything except railways and roads, largely because, again, the Commonwealth is hamstrung by the Australian Constitution. Railways and roads are administered by State instrumentalities and, as a consequence, the Department of National Development, cannot give these two important forms of communication the attention they warrant. It is appalling to think that, half way through the twentieth century, we have not yet developed a national outlook towards roads and railways. Australia is the only country divided into a number of States in which, to my knowledge, there is a break of rail gauges. One can travel across the United States of America and Canada, or throughout England or Europe without a change of gauge. But in Australia we have the crazy system of different gauges. In war-time we received proof that the break of gauge was a great danger, wasted many hours, and greatly increased the cost of prosecuting the war. The Government should consider an amendment of the Constitution such as that to which I referred yesterday afternoon, to enable the Commonwealth to adopt a more national policy and to exercise control over the roads and railways systems by allocating funds and undertaking works to widen the roads, put down more bitumen, and generally to bring Australian roads and railways up to world standards. At the present time, they are far below world standards.
– This has nothing to do with the Estimates now under consideration.
– This concerns national development. If the roads system is not a national asset, what is? If its problems are not national problems, what are? If the railways are not a national responsibility, what is? Are they to be left to the care of the States as some sort of exclusive preserve of the States? They certainly should not be left entirely to the care of the States in a developing country like Australia. We are hampered by our Constitution and, in many respects, by the division of the country into a number of States. Any honorable member who is sincere acknowledges those facts. We attach too much importance to States’ rights in this Parliament and throughout Australia generally. We see the effects of this attitude in our party rooms, when the representatives of one State battle it out with the representatives of another State, and display jealousy of the assets of the other State. This sort of attitude is keeping Australia back. How can the Department of National Development overcome this State-rightism ? How can it overcome the jealousies between States and the limitations imposed by an outmoded Constitution adopted 51 years ago when railways and roads were of much less importance?
– The honorable member’s arithmetic is bad. The Constitution was adopted more than 51 years ago.
– It was adopted 54 years ago. I thank the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) for the correction. If the Government believes in the development of roads and railways it should do what it can to remove the constitutional barriers to the Commonwealth’s accepting greater responsibility for the roads and railways systems, which are beyond the capacity of the States to develop as they should be developed. How can the States undertake the great programme required for the standardization of railway gauges? It is far beyond their financial ability. I suggest that the Government should study mort carefully and sincerely the schemes proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It should not toss his proposals into the waste paper basket simply because he is a backbencher, as it has done so many suggestions made by other Government backbenchers. Had the Government adopted the proposals of the honorable member for Mackellar, it could no doubt have claimed that it had found a solution to the problem of standardizing railway gauges. the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has made a lifelong study of the problem of standardizing our railway gauges. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have considered this problem. What, is holding us back?
– The Government.
– That is one answer, and probably it is the most accurate one. If we could change the government, we could proceed with a programme for the standardization of railway gauges. Perhaps the honorable member for Mackellar should join the Australian Labour party. I doubt whether he has one supporter for his proposals on the Government side of the chamber, but every honorable member on this side supports them ; so the honorable member had better come over and join us.
– My suggestion is not popular; so I withdraw it. The improvement of roads and railways may be a fetish of some of my colleagues and I. But until the Government tackles the problem the standards of Australia’s roads and railways will continue to deteriorate. As a national asset, the railways are a national responsibility. The Government includes the railways and the roads in the assets of Australia about which it boasts. But when it comes to accepting responsibility for them and tackling the problems concerned, it tells the States to do what they like. It boasts about these national assets, but it will not accept financial responsibility for them or plan a programme to improve them. The Government is absolutely devoid of planning ability. It knows that certain controls are necessary for the good of the economy, but it says, in effect, “We want no controls. Be good boys and do not spend too much “. It tells the bankers not to allow too much credit, but it does not tell them by how much to reduce credit or to what degree to call in mortgages. It has a higgledypiggledy attitude to every big national problem, including the problems of railways and roads. I am sorry to be so critical about this matter, but I consider that until there is a change of government these two problems will only be talked about. If the Government continued in office until 1980 - and God forbid that it should do so - I am sure that it would still only be talking about roads and railways and still doing nothing. A change of government is the only real solution of these national problems. Labour has committed itself to a course of action in relation to these problems, and if it were elected to office it would be obliged to take constructive action to solve the problems of Australia’s roads and railways.
– I am sorry that I shall be unable to accept the invitation of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) to join the Australian Labour party. I am not at all certain that I should survive a pre-selection ballot if I did so. But there is no need for me to join that party to have something done about thi: problem to which the honorable member referred. I can assure him that there are many honorable members on this side of the chamber who are as much in favour as he is or I am of taking action quickly to standardize railway gauges. In this farthest back of the back benches in which I sit, I am in company with the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) and the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) who all have supported in this chamber immediate action of the kind that I have suggested. I know also that other honorable members on this side of the chamber support it. I assure the honorable member for Wilmot, therefore, that there is no lack of support for action on this side of the chamber. Indeed I believe that something will be done quickly, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his statement last evening, referred to the need to increase the efficiency of Australian industry and reduce its real costs. The transport problem is perhaps the most important of the problems which lie immediately before the Government. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Wilmot that something should be done about it, and that it should be done quickly. Indeed, I do more than agree with him. I think that it was I who raised the matter first in this Parliament. But I do not believe that it is necessary to wait for an amendment of the Constitution. That is, or could be, a convenient alibi. I believe that in the meantime there are some measures of standardization which would get over a large proportion of our difficulties on the railways side, which could be carried through here and now without further delay, and which would not require an amendment of the Constitution. So I do not feel that we should wait until then. I believe that we should be negotiating action now on the railways front for the standardization, at least of our main trunk lines, as a first step.
I shall not detain the committee for very long. I want to raise a specific matter that comes within the purview of the Department of National Development. It may appear to be only a small matter, but it seems to me that, in tackling the economic problems which lie in front of us, there is not just one big overriding thing which we can do. There is a large number of small, particular things which must be done and which will add up to the solution which cannot be found in one single act. I want to turn my mind to one small aspect of the housing problem with which the Department of National Development is concerned.
I think I can say that we all want more dwelling houses to be built quickly in Australia. That is very desirable from every point of view, but it cannot be achieved simply by allocating more finance for housing, because if we put more finance into an already fully employed and fully extended building industry, we should simply put up prices without producing any more houses.
But there is one small portion of the problem where a better handling of finance would produce more houses. I refer to finance for the owner-builder. If we can get the owner-builder to operate, we shall draw into the industry labour which would not otherwise be available. We shall get extra labour if we can help the owner-builder to go forward more quickly. Therefore, the provision of finance for the owner-builder would not be so fully and completely inflationary as would the allocation of extra finance, beyond the capacity of the building industry, in other directions. I feel that we should be making a special attempt to help the owner-builder who does, not the whole of his own work, but a considerable part of it. In my electorate, perhaps something like one-quarter of the houses under construction are being constructed by owner-builders. I see in the council’s returns “ Builder - Self “. I imagine that the proportion is about the same in other electorates in other parts of Australia.
Let us look at the typical owner-builder and see whether we can help him with finance in any way. He makes arrangements to carry the major part of his commitment on a first mortgage, raised on the land which he has already acquired and on the value of the house which he is going to put up. He gets a draw from his financial house, whether it be a private bank, the Commonwealth Bank or a building society. Having got his draw, his house goes up. But trouble occurs very often before he can get that first draw. You will appreciate, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that, in order to get it, he must lay out a considerable :amount of money on materials. He has to wait for a considerable time before he is ready to get the first draw, which he needs in order to be able to go on with the next stage of his’ building. If we could shorten the period between the time he acquires his land and the time he is able to start building and get his first draw, we could help the owner-builder significantly, and the help would not be fully inflationary in its effect, because it would draw into the industry new labour which would not otherwise be available.
It would be a great help if there were an institution which could stand behind the first mortgage - which carries the main part of the finance - on a temporary second mortgagee, paying on the security of the land so as to allow the ownerbuilder to get going, and being paid off when the final instalment of the first mortgage becomes due, on the completion of the house. The completed house incorporates the labour of the ownerbuilder, which forms part of his equity.
This scheme is financially practicable and it could work. We could have a circulating fund. The question is: How can we bring this about and how can we establish such a fund? I think that, in making any arrangements along those lines, we should co-operate with the State governments. I do not have the idea of a proliferating Commonwealth department coming in and doing all this itself. I think rather of us co-operating with the States. I do not think of one centralized set-up. I hope rather for some kind of decentralized set-up, tied to the municipalities, shires and local government bodies, or perhaps tied to some other group, so that we have relatively small areas, administered by people of competence who have no financial interest in the scheme but who are willing to give their services in a voluntary capacity. I believe that there are such public-spirited people in the community. Perhaps we could get them from the boards of the co-operative building societies which were carrying the first mortgages. Perhaps we could get them from the local councils. Perhaps there should be on each body a representative of either the Commonwealth or of the State government concerned. The function of these bodies would be to stand behind the first mortgage and - on second mortgage, as it were - advance up to a maximum of £200, or up to the maximum of the requisite fraction of the value of the land, which would be their security, making the advance in order to get the building going quickly. Then the money could be paid back out of the final instalment of the first mortgage, which would be paid on the completion of the building.
I do not want now to say precisely how these little local authorities could be financed, hut perhaps they could be financed under a guarantee given by this Government or a ‘State government, provided they conformed to the requisite canons of security and that their operations were under the control or inspection of the Auditor-General of either the Commonwealth or a State, or his representative. They would not need a great deal of money, because their funds would circulate. If they had only £20,000 each, probably that would be sufficient to finance the building of 100 houses in each :area. The fund would circulate and, as houses were completed, the money would come in again and would be ready to be advanced to other persons, the idea being all the time to cut down the period between the time a man procures his land and the time he starts to erect his house. The scheme would be designed specifically to assist the small man, the owner-builder, the man who is struggling to get a roof over his head, the man whom we should be assisting. I believe that every honorable member would like us to assist the owner-builder, if we could possibly do so.
I shall not labour the point. I believe that the technical difficulties are by no means insuperable, and that they could he overcome with even only a little goodwill. I do not put this scheme forward as the solution of all our housing difficulties, because obviously it is not. It is dealing with only one small sector of our housing difficulties, but I believe that this problem, like all our other problems, is most amenable to treatment if it can be cut into sectors, so that at the end we are left with only the hard core. Let us deal immediately with the things which lie within our power to deal with success.fully. It is exactly like the matter of railway gauges which the honorable member for Wilmot brought forward. One deals first with the fields with which he can deal, the trunk-lines. One does not wait for the overall solution which requires - the honorable member would say, although I would not quite’ agree - a constitutional amendment. We should do now the things we can do. If we cut away these little sections of the problem, in the end the whole problem becomes amenable to treatment.
.- I am taking part in the debate because I want to make some reference to the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service, which are both administered by. the same Minister. Before doing so, I should like to make some brief observations on remarks made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke). I assure the committee that I do not intend to pursue his reactionary mind through this chamber. From a man who was elected to the Parliament on the Labour ticket, his speech to-night was most amazing. He suggested that restraint should be exercised by the leaders of the trade union movement. I ask, “What restraint ? Restraint in what regard ? “ Does the honorable member, who came into this Parliament as a Labour man, suggest for one moment that the leaders of the trade union movement should exercise restraint in improving the conditions on the job of the members of their unions ? Does he believe that those leaders should exercise restraint in obtaining a decent living wage for the members of their unions? Is that the suggestion of the honorable member for Fawkner? If it is, why does he not come straight out and say so? The honorable member has fallen into the same tragic error which is often fallen into by members of the Government when they speak about lack of production and the failure of the workers to produce. Government supporters make general accusations. Why does not the honorable member for Fawkner make his charges more specific? Why does he not tell the committee which section of industry is not producing enough? His accusation is general. He did not refer to this or that union, or this or that class of employee. Was he referring to the man who works as a navvy, who lives with his wife and children out in the bush, in a hut or in a tent, isolated from all the amenities which are available to the honorable member for Fawkner, to me, and to every other honorable member who is a city dweller? Does he say that the official of that man’s union should exercise restraint in improving his conditions?
– Did the honorable member agree with Mr. Chifley when he said that we needed greater production?
– I might agree with anybody, but I cannot agree with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Fawkner to-night. He has suggested restraint in everything except profits, because he was never a Labour man, because he is a Liberal at heart. That is the reason why he made that speech to-night, and he is in search of a Liberal endorsement somewhere.
– If it is possible for me to offer my humble advice to any section, or to all sections of the Liberal party, I say, “For God’s sake, don’t have anything to do with him “.
I now wish to refer to a matter which was raised by me in this chamber quite recently. It appears, from developments and from information which has come to me, that a question directed by me to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has been misinterpreted, and quite a wrong impression has got abroad. My question related to Italian immigrants who were engaged in the sugar industry in north Queensland. I asked the Minister whether he had received complaints that, last season, Italian immigrants in the north were taking advantage of the shortage of labour and were extorting extraordinary wage rates from Italian farmers in that area. The Minister, in his reply, said that he had received complaints, but that they did not concern Italians. I do not want to recapitulate, but I wish to make it clear that I said on that occasion, that last season these Italian immigrants, because of the desperate shortage of cane-cutters in north Queensland, and because they had been got at by people with communistic ideas, took advantage of the shortage of labour, and the overall result was that they were receiving wage rates far in excess of those provided for the cutting of cane in the State sugar industry award. Since that time, it has come to my notice that the Department of Labour and National Service in Brisbane is concerned because the Brisbane Telegraph report of the question and answer made no reference to last season, but made it appear that I had referred to events in the current canecrushing season. I take this opportunity to say that this season there is not the slightest complaint in that regard from any section of the sugar industry. The immigrants who were selected by the committee chosen by the Government to go overseas have proved far more satisfactory than those who were engaged in the sugar industry last year. My reference had absolutely nothing to do with the situation this season, which is quite satisfactory. I referred to events which happened last season.
Before I resume my seat, I pay a tribute to the officers of both the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Immigration. I have many dealings with them. I suppose that 70 per cent. of my work has connexion with immigration matters. Mr. Heyes, the secretary of the Department of Immigration, and his officers at head office, have been very courteous to me. They have done their utmost to assist in every possible way. The same remarks apply to Mr. Nulty, Mr. Bird and Mr. Cliffe. I pay tribute to these men, and also to Mr. Laws, the Director of Labour in Queensland, and his staff, for their great courtesy and the conscientious manner in which they do their job.
.- As did the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), I should like to commence my few remarks by expressing what I believe to be the feelings of all honorable members in regard to the heads of the departments to which the honorable member referred. During the time that I have been a member of the Parliament, it has become increasingly apparent to me how extremely fortunate the people of Australia have been in having, as heads of the great government departments, the people who have occupied those positions. One hears a lot about business efficiency and the manner in which it could be applied with great benefit to the administration of government departments, but I dare to say that in this country there are not many people who work harder, more intelligently, more efficiently, with a greater sense of duty, and with fewer material rewards than do the heads of the various departments.
However, there is one matter in relation to which I do not agree with the honorable member for Herbert. The honorable member seemed to take great exception to the suggestion of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) that union leaders should display a greater sense of responsibility and exhibit some form of restraint in their demands. He asked, “ In what way should they show restraint? Should they show restraint in seeking better working conditions ? “ To that question I reply, “Yes. This is a suitable time to apply the brakes to any efforts to obtain better working conditions if by that we mean higher wages and shorter working hours “. He also asked, “ Should they show restraint in seeking higher wages?” Then the honorable member for Herbert referred to Italians who had recently arrived in North Queensland and who had been incited by people who he said were of Communist leanings. Such persons could have been only union officials of one kind or another. He further said it was true that the Italians had demanded unreasonable reward for their work. It seems to me that the honorable member for Fawkner did very well when he pointed out that, if we are to proceed with national development, this is the time at which to call a halt to the straight-out bald attempts of certain union leaders to obtain shorter hours and higher wages. It is not suggested that other people are not at fault. Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not pretend for one moment that there are not employers, retailers, agents or distributors who have made a welter of profit from the shortage of all kinds of goods. We know that as well as do honorable members opposite, and I suggest that any of us would welcome an effective excess profits tax or any practicable measure of that kind.
I can see by the look in your eye, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you are about to ask me to relate my remarks to the proposed votes that are before the committee, so I shall return to the subject of immigration. I agree entirely with the proposal advanced by the honorable member for Herbert. He stated that it was a great pity that there was not available to new Australians some form of financial assistance that would enable them to become, not only home-owners, but also landowners. The honorable member pointed out that in Australia a lot of suitable land is available for closer settlement, and that many people are willing to work it. Like the honorable member, I want to know why some such arrangement has not been set in train. The land and the people are available and, furthermore, the governments of certain countries from which people are coming to Australia are prepared to bear a considerable share of the cost of placing those people on the land. It is reasonable to assume that this Government also would bear a share of the cost. In addition, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is prepared to pay a certain sum towards such schemes.
It seems to me that there is very little to prevent such a suggestion becoming a reality. Certain factors might hinder implementation of such a scheme, the main one being that the land settlement of ex-servicemen is not yet complete. That is to be greatly deplored. Year after year, I have advocated the tidying up of the soldier settlement programme, not only because I think it is an end in itself as the fulfilment of an obligation, but also because there should be set in motion permanent machinery to settle people on suitable land in Australia. Almost anywhere in the 20 to 30 inch rainfall belt on the eastern seaboard, we find land that is capable of high production. Closer settlement of these areas is a matter that the Government should take up without much delay.
I have very little criticism to offer of the Government’s immigration policy, but I think there are one or two matters to which we all ought to give some thought. First, there is now a higher proportion of unskilled labour coming into Australia than in the years immediately after
World War II. Secondly, the majority of immigrants come from such southern European countries as Italy, Greece, and Malta, where the standard of living is low and where the output for each person, on the whole, is relatively lower than in other countries from which people emigrate to Australia. I do not make those observations in a critical sense, but I think that we ought to realize where we are going, and decide whether we want that trend to continue indefinitely. I am particularly concerned about the standard of living aspect. We must realize that we have a high standard of living in Australia because we have a high standard of work. I am not, and never have been, one of those persons who constantly decry the output of the Australian worker. This country enjoys a high standard of living because over the years the Australian worker has produced the food, the houses, the clothing, and all the other commodities that provide a high standard of living.
– And he is still doing so.
– I shall come to that point in a moment. To accept a lower standard of output and to expect the same standard of living is very dangerous. It is absolutely impossible to retain the same standard of living with a lower standard of output. Honorable members opposite must realize that, if this country is to develop and maintain the standard that we have always enjoyed, we must not lower the standard of output.
We have reached the stage where emergency measures must be taken to deal with what is generally considered to be a deteriorating financial situation. I think that, by and large, honorable members will agree that that is so, but I hope that no measures will be adopted that will challenge the forward march of development. We are living in an era in which the greatest of opportunities present themselves to us. It is an era similar to that of the 1880’s and the 1890’s when we filled the country with immigrants and when its population rose from approximately 1,000.000 to 3,000,000 persons very rapidly. It 13 similar to the period immediately before and also the period immediately after World War I. when we took great dinner’s, w’:en we protected our industries and established new industries, and when all kinds of upset3 occurred. In the period immediately after World War I. we settled thousandsof soldiers on the land and there was great hardship, but Australia went ahead: by leaps and bounds and reached its present important status. It would be terrible if, in the midst of the general alarm that some persons seem to feel, therewas an inclination to reduce capital works and capital imports, without which we cannot thrive.
I confess that I should like to hear from the Government some declaration of confidence at times in the development and future of this country. I feel that this has been lacking to some extent. I believe that we live in a country that has the greatest potential in the world, and we are developing faster than any other country in the world. Of course, we shall have growing pains, difficulties, shortages of overseas credit and the like, but if we believe in anything, we must believe that we have a great future. We are growing rapidly. Industry i3 growing, and primary production is expanding. All these things are quite all right if we use our heads and do the most important things first. Above all, we should dowhat was suggested by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). We should forge ahead with such matters as the standardization of our railway gauges, and the settlement of people on the land. I trust that some of these things will be done.
In the last few minutes available to me, I should like to say something about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It has done a wonderful job in this country, but I should like to make one suggestion. I suggest that its findings might be more widely disseminated, particularly amongst the rural industries. There seems to me to be a breakdown here such as one would not find in America, between this scientific knowledge and its demonstration and passing on to the farming community and others engaged in primary production. I hope that the responsible Minister will give some thought to that matter and see that this valuable knowledge, which, as has been frequently pointed out, is largely the basis of our increased production, is disseminated more widely and, if possible, that its value is demonstrated to those to whom it will be of the greatest advantage.
– I rise to order. We are discussing the proposed votes for the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Despite the fact that the proposed votes for those five departments or organizations are under discussion, only one Minister was in the chamber until a few seconds ago, and he knows nothing about these matters.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! That is not a point of order. The honorable member has raised that matter before.
.- I suppose the absence of Ministers from the chamber is good in one way. At least it emphasizes the pretence that the Parliament to-day, under constitutional evolution, governs anything. The position is that Cabinet decisions are supported automatically by the party in power, and we have come to the stage of government by monologue. This was demonstrated last night. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made the decision on parliamentary salaries, and it was submitted to the party meeting next day.
– That is not in conformity with the moral re-armament rules, you know. The honorable member should be truthful.
– He does not know what he is talking about.
– It is in accordance with the Government’s rules.
– That is entirely wrong. I did not think that the honorable member would deliberately tell an untruth about it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! Honorable members must remain silent.
– He should be truthful.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– There is a difference between being truthful and being accurate. If I am inaccurate, I am sorry. I based my statement on the report given in the press. The absence of Ministers to-night is a reflection on the way the country is governed. What the press says may well be the fact, because that is the way the country is governed, so I do not complain about their absence. .
Last night, the honorable member for Farrer (“Mr. Fairbairn) referred to the Australian wheat industry and its capacity to compete with wheat grown in other countries. The honorable member referred to the deficiency in the protein content of Australian wheat compared with that of the Canadian and American products. Under the Estimates for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, we have a block of subject-matters which would cover the subject of the improvement of Australian wheats.
I should like to tell the honorable member for Farrer that when I was in Pakistan last year, there was a propaganda campaign against American wheat, which is superior to Australian wheat. That campaign was successful. The wheat was a gift from the United States of America to Pakistan because that country was experiencing a wheat shortage. The campaign was successful because the people of Pakistan can live almost entirely on Pakistan wheat. For those people, bread is really the staff of life. But they cannot live on wheat produced in the United States, Canada or Australia. Although the people of Pakistan have very primitive methods of cultivation, the protein content of their wheat is so vastly higher than ours that it calls into serious question the kind of soils in which we are growing wheat, and our artificial fertilizers.
In Pakistan, wheat is grown in soil which has a high humus content, and I do think that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in its soil and irrigation researches, might well conduct research into that subject. The United States and Australia have great wheat surpluses, and prices for wheat are falling. It might, well be that one of the solutions of our problem will be the sale of our wheat in
Asia to people who are living much nearer to the grain standard of living than we are. But it will have to be a superior grain. I should like the Minister to inform me whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is engaged in research to lift the food content of Australian wheat. It does not matter very much in this country whether or not the wheat is of high standard. The nutritional content of our flour is not high, but it is does not matter because we are not living on bread. We have a very varied diet. But for the peoples in the north who live entirely on grain, we must have grain of a very high standard. This seems to me to be a valid subject for research.
One of the items in the Estimates for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is wool textiles research, and I am glad that the Government has increased the vote for this purpose this year to £31S,400. The expenditure on this item last year was £266,S12. Those members of this Parliament who were fortunate enough to be members of the delegation to the coronation in 1953, will recall a wool exhibition which was held in London at the time of the coronation. I take it that the purpose of wool textile research is to enable the Australian wool industry and woollen manufacturers to produce from Australian wool a cloth that can compete with the many synthetics which are now being produced. The production of this superior quality cloth is one thing; to get it to the consumers in the United Kingdom and elsewhere is another. The wool exhibition was held at a time when there were a great many visitors in London, and consisted of woollens for women’s clothing. The colours were unimaginative, and, generally it was a very unattractive exhibit in London at a key time when there were thousands of visitors for the coronation. A little common sense would have shown that, after all, the main wearers of woven woollen cloths are not women, but men. I am not arguing that there should not have been an exhibition of clothes for women, but men’s clothing material was not on exhibition at all. Yet, for woollen goods, the British must be overwhelmingly the heaviest wearers of woven clothes. It was disappointing to see that lack of drive on the part of Australian woollen interests to get a proper exhibition at that time. If they could not put on an adequate exhibition in Coronation year, one wonders when they could do so.
We have far too much of a “ take it or leave it “ attitude to trade in this country. I do not think that is solely an Australian characteristic. When I was abroad last year, the first indication I got of the tremendous recovery of German industry was not in Germany itself but in Pakistan, where there had been an intelligent study of that country’s problems by the German people. If they decide to sell Volkswagen cars in Pakistan, they recognize that that is a country without a technical staff to maintain motor vehicles, without a selling organization, and without a body of mechanics. They are prepared to go the whole way by training mechanics and setting up a complete selling organization in Pakistan. They realize that by studying the problems of Pakistan and setting themselves out to overcome them, they can obtain an assured market for their product in that country. It was not a matter of notifying the people of Pakistan of the availability of those motor cars, but of creating a demand for them and training technicians in order to keep that demand alive. If we had that attitude of mind in relation to wool textile research and the selling of our wool, it would make a great difference to Australia’s trade. In this country, research in the production of wool has been tremendously successful. I doubt whether there is any primary industry in the world of efficiency comparable to that of the Australian wool industry. But in looking over the history of the last 50 years, very rarely do we find that any effort has been made to increase our sheep population beyond 120,000,000. Practically all of the upper limits of research have been applied to increasing the weight of the fleece on the sheep. We have not more sheep than have other countries, but our sheep are of greatly superior quality. I think the approach of getting right down to the basic details that has been made in that industry should be adopted in the wheat industry whose products sold to other countries are of inferior grade. The situation has been reached in Great Britain that one hears people in shops asking for Danish butter, Danish bacon, New Zealand lamb and French wine - but never for anything Australian. While any criticism of this kind is taken as “knocking”, I should like to know why it is that the British people do not ask automatically for something of Australian manufacture, except in- relation to wool. Is it not because the mind of man has been applied to that industry consistently in order to produce an unparalleled product? If that were done in other fields, we should attain the same result.
Another matter to which I should like to refer relates to materials handling research. I am glad that increased provision has been made for the handling of materials. One of the impressive things about industry in the United States of America is the attention that has been given to industrial psychology. In Australia, whenever we speak of handling equipment, we refer to handling equipment on the waterfront or in the factory. Very few Australian industries have given intense scientific consideration to the loss of effort in waste movements, and very few have given the kind of attention that American manufacturers have given to the layout of their factories. There is a tremendous waste of movement in our factories - the actual physical movement of materials to the machines and facilities in factories. We have not got adequate research on what is called industrial psychology - the actual study of the physical movements in manufacturing processes, and ways in which to set out work benches and so on in order to eliminate waste movement. That is an important factor in relation to costs in industry.
An increased vote is also proposed for the National Standards Laboratory, under Division 101. It is a great pity that the Estimates are presented in their present form. Exactly what is the National Standards Laboratory doing? I know that there are certain standards of weights and measures, and so forth, of which that laboratory is the custodian, but actually standards in industrial production, standards of quality of cloth and that kind of thing, are important commercially, and important in preventing exploitation. It could well be that an organization like the National Standards Laboratory is the answer to the tremendous amount of completely false advertising, which is a characteristic of advertising in this country in relation to everything from cigarettes to patent medicines.
– Is not that the case in South Africa?
– I should like to know exactly what the Government envisages to be the scope of activity of the National Standards Laboratory. The only entry in relation to it in the Estimates is item No. 13 under Division No. 101 - Administrative - C - Investigations, which reads “National Standards Laboratory, £471,700 “. It would be a good thing if the Minister who is acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Mr. Beale) were to explain the Government’s conception of the use of such an instrumentality.
The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has referred to the crayfish industry in Western Australia. No doubt he was directing the committee’s attention to fisheries investigations. The crayfish industry in Western Australia is vitally important from the point of view of earning dollars. It was commenced in the post-war period, and I understand that it has earned considerably in excessof 1,000,000 dollars each year during the last few years. Therefore, it is an important dollar earner for Australia. However, the honorable member’s suggestions did not satisfy my mind about certain rumours concerning the industry, to the effect that it is destroying the basis of its own existence for years and year? of fishing. Whether or not that is true, I do not know, but I should be grateful to hear from the Minister whether the fisheries research, which is covered by an Estimate of £132,800, has as its intention in any respect the preservation of the industry by establishing protection against fishing for small fish.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I shall direct the attention of the committee to certain aspects of the Department of National Development, particularly in relation to housing. I should not have risen to address the committee in connexion with the bracket of proposed votes now under consideration, but for the remarks that were made by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) this afternoon. The honorable member made an attack upon the new housing agreement which is proposed by this Government, and which will be the subject of a discussion with the States at an early date. As we know, the honorable member for St. George, as a Minister in the Chifley Government, administered the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. He was allegedly in charge of that matter, and he still thinks in terms of that vicious agreement; he cannot get it out of his mind. I do not think that all honorable members appreciate fully the background history of this matter. It is therefore, well, perhaps, at this time to remind the committee - and it is a great pity that the people of Australia are not constantly reminded of what I am about to say - that the terms of this agreement, which will expire in June of next year, are the identical terms which were proposed to be administered by a Commonwealth housing commission, and that it was the intention of the then Labour Government to take complete charge of the provision of housing in Australia. The intention was not to permit the people of Australia to become home-owners.
Mr.Ward. - That is rubbish.
– That is inherent in the agreement, and the honorable member knows it. The intention and policy of the Labour government of the day becomes obvious when one reads Hansard. Mr. Dedman, who was then a Minister, made the famous statement, “ This Government does not want to make Australians a lot of little capitalists “. That has gone down in political history. It will never be forgotten by the Australian people.
– He did not say anything of the sort.
– The intention was that the control of housing would be in the hands of a Commonwealth commission. It was found, of course, that the Commonwealth Government had not the constitutional power to do this. A referendum was held, but the Commonwealth still did not have the necessary power. Because of that - and only because of it - the government of the day approached the States. There followed the agreement that is the subject of this discussion. It states in specific terms, as I have said before in this chamber, that its purpose is to build rental projects only. Nothing in it provides for homeownership. This proves conclusively the intention of the Labour party at that time. It is against that background that the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) has criticized the present proposal. I know that his arguments were associated with rental rebates and other obnoxious features of the old agreement. The agreement was due to expire on various dates between December and April next, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in order to achieve uniformity in the matter, has extended its life to the 30th June. It must then be replaced. This Government stands to-day, has always stood, and I hope always will stand, for a preponderance of homeownership throughout Australia. It is bent upon making it possible for every one who establishes a home to own it and bring up his family under those conditions. That is inherent in the new agreement, which the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is now negotiating with the States. We know that certain statements have been made by the States in relation to this agreement. We know that there will be publicity along the lines of the arguments put forward by the honorable member for St. George to-day. Emphasis will be placed on the matter of rental rebates, and on what the rentals are to be.
It is a great pity that governments have to enter into the field of rental housing at all. My own view is, especially as housing is a matter for the States, that governments, as such, should be concerned with only two aspects of housing. The first is slum clearance and the second is the provision of homes for indigent people who are quite unable to assume the responsibilities of home-ownership. The honorable member for St. George said that the purpose of the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was to provide the underprivileged with bornes. That is not how the agreement has been administered by the States. All over the States, thousands of people occupying Housing Commission homes are well able to pay an economic rent and assume the responsibility of home ownership. I can point to many such cases in New South Wales. I might mention one that caused a little trouble some years ago. Mr. Jack Ferguson, who was a tenant of the Housing Commission in New South Wales, and who is now the president of the New South Wales Milk Board, purchased his home, which had been built by the Housing Commission on land that I happened to own. I have not yet been paid for the land, though it was taken over seven or eight years ago; but I will not go into that at the moment. Mr. Ferguson purchased the house under very liberal conditions. He is now receiving a salary of about £3,000 a year. That example could be multiplied many times.
There are in Housing Commission homes in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia, thousands of people who are not, by any means, indigent or unable to assume the responsibilities of home ownership. Unfortunately, this Government is faced with the necessity to provide some rental houses. Under the new agreement, 80 per cent, of the money will be set aside for rental housing. In my opinion, that is altogether too much. However, I shall not query it at this stage because I hope later to make a more detailed speech about housing. Rental houses must be provided because, under Labour rule in the States, it is the only way in which people can get a home. What an indictment of the State governments 1 I wonder whether honorable members opposite realize just what has been the result of the socialist scheme that they sponsored in days gone by. In specific terms, tens of thousands of young Australians who have married in the intervening years have been unable to get a home. The national stock of houses for rental is diminishing faster than the State governments can replenish it. The incen tive to invest money in property for rental purposes, has been completely destroyed by the socialist governments of Australia. Every person who owns a home must, for his own protection, sell it as soon as he gets possession of it.
We heard this afternoon talk of rental rebates, and of subsidizing rentals. There are to-day two forms of rental subsidy. The first is a subsidy under the old, obnoxious agreement, and the second is the subsidy paid to tenants by those unfortunate people who happen to own investment property in Australia. Of course, the first subsidy is paid by the taxpayers. The second is paid from the pockets of the owners. The shortage of houses is attributable to laws made by the socialist State governments. However, when one analyses the shortage, how can one explain the statistics? In 1947 there were 25 dwellings for every 100 people in Australia. According to the 1954 census, that number has increased to 30 dwellings for every 100 people in Australia. Does that mean that the shortage is worsening? It does not, but the shortage appears to be very much greater than it is because the whole economy is distorted by socialist rule in the States. We see the great tragedy of young married couples searching everywhere for a room in which to live and establish a family. It is a shocking tragedy of which Labour should be ashamed during the whole of its lifetime. It is one of the greatest tragedies that has ever happened to the people of Australia. The Government has been asked to try to rectify this state of affairs. It has proposed to do so in this agreement by continuing, certainly, to meet the rental needs of the people; but at the same time - and I am proud of the Government for doing so - it has established the principle in the new agreement that the emphasis shall be on home-ownership and that a substantial percentage of the money provided shall be used for homeownership. Tens of thousands of young people in Australia have between £600 and £1,000 in their pockets and are unable to get the finance to build a home.
– Because finance has been directed to the channels that I have mentioned, whereas it ought to have been directed towards home-ownership. When the State Premiers or the State housing Ministers meet the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on this subject and put up paltry excuses in connexion with the interest rate it should be remembered that the interest rate under the new agreement is identical with the rate under the agreement that was introduced by the Labour Government and it is subsidized to the extent of 5 per cent. But the Government has to proceed to encourage people to get homes that they can own. That is the whole purpose of the agreement. When the State representatives meet the Minister for National Development on this matter, I hope that they will realize that, under the terms of the agreement, the SO per cent, of the money that will be given to them may he advanced by them to building societies for the purpose of enabling homeownership. 1 say that no State will dare turn this agreement down.
– Because they will be turning down an opportunity for tens of thousands of people to become homeowners. The Government has started a scheme that will gradually grow because it has provided a revolving fund which will enable money to come back into the building societies for relending to new home-owners. The fund will enable the construction of more and better houses. It will give the right to people to live where they want to live and not where the Government dictates that they shall live. The whole framework of this agreement is intended to introduce some hope of home-ownership to the people of Australia. It will provide a basis for solving our housing problem and for bringing some hope back to the people. It is only one of many things that the Government is doing to unscramble the socialist egg that was made by the Australian Labour party.
– The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) seems to have worked himself into a state of eloquence over something which he knows a great deal about. However, the honorable member put a false interpretation on the remarks of the honorable member for St.
George (Mr. Lemmon). I think that the honorable member for Bennelong has done that intentionally, because the honorable member for St. George is not in the chamber to reply.
– Why is he not here?
– Where has the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) been until now? However, I have not risen to speak on the subject of housing. It is hardly a subject to which I wish to devote my attention, and I do not wish to be led into digressions.
– Then why did the honorable member commence to speak on the subject of housing? Nobody headed him off.
– There may be other opportunities to speak on that subject. I do not know whether the Minister is as enthusiastic as the honorable member for Bennelong in regard to this matter, but he seems to be stimulated into activity. We have rarely heard him speak for weeks other than to answer questions. However, I want to refer to the subject of immigration. I do not want to condemn nor criticize. I think that it is my duty to add to the good words that have been spoken about the Department of Immigration. The officers of that department have been most helpful in every possible way. Honorable members seem to be able to talk about the immigration scheme without interjection from the Minister.
The Commonwealth ‘Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has also done excellent work. When the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was speaking on the proposed vote for this body, I thought that there were other matters which that organization could well handle. I realize that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, like many departments, is busily engaged on various activities and cannot devote its attention to everything. But suggestions might come from both sides of the chamber concerning matters to which the organization could give attention. I consider that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Department of Immigration are deserving of the greatest possible praise.
On the subject of national development, I hold different ideas from those of some honorable gentlemen who have spoken in this debate. I consider that the development of Australia could be advanced by the use of moneys that are being wasted on other votes. I live in an electorate in which large sums of money are being spent, allegedly, on defence. A great deal of that money is being spent on work that could be done by private enterprise. Yet the Government now proposes to add to defence works by the construction of a filling factory at St. Mary’s.
– We are not discussing defence now.
– But we shall discuss it later. If use were made of moneys that have been voted unnecessarily to defence purposes, Australia would be able to make progress which it cannot make under this Government. Some years ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) prophesied that there would be a war within three years. ‘ More than three years have passed since that time, and apparently he still holds that view. [ do not suggest that we should not devote any money to defence, but I think that if a commission were appointed for the purpose of making an inquiry, it would find that £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 which the Government proposes to expend on defence could easily be devoted to the development of Australia.
– Order ! Is the honorable member talking about defence?
– No. I am talking about transferring money from one proposed vote to another. I think that certain defence moneys should be devoted to development. In my opinion, the development of Australia should be undertaken initally by the expansion of aviation services. According to the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, there are about 300,000 people north of the 26th parallel in Australia. The rest of the Australian population lives below that parallel.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Will the honorable member indicate the proposed vote to which he is relating his remarks ?
– I am talking about the development of the northern portion of Australia. My remarks relate to the proposed vote for the Department of National Development, and apply not only to the Northern Territory but also to that part of Queensland which lies north of the 26th parallel.
– Cape York peninsula.
– Perhaps. Aerodromes have been constructed there.
– Three of them.
– A great many more immigrants could be put there and a great deal of money could be devoted to settlement in that area. The development of aviation should be thu first step. Later, we should have to build roads.
I am glad to see that the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) is in the chamber, because, while discussing the subject of standardization of rail gauges during the consideration of other proposed votes, he made some mistaken suggestions, probably not with any view to mislead deliberately, regarding the standardization of railway tracks on which only one train a week was running. I think he was mistaken in his statements. I have read these reports very closely from time to time and I have here with me now the report made by the then Mr. Clapp, in which he deals with the unification of rail gauges other than main-line tracks. The cost at that time, of standardizing the tracks with which his report deals, was about £77,000,000. The cost of doing the same job now would probably be £150,000,000. That project had as its objective the bringing about of a state of affairs in Australia which would make this a much less costly place in which to live. I believe that heavy transport costs are the main cause of high costs generally in Australia. Transport costs have contributed very largely to our high cost of living. Recently, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) referred to the high cost of building houses. I suggest that if we could lower transport costs we could, as a result, lower costs generally in this country. The standardization of rail gauges is one of the first projects that should be tackled in an endeavour to reduce transport costs.
I was glad to hear honorable members on the other side of the chamber speak about the problem of our railway systems. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) stated that there are honorable members opposite, whom he named, who are advocates of standardization of rail gauges. I wonder what he would think of the idea of establishing a parliamentary committee to investigate what should be done in the way of actually getting a programme of rail gauge standardization started. I suggest, off my own bat, without reference to my party, or to any party for that matter, that such a committee should be appointed. Standardization of gauges is essential, but we are letting a lot of time pass while we do nothing about it. The Clapp report which foresaw an expenditure of £77,000,000 on the standardization of some lines, has been on the shelf for ten years. It was presented in 1945, and an Australian transport advisory committee sat in 1949. The report is the most thorough report on railways that has ever been produced, and it was produced by the most competent railway man Australia has ever had. He was a native of Australia, although he gained a lot of his experience in railway matters in the United States.
I am of the opinion that we are not making any progress to-day in respect of the standardization of gauges because of the way the position is now being dealt with. As a matter of fact, Canada had the same experience as we are having, but the Canadians had, of course, a background quite different from ours. They found that the railways in the south of Canada had eventually to be sold to private enterprise, not because they were not capable of paying, but because they were deliberately sabotaged. The truth of that statement can be verified from almost any book that deals with railways in the early days of Canada. That is what the position looks like here. Honorable members on the other side of the chamber are interested in the preservation of shipping transport, and I do not see how it is possible for us to deal properly with the posi tion of the railways while the interest on the Government side of the chamber is directed elsewhere. That is why I advocate the establishment of a committee to inquire into our railway problems on a non-party basis. The membership of the committee may embrace all political parties, so far as I am concerned, but there must be some investigation into what we should do about our railways. To go on as we are doing, with six State railway systems with three different gauges, is a disgrace to us. The existence of the difference between railway gauges systems is hampering the development of this country, and is something of which we cannot be proud and which people in days to come will condemn us for allowing to continue.
Useful suggestions have been made from time to time regarding the solution of thi3 problem. The honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Farrer have made some suggestions. I do not disagree with them, nor do I wish to quarrel with them. I think that there are some matters that we could deal with here in a manner that would show that men are approaching these particular subjects in a statesmanlike way, instead of allowing them to be treated as party matters. When we were in office we did nothing about standardization of rail gauges, and a justifiable question that could be asked is, “ Why did you not do something when you were in power? The answer to that question, as I think the Minister at the table knows as well as I do, is that no man-power for the job was available between the end of the war and the Chifley Government’s defeat in 1949. We were busy during that period in re-allocating men to various industries. There is no doubt that the problem would have been tackled had we remained in office, because it is part and parcel of our platform. But we were put out of office by the rankest misrepresentation that has ever been used in Australia.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member knows that it is true, and I feel that there is every justification for my statement, which I have made as a man who believes in what he is interested in, and hates to see it interfered with, not by a change of opinion on the part of the people, but by the usual tactics adopted to defeat Labour governments. It can be said that the Labour party, when it was in power, did not proceed with the scheme recommended by the very competent administrative officer who was appointed to inquire into the standardization of rail gauges, but I feel that we are in a position to-day to tackle the matter. I say that we should see whether or not we could appoint people with knowledge to act on such a committee as I have suggested. There are at least three men in this chamber with wide knowledge of railways and engines. The honorable member for Mackellar suggests that the first thing which should be undertaken in a rail standardization programme is the standardization of the line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill. I agree with him. I am reminded that a colleague made a submission to that effect as far back as 1942.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr.JEFF BATE (Macarthur) [10.28]. - It is appropriate for me to discuss housing under the proposed vote for the Department of National Development, because that department deals with the Commonwealth end of housing and housing agreements with the States. My remarks will mainly concern the very fast developing area ofWollonggong, and also the principle involved as between home ownership and the building and renting of houses by the States, which is beginning to develop under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It is obvious that some young men who have just married and are beginning to have families definitely look for homes on a rental basis, and the State housing commissions are the only bodies that provide for the needs of such people, because private building of houses for rent has practically vanished as the result of the difficulties that State legislation imposes on landlords. So, the State housing commissions, and State building schemes, set out to build houses for letting to people who wish to have such houses. It is said that the average wage earner cannot afford nowadays to own his home. I think that the average wage earner, on the contrary, cannot afford not to become a home owner.
I believe it is cheaper to pay off the cost of a home than to pay rent. In normal times, the rents charged by landlords include provision for capital repayment, depreciation, maintenance, interest, council and water rates, and a margin of profit for the landlord. It was the attraction of that profit which, in pre-war years, caused persons to build houses for rental purposes. Rent control has eliminated profit for many landlords. This has caused the complete cessation of investment building. The only houses being erected for rental purposes are those built by the Housing Commission.
The rents charged by the commission cover capital repayments, depreciation and interest payments, together with a charge for the overhead costs of the commission in acting as a government landlord. The administrative costs of the Housing Commission are very high, and they sometimes add hundreds of pounds to the cost of a house. The home purchaser incurs the same costs in capital repayment, depreciation, maintenance, rates, and the like, as does either the private landlord or the Housing Commission, but he does not have to pay the added profit margin imposed by the landlord or the supervisory costs imposed by the Housing Commission. May I say here that it is our experience that an owner-builder is looked upon with much more sympathy, and there is more incentive to help him because he is actively engaged in the construction of his own home. He gets a better job than is obtained in a large group of privately built houses or Housing Commission dwellings. It is true that the home purchaser may incur interest rates higher than those charged by the Housing Commission. As a result, the home purchaser, instead of paying a rental of, say, £3 15s. a week to the Housing Commission, may find that his weekly costs for home purchase amount to £4 or even £4 5s. a week.
It is interesting to compare the positions of home tenant and home purchaser over a year, in terms of financial commitments and assets established. The tenant who pays £3 15s. a week in rent pays out a total of £195 each year. At the end of the year, or at the end of a lifetime of tenancy, he will not own a single brick in the house or a single blade of grass in the garden. The home purchaser whose total commitments, including maintenance, for a similar house are £4 5s. a week, incurs a total expenditure in a year of £221, compared with the tenant’s expenditure of £195. But whilst the tenant is saving nothing, the home purchaser has a capital asset, which increases by, say, £130 a year. He is therefore virtually saving £130 a year, after incurring commitments, additional to those of the home tenant, of approximately 10s. a week, or £26 a year. That is good business for him. The calculations, of course, take no account of fluctuations in real estate values. Honorable members will recall that, before the war, in Sydney suburbs such as Roseville, a very good brick house cost £1,000 or £1,400. To-day, it would sell at about £7,000. I am sure the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) will correct me if I am wrong. I know of one house in particular in that category. I know of fibro homes that were built for £700 in 1938. If they are in good order, they are now worth £2,000 or £3,000.
The contrast between the positions of home tenant and home purchaser at retiring age is even more striking. I acknowledge that young men with young families certainly are having a difficult time because costs are high. However, when the family grows up a little and some of the children begin work and earn wages, it is possible for the family to begin building its own home or to buy the home that it has been renting. As I have pointed out, the home tenant after a lifetime of work, has no capital asset to show for his rental payments. The home purchaser, however, has accrued a capital asset worth, say, £3,000 or £4,000. He can live in it rent free, and both he and his wife can draw a full age pension. The tenant, on the other hand, must pay rent out of any pension that he receives.
Many people fear to venture upon home purchase because of the thought that illness or unemployment might, at some stage in life, prevent them from continuing the payments. This is an unnecessary fear. Should such a contingency arise, the home purchaser at least would have the benefit of the capital asset accumulated up to that point. In similar circumstances, the tenant would have nothing. It is frequently such fears that cause people to decide to remain as tenants in Housing Commission homes rather than to undertake the purchase of those homes. There is a feeling that the government landlord might be particularly benevolent in those circumstances. This also is an error of judgment, first, because the purchaser of a Housing Commission home will systematically accumulate an equity in the house, and secondly, because any government obviously would be equally as benevolent to a purchaser as to a tenant in difficulties. The weekly repayment rates for home purchase are small compared to the level of actual rentals at the present time. I emphasize the word “ actual “ as distinct from the word “ legal “, because the housing shortage has created black-market values that are far in excess of those which a magistrate might fix under the existing Landlord and Tenant Act. Many persons who live with their families in a room or part of a house pay in rent double the amount that it would be necessary for them to spend each week to buy a comfortable home. These are the people who cannot afford not to be home owners. The unhappy fact is that the ordinary wageearner cannot afford to pay the blackmarket rent asked of him.
Under the present policy of the State’ governments, and particularly of the New South Wales Government, thousands of people are forced, against their will, to become government tenants. The cooperative building societies in New South Wales have some 20,000 applications for home loans that have been approved and for which finance is not now available. Many of the applicants have been forced to make a duplicate application to the Housing Commission for a tenanted home. I should mention at this point that the co-operative building societies should make sure that the money they have available is lent to applicants for loans. It should not be kept in hand for people who are not ready to go ahead, but should be made available to those who are ready to proceed. The Cahill Government in New South Wales has diverted all its housing funds to the Housing Commission. It is therefore concentrating exclusively upon tenancy. . The practical policy surely should be to direct a substantial portion of this money to the building societies to meet the needs of intending home purchasers. This should be the aim under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. From now on, we should divert some of the money to foster the movement towards home ownership that is occurring throughout Australia.
Areas in which there are Housing Commission homes are in danger of becoming slums in the long run. The Wollongong City Council, which was once under Labour control, is now keenly aware of the danger of Wollongong becoming a slum area owing to the great number of Housing Commission homes there. People are less likely to look after the homes in which they live if they do not own them. If they own their own homes, they take pride in them.
– Are not those remarks a reflection on the people of Wollongong?
– No. The Wollongong City Council has convinced me that it values home ownership. My remarks are not a reflection on the people of Wollongong. It is a law of nature that if one owns a thing one will look after it better. No one is finding that proved more convincingly than is the Soviet Government. If the state owns the farms, they will not produce. If the farmers own them, they will produce. Housing Commission homes are in danger of being neglected. People who own their own homes will keep them carefully, paint them, and plant gardens and trees. The Wollongong City Council knows as much about these matters as does the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). It has definitely stated that it values home-ownership, because it wants to protect Wollongong and prevent it from becoming a slum. Housing Commission homes cannot be avoided. There should be some rental homes to meet the requirements of those people who have no capital or do not want to save. But, at the same time, we must encourage home ownership as much as we can.
I am glad to be able to tell the committee that whereas prior to World War II., approximately 50 per cent, of the families in New South Wales owned or were paying off the houses in which they lived, since the war the proportion has increased to more than 60 per cent. This nation is gradually abandoning the renting of homes and is becoming a nation of little capitalists - an idea at which Mr. J. J. Dedman sneered. It is important that we promote home ownership in Australia. We believe that it is important to have home ownership. That is where we differ from honorable members opposite. We believe in home ownership and we believe that this Governent should ensure that there will be provision for home ownership in any housing agreements into which it enters.
Provision is made for the purchase of houses by the Commonwealth Bank and other institutions. The maximum loan of £1,750, to which reference was made at question time to-day, caters for the people who have saved £1,000 or more. I believe that they ought to be given first priority, because they have succeeded in saving enough money with which to begin to buy homes.
The co-operative building societies have done an outstandingly good job in New South Wales, generally speaking. They should be encouraged. Their administrative costs are low and their interest charges are moderate. They are the symbol of home ownership for the average wage earner. I believe that the State banks should accept a wider responsibility for home finance. In New South Wales, the Rural Bank is the chief instrumentality for home finance. It is,- in fact, the State Government’s hank, and I believe that much, more of its available funds should be directed to housing and, in particular, to rural housing.
There is a strong case for making funds available, not only foi- new buildings, but also for the purchase of existing buildings. A great portion of the existing housing shortage would be overcome almost immediately if existing houses could be sold at the will of their owners. If only a man and his wife are living in a large house, that house could be bought by a man with a large young family which needed several bedrooms but, in many cases, old couples who are living alone in large houses cannot sell their houses to people with young families because no finance is available. With sufficient finance, there could be an interchange of houses. Aged couples living in large houses could sell them to people with young families and they could use the money to buy smaller houses for themselves. That would help to overcome the existing shortage to some degree.
Oddly enough, the density of population per home has fallen steadily in New South Wales, as it has in the rest of Australia. Probably the people of this country are housed better than the people of any other country. I think there are approximately 3.6 persons for each dwelling in Australia. The position here in that regard is better than in any other country, and we want to maintain that position. To-day there are thousands of homes occupied by only one or two persons. The owners are keen to sell, but they cannot find buyers with the finance necessary to complete the transactions. As a result, an artificial shortage is being maintained. Worse still, in thousands of cases those houses represent practically the sole capital asset of the people concerned. Those people, many of whom are of retiring age and have very restricted means, find that their one asset is frozen.
The Wollongong-Kembla district is undergoing an enormous expansion and the next twenty years will see the establishment there of one of Australia’s great industrial cities. We must plan to build a city of character, not just a mushroom industrial slum. We must plan to establish a working population of families imbued with the pride of home ownership and secure in their thrift and providence. I want to tell the committee that one of the most healthy developments that I have seen-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and his precursor, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), seem to take the same view in regard to housing. Each of them has a hatred of the plans of any State government to alleviate the housing shortage. The honorable member for Bennelong seems to get so keyed up about this matter that he completely omits to consider the history of housing in this country. He talks in a kind of vacuum about the awful things that have been done from the days of the Chifley Government onwards, but he forgets that there was an acute and carping housing problem in existence long before the war. In those days, the houses available to the workers were slum dwellings and run-down buildings, of an average age of 30 to 40 years. With the upsurge of employment, with the development of the country and with an increase of population, the problem of providing houses became urgent, and the legislation enacted in this Parliament and in the State parliaments represented the only thing that could be done.
In those days, that legislation had the general approval of the community. But now we hear all kinds of nonsense talked about people who must rent homes. If the members of the Government parties, particularly those who have spoken on this matter, are concerned about the fact, as they believe, that too many people are living in rented homes, I can tell them immediately how they can alter the percentages and adjust the balance. They can find 17,000 homes for men who have already lodged applications with the War Service Homes Division. Those men want to be home-owners. They can find 20,000 homes in the State of New South Wales alone for contributors to the StarrBowkett scheme and other housing schemes that are usually financed by the Commonwealth Bank. In both cases, lack of finance is the trouble.
Before the honorable member for Bennelong lashes himself into a fury about the socialism of Labour’s housing plans, he should recollect that last night his own party acknowledged that it must apply a socialist clamp to free enterprise in order to survive. He should not talk such rot. If he wants to make a logical and rational approach to the housing problem, he must think quite differently from the way in which he spoke. He talked about the number of people for each house in New South Wales. He waved his hands and said that the housing shortage there had been practically overcome. But when he said that for every 100 people in New South Wales there were 30 dwellings, he only highlighted a most aggravating problem. We know that in many case3 elderly couples living in big houses are prohibited by local councils from sub-dividing them into flats and letting the flats to young people.
He referred to the statistics provided by various authorities. You can have tweedle-dum or tweedle-dee in these matters. Both of them are the sama. Disraeli once said that there were lies, damned lies and statistics. Statistics prove nothing. There may be 30 dwellings for every 100 people in the more lush and salubrious suburbs, but the books of the Housing Commission of New South Wales show that in the crowded areas there is still an acute, dangerous and heartbreaking housing problem. Attempts to solve that problem have been frustrated by this Government, because it has not made enough money available.
It is useless for the Government to come out with the commonplace cant that it always tries to put over - that the housing shortage is not due any more to a scarcity of money, but to a scarcity of men and materials. The reason for the shortage in 1951-52 was not a scarcity of men and materials, because at that time there were bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and other men employed in the building industry looking for jobs. Something went wrong with our economy, owing to mismanagement, and we have not been able to spurt ahead again, because other things have caught up with us.
The honorable member for Macarthur, in a drifting sort of speech made from notes, talked about the danger of renting homes. Until something has been done to increase the basic wage, the basic wage earner will have to live in a rented home. I am sick of the cheap form of snobbery shown by those who say that, because a man rents a home, he will not look after the front garden. That is nonsense. The honorable member for Macarthur said that the Wollongong City Council had issued a solemn warning that within a little while the whole of Wollongong would be a slum. If the town clerk in my area told me that, I should try to fret him sacked. It was an insulting reference. We all know that many shields and cups in gardening competitions, treeplanting competitions and competitions for road care and verge care, as they call it in housing settlements, have been won by people who went into housing commission homes and made of a gaggle of houses a settlement to be proud of.
There are two settlements in my electorate. By their work, the tenants have made something of homes which, just before the war, were by no means things of beauty and a joy forever. Of course, there are some people who will not look after their homes, but they are not necessarily people who rent homes. It is a contemptible approach to a very serious problem to say that, as a general rule, people who rent houses will not look after them. Perhaps the honorable member did not mean to convey that impression in such crude terms, but, if he did, he made a great mistake about people who rent their homes. It is not necessary for a man to be the owner of his home before he takes care of it. The instinctive love for a home is possessed by many women in whom, because of the small wages earned by their husbands, it cannot be gratified now. But it will be gratified one day. The honorable member for Macarthur did nothing to gratify it in his speech. On the contrary, he blunted it with the kind of criticism in which he indulged, and which was in line with the comments made by the honorable member for Bennelong.
The honorable member for Bennelong, with great fury, considers that something has gone wrong with housing. But we cannot do anything about it, because there are not enough houses to be sold and prices are high. It seems to be more of a trade problem or a professional problem than a national problem to-day. But I remind him that before the war the problem was equally grievous. Many people could not get houses then. There were houses for sale and there were a limited number to let towards the end of 1939, when it was obvious that there would be a war, but during all the years of the war supplies of essential materials were diverted from housing to other purposes. To blame a government, which had the vision and the imagination at least to house the people, is very poor politics indeed. The short answer to the criticisms from the Government side in relation to housing is that the Chifley Government did a magnificent job. I am sick and tired of the old gibe levelled at a former honorable member who was a Minister but is not any longer in this Parliament, that he had said that homeownership would create a lot of little capitalists. That remark may have been made. If it was made, something can also be said of the type of capitalists who, in the past, built those miserable homes that deface the beautiful foreshores of Sydney and also its more closely settled suburbs. They were not, by any means, leaders of the nation. They were just jobbers in misery. One of the troubles in New South Wales to-day is in relation to doing something about the ugly aggregation of slums, which are as bad as anything in London or Paris, and were erected simply because someone was looking for the odd “ quid and was eager to get it as quickly as possible. To talk in the grandiloquent way that Ministers do about people owning their own homes is nonsense. If the worker has lost the desire to own a home, it is because of the way he has been crushed, and the way he has been charged considerable sums of money over the years. The bleat we get now is about the asset of the landlord. It is true enough that the landlord who had his place taken over during the war, and is unable to get possession, has a case. We all admit that, but the investor who owns real estate has received his money back over and over again. If a bulldozer were run through his estate and razed this piece of slum property to the ground, it would be in the national interest’.
We are now discussing national development, and I hope that the national development which takes care of housing will proceed along the lines enunciated by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) to-day. His statement was reasonable, his facts were accurate, and his vision was clear as to what has to be done, but from the other side of the chamber we had nothing but vague generalities, and a sort of foggy fumbling about the problem which has no relation to what has to be done to-day. In the city of Canberra itself, the Government talks about people being made to feel that they must live in rented houses, that they have not the desire to own their own homes, or that that desire will be blunted. The proportion of rented houses is increasing apace, because there is a need for them. Thinking of that sort is entirely out of date. If the worker is taken out of a slum area and given a good home in a suburb, where there is a little green grass and a playground for his kiddies, and a community centre for his wife and family, one is doing very well for him, even if, for the time being he happens to be in a rented home. If the Government is worried about providing houses for rental, let me repeat what I rose to say. It can cure that anxiety very quickly by making owners of homes the 17,000 “ diggers “ who are wanting and waiting for homes under the war service homes scheme. Even when their applications are approved, they are told that they must wait twelve months for the money. There has not been a landlord in the world who has put that kind of squeeze on anybody, and particularly on returned servicemen. There are 20,000 members of building societies, waiting in Sydney to-day for money to be passed by the Commonwealth Bank to their approved accounts. The Government says, “ We will clamp down on imports. We will clamp down on banking credit and on money for housing “. Honorable members opposite then rise in this chamber and lament the fact that too many people live in rented houses. Such hypocrisy is hard to bear.
.- In the very short time at my disposal, I want to answer a question that was asked by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). He asked why people in London wanted New Zealand lamb and why we could not breed and supply lamb of equal quality. He asked why we could not supply, for sale to Londoners, lamb of a quality equal to the Canterbury lamb which is grown in New Zealand. The answer is that the Canterbury lamb is a Southdown cross lamb, and it is in the greatest demand, especially by the London housewife, because it has a very nice body, the quarters are not too big, and it is of excellent quality. It comes from the luscious pastures that are so famous in New Zealand because they enjoy a much better rainfall than we have and they are not subject to our dry conditions. Our Southdown crosses are excellent lambs.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Is the honorable member relating his remarks to the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization?
– Certainly. In the southern districts of Australia, our Southdown crosses are fully equal to the lamb which is grown in New Zealand,but most of our Australian lambs, omitting, of course, merinos, are BorderLeicester cross, because we are subject to dry conditions, and if we are unable to market a Border-Leicester as a fat lamb, it makes a very excellent store weaner or store sheep.
– That is very interesting.
– If we bred all Southdown cross lambs and we could not market them because of our dry conditions, they would not be very satisfactory at all to any one as a store line of sheep. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) says that this is very interesting. Coming from a city electorate, he does not understand that it is one of the most interesting subjects in the whole story of Australian production of fat lambs. I am trying to explain to these city-dwellers the basic reason why it is better for us to breed a certain number of Border-Leicester cross lambs and market them as fat lambs when good conditions allow it. By doing so, we have a double barrel. If we cannot market them as fat lambs, we have them as good store sheep, or as lines of breeding ewes or weaners, which will serve us best in this country of varying conditions of dry weather, drought, and good years.
Not all the national development in Australia is encompassed by big projects like the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. Throughout Australia, with the help of the Government, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the Department of National Development, development is taking place in various forms, by providing better pastures, clearing land, and making possible the carrying of more sheep and the growing of better crops. That is the big national development in this country. Such projects as the Snowy Mountains scheme are only assisting this development. The Government can do no more than assist national development. The continual and sustained efforts of people who improve their holdings are really developing the country.
Finally, let me answer the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). He said that we have a high standard of living in this country because of the workers. I agree with that, but let there be no misunderstanding as to who the workers are. The workers in this country are the men on the land. It is because we are a great primary producing country that we have a high standard of living. Our present standard is higher than it has ever previously been because, during the past ten years, we have had the best run of seasons ever experienced in this great country. It is necessary that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the Department of National Development, should foster those things which make for greater productivity on the land.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
a asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable member to my reply on this subject to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) which appears in Hansard for the 31st May, 1955. I see no reason to change that advice.
b asked the Minister acting for the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
2, 3 and 4. - Since the 1st July, 1945, the National Debt Commission has applied £226,266,000 to the redemption of Commonwealth debt and £122,445,000 to the redemption of debts of the States. The amount applied to the redemption of the debt of Western Australia over this period amounted to £12,220,000. Under the terms of the financial agreement each State has its own sinking fund. Moneys paid into the sinking fund of a particular State are applied to debt redemption of that State. Securities are either repurchased, or paid off on maturity. In addition to normal sinking fund contributions, the State is required to pay to the National Debt Commission interest on the face value of each repurchased security from the last interest date preceding the repurchase up to the date of cancellation of the security. Interest accruing from thelast interest date up to the repurchase date has already been paid by the National Debt Commission when repurchasing the security. This interest is refunded to the commission by the States and forms part of their normal interest expenditure. Interest from the repurchase date until the date of cancellation of the securities (when the4½ per cent. sinking fund contributions by the States on cancelled debt commence) is paid by the States in accordance with clause 12 (IS) of the Financial Agreement. This interest is credited to the sinking fund of the State concerned. The amount of such interest credited to the Western Australian sinking fund since the 1st July,1945, was £29,710. Interest payments cease as from the date of cancellation of the securities. 5 and6. The payments of interest concerned are made by the State of Western Australia into its own sinking fund and are governed by the terms of the Financial Agreement made between the Commonwealth and the States.
z asked the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How many ex-servicemen have been settled on the land in each of the Australian States during the year 1954-55 and what amounts have been expended by each State?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
In South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania there are numerous farms from large-scale developmental projects which are occupied by settlers but which will not be officially allotted to them until sown pastures have matured and a reasonable number of stock can be carried safely.
Expenditure during 1954-55. - The expenditure on acquisition and development and the provision of credit facilities for settlers from advances to States by the Commonwealth was -
Finance for similar purposes in New South Wales and Victoria is provided by the States and these figures are not yet available to the Commonwealth. ‘1 he scheme has ended in Queensland and hence there would be no expenditure.
rke asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550928_reps_21_hor7/>.