22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 21st March (vide page 161), on motion by Mr. Forbes -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House ofRepresentatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Dr. Evatthad moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the Address: - “ but add -
That the Government is censured for the statement of Housing policy made by the Prime Minister on 7th March last and for the acute social ills caused by its continued failure to establish,inconjunction with the States, a National Housing Plan.
This failure has been largely caused by the provision of inadequate finance for home building for -
War Service Homes;
Co-operative Building Societies;
Australians seeking to build their own homes.
The National Planshould have regard to-
the immediate reduction of migrant intake;
employment of the maximum work force in the home-building industry;
availability of materials.
It should also provide for -
priority to home building over less essential private investment;
provision of sufficient finance to promote home ownership at low rates of interest “.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I should like to touch on a few points in the Governor-General’s Speech. First, I wish to refer to the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) towards homebuilding. The Governor-General said in his Speech -
Before I proceed any further I should like to quote from an advertisement which appeared, under the name of the Prime Minister in the Sydney “ Truth “ of Sunday. 17th November, 1949. In that advertisement the Prime Minister says -
We give this firm promise to young couples.
Another one of his promises, of course -
The Liberal party, when returned to office, will regard as its permanent and most vital responsibility the stepping up of the housing programme. We will not allow any other public works, other than those of the most extreme urgency, to be given priority over home-building.
The Liberal party gives a firm undertaking to the many thousands of young engaged couples in Australia who are forced to postpone their marriages, and possibly throw away the happiest years of their lives, because they cannot get a home of their own . . . and to couples already married who are suffering the same penalty.
This is the Prime Minister in 1949! He went on -
You are penalized to-day by the Chifley Government, which gives priority to extravagant building plansfor Government departments, which fails to check restrictive, go-slow tactics in the building industry or to increase production of many essential building materials. In other words, the very Government which claims to be the champion of the average man and woman is the Government that is depriving you of a home and, by starving the State Governments-
That is important in the light of current events. He claimed then that Mr. Chifley starved the State governments of funds “ preventing even your State Government from helping you “. He went on -
We will not allow any public works, except those of extreme urgency, to be given priority over home-building.
I wonder whether the Prime Minister remembers those words now. There are still thousands of young couples awaiting finance to buy homes. There are still many thousands of people sharing meagre accommodation, who are in need of homes. I have here quotations from two Sydney newspapers which state the problem. They are from the “ Daily Mirror “ and the “ Sun “. No one, even by the greatest stretch of imagination, could believe that the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ and “ Sun “ were Labour supporters, but on 8th March the “ Sun “ said in a leading article -
The Prime Minister has a masterly way with . words and theories but, as the present argument about the housing problem shows, he is not so brilliant when he bumps his nose against hard facts.
That is true. The leader continued -
His defence of the Commonwealth Government’s approach to housing (“ the housing proAustralians who still haven’t got homes.
He is all right. It is going pretty well for him at the Lodge, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who think that the housing programme is not going so well -
The “ Daily Mirror “ says this about the Prime Minister’s approach to the housing situation -
The statement yesterday of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on housing does him little credit.
I think that every one in Australia agrees with that -
Alternately disdainful, aloof, sneering, frivolous, and obstinately blind to realities, he proved in frightening fashion how dangerous the Canberra Ivory Tower mentality can become. . . . This airy approach of the Prime Minister will infuriate the thousands upon thousands of families in N.S.W. who are being driven to despair because they are compelled to live in sub-standard homes, or in sheds or huts, or in hostels, or in community centres, or in tents or caravans, or in houses which they share with friends or relatives.
The Prime Minister cannot claim that the “ Daily Mirror “ supports Labour. The housing situation is the greatest blot on the economic life of Australia. It has, during the life of this hopeless Government, slowly but surely deteriorated into a national tragedy. There is not the slightest doubt about that. Day after day the Prime Minister, in his airy-fairy way, gives assurances that all in our community is well. He calls conference after conference with professors and economists. He has special talks with private bankers. He says he wishes to hear the views and opinions of a wide range of people who are expert in their particular line of activity. The Prime Minister is right when he speaks of the private bankers being expert in their own line of business. They certainly are! It is also appropriate to say that sometimes they are very shady as well. I have in mind the co-operation between our respectable bankers and the hire-purchase vultures, which produces murderous interest rates in that field. One would be safe in saying that the prominent private bankers and the hire-purchase vultures are partners in crime.
There are no two ways about that, when we consider that15 per cent., 16 per cent. and 20 per cent. interest is charged. Some one is putting money into the hire-purchase field, and that some one is the private banker.
Let us look at the housing horror. The unsatisfied demand for homes is growing every day, and this incompetent Government has no answer to the problem. Beyond making long-winded speeches and quoting mountains of statistics, it has nothing to offer. This Government is tied hand and foot to the various pressure groups which supply it with the sinews of war at election times and which, between elections, call the tune to which this weak aggregation of spineless individuals which we call a government has no option but to dance.
At the moment I shall deal with the Real Estate Institute, commonly known as the Association of Land Agents. These agents are actively engaged in speculating and in plundering all and sundry in the field of real estate. Even in the Federal Government itself, they have a Minister who has been placed in the Cabinet, just to see that nothing happens to the open go that they have, and which has continued over the last eight years. I refer to the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who holds a prominent office in the Real Estate Institute, in conjunction with Lyle Moore, who is the president of the Liberal party. Something has got to be done to curb the activities of these gentlemen who are creating a Frankenstein monster in housing, forcing up the prices of homes to unbelievable heights and establishing fictitious values which send land rates in surrounding areas up to levels which people are unable to meet.
Who will deny that all who receive accounts for council rates on their property are complaining about the increase in rates? It is due only to the activities of these predatory gentlemen who are forcing values up in every way they can. Housing is now a question of great moment. It has reached the emergency stage, and it requires immediate action. We cannot escape the fact that 250,000 families in this great Australia of ours need homes of their own. Another 200,000 are paying rents that they cannot afford - up to £10 10s. a week. That is what large families are paying to agents in different districts on the “ holiday home “ principle. They are told, “ You can stay for three months, but that is all we can allow. You will have to sign up again at the end of three months and keep on paying £10 10s. a week as usual.” These people are not getting the living space or the facilities necessary for the happy home life that they need. Some parents are trying to raise families in caravans, garages, temporary rooms and tents. Even fowl houses are used by some poor mothers and fathers to house themselves and their children. That is an outrage in a country like Australia. There is Crown land in abundance all over the country which should be cut up into blocks, ballotted for and given to the men and women who desire land for the building of their homes.
I point these facts out in reply to a long press statement issued by the pathetic Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I say “ pathetic “ advisedly because of what the Minister is doing to restrict the healthy development of a healthy country like Australia. This gentleman came out with the extraordinary statement that Australia’s great opportunity to overcome the housing lag would arrive in 6ve years. He goes on to say that it is expected that the need for new housing will be relatively low because of the expected fall in the marriage rate reflecting the low birth rate during the depression after 1930. Just think of that! What a marvellous thing to say! I do not know how the Minister and his experts could reach that conclusion since we have received 1,200,000 immigrants in the last few years, altogether apart from the natural increase of the population. That statement is really a classic, and I think it should go down in history in association with the name of the Minister for National Development. The ministerial mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse! The Minister took no account of immigration. Of course, one would not expect him to be capable of thinking. He plays about with statistics from time to time and makes breathtaking statements like the one I have just mentioned.
It is my opinion, Mr. Speaker, that if something is not done quickly we shall be faced with a housing shortage for the next 50 years. Has the Government lost sight of the ever-swelling total of immigrants and the natural increase of the population? lt is an indisputable fact that, within 15 miles of Sydney, at Herne Bay, thousands of Australians are living under conditions of the utmost squalor in sub-standard dwellings called emergency accommodation. Responsibility for all this must be laid at the door of this Government owing to its alleged inability to make the necessary finance available. It would find plenty of money if war broke out to-morrow. There would be no question of lack of money preventing Australia from going to war. The funds that could be provided for war should be made available to people who need money for the construction of homes. lt is time the people of Australia had something to say about these matters. Who are the hidden forces behind the Government that desire this state of affairs to continue? From day to day, we are told that no finance is available, but has the Prime Minister forgotten that he promised the people, in January, 1956, when the Government gave the private banks permission to open savings banks, that 30 per cent, of the deposits in private savings banks would be invested in housing loans of approved types? What has happened? The private banks have openly advertised that £30.000,000 has been deposited in the private savings banks, but they have invested only about 1 per cent, of these deposits in approved housing loans. Where has the money gone? It has gone into hirepurchase finance companies at an interest rate of 15 per cent, or 16 per cent. The private banks have a very tight hold on these deposits, and we can be sure that they will continually be channelled into hirepurchase companies such as Custom Credit Corporation Limited and Esanda Limited. The Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited, the Bank of New South Wales and the National Bank of Australasia Limited are very active in the hire-purchase field, and hold controlling interests in a number of hire-purchase finance companies. But young Australian men and women who have saved perhaps £1,000 for a home, and who approach a private bank for a small advance to enable them to build even a very modest house, find that no help is forthcoming from the banks, which say, “ We are sorry that we cannot help you. The Prime Minister has restricted finance and will not let us help you “. At the present time bankers have small respect for long-term loans, and this includes housing loans. They know that they have nothing to fear from their good friend the Prime Minister. He will probably have them knighted at the end of the year for withholding credit from the ordinary man and woman.
Since 1950 this Government has spent £1,200,000,000 on defence and what has Australia to show for this? Not even our experts in Canberra - there are thousands of them here, a plague of them - can tell us where the money has gone. During that period also, Canberra’s Ministers have continually urged that we increase the flow of immigrants. That would act, they said, as a defence precaution. No mention was made, of course, of the housing of the.se people. The Government has declined from time to time in this House to make an allocation from the defence vote for housing, although it agrees that immigration is tied up with defence. Our lop-sided Government muddles on. It must be mentioned that Commonwealth trust funds now amount to the staggering total of £750,000,000. This should activate the minds of the Australian people- £750,000,000 in trust funds. Why should these millions be frozen? Does the Government not think that housing is a good investment? Does it not think that housing would be a great bulwark against its bitter enemy, the Communists? A house on every block of land would surely be the -greatest bulwark against communism we could have in this country. Surely the Government knows about the housing conditions, the sub-standard homes, the slums, and surely it knows that squalor breeds communism. Bombs, guns, and troops are not the only precautions against the enemy, without and within. High standards of living are more important. Now is the appropriate time to embark on an expansive programme of home building. All the essentials are in good supply at the moment. According to statistics given by the Timber Workers Union there is 80,000,000 super, feet of building timber rotting at grass. There are 40,000,000 bricks stacked away in brickyards. There are 10,000,000 tiles stacked away. Eighty timber mills have closed on the north coast of New South Wales and five brickyards in the metropolitan area of Sydney have closed. Yet this Government says there is no crisis in the building industry! Building tradesmen are walking the streets looking for work. Timber mills right throughout the State, not only the north coast, are idle. Cement is available in adequate supply. All the building resources are at the disposal of this Government if it wants to move, but it refuses to supply the essential for home building, which is finance.
The trade union movement is anxious to co-operate wilh the Government and lend its advice and skill to grapple with this problem, the greatest in Australia’s history. These are not Canberra experts; they are trade unionists, the men who work in these industries. A thriving building industry reflects the wealth, prosperity, and prestige of the nation. When home building ceases the nation goes into decay. That is happening to-day. On all sides we see a demand for homes. The domestic unhappiness of thousands of young families due to the housing shortage is laid at the door of this Government. In New South Wales alone 150,000 homes are needed. The last census showed that 106,000 family units were sharing accommodation. We all know how that breeds unhappiness in the home. New applications are pouring in to the New South Wales Housing Commission at the rate of 200 per week. The co-operative building societies claim that 25,000 registered applicants are anxiously awaiting advances to build. All this points to the need for a vigorous home-construction programme. Instead we see the apathy of members of the Government. When there is talk of expansion, they all go into their shells. They theorize about home building and the unfortunate circumstances of the homeless. It is time we got rid of them. The Government is on the toboggan because of its unrealistic approach to home finance.
The most serious aspect is the falling off in the number of buildings under construction. The figures, as shown by the Commonwealth Statistician, are the worst for six years. That is unbelievable. It is a disgraceful state of affairs. If this Government will not do the job, it must make room for a Labour government, which will do it. The deliberate restricting of home-building is made more obvious when activities in other fields of construction are considered. I refer to the building of luxury offices, luxury hotels, new banks, new insurance offices, activities in the entertainment field and the construction of one-brand petrol stations galore. Behind all these luxury offices, what do we see? We see tents, shanties, lean-tos and garages with mothers and fathers trying to bring up their families to some sort of standard.
– Order? The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The motion expressing our loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and our thanks to His Excellency the Government-General for his Address to this Parliament was very ably moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and very ably seconded by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). I congratulate those gentlemen, who are newcomers to this House, on the excellence of their thoughts and the delivery of their speeches. I was particularly impressed by the speech of the honorable member for Barker. I am sure, sir, that you are proud that he comes from your State. He stressed the productivity and the potential productivity of that State. He explained how primary production can be of great assistance to Australia and that it is, in fact, one of the reasons for the very high standard of prosperity that we enjoy to-day.
I was struck by the sharp contrast provided by the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). It refers in no way to the position of the primary producers and shows gross ignorance of their worth to the prosperity of the country. The view implicit in the amendment is supported by many members of the Opposition - members of the socialist party, or the Democratic Socialist party, as I think we must call them now. To my mind, the amendment is not a censure of this Government.
– I am, no doubt, entitled to my opinion. If the amendment were a censure of this Government, and if it were carried, the Opposition would be expected to take over the treasury bench. What does the Opposition offer? In the amendment, very little is offered to solve the problem that the House is discussing. I shall read in a moment the proposition put forward by the Opposition. It is not hard to read; there is nothing to it. First, we must consider the constitutional position. Is this rightly a censure of this Government, or is it a censure of the State governments, particularly the New South Wales Government? L hope, sir, to satisfy you before I have finished speaking that it is a censure of the State governments, particularly the New South Wales Government. I shall not speak about other governments, because I believe many other honorable members Cun speak on that issue.
When the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was entered into some years ago, the Leader of the Opposition, as he is. now, no doubt advised the Minister who introduced the relevant bill, because at that time he was the Attorney-General. Yet we find that the author of this act, Mr.. Dedman, who was then Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, said in his secondreading speech -
The Commonwealth Government is limited by the Australian Constitution. In peace-time the States exercise all powers over the physical side of housing.
He mentioned that there were exceptions! for instance, in regard to war service homes and Commonwealth property, but he said that, despite the restriction to the States of powers over the physical side of housing, the Commonwealth Government can, by financial assistance, encourage the States to undertake certain activities. This Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was one of the activities. It was a postwar agreement which followed a realization of the need of the States for additional finance to recommence housing activities which had, of necessity, been suspended during the war. The Minister further said that the Commonwealth Government can do research. I suggest to you, in defiance of the censure amendment which asserts the failure of the Government to look after this housing problem and to establish a national housing plan in conjunction with the States, that the research that the Commonwealth Government has undertaken, through its research laboratories, one of which is located at Ryde, in New South Wales, has been very valuable indeed to the building industry. Further, the Minister said, the Commonwealth Government can assist in this housing, problem by laying down principles, such as whether the money to be provided under the agree ment shall be invested with building societies, whether the homes shall be for rent or for sale, and so on. At a later stage in the same debate the Minister said -
The Commonwealth Government has no power in regard to the construction of houses in a State, and can act only by agreement with a State.
I have not heard that disputed in this House. In fact, I think all honorable members who are properly informed agree that this is not a Commonwealth problem at all, and that it is a matter entirely for the States. We do not make it a national matter simply by calling it a national matter. A person does not create a housing crisis merely by saying that there is one, and we have been arguing here for a day and a half only on the name of something. We have been engaged in this argument because it has been said that there is a crisis in housing. It might even be said, and equally well, that there is a crisis in the position of the States’ hospitals.
Opposition Members. - So there is!
– And that there is a crisis in the States’ schools.
Opposition Members. - So there is!
– And that there is a crisis in road construction in the States.
Opposition Members. - So there is!
– 1 am glad to hear the agreement of the Opposition, but do not forget that all those matters, hospitals, schools and roads, are essentially State activities and not activities of the Commonwealth. The sooner that fact is thoroughly driven home to the public the better, because I find that members of the public are being misled, as my electors are being misled. The director of a hospital board in my area made a statement at a meeting - and sent me a copy of it - to the effect that he felt that the whole onus of hospitals finance should rest on the Commonwealth.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member might suggest to Mr. Cahill that the whole onus of hospitals finance and administration should rest on the Commonwealth, and see what Mr. Cahill’s reaction would be.
– He would agree with me.
– I suggest that honorable members opposite put it to Mr. Cahill that the whole responsibility for schools should rest with the Commonwealth.
Opposition members interjecting
– Now I hear the unificationists talking, the men who want the whole of the power in the Commonwealth concentrated in one parliament. They are becoming vocal at last. They have been trying to come in under the mat and get their unificationist ideas adopted in this Parliament, by arguing that the whole responsibility for these domestic matters, lies with the Commonwealth Government, when they know full well that under the Constitution, and until that Constitution h changed, the responsibility for these matters lies entirely at the door of the States, ami it is up to the States to pick up their own babies and nourish them. lt has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that the Commonwealth Government has failed to establish a national housing plan in conjunction with the States. I am glad that he did not say. “ In co-operation with the States “, because, since I have been in this House, very Huie co-operation has been shown by any State government in matters that are the joint concern of the Commonwealth and the States. The basis of federation is that the Commonwealth and States should work together as a unit. But what do we have? Every time the States are asked - and I am referring particularly to New South Wales - to get on with construction of their dams, water supplies and all the other projects that they have on hand, they say, “ If the Federal Government will give us more money we shall be able to complete them “. I even heard one State Minister say that if the Commonwealth would give New South Wales £10,000.000 from the defence vote. New South Wales would be able to build the Burrendong dam, but that that could not be done until the Glenbawn dam was completed. The Glenbawn dam has been in course of construction for eight years already and is not nearly completed.
One of the complaints laid at the door of this Government relates to finance for home-building. The position in this respect is the same as that in relation to the construction of schools, hospitals, roads and everything else with which the State governments muddle. It has been said time and again in this House and will bear repeating that every penny that comes from the Australian Loan Council is given to the States for their use and then heavily subsidized by the Commonwealth to make up deficiencies in public subscriptions.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ gwen to the States “?
– I shall not stand on words. I shall say that it is lent to the Slates, if the honorable member prefers it that way. It is lent to the States, just as other money is lent to them for the benefit of the people. The honorable member is right in saying that the money is not given to the States in the strict sense, but the fact remains that the Commonwealth Government has had to use revenue moneys for its own public works. We have had complaints from the Opposition to the effect that the Government should not do that. How inconsistent can this Opposition be!
Then the Opposition complains that there are insufficient funds for war service homes. 1 do not think 1 need dwell on this subject, because the record of this Government in relation to war service homes is that it has provided finance for more homes than has any other government since the inception of the scheme. There may be a shortage of war service homes, but one of the main reasons for the rush for such homes is that the States have not been providing houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Naturally, there has been a tendency for people to go somewhere else to try to obtain homes. As I say, however, this Government has a proud record in respect of war service homes.
Then we have a complaint that we have not provided adequate finance for the cooperative building societies. Heavens above! When we proposed last year that some of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement money should be diverted to cooperative building societies we met the greatest opposition from New South Wales, and it was only after the respective Ministers had debated the matter for a long time that New South Wales was persuaded to take it up. It adopted the proposal late in the piece.
Another charge is that we have not made sufficient finance available for Australians who are seeking to build homes. What a change of face this is! We have the Leader of the Opposition saying, in one part of his speech, that we must get back to the purpose of the original agreement, which was, as honorable members will recall, put forward by Mr. Dedman - the man who said he was not going to turn the workers into little capitalists, for which statement he will go down in history. The purpose of the agreement then was to provide housing on a rental basis. Much of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was devoted to the need to provide money for people to buy homes. Yet, in the same breath he said that we should get back to the purpose of the original agreement. I suggest there is every justification for people writing to the newspapers and saying that the speech of the right honorable gentleman was the greatest muddle that he has delivered in this House.
The Opposition contends that there should be an immediate reduction of the intake of immigrants. In other words, the Labour party wants to accept all the things that the immigrants have done during recent years and then to say to them, “ We have had enough “. I wonder how many houses the immigrant population of Australia has been responsible for, and for how many of the components that go into a house and for how many of the builders. I think it would be found that the immigrants had provided us with the necessaries with which to build a sufficient number of houses to house not only themselves but other people as well. We have seen figures from time to time, which [ do not propose to cite again, showing the number of sheets ot galvanized iron, bags of cement, and so on, that have been produced by immigrant labour. If we were to take the proportion of immigrant labour employed in big factories such as those of the Australian Iron and Steel Company Limited and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, it would be seen that the immigrants had contributed in very large measure to the work force of this country and in providing those things which are essential to a housing project.
So we go on. These complaints are nauseating. Reference has been made * the need to employ the maximum work force in the home-building industry. I think it was the Leader of the Opposition himself who said, in the course of his speech, that there was tremendous unemployment. I do not say that advertisements in newspapers are any criterion in this matter, but I looked through the columns of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on Saturday, and I think the figures are rather interesting. That is the Sydney newspaper in which people who want employment advertise, and it is also the newspaper to which people who want employees refer. In the “ Positions Vacant “ column, there was one carpenter applying for work, whereas there were 29 situations vacant. Those included situations with companies which were advertising for “ carpenters “, without saying how many they wanted. One carpenter and joiner had advertised for work, and there were two who required week-end work. Apparently, they are fully occupied during the week but wish to earn a little more over the week-end. Good luck to them, but they probably want time and a half for such work. There were three persons who were prepared to carry out renovations, additions and repairs.
In other words, in all those categories there were seven men applying for situations, whilst .29 advertisements appeared for situations vacant. We find also that although there were thirteen vacancies for brick workers advertised in these columns, only one brickworker applied. The State Tile and Brick Works was advertising for men also. What are the trade unions doing in not getting in touch with the works in respect of these vacancies? What is the State Labour Government doing in not getting in touch with the unions to point out to them that there are vacancies. As against that position of the lack of men applying for advertised vacancies we have the statement by the Brick, Tile and Pottery Workers Union that it had 5 per cent, of its members out of work. Yet none of these men is advertising for a job. They are apparently living on their fat, as we say in the country.
The Leader of the Opposition says that I’2 per cent, of painters are out of work - but only five painters advertised for work, and one of them wanted £5 a day. He was apparently not very anxious to get work. On the other hand, 21 situations vacant are recorded in the same paper.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Those figures certainly needle the Opposition. Honorable members opposite talk of the great unemployment that exists, but the actual facts put a different complexion on the matter. There is claimed to be a great shortage of work for plumbers. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ advertised nine situations vacant for plumbers, and only one plumber was seeking work. No electrical fitters were asking for work. I am nol surprised at that, because some years ago the trade union representing these men did its level best to keep apprentices out. I am speaking from first-hand knowledge of apprentices who served in the forces during the war and on their return to civil life tried vainly to get into the trade union again so that they could work as electrical titters. We have firms such as Australian Iron and Steel Limited advertising for electrical fitters. They may not want many, but they certainly want more than one. The Public Service Board and other public instrumentalities are also, advertising in the press for such men. The New South Wales Maritime Services Board also wants electrical fitters, as does the repatriation general hospital.
No applications were received for eight situations vacant for builders’ labourers. The Leader of the Opposition claimed that there were 100 plasterers out of work. This really rocked me, because the Commonwealth Employment Service was advertising in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ for plasterers - at a time when there were supposed to be many out of work, according to the right honorable gentleman. What is the Commonwealth Employment Service for, if not to help to find work for people who are out of work?
I do not need to go any further in that particular direction. Now as to the availability of houses. There were about six pages of advertisements of houses for sale, with about 400 houses advertised on each page. It will be found that a great proportion of those houses were for sale with vacant possession. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) gave us the facts of that position last week. The actual position accords with what has been already said in the debate, to the effect that this is not a housing shortage arising from the insufficient number of houses available for people who want them. Although I quite agree that there is a housing shortage, I must point out that there are a great number of houses vacant to-day which would be occupied if we were not hamstrung by such things as the New South
Wales Landlord and Tenant Act. What does the Premier of New South Wales say? He says, “ We will have a look at it “. Yet the Opposition in this House accuses the Government of ignoring the housing problem, and for years the newspapers have accused the Government of ignoring the facts. The New South Wales Premier has said, “ If the Landlord and Tenant Act is causing trouble, I will have a look at it “.
– Why should that be the trouble?
– Because of its psychological effect. People are frightened to rent houses that they own. Can anybody blame them, because if they let tenants in they would be unable to get them out if they were unsuitable tenants or if the landlords needed their homes for their own purposes. Not only would the landlords face the possibility of not being able to get the tenants out, but they know that they run the chance that the tenants would take them to the Fair Rents Court, which might award rentals that would be, in effect, peppercorn rentals, with which the landlord would have to be satisfied for all time. I say that people who own houses will rent them if they are given a fair go, and that people will also build houses for rental if they do not have a solid fear that they will lose as a result of so doing. As a matter of fact, I am in that position myself. I have a house which I am not prepared to let because I do not know whether I would get a satisfactory rent or a satisfactory tenant. If I sold this house I would buy another one. But that is the position. I will not rent the house and take the risk of getting either an unsatisfactory rental for it or an unsatisfactory tenant in it whom I would be unable to get out of it. I should say that there are hundreds and hundreds of people in the same position. In my own home town there would be at least twenty houses for sale, but not for rent, because of the provisions of the New South Wales Landlord and Tenant Act. In the bigger towns there would probably be from 100 to 150 such houses. Anybody would find it impossible to jump over the piles of books in estate agents’ offices in Sydney containing details of houses for sale. That is the problem that Mr. Cahill says he is willing to “look at”.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is, in effect, an indictment of the New South Wales Labour Government if ever there was one. The housing shortage is a problem for the States to solve if they will only face up to it. And the first thing that the States have to do is to deal with such legislation as the New SoUth Wales Landlord and Tenant Act. They have to give people the courage and the will to rent vacant houses in their possession. There is a very important personage’ in this House who owns three houses. I shall not make any further reference to that? because all honorable members know who he is. There are a great number of people with more than one house who are afraid to rent them for the reasons that I have given. I would be willing to take somebody into my home in the country while I am down here in Canberra, but if I did, I could easily find that I was unable to get them out when I needed the home for myself. Many people are in the same position, so it is obvious that some proper amendment of the New South Wales Landlord and Tenant Act might get us somewhere along the road to providing more accommodation for people who need it.
As I have already mentioned, there U no doubt that if finance is to be made available, it cannot be made available, under present circumstances, through the Australian Loan Council. It could be made available, no doubt, by easing credit restrictions on the private banks. If this is done, it must be a condition that the money so released is to be used for housing alone, and not allowed to be used for other things, as in the past, such as hire-purchase, its use for which would defeat the object for which the restrictions had been eased. But why should it be used for housing entirely, when rural producers are crying out for money to enable them to improve their properties?
I want now, as my time ls running out, to make one reference to a statement of the Leader of the Opposition, echoed by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), the absurdity of which requires an answer. They referred to expenditure on commercial and industrial buildings as luxury expenditure. They mentioned the building of hotels, picture theatres, one-brand petrol stations, and so on. What has any of that rubbish to do with the Commonwealth Government? It is just a case of the same old red herring being drawn across the trail in an effort to make it appear that the Commonwealth is solely responsible for housing. If I have not satisfied the House that the Commonwealth Government is not solely responsible for housing, but that it is a matter for the States, I have been wasting my time - but I do not think that I have wasted my time.
– I am very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the very important debate in which the House is now engaged. Before I come to the main matter of my speech I desire to extend my meed of congratulation to the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). I listened very attentively to both of those honorable members. I want to congratulate them on the temperate and well-thought-out speeches that they delivered and say that in my opinion they will, in the years to come, be an acquisition to this Parliament. 1 listened very carefully to His Excellency’s address, and I have also read it since it was printed and distributed to honorable members. In my long parliamentary career I have never heard or read a more futile Speech made on behalf of any government. It ‘contained no promises, no suggestions, and no gleam of hope for the future. Housing, the most important issue of all, was passed over by the Prime Minister with the assurance that there was no crisis. Despite what he said, there is a surplus of both materials and labour. I wholeheartedly support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) because I believe, sincerely, that the Government is deserving of the severest censure for having failed to honour promises that it made as long ago as 1949.
This afternoon the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) read to the House an advertisement, inserted in the press as long ago as 1949, containing promises by the present Prime Minister on this matter of housing, which is one of the most serious and important problems confronting the people of Australia, especially those who cannot obtain a home because of this Government’s failure to give adequate financial support to State building programmes.
The Prime Minister, in replying to the Leader of the Opposition, said he was satisfied that there was no crisis in the building industry, and that it was a question not of money but of materials and labour. The Prime Minister must know as well as we on this side of the House that that is not in accordance with fact. During the last two or three weeks this has been proved beyond doubt by the building industry of every State. If ever a Government deserved censure it is this Government, for its lack of sympathy towards these unfortunate home-seekers, and for the way in which it is treating the States.
Though the Prime Minister said that he was satisfied that material and labour alone were holding up the housing programme, one of his own Ministers - who, incidentally, is personally interested in this phase of activity - admitted on at least three or four occasions in his speech last week that there was a serious housing crisis in Australia. He made certain suggestions with a view to overcoming that crisis, thus contradicting his own Prime Minister. He said - and this has been referred to by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) - that in New South Wales thousands of homes were occupied by only one person. The only inference one could draw from that observation was that this should not be allowed - that no one should be permitted to live alone while other homes held five, six or perhaps seven families. He implied that some law should be brought down to compel such persons to take others into their homes. Yet he assures us that he does not believe in controls! In short, his only suggestion for solving the problem was that it was wrong for one person to occupy ;i home.
Further proof that the Prime Minister has made an untruthful statement is provided by the fact that last week the State Housing Ministers of Australia, at a lengthy conference in Melbourne, were unanimous that there was a housing crisis. The Liberal Premiers of Victoria and South Australia - who ordinarily support this Government - were loudest in censuring it. They agreed that the crisis was attributable to the attitude of this Government in refusing to allow the States sufficient money to carry out housing programmes.
During last week’s Building Industry Congress in Sydney, a prominent official, who is also a New South Wales Liberal party member of Parliament, protested to the Prime Minister that the Federal Government was responsible for the serious position in which the building industry now found itself - the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has given us certain figures tor New South Wales. Representatives of the building industry were prepared to visit Canberra to give the Prime Minister definite information, based on their practical knowledge of the state of the building industry. Very few Government supporters realize just how far-reaching are the ramifications of the building industry because it affects so many people. Let me consider the position in Queensland.
– Where are the honorable members from Queensland?
– I was going to mention that. Before I do so, I want to say that I have a knowledge of the building industry in Queensland. The reason why I support the proposed amendment wholeheartedly is that I am sincerely sympathetic towards those unfortunate people who have been thrown on the unemployment market as a result of this Government not providing sufficient funds to allow the Queensland Government to carry on its very progressive housing policy. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has asked whose fault that is. I say, without fear of contradiction, it is the Federal Government’s fault that that position exists to-day in every State of Australia.
I regret very much that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) are not in the chamber at the present time, because I intend to confine my remarks to statements made by those two honorable gentlemen.
– They were “ misstatements “, as the honorable member for Herbert points out. The statements and charges made by those two honorable gentlemen were dishonest and untrue. The honorable member for Lilley came into this chamber and made untruthful and unwarranted charges agains* the Queensland Housing Minister, the Queensland Housing Commission and. las1 but not least, the Queensland Labour Government. Tt appears to me that there are a number of Queensland members who are in this Parliament for the purpose of continually knocking the Queensland Government. They are known as the “ knockers of Queensland “, because every speech that they have made while they have been in this Parliament has. been made in order to try to destroy the Queensland Labour Government, particularly prior to an election. Fortunately, they have never been able to do that, and they will never be able to do it. The Queensland Labour Government will be in office when they have sunk into political oblivion.
T shall get back to the honorable member for Moreton. On Tuesday last, the opening day of this session of this honorable Parliament, he rose and asked a question of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). That question, in my opinion, was asked deliberately for the purpose of paving the way for his colleague, the honorable member for Lilley, to come in again with vile, untruthful, dishonest statements.
– Order! That is a personal reflection on the honorable member for Lilley. It is entirely out of order. The honorable member for Brisbane will withdraw that statement.
– To what personal reflection do you refer, sir?
– The charge that you have just made against the honorable member for Lilley will be withdrawn. Otherwise I shall deal with you. The honorable member for Brisbane will withdraw at the Chair’s request.
– I withdraw the statement.
– Order! Now I want to deal with the honorable member for Herbert. I apologize if it was not the honorable member for Herbert, but a statement was made at the table that the honorable member for Brisbane was too generous in his reference to the honorable member for Lilley. Was that the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney?
– I did not use the words that you suggest I used.
– I ask for a withdrawal.
– I did not use the words that you suggest I used, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but, in order to allow the honorable member for Brisbane to proceed, I will withdraw.
– With all due deference to your ruling on this question, sir-
– Order! The ruling cannot be challenged.
– Very well. I shall have something to say at some other stage on the question.
– The ruling can be challenged only in the proper way.
– I want to say, in all sincerity, that there are at least three Liberal members from Queensland who endeavour to knock the Queensland Government at every opportunity. There are exceptions so far as honorable members from Queensland are concerned. As I said earlier, the honorable member for Moreton, for the purpose of giving an opportunity to the honorable member for Lilley to come in with .those snide, untruthful statements and charges-
– Order! Is the honorable member repeating that personal reflection on the honorable member for Lilley? I give him another chance to withdraw. Otherwise, I shall name him.
– I withdraw the statement, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I say deliberately that the honorable member for Lilley did not speak in accordance with the facts - and, so far as I know, has never done so - in attacking the Queensland Housing Commission and the Queensland Labour party. He is known as the “.knocker from Queensland”. The honorable member for Moreton addressed a question to the Treasurer last Tuesday in tie following terms: -
I wish to address a question without notice to (he Treasurer. Is it not a fact that at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council the Queensland Government asked that £2,750,000 be made available for housing purposes? Is it not a fact, also, that that sum of money was £250,000 less than the Australian Loan Council’s allocation for housing in the previous year? Does not .the Treasurer consider that this request for a lower sum for housing would indicate the Queensland Government’s determination to discredit the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement? Further, does the Treasurer not consider that every circumstance and sign would indicate that Government’s intention to disguise from the Commonwealth Government its record of monumental stupidity in the housing field?
The Treasurer’s reply was, “Yes”. Subsequently, the honorable member for Lilley tried to discredit the Queensland Housing Commission and the Queensland Housing Minister. He said that the Queensland Government had asked for £2,750,000, which was less than it had asked for during the previous financial year. That is absolutely untrue. According to a reply given by the Minister to a question asked by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), the Queensland Government asked for much more than £2,750,000. The honorable member for Lilley argued that that was true, and that they had noi asked for more. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has used the same argument. He said that the Queensland Government asked for only £2,750,000, but I have pointed out that thai is not correct.
– Senator Byrne said it could have had £3,000,000 if it had wanted it.
– I do not care what Senator Byrne may have said. I am citing figures that cannot be contradicted by the honorable member for Lilley or any other Government supporter. On 1 1th October of last year, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), in his capacity as Minister representing in this chamber the Minister for National Development, advised the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) of the answer supplied by the Minister for National Development to a question that the honorable member had asked. In the course of the answer, the Minister for National Development pointed out that it was true that the grant sought by the Queensland Government had been approved by the Australian Loan Council. He stated that the Queensland Governmenhad sought from the council an allocation of £3,040,000 for housing. This is reported in “ Hansard “ and no one can refute it. No matter how the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Lilley, and also the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who evidently intends to follow me, manipulate the figures, they cannot gainsay the reply given on behalf of the Minister for National Development. as reported in “ Hansard “. I shall now detail some of the allocations made, not by the Australian Loan Council, but by this Government. New South Wales, which asked for £11,937,000, received £10,800,000. Victoria, which asked for £11,050,000, received £10,000,000. Queensland asked for £3,040,000 and received £2,750,000. The amount received by the Queensland Government was not the amount sought by it and approved by the Australian Loan Council, but was only £2,750,000. Yet the honorable member for Lilley and other Government supporters blame the Labour Government of Queensland for not asking for more than £2,750,000.
– The Queensland Government determines for itself how much it will allocate to housing.
– Such statements are not in accordance with the facts. They are made only in an attempt to destroy the Queensland Labour Government, which has done a very fine job.
The honorable member for Lilley and other Government supporters from Queensland met representatives of the 400 unfortunate employees who have been dismissed by the Queensland Housing Commission because the Queensland Government could not obtain sufficient funds to maintain its housing programme at the former level until the end of the current financial year.
– We met Mr. McCathie also.
– That may be so. The Government supporters who met the representatives of the men said they were very sympathetic towards them in their , misfortune. They assured them that they would do everything possible to assist them, and they even undertook to approachthe Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on their behalf, but they have not done so.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I wish to address my remarks to the amendment, which attacks the Government’s housing policy. Housing is a subject on which a considerable proportion of the members of the Parliament can speak with some feeling, as I am able to do from my own experience. When I was discharged from the services, after having married, I had no home, and I had first-hand experience of housing problems in 1946. 1 fully realize the tremendous urgency and importance of the housing problem in 1957. However, it is sheer nonsense to say, as the Opposition does, that the problem can be solved simply by the provision of more funds for housing. There are two inseparable problems in the present housing situation. One is finance, and the other is the excessive cost of homebuilding. Any government that really sets out to overcome our housing difficulties must solve both those problems. I consider that high costs have now become the more urgent of the two. Prices have been soaring ever since the end of World War II. Indeed, they have increased so much that a man who bought a house in 1946, and now wishes to add a garage to it, as likely as not finds that the garage will cost him more than the house cost him ten years ago. It now costs so much to build homes that many people cannot afford the necessary repayments, even if finance is available to them. Even though the homes built by the much-vaunted New South Wales Housing Commission are heavily subsidized by the taxpayers, the rents are frequently more than people can afford.
It is becoming obvious that the discussion on this amendment has back-fired on the Australian Labour party, and those whose faces are red now are Mr. Cahill, the New South Wales Premier, and Mr. Landa, the New South Wales Minister for Housing. I think this debate has shown conclusively that, in housing, New South Wales is a delinquent State. Its population has increased in smaller proportion than that of any other State has done, but it is still in a worse housing situation than any other State is. Figures published by a Sydney newspaper after wide investigation show that the population of New South Wales has increased in the last few years by only 19 per cent., or one-third less than the increase in South Australia, and not much more than half the increase in Western Australia. Yet South Australia and Western Australia have solved their housing problems, and the position in New South Wales seems to be getting steadily worse!
For the whole of the period in question, South Australia has had a Liberal and Country League government, and for part of the time Western Australia has had a liberal government. New South Wales complains that it has received from the Commonwealth insufficient funds for housing. It is a much bigger State than South Australia is, but the indications are that the South Australian Housing Trust will complete more houses this year than the New South Wales Housing Commission will complete. I am grateful to the Opposition for submitting this amendment, not only because the debate has exposed the complete inability of Labour to handle the housing situation in the States in which it holds office, but also because 1 believe that we needed a full-scale debate on housing.
Naturally, finance has tightened up as costs have skyrocketed, because many prudent people are afraid of the high cost level. In effect, this fear is a natural regulator which, in time, will force costs down, In fact, it is doing this at the present time. But the restriction of finance has gone too far at this stage, in my opinion. Money must be provided for housing, and the amount available at the present time should be increased. However, it is just not enough, lt is one thing to make large advances, but the money should be increased in a manner that will keep industry working at its proper level but not revive those over-demand conditions which have caused the present inflation. To provide sufficient money requires skilful control, ft is a job that can be done only by a central bank, and we have not a proper central banking system. That, I believe, is the immediate cause of the present trouble in home finance.
I have been warning this House for years of the dangers which are likely to arise from this serious defect in our banking structure. If I wanted an instance to prove this point conclusively, I could not have had a better one than this housing situation, although I am sorry indeed that it is one which is so disastrous for so many people.
There has been, of course, an attempt to regulate the amount of money available for housing so as to restrain cost inflation. I am not in the confidence of those in control, but that situation is obvious to anybody. It is obvious, also, that unfortunately this control has been clumsy. The regulation intended only to diet the patient as a precaution against financial obesity has in some localities reduced him to starvation. The natural question is: How did this happen? I have been making some investigations along this line and it seems a sorry tale of misunderstanding, lack of confidence, and lack of co-ordination between the trading banks and the man who, in effect, controls the trading banks, Dr. H. C. Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Also, I regret to say that there are some indications that the Commonwealth Savings Bank, the so-called people’s bank, cut its allocation for homes just at the time when it could and should have increased it. Dr. Coombs made a statement to the Labour party in which, by implication, he threw the blame for lack of housing finance on to his competitors, the trading banks. His control of the private banks, I should hasten to state, is exercised through a branch of the Commonwealth Bank, which calls itself the central banks. If ever there was a case in the commercial world of misdescription this is it, because our so-called central bank is, in fact, a wholey owned subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank - a subsidiary though which it is able to harass and control the other trading banks with which it competes. It was, in fact, given its present powers by the Labour party, mainly as a means of putting the private trading banks out of business. I think it is self-evident that a true central bank must be above and completely unconnected with any trading bank. It must control the trading banks, therefore there is a complete need for impartiality. In addition it must be able to get their co-operation, because it cannot supervise directly all the myriads of transactions which these banks conduct; but our so-called central bank has none of these qualities. Unfortunately, however, Parliament has given it the authority of a central bank.
The statement which Dr. Coombs gave to the Labour party a fortnight ago shows how impossible our present banking structure is, because the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank played party politics in a very big way and was quite unfair to the private trading banks. Dr. Coombs is in a unique position. He has been given so much control in his dual position that he is a big factor in the Government of this country. As he is not elected to his position it may be thought that he should be exempt from criticism. but any claims he may have had to immunity in this direction I submit have certainly been removed by this statement. He has, of his own volition, precipitated himself into the political sphere. The statement was made to the committee set up by the Labour party preparatory to this present censure amendment. This committee was called a fact-finding committee, but everybody knew that its real purpose was to obtain political material with which it could embarrass the present Government.
– That is sheer rubbish.
– Well, I have heard it said that the committee could have had a more benign chairman, but that is a matter of opinion. The committee heard what it called “ evidence “ from State Labour politicians and from fellow travellers, including members of the Communist controlled Building Workers Industrial Union. It added as a scalp to its belt this statement from Dr. Coombs. He was, of course, within his rights in making it, but one might challenge his wisdom in making the statement to this committee. His actual words, as reported, leave him very much open to criticism. One of his statements is grossly unfair to his private competitors and another is highly questionable. As related by the Labour party to the capitalistic press, this statement reads -
The Commonwealth Savings Bank will advance less money in 1956-57 than each of the two previous years. This is because the growth of private savings banks has meant a considerable reduction in the rate of increase in the deposits of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Private savings banks, however, are now making loans for housing and aggregate advances by all savings banks seem likely to be higher in 1956-1957 than in 1955-1956.
That statement shows one of the causes of the shortage of housing finance; but why is the Commonwealth Savings Bank cutting back its finance at this critical time? Dr. Coombs’s excuse is that there has been a reduction in the rate of increase of deposits. But take note that he has not claimed a reduction in deposits. Indeed he could not do so, because on the bank’s own figures, from the beginning of June, 1956, to the end of January, 1957, its deposits increased by £15,500,000. the figures since January have not been published. Surely, even if the deposits only remained steady, without any increase at all, the bank should have been able to maintain its rate of advances for housing. It has been making these advances for housing for many years, and the figures have been steady at around £1,000,000 per month over the last ten years. Repayments should finance the new advances, which is the whole idea of the Credit Foncier system. Mark you, the deposits actually increased! There was a very good reason why this cut in housing advances was undesirable. We can show that the private savings bank will contribute much to housing, but there is a lag in arranging these things. It was therefore incumbent on the Commonwealth Bank to take up as much as possible of the slack’ during the runningin period. Dr. Coombs was well aware of this situation, because he said in his annual report of August, 1956 -
A sudden contraction in this lending before now savings banks were ready to take up their share of the responsibility could have produced some economic disturbance.
His own savings bank’s contribution to housing was then at the rate of £1,000,000 a month, but that is not a very large amount when one considers that the Commonwealth Savings Bank’s assets total £740,000,000. That bank has very large liquid assets. Surely it would have been able to find a little extra for housing during this critical period. What happened to the drop in advances? It is a baffling problem and, unfortunately, except for Dr. Coombs’s vague statement that the banks will advance less during the year, we have no information. The private savings banks have given very specific and very encouraging figures on how much they will advance for housing, but since June no figures have been given by the Commonwealth Bank.
On inquiry from the bank, 1 have been advised that the current rate of advances to co-operative building societies and to individuals is at the rate of £10,000,000 per annum. That is, in effect £2,500,000 less than the amount advanced last year. All this points to the fact that advances in the first half of the year were low. That in itself contributed to the shortage of finance. If in the last quarter - April, May and June - after the favourite has bolted and the situation is as it is now. the Commonwealth Bank has a sudden desire to grant more and more advances, the very purpose of these t funds will be destroyed. Money should bc advanced in a steady flow throughout the whole of the year. We should have more information about housing advances made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. I feel sure that there, is a need’ for a. real factfinding committee, which will examine the Commonwealth Savings Bank housing advances and find out why it has reduced advances at this time. Maybe that will give us the key to the riddle of the, sudden contraction of housing loan moneys.
I said also that Dr. Coombs made a statement which was unfair to his competitors. The position is that private trading banks, as distinct from the new saving banks, have reduced their housing advances by £18,000,000 in the past eighteen months. Apparently Dr. Coombs was asked hy the fact-finding Labour committee whether the central bank has directed the private banks to do this. He replied1 -
The Central Bank has not issued any directive on advance policy for trading banks on loans or advances for home building purposes. The trading banks were free to make loans at their discretion, subject to broad principles which emphasized restraint in advances to finance large items of capital expenditure for import and to provide preference to projects which would significantly benefit the balance of payments.
That statement is correct as far as it goes, but it is very misleading. He should have added that the trading banks have been discouraged from making long-term advances, and housing advances are long-term. He should have said also that he had reduced the amount of money the trading banks had available for advances by the continual callup of the funds and that, by the very act of giving preference to primary and secondary industries which produced export goods or replaced imports, as directed by him, they were left without sufficient money to finance their additional responsibility of housing.
That the trading banks carried out his directive is shown in the very substantial improvement in the trade balance position. Yet for this very act of helping him and giving him co-operation, Dr. Coombs has, by implication, criticized them. Housing loans, in any case, have become a dangerous form of advance since the Chifley Government introduced the form of special deposit call-ups. They tie up money for long periods of years. If, during any part of such a long period, a socialist government should come into power - which Heaven forbid - it would call up this money and, because a bank was unable to obtain it from: the borrower, it would be at the mercy of the central bank and consequently might, be forced out of business. It might have been said that the trading banks could be granted exemption from the call-up into the special accounts of some of their money if they agreed to use that money for housing advances, but a prudent banker would probably have grave doubts about accepting such a proposition.
Dr. Coombs might have said all of those things, but he said none of them. As it stands, his statement represents, by implication, a very unfair indictment of the private banks. I should say that, by this one act, he has shattered any hope of real cooperation in the future between his central bank and the private banks while he continues in control. Yet an efficient banking system is impossible without that cooperation. Assuming we get a proper central banking system, which I hope we shall get in due course, we shall be able to regulate efficiently the supply of money for housing, and the home finance problem will be solved.
The other problem is one of costs. This is a much more difficult question, because both sides in the building industry, the employers and workers, have been living for so long in an atmosphere where costs do not matter that it is difficult for them to get back to reality again. However, I am pleased that the idea I put forward in this House in 1953 for large-scale project building is receiving increased attention. That is the means by which America and Great Britain dealt with their housing problems, and I think it could help Australia. We have large-scale construction by State, housing authorities, but unfortunately the economies achieved by working in large quantities are mainly nullified by wastefulness in government administration. Some largescale construction is being carried out by private companies quite successfully. But the trouble is that they cannot be sure that their prospective purchasers will secure finance.
This is the time for an imaginative and experimental approach to the problem so that we shall be able to cut through the delays. We might invite organizations with proper equipment to submit their propositions to us, showing their designs, what they can construct and their prices. If any one quoted a figure which would shaw a really big saving to purchasers and everything else was satisfactory, the Commonwealth could give a guarantee that it would find the finance for eligible purchasers. One thing is certain, and that is that present methods, at least in New South Wales, are not good enough. I am all in favour of any new move which will break this deadlock, but it must be one which will give us homes, quickly and at a lower price. In New South Wales, labour and materials now available are not being used to the best advantage. It has been a hard job up to the present to get co-operation from the New South Wales Government, but I think the present controversy has taught every one a good deal, and that the climate is right, for corrective action to be taken.
.- I support wholeheartedly the amendment to the motion, for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I am of the very definite opinion that honorable members on this side of the House have dealt with the subject of the shortage of homes in a manner that proves beyond a shadow of doubt that a crisis does exist, despite all the political pot-boiling, excuses and subterfuges that have been indulged in by supporters of the Government. I do not intend to speak at length on the housing question, but I wish to say that percentages, figures and past performances do not produce a pay envelope, a meal or the money to build a home, nor do they alter the very salient fact that Victoria has a shortage of 32,000 homes, about which the Government is apparently determined to do nothing.
The subject that I now wish to discuss is one that is causing considerable concern throughout this and many other countries. I refer to nuclear radiation and air pollution by the agency of what is commonly known as smog. Research has established that pollution of the atmosphere, once no more than a minor nuisance, has become, in the last fifteen years, a disturbing threat, with ah overtone of deadly menace. The vast industrial growth and expansion of chemical industries have made air contamination more difficult to deal with and potentially, if not actually, more damaging to the health and property of the inhabitants of the industrial communities than all other industrial hazards put together. Now there is a new and general threat, that: the air may be poisoned by radio-activity, possibly with disastrous long-range effects, if nuclear test explosions are continued. In the United States of America concern regarding air pollution has grown to such an extent that President Eisenhower, in a special message to the Capitol, urged Congress to step up research on air pollution. The President said -
As a result of industrial growth and urban development, the atmosphere over some population centres may be approaching the limit of its ability to absorb air pollutants with safety to health..
As a result of this statement action was taken to increase the appropriation to the Public Health Service for studies seeking necessary scientific data and more effective methods of control, and for the fiscal year 1956 an amount of £370,000 was granted for research. Discussion in committee on this question revealed that the build-up of air pollution was now approaching a critical stage, especially in the industrial centres. Public reaction to this development is one of great apprehension and demand for prompt corrective measures, lt was recommended that studies be initiated on the health effects of air pollutants, on the relationship of air pollution to weather phenomena, on the evaluation of air cleansing procedures, and the extension of medical intelligence in the field of air pollution.
This matter has caused so much concern in the United States of America that more than a dozen bills have been introduced in Congress to meet the problem. In order to induce industry to install equipment to prevent air pollution, a bill was introduced authorizing the American Government to guarantee low-interest loans for the purchase or construction of facilities to cope with this menace. During the debate on this measure it was said that it was useless to spend large sums of money on slum reclamation unless at the same time something was done about “ one of the most important contributory causes of our slums and blighted areas, smoke and air pollution “.
In the past, in our own, country, before the atomic tests were held, air pollution was more a matter of discomfort than a danger to health, but as more and more soot drifts down on the houses, house furnishings and clothing, and with the prevalence of lung cancer;, the people are reacting and demanding that industrial plants should be located away from residential areas, and that councils and governments take measures to abate the nuisance.
The nature and volume of air pollution have changed radically in recent years. The volume of industrial production has more than doubled and trebled, and new types of noxious materials, sometimes hard to identify and often unaccompanied by visible fumes, are escaping into the atmosphere or are being hurled into the atmosphere. Population has become more concentrated in the metropolitan areas that include large sections of heavy industry. Hence the burning of fuel oil to heat houses, hospitals and other buildings, to fire incinerators and to operate motor vehicles adds to the density of the total contamination.
As in the United States of America and Great Britain, air pollution has become a menace in Australia, and is already causing grave concern in Melbourne and other capital cities. The vast open spaces, coupled with the extensive residential sprawl of the metropolis of Melbourne, make it almost impossible to banish industry to the fringe areas. These conditions are common to other big cities throughout Australia. fact, few locations are now available for heavy industry where good transportation facilities, raw materials, power and other economic factors justify the moving of an industry into an undeveloped area, away from a community. It is true to say that the community rapidly encroaches on the industry.
England has accepted smog as an industrial nuisance of the gravest kind, and has set up the Beaver Committee to bring down a report on its elimination. As far back as 1920 the Newton Committee in England reported: -
There is no doubt that smoke associated with fog has a serious effect on the elderly and the chronic bronchitic in precipitating a bronchial pneumonia. Part of the excess of deaths in the poorer classes may be accounted for by their living in a more heavily smoke polluted atmosphere.
The Newton Committee was also of the opinion that air pollution was, to a great degree, the cause of lung cancer, the incidence of which they found to be much higher in towns, and particularly the smokier towns, than in the rural areas. In 1953, the damage to property from air pollution in England was estimated at £150,000,000 a year. Add to this the damage to health, and the wastage of fuel, and the national and economic loss is staggering. Investigations revealed that even in the cleaner rural areas in England systematic measurements of deposits from pollution showed a fall-out of four tons a month. In towns and industrial centres the average tonnage is 75 a month, and it is estimated that every year 2,400,000 tons of smoke go into the British air. Half of this is from open domestic fires, one third from industrial chimneys, and the rest from railway engines and electricity generating stations.
It is interesting to note that, arising out of the investigations to which I have just referred, legislation came into force in Great Britain at the beginning of this year giving local authorities power to create zones in which the emission of smoke from buildings can be curtailed or banned. This act, known as the Clean Air Act of 1956, aims to eliminate the worst of the smog in ten to fifteen years. The part of the act that came into force with the new year gives local authorities power to ensure that all new furnaces installed, apart from domestic boilers, burn smokeless fuel, and to control the height of all new industrial chimneys. But the most important part of the Clean Air Act, banning the emission of smoke, grit and dust from industrial chimneys, will noi come into force until early next year.
In the United States, it is estimated that the loss to the nation annually from air pollution amounts to one and a half billion dollars, in the Los Angeles oil refinery area smog is considered a continuing plague, and the California Air Pollution Foundation Commission states that it will cost 100,000,000 dollars to eliminate it. It is interesting to note that in an editorial research report to an air pollution congress in the United States of America, it wa< stated that installation of air pollution equipment in one oil refining district would result in the recovery from sour gases of 1,000 ions of sulphur daily. This’ equipment would also reduce by 2,000 tons a day the volume of sulphur dioxide going into the atmosphere. This statement shows also the horrifying fact that, in recent years, smog has demonstrated its power to kill. In October, 1948, one-half of the 7.000 inhabitants of the City of Donora, in the United States of America, suffered acute illness, and 21 of them died. In London, in 1952, smog, with a heavy ground-level concentration over three days, was responsible for the death of 3,000 people over and above the normal mortality rate for the same period.
In my opinion, it is therefore necessary that the Government should bring down legislation to combat this menace. It is urgently essential that money should be provided for research in this field, and also that inducements such as those offered in the United States of America be extended to industries in Australia to enable them to install grit and fume arresting appliances. In fact, the matter is one of such vital importance that all industries should be compelled to install such appliances. Admittedly, there are ordinances in operation in some cities and municipalities, but they are, at the very best, limited, and it is far beyond the resources of local government to enforce them. Municipal budgets could never meet the cost of erection and maintenance of the scientific laboratories that are necessary for the sampling and analysing of air.
One cannot deny that industry demands power in enormous quantities. Power generation, for the most part, requires the burning of fuels, and it is no exaggeration to say that the volume of smoke from millions of tons of combustible products which burn all over Australia staggers the imagination. When climatic conditions and radio-activity conspire with this effluent, is it any wonder that the public demands action to abate the nuisance? In the City of Sydney, a scientist is permanently employed testing the incidence of smog, because it is such a menace to public health in that city. In Brisbane, also, there is a growing apprehension of this menace, with its attendant physical disaster and smog sickness. In Newcastle, New South Wales, it is estimated that 500 tons of soot fall on each square mile cnr?: “””” rapid residential and industrial growth is resulting in increased pollution of the atmosphere. The discharge from thousands of industrial smoke-stacks and household chimneys and incinerators, coupled with the discharge of petroleum gases from motor vehicles, makes air pollution a vile menace which must be tackled on a national scale.
Measured in terms of economics, the cost of air pollution to Australia must be tremendous, especially when one considers corrosion of structural metals, discolouration of paint, soiling of buildings and wearing apparel, damage to foliage and crops, and devaluation of real property. The most dangerous element in this pollution is sulphur dioxide, millions of tons of which are being poured into the atmosphere annually throughout the universe. Add to all of this the very real danger of radio-active contamination and it presents a fearsome prospect to any community. It bears a death threat for individuals and the possibility of doing irreparable physical damage to the human race as a whole.
In the Latrobe valley, which is the main coal-production centre of Victoria, dust precipitation is considered to be the heaviest in the world. This precipitation is due to the incomplete combustion of coal, which scientists all over the world blame for the terrific increase of lung cancer. This prompts me to say that air pollution is not confined to the outdoors; it is also prevalent inside the factories, as is shown in a report headed “ Dust Hazard in Industry “, from which I now read -
The danger of dust in industry has been exposed by an extensive X-ray survey of 3,800 Victorian workers in dusty trades. The investigation disclosed 360 cases of serious lung diseases, mainly silicosis and asbestosis, which “ turn young men into old “. Results of the survey, conducted by the industrial hygiene division of the State Health Department, are described by Dr. D. L. G. Thomas in the latest issue of the “ Australian Medical Journal “. Many of those found suffering from the diseases were already grossly disabled, and others, in whom the condition was less advanced, were suffering from shortness of breath. Dr. Thomas said most of the cases had been unsuspected. Before the survey the number of cases known to the division was 522, comprising 343 among miners and 179 in industry. The X-ray survey brought the number to 1,126, with 587 in miners and 539 in industry. “No doubt there are many more cases, either symptomless or undiagnosed “, he added.
I wish to refer now to nuclear radiation. The statement that I have made concerning the effects of air pollution and dust in industry should cause us to consider most gravely the effects of industrial pollution and nuclear radiation and the fall-out of radio-active strontium 90, which can be active for 30 years. It can have terrible effects on the human body and, indeed, on plant life, drinking water, crops and soil.
This radioactive strontium is so easily absorbed and stored in the body that it gives rise to bone tumours, aplastic anaemia and leukaemia, and it can have disastrous genetic effects. In support of this statement, I read from a report by Sir Ernest Rock Carling, consultant adviser to the British Home Office and the Ministries of Health and Supply -
The list of uses for radio-active sources in ‘ industry lengthened month by month; this meant that more and more people were being brought within its range. Genetic scientists feared a deterioration of the average intelligence, an increase in mental disorder, and a considerable increase in the financial burden that would fall upon the healthy in maintaining the unhealthy in hospitals. It was surely obvious that mankind should strive to minimise any and every source of radiation. There must be provision for educating every person in whom the radiation hazard had existed. All potential parents ought to take the utmost care lo avoid the accumulation of the smallest dose of radiation lest thenchildren pay the penalty.
Taking this question further, let me read Statements of General James Gavin, Chief of Army Research and Development in the United States of America, when giving evidence before the Symington Senate Committee. General Gavin was asked -
If we got into a nuclear war and our strategic air force made an assault in force against Russia with nuclear weapons so that the weapons exploded in a way where the prevailing winds would carry them south-east over Russia, what would be the effect in the way of death?
He replied -
Current planning estimates run on the order of several hundred million deaths. That would be either way depending which way the wind blew. If the wind blew to the south-east they would be mostly in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, although they would extend into the Japanese and perhaps into the Philippines area. If the wind blew the other way they would extend well back into Western Europe.
General Gavin’s statement bears out the finding of the committee, which read -
Given a sufficient number of bombs, no part of the world would escape exposure to biologically significant levels of radiation. To a greater or less degree, a legacy of genetic damage would be incurred, .and an increased incidence of delayed effects on the individual would probably be induced.
Dr. Edith Summerskill, in a debate on this subject in the House of Commons in July, 1956, said-
Apparently only the wind will determine whether the same bomb will destroy an enemy or an ally or damage them genetically. As the wind is not confined to frontiers, the lethal fall-out which it carries may affect both ally and -enemy equally. In view of some of the statements which aic reaching us, one wonders whether the soldiers are determined to ignore the advice of the scientists until it is too late. It is of paramount importance not to increase the scale of the tests, h is emphasized throughout the report that the scale of the tests determines the danger in the future. In the light of all that, it seems there can only be one answer: control of these tests with The object of eventual abolition must be our aim. There must be no delay. To fail to do so is to fail in our duty to the people of the world and to posterity.
Add to all this the concern that is arising all over the world due to air pollution and radio-activity, and the established fact thai it can cause cancer of the lungs and other physical defects. I am of the opinion that the time has come when the people are looking to the social sciences for assistance in this matter, .because of its urgency to the community from a public health point of view. When we consider the hopeless fight facing municipalities in trying to control this menace, which is not only taking toll of many human lives but is also costing the citizens of this nation thousands of pounds in repairs to their homes, and is also costing thousands of pounds in the maintenance of factories and offices, public utilities, bridges and the like, we can only assume that this has become a national responsibility and a duty that the Federal Government can do longer fail to recognize.
I have been prompted to raise this issue. Mr. Deputy Speaker, because of the conditions that exist in the big industrial electorate that I represent, and also because of the reply I received from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who is the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, to a question that I asked in the House on 2nd October last year. My question was -
As scientists in most of the countries of the world are becoming more deeply concerned every day at the ever-increasing incidence of lung cancer and deaths due to smog, particularly in industrial areas, will the Minister give serious consideration to setting up a special bureau within the research division of the Commonwealth Scientific .and Industrial Research Organization to investigate methods of controlling this deadly menace, which is becoming so prevalent in the community, especially in heavily industrialized areas?
The answer I received was -
As T understand the purport of the honorable gentleman’s question, the matter he has mentioned comes within the field of medical research. That is not one of the primary or even the secondary objectives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. However, I shall certainly remit the question to my friend and colleague, the Minister for Health, and discuss it with him to see whether he has any constructive suggestions to make.
I conclude by saying that the nation can no longer afford such an apathetic approach to such vital questions. The time has come for action on the menace of air pollution and smog, and for the abolition of atomic weapon tests and warfare. The facts and statements’! have presented to the House should convince all right-thinking persons in Australia of the validity of my contentions and of my demand for action - urgent action - by the Federal Government on this matter, which is so vital to mankind, and which has become so evident only since atomic tests have been conducted. The concern that I have expressed was shared, with a great deal of realism, by President Eisenhower and Mr. MacMillan during their recent conference at Bermuda.
.- We have had a very interesting dissertation on smog from the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor). It is my intention to remove some of the smog from the thinking of the members of the Opposition in relation to the important question of housing. I want, quite definitely and unequivocally, to say to the House that I support the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) in the House last Thursday. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has referred to them this afternoon, and I hope to show that honorable member, in the course of a few comments, that some of the statements he made do not accord with the facts of the housing problem. The discussion on housing in Queensland was begun by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) last Thursday, when he denied that the sum of £2,750,000 devoted to the Queensland Housing Commission this year was the amount that the Queensland Government requested at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council. He said that the -Queensland Government had, in fact, asked for an amount of £3,040,000.
– That is true.
– It may be, but I intend to explain this matter in my own way, and I require no assistance from the honorable member for Brisbane on it. When the Premiers met with the representatives of the
Commonwealth recently they requested the Commonwealth to make available to State loan works programmes an amount of £210,000,000, including an amount for housing. It has been usual, in recent years, for the Premiers to ask for an amount considerably higher than that which the Commonwealth is prepared to give. The Commonwealth was not prepared to give the amount requested for the simple reason - and I do not want to go into all the details of this - that the loan market will nol supply all the money sought, some oi which, therefore, would have to come from funds supplied by the Commonwealth from its receipts of revenue. In the current year the Commonwealth restricted the amount to £190,000,000, which was the same as the amount provided, or guaranteed, by the Commonwealth in the previous year. The Premiers then went on to consider the distribution of this amount, and they decided that the amount to be provided for housing would be £32,150,000, which compares with an amount of £33,200,000 that they allocated to housing in the previous year. Therefore, the Premiers sought an overall reduction, throughout Australia, of £1,050,000 for the purposes of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in this year, knowing full well that the new agreement to be produced by the Commonwealth would provide that 20 per cent, of the money to be made available for housing was to go to building societies. As a result, the Queensland Government asked for £290,000 less than the £3,040,000 for which it had asked in the first place.
– What did the Minister for National Development say in answer to a question asked by a member of this House?
– I do not mind what the Minister said. I am telling the honorable member the facts as given to me by the Treasurer, who should know them, as he was chairman of the meeting of the Loan Council. I say quite definitely that there has been gross mismanagement of the housing situation in Queensland.
– Another knocker!
– The honorable member says “Another knocker”. Let me indicate the expenditure by the Queensland Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement over the last five years. In 1953, the amount spent was £5,200,000. lt dropped in the following year to £3,700,000, and in the year after that it rose to £5,000,000. In the succeeding year it receded to £4,700,000, and this year it has dropped to a fraction over £3,000,000. If that does not indicate that the Queensland Government has been prepared to sacrifice its housing situation from the point of view of rental homes, I do not know what does. The amount that is made available this year is made up in a certain way, and I think this should be mentioned because of the figures that have been given in the House in this debate. The balance at the beginning of July last was £465,000. The proportion from the £2,750,000 available to the Queensland Housing Commission for rental homes is £2,200,000. Additionally, there is available from the Commonwealth for housing ex-servicemen £110,000. The amount from the allocation for building societies is £164,000, and there is also an amount of about £100,000 which represents repayments in relation to homes already sold in previous periods - an amount that is never mentioned by Mr, McCathie or anybody else on the Labour side as available to the State Government for building in this particular year. That gives a total of just over £3,000,000 for the current year.
So we come to the situation where the Queensland Government, in February, makes a demand for £278,000. It is remarkable that this amount of £278,000 is only £12,000 short of the reduced amount that the Queensland Government asked for when it met with representatives of the Commonwealth and the other States and decided the total amount that the States wanted for housing in this year. But the information which has been given does noi disclose an additional fact. I have been approached by members of the Queensland Merchants Association. The Queensland Housing Commission has said to contractors in Brisbane, “ We cannot pay you until July”. In turn the contractors have gone to the merchants and said, “ We cannot pay you until July”. Therefore, there has not been a complete disclosure by the Queensland Housing Minister of the seriousness of the problem in Queensland at the present time.
There is a general belief that information is usually gained from the press, but with two other Queensland members, and three representatives of the workers who were about to become unemployed, I went last week to see Mr. McCathie. Therefore, he had every opportunity to disclose to us the actual situation in Queensland. The facts which I have mentioned were not disclosed. This matter is the responsibility of the State Government. I said to Mr. McCathie, “ lt seems a great pity that you have not found out the seriousness of your situation until the end of February and have been able to give the men only about eight days’ notice of your intention to dismiss them. Surely you could have found out how the situation was developing last November or December, so that these men could have had at least a month in which to make other arrangements for employment “. For this reason, I put the blame entirely on the Queensland Government, and not even the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) or the1 honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) can deny the truth of what I have said. Nor can they genuinely deny that the blame must be laid upon the Queensland Government. 1 want now to say one or two things in relation to housing in another context. It seems strange to me that although the Labour party decided at a conference in Brisbane only a fortnight ago to do more to attract the immigrant vote, its representatives should come here and immediately try to knock the immigrant. How can they say on the one hand, “ We are going to make an appeal for the votes of immigrants “ and, on the other, “ Cut your immigration programme because of its effect on the housing problem “. I do not understand that line of thought. Immigrants have built more houses than they have occupied. In June. 1947, Australia had a population of 7,500,000. The housing shortage was then 250,000 homes. In June, 1956, the population was 9,500.000 and the shortage of homes was 1 1 5,000. Therefore, in the intervening nine years, we provided homes for the population increase and reduced the backlog, as at 1947, by 135,000 dwellings. In my opinion selective immigration has made a substantial contribution to this. We have not, except just after the war, when displaced persons had to be catered for, haphazardly brought people to this country. Immigrants have been selected with a view to the contribution they could make to the economy of Australia, especially by way of home-building and industrial construction.
Of the 90,000 workers employed in the building industry, about 30,000, or one-third, are immigrants. In fact, we have brought to Australia about 46,000 immigrants for -the building industry. I do not suggest that they are all engaged in the building industry, but I consider it reasonable to suggest that at least 30,000 are. If that is so, I think we may credit them with producing onethird of the total homes built in the postwar period - 669,000 houses and flats. In looking at the number of immigrants who are actually occupying homes, we must pay special attention to those who are at present in hostels, and those who are single - and I may use as an illustration the men brought here to harvest cane in Queensland - and are living in barracks provided by their employers. There are also those who are living in boarding houses and with relatives. 7t is reasonable to say that immigrants have increased the demand for homes by no more than 170,000 or 180,000. That being so, they have contributed no less than 40,000 or 50,000 homes towards meeting the needs of native-born Australians. This is undoubtedly confirmed by the situation which we find in two States. Western Australia, which has received a greater percentage of immigrants than any other State, has the best housing position in Australia. On the other hand, New South Wales, which has received the lowest percentage, has the greatest housing problem. That is a fair indication that immigrants make a substantial contribution to the building programme.
They have also helped substantially in the production of the materials which go into the homes. It may not be generally realized that one brick in every three manufactured in Australia is produced by immigrant labour; that immigrants produce sufficient fibro to sheathe one fibro house in every two; and the plaster required to line one house in every four. They also provide timber for almost one house in four. One could continue to give such illustrations. I do not intend to quote figures that I have given to the House previously, but steel and other basic industries provide even more pointed illustrations. Electricity supply has increased substantially over the last few years. One must give a good deal of the credit to immigrants brought in to deal with this problem especially.
The reference in the censure motion to immigration is an attempt to make it a scapegoat, though the blame properly lies elsewhere. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) have been almost alone in taking up the cudgels of the Leader of the Opposition and endeavouring to damn the immigration programme. I believe it was inserted in the motion by the Leader of the Opposition because he, personally, is opposed to the immigration programme. It was not put there by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and I believe that it did not receive the support of the vast majority of the members of the Opposition who sit behind their leader.
I say that the Labour party has failed dismally in this attack on the immigration programme, particularly as it relates to the housing problem - if we have one in Australia at the present time. I say again, as I said at the beginning, that the immigrants have contributed to the construction of many more homes than they themselves have occupied. 1 believe that they have contributed to the extent of no less than 40,000 to 50,000 homes for native-born Australian people over and above the normal requirements year by year.
.- I am pleased to follow the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) in his reckless ramblings - in his desperate endeavour to boost the fast-flagging morale of his colleague, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), lt will be appreciated that, a short time ago in this House, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) dealt very effectively with the honorable member for Lilley. Of course, ii is impossible for any one to detract from the enormous job which has been accomplished by the housing commissions in Queensland and New South Wales. The answer to the honorable member for Petrie is probably best represented by the attitude of the various State Ministers for Housings, which was demonstrated very clearly only a couple of days ago in Melbourne when the Ministers met to consider the housing problem.
T point out to the honorable member for Petrie - and also to the honorable member for Lilley, who has been so demoralized so far as his attack on the Queensland Government is concerned - that the following article, appeared after the gathering of the various housing ministers: -
Australia’s home-building industry would disintegrate unless the Commonwealth made more money available, the Victorian. Housing Minister (Mr. Petty) said to-day.
Mr. Petty, a Liberal Minister, is. not accustomed to support the policies of the Australian Labour party, nor to criticize this Government. The article continued -
Even a few more months with insufficient work would seriously harm the industry, he said. The industry could deteriorate so much that it would take five years to regain its present production standards.
The article went on to say that a- statement issued on behalf of all Ministers, released after the conference, said -
Senator Spooner was personally” invited to be present at the Housing Ministers’ Conference. He failed to attend any session.
The Minister is notoriously inclined to go on his own way and he is most reluctant to attend, sessions of conferences, convened to discuss these matters. Some time ago, I asked him to receive a deputation in relation to the retrenchment of a large number of building workers from our one and only reactor project, at Lucas Heights, but many weeks went by before I was able to extract any kind of a reply from the Minister. He likes to adopt a Greta Garbo attitude - he wants to be alone. This statement said that he was invited to be present at the housing Ministers’ conference, but that he failed to attend. The article continued -
Ministers remained in Melbourne until today for the specific object of giving him the opportunity of being present, when Federal Parliament was not sitting.
They did everything to suit the Minister’s convenience. Surely they, as responsible people, are entitled to some consideration from the Minister, whose job it is to assist housing Ministers in their great endeavours. The article went on -
It is very easy for Senator Spooner to attack responsible State Ministers, but everyone in Australia knows that State Governments are dependent for finance for housing, as well as for all other services, on money made available by the Commonwealth either directly as loans and grants, or through release of bank credit. The six State Ministers, representing Governments of varying political outlook, were unanimous in the decision-, which, they conveyed to the Prime Minister,, and which. Senator Spooner treats in such cavalier fashion.
I am sure that that is a complete answer to- the honorable member for Petrie and the honorable member for Lilley. The Commonwealth- must recognize that, it is responsible for the fact that 400 men were retrenched in Queensland only a few days ago, because of the reduction of the funds made available for housing purposes.
The honorable member for Petrie went on to talk about immigration and he challenged the attitude of the Opposition to this problem. The- Australian Labour party can claim great credit for the fact that it initiated and instigated the greatest immigration programme known to the world. It was justifiably said of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) by the Prime Minister (Mr: Menzies), in his speech the other night, that the honorable member for Melbourne will go down in. history as the man. who initiated, such a wonderful, humane, immigration programme. Of course, the Labour party is interested in the discharge of the great obligation which Australia and all the other countries in the new world have to alleviate the problems which exist in other parts of the world, where the war took such a dreadful toll of the people. Just as we initiated that programme, so we intend to do our utmost to maintain a constant flow of immigrants to Australia, but it is important that the Government should appreciate that Labour’s attitude to immigration is associated with its great determination to ensure that economic stability will prevail in Australia.
It is useless for the Government to continue the present rate of immigration when we know that to import immigrants is to import unemployment, or to import slumhousing conditions. Unless the Government can act in a far more effective fashion in the future than it has done in the past so far as these important, humane considerations are concerned, it will do a great disservice, not only to the immigrants whom it intends to bring to this country, but also to the large number of, so to speak, old Australians who, through the years, have worked desperately hard, particularly through the trade union movement, to establish an Australian standard of living. That standard of living will not be undermined without fierce opposition from the members of the Labour party in this Parliament.
It is wrong, futile and useless for Government spokesmen to say that we on this side of the House are divided on the immigration question. We have set out our view very clearly, unlike the Government parties. There are several Government parties, and there is every indication that in the near future there will be more. As a united Opposition, we are unanimous in our attitude to immigration. An immigration programme was submitted to the Federal Parliamentary Labour party just before the Parliament went into recess. For the education of Government supporters, it would be as well to refer to it now. The preamble to the statement which came before the Federal Parliamentary Labour party, and which was endorsed unanimously, read as follows - labour is disturbed at the decline in the proportion -of new arrivals from the British Isles.
There has been some mention of the attitude of the honorable member for Melbourne. Let it be said that he vigorously supported this programme. The statement continued -
This Executive expresses the gravest concern at the deterioration of the Australian economy which is vitally affecting the nation’s capacity to absorb migrants at a rate consistent with developmental requirements and the welfare of the community.
The Executive draws attention to the policy of the Labour party, which initiated the greatest influx of migrants known to this country. We also draw attention to the financial and economic policies of labour which enable migrants to be absorbed under conditions of full employment. Having regard to the foregoing and the problem of increasing unemployment, we state as follows: -
That migrant intake must be regulated so as not to impose undue strain upon the economy and lay insupportable burdens upon the States.
That immediate attention should be given to the unduly large proportion of semi-skilled and unskilled, migrants, which cannot be readily absorbed into industry.
We warn as to the growing national problem of migrant Australians competing with Australian workers in a situation where full employment is not the policy of the present Federal Government.
There need be no speculation about the Opposition’s attitude to the grave immigration problem. But we consider that immigration is inseparably associated with the censure voiced in the amendment, because there is great need for the Government to examine the immigration intake in the present situation, when the housing problem is so grave. Therefore, it was with considerable gratification that so many old and new Australians last Wednesday evening heard the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) propose the amendment, which constituted a dramatic censure motion. For thousands of old Australians, and many thousands of new Australians, the words, “ The Government is censured “, with which the amendment begins represented some kind of justice and retribution. No doubt this will have to suffice the people until the next elections are held. It was invigorating for people to listen to the attack upon the Government made by the Leader of the Opposition, and for them to appreciate that the Government is not going to get away with its complete disregard of the needs of the Australian people. Many people considered the fantastically absurd pronouncement made by the Prime Minister on 7th March last that adequate funds were available and that shortages of man-power and materials represented the housing bugbear, too irresponsible to be taken seriously. They have since learned that it is the Government’s considered intention to give full effect to the Prime Minister’s negative housing policy, and that as a consequence nothing will be done to alleviate the difficulties of the homeless and end their dilemma. Surely this classic example of the Government’s inability to serve the best interests of .the Australian people will solidify the rock upon which it must ultimately perish.
Apparently, the Prime Minister does not even recognize that a crisis exists in the building industry. On 20th March, he said -
He described the campaign as one of exaggeration.
– He has not been in the House since he spoke on 20th March.
– He has not been in the House since, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) says. The Prime Minister made his speech, and when the honorable member rose to reply most effectively, the right honorable gentleman decided to leave the chamber. He is so unconcerned about the censure to which the amendment gives effect that he has not returned since. The Prime Minister stated that the campaign to which he referred could, of course, be ignored, because it was intemperate advocacy.
Those of us who, during the last recess, took time to examine housing problems, are obsessed by a firm conviction that the Government is failing to serve the best interests of the Australian people. During the recess, 1 spend considerable time investigating the housing problems of people in my electorate, and as a member of the Australian Labour party’s fact-finding committee, which Government supporters were invited to join if they wished, I was able to obtain first-hand information and advice based on the experience of people whose job it is to know something about the building industry. I have been convinced that a human tragedy on a large scale is being perpetrated upon thousands of Australian families, and that as a direct consequence this Government stands indicted and condemned.
The Hughes electorate, which I have the honour to represent, extends from Botany Bay south to Thirroul, on the northern outskirts of Wollongong. This electorate embraces a considerable part of Sydney’s southern perimeter, and includes a number of suburbs in which much development has taken place in recent years. It contains the Sutherland Shire, which is the birthplace of Australia, and in which 1,681 homes were built last year. The rate of development in the shire is second only, to that in the municipality of Bankstown, which is part of the electorate represented by my colleague the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). If the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) were to visit the Sutherland Shire, which is second in New South Wales in the rate of development, they could see in the Royal National Park something like 60 families, in which there are several hundred children, living in primitive conditions in tents, huts, and humpies made out of flattened-out kerosene tins. Many of these people see me about their problems from time to time, but I am unable to do much to help them because the finance available at the present time is so inadequate. In one busy morning during my regular interviewing period at Sutherland, twelve of fifteen people who interviewed me came about housing problems.
I remember clearly the pathetic appeal of one mother who lives with five young children in a one-room shack with an earth floor. This mother of five Australian-born boys and girls was becoming most concerned and agitated at the prospect of spending another winter in the shack, which has no garbage or sanitary services, and no water, gas, or electricity supply, lt lacks all the facilities which the vast majority of the constituents of Kooyong have probably come to take for granted. I was interviewed a fortnight ago by a widow who lives with five children in a caravan the walls of which are made of pressed-wood sheets. The ages of the children range from 21 to 11 years. The family is in. a tragic situation, which gives the lie direct to the Prime Minister’s contention that there is no crisis in the building industry. This mother had been driven to desperation by the condition of her elevenyearold son who had been discharged from hospital only the day before after treatment for glandular fever. She will be forced to spend another winter in the caravan, which is entirely lacking in amenities, hoping desperately that more housing funds will be provided and that her position will be alleviated. Her fruitless quest for housing finance gives the lie direct to any one who endeavours to detract from the censure to which the amendment gives effect.
The sub-standard housing conditions evident in my electorate can hardly be justified in the light of the fact that in the last nine years 5,379 service stations have been built in Australia. This represents 45 per cent, more than the number constructed in the preceding nine years, and I believe that it indicates the scale of values adopted by this Government and demonstrates that it prefers to give priority to the Liberal citadel of profit-making and excessive profiteering rather than to the welfare of human beings. In new areas around the perimeters of large capital cities and provincial cities where young families must necessarily make their homes, the incidence of inferior and substandard accommodation is unprecedently high. In my electorate, which, as I have mentioned, is developing rapidly, many families reside in beautiful homes which, though perhaps not up to the standard of those in staunch Liberal areas, leave nothing to be desired, but many thousands of young Australian couples are not in this happy position. I should know something of their problems, because I experienced them myself not very long ago. I had to build my house the hard way. First, I had to join a long queue in the desperate fight for money. In my electorate, which is so typical of many on the outskirts of large capital cities, I see daily many people who have no prospect of obtaining finance and having a builder proceed methodically and economically with the construction of a home. Instead, they have first to buy a block of land, which may cost £800. They have then to construct a garage on the block, and in the process, they may spend perhaps £150 on prime cost items - commonly known as p.c. items - such as a stove and a bath, in the hope of using them later in the house they intend to build. They probably spend about £200 on furniture. Their total asset is then perhaps £1,200, but when they look for finance for the house their efforts are of no avail, and the asset they have in the property is of no help. It is incredible that this Government should not only create that state of affairs but also that it should be prepared to condone it. It is an incredible and fascinating situation. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) has been talking about immigration. When all is said and done, our best immigrants are Australianborn boys and girls, but there is no incentive for young couples these days to have large families. The wealth of young families is in their capacity to use their hands. They have a future against which we - can surely stake some of the Commonwealth Government’s surplus for the express purpose of enabling them to get on with the job of building their homes.
The Labour party’s fact-finding committee was a tremendous revelation. It is true that we had evidence from trade union representatives. The Government seems to take the view that to receive any guidance from the trade union movement is to court ill repute. But in addition to trade union representatives the committee on housing, which sat in Sydney under the leadership of the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), was able to hear a large number of Liberals, who spontaneously came forward to give evidence. We had not only employee representatives but also employer representatives and they were all equally enthusiastic in their endeavour to avail themselves of this opportunity to condemn the Government for its complete offhandedness.
The federal secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union gave evidence and pointed out that in the building industry to-day there were 12 per cent, to 15 per cent, unemployed. In 1951 he said we had reached the peak employment period when 126,483 workers were employed, but by September, 1956, the figure had dropped by 5,572, so that to-day we only had in the building industry 120,911 employees. This is a most regrettable circumstance, because there has been an increase in the population over that period. Rather than a decline in the home-building force, we could justifiably have expected an expansion. On top of those figures we must have regard to the fact that the £23,000,000 munitions factory under construction at St. Mary’s has absorbed some 4,400 building employees. In the not-far-distant future, even having regard to the existing unemployment rate, those 4,400 employees will be thrown onto the industrial scrap heap. We are becoming very concerned as a Labour Opposition about the future of these men.
Let us look at some of the figures associated with housing. Let us look at the number of houses under construction today, compared with the last five years. These figures are official and come from the Commonwealth Statistician. They are contained in the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “’ and are vital. They show that in 1950-51 there were 80,000 homes under construction. In 1951-52 there were 82.000; in 1952-53 there were 69,000; in 1953-54 there were 59,000 and a few hundred; in 1954-55 there were 65,000; in 1955-56 the figure fell alarmingly to 60,687, and for the quarter ended December, 1956. it is estimated by the Commonwealth Statistician that the figure dropped to 60,062 houses’ under construction - a drop of some 20,000 in the five-year period.
Now let us look at the value of buildings other than houses. In 1950-51 the figure was £91,000,000 worth. In 1951-52 it was £125.000,000; in 1952-53 it was £115,000.000; in 1953-54 it was £133,000.000; in 1954-55 it was £171,000,000, and in 1955-56 it was £220.000,000. Those figures indicate that this Government is placing emphasis on the things which are least important to the welfare of the Australian people. For the quarter ended September, 1956, the figure had risen to £233,897,000, while the value of houses under construction had risen by only £10,000,000 at the end of the five-year period. Of course, there is inflation. The £1 is worth 6s. 8d. or 7s., so the real, value of the houses being built has deteriorated to a very marked degree.
How many houses are needed in Australia to-day? If we look, at the report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission, which accepted the housing occupancy rate of 3.52 persons per dwelling, we get a basis for calculation. The present population is 9,427,000. On the basis of the commission’s report we should have 2,678.000 houses. In 1945 we had 1,800,000 dwellings.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I think that everybody in the House will agree that although the Opposition did not intend it this way, its amendment to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply has been valuable in that it has promoted an interesting and informative debate on a subject of great national importance. I believe that from both sides of the House we have heard some good speeches. Not all the speeches have been good, but we have heard some good ones, which have helped to inform the Austraiian public on the matter of housing in this country. I would be the first to agree, and I think all my colleagues would, too, that the housing situation is a national problem.
The Department of National Development quite recently published a report which has been commended highly in this Parliament - at any rate I have heard it commended in the Senate by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) - as an unbiased and informative document. That report tells us that something like 105,000 houses are needed in Australia at the present time in order that all families in this country may have homes of their own of an acceptable standard. The compilers of the report have, they admit, pitched their standard pretty high, but, nevertheless, for the purpose of our discussion to-day, I would like to accept the position that we need 105,000 houses.
– One hundred and fifteen thousand, houses.
– One hundred and five thousand. I am speaking of the report of the Department, of National Development, which places the figure at 105,000 as of this date. I- imagine that human beings will always demand better and better living conditions, but that does not enter into this housing question. We are concerned with what we would hope to be built and occupied in Australia as a reasonable standard for the people-. Our housing problem arose, as we ail know, because of the cessation of building activity during the war years. Thus extra demands were made for housing in this country after the war. It is worth noting that whereas eight or nine years ago, shortly before this Government came into power; the figure was 250,000 houses needed, it has now been reduced under this Government to- 105,000. That has not all been done by the Government. The reduction has been brought about to a very large measure by the people of Australia exercising a bit of initiative, making sacrifices, and working hard to ensure that they get a house for themselves according to the standard of their requirements. It has been done under a government which has provided conditions to enable it to be done. In broad terms, that is the answer given by the Government - and I hope to develop it in a moment on behalf of the Government- - to -the censure motion which charges it with- not having a national housing policy.
I agree straight away that a shortage of houses is a great social problem. It produces irritation and frustration - even personal tragedy, and damage to family life. AH of us in this House - I imagine that nobody would disagree - are completely aware of this problem, completely sympathetic towards those who are suffering under it and determined, within the limits of our power, to alleviate their difficulties as soon as possible. But housing is not the only problem. If it were the only problem, we could solve it immediately and without difficulty. This country - a young, developing country with limited resources and with great demands made upon those resources - is beset on every hand by problems similar to the problem of housing.
– If the Government had not built the St. Mary’s project, plenty of houses could have been built.
– We have, for instance, the problem of pensions. Everybody would like to be able to give the aged, the sick and the poor better State support, but that is a problem. Are we to concentrate all our resources upon suddenly solving the housing problem and neglect the pensioner? Are we to concentrate, our resources upon housing and neglect the health and hospital needs of the community? Are we to concentrate all our resources upon housing and one or two other problems and neglect the needs of education? Everybody knows that those are also problems. They have to be fitted into the framework of our national life and solved gradually, as we can solve them. An interjection a moment ago referred to defence. Defence also creates an economic and financial problem.
– What use will the St. Mary’s project be?
– Are we not to have this country adequately equipped for defence? 1 know what the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would say. He would leave this country wide open to people whom, 1 rather strongly suspect, he favours more than he favours many fellow Australians. Nevertheless,, defence is a problem.
We must tackle what is undoubtedly a problem for the nation with due regard to the other calls upon our resources. One other aspect must be considered, and that is that the Commonwealth, in dealing with these problems, and with the problem of housing in particular, must use the tools that are to its hands. Though it is true that, in the financial sense, the Commonwealth has adequate power to give assistance for housing, it is an indirect power. It is given through a section of the Constitution which enables the Commonwealth to grant money to the States upon conditions. But so far as direct power is concerned - and that, I take it, is what is aimed at in -the amendment to the motion - outside our own territories, repatriation, defence and matters of that sort, the Government does not possess direct constitutional power. That is why our predecessors in initiating the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and we in following it, have had to use the indirect financial method of approach.
What have we done? I shall outline what we have done, and in doing so I shall answer the charge that the Government has no national housing policy. First, apart from our obligations to our territories, we have a record that has never been equalled in the sphere of war service homes, which is a matter of direct legislative responsibility. In the past seven years, about £190,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money has been supplied by the Commonwealth to build 91.000- homes. That is a remarkable figure. Since the war, on war service homes and in finance under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth, on behalf of the Australian taxpayer, has supplied no less than £500,000,000 for housing. Yet it is said that this Government has no housing policy. It is no wonder that we are proud to point to these things! My colleague, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), have pointed out that, compared with the great United States of America - I might say the fabulous United States - and also with the United Kingdom, last year this country had the highest rate of home building. Of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, Australia came first. At the same time, in that year we had the lowest number of persons occupying each home unit.
– What is the difference in the respective population increases?
– This is per capita. It has no regard to the size of the United States compared with the size of this country. It is a comparable figure. Turning to the amount of finance supplied, I shall give comparisons between 1949, the last year of Labour’s term of office, and 1956, the last complete year of this Government’s term of office. In 1949, tax reimbursements were £48,600.000. In 1956 we paid to the States £157,000.000. In 1949, no loan support was given by the Chifley Government; last year we gave £91,000,000 of loan support to the States.
– We gave the States the whole of the loan market.
– Yes, we allowed them the whole of the loan market. We stayed out of the market. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, in 1949, £14,500,000 was allowed to the States by the Chifley Government; in 1956, we allowed £33,200,000. Under the war service homes scheme, in 1949, £8,600,000 was allowed by the Chifley Government; in 1956, £30,000,000 was allowed by the Menzies Government. Figures are not everything. Nobody would suggest that they are everything, but the allegation has been made that we have no housing policy. After all, when £500,000,000 has been invested in housing at the instance of the Commonwealth during the past eight or nine years - almost all of it under this Government - how can it be said that there is no housing policy?
I shall move from what the Commonwealth has done. It is a formidable record and one which obviously causes difficulty in the minds of honorable gentlemen opposite, as their interjections show. What have the States done? As I pointed out, this is obviously a matter of joint concern. We live under a federal constitution. We live under a constitution in which the great bulk of the power in matters of housing is in the hands of the States, not the Commonwealth. In this matter of State as well as Federal concern, we find that the records of the States vary quite dramatically. I shall take Western Australia as an illustration. Since 1947, there has been a 73 per cent, improvement in overtaking the housing lag in that State. Western Australia, by the way, has had by far the largest population increase of any State, and in this year of grace Western Australia has reduced the housing lag to the entirely manageable position in which only 4,000 houses are needed.
When we turn to my own State of New South Wales, which has had by far the smallest population increase in the relevant period, there has been an improvement of only 43 per cent, in the housing position, and there is at present in New South Wales a shortage of 60,000 houses, more than twice the shortage existing in any other State in the Commonwealth. It is little wonder that this controversy that has been going on lately has had its root in the State of New South Wales. Far from this being a matter of Commonwealth responsibility - although this Government has done its best - if there must be criticism about the housing lag in New South Wales, then the blame lies entirely at the door of the Cahill Labour Government of New South Wales. It is due mainly to two causes. The first is the quite grotesque and, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, scandalously high cost of building in New South Wales. It was pointed out in one press statement this morning that rail freights for timber from Grafton to Sydney have increased by 500 per cent, since 1947. It now costs more to bring timber from Grafton to Sydney than from Singapore to Sydney. At the same time royalties on timber in New South Wales have increased by 625 per cent. That is one cause of the housing lag in New South Wales, and that obviously is a matter of State concern. The second cause is the matter of tenancy control, which has been mentioned in this House again and again. I say only this about it: Before 1955, every dwelling house in New South Wales was subject to a form of tenancy control under which, with certain exceptions applying to only a few protected persons who are a diminishing class and have almost disappeared, one could not get a tenant out of a house in New South Wales unless one could find him alternative accommodation.
– What is wrong with that?
– What is wrong with it? The Cahill Government itself has recently acknowledged that it is scandalously wrong, and has changed the law with respect to houses built after 1 954. Furthermore, when it comes to fixing rents in New South Wales, with respect to houses built before 1955 rents were fixed on the basis of 1939 valuations. There were some adjustments, but every fair-minded person will admit that, in fact, the rental returns to landlords in New South Wales whose houses have been occupied since before 1955 are unfair and inadequate. In fact, I had the opportunity on Sunday night of watching on television a session featuring Mr. Cahill, the Premier of New South Wales. The session is known as “ Meet the Press “. Mr. Cahill was bombarded with a series of questions about this very matter of tenancy and rent control, and he ended up by admitting that these controls were causing very great hardship to a very great number of citizens in New South Wales. Those were his words, as nearly as I can remember them. He said that his Government was going to have another look at it. Indeed, it had a look at it before, because recently it changed the Landlord and Tenant Act to provide that with respect to any house which was let or built after the beginning of 1955, it is possible for the landlord to exclude the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act to which 1 have referred. You can now let your house for any rent you like, so long as the tenant consents. You can now eject your tenant by giving him 30 days’ notice, or some other appropriate amount of notice. If anything were needed to prove that the original tenancy arrangements operative prior to 1955 were unfair, it is the fact that the State government changed the law in that year. As a result, however, we now have the grotesque and unfair situation in which houses rented before 1955 are subject to rigid tenancy control, under which one cannot eject one’s tenant except by almost an act of God, while houses rented since 1954 can be entirely excluded from tenancy control and from the restrictions on the right of ejectment.
So there has been built up in New South Wales, over the last five or ten years, a most bitter resentment in the hearts of thousands of people who have been subjected to these unfair conditions. It is of no use to lock the door after the horse has bolted, because the damage has been done. The psychological condition has been created in which landlords and would-be landlords, having been bitten once, are now twice shy. Therefore, we have the situation in my State in which there is an almost complete cessation of building for investment, and a very strong reluctance on the part of persons who would otherwise be able to do so to let their houses to tenants. They say, “ Although the law is now all right, who is to say that the old unfair provisions will not be reverted to “? It will take a long time to live that down and to create trust and confidence in the community.
The point that I am making is that at the door of the Cahill Government must be laid responsibility, at least in part, “and indeed in large measure, for a state of affairs which has had the result of denying houses to people who could otherwise get them. However, persons to whom I have spoken about this matter have said, “ We will admit that the New South Wales Government must take its share of responsibility, but what about the Commonwealth Government? What about its action in giving directions to the banks and restricting credit for homes “? That is just not true - and I speak as a member of the Government when
I say two things. First, no directive has ever been given by the central bank to the private banks about housing loans. That is point number one. Secondly, there is nothing in current credit policy restricting the bank’s powers to provide finance for housing within the limits of their investible funds. As proof of that statement, we have the fact that in Western Australia the housing problem has virtually been solved. Any instructions given to the banks are Australiawide, and so, if such instructions had been given, they would obviously be reflected in bad conditions in Western Australia corresponding to the bad conditions in New South Wales. The fact is that there is nothing in credit policy restricting lending by the banks, and no such directions have been given. Everybody knows that for years there has been in operation a general request to the banks to exercise caution in lending which would tend to promote inflation, but no directive has been given which could be interpreted as restricting the private banks in lending for housing.
Quite obviously, there has been a temporary slowing down of the rate at which we are overtaking the housing lag, and this has been due to two or three causes. The first is the high building costs to which I referred some time ago, which have been contributed to very largely in my own State by State legislation. You just cannot justify a situation in which men lay bricks at the rate of 200 or 300 a day, and, as we all know, go away in the week-end and lay them at the rate of 800 to 1,000 a day for their own purposes. This is a form of industrial insanity which is seriously damaging the housing programme. The second cause is that there has been a delay in New South Wales in the ratification of the last housing agreement which was made between the Commonwealth and the States. In that agreement, it may be remembered, there was a provision for 20 per cent, of moneys allocated to the States to be reallocated to co-operative building societies. Owing partly to the lag in ratification there was, therefore, a delay before the cooperatives got control of that money. That has reflected itself in a slowing down of housing finance. There is no reason to suppose that that should not now move forward; but if there is to be a criticism to the effect that finance is not becoming available from that quarter, such criticism must again be laid at the door of the Government which took its time about ratifying the agreement.
Of course, another factor, which is a normal enough one, is that when the new savings banks were created a great deal of money flowed into them, some of which would otherwise have gone into the Commonwealth Bank. To that extent, the Commonwealth Bank was inhibited in increasing further the amount of its loans. But that also is about to be rectified.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- This afternoon the Address-in-Reply debate has revolved round the addendum moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and we have been treated to a pattern of evasions by four successive Government supporters. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), coming from New South Wales, said that the housing position was the fault of the New South Wales Government. He was followed in the same excuse by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and by no less a personage than the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) changed the theme slightly by saying, since he came from Queensland, that the housing crisis was due to the action of the Queensland Government. There were certain modifications of their favourite theme in each case. The honorable member for Lawson said that the worst feature of the activities of the New South Wales Government in respect of housing was its perpetuation of the Landlord and Tenant Act. He apparently is not as abreast of the law as is the Minister for Supply, who knows that in the last two and a quarter years anybody in New South Wales who wished to let a house which had previously not been let, or who wished to erect a house for the purpose of letting it, could do so, quite free of any restriction as to rent or eviction imposed by the Landlord and Tenant Act.
The honorable member for Mitchell said, of course, that his own Government was to blame to the extent that the housing position would largely be cured if only the Commonwealth Bank were bifurcated. The honorable member for Petrie said that the Commonwealth at least had helped the position by the large influx of immigrant building workers, although he failed to point out that the content of building workers in recent years in the immigration field has declined and is declining at a more rapid rate.
It is pleasant, in those circumstances, to go back to the initial speeches on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, the maiden speeches of the honorable members for Barker and Wentworth. I confess that I had looked forward with some interest to hearing the honorable member for Barker. I had hitherto only been aware of his views on political matters from the fact that, as a lecturer in political science within the University of Adelaide, he had contributed an article on the South Australian State electoral system to the “ Australian Quarterly “. I thought that anybody who was interested in explaining the system was a man of some initiative, and that anybody who proceeded to justify it, as the honorable member did, was a man of very great courage indeed. I am sorry that since the honorable gentleman’s transition to this chamber the co-educational content of the lectures in political science at the Adelaide University has very greatly declined. I am not blaming the Commonwealth Government for that, however.
I also had looked forward to the advent of the honorable member for Wentworth. I suppose that if he had acquired a doctorate in philosophy he would have been known as an economist. Liberals who are not doctors of philosophy are known usually as accountants, but he designates himself as a banker, and I think there is something magnificent and mediaeval in such a description. I am glad to see that the Division of Wentworth is represented no longer by a Machiavelli, but by a Medici.
The subject of housing was first dealt with on the Government side by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He was not at his best, let us admit it. He was supercilious, as usual, but he was not even plausible on this occasion. The statistics he related compared the five years immediately after the war, the five years of economic rehabilitation, with the last five years. They ignored a 1.500.000 increase in population in the intervening years. They ignored the fact that Australia’s population is growing very much more rapidly than is the population, proportionately, of any country of the world, and more rapidly than the population of any country has grown since statistics have been kept.
– Tell us about the reference to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) being at Oxford.
– I cannot detect the honorable gentleman’s alma mater from his accent.
This debate has been prompted largely by the Prime Minister’s remarks concerning a report on the housing situation prepared by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). Honorable members will have noticed, of course, that in recent years all matters dealing with housing have been transferred to another place. First, matters concerning the housing commissions and trusts in the States were transferred there. Last year, matters relating to war service homes also were transferred there. That is why, of course, we can never raise these matters on the debate on the motion for the adjournment, and why we can never ask questions without notice concerning them. This is the first opportunity we have had for more than six months to debate a very significant subject, the most pressing personal problem in Australia.
I must say that the Minister for National Development varies his figures according to the number of houses which are produced from year to year. He has said, in this latest report, that Australia’s housing need is somewhere between 50,000 and 55,000 houses a year, and he cites figures to show that this year we shall need only 51,500, and that in 1960 we shall need only 55,000. lt is interesting to recall that in August, 1954, he was saying that the nation’s requirements of housing, to meet normal growth plus immigration at current levels, was about 60,000 houses a year. He has reduced his target in the last two and a half years. Six months ago he forecast that the decline in the rate of house building was only temporary. But we did not have to go to this report to realize that the housing position was bad. The Statistician keeps figures of the number of people employed in building houses and commercial buildings. He also keeps figures of the output of building materials. He does not keep, and it would be very difficult for him to keep, figures relating to the number of people who want houses.
There can be no doubt as to the decline in buildings and in building materials. I quote what I believe to be the latest figures, contained in the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “, which come up to last December. I shall compare the figures in each case with the twelve months before. The number of houses commenced in the December quarter of 1955 was 17,970. in the December quarter ot last year it was 16,524. The number of houses completed fell, in the same year, from 17,407 to 17,036, and the number of houses under construction at the end of the respective quarters fell from 63,449 to 60,062. The latest figures in respect of the production of building materials, which are for November, 1956, show that the number of clay bricks produced fell from 77,900,000 in November, 1955, to 70,600,000 in November, 1956. The number of terra cotta roofing tiles produced fell from 6,101,000 to 4,959,000, and the production of cement roofing tiles from 4,971,000 to 3,724,000. The number of cement building sheets fell from 2,476,000 to 2,015,000. The production of domestic refrigerators fell from 34,814 to 23,726. I am comparing figures in corresponding months so as to avoid any reference to seasonal fluctuations. There can be no question that the number of houses commenced and completed, and the volume of building materials being produced, have drastically declined and are still declining.
Reference has been made to the constitutional position. It is true that the Commonwealth can do nothing, in general, about housing, except as regards its own employees, the inhabitants of its Territories or exservicemen, other than to provide money. It cannot control, in any direct way, how the money is spent. If, as seems to be the case, there has been great exploitation in the sale and subdivision of land, that is a matter for the States which can exercise control over the sale of land. If we complain at the number of commercial buildings, such as service stations, being built, that again is a matter for the States and the building controls that they can exercise. If we believe, as everybody claims, that it would be cheaper to build houses in projects or groups, it is necessary to acquire or resume land in large lots, and we cannot do that except in respect of ex-servicemen, &c. - and we have given that up now. But the States can do it. They can develop estates in that fashion.
We cannot engage in town planning, but the States can. If we complain of the extra cost of housing caused by archaic local government provisions regarding ventilation, ceiling heights, the separation of kitchens and laundries and other extravagant and outdated requirements, once again there is nothing we can do about it. It is a matter for the States. If we complain, as many government supporters have done, about the effect of rent control on the distribution of houses - that is, if we are prepared to have a 41 per cent, increase of rents in six months, as happened in Western Australia in 1954 when the Legislative Council of that State refused to extend rent control legislation - once again, that is something that we cannot do anything about. But the States can. If we complain about real property laws, if we point out that it is impossible to have horizontal mortgages in respect of home units - again we can do nothing about it. But the States can. If we complain about the royalties on timber, as the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) did, and imply that we should hew down our forests and do nothing to replace them, again that is a matter for the States and not for us. There is, however, no feature of the housing problem which cannot, constitutionally, be solved by co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth.
Normally, a house cannot be carried across a State border and, therefore, section 92 of the Constitution, which is the great impediment to Commonwealth and State co-operation in many respects, and which makes a legislative no-man’s land in this country, does not apply to housing. By cooperation between the Commonwealth and States - admittedly very difficult to achieve - it is possible to overcome all these constitutional difficulties. But if the Government still thinks it is inhibited by the Constitution, let it avail itself of our offer to support the grant of a Commonwealth legislative power in respect of housing. The Government here is pleading the absence of a power the grant of which to this Parliament it opposed in 1944. In the same way, it so often pleads the absence of legislative power in regard to industrial matters, the grant of which it opposed in 1946, and the absence of power to deal with inflation, when it opposed in 1948 the grant of power to deal with prices and profits. If, as heretofore, home-building and home purchase have to be financed from taxation, as war service homes and Housing Commission houses are, or by banks and insurance companies, the Commonwealth has all the financial power that is required to complement the property powers of the States.
There is no question that the Commonwealth Parliament’s powers over insurance and banking are sufficient to enable it to direct banks and insurance companies to put all the money into housing which is necessary to meet fully the demand for houses. The Banking Act, by section 27, provides that the Commonwealth Bank can direct private trading banks as to the purpose for which advances may or may nol be made. The Commonwealth Bank Act, by section 10, provides that where the Treasurer disapproves of the Commonwealth Bank’s policy he can require the bank to alter its policy, so long as the Government takes the responsibility therefor and a report is brought to this House. Now, on 11th September last, 1 asked the Treasurer whether he disapproved of the policy of restricting loans for the erection and purchase of homes upon which the central bank and the trading banks have mutually agreed, as he had just told the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston). I asked whether, if that was so, he would exercise the powers under these two acts that I have mentioned to ask the Commonwealth Bank to alter the policy and, if the bank refused, would he direct the bank redo so. The Treasurer replied, “ I shall answer both questions, ‘ No * “. So he does not disapprove of the policy of the banks; accordingly, he will not reverse or modify the policy.
If the banks are not lending enough money for housing that is unquestionably a responsibility of the Government. If these acts that I have mentioned are valid - and they have not been challenged - then we can correct the position. At the beginning of last year, we saw the commencement of one of the most flagrant confidence tricks that has ever been played in this country. Three private trading banks were given licences to operate savings banks. The licences provided that, in respect of 30 per cent, of their deposits, the banks would consult the central bank and pay particular attention to loans for houses. But what has been the policy of these banks as regards loans for the purchase of houses? In
January, these three private savings banks had £91,000,000 of depositors’ funds. Far from lending 30 per cent, of that amount, as they agreed to do, they have not lent even 13 per cent. The New South Wales Savings Bank has announced that in the first year it will lend £6,000,000, over 80 per cent, of it to individuals and less than 20 per cent, to building societies. The Australia and New Zealand Savings Bank has announced that it will lend £5,000,000 in the first year. The Commercial Banking Company of Sydney has announced that it will lend £2,000,000. All those come to considerably less than half the 30 per cent, in respect of which they were required to consult the central bank in accordance with the terms of their licences. They have bluntly said that, until further notice, that is the amount they will lend. One does not know how much the Commonwealth Bank has lent, but it has still lent very considerably despite the fact that over the year its deposits have increased, not by the £40,000,000 a year which was customary, but by only £4,000,000. lt still kept up its advances for housing to somewhere about the £10,000,000 mark, although the figure used to be about £12,000,000.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, 1 had pointed out that although Australia’s population was growing proportionately more rapidly than that of any other country in the world, in the last twelve months the number of houses under construction, the quantity of building materials in use and the number of people employed in building houses had greatly fallen. 1 had also pointed out that the Commonwealth had complete control over the sources of finance whereby those materials and men could be . adequately employed.
I now point out that, between July and December last, the trading banks had decreased their advances for housing by £7,400,000, and in the previous financial year by £11,100,000. They had, in fact, reduced their advances from £105,700.000 to £87,200,000 in eighteen months. I recalled that six months ago when 1 asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) whether he disapproved of the banks’ policy and would alter it, he said, “ No, I do not disapprove. I will not alter it “. I pointed out also that, a year ago, licences were given for the establishment of three private savings banks. Those banks now have deposits of £100,000,000. Under the terms of their charter they are required to advance 30 per cent.- £30,000,000- for housing, but this year, instead of advancing £30,000,000, they have announced that they will advance £13,000,000. 1 come now to another aspect of building finance, the building societies. The building societies have been having an increasingly thin time of it in New South Wales and Victoria, the only two States where they have operated substantially in recent years. In this financial year, the New South Wales societies have received less than £6,000,000. Last year, the amount was £6,627,000, the year before £6,815,000, the year before £7,350,000, and the year before that £11,700,000 - showing a constant decline. In Victoria, the decline has been similar. We find that in this, the first year in which money will bc made available for building societies in those States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the advances by the banks and by the life assurance and fire assurance societies are lower than they have ever been. In fact, there has been a noticeable decline in the contribution of life assurance societies ever since, in August. 1951, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer discussed with the life assurance societies, here in the capital, public financial questions and investment policy generally. In the middle of 1951, the life assurance societies cut their advances to building societies to 10 per cent, of the former figure, and this year they are the lowest they have ever been.
I would like to point out the contribution which increased interest rates have made to higher building society repayments, lt will be recalled that when this Government came into office the interest rate to building societies was 32- per cent. In July, 1952, the Government increased this to 4i per cent. In March the Government increased it to 5 per cent. The difference which the greater interest rates alone have made is shown by the fact that if a man were to borrow, for a period of 30 years, the sum of £1,000 he would make monthly repayments of £4 14s. 2d. at an interest rate of 31 per cent., £5 ls. 8d. at 44- per cent, and £5 7s. 6d. at the present rate of 5 per cent.
I come now to the question of housing commission finance. All the money with which commission houses are built is provided by the Commonwealth Government. In. the peak year 1953-54 New South Wales received, lor housing commission houses, £12,450,000. In each of the next two years it received £10,800,000. This year it will receive £8,208,000. In Victoria the decline in the same three years has been from £12,000,000 to £10,800,000, and then £7,600,000. In South Australia the amounts have been £4.500,000, £3,600,000 and £2,770,000, respectively.
The number of applications for housing commission homes has risen constantly. In South Australia during the last financial year there were 11,751 applications. In the previous year the number was 10,800 and in the year before that 9,807. In Victoria, the number of applications has risen to 15,039 from 12,449 in the previous year and 10,089 in the year before that. In New South Wales there was, in fact, a decline last year to 13,228. In 1954-55 there were 15,628 applicants and in 1953-54 there were 14,175. That is a good indication of the demand for housing in Australia.
The war service homes position is shown by the fact that, in the last financial year, the total number of houses provided fell to 11,803 from 12,788 in the previous year. One can break these figures down into all the different categories of war service homes assistance and in every case find that there was a drop. The number of applicants last year was 22,131. The only increase was in the waiting period, which is now two years between making an application and receiving the first instalment with which to build a house, and fifteen months between making an application and getting a loan to buy a house or discharge a mortgage. 1 conclude by referring to the immigration position, which was touched on by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). I would draw his attention to the remark. of Mr. S. D. C. Kennedy, the building representative on the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council, over which he presides. He said that immigration was recognized as a national issue, but that Australia’s drive for new citizens could not possibly succeed unless housing was dealt with as a national matter. He added -
Australia is losing valuable citizens who return to their homelands because they cannot get homes in this country.
We not only lose the people, but a!so the money it has cost to bring them here.
We must find ways of holding them, particularly the skilled tradesmen, and there is no better way than helping them into homes of their own.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I listened with some interest to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in opening this Parliament last week and take this opportunity of congratulating the Government upon its record, as reflected in that Speech. When we consider the pressures that have been brought to bear against this Government by selfish interests and all the storms - caused chiefly by political unionism - that it has had to ride out, we can gauge the extent of its success in guiding the economy of this country over the last six or seven years. However, 1 was disappointed at the absence of a challenging, forward-looking policy. I was disturbed because I believe that unless we have forward planning in this country the economy will remain in the present precarious state.
The prime example of this hand-to-mouth planning is to be found in the policy of import restriction. To my mind, import restrictions create a topsy-turvy financial system. The truth is that our balance of payments position has occurred, not because we are buying too much, or wish to buy too much, from overseas but because we cannot sell enough overseas. To close the door against imports from other countries will only make the last position worse than the first, because there is a great deal of money in circulation in this community that otherwise would have gone overseas. That has led to the reckless expansion of manufacturing industries in the cities. It has created a spurious atmosphere of prosperity in the industrial centres and is making it harder than ever for us to export overseas to secure our balance of payments in the long run.
I have some figures to indicate the extent of the damage that is being done by the policy of import restrictions. It has been estimated that we are keeping some £210,000.000 in this country which otherwise would have gone overseas. That £210.000,000 is being used by local manufacturers to jack up prices and to make it harder for our export industries to meet world parity with their commodities. That is an extremely dangerous policy to pursue. and the sooner we can get rid of import restrictions the better it will be for all of us in this country. When we consider the sale of our exports, we must consider only the great primary industries. No matter how much noise we make about the success of our manufactured goods in foreign markets, it does not take very much reflection to realize that in this country, where we have to import our fuel supplies, where we are net importers of base metals, and where we have such a very high cost structure, we cannot export manufactured goods against competition in the world’s markets from low-cost countries such as Japan. Germany and, for that matter, Great Britain. In the long term, we must go back to our great primary industries. Wool, wheat and meat are our principal commodities and will remain the principal stays of our economy for many years to come.
What are we doing in a positive sense to correct this adverse balance of payments? I believe we are doing so little that it makes no difference. We have no really concrete policy, apart from the negative one of giving taxation concessions to primary producers. We have no positive policy to stimulate the export of primary goods. There we have a paradox. We must depend, in the ultimate, on primary production for our security, our welfare and the maintenance of our standards in this country; yet we are doing virtually nothing to build up our exports of primary products. The tragic position of the primary industries is illustrated by the figures showing the estimates of national income. From the financial year 1948-49 to the financial year 1955-56, wages and salaries rose by 142 per cent.; the incomes of unincorporated businesses, professional people and so on rose by 130 per cent.; incomes from dividends rose by 130 per cent.; other personal incomes rose by 170 per cent.; but the income of farmers rose by a fractional 25 per cent. There is no reason to assume that primary producers are any different from other people in the community. Even cranks who style themselves democratic socialists believe in the profit motive. If we do not give the primary producer an adequate profit, we cannot expect him to produce. There will be no great development of our country if there is no profit in it. That is what is happening on the land. The land is stagnating.
There are other factors which I would like to mention, apart from the general rise in costs, promoted by import restrictions, which make it virtually unprofitable to buy land and enter upon any kind of farming. First, there is the burden of freight costs. That is principally a political matter, because the railways in this country are controlled by the State governments. In the old days it was the country lines that were the developmental lines, and the city, to some extent, carried the country. Now the boot is on the other foot. The country is expected to carry the city. In New South Wales the metropolitan trams and buses lose something of the order of £5,000,000 a year. Who pays for that? Not the city dweller, but the country man.
The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) mentioned this afternoon that it costs more to bring a load of timber from the northcoast of New South Wales to Sydney than it does to bring a load of timber from Singapore to Sydney. That illustrates the extent of the burden imposed on the country man by railway freights. It affects, not only the primary producers who buy goods from and send goods to the cities, but all those men who are employed in country towns. The coal-miners in one town in my electorate recently worked out that it cost a man and his wife there at least 3s. a day more for the goods they had to buy than it cost the city people. That additional cost resulted from the charge imposed by the State-run railways. That illustrates the extent of the costs that the primary producer and those who work in the country have to bear.
There is another cost besides freight. Discrimination is practiced by manufacturers and distributors of a great number of commodities against the country man. The basic price of the celebrated Holden car, for example, excluding freight, is about £6 higher in the country than in the city. The country man has to pay higher sales tax on it. That practice is widespread. The country man is hit to leg all the time bv the discriminatory practices of manufacturers in the cities. Take the oil companies. In one town in my electorate, the town of Inverell, in which I live, we pay lid. a gallon more for petrol than is paid in Brisbane. We pay 8d. a gallon more than is paid in Sydney, although it is well known that petrol can be landed in Inverell for less than 5d. a gallon in freight. Petrol is one of the main cost items in the farmer’s list. Why should discrimination be practised on a scale such as that? City Labour members know nothing about conditions in the country and they care less.
An additional factor, apart from the costs which the country man finds onerous and burdensome, is the policy of the banks. No one blames the banks for seeking the best possible markets for their money. They are business houses. But the fact is that, owing to a shortage of funds, they are unable to lend adequate amounts to the man on the land to allow him to develop the land properly. He is supposed to live off his own fat and, as I have shown, he has not much fat to live off in these days. Primary industry has been placed right at the end of the line, yet we depend on primary industry to keep the economy afloat. I suggest to the Government that it is high time we had some planning authority which would make sensible plans for the future to raise production and insure this country against the consequences of drought. If we had a drought on the scale of the drought which occurred at the end of the last war. we could lose up to £1,000,000,000 in the next ten years.
We also need to insure against a falling off of production because the rabbit is returning. We must insure also because we cannot guarantee that we shall always receive the prices that we have received in recent years. It is true that this year we have had a bit of a rise. Because the country men worked like beavers and produced a great deal more to sell at a lower price, there has been a rise in the amount of foreign money coming into this country. But one swallow does not make a summer. We could easily go the other way next year if we had a drought or if the prices fell. I put it to the Government that we must have some plan now for the relaxation of import restrictions in order to reduce our cost structure, which should be brought down to world parity as quickly as possible. We must have some plan for the provision of developmental finance. That is not an insuperable problem. Developmental finance is provided on a small scale in a number of countries, and under various schemes it is done particularly in the United States of America and Canada. It is not new. I myself conducted a similar scheme on a very small scale with sugar-farmers years before World War II. What we want is the provision of money for developmental work, and supervision by a new kind of extension officer in order to get new work done.
The mortgage department of the Commonwealth Trading Bank can lend up to only 70 per cent, of the value of the security. The maximum limit of loan and the conditions under which it may be made have not been changed since that department of the bank was established in 1943. lt is high time the Commonwealth Bank Act was amended in order to make ‘ the mortgage department really a developmental agency.
These problems are not insuperable. 1 would not endeavour to suggest a scheme in detail. I could not do it at the moment. But I believe that there will be very little real trouble so long as we are determined to solve the problem of opening up new land, and increasing the rate of pasture improvement, clearing, and soil, water, and fodder conservation. I am sure it can be done. If we continue at the present rate it will take us 1,000 years to develop Australia properly. We cannot afford to take so long to do the job, for the reason, if for no other, that although our population is increasing very rapidly, that of other countries to the north is increasing much more rapidly. We need to make Australia rich and strong, and our economy robust, and this means that we must undertake developmental work immediately. A programme of the kind that I envisage will cost money, of course. But everything worthwhile costs something. We are spending a great deal of money in our attempt to raise the living standards of the people of Asian countries and of other countries to our immediate north. This is a vain attempt, because the population of those countries is increasing much more rapidly than we are able to develop their resources. If we are spending so much money for that purpose, surely we could spend more to maintain standards in Australia.
I ask the Government to give consideration to this question so that in the months to come we may develop a positive plan to overcome our economic difficulties, and T urge it to grasp the nettle firmly, and to give the people of Australia an inspiring and challenging plan for our country’s future development.
.- If ever a government misjudged public opinion on a matter of vital importance, this Government has now done so, because it has failed to understand the strength and vehemence of the feeling of the Australian people about its neglect of the housing problem. Labour has always considered housing to be of paramount importance. I remember saying in this House on a number of occasions over the years that one can give a man the best possible basic wage (o enable him to buy all the food and clothes he needs, but that if he does not have a decent home to live in he will be an unhappy social being. If the Government fails in the future as it has done in the past to deal with the housing problem, it will sow the seeds for a new growth of communism. The people want homes. They are entitled to them, and this country is prosperous enough to see that every one that needs a home has one.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) told us about some of the people in his electorate who live in fowlhouses. Victoria has a Liberal Premier, and the Commonwealth has a Liberal Prime Minister, and it ought to be possible for them to formulate a real plan to remove the necessity for people to live in fowlhouses
– They are doing their best.
– Who does the honorable member think are doing their best - the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Victorian Premier, or the unfortunate people who are living in fowlhouses? . The truth is that many people in Australia are at present living under sub-standard conditions. On 21st February, 1952, I proposed a formal motion for the adjournment of the House, under the procedure that formerly operated, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance -
The failure of the Government to deal effectively with the question of housing.
On 22nd September, 1955, Mr. Nelson Lemmon, a fine gentleman who had been a very good Minister in the Labour government, and who was then the member for St. George, proposed a definite matter of urgent public importance for discussion, namely -
The decisions of the Government to recommend to the States increases in the interest rates charged under the Commonwealth and States
Housing Agreement, to recommend to the States the abolition of the rental rebate system, to recommend to the States reduction in the money allocated to the State Housing Commission, and the consequent undermining of confidence in the building industry.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), on 31st May of last year, submitted for discussion as a definite matter of urgent public importance the following subject: -
The urgent and vital necessity of additional homes and housing accommodation in Australia, and the serious social dangers threatening the nation as a result of the failure of the Commonwealth Government to deal effectively with the problem.
So it can be seen that this problem has not suddenly arisen, lt has been chronic for a long time, and it has now become acute. In the debate on my motion on 21st February, 1952, I quoted from a newspaper report which declared -
There are still 30,000 Melbourne dwellings without bathrooms, nearly 50,000 without sewerage, more than 22,000 without even running water.
What was true of Melbourne at that time is probably largely true to-day. It is true, also, of Sydney and of many other places.
It is idle for the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to rely on a report which purports to state the exact position existing in Australia at the present time. He claimed that there is at present a backlag of 115,000 houses. The Commonwealth Housing Commission, which was appointed by the Labour Government in 1944, found that there was at that time a shortage of 300,000 houses. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) suggested this afternoon that the back-lag was only 105,000 houses. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) very effectively demolished the Government’s arguments when he pointed out last Thursday that there was a back-lag of at least 300,000 homes, because the population had increased by more than 2,000,000 between 1947 and 1956. He said that this meant 630,000 homes to meet the needs of the population increase of 2,000,000 at an average of 3.55 persons to a house and he pointed out that, on the basis of 60,000 houses a year to meet the normal needs of those marrying each year, as stated by the Minister for National Development, we should need 120,000 houses a year for five years - 60,000 a year to meet current needs and 60,000 a year to overtake the back-lag of 300,000. The Prime Minister contents himself with saying that we only need 52,000 houses a year, and yet the Dean of the faculty of architecture in the Sydney University, says we need 91,000 houses a year. The Government makes great play on the number of homes it provides for exservicemen. Last year, there were 34,000 ex-servicemen requiring homes. To-day, twelve years after the end of the war. there are 25,000 ex-service men and women who need houses and who cannot get them. They cannot get the finance to buy or to build a house under eighteen months or two years. Why? It is because of the Government. The war ended twelve years ago. Surely all the ex-service men and women who need homes should be able to get them now. Government supporters may contend that there are constitutional difficulties; but there is no constitutional difficulty in the matter of finance. There are other difficulties, of course.
– Tell us about Labour’s record in war service homes.
– Our record is very good. The Prime Minister the other night said that our record in five post-war years was a good one. That can be read in “Hansard “.
– He said we had doubled it.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service need not try to anticipate me because I will come to that point. The Prime Minister did say that his Government had built twice as many houses as we had built. That is true, but it is still not good enough. This Government should have built twice as many as we built, because the last “ Monthly Review of Building Statistics” for 1956 shows that whereas in 1949 152,000 people were employed in the building and construction industry, at the end of November, 1956, there were 217,000 persons so employed, a difference of 65,000.
– One-third of them were immigrants.
– In some industries such as the steel industry, 70 per cent, of the employees have been immigrants. I am not disagreeing on the facts. This is a matter of interpretation of the figures. We have 65,000 more people employed in building to-day than we had in 1949, but obviously should be employing more people. We have to get more houses. There can be no doubt about that.
I do not disagree with the principle stated by the Prime Minister - “The limitation on the housing programme in Australia is the limitation of man-power and the limitation of materials “. That is completely right as a principle but where the Prime Minister went wrong is when he took advice from his experts that there is a shortage of man-power and materials in Australia. All the advice on that matter from the employers in the building industry and from the leaders of the trade unions in the building industry ridicules that claim. There are no such shortages. I think the Prime Minister was right again when he said, “To the limit of man-power and to the limit of materials money ought to be available to combine in doing a job for the home-loving people of Australia “. We could not agree more. What is physically possible is financially possible. That has always been our political creed; but what this Government has failed to do is to provide a “financial policy that will enable the home-loving people of Australia to buy or rent the houses they so urgently need. The failure of the Menzies’ Government goes even further than that: Fewer houses are being built this financial year than last year. The evidence about that is contained in issue No. 51 of “ Facts & Figures”, which is a Government publication. On page 52 the story of housing and building shows that the Chifley Government commenced approximately 58,000 houses in 1949. The succeeding Government built up to something over 84,000 houses in 1951-52, but since that time the number of houses being built each year has fallen. Why has it fallen? The population is increasing all the time. One would have imagined that if it was possible to build 84,000 houses a year in 1951-52, when there were greater shortages than there are to-day, it would be possible to build 120,000 houses a year now. We should be building to supply the needs of the Australian people who are marrying each year. We ought to be able to build 20,000 houses each year to give immigrants the houses they need and then we ought to be building beyond that figure for those who are to come in subsequent years when the immigration plan unfolds and further develops. If we do not do that we shall run into a chronic problem and we shall run into it very soon.
The professor whom I quoted a moment ago pointed out that unless we do these very things we will be in grave difficulties. The private trading banks are lending less for home-building this year than for some years past, although the demand for homes is growing year by year as our population increases and as old and sub-standard houses are being demolished. It is a paradox that the process of demolition of such houses is now proceeding at a very slow rate; but if it is speeded up, more new homes will be required. There are sub-standard houses at many places in Australia and it is the duty of the Government to see that something is done about them and done very quickly.
The Opposition has always felt that housing is our No. 1 problem. There is no other comparable problem. If we cannot build houses we shall be in grave difficulties with a lot of people. The agents of the private trading banks are importuning Ministers in the Parliament and outside it, day after day urging that the Chifley Government legislation be mutilated further and that the Commonwealth Bank shall be turned into a bankers’ bank, as it was in the days of the Bruce-Page Government.
The private trading banks have themselves failed to supply the finance which the Australian Government and the people need in order that the work of housing can be carried out. The Prime Minister the other night said that trading banks had reduced their lending, not under the directive of the Commonwealth Bank or the Commonwealth Government, but because housing loans were not attractive to trading banks. Obviously the banks can make more profit through their hire-purchase subsidiaries. They can make more profit by lending to businesses that are already making huge profits. Nobody can deny that industry has had a prosperous era under the Menzies’ Government. The extent to which the private trading banks have failed the people of Australia is illustrated by the fact that in the six months ended 31st December last, the Australian trading banks lent £7.400,000 less for home-construction than they had lent previously.
– How much did the savings bank sections lend?
– I am talking about trading banks.
– They are the same things.
– They may be the same thing in the mind of the honorable member who is one of the representatives of the trading banks in this chamber. To the extent that the trading banks have been able to take savings bank deposits from the Commonwealth Bank and the State savings banks, they have lent something, but overall their figures are £7,400,000 down on loans in the six months ended 31st December last, and over a period of eighteen months to December of last year their figures are down £18,500,000. What do the trading banks want? They only want to make profits all the time. If they are going to neglect the interests of the Australian people and take profits at luxurious rates of interest, they are asking for nationalization. They are looking for trouble. They should help the Australian people if they have any thought for their future security. I would be quite satisfied to settle on the 1945 Banking Act, but all these interferences and projected interferences with the banking legislation and all the denials of financial assistance to people who want homes will eventually bring a nemesis to those responsible.
We have asked for a national housing plan. We recognize that it is not the Australian Government alone that has a responsibility in this matter. In a federation, the States have certain powers, and they also have certain duties and responsibilities. The Commonwealth also has powers, duties and responsibilities. I well remember the attacks made on the Chifley Government because of its alleged failure to do the things that were required to be done. State Premiers and Liberal and Country party members said that the Chifley Government was starving the States of funds for housing. If those complaints were in any way justified, tho indictment against the present Government is a thousand times stronger! But that docs not absolve the States from their responsibilities. Under the terms of the Constitution it is the duty of the Commonwealth to raise the loans, which State governments require for housing and for public works. But it is also the duty of the Commonwealth to pursue a credit policy which directs the banks, where necessary, to loan to those who wish to build their own homes and to loan sufficient funds to cooperative building societies so that these societies shall have all the money necessary to build homes for their members. To the extent to which this Government fails to give those directions, it is depriving cooperative building societies and individual home builders of the finance they need.
– The Government has ample power to issue a directive. Why has not it done so?
– Precisely. 1 have been making that very point, that the Government has that power and has failed to exercise it. In addition, it is the sole responsibility of the Commonwealth to see that enough money is provided to ensure that all ex-service men and women applying to the War Service Homes Division shall have their wants satisfied. But the States, too, as I have said, have their obligations and responsibilities. It is not enough for State Premiers and State housing Ministers to criticize the Chifley Government, as they did years ago, or venture to criticize this Government, as they have done recently, because all the finance required at a particular time is not forthcoming. We will never solve the housing problem of this country satisfactorily, I believe, if State governments fail to pass two items of legislation. First, they must transfer the power to legislate in respect of capital issues to the Commonwealth Parliament. Secondly, they must transfer power to legislate in regard to interest rates other than banking to the Commonwealth Parliament. State parliaments not only refuse to transfer these powers, but they also fail to pass legislation regulating capital issues and interest rates that have a detrimental effect on the availability of money and the price the home-builders are ultimately forced to pay by way of interest for financial accommodation.
State parliaments have failed, and are failing, to curb the rapacity and the greed of the oil combine by allowing good houses to be demolished in every big city for the erection of service and petrol-selling stations. That accentuates the housing problem. The State governments have an obligation to see that the needs of the ordinary people are placed first in the matter of housing. But State governments do nothing to prevent the erection of luxury buildings and luxury hotels amounting to millions of pounds in the aggregate. In some cases, it has even been suggested that some hotels for which plans are being drawn will ultimately be erected at a cost of £4,000,000 to £5,000,000 each. This country cannot afford luxury building, it cannot afford the diversion of moneys to non-essential building, and that is condemned in our amendment.
State governments should require companies registered under State laws to deposit ;i percentage of their profits in CommonwealthState loans to help to provide electricity, water, and build homes, including those without which these companies - and I am thinking particularly now of foreign companies, whether British, American or any other nationality - cannot make the profits that provide the dividends that are either ploughed back into their businesses for the purpose of making more vast profits or are transferred overseas. When State governments co-operate to the extent that I believe they should co-operate, they will be in a better position to criticize what is being done in the National Parliament. If such co-operation is not forthcoming, it will not be possible to have the national housing plan which the amendment envisages and which we wish to see put into effect. t ask this question: What is to be the determinant in our community life? Is it to be profits for the ordinary trading banks, profits for big companies, or happiness and security for the ordinary people who, after all. constitute the nation? If the profit motive is paramount, if laisser-faire capitalism is the desideratum. I say to the Government. “ Go ahead and sow the dragon’s teeth; posterity will reap the harvest “. If the needs of the people are much more important than the interests of the modern moneychangers in the temples of high finance, then let us get on with the job of housing the people. Let us build ahead of requirements, as I have outlined, so that those who are citizens of this country, whether they be old or new Australians, can be adequately housed, and so that there will be houses available to those who come later to join their destiny with ours and to raise Australians in the first and second generations, equally dedicated to the maintenance of the Australian way of life as those who can boast an Australian lineage that extends back for four or five generations.
It is all very well for the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to put out a press story and say, “ End of housing shortage in sight “. The end of the housing shortage is not in sight. It is worse to-day than it has been for quite a number of years past. It will continue to be as bad as it is now unless the Government sets out to secure the co-operation of the States and the States in turn co-operate fully and readily on a plan to build at least 120,000 houses a year. The learned professor in Sydney says that at least 20,000 more houses than the Government postulates are necessary. But that is still 30,000 houses a year fewer than the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Curtin) has shown in his figures - and he has argued his case very ably and very logically - and the figure which we put forward in 1952 as the figure required.
I admire the dexterity of some honorable gentlemen opposite. One of them did not mention housing at all. He talked about a national roads plan, so satisfied was he that the Government had no case and that he could not defend it. Other honorable members opposite, including Ministers, have said as little as they could about the question of housing and, if they have praised the Government, they have done it with bated breath. Even the honorable gentleman who preceded me spent his time criticizing city people.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Opposition has launched, in effect, a motion of censure. A motion of censure - and that is what the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) amounts to - is the heaviest weapon that Her Majesty’s Opposition can employ against a government in office. Traditionally, it conveys that the Opposition invites the Parliament to dismiss the Government and replace it with a government drawn from the ranks of the Opposition.
The Opposition attack, on this occasion, has been directed to this Government for its record on housing. The Parliament will. I am confident, reject the motion for two completely compelling reasons. The first is that this Government, as has been made evident during the debate, has an incomparable record t l relation to Australian home building, lt is a record that thi: Government is determined to sustain. In fact, a great deal of the time of the MenziesFadden Administration, since it took office in 1949, has been devoted to the housing problem. We have, as everybody knows, only a limited power to deal with this matter, since housing primarily remains the responsibility of the States. The Government has for a long time past, quite voluntarily undertaken to help the States, year by year, by allocating large amounts to the States out of our annual loan programme. These annual loan moneys have, during our term of office, been heavily supported by funds out of the Commonwealth budget, including large sums from taxation provided by the people. In the result, the Commonwealth Government has been finding practically all the money that the States spend on housing. It has been providing roughly one-third of the total amount spent on homes throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
When we last had a general election campaign, in the November-December period of 1955, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) dealt specifically with housing in his policy speech, a speech which, apparently from their votes, the people of this country approved, because they gave us a record majority in this place. The Prime Minister pointed out that in the five postwar years of the federal Labour government, 202,000 houses and flats were completed in Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), has just conceded these figures. The Prime Minister said freely that this was a good record, since it was at least equal to anything done in the best years before the war. But he went on 1o point out that in our first five years of office, after 1949, 388,000 houses and flats were completed. That is almost double the number completed during the previous five years when the present Opposition was in government. This was a record unsurpassed anywhere in the world, when considered on the basis of population numbers.
Let me take two other countries, by way of example, in which there has been a great concentration of effort in house building. I shall refer to the United States of America and the United Kingdom, highly developed and highly industrialized countries. In the last completed financial year, 1955-56, the United Kingdom built 6.4 homes per thousand of population. The United States of America built eight homes per thousand of population. Australia exceeded the United States record by building 8.4 thousand. I question whether any country, except, perhaps, New Zealand, which also has the benefit of a Liberal government, has constructed more homes proportionately to the number of its people, or has fewer persons per occupied dwelling, than has Australia, ls that a record which invites censure and displacement of the Government? I should have thought that it was a record of which we. as a people, would have been justly proud.
This does not mean that either we, as a government or as a people, should rest upon our past achievements. Not only will it take a few more years before the accumulated arrears, largely caused by the war, have been cleared up, but thereafter, as our population grows - and I hope that it will grow at a rapid rate - and as living standards rise, as I am confident they will under this Government, there will be a constant and high demand for houses. A person in one home will, perhaps, want a better and a bigger one, and it will be part of our responsibility to assist him in his very desirable objective. This is as it should be. As the Prime Minister said in the Parliament only the other evening, the foundation of our society is the home, and if all are to have homes, then we need more houses. Without labouring the point which has been dealt with effectively by other speakers on our side of the Parliament, I say this with the full authority of the Government: Assuming the maintenance of satisfactory levels of employment generally, and in the building industry in particular, the central bank’s policy will continue to aim at ensuring that a reasonable proportion of increased savings in Australia becomes available for investment in housing and is employed in housing loans. The Government will form the best judgment that it can. not only from the best official advice it can secure, but also from the best expert advice that it can secure from any quarter, as to the level of home building activity that our economy can reasonably sustain. I can give an assurance on the part of the Government that if at any time it seems to us that there are resources available for home building which have not been taken up, we shall give speedy consideration to any further central bank action necessary to take up that slack.
In short, housing will continue to be regarded by us as the greatest human problem with which we have to deal. That is the first compelling reason why this amendment should be rejected. But the second is, perhaps, of even more consequence to the people of Australia at the present time. I said a little earlier that the purpose of a censure motion is to invite the Parliament to dismiss the Government and replace it with one drawn from the Opposition ranks. It is unthinkable that a people who have been able to assess, over recent years, developments within the Australian Labour party and the capacity of the Opposition to form an alternative government, would entrust the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and those who sit with him with the reins of office in Australia. Never, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, in the long history of parliamentary government has there ever been a political party in worse plight to claim the right to govern a free, democratic people than the Australian Labour party has shown itself to be over recent years. It has become split, as is common knowledge, into many pieces. The largest fragment continues as the Australian Labour party, which is recognized as the official Opposition in this chamber.
– Can the Minister not make a speech without reading it?
– But there are at least two other distinct and not inconsiderable groups.
– Who wrote the speech for the Minister?
– Dr. John Burton did not, but he is writing the Opposition’s policy for it. There are two other not inconsiderable groups. There is the Anti-Communist Labour party, which is already represented in the Senate and is likely to be more strongly represented just as soon as our friends opposite give them the chance to face the people again. There is also the Democratic Labour party, which is also a not inconsiderable group and which has shown already the capacity to attract a not insignificant number of votes from people who in the past have regularly supported the Australian Labour party. The rather farcical position has been reached in Australia in which each of these three elements, the Australian Labour party, the Anti-Communist Labour party and the Democratic Labour party, claims to be the true voice of the Labour movement in Australia.
– What has that to do with housing?
– It has a lot to do, not only with an effective housing policy, but also with the effective government of this country and with the progress and prosperity of our people. The industrial movement also reflects these divisions. Left wing militants, industrial groupers, right wing Labour men and Communists are all to be found striving for supremacy, one against the other, inside what is ironically described these days as the Labour movement. There is certainly plenty of movement in what is called the Labour movement, but it is the movement of the atom splitting its particles in a number of quite undiscernible directions.
Labour’s divisions do not stop at its own borders. The battle rages inside as well. We have recently been treated to some bitter exchanges between the Australian Workers Union, the largest numerically in the Commonwealth, and the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Perhaps Mr. Dougherty is a sympton of the division inside the Labour party. These men to whom I refer are all inside the officially recognized Australian Labour party. We find Mr. Dougherty, the president of this, the largest union, at one time attacking Mr. Cahill and his Government and calling them a lot of no-hopers. The next time we find him attacking Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. In the next breath we find him attacking Mr. Campbell, the New South Wales president of the Australian Labour party, and then finally, apparently in his latest outburst he is attacking Mr. Chamberlain, the federal president of the party. That is symptomatic of what is going on inside the movement.
Already, in the State of Victoria, some twenty parliamentarians from the Labour party, formerly welcome members of the movement, including former Cabinet Ministers and Federal and State members - seven of them from this place - have received their political execution, or are marked for the axe as soon as it can be effectively brought into use. But Victoria is not the only State where these divisions have gone so deep. One has only to look at the predicament of Mr. Gair, the Labour Premier of Queensland, and of Mr. Cahill, the Labour Premier of New South Wales, to realize how uneasy are the associations inside the official Australian Labour party.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) is pressing for an inquiry into the way in which the party conducts itself in New South Wales. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and a stalwart of the Australian Labour party, in order to hold his place in the team has had to surrender one of the most cherished and prized policy undertakings of his political lifetime - his attitude to immigration. I am saddened to think that a man who has given so much of his life and his effort to that subject should have surrendered so speedily to the pressures inside his party on what should have been for him a vital matter of policy.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Apparently honorable members opposite all want a turn, and it is hard to think of some one on the other side about whom I could hot say something. I do not know all that goes on inside the party, but one wonders what thoughts the honorable members for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) and Lang (Mr. Stewart) brought out of the caucus room discussions after listening to what has been put up as the new look of the Labour party in this country. This is a rabble, Mr. Speaker, split not only info the three defined groups I have mentioned, but also, inside the Australian Labour party, split with these deep and bitter divisions that force themselves into the press of this country almost every day. This is. the rabble which invites the country to displace a government which has given Australia the seven most prosperous and progressive years of its history in order to make way for a government drawn from that side of the House.
Now, sir, 1 want to spend a few moments on the light that has grown brighter at Brisbane, and if honorable members opposite cannot take it, perhaps they will concede me a lule more time in which to deal with what I am putting. The light of socialism has grown brighter in recent weeks. Brisbane is a city which has been made the more famous, or infamous, by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who once imposed upon it the dubious notoriety of being the venue of a mythical Brisbane line. I want to spend the ten minutes remaining to me in referring to a new Brisbane line. There is nothing mythical, nothing hypothetical about it. The new Brisbane line is the new look of the Labour party. It is the new look of a party which, having purged its right wing moderate elements, having pointed the finger at the moderate Labour leaders in office in the various States of this Commonwealth, has declared itself clearly, frankly and unequivocally as the socialist party of Australia. Why it did not go to the logical conclusion of its policies and of its deliberations and abandon the name of Labour and come out, as I gather some of the delegates wanted it to come out. with the title “ Socialist party of Australia “. 1 shall be interested to learn from honorable gentlemen opposite.
The socialists have reaffirmed their socialism and have dedicated themselves afresh to its fulfilment. I do not join with observers who say that the conference meant very little and that it merely put a sugar coating around the socialist objective. 1 say in all earnestness that the Brisbane conference of the Australian Labour party was the most significant political development of this decade - in my judgment, at any rate. Here are some points that I suggest should be noted. I repeat what I said a little earlier: Opposite us sits the alternative government of the Australian people, and what honorable gentlemen opposite proclaim as their policy should be analysed with great care by the people as a whole.
I know that it has been the practice in Australia to put governments out rather than to worry about the government that is being put in; but if people are going to put governments out, in this day and age they have a responsibility to decide for themselves what it is they are putting in. What 1 say to-night is not said to attack the sincerity of honorable gentlemen opposite, or the propriety of their putting what they have put. I believe that, for once in its life, the Labour party has acted completely honestly by declaring its colours at the Brisbane conference. Instead of the shillyshallying that has gone on over the last twenty years, when some of the members of the Labour party have sought to cloak the full significance of this socialist objective, at Brisbane they decided that they were going to declare the policy and give it full implementation.
There was some sugar-coating of the objective, but the significant thing is that the methods, as set out in the printed platform of the party - and after all, they are the significant elements in it - by which that objective was to be given effect have not been changed by one comma, or by the crossing of one “ t “.
– Why should they be changed?
– Of course they should not. That is your policy and I respect you for it, as I respect any man who is prepared to declare openly and publicly what he stands for, and to tv tested on it. Labour’s policies include first, as they did before the legislation of 1947. nationalization of banking, nationalization of insurance, nationalization of shipping, nationalization of public health.
Opposition members. - Hear, hear!
– I welcome the endorsement which honorable members opposite give. The policies include also nationalization of wireless transmission, including broadcasting, and presumably, including television as well.
Opposition members. - Hear, hear!
– Nationalization of sugar refining also is included. Those are old things to most of us, but the more significant things were not changed one iota. The important thing to know is what was discussed.
– He is making heavy weather of it. is he not!
– Well, it is not an easy subject, as the right honorable gentleman should know. If he will give me an hour to analyse it T shall do it with much more comfort. 1 direct the attention of the House not only to what was adopted, and that was important enough, but also to an analysis of the resolution which came forward from the Victorian delegation. Let it be realized that this was not some outer branch of the State organization of the Labour party. This was the Victorian delegation, in attendance at the most important policy-making conference that the Labour party can hold. And this is what that delegation included in its proposals: The achievement of socialism by industrial action; the growth of nationalized industries by boards, upon which the workers and the community shall have representation; the establishment of an elective supreme economic council by all nationalized industries; that all parliamentary representatives be required to function as active propagandists of the objective and methods of he movement and the nationalization of banking and all principal industries.
Victoria went even further in another motion which said that “ capitalism could be abolished only by the workers uniting in one class-conscious economic organization “.
There were other proposals which, if time permitted, I should like to mention, and I hope that at a later stage in the life of this Parliament I shall be able to elaborate on the developments which occurred at that conference in the foreign policy field and in the economic field. In the meantime, I invite all section of the House, and of the people, to make a careful study of the publicists for the Labour party in these days. The Victorian resolutions were symptomatic of what is going on. The publications of Dr. John Burton are significant in relation to what is going on. Honorable members opposite will not laugh him off. No honorable member in this House will laugh him off, because it was honorable members opposite who made Dr. John Burton permanent head of the vital Department of External Affairs. It was the Labour party which endorsed him as one of its candidates in a federal election. I say that what he has published in his very interesting and informative pamphlets is the most honest and most clearly expressed statement of Labour policy and planning ever put forward in this country. Let us also examine what Professor Arndt wrote in his Chifley Memorial Lecture, which he was invited to give by a branch of the Labour party in Victoria. If all these things do not hang together in a programme, a highly significant programme, which should be carefully studied by all the people of this country, then these people have no right to enjoy the standards which they would hope to possess under free, democratic, parliamentary government in Australia. 1 shall have time to give only one or two short quotations from Dr. Burton. That gentleman pointed out in his latest book, “ The Labour Party in Transition “, that the Labour party’s objective of democratic socialism clearly implied fundamental changes in the economy and in our social life. I do not know how many people want fundamental changes in our economy and our social life but, so far as he is concerned, the Labour party will give them to the people.
Time is running against me and there is much that I would like to ‘tell the House of these policies which have been so clearly and cogently put before us by the Labour party’s most articulate spokesman. Here we have in this latest publication, “Labour in Transition “, the statement thai we are to have democratic socialism - not the socialism of Mr. Cahill, Mr. Gair, or Mr. Cosgrove. They are middle-of-the-roaders who are being swept into the ditch. Those other gentlemen have taken their position firmly on the left. “ The Light Grows Brighter “ is another Burton pamphlet on socialism. It is not the green light for safety that symbolizes liberal progress in this country, lt is not even the amber light for caution which governs the faltering steps of Cahill, Gair and Cosgrove, (t is the red light, the traditional colour of socialism, the established colour of communism, the universally recognized colour for danger. That is what honorable gentlemen mean by democratic socialism and “ new look “ Labour.
.- The Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) in his new capacity has made a very bad start with this statement, which he began by saying that housing is a human problem. Then he completely deserted that tack for a diatribe against the Labour .party. He knows perfectly well, even if he had kept to his brief, that the Government’s case is indefensible. He should remember that the Labour party is not on trial. The question that we are debating at the moment is:
What has the Government of the day done in .regard to housing the people of Australia? I should like to bring the Minister back to that. His was a hysterical outburst full of all the nonsense you read about, but it had no basis and certainly had no relation whatsoever to the debate which we are waging here to-night.
I support the Opposition’s amendment to the Address-in-Reply in relation to the housing problem, and I would bring the Minister back to the statement of his own leader, the most fatuous, stupid and completely un-understandable statement ever made by a leader of any party in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made that statement in reply to questions by the press concerning housing. He said, “ I admit no crisis. I admit no slump “. Earlier, on 7th March, when the housing problem was referred to him by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), he said, “ The problem is not a question of finance, but of man-power and materials “. In the land of egg-heads he has laid the largest egg in captivity. He has been out of this House, and not prepared to debate the matter, because he is so at variance and out of touch with the problems of the Australian people. The Menzies statement, the Spooner statement, the Cramer statement completely indicate that the Government has lost all touch with reality and with the problems that face the Australian community. The Prime Minister says, talking off the cuff in one of those statements for which he is notorious, that there are not any problems of finance, that the problem is man-power and’ material. That has become almost as’ much a bromide as was his statement that he would put value back into the fi.
The support for our contentions is coming from the Liberal party on the other side of the House and from the Liberal party outside the Parliament. It comes from people like the Liberal president of the Building Industry Congress, from the Liberal Minister for Housing in Victoria and from other representative Liberals who say that the Prime Minister is wrong. Why has the Leader of the House kept away from the subject of the housing problem and given us a serious lecture on where Labour is going and why? What has that to do with this debate? If 1 were the Speaker, I say with all humility,
I should have ruled him out of order because he was never on the ball at any stage of his remarks.
The Prime Minister’s statement is notorious and does not require reiteration. He said, “ I admit no crisis. I admit no slump “. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in another place, was pleased to be amused at the activities of the Labour party in appointing a fact-finding committee. We found it was imperative for us to meet ordinary people who are unhoused, dismayed at the future, and see no hope from the banks or other institutions to get themselves housed. They came to us quite frankly, and on a non-political basis, and the members of the committee, with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) as chairman, heard their stones - and we heard plenty. Never mind what this House has heard about the housing problem. It is what the people outside feel about it that matters. And if the answer of the Government and the answer of high finance to the problem of housing is the fowlhouse we think it is an unutterably tragic situation. We do not want to make any exaggerations. We do not want to over-state the case because the basic facts of the case are overwhelmingly in favour of the proposition that we put. In Sydney “ Truth “ last Sunday appeared the following statement under the heading of “ No Exaggeration “: -
Truth this week found a family of nine living in a disused fowlhouse at Berowra. They pay £2 a week rent for the fowlhouse They would not give their names to Truth because they, were frightened they would be evicted.
Perhaps the original holders, that grand old English breed, the Buff Orpingtons. wanted to get their home back. Surely the Minister, who has spent 25 minutes denouncing the Labour party, if he has any instincts of decency ought to be worried about the housing problem. We have stated over and over again, until it is boring even us. what the position is in this country. That position has been amplified bv one speaker after another from this side of the House during this debate, which has lasted over a week. We say that 300.000 homes are required in this community to catch up the lag and meet the current demand. We say that 70.000 houses are needed each year; yet the Prime Minister says. “ I admit no crisis. This exaggeration can be ignored “. How long can one live in an ivory tower? How long can one forget the demands of the Australian people to be housed according to civilized standards? The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who ought to know better, gives us a diatribe about Labour’s difficulties. It is the Government that is in difficulty, and he should know it better than we.
We need 300,000 homes in all, and 70,000 a year, but what are we building? In 1955, the peak year, this Government built 78,299 homes. In 1956 it built 69,909 homes. There has been a drop of nearly 10 per cent. If that persists the housing crisis will be not a crisis but chaos. The Government should consider that fact. It cannot get away from the facts in this matter. Added to the accentuation of this problem is the insane attitude to immigration of the Minister for Labour and National Service. How in the name of God, or in sweet reasonableness, can we provide for the Australians who are already resident in this country if we keep pushing in 115,000 new Australians each year? There has not been a more loyal advocate of immigration than myself. Under the Chifley Government I was chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Council. I was sent abroad to study the position and I do not idly destroy the principle of migration; but I would not stand by and see the old Australian displaced from his home. Nor would I see the new Australian fooled about the prospects in this country. That is what the Minister has to consider, not some sort of by and large devotion to immigration. It is not a sacred cow. If it does not bring the productivity that we need, where must it end? The Minister, realizing this, baled out of his portfolio and gave it to a junior. Now it is being run by apprentices and nothing comes of it.
On the one hand we have the impelling and urgent needs of Australians for homes, and on the other the insolence, arrogance and stupidity of the Prime Minister, as well as an attack from the Minister for Labour and National Service on what Labour is doing. Labour is bringing the Government back to a realization of what politics really means. It is an established principle that the urgent needs of the people should be looked after.
– The honorable member
– The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) would be better employed looking after his aborigines. He has a rotten history in that regard. He should have a look at the starving, sun-blinded natives of the Warburton Ranges, and do something about his own portfolio. We demand homes for the Australian people and we will not be content to listen to any sophistry from the Government. Its leading protagonist to-night decided to spend his time talking about the future of Labour instead of homes for the Australian people. It was a complete dereliction of duty. Behind the Prime Minister stands a fearful group of followers. When he says a word on banking or anything else, they obey meekly. We know exactly where they stand. The operative statement of government policy on housing is that of the Prime Minister. What the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) or any other Minister says is unimportant. The Prime Minister said “ I. admit no crisis. I admit no slump “. We think that he is completely wrong.
The Minister for the Army is the most fantastic character outside of a Disney film. The other night he said that there were umpteen thousand empty or near empty homes in Australia, in the crowded cities especially, and that we ought to fill them. I thought that this sort of talk was communism. I thought that it was red work. Does the Government intend to take all the unhoused people in the electorates of East Sydney, Watson and Dalley to Vaucluse, Pymble, Wahroonga and other s.!ch salubrious suburbs and say to the inhabitants, “ You have a lot of spare room here; you must fit these people in “. Is the Government going to do a house-rationing job in the community? Of course, every one knows how completely ridiculous and wrong that is.
– The Minister for the Army wanted to force the spinsters to take in boarders.
– Not only that, but because he has a key-money mind he is thinking, “ What a lovely lot of double housing units we can have. Where one house was before we can now have two “. The whole thing is completely wicked. I cannot believe that the villain of the piece is the poor little old lady, who lives alone in a cottage in
Hillcrest-avenue, because her husband has died and her son, who was previously at the war, has married and gone to live in another suburb. Are we to believe that she, sitting with her aspidistras, and knitting a sock for the Red Cross, is the villain of the housing crisis? How utterly absurd and ridiculous that is, and the Minister knows it! This Minister for sub-division is completely confused by his attempts to make two houses sprout where one grew before. The only way to do that is to find finance for housing, and have a plan. But this Government has no plan. Member after member from the Government side of the House talks about what has happened, and produces statistics. But this is not a statistical debate. If ever a debate were on a human subject it is this one. What does the Government intend to do for all the people who are crowded into emergency housing? What does it intend to do for people who, eleven years after the war, are still living with their in-laws? What does it intend to do for the people who are in fowl houses? It has been established that there are such people.
The statement on housing that the Prime Minister heaved off his chest was the worst boner that has ever been heard in this House. Labour was proud to have a factfinding committee under the impartial chairmanship of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The Liberal party was so worried about it that it sent along a stooge. I personally examined him and when he left he said, “ Mr. Haylen, you are an awfully charming fellow but I think that what you told me is perfectly right “. The Prime Minister had told us that it was a question of man-power and materials but we refuted that, and that is why the Government did not like our fact-finding inquiry. There is nothing wrong with a group of parliamentarians, or any citizens, ascertaining facts. Indeed, there is too much whimsy in this House and Labour wants to replace it with fact.
We found out that there were 80,000,000 super, feet of timber at grass and 50.000.000 bricks and a similar quantity of tiles waiting to be used. We found that there was this frightening stockpile of bath heaters, sinks and P.C. items, to which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has already referred. We found that unemployment in the building industry was between 5 per cent, and 12 per cent. How then could the Prime Minister’s statement have any validity? It was the greatest joke in history, and showed him up in all his isolation. The press was kind enough to talk about his being in an ivory tower. He was not even in that, but rather in a state of mental relapse, when he made the statement, because obviously there are men wanting work, and there are resources waiting to be used in the building industry, but this has been prevented by the financial policy of this Government.
Then came the sneer. The Prime Minister is noted for the sneer, but not for performance. He said -
Tt is not surprising thai if one sets out to have a judicial inquiry designed entirely to produce a result one should get (h;it result.
Was he thinking of the Petrov Commission? That is the only judicial inquiry that I have seen since I have been in this House that has deliberately set out to reach a certain decision, and has done so. Ours was not a judicial inquiry. It was an inquiry by a group of Labour men, representing half a million voters in the electorates most concerned by the housing shortage. We sat down to find a formula, and to find a reason for it all. Was there anything wrong in that? I think that the public of Australia will concede that we did a good job, and that it is not we who have to make out a case in defence. It has been made by the Liberals against the Government of the day.
I will give examples from three States. We had a witness before us, called Mr. Kraagen. He is the manager of the New South Wales Sawmillers Association. He does not want all the timber resources of this country to go by the board. On Saturday last, in the “ Daily Telegraph “. he issued a challenge to the Prime Minister to come into New South Wales, where the crisis is deepest, and said that he would show him 83 timber mills closed. 80.000,000 super, feet of timber at grass, and 500 unemployed timber workers. In view of those facts, will the right honorable member tell me how man-power and resources can be said to be lacking?
Let us deal with Queensland. Remember what happened last week! In the gallery of this chamber were six members of a Queensland union who came to plead their cause for a job, and a job only. They were employees of the Queensland Housing Commission. They said that if the Government did not change its policy, did not find some money and did not put more blood into the economic bloodstream of the country, they would be dismissed. I was touched by their case. They interviewed a Minister, without result. This is what happened. It is in cold print. This item, which is also from the “ Daily Telegraph “, reads as follows: -
DISMISSAL OF HOUSING MEN.
Brisbane, Fri. - The Qld. Housing Commission to-day dismissed 452 men working on housing projects in the Brisbane suburbs of Zillmere, Groveley, Stafford, Holland Park, Chermside, and Mount Gravatt. The Housing Commission dismissed the men because of lack of funds.
Yet the Prime Minister dared to tell us that it was a matter of man-power and materials!
In New South Wales, a representative businessman who is more likely to be a Liberal than a Labourite has asked the Prime Minister to have a look at the problem in his State. Unionists have come to Canberra from Queensland at their own expense to plead with the Minister to try to get them jobs with the housing commission. And still the Government persists in saying that the crisis is one of man-power and materials only. How completely stupid! Then, as if to make the position completely firm, as far as our attitude is concerned, the Victorian Housing Minister, Mr. Petty, hit the Government harder than any Labourite when he said -
Australia’s home-building industry would disintegrate unless the Commonwealth made more money available.
He said also -
Even a few more months with insufficient work would seriously harm the industry. The industry could deteriorate so much that it would take five years to regain its present production standards.
Therefore, out of the mouths of the Liberals in the community, the Liberal Government in this Parliament is condemned in regard to the housing position. The condemnation does not come from the Labour party. It does not come from the fact-finding committee of which my friend and colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), was the chairman. It comes from an anxiety among the Government’s own supporters. Yet the Minister for Labour and National Service has said that he will attack the Labour party because it is split into component parts.
– The Opposition is the alternative government.
– Of course we are the alternative government, and very soon we will be marching into our rightful heritage. I have only a few minutes left in which to speak, and I would like to say that statements concerning the misdeeds of the Government do not mean very much unless we have an alternative. The Labour party definitely has an alternative. We believe that there should be a nation-wide survey in regard to housing. In 1961 Australia will be a young community because of immigration. There will be a tremendous pressure on housing, hospitals and schools. A general survey ought to be made so that we can see the ultimate limit to which the drive for housing should be developed. West Germany, England and the United States of America have all found a solution to this problem. Are we so dumb and witless as we are represented to be by the Government? Cannot we break the bottleneck of housing, instead of making these “old Bill” statements that the Minister has made in another place - “ If you know of a better ‘ole, go to it”.
What a shocking situation! The Opposition believes that the country cannot have one-brand petrol stations, cannot have luxury pubs, cannot have drive-in theatres and cannot have luxurious homes at Palm Beach if it is to have cottages for people to live in. So the Government had better come to the conclusion that it ought to licence building or suggest that the State governments should do so. Any house over £10,000 should be subject to a licence. The Government cannot know whether the country has sufficient resources to construct luxury homes until it has examined what resources are available.
Finally, the Government should examine the question of powers. I am a unificationist. I think that the Federal Government, representing the Australian people, should have supreme rights in connexion with the housing of the people. If the Government were game - which it is not - to put this matter to a referendum tomorrow, the Opposition would support it in order that it might get the power to do the job. The Opposition has also made that offer in another place, and the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber agrees with me concerning it. So far, the Government has not been able to do the job. It has said that it has not the necessary powers. It is easy for the lazy man to say that, but the Government should be dedicated to its duty in this place. When it is considered that decent people are living in fowl houses and the Hargrave Park type of settlement, and when one thinks of the crowded situation in the industrial areas of New South Wales, it will be realized that we have nol done well by the people of this country.
We must get some sort of plan to deal with these matters. I suggest that we must have an overall plan which will take our capacity into consideration. We must know our resources. As I said before, it is necessary to start with the birth-rate and work up. Then those people who want to get the best out of the best of all possible worlds must be controlled. In my view, cottages dotted over the landscape look much more beautiful than a few glamour pubs, a few drive-in theatres and a few rather vulgar homes on the foreshores of Sydney, built by a profiteer. The. Government can take that or leave it, but I think it is the Australian attitude to the whole matter. A real plan has not been drawn up by the Government to deal with this matter. It is disgusting and disturbing that the recently appointed Leader of the Government in this chamber cannot even debate this urgent matter, which we think is most important. In 25 minutes an honorable member cannot encompass the whole of this matter, but I think I have proved, at least, that the Prime Minister is fatuous, foolish and failing in his mentality if he cannot see what is happening in this country. When people desire homes, what a blow it is to read that the leader of the nation has thrown out his chest at a press conference and said, “ I do not think that this is a matter of finance; it is a matter of man-power and materials “, while a chap is sitting on his verandah wondering if he will get a job as a painter if he goes to the labour office. A bricklayer says, “ ls it my turn next to be put off? “ What sort of association with the people of Australia have Government members when they talk like that? The Prime Minister of Australia-
– Who has had a record term of office as Prime Minister.
– All sorts of people can get records. I believe that Rip Van Winkle slept for 100 years. The Minister for National Development is known affectionately as “ Old Bill “ - not for his age or decrepitude, but because he is a nice bloke. What is his answer to the housing problem? He has said, “ If you know of a better ‘ole, go to it “. It is shocking that that should be the answer to the Australian people, who were told, during World War I., that we were making the land safe for heroes to live in and who were told during World War II. that they had a right to housing. The final shocking thing is the plight of the returned soldiers. Why should the Government, with all its constitutional power, have a back-log of 25,000 homes? There is no excuse. The Government is receiving £3,000,000 a year in rents. It has no excuse for not making a circulating fund and helping those men who have been waiting for eighteen months and two years for war service homes.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Notwithstanding the consanguinity between the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and myself, I am bound to say to him that I believe his performance this evening was indifferent. If our common ancestor could have gazed upon his acting this evening, he would have drawn him to one side and said to him kindly, but nevertheless firmly, “ Leslie, you require further practice “. For 25 minutes, the honorable member posed, postured, and gestured. He became historical, and then hysterical, and finally he became histrionic and tried to bring pathos into his argument. If I were sitting on the other side of the House, I should be ashamed to mention the word “ home-ownership “. I remind the House, as I remind the country, that Mr. Dedman, the former Labour member for Corio, is on record as having said that he did not believe in home-ownership because it would only make people little capitalists. This evening, the honorable member for Parkes referred to what he described, no doubt with a profound sense of humour, as the impartial committee presided over by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The honorable member for East Sydney, in his time, has played many roles, some of them famous, and some of them not quite so famous. The House will recall that for some years now he has been playing the role of the darling of Darlinghurst. We have previously seen him in the roles of the champion of Cairo, and the marionette of Moscow, and now we have seen him in the role of the hoopoe of housing. One can imagine how impartial the committee must have been. One can almost visualize the honorable member for East Sydney, after having listened to advice, and to evidence presented to the committee, turning to his colleagues and saying, “ 1 hope to blazes that the conclusions we reached some three weeks ago will be established “.
– Do not spare me, skeeter.
– The poor old gentleman! When I came into this House, 1 was cautioned and told that the honorable member for East Sydney was a rather tough sort of person.
– The honorable member should not believe it.
– If the House will pardon an expression of quasi-levity, may I tell the honorable member that, in the Barcoo country of Queensland, he would not be regarded as respectable crow bait.
Does not the Opposition believe that the States have a clear responsibility in the matter of housing? It is all very fine to say, as the honorable member for Parkes did this evening, “I am a unificationist. I believe that all power should reside in the Commonwealth “. Under the existing federal system the States surely have responsibilities in the matter of housing. The subject of housing has been canvassed in the House for some days now, and I do not propose to weary honorable members greatly this evening by retracing the various manifestations of the housing issue that have been presented to it. However, I do appeal to the Government and to the Parliament on behalf of Queensland. The honorable member for Parkes said that representatives of the building industry came to Canberra and endeavoured to obtain finance in order to avoid the dismissal of approximately 400 men.
– At their own expense.
– They came here at union expense. There may be a subtle difference, and 1 think it is certainly a significant one. I appeal to the Government this evening to make £300,000 available to Queensland, not for the sake of the Queensland Government, but for the sake of the 400 men concerned. I make that appeal on the understanding that the allocation be contingent on the Queensland Government’s agreeing to the appointment of a royal commission to investigate all the affairs arid methods of the Queensland Housing Commission.
I make six charges against the Queensland Government concerning housing. I charge it, first, with bungling in its budgeting. I charge it, secondly, with gross carelessness, and, thirdly, with inefficiency in administration. My colleague, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), has for some time been trying to establish publicly the existence of that inefficiency.
– The honorable member cannot even add up.
– I am coming to the remaining three charges. I might say that I added the honorable member up five minutes after 1 first saw him. The honorable member for Lilley has been endeavouring to condition public opinion and public responsibility to the shocking state of affairs concerning the Zillmere housing scheme.’ If any one wants evidence of inefficiency in administration, he has only to examine the shocking state of affairs there to find an abundance of it.
My fourth charge is that successive Labour governments in Queensland have consistently opposed co-operative housing. My fifth charge is that the Queensland Government very definitely favours State landlordism. It believes in the socialist concept that by controlling rental homes the government is able to control the people who live in them. My sixth and final charge, which is directly linked with the fifth charge, is that there is every reason to. believe that a substantial element of political intimidation has been evident in the administration of the Queensland Housing Commission. The attitude of State Labour governments throughout Australia is on this occasion exemplified in the matter of housing. They are opposed to the acceptance of responsibility. They are only too willing to accept power, but on every possible occasion they divest themselves of responsibility.
That brings me to a matter that was mentioned this evening, I thought quite charitably, by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who is Leader of the House. He referred to the fact that a censure motion presupposes the possibility that those presenting it will become the government. Disturbing and grisly as the fact may be, members of the Opposition - all of them, not only the few who are now in the House - are Her Majesty’s alternative government. That is a most disturbing fact, but it must be faced.
– Put some ginger into it!
– I shall put more than ginger into the honorable member by the time I finish this evening. The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), who appears to be taking some interest in my remarks, intrigues me greatly. I understand that on one occasion he presented the appearance of one about to commit apostasy, and I have even heard it said that he is something in the nature of an apostolic character. He may be an Iscariotorian but I think that is unkind to Judas, who at least had the intestinal fortitude to go out and hang himself. On the other side of the House, believe it or not, sits Her Majesty’s alternative government.
As the Minister for Labour and National Service pointed out, the various fragments, sections and segments of the Australian Labour party decided at the Brisbane conference to present to the people of Australia a new product, which was in fact only an ostensibly new product dressed up in a fresh wrapping, lt is called democratic socialism. I cannot this evening canvass all the aspects of democratic socialism, but I certainly propose to canvass one or two that I believe warrant it. I invite the honorable member for East Sydney to give some thought to this, if he is capable of giving objective thought to any one other than himself. What do Opposition members mean by socialism? What do they mean by the establishment of a socialist society? Do they agree with Professor
Socialism involves the complete transference of all major industrial operations to public ownership and socialist control.
In other words, socialism is not a question of nationalizing a few specially selected industries, but of changing the entire basis on which industry as a whole is conducted at present. That was written by one of the leading advocates of socialism living to-day, Professor G. D. H. Cole. Does the honorable member for East Sydney agree with these words of Mr. Herbert Morrison in “ Dare We Look Ahead “?
The aim of socialism would be to touch that basis of society, to alter it, to revolutionise it by subscribing public collective ownership not merely for economic undertakings here and there but extending the principle of public ownership to land and economic undertakings to such a point that the nation is in all essentials the master, the director of the means whereby the nation lives.
Does the honorable member for East Sydney agree with that?
– You have distorted it. Quote it correctly.
– Do honorable members opposite agree with the view expressed by Mr. E. F. Wise, in “ Problems of a Socialist Government “, which I should imagine in the normal course of events would have been encountered by every student of socialism and every person on a nodding acquaintance with socialist practices?
Mr. Wise, wrote ;
The first objective of a socialist government, as soon as it attains office, should be the capture of administrative and economic power. Wilh this in view it should proceed methodically and rapidly to eliminate private ownership from the leading industries and services of the country. And it should transfer them to communal ownership in such a manner that there can be no return to private ownership. It must be made impossible for any succeeding government by mere repeal of legislation or other means ever to attempt to reconstruct the capitalist system. We must make such an omelette that it is impossible for the eggs to get back into their shells.
This House, and indeed the country, will be familiar with that metaphor, because the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who is deputy Leader of the Opposition has, on one of two occasions, referred to scrambling eggs. The dominant characteristic of a socialist society is the fact that the state is in supreme control. Every form of economic activity conducted within the state and every form of social activity conducted within the state are subject to state control and to state direction. For example, -does the honorable member for East Sydney not agree that the direction of labour is an essential characteristic in a socialistic society?
– J do not agree. It is rubbish.
– If the honorable member denies it let him deny the right honorable member for Barton, who mis-leads the Opposition with such great accomplishment. In .1942 the right honorable gentleman said that the right of the individual to choose his own employment was only one of the freedoms that the Australian people must forgo in the interests of the state. Two years later the honorable gentleman repeated the same sentiment when he declared -
To-day with the enormous development of industry and industrial organization corporate control and finance, there is no longer a full right in every person to choose his own vocation in life.
That was the right honorable member for Barton. He was in community and communion with the late Sir Stafford Cripps, who declared -
No country in the world, so far as I know, has yet succeeded in carrying through a planned economy without conscription of labour.
This direction of labour is not a myth used by simple-minded people like myself to try to curry political support. I read for the information of the House this excerpt taken from the Attlee Government’s 1949 Control of Engagement Order -
That direction of labour is part and parcel of the socialist concept and it is part and parcel of the policy propounded by the right honorable member for Barton and the honorable member for East Sydney.
To proceed further to show the shocking contradiction in terms between “ democratic “ and “ socialism “, may I turn to one or two submissions which I will have time only to sketch?
– What point are you making?
– If I were to point the point to the sharpest possible point, I do not think it would penetrate the honorable member’s intellectual neutrality. My first submission is that socialism would mean the end of democratic government. The late Professor Laski, an admirer of the right honorable member for Barton and, indeed, a very close colleague of his when he was alive, had this to say in “ Democracy and Crisis “ -
I believe that the attainment of power by the Labour Party in the normal electoral fashion must result in a radical transformation of parliamentary government. Such an administration could not. if it sought to be effective, accept the present forms of its procedure. It would have to take vast powers, and legislate under them by ordinance and decree; it would have to suspend the classic formulae of normal opposition.
– Who wrote this?
– It was written by Professor Laski, who, as the right honorable gentleman knows well, wrote the foreword to his book, “ The King and his Dominion Governors “.
– A very good foreword.
– Yes, and Professor Laski continues in his book “ Democracy in Crisis “ -
Sooner or later a change in popular opinion will put the party of challenge into power; and if their opponents cannot reconcile themselves to the resumption of the egalitarian movement, there is no alternative but the suspension of constitutional government.
I would remind this House that a not dissimilar sentiment was expressed by a former member of this House, Mr. Scullin, when, in 1921, he said that a supreme’ economic council would really lake the place of our Parliament of to-day.
The second point I want to mention is the fact that once again the nature of socialism is such that there can be no question of democratic considerations impinging upon its operation. I turn again to a socialist of no mean accomplishment, the late Sir Stafford Cripps, writing in “ Problems of a Socialist Government “ -
From the moment when the Government takes control rapid and effective action must be possible in every sphere of the national life. The Government’s first step will be to call Parliament together at the earliest moment and place before it an Emergency Powers Bill to be passed through all stages on the first day. This bill will be wide enough in its terms to allow all that will be immediately necessary to be done by ministerial orders.
Here is the punch line for the edification of the honorable member for East Sydney -
These orders must be incapable of challenge’ in the courts or in any way except the House of Commons.
I ask the House to contrast that statement with this declaration made by the right honorable member for Barton, in 1942, in this Parliament, referring to a constitutional amendment that he was proposing - 1 desire to make it perfectly clear that the amendment I propose will give the decision to Parliament itself, and no person will be able to challenge the validity of Parliament’s decision.
I ask the house to note, in particular, the substance of the right honorable member for Barton’s point. If a socialist government had secured that amendment, then the whole federalist system in this country would have been destroyed. We would have had bank nationalization and nationalization of medical services, and the various services mentioned by the Minister for Labour and National Service this evening would have all been destroyed. Private enterprise would have been snuffed out.
The last manifestation of socialism to which I want to refer this evening is something which, no doubt, will not represent the views of every honorable gentleman sitting on the opposite side of this House. But there can be no doubt at all that it represents pure socialist theory and pure socialist practice. Socialism postulaes many far-reaching changes, but, more significant than that, I submit that socialism also postulates the establishment of a republic. . To suport that contention, I rely once again on the writings of the late Professor Laski, who declared -
There is no reason to doubt that the prerogatives of the King seem to men of eminence and experience in politics above all a means of delaying the coming of Socialism.
Professor Laski wrote that in his work, “ Parliamentary Government in England “. Once again the right honorable member for Barton has found much in common with Professor Laski because in his work, “ The Kin» and H*s Dominion Governors “, which is a magnificent treatise and a superb example of historical and constitutional research, the right honorable gentleman set out to try to reduce to a statutory form the reserve powers of the Crown and of the Governor-General. He said -
Surely it is wrong to assume that the GovernorGeneral for the time being will always be a mere tool in the hands of the dominant party.
Later in his book - I am not destroying the sense of what he had to say by giving only excerpts - he declared -
If given command over the parliamentary position there is no saying to what lengths certain persons may not be prepared to go in the exercise of legislative power.
The right honorable gentleman in his book also said -
All this seems to suggest the desirability of some authoritative definition of the reserve powers, preferably in statute form.
His colleague, the late Professor Laski, said -
The mere fact that we do not know the limits of the Royal power, that it can remain to be invoked, on one side or the other, in the twilight zone of crisis, sufficiently indicates the difficulties of the position.
I submit that the whole concept of socialism brings before the people of any country upon which it may be imposed changes far reaching in their nature. In British democracies, it postulates the establishment of a republic, because, unless the reserve powers of the Crown, which are not defined in statutory form but which are known to exist, can be destroyed, no socialist theoretician worth his salt would declare that he could put into effect his socialist policy. I repeat that democracy and socialism are a shocking and ridiculous combination of terms. Democracy means power for the people; socialism means power for the State and for a few. Long ago, maybe, the socialists had as their battle cry “ Liberty, e nudity, fraternity “. But to-day their battle cry is “ Priority, mediocrity, austerity “.
This is a magnificent country. We have a continent to conquer and we require enterprise, initiative and the will to get things done. None of those ingredients can be found within the policies of democratic socialism.
.- In every State of the Commonwealth of Australia, Labour governments have been in office over a period of years. There have also been a number of Labour governments of the Commonwealth of Australia. There was a Labour government in the days of war. There was a Labour government when the sceptre of power fell from the palsied hands of the Liberal party into the hands of John Curtin.
To-night, when there is a proposal to censure the Government, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has attacked the Labour party because it has a particular platform - a platform which, he says, means that the Labour party will turn Australia into a republic. The policy, platform and objectives that the Labour party has to-day it had also during the period when Labour governments administered the States and the Commonwealth. That policy and those objectives were the policy and the objectives to which members of the Democratic Labour party, so called, or the Anti-Communist Labour party, so called, pledged their faith and allegiance. That was the policy that they preached over the years as members of the Labour party.
But our friend talked to-night about Judases. I do not know what his implication was, but, if there are any J udases, they are those who betrayed the principles to which, over the years, they gave their allegiance - not those who to-day still stand behind the principles they advocated in the days gone by.
We wish to discuss the question of housing. At this late stage of the discussion, it would be a work of supererogation for me to seek to give details of the tragic conditions of the vast number of people in this country who need shelter to-day. It is unnecessary to dwell on the question whether man-power and materials are available or are not available. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) introduced the censure proposal. He clearly set out the points upon which he challenged the Government. He showed that there was a shortage of homes and that materials were available. He said that finance was not available and that finance was what was required.
Let me pause here and interpose the comment that the playboy politician who is now the Deputy Leader of the Government said that the States had their responsibilities in connexion with housing. The only contribution to the debate on housing made by the honorable member for Moreton was the statement that the States have their responsibilities. Certainly the States have their responsibilities. But the States say, “ We will carry out our responsibilities and provide houses if the finance is made available “. The Liberal Premier of Victoria said, “ I want finance “. Premiers of all States say that they want finance and that, if they secure the finance, they will carry out their responsibilities.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in what was described by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ as his worst speech, replied to the Leader of the Opposition. His speech, of course, was the best that his advisers inside the Government and outside the Government could produce. Then the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr, Ward) spoke. Any one who heard his speech will have no doubt that he replied effectively to all the assumptions, arguments and fictions put forward by the Prime Minister. He proved irrefutably that vast numbers of people needed houses, that many were living in. garages and sheds and bringing up families in rooms, and that many people in Sydney were living in fowlhouses. He produced evidence that a vast amount of material was available and that people were leaving the building trade because they could not secure employment. That, of course, was the overwhelming case for the censure proposal put forward by the Labour party. So decisive was it that the press from one end of Australia to the other agreed that an abnormal number of people who could not get houses were living under tragic conditions, and that adequate materials and man-power were available to relieve the position. Even Ministers of the Crown, at a later stage, admitted those two contentions, and, of course, the Premiers of all the States agree that they can get materials and man-power if only they are provided with sufficient finance. I quote now a statement from the Melbourne “ Age “ which epitomises the attitude that is generally adopted in connexion with this censure amendment by the press of Australia. It reads -
The problem of housing, and in particular the problem of finding finance, which faces so many married people in search of a home of their own . . .
There can be no glossing over the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures which showed a drop of 5,000 in the number of houses under construction at the end of the last financial year compared with twelve months earlier. This slowing of the tempo of housing was not caused by any fall in demand, for it occurred in a period when the marriage rate was high, the influx of migrants was well sustained and demand was increasing . . . Again, figures prove clearly that there was no shortage of material or of workers in the building industry, to account for the decline in activity. There can be only one explanation for this slow decline in production: the difficulty of obtaining finance for home building.
Returning again to figures, there is clear evidence that the trading banks in recent months have diverted substantial sums from housing to the financing of hire-purchase firms.
– Who said that?
– That appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “, which, of course, is not a Labour newspaper. It is not a supporter of the Labour movement. The Melbourne “ Age “ helped to put this Government on the treasury bench.
I do not wish to go into too many details on this matter, and I merely point out a few illuminating facts. There are 24,000 outstanding applications for war service homes in this country. In Victoria last year there were 15,000 applicants for housing commission homes, but only 4,000 homes were built. In the previous year there were over 12,000 applicants, and only 3,000 homes were built. In a period of less than two years in Victoria there was a shortage of 20,000 Housing Commission homes, and throughout Australia there was a shortage of 24,000 war service homes. A similar position exists in other States to that which obtains in Victoria, lt is estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 homes are required in this community. The result of this shortage is that homes are being broken up, and the health and spirits of the people are being undermined. This applies, of course, to “ old “ Australians. It is “ old “ Australians who can get war service homes and Housing Commission homes. The position of “ new “ Australians is considerably worse. In Carlton, Fitzroy, St. Kilda and elsewhere, as was demonstrated by the Melbourne “ Herald “ in a series of articles and pictures, whole families of from three to six persons and more are living in single rooms, for which they pay as much as £5 a week. I pointed these things out in this Parliament before the last federal elections. I brought evidence to the Parliament and invited the playboy Deputy Leader of the Government, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), to accompany me and Mr. Lovegrove, M.L.A., through Carlton and Fitzroy, where we would have shown him these conditions.
– Did he go?
– He declined to go, but those conditions existed in the metropolitan area of Melbourne, and they affected thousands of people. When I brought this matter before the House there were in the Parliament members of the Anti-Communist Labour party. They, of course, said, “ This is an attack on immigration “. It appeared that one attacked immigration if one sought to show that new Australians as well as old Australians should have decent conditions. Of course, that is not so, and calumnies of that kind will not deter the Australian Labour party from fighting to ensure that proper conditions are provided for the Australian people. The conditions under which some of them are living are deplorable and tragic. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) believes that the basis of civilised society is the home, and that we need happy homes, he should do something about it. But what did he say in the speech that he made in this House? He based his arguments in reply to the censure amendment upon practically one ground alone. He said this -
The limitation on a housing programme in Australia is the limitation of man-power and the limitation of materials, and anybody who is so naive as to believe that new man-power and new materials can be created by increasing the supply of money is merely adding to inflation.
– Who said that?
– The Prime Minister said that, and upon the basis of that one sentence he constructed a whole speech. That was his defence of the housing position. It has been proven, of course, beyond any challenge whatsoever, that there are ample building materials and that there is quite a good amount of labour available. But does the right honorable gentleman contend that if we increase the number of houses in the community we will increase the price of houses, or that if we lessen the demand for houses we will increase their prices? Of course we will not. The only time when people in this community will be able to obtain houses at reasonable prices, either for purchase or rental, will be when there are adequate numbers of houses. We will diminish rather than increase inflation in the building industry, if, with proper safeguards, we arrange to build more houses.
I have before me an advertisement that appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “ on 9th March, 1957. It is headed, “ To Let “, and it reads as follows: -
The five that. I read out were not stated to be furnished, so, therefore, we can take it that they are unfurnished. But it means that you cannot get a house, either furnished or unfurnished, at less than £8 8s. a week, and these are typical of the rents being charged. Does the Prime Minister contend that if more people get houses of their own the prices for rented houses will rise above these abnormal charges that I have quoted?
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) deserted the Prime Minister altogether. He said that there was ample accommodation in this country, but it was in the wrong hands; that there was too much accommodation. These are his words, quoted later by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan), who reiterated the statement: Too much accommodation in too few hands.I agree that there is too much accommodation in too few hands. There is too much land in too few hands, and there is too much money in too few hands. The position is growing worse every day, because the policy of this Government is designed to take more and more of the purchasing power of money out of the hands of the average man and woman and put it into the hands of a few. That is what the Government is doing.
The supporters of the Government proclaim, “ We believe in immigration, but the Labour party does not “. If I remember rightly, the immigration programme was conceived with the idea of filling the vast empty spaces of this country, and of making it more secure. But there are fewer people in the country areas to-day than there were prior to 1939 and the beginning of assisted immigration. Land is getting into fewer and fewer hands. The immigrants are adding to the congestion in the cities, which, like Melbourne, are spreading outwards. In our country areas there are fewer people to-day than there were in 1939. Every one knows that that is the position. That, of course, does not add to the security of the country. On the contrary, it endangers our national security. One hydrogen bomb dropped on Melbourne would destroy thousands of homes.
– It would do a lot of good!
– Our friend says that it would do a lot of good. What is the use of discussing with members of the Liberal party a proposition in connexion with housing the people if the members of that party insist that the dropping of a hydrogen bomb on Melbourne would do good?
We need people in our outer areas; we need people on the land; we need people in our country towns; but people are not going to those places. Why? Is it because they do not want to go, or because the Government has a policy that prevents the cutting up of big estates and the placing of more and more men on the land? That, of course, is the fact, and within the congested areas of the cities the price of land is skyrocketing. A person who goes to North Balwyn, Broadmeadows or places such as those 10 miles or 12 miles outside the Melbourne city area, and wants to buy a block of land on which to build a house will not be able to do so for less than £1,000. It may even cost £2,000 or more. How can the people prosper and progress under such conditions? In addition to the payment of £2,000 for land, it costs £3,000 to put the cheapest type of home on the block, which makes a total of £5,000. If the person who builds a home in such an area works in the city he will have to pay approximately £1 a week for fares. In order to pay off his home under the conditions that operate at present, he would have to pay a minimum of £5 a week. If he had children to educate or children who were going to work, he would have to pay up to £2 a week for fares, all of which would be added to his commitment of £5 a week to purchase the home. That is what this Government has done for the workers. That is what the high interest rates of the Government have done for the people of Australia.
Of course, the solution of the housing problem will not be attained by giving a few more thousand pounds or a few more million pounds, at a lower rate of interest, tothe States to spend on housing. The whole policy of this Government must be reviewed, the policy that is making the rich richer at the expense of the workers, the policy that has taken away quarterly adjustments of the basic wage and which has added £1 a week to the cost of accommodation. That policy must be ended. To achieve that objective, we must get rid of the Government.
The Government would have ceased to exist in 1954 if it had then sought to secure power on economic and political issues. It secured power merely because it had new allies, the anti-Communists, the so-called Anti-Communist Labour party which proposes to change its name at the next election and call itself the Democratic Labour party. It may change its policy and its name, but in reality it is a buttress and support of the policies of the Government and these deplorable conditions to which I have referred - the housing conditions, the land problem and the financial problem that exist in this country. All of those things are due to manipulation of political factions by the Liberal party to destroy the chances of Labour regaining the treasury bench. The supporters of the Government call us Judases, and they attack the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in scurrilous language; but the hour is dawning when Truth will no longer be upon the scaffold, when Right will be upon the throne.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Drummond) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put-
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 March 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570326_reps_22_hor14/>.