23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. G. J. Bowden) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. WENTWORTH presented a petition from certain electors praying that the House will delete certain of the clauses from the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
Petition received and read.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Trade a question without notice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can he now tell the House whether there has been agreed upon, or is contemplated, any increase in overseas shipping freights, a matter to which, of course, he has made some reference recently, and as to which .there was, I understand, some broadcast announcement of a provisional kind? I ask the Minister to give the House all the information available on the matter.
– I am not in a position to give the information sought. When the right honorable member asked me a question on this matter last week I had inquiries made immediately, and J was told that the conference was proceeding and that no decision had been taken. It was intimated to me by .the Australian exporter and producer interests .that the parties would prefer to be left to carry on their negotiations without government intervention. That was not formally said to me, but that was what emerged from my inquiry as to whether a decision had been taken. I think that on the evening before the Leader of the Opposition asked me the question there was broadcast an item about an increase of freights from New Zealand to the East. Perhaps that is the matter that was announced, and to which the right honorable gentleman refers. However, I shall inquire again, ascertain the present position, and inform the right honorable gentleman accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the Government yet considered recommendations made to it from time to time that the Public Works Committee Act should be amended to widen the scope of the committee’s activities, in particular by making it mandatory to refer all major works to the committee for examination and report?
– The answer to the question is: Yes, the Government has considered the matter, and we have decided to introduce amendments to make it mandatory for works estimated to cost more than £250,000 to be referred to the Public Works Committee. The act will be further amended to enable any work, irrespective of cost, to be referred to the committee by resolution of the House. There will be provision, of course, for some exceptions, such as certain defence works. There will also be provision for the Parliament to accept a motion that a particular work - which would be denned in the motion - need not be referred. It is also proposed to give the committee power to review its own report on a particular project, within certain time .limits.
– I ask these questions of the Prime Minister: First, did the head of the security service act upon the Prime Minister’s instructions in visiting a particular sponsor of the Australian and New Zealand Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament, or did he act on his own initiative? Secondly, has any instruction been issued, or is it intended to issue any such instruction, to the head of the security service to interview other selected sponsors, or not to interview others? I might add here, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that from my own knowledge of the facts and personalities associated with the congress, I see no reason to sever my connexion with it. Thirdly, if the head of security does feel that there are seditious features associated with the congress - and surely his only concern should be on such grounds, unless the service is to be regarded as a purely political instrument - does the Prime Minister believe that I, as a member of Ibis Parliament, as a -prominent member of the Opposition, and as a member associated with the congress, should also have been given the opportunity to assess the information said to be possessed by security?
– As this matter does not arise from any statement from myself, positive or negative, but is a matter within the particular knowledge of the AttorneyGeneral, I suggest that he be allowed to answer the question.
– Those who organized this congress announced it as sponsored by a numbered of prominent citizens. I was concerned that those citizens should know precisely who was sponsoring the congress and what was its purpose. But a newspaper published an article indicating who, in its opinion, were behind the congress. Thereafter I was told that Professor Stout desired to be informed whether the newspaper statements were correct. He apparently had joined as a sponsor not knowing who were behind the congress. When I was told that Professor Stout desired information, I asked the head of the security service whether he was prepared to afford information of a kind that could be given publicly .if need be. He said that he would if Professor Stout indicated clearly that he wished to see him. I was told that the professor did wish to see him.
– The professor said that he permitted the head of security to see him.
– Yes. Thereupon Brigadier Spry called on the professor. He had no instructions from me other than that he must not attempt to persuade the professor. He was simply to put before the professor facts as he knew them. Brigadier Spry did so, in the result that when Professor Stout realized who were behind the congress, he withdrew his sponsorship. I regard it as being within my province to offer that piece of information. I may say that the Archbishop of Sydney and one of the Methodist clergymen also asked me personally for information as to the true sponsors of this congress. T gave that information to them, as I thought I should, because in my view this congress was travelling under false colours and it was of concern that it should travel under its right colours. Now, those who wish to be associated with it are as free as air to do so as far as I am concerned and, I am sure, as far as others are concerned.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General a question supplementary to the one that he has just answered. Does he acknowledge that the ascertainment of the relevant facts is precluded by the procedure that he has adopted? Does he agree that it is impossible to say for sure on hearsay evidence who are the sponsors of this congress? He may be correctly advised as to some of the sponsors but incorrectly advised as to others. My colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, was not given the information that he sought. The fact that the Archbishop of Sydney wants information on this matter has no bearing on the case at all. Will the Attorney-General make a considered statement to the House of the nature and character of the information given by the Director-General of Security? If that information is not forthcoming it means that people will have been condemned who have not been fully identified. It means that we do not know what the evidence is or who has garnered it, and the matter has all the features of McCarthyism at its worst.
– Order! Before I call the honorable the AttorneyGeneral I inform the House that as this is question time I shall not allow a debate to proceed on this subject.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports did not ask me for information. Had he done so he would have received it. If a question is put on the notice-paper asking me for information about this matter, I shall certainly see that it is fully supplied.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question. Last week I referred to the sponsorship of British migrants by Australian organizations and the Minister indicated that he would obtain some details for the information of the House. I now ask the Minister whether organizations such as Rotary, Apex, Junior Chambers of Commerce and others have successfully introduced sponsorship schemes for British migrants with full assistance from the Australian immigration authorities in the United Kingdom and Australia?
– As I said last week in reply to the honorable member for Darling Downs, the Government appreciates very deeply the worth of the voluntary organizations to which he refers. I am glad to tell the House that the Apex Clubs have planned what they call “ Operation Sealift” from the United Kingdom in March of next year, when they will bring out about 1,000 people in the Orient liner “ Orontes “. Already 265 families have been nominated. I need hardly say that the Department of Immigration is co-operating very fully in this work. It is providing the Apex organizations with every possible facility, both in London and in Australia. Two other organizations of a similar nature have also played a conspicuous role. I refer to Rotary, which eighteen months ago brought out in the steamer “Orsova” 215 persons from 62 families, and to the Junior Chambers of Commerce, which in the “Strathaird” in September, 1959, brought out 75 families comprising 360 persons in all. I hope that other similar organizations will follow this lead, because obviously the Government is greatly assisted by the enthusiastic co-operation of public-spirited bodies such as these.
I mention for the information of honorable members, because I think they may be interested in this, that most of the religious denominations have shown a considerable degree of interest in this matter. Quite a number of churches have formed “ Bring out a Briton “ committees, and some of them have even gone to the length of purchasing homes in which to house migrants. I refer particularly to the Methodist Church in Victoria, which owns seventeen homes, and I am glad to tell honorable members that the Church of England is beginning to follow their example.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior.
On 15th September, I asked him a question concerning the decision to sell homes at Woodville North which were built for munition workers. The department had decided that these homes should be sold for cash, and I asked the Minister whether he would alter this decision so that purchasers could buy the homes on terms similar to those available to the purchasers of homes in Canberra. I now ask the Minister whether anything further has been done and whether the original decision to sell for cash has been altered.
– I undertook on the previous occasion to give sympathetic consideration to the honorable member’s request. My recollection is that the matter has not been finally decided, but we are trying to arrive at some reasonable terms. I will keep the honorable member informed when a final decision is taken.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he has any information to convey to the House on the reported move in London for the establishment of a naval base on the eastern shores of the Indian Ocean because of the insecurity of other bases bordering the ocean or contiguous to it. If the Minister has no such information, will he endeavour to ascertain whether the British Government is behind this reported move?
– All I know of this matter is that I have seen a press report which quoted the London “ Times “ on the subject that the honorable member has raised. However, I shall be pleased to make the inquiries that he proposes.
– My question is to the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister explain why the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry is meeting only in capital cities and, I think, cities such as Geelong and Ballarat? Can the Minister also tell the House why the committee is apparently unwilling to hold sittings in important dairying areas such as Gippsland, Warrnambool, Portland, Camperdown and Colac? Has the committee decided to take this course because it does not want to prolong its fact-finding investigation too long? If this is so, does the Minister consider that it is important not only that the committee should arrive at the right conclusions, but also that all dairy farmers should feel that the inquiry has been thorough and exhaustive? Would the Minister be prepared to approach the committee in order to see whether it would be willing to extend its sittings and take evidence in representative dairying areas?
– I remind the honorable member that the Commonwealth Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry has been established to conduct an impartial and independent inquiry into the whole of the Australian dairying industry. I think it must be conceded that; in those circumstances, it is the function of the committee to decide at what centres it will receive evidence. The committee has not taken evidence only in capital cities. In Queensland, it has travelled to the northern, central and southern parts of the State, and 1 think it has moved about similarly in other States. However, I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the chairman of the committee.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Did the right honorable gentleman state, when officially opening a new food processing factory in the western district of New South Wales some little time ago, that he never did have time for speculators who made quick fortunes? If so, will he state whether the firm of General Motors-Holden’s Limited comes within the category of the speculators to whom he referred, or does he regard an annual profit of 875 per cent, as not being excessive? Will the Prime Minister also state whether he now has, or ever had, any intention of taking action against the kind of speculator to whom he expresses objection? If no action is proposed, will the right honorable gentleman discontinue his double-talk, which obviously is designed to mislead the general public into believing that he is really anxious to protect the people against exploitation by wealthy monopolistic interests?
– I compliment the honorable member on his fine command of polysyllabic expression. It is quite true that I said something about people who, by mere speculation, acquired great wealth. I Have never had any respect for them, and I have not now. The honorable member has taken that statement and applied it to a company which established in this country an industry which has given employment, and continues to give employment, directly and indirectly, to many thousands of people. That is ah industry which has constantly expanded its activities in this country, and in which I thought my friends opposite had some pride, at one stage, because it began in their time. When the honorable member refers to such an industry as a speculation, all I can say is that he is a stranger to the meaning of language.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. What is the Government’s attitude to dual citizenship? Is it a fact that Israelites, Frenchmen and Czechs can enjoy double nationality? The renuncia>tion of previous allegiance in the Australian naturalization ceremony is specific and binding. Is it true that, notwithstanding this justifiable’ call for a completely new national loyalty, most applicants for naturalization do not hesitate on this ground to seek Australian citizenship?
– The honorable gentleman brings before the House a very real problem. Under the Nationality and Citizenship Act - and the corresponding legislation of other British Commonwealth countries has the same effect - when immigrants apply for and accept nationalization, they become, in the language of the act, British subjects and Australian citizens. But if immigrants from the countries mentioned by the honorable member return, as some of them do, for a visit to their homeland they are liable still to be claimed as nationals of their own land in spite of their renunciation of that nationality. That is something over which this Parliament has no jurisdiction although we can take note of it. Therefore, although we take great pains to tell our new Australian citizens who go abroad that, in returning to their country of origin they may, for example, make themselves liable for military service and other similar inconveniences, nonetheless, we cannot protect them beyond giving them every conceivable warning that we are able to, provide..
– I preface my question to the Minister for Health by stating that I have a copy of a container price list issued by the Government to all pharmacists. This applies to the supply of general pharmaceutical benefits and, where appropriate, to ready-prepared pensioner pharmaceutical benefits. On the list are these words -
The prices quoted have been calculated on the basis of “ Duranol “ plastic containers which are available through usual wholesale channels.
It goes on to say that the manufacturer is Modern Button Proprietary Limited, Carlton, Victoria. I ask the honorable gentleman: Since when has this Government become the advertising agency for one particular private-enterprise firm?’ Finally, does the honorable gentleman consider that plastic is superior to glass in the manufacture of vials?
– I am not sure that I understand what the honorable gentleman is really asking me. If he lets me have a letter asking the question, I will let him have an answer.
– Can. the Minister for Trade indicate whether the opening of diplomatic relations with the United Arab Republic is. likely to lead to increased opportunities, for Australian exports to Egypt?
– Prior to the Suez crisis an Australian trade commissioner was stationed at Cairo, and Egypt was not an unimportant trading centre from the Australian viewpoint. I think that in those times we exported about £2,000,000 worth of good’s to Egypt a year. The opening of diplomatic relations with the United Arab Republic which, of course includes Syria and Egypt, would appear to open up opportunities for a further examination of trade potential there. Last year, I think we sold about £1,000,000 worth of goods to the United Arab Republic. I assure the honorable member who, I know, has maintained a continuous interest in- this matter, that the matter of re-opening the trade post in Cairo will be kept in sight.
– I ask the Minister foi Health whether it is a fact that chlorpromazine or largactil, pro-pantheline or probanthine, and. reserpine or serpasil, which are most valuable drugs in the treatment respectively of agitation or anxiety in elderly people, duodenal ulcers, and blood pressure have been removed from the. list of drugs available to pensioners. Is it a fact that these drugs are included in the British pharmacopoeia, and that it was not until they were so included that they were excluded from the list of drugs available to pensioners, in Australia? Is it the intention, of the Government, in order to reduce the cost of the scheme, deliberately to removevaluable: drugs from the list of those: available to pensioners, and that this is. being done in the- belief that otherwisethose valuable drugs would! be prescribedby doctors in preference to the inferior drugs, that are available for 5s.?.
– I cannot answer by the book as to which drugs are on. or off the list but, as I am sure the honorable gentleman will be aware, drugs are placed on the list or taken, off it on the advice of a highly expert committee. The other portion of the. honorable member’s question about the Government’s endeavour to cheapen the cost of the schemeis, of course, nonsense.
– I preface my question: to the Minister for the Interior by stating, that I have been told that £3,000,000 is. tor be spent on forming a lake in Canberra. Will the Minister inform the House whether the proposed lake will serve any useful purpose?
– If the honorable member had been in Canberra a few days ago he would have seen that it is not so much a matter of forming a lake as of containing a lake within reasonable bounds. Ever since the capital city- was designed by Burley Griffin in1 1!91’2, a- lake has. beenplanned. Every expert who has looked at the design of the capital city has endorsed the original plan in relation to the lakes. In 1951 or thereabouts, when the suggestion was made that the lakes scheme should be taken out of the plan, the Public Works Committee of this Parliament insisted that it should be retained. An all-party committee of the Senate examined the national plan and, with the exception of, I think, one dissentient, agreed that the lakes were a necessary part of the plan for the national capital. Sir William Holford, who last year or the year before was invited by the Government to come to Australia and report on the original design, pressed for the inclusion of the lakes scheme in the plan.
It is quite reasonable that the Government, with this weight of expert opinion, should press at this stage for the inclusion of the lakes. We propose to spend approximately £2,200,000 within the next five years on the building of a weir and on the necessary work on retaining walls around the site to make a permanent feature of what is at present a natural flood plain. No buildings can be erected on the site in its present state. It is a comparatively waste area which divides the city. We believe that when the lakes are formed finally, they will not only beautify and unify the capital city, but will also lend form to it and become the basis for its future development. Therefore, we consider that the expenditure of £2,200,000 over a period of five years is not a gross extravagance but a natural development of our capital, when one considers that in normal circumstances, and at the current rate, our ordinary expenditure for the normal requirements of Canberra would be in the vicinity of £50,000,000 or £60,000,000, or perhaps more.
– My question to the Minister for Trade relates to the proposal to import Japanese rayon and other synthetic fabric. Is the Minister aware that Japan shortly will recommence exporting these materials to Australia? If so, will he ensure that, having regard to past experience, adequate protection is accorded the expanding Australian industry concerned with the production of these materials?
– I am not quite sure that I understand exactly what the honorable member meant when he asked whether I was aware that Japan would shortly recommence exporting rayon to Australia. May I state the position? It is that in circumstances contemplated when the trade agreement with Japan was arranged and completed, because an important Australian industry appeared to be suffering damage, at least partly, as a result of Japanese competition, I, speaking for the Government, asked the Japanese Government to restrict the volume of exports of rayon goods to Australia to the level of 8,000,000 square yards a year, that being approximately the level of exports to this country last year. But it was within the knowledge of the Australian rayon industry and the Department of Trade, having regard to information contained in applications for import licences, and licences validly being taken out, that the inflow of Japanese rayon goods would substantially increase in the present year and therefore further damage the Australian industry.
It was on that basis that the rayon industry requested the Government, through me, to take action. I immediately acted and requested the Japanese Government to impose this restraint, and I am happy to say that within days the Japanese Government agreed to restrict exports to 8,000,000 square yards a year. Further, the general circumstances of the rayon industry - and of other industries in Australia using manmade fibres - were referred to the Tariff Board for report. It is expected that before the expiration of one year, which is the period for which the limit of exports is to apply, the Government will be in a position to take a permanent step regarding the protection of the Australian industry, based upon a new report of the Tariff Board.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he would consider obtaining, for the information of honorable members, some kind of analysis of the types of circumstances and their prevalence in cases which have come before the Western Australian courts for dissolution of marriage on the ground of five years’ separation.
– I shall certainly be pleased to get, if I can, the information for which the honorable member has asked. The Western Australians have had experience of this ground for some fourteen years and I hope that I will be able to get for the honorable member the information he seeks.
– I preface my question to the Postmaster-General by saying that it is sometimes claimed that because telephone directories are issued only yearly it is possible that a period of anything up to eighteen months can elapse before new or altered numbers appear in a telephone directory. Will the Postmaster-General make a statement showing how many new and altered telephone numbers were included in the telephone directory issued for each capital city in each of the last five years?
– Would you like this information off the cuff?
– No; I have asked the Postmaster-General to make a statement which, obviously, he will have to prepare. I never ask the impossible. I ask the honorable gentleman also whether he will consider the advisability of issuing supplementary telephone directories at half-yearly intervals in order to benefit the Australian community, particularly the trading community.
– May I inform the honorable member, who refers to asking something impossible, that the difficult we achieve immediately; the impossible takes a little longer. Therefore, if he classifies this request as being impossible I assure him that it will not be long before I can obtain the information for him. He mentions, first of all, the fact that it can take up to eighteen months before an alteration is made in a telephone directory. Let me assure him that he is stating a very abnormal case, and that such a state of affairs exists only rarely. The honorable member also asks for the issue of a directory every six months. I point out that the issue of a directory is a pretty big job, and an expensive one, and unless there were some very strong justification for the extra expense we could not agree to his proposal. If it becomes necessary from time to time, however, to issue something in the nature of a small complementary issue, that of course can be done, and sometimes is done.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question concerning the Australian whaling industry. It has been reported that only 731 whales were obtained on the Western Australian coast during the 1959 season, in which the maximum quota was 1,120. This represents a shortage of 389 whales, or 35 per cent, of the quota. As it has been suggested that this serious drop in the catch was caused by the operation of international whaling fleets in the Antarctic, and as the whaling industry is of such great value to the Australian economy, and to Western Australia in particular, what action has been taken or can be taken to overcome this difficulty before the 1960 season begins?
– I am aware of the fact that one of the licensees on the Western Australian coast did not secure a full quota of whales, and that the number taken was considerably less than had been hoped for. A decision of the International Whaling Commission gave Antarctic fleets four days in which to secure humpback whales. The whales come to Western Australian waters from Area 4 of the Antarctic, and the Antarctic whaling fleets actually secured 1,796 whales this year in this area, whereas last year they took none at all. This has undoubtedly had an important effect on the number of whales frequenting the area in which the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited has been operating. The Australian authorities are taking this matter up in the international sphere, and it is hoped that we can protect Australian interests.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Can he say what steps are being taken by officers of his department, in consultation with the New South Wales Department of Education, to overcome the present and projected shortage of teachers in primary schools in the Australian Capital Territory? Will the Minister take the earliest opportunity to make as full a statement as possible on this matter, which is causing some concern in the Territory?
– The matter is being examined. I will endeavour to make a statement shortly.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. The honorable gentleman will know, in both his professional and official capacities, that in the case of Darling Island Stevedoring and Lighterage Company Limited versus Long 1-he High Court held that when a person is injured through a breach of the Navigation (Loading and Unloading) Regulations, he can seek damages only from the foreman who is in charge of operations, and not from the stevedoring company which employs both the injured person and the foreman. Since the honorable gentleman will soon be introducing a bill to transfer the liability in negligence actions from the drivers of Commonwealth vehicles to the Commonwealth itself, will he use his good offices to remove the similar anomaly which I have mentioned, by amending the regulations to meet the High Court’s decision of two and a half years ago?
– There is no similarity whatever between the particular case mentioned by the honorable -member and the cases that we intend to cover by the intended legislation, which will ,make the Commonwealth liable where a vehicle owned by the Commonwealth is driven without its authority and causes damage. I am familiar with the case referred to toy the honorable member. In that case in order to protect workmen and ensure an absence of carelessness, the regulations deliberately laid the responsibility on the man who was in charge of the hatch. The legislature did not think it would secure a clear absence of negligence if it simply laid the responsibility on the master who was not present. As far as I am concerned, the regulation in its present form, laying the obligation on the workman in charge of the hatch, is the best means of securing the safety of the men with whom he works.
– I have received a letter from the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The increasing number of “ take-overs “ in trade and industry in Australia resulting .in further monopoly growth to the detriment of the Australian people.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– As you have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the matter that is proposed for discussion is the increasing number of take-overs in trade and industry in Australia, resulting in further monopoly growth to the detriment of the Australian people. There has been a boom in take-overs and mergers, on an unprecedented scale, in the current financial year. During the last year Australia has been in the grip of what has really amounted to .a speculative boom in share values and land values. The boom has been accompanied by an unprecedented wave of company take-overs, which in most cases has led to a sharp and dangerous increase in the degree of monopoly control exercised in Australia by powerful financial and industrial interests.
The figures are very impressive. In August last the commercial editor of the Melbourne “ Herald “ stated that whereas in the financial year 1958-59 fifty take-overs were completed, in the first six weeks of the current financial year more than 40 such bids have been reported. Many of those 40, and others subsequently reported, were small, or were completed without a great deal of publicity, as the deals were accepted by the parties and it was felt that there was very little need for publicity. Certainly a few of them were in the multi-million pound class, and these made the headline news. All of them, however, underlined the drift towards greater monopolization in the Australian manufacturing, .trading and financial world. The “ Canberra Times “, in an important study on 8th September, 1959, said -
In the aggregate they (take-overs) represent a concentration of more property and more power in fewer hands.
The Australian newspaper, “ Nation “, said, on 29th August, 1959 -
Most serious of all, however, is the impetus that these share-swapping operations have been giving to the pronounced monopolistic drift in Australia. lt is the already huge corporations, exercising the immense advantage of the big market premium values on their shares which are aggrandising themselves most easily and cheaply.
The “ Observer “ states -
This take-over boom is not just a few largescale mergers; it is something really big. Instead of showing signs of diminishing it is, if anything, becoming, more and more intensive.
This is of tremendous importance to al! sections, of the- people of this country. Mr. Deputy Speaker, this, I think, may be said: This is a serious matter, and in some cases the take-overs have revealed a shocking lack of candour, and often of efficiency, on the part of the directors and managers of powerful Australian companies. Perhaps the most damaging example of this lack of candour and, indeed, misrepresentation, was provided when the H. C. Sleigh interests made a take-over bid for the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited. It was revealed that the directors of the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited had consistently misrepresented the financial position of the company to the company’s own shareholders. The position is, I think, made- quite conclusive by one comment in an Australian newspaper - I think it was the “ Observer “ - which read -
Probably the most astounding example is Adelaide Steam, whose directors have suddenly discovered that the company is not poor at all, but very rich indeed.
Now, Adelaide Steam traditionally had shown profits almost exactly sufficient to pay the dividend rate. This is what was done by the company in four successive years: The profits declared by the company in those four years were: - 1954, £139,515; 1955, £139,518; 1956, £139,516; and 1957, £139,517. Obviously those were prearranged figures. You could never get such identical profits in such a big business in four successive years. The difference between the smallest and the largest profit in those four years is only £2 or £3. The balance-sheets provided for the information of shareholders displayed practically the same profit year after year. This was obviously prearranged. The directors did this to . their own shareholders, and 1 suppose that they did it for very many years. The “ Sun-Herald “ had this to say-
This is a mockery of shareholder reporting.
That is to say, the directors pretended that these were the profits, but they were not the profits at all. Now, in one sense, the duty of the directors is towards theshareholders. The directors are in a. position practically the same as that of trustees, but they did not disclose the actual! facts of the profits. Then came the takeover bid from this other company, H. C, Sleigh Limited. That is a company concerned with shipping and also with oil. Itsought to take over the Adelaide SteamshipCompany Limited. No doubt the H. C. Sleigh interests saw the facts and knew the extent of the profits. In the end, the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, which, for years, had kept the dividend paid: to shareholders right down, not giving thema fair share of the profits, but keeping the disclosed profit down to a nominal figure, provided bonus shares, or their equivalent, showing that the true profit was at least twice the amount shown in the dividend that they had declared. They thereby opened the way to negotiations, because, in this type of capital deal - it is not investment in the ordinary sense, but an attempt to make a speculation and get hold of a company and all its assets and prospective worth - the ideal victim is the company which has been keeping its shareholders out of a fair share of the profits.
This is really a blatant, example of the misrepresentation revealed by the current take-over boom. In the end the Adelaide Steamship shareholders got the truth onlybecause the directors saw that they had at last to give the shareholders a fair deal.
Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the truth is. that in this type of investment the people making take-over bids are no longer interested in yields in the sense of investing money to get an annual return of so much per cent. Naturally, in buying stock, or in seeking a merger of that kind1, they might reasonably or normally look at the yield, but they are not really interested in the yield. They are looking to capital gains, to capital appreciation as a hedge. A hedge against what? Against inflation. If they can only acquire capital assets in the present state of affairs that is of tremendous importance to them.
The case I have given is analogous to many cases in the take-over boom. As a matter of fact, the take-over boom is in reality not a boom in production or investment. Production has not advanced parallel to these enormous take-over bids. If anything, the advance in production is steady, and really small. Who has benefited from the take-over boom? The ordinary people do not stand to benefit, but only the favoured speculators, the people with inside knowledge of big operations, the people who run a small number of large companies dominating Australian business. The takeover boom is increasing day by day, and the already tremendous power of a small group of companies is being increased. So we find that National Radiators took over F. Muller Proprietary Limited giving it a virtual monopoly for car radiators as a result of that transaction. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited took over Masonite Holdings Limited to consolidate its dominance in the production of building boards. One result is the closing down of a masonite factory in Victoria. The interests taking over did not want increased production. That is not the purpose of the takeover. The purpose is to get money under their control, so that they can make extraordinary profits. Similarly, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited took over the Bradford Insulation interests, thereby removing a vigorous competitor in the insulation field. They want monopoly and more monopoly, and the bigger the monopoly the more greedy it is.
Then we had the rush by Repco Limited to acquire companies manufacturing automotive parts. It took over both the distributors and the manufacturers. Unilever Australia Proprietary Limited took over McNiven Brothers Limited’s ice cream business. Then we had the successful L. J. Hooker Limited take-over of Accommodation Australia Limited. However, the Hooker interests failed in their attempt to take over Richardson and Wrench Limited, which it made simply in a move to dominate the whole real estate business in Sydney.
Let us see the nature of this take-over boom. It is not a boom in production, but a boom of a totally different character resulting from speculation. Great Britain has had this very kind of thing, and now it is going on in Australia as it has been going on in Britain for a number of years.
I have given only cases of well-known take-over bids. I give two other take-over examples. When the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited took over Masonite Holdings Limited the C.S.R’s issued capital jumped to £21,000,000, and it now ranks only after Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the Bank of New South Wales among the companies wilh the largest share capital in Australia. Commenting on this take-over offer, the “ Australian Financial Review “ said -
Even in a market conditioned to take-overs the bid for Masonite by Colonial Sugar is a spectacular operation. It would be the biggest takeover in Australian company history, involving nearly £7 million. But for C.S.R. the advantages are great.
That is one illustration. All I desire is an opportunity to bring these matters to the attention of the House. My colleagues who will follow me in this debate know that this matter has been discussed in the party room. This matter must be dealt with. The Government must use some of its powers, such as it has under the Australian Industries Preservation Act. Only one case has ever been brought under that legislation - the coal vend case in Newcastle. In that case the Commonwealth had power to act but the court held that on the facts there was no monopolizing to the detriment of the public.
I say that all these transactions are to the detriment of the public. They do not encourage competition; they simply lead to an extension of monopoly. On the one hand we have a large number of companies whose directors do not tell their shareholders the true financial position of their company. On the other hand we have a speculative boom in share values, resulting mainly from the Government’s failure to control inflation and the supply of money. That is the position to-day and that is the reason for these moves.
– It is inflation unlimited.
– It is inflation unlimited. Because of the Government’s failure to halt inflation the profits made by these various companies are tremendous. The Commonwealth has power to alter the taxation law to require the Commissioner of Taxation to publish the taxable income, depreciable assets and stocks of every public company listed on the stock exchange. That was not done in connexion with Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, and failure to do so led to the situation that I have attempted to describe. If my suggestion were adopted, investors would have a knowledge of the companies that they really own.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is one of importance and it is proper that this Parliament should pay some attention and give some consideration to it. But the right honorable gentleman has done little to advance our knowledge of the matter that he brings before the House. His speech was about as amorphous as the terms he used to introduce this subject. He treated us to a homily on the dangers of unlimited inflation, having just come from a budget debate in which he attacked us for every proposal that we made to reduce expenditure and criticized us in every direction where we sough to achieve some economy. Here we have the chief spokesman for the Labour Party addressing us on the evils of monopoly and take-over while he leads a party that is pledged to a wholesale process of monopoly and national take-over.
Having made that passing comment, I do not deny that there are features of economic developments, not only in Australia, because it is not an isolated national phenomenon, but also in other parts of the world, which have caused governments to consider what might appropriately be done to protect the interests of shareholders in companies affected and, more generally and more importantly, to give proper protection to the welfare of the community as a whole. The first comment I should like to make on behalf of the Government is that the greatest protection the community can have against an undesirable extension of monopoly practice is the encouragement of free enterprise and a high degree of competition. I am glad to be able to report that during the term of office of this Government a feature of the Australian economy has been the remarkable growth in individual enterprise. The right honorable gentleman spoke about the extension of monopoly. In order to have this matter in perspective, he should also bring into account the phenomenal expansion of enterprise in Australia which has brought into being, over the ten years this Government has been in office, an increase in factory establishments from 40,070 in 1948-49 to 53,988 in 1957-58 - an increase of 35 per cent. Private companies have increased from 23,838 in 1950-51 to 38,461 in 1955-56 - an increase of 61 per cent. They are the latest figures available to me. In the same period public companies have increased from 8,318 to 10,579 - an increase of 28 per cent. Those figures do not reveal much evidence of monopoly development having assumed dangerous proportions in this country.
We are all aware from what we have been able to observe that the take-over process can have benefits and, in some circumstances, evils so far as the community’s interest is concerned. This matter engaged the attention of the Parliament of the United Kingdom earlier this year when a motion was moved on behalf of the Labour Party by Mr. Harold Wilson, on 29th June. But in the course of his speech Mr. Wilson conceded that one consequence of the takeover process could be greater efficiency. He said that it could lead to better management, economies in large-scale investment and better utilization of capital assets. It is recognized that the essence of the takeover bid is a confident belief on the part of those making the offer that a firm’s assets can be used more profitably. We have witnessed cases in which there has been a better deal for the shareholder and in which a spur to efficient management has been applied. So, advantages can flow from the process.
But, in Australia, as the Leader of the Opposition is only too well aware, the Commonwealth Government has limited powers. At the same time, our interest in this matter has been reflected in discussions that we have engaged upon with State governments, which have their own company legislation and which, over recent months, have been working towards a uniform company law. No State has gone further in dealing with problems of this nature than has Victoria. The Victorian Government had consultations with the stock exchange, and in 1956 the stock exchange introduced a series of rules .that were to apply in the case of take-over proposals. Those rules had to be strictly complied with if companies taken over as a result of some approach were subsequently to enjoy listing on the exchange. Those rules have, I understand, ,been working very satisfactorily and are likely to be adopted by the stock exchanges in other States.
In 1958, the Victorian Government passed amending legislation which required the publication of information so that there “would be no build-up of secret reserves undisclosed to the public. That legislation required directors of companies to maintain standards of honesty and not to use for their own advantage information acquired in their position. Another section of the act required that shares could not toe compulsorily acquired except when holders of 90 per cent, of the shares had agreed. Section 94 of the act gave authority for the court to intervene if the company was being conducted to the detriment of shareholders. As I have already mentioned, these terms are being regarded as model provisions by other State governments. The outcome of their consideration may well be uniform company legislation which will give other States the sort of protection afforded by the Victorian legislation and the regulations of the stock exchange.
But, Sir, we must keep this matter in balance. In our very proper desire to safeguard the public interest and to protect the welfare of shareholders, let us not lose sight of the danger that can develop if governments seek to interfere too drastically or unnecessarily in the conduct of private commercial organizations and public companies. Investment in Australia, particularly investment from overseas, can be dissuaded if the fear develops that governments are likely to interfere arbitrarily in the conduct of commercial affairs.
Whilst overseas recently, I found that prospective investors were particularly sensitive to the atmosphere that they believed was created by the governments of the countries in which they proposed to invest. It was put to me that capital goes where it feels it will be welcome, and it stays where it finds that it is well treated. One of the very real concerns developing amongst prospective investors is that, because of extreme and radical political views which may be held by the government of a country in which they are interested, they can expect a degree of interference in their commercial affairs which they believe to be unwarranted. Therefore, I hope that the Parliament will give to this matter the thoughtful consideration that it merits, but at the same time will consciously guard against creating an impression, inside Australia or out of it, that we feel it is our function to meddle in matters which would be better left to the free play of the market.
– Do you want to let them do as they like?
– I cannot hear your interjection.
– Do you want to let them do as they like?
– No, I do not.
-Order! If the honorable member for Watson defies the Chair any further, he will be placed beyond the power to do so.
– The honorable gentleman need not try to misrepresent me. I have made it perfectly clear that we as a government have been watching this matter closely and have collaborated with State governments in the efforts that they have been making. Consultations have been held between the law officers of the governments concerned, and for our part we are anxious to see proper legislative safeguards applied throughout Australia in matters of this kind. However, at the same time, we reject the socialist approach exemplified by a party that is determined, if it secures the necessary power, to monopolize the great national utilities and industries and to take over, not on proper commercial terms but on its own terms, Australia’s free enterprise activities.
.- The speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), like the flowers that bloomed last spring, has nothing to do with the case. The matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) - I repeat it for the benefit of Ministers and their purblind supporters - is the increasing number of takeovers in trade and industry in Australia resulting in further monopoly growth to the detriment of the Australian people. Ever since this Government came to power, the increase in the monopoly control of industry has been evident. Yet the Treasurer, in his own inimitable way, says that the policy of the Government is the encouragement of free enterprise and a high degree of competition.
That may be the Government’s stated policy, but the money manipulators outside the Parliament see to it that there is no such thing as free enterprise. While there is monopoly control, how can there be free enterprise? As a matter of fact, free enterprise has not existed in Australia since this Government took office. Controls of all sorts operate now, and they are far worse than they have been during any period since the war. How can there be controlled free enterprise? It is a contradiction in terms. If it is to be free enterprise, let it be free enterprise. If it is to be a controlled free enterprise, the Government should be honest enough to say that the economy is to continue to struggle in hobbles and shackles and that it will continue in that way while ever the Government lasts. The Government dare not lift its controls, because, if it ever does, inflation will break through and the whole economy will suffer.
When we say that monopoly control is developing in Australia, we do not create a case out of our own fancy. We have evidence from reputable organs to show that this is happening. The Leader of the Opposition quoted from a recent issue of “ Nation “. The same journal also said that American economists who visited this country some five years ago were surprised at the extent of consolidation of effective control in Australian industry. They estimated that at this time 75 of the largest firms owned nearly 45 per cent, of the total fixed assets in the manufacturing industry. The ratio would be much higher to-day because this control is continuing all the time.
The daily press each day of the week carries reports of what is happening. I read a paid advertisement in to-day’s press indicating that the Adelaide “ News “ has offered to pay £12,500,000 for the shares of the Adelaide “Advertiser”. Can the Treasurer or any one else on the Government side say that monopoly control does not exist in the newspaper world? Can any one deny that the newspaper interests own not only the newspapers but also the television stations and most of the radio stations? What does the Government propose to do about this? Nothing at all! Before very long, two newspaper executives, one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney, will own and control the whole of the newspaper, television and radio interests of Australia. And this Government does nothing and will do nothing about it. Government supporters to-day say what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, as Leader of the Opposition, in his 1949 policy speech -
We stand for freedom, not for exploitation, and if I can be shown some monopoly business exploiting the people … I would not hesitate to socialize it to-morrow. emphasize that statement was made by the present Prime Minister ten years ago, who was then prepared to go to the limit and socialize if necessary. The Treasurer said that the alternative of the Opposition to the present abuses was socialization. He knows that that is just nonsense. He knows that we do not propose to nationalize and that no government, as the Constitution now stands, can nationalize even a lolly shop.
– You would like to do it, though.
– We would not like to do it, but we would like to control the activities of companies so that they cannot thieve from the people in the way that they have been doing. If it is a question of monopoly, I would sooner have a national monopoly answerable to the Parliament than a commercial monopoly answerable to, and controlled by, only a few people, some of them unknown and, in some instances, some of them foreigners in control of companies of which not one single ordinary share is held in Australia. The classic case, of course, is General Motors-Holden’s Limited.
We of the Australian Labour Party have co-operated with the Government parties in the last three years in a review of the Commonwealth Constitution. But Ministers do not seem to realize that the report which we presented twelve months ago provides the very means, through various amendments of the Constitution, by which the evils of which we complain could be removed and the Australian community effectively protected against exploitation and abuse. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) talks about uniform company legislation being adopted by the States, and of such legislation providing the means to control abuses. If uniform company laws were established throughout the States, they would not last more than six months, because some State would most certainly amend its act by then. There is only one means by which our economy can be safeguarded. That is by making the various amendments of the Australian Constitution recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee.
The committee, of which I was a member, proposed that restrictive trade practices should be dealt with by a re-constituted Inter-State Commission. We recommended, too, that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power to make laws with respect to (a) the issue, allotment or subscription of capital, and (b) the borrowing of money whether upon security or without security, by corporations which engage, or may engage, in production, trade, commerce or other economic activities. We added other recommendations in the same regard, because we felt that, although the Commonwealth Parliament can pass laws in regard to taxation, banking, customs duties, and exports and imports, it still is deficient in certain powers which it must have if it is to be the central regulating instrumentality for the peace, order and good government of the people of Australia. These recommendations were signed by every member of the committee except one - by five Government supporters and by six Labour supporters. Let the Government address itself to the problem of puttine to the people the referendum suggested in this regard, and there will then be nobody in this Parliament complaining about the abuses to which we very rightly and very properly direct the attention of the Parliament and of the people of Australia.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should have thought that the first problem to which we had to address ourselves to-day was the terms of the matter submitted to the House for discussion by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). In submitting this proposal for discussion, the Opposition asks that attention be directed to -
The increasing number of “ take-overs “ in trade and industry in Australia resulting in further monopoly growth–
Here are the relevant words, Sir - to the detriment of the Australian people.
What have the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) done? They have come out with a string of statements. Some of them, it happens, were irrelevant, and some inaccurate, but not one statement have we heard to support the argument that what has been done in recent months is to the detriment of the Australian people. In other words, their attitude is based upon a dogmatic approach to the problem and not on a basis of realism or of genuine principle. It is based just on the fact that they are hostile to free enterprise and to the success of industry in this country.
Where does the Government stand in this matter? In a matter of such enormous importance as this, it is impossible to be dogmatic. One has to adopt a sensible and practical approach to this problem. We are for free enterprise, Sir, and we like competition whenever it is practicable. To use the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), we are against exploitation when exploitation can in fact be proved. But it is wise to state again that we have to adopt a practical approach to this problem. We have to examine most of the cases on their merits and make up our minds whether they are for the good or to the detriment of the Australian people.
I have had one or two cases put before me this morning. These cases illustrate how difficult it is to be precise or dogmatic about this matter. An illustration was given of one industry in which, in order for smelting operations to be effective, it would be necessary to smelt about 200,000 tons of raw material per annum. The Australian market is just not big enough to absorb the end product of 200,000 tons of that raw material, and, although we can encourage the gradual development of the industry, it will be very many years before an element of competition can be introduced. This is essentially a practical problem.
May I turn now to the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that, in attempting to prove his case, he has made two errors. He dealt, first of all, with the case of the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited. Although he qualified his remarks and said that the company was guilty of lack of candour, and misrepresentation, the very case that he put before the House was not a case in which there had in fact been a take-over by the bidding company. So the illustration that he gave was not a relevant one and it did not show that the take-over attempt had been to the detriment of the Australian people. On the contrary, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the attempt at a take-over may have been of real advantage, because it may have compelled, and probably would have compelled, the directors of the company to make a true disclosure of its financial position. To that extent, it would have been to the benefit of the shareholders themselves.
May I take the right honorable gentleman’s second illustration, too - the offer of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to take over the Masonite Corporation (Australia) Proprietary Limited. I think that there were good grounds for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to make the take-over bid. It hoped, by this means, to keep the Masonite Corporation in existence. It was expanding its own operations in the building materials field, and it hoped that this proposal would fit into the picture and that the Masonite Corporation would be benefited in the same way as it would benefit. But it ran up against enormous technical difficulties that just could not be solved. Therefore, the take-over did not have the advantages that had been envisaged.
I am glad to be able to say, Sir, that the Department of Labour and National Service has taken an active part in placing those employees of the Masonite Corporation who need employment. There are left now only seven men who wish to make their own arrangements with regard to reemployment. In other words, Sir, we find that, through the activities of the individuals themselves and of the Commonwealth
Employment Service, most of the men in the Masonite Corporation will be placed in employment.
As you, Sir, are well aware, the time available in a debate such as this is not sufficient to discuss these matters effectively. I have looked, however, at a report that was made quite recently by Mr. J. A. Bushnell, of the Department of Economic Research of the University of Melbourne, dealing with mergers and take-overs. I cannot go through the whole of the arguments which are often advanced, but perhaps I may mention one in favour of a company taking over - the acquisition of facilities for expansion - and one in favour of a company accepting a take-over bid - the difficulties of finding adequate funds for the expansion necessary to maintain effective competition.
So, when you look at this problem, you come to the conclusion that, as a generalization, there may be some disadvantages, and that, very frequently, there are real advantages and that those advantages can be for the benefit of the Australian investor and of the Australian consumer. Therefore, Sir, we look at this problem from the point of view of the national interest; of the trade unionist and employee; as my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), has pointed out, of the investing public, and particularly the person overseas who is investing in this country; of management; and of the shareholders. It is against the background of the inter-play of the interests of those people that we make up our minds whether a take-over bid is contrary to the interests of the Australian people or to their advantage.
– Who finds the money?
– Time is too short for me to argue with the honorable member across the table.
I should like to mention the advantages that there may be in take-over bids, Sir. As has been pointed out in debate in the United Kingdom House of Commons, by having bigger companies you can have economies on a greater scale. This can lead to an advantage to the consumer and more stable employment for the employee.
We hoped that the Labour Party would make a positive contribution towards this debate. The Government has given the problem consideration on several occasions. We regard it as being of maximum importance that there should be a public awareness of the problem, so that the public may be able by assessing the facts to make up its mind whether a particular take-over will benefit or harm the interests of the consumers and the general public.
The Opposition instituted this debate itself. It has had the opportunity to submit a case, but I put this to the House in very precise and positive terms: The examples given by the Opposition have been irrelevant and bad. Opposition speakers have not proved their case. It is not up to the Government to prove their case for them. Whether the take-over bids of recent months have been contrary to the best interests of this country, I leave it to the House to judge. Provided that it is understood that the Government has given attention to this problem, and that we recognize that an informed public opinion is desirable, I think that the Government and not the Opposition has made the real contribution to this debate.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) seems to consider that the Government is in the role of a visitor to some museum - sitting and watching. The Opposition thinks that the Government should be in the role of an experimenter in a laboratory, having a good look at the machinery of government and social conditions and taking steps to see that they run according to the wishes and needs of the Australian people. The Minister avoided all the questions which are posed by the very idea of monopoly control of Australian resources. He said it is a good thing. He said that if, in the opinion of the people who control these industries, it is to their advantage to amalgamate, to merge, to monopolize and to take over, that is all right with him. That is the same philosophy that Ned Kelly used but, in the end, he had to be dealt with. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) is safely at home in his party with that name.
The point that has been completely ignored’ by the Government is the political signifi cance of monopoly control of our resources. We have no doubt whatsoever that growing, up in this country are great, almost majestic, commercial and industrial undertakings, which are beyond the control and power of the people of Australia and of this. Parliament. Looking at this as a matter of political control and power, those organizations are in a position of great, irresponsibility. No nation that has any self-respect and no government or parliament that has any confidence in its own ability to direct the affairs of the nation should ignore this, matter.
The Minister said that the Opposition had put no case. We think that our case is patent to everybody. There are articles in the newspapers continually bringing forward the ideas that we are advocating. It is the duty of the Opposition and of the Parliament to make the people aware of what is happening and it is the Government’s duty to- act. But we see no sign of action whatsoever. The Minister said that the Government had a watching brief and so did the Treasurer (Mr. Harold’ Holt).
I invite the attention of the House to an article in the “ Economic Record “ of December, 1 957, entitled “ Company Mergers in Australia, 1946-56”. I have not time to read it all and I do not suppose it would be appropriate to have it all incorporated in “ Hansard “, but a footnote by the author states -
This article reports the findings of a detailed study of post-war Australian company mergers. I am indebted to the staff of the Melbourne University Economic Faculty for helpful discussion and criticism and to the U.S. Educational Foundation for the Fullbright award which made possible my research in Australia.
This further point made by the author should give the Minister some concern -
The lack of public information made it impossible to find data on many mergers; the sample is biassed in favour of large mergers, those involving public companies, especially listed companies, and mergers which took place in most recent years.
So, apparently, even people who have all the resources of research at their disposal are unable to find out all the facts. The magnitude of the take-overs is shown in pages of charts and tables. Discussing the reasons for mergers, the article states -
Essential facts on 673 mergers which occurred between January 1947 and October 1956 have been analysed.
We see that the Government has abdicated its field of responsibility by not taking proper action through other methods within its control. The article continues -
The high level of personal income tax and the fact that capital gains are tax-free give mcn or families whose main asset is shares in one successful company the opportunity of selling their shares, in effect capitalizing future profits and diversifying their investments without paying any tax.
That is the tenor of the whole article - that this is a particularly speculative field of finance and that it is of particular profit to people who are the biggest. It is being encouraged by the Government because it is ignoring its very origin. The taxation laws are within the capacity of this Government to enforce. It can act on its own initiative. No referendum is needed. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that if the Government were really dinkum in what it says about monopoly control, and if what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said ten years ago really meant anything, the Government would immediately implement the recommendations that have been put before it on the control of monopolies. Is there any doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the people of Australia feel great concern about this when we consider the fields of public enterprise - fields which have almost absolute control over some parts of our daily life?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned the Adelaide “ News “ and the Adelaide “ Advertiser “. This battle has not been decided yet. Let us examine for a moment the assets and the activities of one of these bodies. An announcement of which T have a copy reads as follows: -
Through its shareholdings in Herald and Weekly Times Limited, our company draws Strength from the fortunes of the two largest daily newspapers in Australia, the “ Sun ‘* and the “ Herald “ in. Melbourne. Through the same channel it has a stake in the two leading newspapers in Queensland. Broadcasting stations in Victoria and Queensland stand as bulwarks protecting our flank and a profitable television station in Melbourne is to be supplemented next week by a companion station to ADS-7 in Brisbane, from all of which we may hope in future to draw profits through the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, if our own prosperity should be temporarily halted. In Australian Newsprint Mills Holdings Limited our holding is almost 10 per cent, of the total share issue.
In addition to our newspapers here - the “Advertiser” and the “Chronicle”, outstand ingly the leaders in the daily and weekly field - we have four broadcasting stations (good profit earners), two profitable general printeries (The Griffin Press and Craftsmen Press), and a substantial interest in a commercial television station which we hope will contribute to our earnings in a few years.
We do not need to go any further to understand the things that affect our daily life. Newspapers and television stations present a field, for take-over bids. Currently, a struggle is going on. We remember, too, the historic struggle involving Ansett Transport Industries Limited. The Government stood by and allowed it to take place. I was travelling to Canberra one morning when Mr. Ansett was making his - shall we say - airborne bid to control Butler Air Transport Limited. Aeroplanes were taking off at frequent intervals from Melbourne to carry shareholders to Sydney to pack a meeting and take over the Butler company. This Government stood by and allowed that to continue. Ansett-A.N.A. is only one example - a most publicized example - of this kind of thing. On this side of the House we believe that a lot more is involved than the simple ownership and control of property. We believe that the power and the further development of the nation is at stake.
Overseas capital already has a hold on the Australian aluminium industry at Weipa in northern Queensland. The “Stock Exchange Gazette “ contains an article which indicates the way in which British Aluminium was taken over by Tube Investments and its American partner, Reynolds Metal. This is a matter not only of national significance, but also of international implications. If we have any confidence in our own future, and if we wish to have any control over it, we cannot possibly stand by and allow monopoly growth to continue without taking some action to prevent it. We should implement the relevant provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, and the Government should take steps to give itself the power, by referendum, to control monopolies and to accelerate its agreement with the States so that they may bring down laws to control monopoly growth.
A significant feature is the way in which the control of industry is moving into the abstract. It is almost impossible to identify the people who are in fact controlling Australian industrial and manufacturing resources through holding companies, subsidiary companies, amalgamations and mergers. We believe that this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue, having regard to our own self-respect and of the development of the nation. The Government is not in a position to answer back the monopolies which control shipping freights, and the people of Australia are supplied with information through only one medium, which is owned and controlled, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, by a decreasing number of people.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This matter of urgent public importance has a great deal of significance, but I have never heard a case presented by the Opposition in a more confused and vague way. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) quoted extracts from various documents, but his speech had no cohesion, no sense and no rhyme or reason. He has said that we do not know who controls Australian industry, but the Opposition member who preceded him in the debate said that our industries were in the hands of 75 companies. The honorable member for Wills made wild and unsubstantiated charges about the growth of monopolies. Are the things to which the Opposition has referred taking place? If they are and, as the Opposition claims, it is common knowledge, surely the Opposition’s statements should be easy to prove. If these things are not taking place, I cannot understand the reason for this discussion.
I have never heard the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) more vague than he was in his speech to-day. He spoke about shareholders in companies not receiving a fair return for their investments. If that is so, it is a matter covered by company law, and is within the power of the States to control. If balance-sheets are presented in an incorrect form, the shareholders have their safeguards in company laws. But during the whole of this debate, not one member of the Opposition has instanced any case of a shareholder being adversely affected.
The Leader of the Opposition made some wild statements about the growth of monopolies, and the Deputy Leader of the Oppo sition (Mr. Calwell) referred specifically to television. Let us analyse each of the charges that he made. He said that television in Sydney was controlled by a monopoly, but how many private television companies could Sydney stand? Could it carry more than two commercial stations and a national station? We should try to understand what the Opposition regards as a monopoly. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition wants only a national television service, but this Government has provided for three stations in Sydney alone. Can that be regarded as monopoly control? I do not think that the Opposition understands the meaning of the word “ monopoly “. For the information of honorable members opposite, “ monopoly “ means control in the hands of one entity.
Opposition members have made some wild statements about General MotorsHolden’s Limited. But dozens of companies are now engaged in Australia producing motor vehicles. To-day’s debate has provided a typical example of the doctrinaire attitude of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the people who want to control increasing amounts of money so that they can make increasing profits, yet he began his attack by stating that the shareholders in the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited were denied their just share of the company’s profits. The honorable member for Wills was extremely vague in his remarks, but that is to be expected of him.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the market boom. Socialist thinkers are becoming increasingly concerned at the tremendous activity in markets throughout the capitalist world. I refer to our present system as capitalist because I am proud to be a capitalist. Capitalism is the only system that has been devised by man which gives him the dignity to which he is entitled. In any other system man becomes a serf because no other system allows a man to be free. The market boom is a sign of the times. The victory of the Conservative Party in England in the recent election can be traced to the market boom, because the capitalist system is beginning to work in its full splendour. Instead of a few men investing thousands of pounds in industry, an increasing number of small people are investing their savings, thus expressing their confidence in the capitalist system which will raise the standards of living of the people governed by it. The United States, England and Australia are experiencing this market boom. Does the Opposition think that it just happened? Of course, it did not! The people realize that if they invest their savings they are helping not only themselves, but also industries in their own country.
The Opposition has not made out its case that there has been an extraordinary growth in monopoly control, because there has not been any such growth. The Opposition has made wild unsubstantiated statements but has not submitted any proof of its claims.
The matter of monopoly control has not been passed over entirely because the Stock Exchange has examined the question of whether shareholders have any protection for their investments but has not been able to find one case of a shareholder who has suffered in this regard. The University of California conducted a research into the role of mergers in the growth of large firms in America, and in its findings stated -
The special influences accounting for the heightened post-war merger activity have been shown to be (1) an unprecedentedly high peacetime tax structure, (2) low price-earnings ratios of common stocks, and (3) a desire to achieve rapid expansion in order to increase sales in a strong sellers’ market. To the extent that market control motivations appear to have been relatively minor, the need for increased government supervision of mergers is hard to prove. Decreasing the rate of merger activity, if this goal be judged a sound one, could better be achieved by directing attention to the important forces which gave rise to the heightened merger activity of the post-war period. The third influence may be presumed to be a temporary one. The second is a matter primarily of the operation of general market forces. The first influence is in the area of fiscal management.
In America, where trends are similar to our own, there is no indication that mergers are necessarily harmful. I do not claim that this matter should not be examined, and I agree with the action of the British Stock Exchange in examining the question of take-overs. But I stand by my view that the people are beginning to understand the success of the market system that is produced by the buying and selling of shares. To suggest that the present boom is the result of inflation is absolute nonsense. In any case, what has the Opposition done to assist the Government to fight inflation? When we produced the horror budget Opposition members said, “You are doing a dreadful thing. You should do the opposite.” But the horror budget brought inflation under control. On every occasion that this Government has brought down tough measures to control inflation the Opposition has done nothing to support it. The Opposition has told the people to spend their money because in time it would have no value. That is encouraging inflation. But now the doctrinaire socialists are beginning to see the capitalist system coming into its own. That created a great shock for Khrushchev when he thought, after the American recession, that the capitalist system was on the wane, instead of which it was gathering force. I believe we can look forward to an era of great prosperity in Australia. This continual talk about monopolies which has not been substantiated by any sound evidence is most disturbing and decidedly untruthful, and consequently the proposal of this subject for discussion does no credit to the Opposition.
.- It would not matter how strong a case the Opposition put forward against monopolies, no member of this Parliament is so naive as to believe that as a result of this debate this Government would take any action to deal with the situation. We have to be realistic. This is the big businessman’s government; it represents the monopolies in this country and a person would be completely stupid if he imagined for one moment that any corrective action would be likely to be taken by these direct political representatives of the monopolies.
Let us look at the situation. If we go back to 1949, we find that the Labour government of that day challenged the great banking institutions of this country and the enormous power they exercised against the interests of the community generally. When the campaign was over and Labour was defeated, the then Leader of the Opposition in this House and former Prime Minister, Mr. Ben Chifley, challenged this Government to investigate that charge. As soon as he passed away even members of the present Government spoke in most glowing terms of his honesty and integrity. So, if we quote his statements we can take it that every section of this Parliament will accept them as being truthful. The late Mr. Chifley stated that the anti-Labour government had been financed in its election campaign by donations directly from big business interests in this country, including the private banks. The parties which now sit on the Government benches did nothing to accept the challenge of the late Mr. Chifley, so we have to accept his statement that that is where they derive their finance. It would be a very interesting exercise for this Parliament to have an investigation into the sources of party funds. I have often heard it said that the policies of political parties are determined by the sources from which they are financed, but this Government is never likely to give us the opportunity of finding from what sources it is financed.
Let us examine some of the statements of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). I shall not waste very much time on him because I suppose he would be recognized as probably the greatest tory that this country has seen for many years. He challenged the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that balancesheets issued by companies were not sufficiently informative. He said the State governments have power to deal with this situation. But the honorable member knows that the States cannot effectively deal with this problem; it has to be dealt with on a national basis. But every time referendum proposals have been submitted to the people to extend the powers of the National Parliament to enable it to deal with problems of this kind, men like the honorable member for Hume have advocated a “No” vote and tried to persuade the people that they should reject all such proposals and refuse further power to their National Parliament.
The honorable member talks about nationalized industries in the sense of their being monopolies. Let us examine whether they are monopolies or not. What I am concerned about is not so much the activities in which they are engaged but who controls them and whether they are democratically controlled. If an industry is nationalized it has the most extensive list of shareholders that could possibly exist in any community because every member of the community is automatically a share holder in it. Consequently, at every election every shareholder, on the basis of one vote one person, as an elector has a vote in determining who shall be the directors of such a great organization by electing the members to this Parliament. Whenever we hear demands made by trade unions for improved industrial conditions, or whenever requests are made in this Parliament for an upward adjustment of social services, what is the argument that we hear from our opponents? They immediately say that industry cannot afford such reforms. Now they tell us, by frank admission, that these balance-sheets are dishonest, that they do not disclose the exact profit earning capacity of the capital invested in industry. This means that when the courts seek to determine whether industry can afford to pay, or meet the request of the industrial workers who are producing the wealth of this country, they have these falsified balance-sheets upon which to make a determination. Is it not obvious that the workers are not receiving a fair deal?
Away back in 1949, when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was fighting to get control of this Parliament, he talked about excess profits. He promised the people of this country that he was going to do something about it. I remember that shortly afterwards, following one of his frequent visits overseas, he delivered several radio broadcasts. One was entitled, “ High Prices, Why? “ and another, “ High Prices, the Answer”. He said the remedy was to introduce an excess profits tax. If profits in 1949 were regarded by the present Prime Minister as being excessive, how could they be described to-day? To-day, at question time, I asked him a question regarding a statement he made recently in a western district of New South Wales when he was talking to a select audience and said he did not believe in speculators who made quick fortunes; he had no time for them. I wanted to know how he regarded General Motors-Holden’s Limited. He ridiculed the idea that that company could come within the classification of “ speculators “. If anybody who invests capital in any undertaking and gets a return on one year’s operations of just on nine times the amount of capital he invested, I would say that that was pretty good speculation in the eyes of any reasonable member of the community. But (evidently the Prime Minister does not regard :such a profit as excessive.
Let us consider how this Government has handled the situation and has favoured private enterprise and the great monopolies of this country. As an example I turn to Australian National Airways Limited. This Government has the audacity, although there is a Government airline ostensibly running in competition with that private enterprise, to use public money to subsidize this private company in competition against its own undertaking. We have always been told by .these protagonists of free .enterprise that ‘Government enterprise is always inefficient, badly managed and can never succeed. Yet we find this Government subsidizing a private company against its own undertaking for which public money has been subscribed. The Government guaranteed loans .to this .company. In effect, also, the Government guaranteed it a proportion of the business .that comes from Government activities. Wherever the opportunity has .offered, the Government has shown preference .to this private undertaking. Honorable members who travelled to Canberra to-day by air .must have been astonished at some of .the economy measures which have been introduced in the air services. Why were .they introduced? It was not because Trans-Australia Airlines, the Government airline, wanted them, as it had made a record profit; it was forced to adopt them by this private enterprise Government because Ansett-A.N.A. was obliged to introduce them. T.A.A. was ready to compete actively for the volume of business that was offering and which should be flowing in greater measure to it as a government undertaking.
Let us turn to one or two other matters. Evidently there are hidden profits in many of the big companies in this country; and the trade .unionists and the general public should know what this Government is allowing to .continue in that respect. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) directed attention to the great monopoly that had grown up in this country, controlled to-day almost exclusively by anti-Labour interests. I except the small country newspaper or the trade union journal, but the great press of this country and the majority of radio stations and television stations are all under the control of anti-Labour interests. This great monopoly is determined, in my opinion, to establish a dictatorship in Australia for the purpose of preventing the people from hearing Labour’s case or learning exactly what Labour stands for. No doubt, some honorable members in this House will say that the Government parties have no television station, and have no direct licence to run radio stations.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The proposal of this matter for discussion by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is notable in two ways. First, the right honorable gentleman deplores the natural processes .of industrial evolution. Secondly, he wanders well outside the realm in which the Commonwealth Government has any power. It is becoming a regular exercise on the part of the Opposition to introduce, and debate on the floor of this House, matters which are no concern of the Commonwealth Government. Last week the matter of shipping freights was proposed for discussion. These freights, especially overseas freights, are not under the control .of the Commonwealth Government. This week once again we have the Opposition engaging in an exercise in a field in which the Commonwealth has little or no control.
One would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition, being a great constitutional lawyer, would have made some reference to the constitutional aspects of this matter. Instead of doing so, he rambled on, citing a number of cases in which mergers and amalgamations and take-overs had occurred, and deploring the concentration of more power in fewer hands - a very dubious proposition in itself. At least it might be said that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) did direct attention to the constitutional position, emphasizing the fact that a remedy, if any, was to be sought in the work of the Con.stitution Review Committee. That is a fruitful and sensible line of approach to the problem. I believe it is no more than a waste of time to bring before the House problems such as these, which are complex and many-sided, and which certainly call for different solutions according to their different aspects, and debate them in this place when we have no power to deal with them in any case.
The Leader of the Opposition also deplored inflation, and he connected these take-overs in some way with inflationary processes. Let me say that the consistent practice of the Leader of the Opposition in this House is to deplore inflation, while advocating every measure which would make inflation inevitable, and opposing every measure that would restrain it.
We heard also the usual cry about monopoly. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) very rightly pointed out that the word “ monopoly “ is bandied about in this House in the very loosest fashion, and is used, in many cases, where no monopoly is involved. Where there is intense competition there is no monopoly. Certainly General Motors-Holden’s Limited is no monopoly. No man could reasonably assert that General Motors-Holden’s Limited, the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited and the British Motor Corporation (Australia) Proprietary Limited, to mention the biggest operators in this field, are in league and behaving as a monopoly. Although it is, again, not the business of this House to go into such questions, it ought to be pointed out, since the high percentage of profit alleged to be made by General Motors-Holden’s Limited is so frequently brought up by the Opposition, that the profit on shareholders funds represents a very much smaller percentage. The reason why the profits are high to-day is that in the early stages of this undertaking profits were ploughed back each year in larger and larger proportions. Profits which were continually increasing in size were put back into Australian industry, and have brought about a tremendous growth in many sectors of our community and given employment to tens of thousands of people well outside the control of the General Motors undertaking. To relate the current level of profits to the original investment, before profits had been ploughed back over a decade, is a gross distortion of the position of the company.
It should be emphasized that the process of take-over has a great many advantages. In some cases there may be undesirable features, and no one on this side of the House would deny that that is so, even though we may well know that there is nothing this Parliament can do about them. Above all, of course, the takeover process enables many operations to take place on a larger scale. It involves a reduction of overheads, enables largescale ordering, and does in fact bring some of our companies up to the optimum size for effective operation. The result is, in the end, to use fewer resources, produce more goods and thus progressively improve the standard of living of the Australian people.
If there is in this process some snag, it is mainly due to the archaic position of company law in many States. It is quite obvious to even the most casual observer that the Victorian company law is very much more modern and up to date than company law in other States. If the Leader of the Opposition and his adherents are so concerned about this take-over process and the possible abuses involved in it, the very first persons to whom they should address their remarks are the members of the Labour Government of New South Wales, which has been in power for about twenty years and still has on its books an archaic company law. The very first step in improving the position must be to bring industrial law and company law in what is, after all, the most important and largest industrial State up to date, and, by that means, to remove the opportunity for some of the serious abuses which can, let it be admitted, take place in company take-over processes.
The very process has, in itself, been beneficial in pointing out the weaknesses of company law in many of our States. To start with, of course, companies which have hidden assets away have withheld from their shareholders the true value of shareholders’ assets. If those assets have not been showing sufficient profits, then it is probably in the interests of the shareholders that the particular companies should be taken over by more modern and efficient concerns. When companies are in possession of assets upon which they are unable to make profits at the prevailing rate, then it is, in the long run, in most cases in the national interest that they should be taken over by some other concern. To suggest that this process necessarily results in monopoly is, of course, farfetched. In most cases in which a takeover occurs, many companies are involved. When some of them become larger and place their operations on a better footing, increased pressure is brought to bear on the others. It is by this process that a competitive system works and yields results in increasingly higher standards of living for those involved in the process.
The companies themselves, of course, cover an increasing number of shareholders. The rate at which the number of shareholders in Australian companies has increased in the last few years is quite astounding. It is quite obvious that if this Government continues in office, and there is no economic setback due to factors beyond our control, the number of shareholders in Australian companies will continue to increase year by year. The takeover operations that have been going on represent one of the reasons why so many more people are participating in increased company earnings.
Now, Sir, if we sought any remedies they would lie in a body along the lines of the Securities Exchange Commission in the United States. The publication of the details of the operations of companies is behindhand in Australia. Unfortunately - or fortunately, according to point of view - this is a matter which is beyond the province of this Parliament under the Constitution. So, just to bring to the floor of the House a motion deploring the take-over trend and the bigger grouping of companies in some industries is to waste the time of the House.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 22nd October (vide page 2265).
Clauses 1 to 8 - by leave - taken together.
.- This bill proposes to make available the sum of about £2,000,000 a year from Commonwealth revenue to certain companies engaged in the search for oil in Australia. The Opposition opposes the bill. It does so because, primarily, it considers that when a move of this kind is made to make available £2,000,000 to private interests the Government should be very careful about the methods of control and accounting set up in respect of the expenditure of the money. Both the bill and the speech of the Minister who introduced it contain very little information about the method of control, if any, to be exercised over the expenditure of this money by the companies receiving it, or of what accounting those companies will have to give of their expenditure of it.
The bill itself is, to say the least, vague. There are one or two points to which I should like to direct the attention of the committee. First, the amount of £2,000,000 is to be made available to oil search companies primarily under clause 8, which reads -
Where the Minister has approved a proposed operation, the Minister may, in his discretion, enter into an agreement on behalf of the Commonwealth with the person who made the application for approval for the payment to that person of subsidy in respect of the operation.
Provided the Minister is satisfied about the application, the subsidy is granted. But as far as I can discover, the bill and the Minister are quite silent about what happens after that. It may well be that the Bureau of Mineral Resources or some other agency of the Commonwealth does in fact pay some attention to what the companies engaged in oil search do with the grant that they receive. But the bill and the Minister’s speech provide nothing upon which we can rely. One would think that not even this Government, favorably disposed as it is towards private enterprise, would think of handing over £2,000,000 a year without any check or control. But under this legislation no provision is made for any control or any method of accountability. The committee is entitled to know something on this point. The point was raised several times during the second-reading debate, but no Government supporter felt obliged to deal with the matter. I think the people of Australia are entitled to know all about it.
– That is not very fair.
– If he wishes, the honorable member who has interjected may, after I have finished, tell us how the Government proposes to ensure that this money will be spent on oil search. The bill makes no mention of this point and no speaker from the Government side dealt with it. Theremay be some method unknown to the committee, and the honorable member for Higinbotham may, if he wishes, tell the people of Australia all about it.
Clause 10 of the bill states -
Subject to this Act, an agreement may contains such terms and conditions as are agreed upon by the Minister and the other party to the agreement . . .
Here again the bill is silent, as was the Minister.
– Order! The committee is now discussing clauses 1 to 8.
-I will deal with clause 10 later. The substantial point that I make at this stage is in relation to clause 8. Where a subsidy is granted to a company, what steps does the Government propose to take to ensure that that money shall be properly spent? I say again that so far the committee has been given no assurance as to the method, if any, that will be applied. The Opposition expects to receive some answer on that point.
The people of Australia look to the National Parliament to safeguard their money. This afternoon the committee is being asked to consider the expenditure of about £2,000,000. That money will be levied from the people and handed over to oil companies for the purpose of searching for oil in Australia. The history of oil search in this country is most interesting. It is interesting because of the types of people who have been engaged in the search in this country and the negative results that have been obtained over the years.
I join with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) in saying that adequate safeguards have not been provided for the protection of the Australian taxpayers to see that they obtain value for their money. The Australian Labour Party stands second to none in ensuring that this country receives adequate supplies of oil. We believe that positive steps should be taken in this matter. When the Labour Party was in pouter it initiated definite steps to seek oil, which is believed to exist in this great continent. Whether oil will be found is another matter. But the search for oil must continue. Government supporters have stated on another occasion that despite the expenditure of something like £50,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money, oil has not been found in this country. lt is only proper that the Opposition should express concern at the expenditure proposed by this legislation, which will rise to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 when the tax concessions to oil companies are taken into account. I should like to know what positive safeguards are being provided by the Government in respect of the spending of this money. Who will supervise the details of this work? It is well known that on many occasions the search for oil has been more or less a wild-cat venture and that people who have invested their money in it have done so at very great peril and usually at great financial loss. The Government should adopt a reasonable attitude in this matter. I do not say that we should not search for oil in this country. We must find oil if it is here, but the nation itself should, through the Department of National Development, seek that oil as was proposed by a former Labour government. However, if money is to be made available to oil companies which are incredibly wealthy, surely some undertaking should be obtained that if they find oil in this country they will reimburse the public for the subsidies they have received.
If £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 of taxpayers’ money can be made available by way of subsidy and tax concessions to the oil companies, why is it that nothing can be done to assist this country to obtain oil from shale? I am greatly concerned that no practical steps have been taken by the Government in this regard. This Government sold the shale oil industry at Glen Davis. It sold out Commonwealth Oil Refineries. It is shameful that this Government should provide abundant assistance to oil companies in their search for flow oil in this country but will not provide any assistance to companies that are prepared to invest their money in the shale oil industry, which we know can flourish in this country if given an opportunity. The Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act clearly defines petroleum as naturally occur ring solid liquid or gaseous hydro-carbon in free state, but not including any substance which may be extracted from rocks or minerals by any process of destructive distillation. Shale can provide essential oil for this country. We should not be gambling as we are under this legislation. We should be seeking to build up a certain supply of essential oil, and that can be done through the shale oil industry.
I represent a mining constituency and I know how the mine workers have suffered because of the Government’s failure to consider them. The Government is willing to lavish £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year om oil companies but will not provide the £500,000 a year that we know would have kept Glen Davis in operation and expanding so that with great efficiency, even on present prices, the shale oil industry there could have developed to the stage where it would not have needed any government assistance.
I oppose the clauses now before the committee. 1 do not think that adequate safeguards have been provided. Once again, I ask that some positive action be taken to develop our latent wealth by the production of oil from coal and shale. These sources, properly developed, could provide a guaranteed supply of oil to Australia.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) raised a serious point in speaking to clause 8. He said that the form of agreement is left open and that this leaves the Minister for National Development with power to make suitable agreements with individual companies. He expressed the fear that, in relation to certain features, adequate safeguards were not provided. There is an inherent difficulty in this matter, because the precise form that the assistance will take is not known, apart from the fact that it will be largely used to subsidize stratigraphic drilling. Different circumstances confront the various companies. They have different tie-ups, different geographic locations and different scales of operation. If the details of the arrangements for payment of the subsidy that the Minister can make were written into the bill, this would defeat the very object of granting the money. The object of the Parliament is to make available such money as it can in the most effective way.
A safeguard exists in this process. The Minister for National Development is required to report to the Parliament. He has recently reported on the payments and subsidies so far granted under the act. This report is highly informative, but it is notable not so much for the details of the money that has been paid but rather for the number of propositions, probably excellent, that have been turned down because of the lack of funds. If any factor in the search for oil is serious it is the difficulty of keeping up the momentum, and of supplying sufficient funds to encourage people to keep people operating in the field. Nothing could be more grossly misleading than the inference which could be drawn from the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) that those engaged in this process are large, rich oil companies. This is largely a fairy tale. Most of the serious search for oil at present is conducted by small companies operating on a shoe-string. The more we are to keep the industry in Australian hands, the more it will be necessary to protect and help the operations of these small companies. Not only the companies directly involved in the search benefit from the subsidy; these payments are necessary, also, to keep in operation a number of other concerns such as geographical companies, aerial photographic companies and suppliers of various goods. These people are also operating on a small scale and are apt to be financially embarrassed at short notice. One of the dangers in the increased momentum of the search for oil is not that the subsidy payments will be made too soon and too lavishly but rather that the mere fact of protecting public funds will retard the increased scale of operation.
Above all, we should keep in mind that oil is discovered very largely by companies operating on a small scale. The exploitation afterwards falls into the hands of big companies because of the huge capital facilities needed to handle oil once it is discovered. That is not to say that the finding of oil is not a profitable process, but the chances of finding oil are so loaded against the small companies in Australia that they need every assistance that we can give them. Much of the money will be spent on collecting information vital not only to the companies themselves but to the whole process of geological tabulation and of promoting the search for oil by other companies. The information is also needed by the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
I feel, therefore, that there would be no point whatever - indeed, some adverse affects might result - in drawing clause 8 in any tighter form than it now is.
.- We strongly oppose the expenditure of an additional £1,000,000 in the field of direct exploitation. The proposal is that £1,000,000 will be spent in each of the years 1959-60, 1960-61 and 1961-62. However, the petroleum subsidy commenced eighteen months ago and already £1,000,000 has been spent under the terms of the legislation. On looking at the figures, I find that in addition to the money that will be given in the form of subsidy, taxation concessions have been allowed. The Minister has said quite specifically that the amount involved is probably between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, and he added that almost half of the total annual expenditure of £8,000,000 on the search for oil is provided from Commonwealth sources. We feel that the process is top heavy when 50 per cent, of the money spent on the search for oil comes from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. The companies take the risk. They were born in that atmosphere and must be expected to bear most of the burden of the losses incurred. But the Government is now pouring another £1,000,000 into this tremendous gamble.
We know that oil is here but the trouble with oil, as with so many other minerals, is to find it in commercial quantities. I have in mind that oil was produced from shale in Tasmania in the 1920’s, at Latrobe in the north-west of the island. This shale oil was so good that motor cars ran on it, though the smell from them could be detected a mile away.
– It was very powerful.
– That is so, but it was not as refined as the fuel we now use. Although oil was produced from shale inTasmania, the industry has never been further developed.
It seems to me quite illogical that the Government should spend so much of the taxpayers’ money on the search for oil when it is not prepared to spend one penny on the search for other minerals. I think particularly of nickel, which has been discovered in my electorate at Beaconsfield, in northern Tasmania. We are importing all our nickel from overseas, and this is the only discovery of that mineral in Australia, but, so far, we cannot get any practical assistance from the Department of National Development. It is completed wrong to put all our available funds into the search for petroleum when we have to import our supplies of other important minerals from overseas because we are not developing resources of those minerals in this continent. That is another of my criticisms of this measure. My colleagues, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), who spoke earlier this afternoon were quite right in respect of this matter.
The amount spent on oil search alone up to the end of 1958 was £56,500,000. Up to that time, 443 holes had been drilled in the hope of finding oil. We have been told that one of the fundamental needs is more research into the kinds of oil-bearing strata in Australia - in other words, stratigraphic information. The Department of National Development and the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics are working flat out trying to find the right kinds of oil-bearing soils in Australia in order to hand the discoveries over to private enterprise immediately. What will we get out of it if oil is found? I dread to think what could happen if it is found by overseas companies. It seems to me that, as my colleagues have said, there are not enough safeguards with respect to the spending of this money and what is to be done if oil is found as a result of the expenditure of Commonwealth funds.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in his second-reading speech, said -
The additional £1,000,000 will be spent partly in subsidy under the bill and partly in expanding those operations of the Department of National Development which directly assist the search for oil.
If a Labour government were in office to-day, it would do something about pursuing the search for oil by means of a go vernment instrumentality. 1 cannot see anything wrong in that. Then we should be spending Commonwealth money ourselves on this great search, and the results would accrue to the Commonwealth in full. When private enterprise finds oil, all that the Government gets out of it is a little in taxes. But even the taxes have been greatly reduced in the recent Budget. This is definitely a private-enterprise bill, because the funds for the allocation of which it provides are to be spent purely for the benefit of private enterprise.
In conclusion, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like to say that we on this side of the committee emphasize that we are not opposed to the finding of oil in Australia. I do not want the impression that we are against oil search to get abroad. But we feel that those who are to reap the benefit of the search for oil should be those who take most of the risks of the search. We propose to pour in to the search for oil £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 of Commonwealth funds - almost half the yearly expenditure on oil exploration - and the Commonwealth is going to take the risk, but with taxpayers’ money. We say that we should draw the line at that. We should either draw the line there or go into oil search ourselves as a Commonwealth Government, just as we have gone into aluminium production, and, as my colleague, the honorable member for Macquarie, has said, as we went into the production of oil from shale in New South Wales. We went into whaling, civil aviation and shipping, and there is no constitutional barrier or other reason against our going into the search for oil. If we did, we should be handling our own affairs from the time the money was allocated by this Parliament to the day when oil was found, and even beyond that time. We should be able to fix the charge for refined oil. But the Government does not like that idea. It has knocked out Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
Order! The honorable member ought to confine his remarks to clauses 1 to 8. He has been wandering a little from them.
– I have been confining my remarks to clauses 1 to 8, although, at the same time, I have sidetracked a little. This Government, by selling out our interests in oil, has opened the field completely to private enterprise. Clause 8 is the key provision in this connexion, and that is the clause about which I have been speaking. I support my colleagues.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, it is all very well for Opposition members to say that they are not against the search for oil. As a matter of fact, in this chamber, over the past two or three weeks, we have seen them oppose everything which is designed to assist the search for oil, whether it be an income tax measure which would help Australian companies, or whether it be a measure like this which will help all companies. They are always against anything which will promote the search for oil. They may make what pious protestations they like about supporting the principle that it is desirable to search for oil, but, in point of fact, they are against any practical proposal which is brought forward in order to help us in the search for oil. This, I think, is the measure of the Opposition. Its members are the socialist sixth of this place, as it were. The socialist sixth of this place is out to kill any real development of Australia. All it can think of is its doctrinaire socialism. Opposition members do not care where that leads them or where it leads the Australian people.
The Opposition has overlooked one thing in its criticism of this measure, and I think that the committee may appreciate it. It is this: Throughout most of Australia, mining rights, including the right to mine for petroleum, are in the hands of the States and not in the hands of the Commonwealth. This is not true, of course, of New Guinea and the Northern Territory, but it is true of most of Australia. So the Commonwealth, if it is to undertake any practical plan for assisting the oil industry, must go about it in the way provided for in this bill, because the Commonwealth, as it happens, lacks constitutional authority over mining operations throughout most of Australia, such authority being in the hands of the States.
The other thing which I wanted to point out, Sir, was this: The Opposition has made a great play of asking why the Go vernment wishes to put all this money into oil exploration and why it does not put it into the search for other minerals. The brute fact remains that oil is the Achilles’ heel, as it were; of the entire Australian economy. Our net imports of oil are already of the order of £120,000,000, and they are rapidly increasing. It will not be long before they are more than £200,000,000 a year unless we find indigenous supplies of oil. Quite apart from the economic view, there is the strategic view. When we have only a few weeks’ supply of imported oil in Australia at any one time, one of the. most important things to do is to search for local oil supplies. So the Opposition has entirely lost its sense of proportion, and as it does so often, has lost touch with reality, when it asks why the Government concentrates on oil. The point is that oil is far and away the most important mineral for Australia to find, and any reasonable government would use most of the funds that it had available for mineral exploitation in trying to close this regrettable gap in Australia’s production lines. This, I think, answers all the arguments which have been put up by the Opposition. It just does not seem to have realized the facts of life. Opposition members do not seem to have any sense of proportion in regard to this truly important matter.
May I just make the point that, in this search for oil; we need to know a great deal more than we now know about the stratigraphy of the Australian sedimentary basins. Australia is a big country, and we know very little of the rocks which underlie the earth’s crust in this continent. We do not, unfortunately, know the details of the basins which underlie Sydney and our main coal-fields. Very much less have we adequate knowledge of the extensive outlying basins in one of which I have some hope and confidence that oil will eventually be found.
At least, the Opposition has had the grace to admit that, in its opinion, there is oil to be found on the Australian continent. That is a statement not of certainty, but of very high probability. Oil is here for the finding. If that is so - and the Opposition agrees that it is so - then the Government is wise and is doing the right thing in putting a very considerable sum into furthering the search for oil.
Under the present circumstances in which mining rights are governed by State law, it seems to me that the Government has taken the most practical step available to it to increase the speed of our search for oil. Remember this: We need oil if we are to maintain the advance of the Australian motor industry. We cannot sustain the present rate of expansion of the motor industry indefinitely unless we can find some local oil. I am one of those people who would like to see the Australian motor industry expand. I am one of those people who believe that it is a good thing that a family should have a car and that our standards of living should be raised in this way. So it is very much to the advantage of the Australian people who hope to share, in these higher living standards that we’ should find oil and find it as quickly as possible.
– 1 take exception to the remark made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that the Labour Party goes against everything that- is of a practical nature. During the latter war years and the post-war years, the- Labour Government did what it could to promote the private search for oil’ in Australia. It gave assistance to- oil-boring- and set to work on plans. I- remember that before oil was found in Western Australia- the Public Accounts Committee- had been dealing with the Department of National Development. Dr. Raggatt, the head- of that department, had been before the committee. If honorable members read the report of the committee they will see what happened.
Following upon what the Labour government had done, when the present Government came into office it continued to provide funds for an oil-boring plant which would go down to a great depth. It may be seen from the published evidence of the Public Accounts Committee that it was pointed out to Dr. Raggatt that the Government had spent over £500,000 on an oilboring plant which was then in Melbourne in storage, deteriorating at a fast rate. Nothing was being done with it. Dr. Raggatt said, “ We cannot do anything with it because it would cost too much money for the Government to bore for oil “. That demonstrates the practical outlook of this
Government! After the Labour government had acquired’ plant costing £500,000 in order to test for oil, the present Government would not use it. I asked what the Government was going to do with the plant and, at the finish, I said, “ I suppose that if oil were struck you would have no difficulty in disposing of this plant”. Dr. Raggatt said, “ No. They would not be able to take it up quickly enough.” The Labour Party believes that we should do everything possible to find oil in this country. There is no question about that. If we had been a government we would have pushed on and done something practical.
In this bill, the Government proposes to give private companies an extra £1,000,000- a year. It has already made provision togive them £1,000,000 a year, and it now proposes to give them £2,000,000 each year for three years, a total of £6,000,000. It is true that the companies will contribute just’ as much as the Government to the expense, of boring, and so it may be said, that the companies are taking just as much, chance as the Government. But this should’, be- seen in the same light, as any other business proposition. If. a business has not. enough capital- and somebody lends additional capital, that person is entitled to the benefits which result from the expenditure of the extra capital. I have no objection, to the Government putting money into the search- for oil; None whatsoever! My objection is that if, as a result, a- payableflow of: oil is discovered the company willi have- all the profit from: it. The Government should also be entitled to share in theresults of its investment.
I: want, to dispel any idea that the Labour Party objects to a search for oil. Werecognize, just as much as the honorablemember for Mackellar, the wonderful! value that oil would be to this country, although I am doubtful whether, if oil were found here, the Australian peoplewould be able to buy petrol much morecheaply than they buy it to-day. A comparison of the price of oil throughout theworld shows that it is not much cheaper-
Order! I think you are wandering awayfrom clauses 1 to 8.
– Clauses 1 to 8 relate to the oil search subsidy. I was replying to the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar about the benefit that a local discovery of oil would be to us in Australia. I was about to point out that one great benefit would be that we would not need to send money outside Australia. But an even greater benefit would be that if we had a flow of oil in our own country we would not have to depend, in time of war, on the arrival of supplies from other countries, and we would therefore not be in danger of being shut off from our -supplies.
I do not agree with the honorable member for Mackellar that the discovery of oil would expand the motor industry in this country. The motor industry would expand without oil being found here. I do not think that the discovery of oil would make cheaper petrol available to the Australian motorist, but the expansion of the motor industry is not dependent on that. While I agree that encouragement of this kind by the Government does help industry, I do not like the extent of the developments. I will admit that the discovery of oil would bring industries into existence that we do not have to-day. But when the Government gives the people’s money to a company, even on a £l-for-£l basis, the Government should receive some benefit from it. I appreciate that in those cases in which oil has not been discovered, the Government has received no return for the funds that it has made available for stratigraphic drilling. I am not worrying on that score. I agree that it is necessary for the Government to subsidize companies engaged in oil exploration so that we may obtain a better knowledge of the geological conditions that exist in Australia. I am prepared to support the provisions of the bill which will assist the search for oil, provided that in the event of oil being found the Government will receive some return for the money that it has expended. When honorable members on this side of the House have said that they will oppose the bill, I think that they have meant that they will oppose it only if the community has no safeguard in the event of oil being found. Perhaps some of my colleagues have put the matter crudely in saying that the Government is giving money to big private companies which will make increased profits if they can. That is perhaps the crude way of stating the position, but we say that the people’s money that will be made available to private companies should be protected.
.- I shall not detain the committee for very long. I merely wish to answer some of the statements that have been made by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) mentioned the Glen Davis project. This is a matter that seems to crop up from time to time. This venture most certainly was a complete bungle. The organization proceeded on a false basis and with the wrong kind of equipment. It was just another of those tragic socialist experiences. Everything was wrong. The undertaking produced 3,000,000 gallons of petrol. To the uninitiated, that may seem a very considerable amount, but in reality it is only about one-half of what a modern tanker can carry. I understand that the petrol produced at Glen Davis cost about 5s. a gallon at that time. I think that we all know that the late Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, and Senator Ashley, who was then the Minister for Supply and Shipping, paid several visits to Glen Davis and implored the management to increase production and to cut down costs or the venture would have to come to an end. It was left to this Government to wind up that very unhappy and unsuccessful venture.
I think it was the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) who mentioned Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. This company was formed to establish refining facilities. By 1949, when we came into office, absolutely nothing had been done. We encouraged the major oil companies to establish refining facilities in Australia, and that encouragement was so well received that in practically no time local refineries have been able to produce all the petrol that we can use. In 1949, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was doing nothing more than retailing petrol. This Government believed that the company should not be engaged in the bowser business and, as it was not fulfilling the purpose for which it was established, we did the right and proper thing by disposing of it. I am sure that our action was appreciated.
I wish to refer now to the disposal of the drilling rig of which the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) made mention. I think that he has his facts a little mixed, because the Bureau of Mineral Resources under the Chifley Government
Order! I think the honorable member is moving outside the terms of clauses 1 to 8, which we are now discussing.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I was merely endeavouring to answer some of the statements that have been made by honorable members opposite. The Opposition has stated that if we find oil through the activities of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, through the subsidies that we are making and through the tax concessions that we are allowing, we shall hand over the results of our search to private enterprise and the major oil companies. I remind honorable members that the search for oil and minerals in Australia is basically a matter for the State governments. All State legislation is rather uniform these days, and it provides that the oil produced in Australia will be retained here if it is necessary to meet our own requirements. In an emergency, the State governments, if they consider it desirable, may take over the control of the production of oil. State legislation provides that oil will be taken from the ground in the most economical way possible with full regard to the preservation of our resources, and the States - this is a most important aspect which I should like honorable members opposite to bear in mind - may reap the reward for the discovery of oil by collecting royalties on the amount produced. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) mentioned last week, we can see the advantages that have been gained by the collection of royalties in other parts of the world, and no doubt we can all imagine the tremendous amount of revenue that might be available to both Commonwealth and State governments in Australia.
– in reply - Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Opposition has put forward three arguments that should, I think, be answered. The first was put by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who said that companies would drill for oil without the help of a subsidy. The answer to the honorable member’s statement is that these international companies, or many international companies that we hope to attract to Australia or, if they are already here, that we hope to keep in Australia, have alternative ways of spending the funds at their disposal. They can, if they wish, make surveys here. They can, if they wish, make surveys in some other part of the world where the attraction may be just as great or even greater than it is here. Consequently, the purpose of the subsidy is to encourage those companies to maintain and develop their interests in Australia. So we have the position that the subsidy is not only desirable, but may be also essential.
There is another point that I think is deserving of attention. It is thought that the subsidy will give the smaller local companies the opportunity to make more systematic surveys than would otherwise be possible. Further, when the systematic surveys have been made, or when it is known that they are being made, the subsidy will give them the opportunity to attract local capital. Finally, there is another great advantage in granting the subsidy. It is this: When the companies that receive the subsidy have made the surveys, whether they be geophysical surveys, stratigraphic or borehole drilling, the results of their surveys and drillings will be made known to the Commonwealth Government. The information thus obtained can then be disseminated among those people who might be interested in it and able to use it to their own advantage. I think that covers the argument that was so effectively put by my friend, the honorable member for Lalor.
I should like now to touch upon the argument that was put by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) to the effect that, there is no proper system of control or accounting. That statement is totally incorrect because, under the agreement, final payments will not be made until the companies’ accounts have been audited, and the payments will be based upon the audited accounts. So we find that there will be a proper and effective method of control and accountability. Further - although this is a little ahead of the matter before the Chair, nevertheless it is relevant to this particular criticism - if we look at clause 10 (e) - that is the clause dealing with the terms and conditions of agreement - we find that provision is made for the inspection of workings and books and records of a company. I believe that is a complete and effective reply to the argument of the honorable member for Yarra.
Finally, I should like to answer the comment made by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), that the Government should get some benefit if oil is found in a subsidized hole. I believe that he effectively put the point of view of responsible members of the Opposition. They are not against these surveys or against the attempt that is being made to find oil in this country, nor for that matter are they against subsidies being granted. J think the complete answer to the honorable member, and one which I hope he will find satisfactory, is that the agreement will provide that if commercial oil is found in a subsidized hole, the subsidy will be repaid. So, the Government will get its money back if oil is, in fact, found.
It is true that there is no provision for a Commonwealth share of the profits made; but it has to be remembered that the basic purpose of the measure is to supply geological information for general use in the search for oil. On the material side the discovery of oil would, of course, yield great benefits to the economy generally, including an increase in Commonwealth revenue. The honorable member’s suggestion that we should get some part of the profits is, therefore, indirectly answered in this way. If it happens that a company discovers oil the Commonwealth gets part of the profits by means of Commonwealth taxation, which is a pretty hefty proportion of any profits which are made.
So I suggest, Mr. Chaney, that the three objections which have been raised by members of the Opposition have no real substance or foundation. I should like to compliment my colleague, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), on what he said about the vital necessity of discovering oil in this country. If we are to continue our rate of development and become a country capable of sustaining 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people then it becomes a vital necessity that oil be discovered as rapidly as possible. For that reason I regret hearing statements from the other side of the committee which might in any way restrict or inhibit overseas investors from investing their money here and getting some return, if they are lucky, or if they are efficient enough to discover oil here.
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
Remainder of the bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- I wish to say a few words concerning clause 10, which covers terms and conditions of agreement. I regard this as one of the most vital clauses of the bill. I would say that it is an illustration of the slipshod methods employed by this Government. This clause sets out the bare bones of the terms of agreement to be made between the oil companies and the Commonwealth Government. No details whatever were given by the Minister. The right to enter into an agreement means that a right is given to spend, under the terms of the bill, up to about £2,000,000 per annum directly in subsidies. But it involves, over the whole oil explorations in the past few years and the years that are ahead until 1962, not only a direct subsidy but also an immense sum of money - not enough perhaps - involving the running of the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Division of National Mapping. It involves all these administrative expenses of the department which deals with these matters. These expenses will be considerable.
Clause 10 reads -
Subject to this Act, an agreement may contain such terms and conditions as are agreed upon between the Minister and the other party to the agreement-
That is the oil companies - and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the agreement may make provision for or in relation to-
In the case of a drilling operation - the rights and obligations of the parties to the agreement (whether with respect to subsidy or otherwise) in the event -
That is as wide as the wide, wide world. The agreement says that in the event of oil being found the rights and obligations of the parties may be dealt with. Every speech on this bill by members of the Opposition has contained a plea for two sets of people - first, the wealthy companies involved which will draw a subsidy; and, secondly, the type of company referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), the small company on a shoe-string and struggling but, of course, doing valuable work with its resources.
Now we have a situation arising in respect of the very rich companies in which this Parliament ought to have an assurance that in the event of their striking oil it will not pass the buck to the respective State parliaments but will see to it that in the terms of the agreement to be drawn up there will be a quid pro quo to the Commonwealth Parliament which has spent money to help these very rich companies to discover all the wealth inherent in oil. Small companies working on a shoestring should be given every assistance. If they are small and efficient but having a hard time, they have my admiration; but by the same rule, if they strike it rich by striking oil they should substantially reward the people of the country who have made it possible for them to do so.
As an example, let us look at the firm of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited which, in its brochure, says that it will put down a bore-hole in Gippsland at a cost of £48,000. That company will receive a subsidy of £48,000 from the Commonwealth and also the benefit of a taxation concession amounting ‘to £18,000. This rich Australian company with assets of £29,000,000 proposes, with the consent of this Government, to suck £66,000 out of the taxpayers. The Minister says that in the terms of the agreement to be laid down that company will no doubt return the subsidy. But are not the people of Australia entitled to something more than that? The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) reminds me that if this agreement were drafted in a business-like fashion it would contain a schedule indicating the type of agreement and the means whereby the taxpayers shall receive a comeback.
Let us consider the gambling which enters into this. Perhaps what counts most is not what companies spend directly before they find oil, but what they make in gambling in shares. A company has only to report in the press or set a rumour going that a smear of oil has been discovered on a .pipe down a bore-hole, and the price of shares will go up from shillings to pounds; and the gamblers - Government supporters may call them investors - make fortunes overnight. Very often such people are involved in concerns like Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited. Yet this Government comes along with a loosely drafted bill which provides that in the event of petroleum being discovered, an agreement will be drawn up to cover the rights and obligations of the parties. This Parliament is entitled to something better than that. The people of Australia are entitled to something better than that!
As for the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and his little talk, the honorable member ought to know that the organization that has done the most valuable work in this field, the Bureau of Mineral Resources, was established by the Curtin Labour Government in 1942. We came to power and found the Commonwealth completely lacking any such instrumentality. We set up this most valuable organization under the direction of Dr. Raggatt. It has done marvellous work, and any one of the present operators who strikes oil will be beholden to the Labour government for the valuable assistance of that organization, if for nothing else. But this Government decided that it would rather sell its oil rig to the companies in which some of its friends probably hold shares than have the Commonwealth operate its own plant and try to obtain revenue for the people of Australia.
The Opposition is all in favour of development of our resources for the people of Australia and by the people of Australia. We are not averse to the use of outside capital in certain circumstances, but we believe that outside capital should not be attracted to this country at the cost of our own labour force and resources. We want outside capital to bring its own plant and its own human beings, and to be entitled to a remuneration for the services rendered to Australia. But we do not want outside capital drilling for oil, or doing anything else–
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall reply briefly to what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has just said. Clause 10 of the bill provides -
Subject to this Act, an agreement may contain such terms and conditions as are agreed upon between the Minister and the other party to the agreement and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the agreement may make provision for or in relation to–
It then lists various matters. The honorable member knows quite well that this is the normal way in which to provide for an agreement of this kind.
– No, it is not. Plenty of legislation has gone through this House in which the agreements are contained in the schedule.
– Yes, if you want to vary them from time to time by means of a schedule. But I repeat that the discovery of oil would be of enormous benefit to this country generally, and if we can encourage operators to come here, and they do discover oil, the real beneficiaries will be the members of the Australian community. Let me make it clear that, after all, these operators are subject to the taxation laws, and, this being so, the Government will get some return if oil is discovered.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman -
Mr. F. C. Chaney.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 20th October (vide page 2028), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Loan (Housing) Act permits the Commonwealth Government to raise a sum of money to lend to the States for the purposes of the Housing Agreement Act of 1956. The Opposition will not oppose the present bill in the sense of voting against it, because if this bill does not pass, even the present inadequate provision for housing under that act would not be continued; but we shall, Sir, oppose the bill in the sense of criticizing it, because we now have had three full years of experience of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1956. This was not an agreement in any sense between the Commonwealth and the States. It was a grant by the Commonwealth to the States under section 96 of the Constitution, on terms and conditions which commended themselves to the Commonwealth but in no case commended themselves to the States. The States subscribed to the agreement only because if they had not done so they would not have got any Commonwealth money for housing at all. The purposes of the legislation are particularly worthy ones. They are purposes which the Commonwealth Government belatedly accepted immediately after the war, and has continued to accept, albeit begrudgingly in later years, ever since the war.
We now have an opportunity to see, after three years’ experience, how the 1956 arrangements are working. For the first two years the money which the Commonwealth lent to the States was divided into the following proportions: - 75 per cent, for the purposes of the housing commissions of the States - that is, for the erection of houses by the housing commissions for those commissions to let or to sell; 20 per cent, for building societies operating under State laws; and 5 per cent, for the accommodation of serving members of the forces. Last year, and again this year and, unless the agreement is altered, next financial year also, the allocation will be- - 65 per cent, as against 75 per cent, for the housing commissions for the erection of houses for letting or sale; 30 per cent, for building societies as against 20 per cent, before; and still 5 per cent, for accommodation for members of the forces. The change last year as compared with the year before - that is when the new 65 per cent, as against 75 per cent, allocation for housing commissions came in - did not in fact provide an increased number of new houses in Australia. In 1957-58, the number of houses and flats completed by State housing authorities with appropriations under the act was 10,045. Last year, it was 9,317. On the other hand the number of new houses and flats completed by building societies in the former year was 2,419 when they had 20 per cent, of the grant and last year it was 2,993 when they had 30 per cent, of the grant. The significance is that the number of houses provided by housing commissions decreased by 728, and the number of new houses provided by building societies with their funds rose by 574. That is to say, there has been no net increase in accommodation at all as a result of this transfer of 10 per cent, of the money from housing commissions to building societies.
The effectiveness of the provision for the housing commissions can be learned only from the reports of the State governments. Each of the State housing commissions is required by statute to report to its parliament. The Commonwealth does not require any report on the operation of this act. The Loan (Housing) Bill every year is the shortest bill that is presented to the Parliament, and the ministerial secondreading speech is the shortest secondreading speech which the Parliament hears. Therefore, I shall have to refer to the position as revealed by the State statutory reports. In no case has a State government made a report for the last financial year, so I will have to refer in each case to the financial year before that. The New South Wales report for 1957-58 stated -
Overall demand on the Commission for accommodation has not abated. There was in fact an increase during the year particularly in the Sydney area. The total number of eligible applicants unsatisfied at 30th June, 19S8, stood at 21,274, which includes some 3,065 families residing in emergency accommodation.
Those applicants were partly for rental properties and partly for properties which they desired to purchase. It is frequently said that the housing commissions provide for tenants only. In fact, in New South Wales 80 per cent, of the houses erected by the housing commission in the last few years have been made available for purchase alone, and those who want to rent houses have to fight for the remaining 20 per cent. At the end of June, 1958, the number of waiting applicants for housing commission houses was 9,386 prospective purchasers, 6,574 prospective tenants of 1945 agreement houses, and 5,314 prospective tenants of 1956 agreement houses. Honorable members will recall that the attraction of 1945 agreement houses is that if a tenant, for health or other economic reasons, is unable to pay the full rent, he may receive rental rebates. But since the middle of 1956 no house erected with the Commonwealth’s money can be subject to rental rebate. The tenant who cannot pay the rent, whatever the reason, has to vacate the house.
Another analysis which is made by the New South Wales Housing Commission of the persons who want to occupy 1956 agreement houses shows that 69.4 per cent, of them want to purchase and’ 30.6 per cent, want to rent. In the year with which the report deals some 1’4,571 new applications were lodged, and approximately 80 per cent, of the applicants were in receipt of incomes of less than £20 a week, of which about 57 per cent, were in the £15 to £19 a. week wage group and over 72 per cent, were family, cases. I think that official figures, although they are not stated in the report, show that about 22 per cent of applicants were in receipt of incomes of less than £14. They were pensioners or others unable to earn the basic wage.
Now I turn to the Victorian report. I am unable in this case: to separate the figures for prospective purchasers and tenants among the waiting applicants. However, the Victorian commission states -
At 30th June, 1958, the Commission- held 13,349 live applications for tenancies: The- significance of that total will be apparent when it is noted that the Commission was able to house only. 4,377 new tenants in 195-7-58; on the basis- of 1,803 in- new construction and 2^574 in- vacated units. Unless the programme of new construction- can be expanded, the total number; of applications on hand will progressively increase . . . Restriction of funds available to the Commission is the sole cause of the decline in new construction.
The commission analyses the number of new applications that it received for tenanted properties. There were 11,666 all told during the year, of which 5,719 were in the metropolitan area. Of the total number of unsatisfied applications that I mentioned earlier, 10,063 were in the metropolitan area.
The South Australian report makes no distinction between applications for pro perties which it is desired to purchase and those which it is desired to rent, but the trust states -
During the year ended 30th June, 1958-, the number of formal applications for housing accommodation numbered 9,516. In the Adelaide area there were 6,246.
In Western Australia the commission had on hand at 30th June, 1958, rental applications totalling in number 6,262. Of those, 4,026 were in the Perth area. Tenancies entered into during the year totalled 2,106. The commission reports -
The increase in marriage rate and in population will tend to keep this demand at a level higher than the rental building capacity, with the result that applicants for rental accommodation could have to wait longer than the present minimum of two years before reaching their turn.
In Tasmania-, 986 families- were accommodated in the year 195-7-58. Of those, 489 went into newly completed homes and the balance into homes which had been vacated: The total- number of applications received for the year- was 1,660, compared with 1,409 for the previous year. I cannot cite the Queensland figures, because the Queensland’ Housing- Commission publishes no dissection of- the number of applicants or new houses and those that become vacant.
It is- clear from? the reports) that’ I have read’ that in. nev State is adequate provision being made for persons accommodated: in housing commission houses. They are people who require, first, property to rent. Secondly, they are people who require houses without a: deposit or’ on very small deposit. People in those two categories cannot get accommodation from- any other source. In general, people do not invest these days in houses for letting: purposes. The excuse is frequently given that that isbecause of the landlord and tenant legislation in the various States; but at least for the last five years there has been no landlord and tenant legislation in any State which placed any limit on the rent or tenure of houses built during that period. There is nothing to stop any person who wishes to put his money into real estate from building houses and letting them at any rental that he can secure. But persons are not now interested in investing in rental properties. The only land in which people will invest is unoccupied land. They hope that by re-zoning and other forms of legislation they will be able to clean up in a big way - to profiteer. All the States permit people to profiteer from the sale of unoccupied land. Those people hope to be able to get a very good and quick return on their investment. Australia now being an industrialized community, there are more favorable opportunities for investment in industrial shares than in dwellings.
– The landlord and tenant laws have killed investment in houses.
– I am sorry to have aroused the honorable member for Sturt. I thought I had dealt with that point. I stated that in every State for the last five years there has been no legislation restricting the rent that can be charged for houses erected during that period or limiting the tenure for which they may be let. Anybody may now build a house and let it for any rent that he can secure. I think I am correct in saying that in no State is there any restriction as regards tenure or rental of houses that have been built in the last five years. Yet, people do not now choose to invest in rental properties.
– They are afraid that the landlord and tenant laws will be reintroduced.
– The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) also interjects. I would not expect him to do so, because the housing position in the Australian Territories is worse than in the States. The Minister is responsible for New Guinea and the Northern Territory, and in those places housing is at its most expensive and Government assistance proportionately at its smallest.
– That is not true.
– It is true. The Minister will not speak on this bill because he has nothing to contribute, and he cannot interject very effectively on it. The Government is not meeting the claim for rental properties. Every State reports the same position.
If people want to buy a house now from any source other than the housing commissions, they cannot do so unless they have at least £1,000 ready in cash. We are constantly told that in the reports of the War Service Homes Division; and the fact is plain from other sources, such as building society reports. But it is possible to purchase a house from the housing commissions of the various States on very small deposit. In New South Wales and Western Australia only £50 is required as deposit. In Victoria £100 is required; in South Australia, £200; and in Queensland, £250. In Tasmania, no deposit whatever is required. In every case that is a very real advantage. The interest rate that one has to pay in purchasing a housing commission house is lower than that applicable to any other source except the War Service Homes Division. The rate is 4i per cent, in Victoria and Tasmania, and for any of the 1945 agreement houses. The rate is 4i per cent, in New South Wales, and 5 per cent, in South Australia. No other lending source charges such a small interest rate. In Queensland and Western Australia, the interest rate is 5i per cent. Not many sources in Australia will lend money for housing at such a low rate of interest. In addition, the period over which one is permitted to repay the money borrowed for the purchase of a house through a housing commission is longer than that required by any other source except the War Service Homes Division. The period is 40 years in South Australia, 53 years in Tasmania and 45 years in the other States.
The money that we are appropriating under this bill provides funds for the housing commissions and trusts of the various States to provide finance for people who Want to purchase houses but who do not have a large deposit. Last year the housing commissions received for their purposes less money than they had received from this Government in any of its previous years in office. By continuing to provide this reduced amount for the housing commissions we are ensuring that people who stand in greatest need of housing will receive the least assistance. People who wish to rent a house are finding it increasingly difficult to do so. People who want to purchase a house on small deposit or no deposit are finding fewer opportunities to do so.
The second appropriation being made by this bill is for building societies. Last year, they received from all sources other than the Commonwealth less money than they had received in any year since the war.
The report for last year of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies of New South Wales shows that in the year ended 30th June, 1949- the last full financial year before this Government came into office - building societies in New South Wales were lent £11,095,000. In the following year, which was the year shared between the Chifley Government and the Menzies Government, they received £12,015,000. Then, in the first full financial year of the Menzies Government, they were lent £12,030,000. But, Sir, in 1957-58, the amount from those sources - that is, predominantly from savings banks, trading banks and life assurance societies - dropped to £6,412,000. In ten years, the amount of money lent to building societies in New South Wales by the traditional lenders to those societies had dropped by 50 per cent.
– Despite their increased income.
– Despite the increased income of the banks and the assurance societies, which lend the money, the increasing costs of housing, and the increasing demands on the societies. In the last year, the amount rose insignificantly to £6,915,000. It is true that last year, the year before, and again this year, this legislation and its predecessors have provided money for the building societies. By transferring money from housing commissions to building societies, we will help to underwrite the demands on the building societies.
We on this side of the House do not say that there should be any diminution in the amount of money required by the building societies. Although the Parliament has inadequate economic powers in general, it has adequate economic powers over the sources from which building societies have always obtained their money. This Parliament can legislate in regard to banking and insurance. It has legislated in regard to banking; it has not significantly legislated in regard to insurance. Under the banking power, we can say to what borrowers the banks will lend, for what period they will make loans, and at what interest rates, discounts or premiums they will make those loans. We have consistently failed to re quire the banks to earmark certain sums for building societies or for housing purposes, lt is a very inadequate substitute for this failure, to transfer some of the funds from the housing commissions, whose demands are being decreasingly met, to building societies. Even if those funds are added, building societies will have received this year, last year and the year before only two-thirds of the number of pounds that they received when this Government came into office.
– From what are you quoting?
– The honorable gentleman could not have listened to me. I am quoting from the report of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies of New South Wales for last year.
– Why do you not get an up-to-date report?
– I was coming to that. I have it in my hand, but you will notice that the up-to-date report does not give the figures for earlier years. The report the honorable gentleman has in his hand suits his book; the one I have quoted from does not; that is why he suppresses it. (Mr. Joske interjecting)-
– I shall pass to the honorable gentleman’s State, which came more recently into the building society field. The earlier report to which I have referred shows that from sources other than the Commonwealth, Victorian building societies secured £3,625,000 in 1957-58. They obtained another £2,000,000 under this legislation. One can say that nearly 40 per cent, of their funds came from this Parliament and had to come from this source because we had failed in our job of ensuring that the banks and assurance companies maintained their support of the building society movement.
The honorable gentlemen, whose interjections I appreciate, momentarily deflected me from a consideration of our responsibilities in the insurance field. We in this Parliament could require assurance companies to maintain their support of the building society movement, but we have not done so. At the time of the horror budget in 1951, the representatives of the life assurance societies were summoned to a summit meeting with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, and were asked to invest in Commonwealth securities instead of in building society loans. From that time, the life assurance societies discontinued, by and large, their support of the building society movement.
After a couple of years, particularly when the 1954 election was approaching, they were encouraged once again to lend for housing, but they were permitted to do so directly to the home owner. That, of course suited the life assurance societies because they lent to purchasers on condition that they took out a life assurance policy. Life assurance societies do not in general now lend to building societies for two reasons which, in their view, are good reasons. The first is that, if they lend directly, they can require a policy to be taken out, whereas they cannot impose this condition if they lend through a building society. The second reason is that, if they lend directly, they get the goodwill for lending for housing, but if the money goes through a building society, the building society gets the goodwill and the life assurance society does not.
I come now to this year’s report. It analyses the sources of building society finances. I have already mentioned the insignificant increase to £6,915,000 in New South Wales. The Victorian figures similarly show an insignificant increase to £3,834,000 from institutions, but an increase to £3,100,000 from the Commonwealth. Well over 40 per cent, of the money spent by building societies in Victoria last year was found by the Commonwealth under this legislation. We had again to underwrite in Victoria the deficiencies arising from the Government’s control of the banks and assurance societies. In each of these reports, the position in the other States is briefly stated. In the other four States, most of the money provided for building societies came from the Commonwealth and not from the banks or assurance societies. I did not earlier give the position of Queensland, but a useful statement on Queensland is contained in the report of the Registrar of Co-operative Societies for the year ended 30th June. 1958. He said-
For the year 1958-59, a larger total is available for allocation and individual societies will probably be allotted greater amounts than for 1957-58, but most of them could still utilize more funds than are available.
I believe that that is the experience in every State. It certainly is stated to be the experience in the two reports of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies, from which I have quoted. The building societies make it quite plain that they have on their books a number of applicants who have the means to fulfil any obligations that they enter into with the building societies. However, it is not possible for the building societies to give them the loans that they desire because financial institutions will not lend money to the building societies and the Commonwealth condones their default. Just as there is an unfulfilled demand for housing commission houses, both for rent and for purchase, so also there is an unfulfilled demand for houses which it is desired to purchase from building societies. People who borrow from building societies are usually in more comfortable circumstances than are people who buy through housing commissions. Nevertheless, there again, a great number of worthy Australian citizens find that it is not possible to get the accommodation which they desire and which they could pay for, or they find that they will have to wait for some years before they get it. The rising Australian generation, of course, is deprived of the opportunities to which it is entitled.
The remaining category of people - a relatively small one - for whom accommodation will be found under this bill is serving members of the forces. There is, of course, no necessity whatever for the Commonwealth to make money available to the housing commissions to enable them to construct houses for serving members of the forces. The Australian Constitution is regrettably archaic. The Commonwealth cannot make money available directly for the purposes of housing commissions and building societies. We are the only government in Australia which has the financial flexibility to raise money by taxation or loans in order to deal with housing, where governments have to come into that field. We are the only government in Australia which has power to deal with those authorities which lend money for housing - the banks and the life assurance societies - but we cannot directly lend money, and we fail to direct the lending agencies to do so. But, as regards members of the forces, former members of the forces, members of the Commonwealth Public Service, or people in the Territories, the Commonwealth can provide what accommodation it desires on any conditions which commend themselves to it. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent us from ourselves constructing houses for serving members of the forces. It is some compliment to the State housing commissions, which Government members criticize so often, that the Commonwealth chooses voluntarily that those commissions should build houses for serving members of the forces. The Com1monwealth thereby acknowledges that the housing commissions have the know-how, the efficiency and the skill to construct project houses in the quickest time and most cheaply. They have the men, the materials and the expertise to do it.
But the housing position for members of the forces is not satisfactory, as the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is at the table, well knows. And this bill, surprising to say, makes less provision than in previous years for houses for members of the forces. Under the 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth can designate up to 5 per cent, of the grant to each State for the accommodation of serving members of the forces. But this year, it is not designating that proportion. In 1958-59, Sir, £1,195,000 was designated for the accommodation of men in the forces. This financial year, the amount is only £1,072,000. In 1957-58, 867 houses were provided with the designated amount and the matching grant from the Commonwealth. Last financial year, only 752 houses were constructed in this way - a considerable proportional decline. Quite obviously, this year, since there has been a reduction in the amount of money provided for the purpose, the number of houses will decline still further.
I can give one instance out of the many which I have brought to the attention of the Minister for the Army. In my electorate - the military capital of Australia - a great number of people desire these houses. The Minister will remember one particular case which will illustrate the severity of the housing need. It is that of a public servant in married quarters in the Army area. He lost an eye in the First World War, in which he had enlisted in 1914. After that war, he joined the Commonwealth Public Service and remained in it until the Second World War, when he again enlisted. After the war, he again went back to the Public Service. In other words, this gentleman has been in constant Commonwealth civil and military employment for 45 years. At the Army’s request, 24 years ago, he let his own house and went into Army quarters. A few months ago, he was asked to vacate his Army quarters. The man was within a year of retirement at the time. He immediately took proceedings to recover possession of the house which he had vacated at the Army’s request 24 years earlier, and before those proceedings were consummated, the Army evicted him. The landlord and tenant legislation of the States, of course, does not apply to Army houses.
– Did the Minister for the Army sign the eviction notice?
– No, but he refused to stay the eviction.
– This man was not a member of the forces.
– But he had been, and, at the Army’s request, he was living in Army quarters. He is a civilian in Army employment, engaged in employment in the Army area at the Army’s request, and, at the Army’s designation, occupying Army quarters, from which he was removed a month before he could evict the tenants of his own home, within a year of his retirement. That very clearly proves, I suggest, that the demand for service dwellings is great.
I shall make only one other reference to this matter. A member of the Navy cannot get a Navy house unless he has at least two years to go before his period of enlistment expires, unless he is experiencing a housing problem of considerable urgency, and unless he has a family of one or more children.
The decreased provision and unsatisfied demand for service houses illustrates the
Commonwealth’s irresponsibility in housing, Sir. We do not have to go through the States. We could ourselves build houses for serving members of the forces. I have pointed out that the number of houses provided for members of the forces dropped from 867 in 1957-58 to 752 in 1958-59. This financial year, we are providing fewer pounds for the accommodation of serving members of the forces, because we are not designating so much under the housing provision for each Stale. Therefore, it must be realized that the Commonwealth Government does not regard it as important to house even its own employees-
It is not inappropriate, Sir, to conclude with ‘a summary of this Government’s record in the housing field. On two occasions, it has increased the interest rate which is charged to building societies and to individual customers by the banks and the life assurance societies. On one occasion, it has increased the rate of interest charged on loans to the State Housing Commissions, thus increasing the rent paid by persons who rent homes constructed by those bodies, and the repayments of those who purchase such houses. As a matter of fact, about 54 per cent, of the rent goes in paying the interest on housing commission houses. The two increases in interest rates by banks and life assurance companies applied to existing customers as well as prospective ones. A person who was already paying off a loan found his interest rate increased. There was no anti-inflationary measure in that. Such a person was not deterred from borrowing money; he had already borrowed it. Thirdly, there has been the freezing of the total amount of money made available through the War Service Homes Division and of the loan that can be obtained by an individual applicant. Fourthly, there has been the reduction of the grant for housing commission houses, for both purchase and rent. A fifth feature of this Government’s record has been the diversion of housing commission funds to building societies, which we have failed to require the life assurance societies and the banks to support. And sixthly there is the failure to make any facilities for the building or rental of homes available to migrants, for whom the Commonwealth has adequate power to cater. That applies even to British or allied ex-servicemen.
– It is easier to get a deposit for the costs of the journey back to one’s country of origin than it is to get a deposit on a home.
– And many people go back, because there are few countries in western Europe in which it is not easier to borrow the money required to purchase a house, and cheaper to pay it off, because the interest is lower, or, if one chooses to rent a house, where it is not easier,, quicker and cheaper to obtain rental’, accommodation, than it is in Australia. Immigrants very quickly realize that it is. in housing, second only to health services, that Australia falls down by comparison with the countries of their origin.
We are slowly - too slowly - overcoming the housing shortage of the few years after the war. We are taking no steps whatever in this legislation to anticipate the housing shortage which, at this rate, will confront us when people who were born during and immediately after the war come to marriageable age. We are taking no steps whatever to clear sub-standard housing. The housing commissions are the only significant sources of rental housing. They are the only source of housing for people who do not have £1,000 deposit. They are the only authorities which will replace sub-standard housing. We are not maintaining a sufficient flow of funds to them to perform any of those roles. Each year, the Government seeks to put this legislation through with a minimum of time for the second-reading debate, so as to cover up the shortcomings of its policy. We are not meeting the demand for housing in the categories with which this bill deals. The housing commissions, the building societies and the service departments who receive money under this legislation all report that the demand on them for housing cannot be met without more money. They include those of our fellow citizens who require most assistance and we are giving them less.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has given a very interesting speech with a lot of minor details that do not amount to very much.
I started to make some notes of what he said, but I gave it up because, after all, the matters that he raised were tiddley-winking matters that did not amount to very much at all. His main complaint - and he ended on this note - appeared to be that the Government is not making enough money available to housing commissions. That is the story that he is telling. But in the whole of his speech he made no mention of the overall housing position nor of the result that has been achieved in the last few years, particularly in the last year.
It appears to me that he wants money to be diverted to the housing commissions so that they can build all the homes that are needed. I would just hate to see an Australian people which depended entirely on housing commissions in the States to build homes. On all houses there would be the same imprint of government that is inevitable when instrumentalities of that kind are building homes. No room would be left for people’s individual expression. I remind the Opposition that homes are much more than mere shelter. The whole basis of our national structure is dependent on housing and on the family unit that lives in the home. It is a place in which the family must be able to take pride. There must be individual expression in the home. That is not the type of thing that is provided by the cold hand of government instrumentalities.
This Government’s housing record is superior to that of any government in the history of Australia. No other government has done nearly as much as this Government has done in its nine or ten years of office. I propose to prove that a little later on. In the meantime, I should like to draw attention to the position in which this country found itself when this Government came into power in 1950. I remind honorable members and the public that at that time controls still existed in every State in Australia. The building industry was a complete shambles. Controls existed on land sales. You could not build a home unless you got a building permit from a government authority. There were shortages of all the essential building materials including bricks, timber, tiles, hardware and prime cost items. They could not be obtained anywhere except perhaps on the black market. This was the condition that existed when this Government came to power. At that time, the trade unions had been so regulated by the Labour Government that they had imposed a darg so that bricklayers could not lay more than 300 bricks a day.
Sometimes the public is inclined to forget that the Labour Government of that time attempted completely to socialize housing in Australia. About 1944 or 1945 the Labour Government tried to set up a Commonwealth housing commission. We never hear of that to-day. It was found that this could not be done constitutionally. The idea was that all money from the Commonwealth Government was to be directed into the Commonwealth housing commission and that all Australians should submit to being tenants of government-constructed houses. We have historical proof of that in the famous statement by a then Minister, Mr. Dedman, that Labour did not want to create a nation of little capitalists.
The whole idea of Labour at that time was to build up a renting community with houses built by the Commonwealth. It was only after the Labour Government was frustrated by the Constitution that it turned to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement as we know it to-day. That was only an alternative. I remind the House that all State governments other than that of South Australia were Labour. When the first agreement was offered, the South Australian Government refused to take part in it. The other States accepted it but South Australia overcame its housing shortage quicker than the Labour States did. It is good, sometimes, that honorable members should be reminded of these things.
The original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which was in existence when this Government came into power had a life of ten years. It could not be amended until the expiry of that time. When this Government came to office in 1950 the agreement still had another five years to run. It was not until 1956, therefore, that this Government was able to redraft the agreement and make the changes that were so essential for the proper growth of this nation and for the protection of the people. The redrafted agreement provided that 20 per cent, of the money allocated to the States should go to building societies for home ownership, which was consistent with our policy. After two years, the proportion of the moneys allocated to building societies was to be increased to 30 per cent.
This legislation covers a period of five years, and it has been the salvation of the building societies, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. Notwithstanding what the previous speaker said, the building societies are now in a flourishing condition and there are many more such societies in all the States than ever ‘existed before. Indeed, apart from New South Wales and Victoria where building societies were in existence, the other States which previously had no such organizations have set them up, and building societies are now operating in every State of the Commonwealth. As a result of the action of this Government, a great change has taken place and the emphasis now is upon home ownership rather than upon home tenancy.
The honorable member for Werriwa referred to the fact that 80 per cent, of the houses that are built by the housing commission in New South Wales are made available for purchase by the tenants. I ask him: Why is that so? Prior to the revised Commonwealth-State agreement, .6 per cent, of the houses that were built by the housing commission in New South Wales were sold. To-day 80 per cent, are sold. Why? Because this Government made it possible - in fact, almost imperative - that the States organize their home construction programmes with the ultimate objective of ownership by the tenants. That is the reason why 80 per cent, of housing commission homes in New South Wales are available for purchase by the tenants. It is not a matter of what Labour has done but of what this Government has done.
I am not fond of quoting figures in detail, but let us look at some figures which will show the results that have been obtained since the new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement has been entered into. From 1945, when the agreement was first introduced, until 1950 Labour spent £53,000,000 on housing and built 27,000 homes. From 1950 to 1959 this Government has spent £328,000,000 on housing, and has built over 100,000 homes through State housing commissions. Those figures are particularly interesting when one hears the Opposition claim that if it were in power it would do the right thing in relation to housing. Let us look now at the current position. This year we have built an all-time record number of homes - 84,158. To meet both the immigration intake and our national growth, we need only 54,000 homes a year, but yet we have built in this year 84,158, a surplus of over 30,000 homes in one year.
The honorable member has referred to war service homes. Let me quote some illuminating figures in relation to this matter. Since 1950, this Government has spent £277,000,000 on war service homes which represent 84 per cent, of all money that has ever been spent in this way in the 40 years that the scheme has been in existence. In 31 years all other governments in Australia have built 54,541 homes, but in the nine years that this Government has been in office it has built 125,288 homes through the war service homes scheme. This Government has spent the magnificent sum of over £600,000,000 directly on housing. I do not know how criticism can be levelled at a government which has a record of that character.
The honorable member has referred to demands that have been made upon certain societies, and he has quoted some figures in relation to housing requirements, but he did not attempt to deal in any shape or form with the overall shortage as it exists - or, should I say, as it existed - in Australia. If he goes into the figures, he will see that in 1947, immediately after the conclusion of the war, it was stated that we were short of 250,000 houses. To-day, authentic figures disclose that the shortage has been reduced to less than 50,000 - and this Government has been in power for only nine years. These figures have been given to me by the Department of National Development, the department which administers housing. If we continue along our present course - and there is no reason why we should not - in two years from now any shortage of housing in Australia will be overcome. That is a very important achievement because, after all, our natural demand is for only 54,000 homes each year, and we are building at the rate of 85,000. I repeat, that in less than two years the shortage of houses - or, should I say, the so-called shortage of houses - certainly will be overcome. When that time arrives, it will be very interesting to know what the State Labour governments, such as the Government of New South Wales, will do about their rent control systems.
Let us look now at the rent controls that the Government of New South Wales has imposed upon the people. I make the statement quite frankly, without over.emphasizing it in any shape or form, that -the rent control legislation has been the most vicious that has ever been enacted in Australia. Let me mention some of the results of the legislation. Undoubtedly, it is the prime cause of the shortage of housing that exists in this country. There is no doubt about that. It has created endless suffering by people in search of homes, and :.it has cost small owners of investment properties in Australia over £1,000,000,000 to subsidize the rent of other people, 90 per Cent, of whom are in a position to pay an economic rent. If that is justice, then what is injustice?
This legislation has destroyed all incentive to invest in rented property; it has forced the Government to provide millions of pounds from taxation for housing, and it has driven private investment into other avenues such as cash order companies, motor cars and so on. As a result, it has contributed largely to the inflationary trend. This is the damage that has been done to the economy by the continuance of this system of rent control. Rents have been pegged to 1939 levels whilst the economy has reached the 1959 level. I do not WaN honorable members to misunderstand me. I do not say that to-morrow morning rent control should be lifted, but I do say that when wage pegging was removed in 1947 and wages were allowed to rise with the economy, the Labour Government of New South Wales had no right in justice or fair play to allow the rents of properties to be pegged at the rates that existed in 1939.
As a direct result of the operation of this system of rent control, the total stock of rented houses in Australia has fallen by hundreds of thousands, notwithstanding the homes that have been constructed by housing commissions because, as soon as a rented home becomes vacant or another opportunity occurs, the owner disposes of it. There are tens of thousands fewer people living in rented houses to-day than there were living in the same houses in 1939. This is due to family displacement and the desire to hold on to a tenancy at such a low rental, even if it is not essential to do so. If honorable members look at the statistics, census returns or anything else they will find that there has been a great displacement of people living in rented houses, and this has thrown an artificial pressure on other avenues to obtain houses. This pressure has been felt by organizations such as the War Service Homes Division, the State housing commissions, building societies and so on. Rent control has created the anomaly of forcing the private owner to accept £1 15s. a week for an identical cottage built by the State government for which it is forced to charge £4 15s. Can anybody say that is justice? I could point to hundreds of cases similar to that in Sydney. If rent control is to continue, surely it would be just to allow a rent to be charged in accordance with the current value of money or in accordance with the value of the security itself. That would not be asking too much. By what sense of British justice is the owner of a property prevented by force of law from personally occupying his own home? But there are thousands of cases of that very thing occurring in the city of Sydney to-day. Conditions of that kind exist throughout Australia. This Government has no power in this sphere. But there is no doubt that, particularly in New South Wales, the effect of the present system upon the economy and the housing situation in that State has been diabolical.
Let me now pass to some of the major problems that will arise in the future. No doubt we are overcoming the housing shortage, but there are other big problems in this field. It would be better for the honorable member for Werriwa or members of the Opposition to pay attention to these matters which are of very great importance to housing. I think that the biggest problem is building costs, which are becoming too high for the average citizen. There are causes for this condition and although I may not mention all of them I shall refer to some. The first of them I lay at the door of the Labour government. By its policy in the States it has created an artificialdemand which has prevented the effective operation of competitive building* the only means of keeping costs down. There may be other factors, tout that is the principal one. Another important factor is the shortage of qualified tradesmen. Let me remind honorable members that during the years immediately following the war Labour made no attempt in any shape or form to train additional tradesmen.
– That is a complete lie.
– It is not; it is deadly true, especially in the building industry.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes used the expression “ That is a lie “ or “ That is a deliberate lie “.
– I said it was a complete lie.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that expression and apologize.
– I withdraw and apologize, but the facts are still the same.
– This shortage of qualified tradesmen has given sub-contractors the opportunity to charge in many cases what, in my opinion, are excessive prices. Most houses are built under a system of sub-contract, that is to say, an overall contract ds let and then the various components such as bricks, plumbing requirements, and so on are supplied under subcontract. Because of the shortage of qualified tradesmen there has been a much greater demand in the building trade for all these sub-contractors than formerly existed. As a result of this demand, subcontractors have been able to ask more than would have been the case had competition existed and there were sufficient qualified tradesmen in the various fields.
Another important factor in costs is that land prices are too high for the average purchaser. That applies particularly in the metropolitan area of Sydney. I am not aware of the conditions in most of the other States, but in New South Wales the State Government has been resuming land in wholesale fashion and has created a shortage in areas where people wish to buy. Again, as a result of demand, land prices have gone up ‘and created artificial values. In Sydney, controls exercised by the Cumberland County Council have been exercised for years but no one in that body seems to be able to determine what final plan is to be adopted. Every now and again a fresh area of land is released for sale. This : system of control by the Cumberland County Council has stimulated abnormal competition for available land. These factors have an important bearing on costs which, I believe, is the principal matter to which we should turn our attention. We must get building costs and the price of land down to a level that the people can afford to pay.
There is a danger sign in all this. I ask: When this shortage of houses is overtaken, as will happen if the present rate of 85,000 to 95,000 houses a year is maintained, what will happen when there is a return to the output of 55,000, growing to 60,000, houses a year? At the present time the whole of the building industry - brickyards, timber yards, hardware factories and all the rest - are geared for an output of 85,000 to 90,000 houses a year. What will happen when suddenly this demand disappears? There is a danger in that. I am not prepared to-night to make a prediction about it, but there are people who stand on the political stump at times and say, “ Let us issue an extra £100,000,000 for housing; we must have more money “. That was the suggestion of the honorable member for Werriwa. There is a danger in gearing up the building industry beyond what it is now, and I sound a note of warning in that respect. Very serious results to our economy could follow. It could certainly have a far-reaching effect upon people who had committed themselves to purchase homes and had a liability hanging round their necks which they must meet. I should hate to see the result of falling and uncertain values being placed upon property and, subsequently, thousands of people losing their equity. That would be one of the most serious things that could happen to our economy.
Although I agree that building societies should be provided with as much money as we can possibly afford, do not let us become too foolish about over-supplying the market with money for the purpose of housing. Finally, let me repeat that it cannot be denied that this Government, in the short space of nine or ten years that it has been in office, has done a magnificent job, which I sincerely believe the people of Australia appreciate.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest and attention to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), but I still have to learn that he answered the statements made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). The Minister stated that no Government has done as much in respect of housing as this Government has done; but he has not answered the statement made by the honorable member for Werriwa that it was during the term of this Government that interest rates were increased, making it much more difficult for persons to secure homes. The Minister has not answered the honorable member’s further statement that Government policy had diverted money from life assurance companies and others into Commonwealth bonds, leaving the building societies and other societies bereft of capital with which to carry on their work. He certainly has not answered in a convincing manner the statement of the honorable member for Werriwa that his Government has not yet overtaken the housing lag.
Having failed to answer these very important and, indeed, fundamental criticisms of the Government’s policy, the Minister then made a number of statements concerning Labour policy in the States. He spoke of the shortages that were evident at the time the Government came to office in 1950. lt is true that there were shortages, and that the shortages were experienced in all States, whether controlled by Labour or antiLabour governments. Those shortages were due entirely to the reorganization of industry that was necessary because we had organized the whole of Australian industry for defence purposes during the war. Between 1945 and 1949 a gigantic task faced the government of the day. It had not only to bring industry back to peacetime production, but it had also to repatriate hundreds of thousands of soldiers. It also had to obtain plant, equipment and raw materials from other countries which were also suffering from shortages consequent upon their participation in the war. Having regard to the fact that we were then experiencing an economic Gethsemane, as a consequence of our war efforts, it ill becomes any member of this Parliament, from either side, to refer sneeringly to the very severe economic difficulties that we faced at the time.
The Minister also brought up the old argument about the darg with respect to the laying of bricks. Next year I will have been a trade unionist for 50 years. When 1 first joined the trade union movement I heard the story that bricklayers were not allowed to lay more than 300 bricks a day. When T was Minister for Labour in the Victorian Government, and bricks and bricklayers were scarce, employers were complaining and making the same old charge. I asked their representatives to come and discuss the matter with me, and they then admitted frankly that the men could not lay more than 300 bricks a day because sufficient bricks were not available. As a matter of actual fact I can say, as one who knows something about trade unions, that this matter has been investigated more than once by the trade union movement, and the charge has been found to be absolutely without foundation. It is a pity that when we are debating a matter of such national importance as housing, charges of this description, with no basis in fact, are made in this House. They cannot help to overcome the housing difficulties of the Australian people.
This bill is designed to make some £36,000,000 available for housing purposes. About £25,250,000 will go to the States for the purpose of housing, and £10,800,000 will be provided for building societies. In speaking of the distribution of this money, I want to place before the House some of the problems that we, as a nation, have to face. The States will use this money for a two-fold purpose. They will have to provide homes for rental purposes and also for individual purchase. I shall deal, first, with homes for rental purposes. In the last 50 years there has been a change in the attitude of the Australian people as to the kind of housing which is considered desirable. In the early part of the century considerably more than half the homes in Australia were occupied on a rental basis. During the intervening years the tendency of the Australian people has been to build and purchase more homes of their own.
This change has been due not to rent control, as suggested by the Minister, but to quite a large number of factors that I propose to outline in the limited time at my disposal. First, like the Minister, I am not keen on quoting figures, but on this occasion I would like to give some information that can be found on page 7 of “ Housing Finance in Australia “, by M. R. Hill. This publication gives the proportion of homes owner-occupied or being purchased by instalments, and the proportion being rented. The figures have been culled from the results of various censuses that have been taken. It is only by means of a census that one can obtain the information necessary to give accurate figures. In 1911 private homes occupied by owners or being purchased by instalments represented 50 per cent, of the total number. The remaining 50 per cent, were being occupied either on a rental basis or as part of the conditions of employment. The last census taken indicated that the number of houses occupied by owners or being purchased on terms represented 69 per cent, of the total number.
– That is what I just said.
– Yes, but I give a different reason for the change from that which was given by the Minister. At the same time 31 per cent, of homes were occupied by tenants. The estimate for 1957 - which, of course, was purely an estimate - indicated a further trend in the same direction, but until the next census is taken in 1961 we will not know exactly what has happened.
In the past the building of homes for rental purposes has always been regarded as a speculation. People expected to get considerably more in return than they would from other sources of investment. As a consequence we see to-day slum conditions in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and elsewhere. Because the investor desired to get the highest possible return, and because workers’ incomes in those days were very low, houses were built to inferior standards. I ask honorable members to call to mind some of the terraces of houses in Surry Hills in Sydney, or in Fitzroy, Collingwood, Prahran or South Melbourne. A small block of land was sufficient for the building of a large number of houses in terrace form. Each of these houses had small rooms, and in many cases did not contain such essentials as bathroom, copper and washing troughs. They had bad lighting and bad ventilation, and the conditions generally fell far short of those we consider necessary for Australian men, women and children.
Houses were being built for investment until about 1930, but by that time they were not being built in the form of terraces. We then had the maisonette style, with semidetached cottages built on small areas of land, and not having the features that we consider desirable for Australian homes. Then a number of changes took place. During the depression the building of houses for rental purposes ceased almost entirely. During the war, because of the shortage of raw materials, these being required for defence purposes, house building stopped almost completely. After the war, the building of houses for rental no longer appealed as an avenue of investment, because every municipality had, between the 1930’s and the end of the war, considerably altered building regulations. Houses had to be built to a certain standard. A certain amount of space was required in each room. The area upon which a house could be built had been laid down very clearly, and in very few suburbs was it allowed to be less than 45 feet in frontage and 120 feet in depth. Since then the tendency has been for bigger blocks to be considered as necessary for homes. The result was that the investor who wanted to build cheap houses with low standards in order to get quick returns could no longer buy a relatively small area of land and build a terrace of houses on it. So the speculative builder then diverted his energies from building houses for rent to building houses for sale and, since 1945, practically no houses have been built by private investors for rent - not because of the pegging of rents, but because of the conditions imposed by municipalities both on the type of building and on the class of land. In face of these municipal restrictions speculative builders were not prepared to pay the price, because they felt that they could not get the rents they wanted.
– That is sheer nonsense.
– The Minister can express his opinion. I have had experience in the same line of business as the Minister has experience in, and I know what I am talking about. I am not basing my statements on theory. I am basing them on experience. The position is that the only authorities that are building houses for rent now are the State authorities, and they are up against two very great difficulties in trying to meet the problem of building houses for rent. The first difficulty is that, having built the houses, they now are required to sell to the tenants if the tenants desire to buy. As a consequence, although a very large number of people want rented homes, the housing commissions are not able to meet everybody’s requirements. Every housing commission home sold to a tenant means that somebody has a home, probably permanently; but that is one less home available for rent, and another house has to be built somewhere else in order to keep the balance between owner-occupied homes and tenanted homes somewhere on the existing level.
The second difficulty is that it by no means follows that all the houses that are occupied at the time of the taking of a census are again available for occupancy at the time of the next census. Demolitions are taking place all the time. These demolitions sometimes are undertaken by housing authorities to get rid of slums; in other cases they are undertaken to enable extensions of factories. This is constantly going on in the inner suburbs of all the capital cities. There is no need for me to remind honorable members that houses of very good habitable quality are being torn down to permit the erection of service stations. We do not know until a census is taken how many houses have been demolished to make way for industrial purposes, and how many houses have been demolished because the State authorities have classed them as sub-standard and unfit for human habitation. I know that the figures given by one authority indicate that the number of rented houses in Sydney decreased by 12,000 between 1947 and 1954. The comparable figure in Victoria was 11,000. Mr. M. R. Hill, in his book, “ Housing Finance in Australia, 1945- 1956”, states that between 1947 and 1954 90,000 houses which were rented had been sold for owner-occupancy.
It is necessary to see that in whatever agreements operate between the Commonwealth and the States there is provision that a percentage of houses for rent shall always be available to meet the needs of those who require such houses. I believe that when the next such bill comes before the House a substantially increased sum should be made available to the States and the cooperative building societies for housing purposes. I believe that the co-operative building societies movement, first introduced in New South Wales in the 1930’s-
– By the Stevens Government.
– It might have been by the Stevens Government. I do not know. Whatever government introduced the system, the point is that succeeding governments have strengthened it. In Victoria, we established the co-operative housing society system in 1944-45, and we have found that the terminating co-operative housing society system is the best from the stand-point of giving the person on a low income an opportunity to secure a home on reasonable terms. I know that in Bendigo, in my own electorate, one group of housing societies which was established in the last two or three years received finance from the Registrar of Co-operative Housing Societies in Melbourne, from the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank, from the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and from the Australia and New Zealand Savings Bank Limited. I want to pay a tribute to the wonderful work that has been done by the Commonwealth Bank in supporting, to the extent of nearly £150,000,000 the work of the co-operative housing societies, and also to the wonderful work done by the State Savings Bank in Victoria in making many millions of pounds more available to help people to overcome their housing difficulties. I hope that as a consequence of that, it will be possible, when the next legislation comes before the House, for more generous appropriations to be made for this great purpose.
I conclude, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by saying that we can claim with pride that Australia’s present-day housing standards are among the highest in the world. Everything possible must be done to maintain this position. Further, we must see that sufficient houses for rental are built and made available to those who desire accommodation as tenants. The need to overtake the existing housing shortage is imperative. I disagree with the Minister for the Army, who said that the existing shortage was about 50,000. My opinion is that it is 70,000 or 80,000 at least. In the next two to three years, the amount made available to the States for housing purposes should be substantially increased to overtake the existing shortage before the heavy pressure for accommodation in the 1970’s is felt. Action on those two lines is urgent if our people are to have their right to enjoy and maintain family life under satisfactory and decent living conditions.
.- -I believe that the rate of housing construction is very satisfactory; that there is full employment in the building industry; that a greater infusion of money at this time would force up prices; and that to increase the capacity of the industry would in a few years probably result in a redundancy of building labour and of factory capacity for the production of building materials. I also believe that the time is ripe for another comprehensive review of policy, in view of the rapidly approaching end of the housing shortage. I believe that, in particular, the slum clearance question and the needs of the pensioners, of people with large families and of people requiring rented accommodation, should receive special consideration in such a review.
This bill proposes to increase last year’s allocation of £36,009,000 to the States for housing purposes to £36,080,000 - an increase of £71,000. This, of course, Sir, has to be seen in perspective. Finance for State housing represents only a small part of housing finance. In the year 1958-59, a total of £263,674,000 was expended, from all sources, on new houses and flats in Australia. So, the allocation to housing commissions was less than one-seventh of the total amount of money expended on housing last year. However, this bill provides an opportunity for honorable mem bers to review the overall housing situation in Australia, and that is what I propose to do.
I believe that any intelligent appreciation must take as its starting point the paper put out by the Department of National Development in December, 1956, entitled “ The Housing Situation “. That paper offers a critical analysis of the factors determining the housing needs of the population up to 1980 and an estimate of those needs annually until 1961, and thereafter in quinquennial periods. Obviously, the later estimates will require modification in the light of actual events. It is not my purpose to say very much at this stage about the method adopted in the survey except that it takes into account the rate of family formation, migration and the rate of demolition of existing buildings - the matter referred to a moment ago by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). It assumes that the marriage of a single woman creates the need for a new home and that the entry into Australia of a married migrant brings about a similar need. It also assumes that the death of a married, widowed or divorced woman releases a home for further occupancy.
The census of 1954 gives a starting point for the number of homes in existence at that time. The rate of demolition of old buildings and erection of new buildings gives data for modification of this figure. I want to add only two comments. First, the basis of the calculations in the paper have been assailed by many, but no one has ventured to put forward any comprehensive substitute for it. Secondly, I believe that most differences of viewpoint spring from the fact that the concept “ substandard dwelling “ is susceptible of many interpretations and, in truth, no simple and definite yardstick is possible.
However, the estimate of the deficiency in 1956 was 115,350 dwellings and the estimate of current needs in the subsequent years up to the present time was 51,950 dwellings in 1957; 53,500 dwellings in 1958; and 54,500 dwellings in 1959. So, current needs in that period aggregate 159,950 dwellings. Add to that the deficiency at the beginning of the period and one gets a total of 275,300 dwellings. How has this deficiency been met? The actual number of dwellings in fact constructed in the relevant period was 68,436 in 1957; 74,584 in 1958; and 84,158 in 1959. That is a total of 227,300. Subtracting the actual number constructed from the estimated requirements, including the backlog, one finds that the deficiency at this time equals 48,121. I have simply given the workings of the sum to which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) gave the answer - that is, the backlog at this time is about 48,000.
Assuming that this is a correct figure, how soon will the deficiency be overcome? It is estimated that the current need for 1960 will be 56,351 and that for 1961 it will be 60,900. Now, if the present rate of construction continues - that is, 84,000 homes per annum - there will be a surplus over current requirements in 1960 of 27,808 and in 1961 of 23,258. The total surplus over current requirements in the next two years will be 51,066 to meet the estimated deficiency of 48,121. Thus the conclusion emerges that in 1961 the deficiency will be overcome and the building industry thereafter will have to cope only with current needs.
The current needs are estimated in the paper at 65,200 dwellings in 1965; 78,600 dwellings in 1970; 85,700 dwellings in 1975; and 88,500 dwellings in 1980. Since the present building rate is 84,000 homes per annum it would seem that within a very few years there will be ample capacity to rebuild sub-standard homes, however generous may be the definition of a substandard home. Indeed, if the estimates in the paper have any validity at all and are not mere fantasy - and nobody suggests that they are - the real danger in a short time may be over-production and unemployment in the building industry, including the factories supplying building materials.
It may be added that slum clearance is likely to have a high priority should full employment of the work force in Australia prove to be a problem in the years ahead, and for two reasons. First, it has always been recognized that the building industry provides a great deal of indirect as well as direct employment. Secondly, the materials are almost entirely locally produced and the procurement of them would not therefore create balance of payments difficulties. However, if any lingering doubt remains in the minds of honorable members regarding the trend of building construction, it is worth looking at one or two concrete figures.
The Bureau of Census and Statistics, in its “Bulletin of Building Statistics” for the quarter ended June, 1959, sets out a table at page 3 showing the number of new houses and flats completed in Australia in the years 1951 to 1959. The number built in 1951 was 69,297. The peak year was 1955, when 82,110 were built. The figures in the last three years have been 68,436 in 1957; 74,585 in 1958; and 84,158 in 1959. It will be observed that the last figure was an all-time record.
Nor has the record of dwellings been achieved at the expense of other buildings. The total value of all building has steadily increased over the past three years greatly in advance of the decline in the value of money. The report of the Commonwealth Bank for the year ended 30th June, 1959. sets out on page 13 the number of loans made by the major financial institutions, including the banks, insurance offices, the War Service Homes Division and a large section of building societies. In 1956-57, the number was 35,600; in 1957-58, it was 38,000; and in 1958-59, it was 41,400. The corresponding advances made in respect of those loans totalled £78,200,000 in 1956-57; £90,800,000 in 1957-58; and £103,200,000 in 1958-59. This again indicates a steady upward trend in the past three years.
Let me take another example of the same upward swing. According to the latest report of the Registrar of Co-operative Societies in New South Wales, the principal lending institutions advanced to terminating building societies £5,578,000 in 1956- 57; £6,412,000 in 1957-58; and £6,867,000 in 1958-59. So you have the same trend again.
Finally, the report of the Housing Commission of New South Wales for the year ended 30th June, 1958, states -
The alarm expressed by the Comission in its last three annual reports at what was regarded as an inadequate rate of home construction to meet the demands of the housing problem in this State was not eliminated by the improved progress in 1957- 58 over the previous year . . .
The report continues -
It has now emerged beyond doubt that resources of the building industry-
That is, in New South Wales - can produce at least 30,000 dwellings annually without any inflationary effects and that having the physical means, New South Wales needs, and should have the financial means of achieving, s minimum target of this magnitude each year.
Well, what are they barking about? The New South Wales Minister for Housing, Mr. Landa, has just announced that the final figure of dwelling construction in 1958-59 was 30,030- Furthermore, the Housing Commission of New South Wales is systematically demolishing emergency housing centres. It is true that the wartime huts are expensive to maintain, but it is perhaps not unreasonable to assume that the commission would not have taken this course but for the fact that the housing pressure is tending to abate.
I have made inquiries from Commonwealth Hostels Limited and I find that migrants are moving through the hostels at a faster rate now than in previous years. I have also made inquiries of the Housing Commission and I find that its tenants are moving from the emergency centres much more quickly than a few years ago.
Finally, I come to the position of the labour force and the important question of building costs. The Bureau of Census and Statistics in its latest bulletin, for the June quarter of 1959, shows that 1951 was the peak year, when 118,794 building workers were employed. Then in 1959, an all-time record was achieved with a figure of 119,937. In the intervening years, the numbers fluctuated. [Quorum formed.]
Building costs during the last three years remained remarkably stable. The Rural Bank in New South Wales each year reckons the cost of building a standard threebedroom brick home. By this measuring rod, the cost was £4,650 in December, 1956; £4,635 in December, 1957; and precisely the same figure, £4,635 in December, 1958. This is a remarkable achievement. The Government must, I think, be given credit for matching the finance so accurately with the potential of the industry, as well as for adjusting the capacity of the industry so well to the task of overcoming the backlog with reasonable speed without at the same time risking a too catastrophic decline in the employment of building workers.
If, then, all the statistical data points in the same direction, wherever a straw is exposed to the wind, and leads ineluctably to the conclusion that the housing problem is far advanced towards a solution, and indeed ought not to be further advanced at this time, how comes it that this is so vigorously denied in many quarters, including, of course, the Opposition benches? What is the evidence to the contrary? The Housing Commission of New South Wales and spokesmen for the co-operative building societies point to the many unsatisfied applicants for homes on their lists.
The answers, I believe, are these: First, as already admitted, there is at this time a genuine shortage - a minimum of about 48,000 dwellings in Australia. Secondly, this can be greatly inflated within wide limits by the number of sub-standard homes, which, however, may not have reached the stage of demolition. Thirdly, the number of applicants probably tends to be exaggerated because a certain number may well overlap; the same person may well have applied to, and be on the books of, several institutions or authorities and some, having found homes, may nevertheless have neglected to remove their names from the lists of applicants. Fourthly, the number of applicants on the books of some authorities, for example, the War Service Homes Division, may be inflated because they offer such favorable terms - more favorable than rents or terms now payable in respect of premises at present occupied by the applicants. In other words, the cheapest shops attract the most customers. Fifthly, some people, though they have a sufficient income to acquire a decent home, may prefer to remain in a sub-standard dwelling because they are unwilling to save. This applies to a certain number of housing commission applicants. Sixthly - and this, I think, is the most interesting point - while the overall housing situation is improving satisfactorily, some people do not fit into the existing framework.
Here, four classes can be distinguished. The first is that shortages of accommodation occur in some places and surpluses in others. Secondly, some people who prefer individual homes - a common and worthy Australian preference - are forced into fiats and would like to get out of them. Thirdly, it seems more than probable that a significant number of people, because their place of living is not fixed and settled or because their savings are not sufficient for a deposit, want rental accommodation in excess of the supply. Fourthly, some, such as pensioners, whether age pensioners, invalids or widows, simply cannot afford decent accommodation and the supply of dwellings whose rentals are subsidized is very inadequate.
What emerges from my argument up to this point is, I think, the need for a full review of the position, comparable to that made by the Department of National Development in 1956 - or, rather, even wider than this. Firstly, the estimates in that paper need to be checked against the actual figures in the intervening years, and the forecasts needs to be revised in the light of trends now perhaps a little more discernible than they were in 1956. Secondly, since the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will come up for review in 1961, thought should be given to the demand for more rental accommodation and for subsidized rents for pensioners. I have made what I believe to be a well-documented plea for such accommodation for widows, in a speech delivered in this House on 22nd September, of this year, on the Social Services Bill. I ask that the argument there advanced be taken into account in the framing of housing policy, which, I say, ought now to be under review.
I conclude with some broad observations. First, the housing situation in any country must depend in large measure not only on the preferences of individuals but also on the institutional framework. For example, the landlord and tenant legislation, especially in New South Wales, has tended to arrest the flow of funds into rental accommodation, as has been pointed out in the course of this debate. It is notorious that in Fi ance and Sweden between the wars, rent control brought about very unsatisfactory housing conditions. This in turn has brought about a popular demand for governments to do what, understandably, private capital was unwilling to undertake.
Secondly, the absence of clear titles to home units has hitherto meant that lending institutions were unwilling to make finance available for this type of project. Here, legislative action is now proposed in New South Wales. Thirdly, the existence of the “ green belt “ in the County of Cumberland has forced up prices of land within the crumbling ramparts, and speculators have seized the opportunity to pre-empt the dwindling supply of building land. Here a solution is not yet in sight, but must somehow be found.
I pass to still broader considerations. In earlier times, housing was not a concern of governments at all, but the spontaneous growth of the welfare State has been the road to the planned economy. To-day, the people turn to governments to meet every basic need. How can the State discriminate between the needs for housing, for transport, for schools, for irrigation and for defence - to give but some of the needs for which it must make provision? In part, most of these things, though not all, were met by the mechanism of the market economy. Now, a judgment has to be made by Cabinet and monetary, fiscal and legislative means have to be managed and used to secure the desired result. Inevitably, nobody is satisfied. Inevitably, pressure groups have become the order of the day. In fact, what is happening is that, starting from the basis of a pre-existing pattern, distortions occur by reason of pressures and of piecemeal assessments in particular fields. What is still lacking is a system of principles and criteria. Nor is the answer in sight.
However, certain considerations can be put forward in the field of housing. The first point, I think, that has to be firmly grasped by the proponents of huge housing programmes is one that I have, I hope, already made clear. If the backlog is to be overtaken at a stride, then you have the subsequent disruption resulting from unemployed building tradesmen and surplus factory capacity for building material. The Government has in this steered very carefully between Scylla and Charybdis, and should be congratulated for having done so. Secondly, I doubt whether most who cry aloud for more funds understand the consequences of their proposals. To argue that these funds should be provided by the banks through a release of frozen deposits is the same thing as to demand that the printing press should be set to work, with disastrous inflationary consequences.
Thirdly, it is suggested that the financial institutions - banks and insurance offices, mainly - should be forced, by some kind of governmental pressure, to lend more out of their existing funds. I think it has to be understood that lending on long-term mortgage is a highly unprofitable form of investment in an age of creeping inflation, when the value of money is declining at the steady rate of 3 per cent, per annum. Clearly, if the loan is for, say, 20 years, the last £1 recovered by the lender from the borrower is, in real terms, worth only about one-third of the first £1 repaid. The only ways to guard against this would be by some ingenious escalator clause in the agreement or by fixing an initial repayment figure very far in excess of the prices now charged for homes. Since neither course is practicable, the plain fact is that longterm borrowers are in fact subsidized either by the general taxpayer, when the repayment is made to a government instrumentality such as a housing commission, or by the policy-holders or depositors in a financial institution, when the repayment is made to such an institution.
Is this fair and just? It is, of course, practicable to the extent that the obligations of the lender - for example, an assurance society - also are in fixed money terms. It is also, of course, just to the extent that borrowers are in large measure policyholders. In the case of banks, the borrowers tend to be the same people as the depositors. The case of the holders of government securities is different. Nevertheless, these considerations are worth bearing in mind when a clamour is raised for excessive funds for housing to be forced from institutions. The plain fact is that, by a process not generally understood, some people are, to a substantial degree, being forced to subsidize the housing of others.
Having in mind the degree to which the housing problem has already been solved, and the other considerations that I have just advanced, Sir, I feel that it is perfectly just and proper, in an economy where the long-term trend must be, either directly or indirectly, towards greater equality of income through social services, to require people to save a fairly substantial part of the purchase price of a house before receiving a loan. But I would add this proviso: That special consideration should be given to the housing of pensioners and persons on low incomes - that is, low in comparison to their responsibilities. I would also suppose that a big task lies ahead of State housing commissions in the field of slum clearance.
I believe, Sir, that that is a fair and objective picture of the housing situation as it now is, and that it is desirable that the Government should now review its policy, having regard to the fact that, within a relatively short time, we shall face a totally different situation. Some honorable members opposite do not yet seem to realize this, although one can ignore the situation only by supposing that the paper prepared by the Department of National Development presents a picture that is a complete fantasy. There is no reason whatever to suppose that it is, Sir. On the contrary the officers of the department have informed me that their estimates for the last three years, which were made in 1956, have proved to be very close to the actualities. So I say that a completely new approach to the housing problem in Australia should be made. The Opposition, perhaps, would learn, if it paid attention to what I have said, that it will have dwindling opportunities to make political capital out of the housing situation.
.- In my approach to this measure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I concede that the accurate assessment of the shortage of homes in this country is extremely difficult. I think the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said that the Department of National Development considered that the shortage was approximately 56,000 houses. On the other hand, in 1948, Sir Douglas Copland told a national housing conference which had been convened by the Australian Council of Trade Unions that the scarcity at that time was no fewer than 100,000 homes. It has been suggested by various speakers in this debate that the back-lag could be about 115,000 homes. Therefore, I concede that it is not always easy to assess the exact shortage of homes in this country.
The honorable member for Bradfield dealt with the average- cost of homes and used figures relating to New South Wales to illustrate that the average cost of a brick home in that State had not varied to any great degree in recent years. From memory - and I must rely on memory in this respect - I think he said that the average cost of a brick home in New South Wales was about £5,659, and that it had remained at about that figure during the past three years. But let us refer to the last report of the Director of War Service Homes. I believe that we can rely on the figures in this document, which have been supplied to the director by the branches of the War Services Homes Division in the various States. If we take New South Wales - the State selected by the honorable member for Bradfield- we find that, in 1953-54, the average cost of dwelling house and land was £3,028, and that, in 1958-59, the figure had risen to £3,918 - an increase in five years of £890. The honorable member for Bradfield, on the one hand, quoted figures to indicate that the average cost of a brick home in New South Wales has not varied greatly in recent years, but the report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division, on the other hand, clearly indicates that the average cost of a home, including both dwelling house and land, has greatly increased during the last five years.
I have taken New South Wales, but when one looks at the position relative to the Australian Capital Territory, one finds that the increase in the average cost of a dwelling house and land there is substantially greater than the increase in any of the States. This brings me back to my original point that it is not always easy to assess with any great degree of accuracy the figures that have been made available by the various departments. But I believe that the statistics prepared from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician - and particularly those incorporated in the “ Quarterly Bulletin of Building Statistics “ - can be generally accepted as being reasonably accurate. I think that, on the basis of those figures, we can estimate the shortage of homes in this country as the present time as being at least 100,000.
Let me now turn to the remarks that I intended to make on this bill, which will increase the amounts to be made available to the States to a level slightly above that of the grants made under the Loan (Housing) Act 1958. Of the total allocation of £36,080,000 to be made this financial year, £10,824,000 is to be allocated to building societies and other approved lending institutions. I have no quarrel with that, provided that the approved lending institutions and the building societies are prepared to make the money available to prospective homebuilders on reasonable terms. I hope to be able to show at a later stage in my remarks, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the money being made available to building societies and other approved lending institutions at the present time is not being lent to prospective home-builders on a reasonable basis. The deposit, the interest rate and other factors make home ownership almost prohibitive for the average person receiving a moderate income.
– They still built 80,000 houses last year.
– I agree. I am not disputing that many of the building societies have contributed in no small measure to overcoming what is still an extremely serious housing shortage. My quarrel is that the money is not being made available on a reasonable basis.
To-day, any young man who approaches an approved lending institution in any one of the States is required to provide a deposit which, in most cases, is at least 50 per cent, of the cost of a home. That figure is beyond the means of a person who receives only a moderate income. I believe that that point has been substantiated time and time again in debates of this nature. I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) that the introduction of this legislation each year should be accepted by the representative in this chamber of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) as an opportunity to provide honorable members with information about the housing shortage in this country.
This is one of the shortest bills that are introduced into this House at any time during the Budget session. I do not intend to elaborate the point that this Government was elected on a pledge to house the people of this country. Indeed, in my opinion, there is no need to elaborate that point because we are sufficiently advanced in our social thinking to acknowledge that it is an accepted principle of all governments to ensure that the people are adequately housed. I do not overlook what has been achieved by this Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. My quarrel with the Government is that insufficient money is being made available to-day for housing, whether for the provision of new houses, for houses to let, or for other types of homes such as flats. In that respect, I believe it can be said in fairness that although in some years, there has been an improvement in the number of homes constructed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, there has generally been a deterioration, either in the year preceding or in the year following the increase that has occurred.
I believe that the figures provided by the “ Quarterly Bulletin of Building Statistics “ for the December quarter of 1958 clearly indicate what has happened in this respect. I shall cite figures from the first page of this document which contains a graph of the home construction programme in this country. In 1952, the number of new houses constructed reached approximately 80,000. By the end of 1953, that figure had fallen to approximately 64,000. By the end of 1954 the number of homes under construction had fallen to about 60,000. By the end of 1955, constructions had fallen to slightly less than 60,000 homes. In 1956 the deterioration continued and by the December quarter had reached about 53,000. After a slight improvement towards the end of 1957, the position again deteriorated and by the December quarter of 1958 the number of homes under construction had fallen to below 50,000.
Although the Minister for National Development has been quoted in this House to-night as having indicated in 1956 that a construction rate of approximately 77,000 homes annually would be required to overcome the housing lag, in only one year has that number been exceeded. In the year 1955, 78,289 homes were completed. So between 1953 and 1958, only in 1955 did the number of homes under construction exceed the annual figure that the Minister suggested would be necessary if we were to overcome the housing lag. In fact, in 1957, the year following the report submitted by the Minister for National Development, only 67,471 homes were completed. Therefore, it is perfectly obvious that, despite what has been stated by honorable members on the Government side, the housing shortage in this country will continue to exist unless the Government is prepared to face up to its responsibilities, and to recognize the fact that more money will have to be made available to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and to approved lending societies for the purpose of constructing new homes.
I turn again to the “ Quarterly Bulletin of Building Statistics “ and I refer, on this occasion, to the number of new flats erected in this country. At the beginning of 1952, approximately 4,000 flats were under construction. In 1953 the number of new flats fell to 1,500 and by the end of 1956 the number had risen again to slightly in excess of 2,000. In 1958 the figure again rose to approximately 4,000.
Because of a lack of finance, people are being compelled to become flat dwellers. That is a state of affairs that should not be encouraged by this or any other government. I believe that every young man who desires to get married and raise a family is entitled to reasonable housing conditions. There is only one way in which these can be provided and that is for a young man to be able to obtain from the Commonwealth Bank or a private bank or approved lending institution the finance required to build or purchase a home on reasonable terms. That is not possible to-day when a deposit of approximately 50 per cent, is required by the Commonwealth Bank, by the private banks and by most lending institutions. Therefore I suggest, as I have done before in this House, that the Government should give immediate consideration to increasing the maximum advance that can be made to those people who desire to build a new home for themselves. What has been stated by the honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) who preceded me indicates quite clearly that the Government has not faced up to and accepted its responsibility in regard to the housing programme. That is not merely the opinion of honorable members on this side of the House. The Melbourne “ Age “ of 11th February, 1958, stated-
Not only is the lag in housing not being made up, but no account is being taken of the expected 50 per cent, growth in the number of people of marriageable age during the next ten years. It is to be hoped that the Federal Government will see the need to tackle the housing problem in a new and much more urgent spirit, something like the spirit a nation shows when it faces war. Nothing less will suffice to meet the growing crisis.
I believe that that opinion would be endorsed by every honorable member on this side of the House. The Government has not accepted its responsibilities in this matter. I believe that every honorable member, whether he represents a city or a country electorate, is aware of the increasing number of evictions from their homes of young and old people. Every week-end when I return to my electorate I am faced with cases involving the eviction of young people and of age pensioners. They have nowhere to go, and must turn inevitably to the State housing authorities for assistance. 1 want to pay what I consider to be a well deserved tribute to the State Housing Division in Tasmania. It has been responsible for providing urgently needed homes for many young people in that State, but we all know that a system of priorities must be adopted with the people who are seeking homes built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Quite naturally, priority is given to those who have the greatest need. Therefore, in many cases a young married man with no dependant other than his wife cannot hope to secure assistance from the State Housing Division in Tasmania. Because of the priorities that are accorded in the provision of homes, I have no doubt that that situation would apply also to other States.
Let me conclude, Sir, by repeating that if the Government wants to tackle seriously the housing shortage in Australia, and to ensure that every person who desires to be housed is provided with an adequate home on a reasonable deposit and under reasonable repayment conditions, it can do so only if it is prepared to make more money available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, as well as to the approved lending institutions.
.- The honorable member for .Bass (Mr. Barnard) spent quite a lot of time in speaking about the housing shortage. He disputed the figures which had been supplied by the experts in the Department of National Development and, instead, quoted random authorities to support his case that there is a serious shortage of houses in Australia, but he used1 the departmental figures to prove that there has been an increase in the cost of home-building in the last few years, and to refute the statement of a previous speaker that the cost of housing has been stable. He cannot have it both ways. Either the departmental experts are right or they are wrong. He cannot quote them to suit a particular purpose and then reject them: when their figures do not suit another purpose. Of course, the truth of the matter is that the departmental experts, who have studied this problem and who have access to all the figures that are available, are as accurate as any one in Australia can be-. I prefer to accept their opinion rather than that of the stray authorities who have been quoted by the honorable member for Bass.
As is indicated by the figures that have been supplied by the department, the building industry in Australia has been experiencing a boom in recent years. In the last year or so it has broken records in the construction of homes. Since this Government took office nearly ten years ago, the lag in housing has been overtaken to a very considerable extent. When this Government came into power in 1949, it inherited a housing shortage of 250,000 homes. That has been reduced by four-fifths. There are building materials aplenty and the housing position has improved in every State, even in New South Wales, which for a long time has had the worst housing record of any State in the Commonwealth. At this time, the housing shortage in the Commonwealth is estimated to be about 50,000 homes. If the present rate of home-building is continued that shortage will be overtaken in, taking the most distant point, three to five years hence. Last year we built 84,00f> homes, compared with an estimated increase in demand of 54,000, thereby reducing the shortage by 30,000 homes. It has been estimated that our shortage is now 50,000 homes, and it is a very conservative forecast to make that we will overcome the shortage entirely within the next three to five years if we maintain our present rate of construction.
We have been able to do all this as a result of the policies that have been pursued by this Government. Those policies have engendered confidence, and have maintained stability in our economy and conditions of prosperity. We have been able to overcome the housing shortage to the tremendous degree to which I have referred and to provide homes for a greatly increased population. Since this Government took office, the population in Australia has increased by 3,000,000, which figure includes 1,000,000 immigrants, yet we have been able to reduce the back-lag of housing. That is a wonderful record, and very little need be added to the bald statement of the facts. The boom that the building industry has experienced, very largely as a result of the policies that have been pursued by this Government, has not been confined to home construction. It embraces also the nonresidential activities of the building industry. Last year the non-residential sector accounted for an expenditure of £177,000,000 - almost a 20 per cent, increase on the previous year. So it will be seen that that sector also is expanding and booming.
It is also a tribute to this Government that 75 per cent, of our homes are either owned by their occupiers or are being paid for by them. This is claimed to be - and I believe it to be - the highest rate of homeownership in the world. The people who have committed themselves to buying homes, who have invested their savings in homes, obviously have done so because they have the utmost confidence in the stability and continuing prosperity of this country. I am sure that they have made a wise and a sound investment, because this Government has laid the foundations for prosperity and stability in our economy for many years to come.
However, all is not brightness with this housing agreement. There is one dark spot to which I should like to refer. When the agreement is due for renewal, I should like to see one aspect reviewed. The aspect which troubles me is that under the agreement we have no control over the siting of the houses that are built with Commonwealth funds. The result is that almost all of these houses are built, as are almost all of the other houses, however they may be financed, in Sydney, Melbourne and other industrial centres of Australia. Under the agreement, we can do nothing to stop this trend towards centralizing in three or four massive industrial centres. I believe that, as a government, we should be doing something to correct this trend and to establish satellite towns - decentralized towns, towns where the overhead cost in building is not as heavy as it is in our great sprawling cities, towns where human values can mean something. It is true that we have a few such cities that have been carefully planned. We have Dandenong, in Victoria, Elizabeth, in South Australia, and Canberra itself, but we have not nearly enough of them.
A great congregation of people in our low-density cities is only a shade better than a great congregation of people in our high-density cities. One is costly in pounds, shillings and pence - in servicing, in maintaining as a unit and in providing with transport - and the other is costly in terms of human values. This problem of urbanization or centralization - whatever you may term it - in the great cities has been studied very carefully in other countries of the world and something has been done about it, even though they are not expanding at the same rate as Australia is expanding. In England, for example, the authorities deliberately have set about building small, carefully planned social units, or smaller cities. They are more economical from the point of view of maintenance, and more healthy from the point of view of the people who have to live in them.
We in this vast continent of Australia, expanding industrially at the rate that we are, surely should be doing something wise on this matter now. This Government could do it because it has access, as the State governments have not, to the finance and to the experts who could advise on these problems. We could call together and meet with the housing authorities of the States, allowing town-planning authorities to sit in on the conference, and design the proper siting of future homes to be built under the housing agreement.
Of course, this is something to which the Government will have to give careful consideration. It is not something which could be achieved overnight. I believe that when this agreement comes up for renewal we should use it as an instrument to decentralize our great cities and to create smaller centres of population around the coastline of Australia and in the inland wherever our natural resources indicate that a city should be sited. That is a fault which I see in this present agreement. It is a small fault from the point of view of the original objectives of the agreement which have been enormously successful. But it is a fault that we must correct now that we are about to overcome the shortage of homes. We must see to it that a future agreement between the Commonwealth and States does something to overcome this evil of centralization in Australia so that coming generations may see an Australia that is flourishing, growing and developing economically and providing a better place for Australians to live in.
If we do not do something as a Federal Government then nothing will be done. The gross development of uneconomic, unhealthy cities will be allowed to continue until, at some distant time, we realize too late that it has been too costly both in terms of humanity and in terms of cash. I hope that day does not arrive simultaneously with an atomic bomb or some other missile fired into dense congregations of people’.
– Unlike the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) I am not prepared to take the advice of experts in this respect. 1 prefer to speak about housing as I see it in my daily travels. Housing is one of the major tragedies in our economy. The weak attempt of responsible Ministers in the present Government to face up to this problem makes it more tragic. We have just emerged from one of the coldest winters in history with its attendant misery and suffering to homeless couples. The intense struggle of the mother and father of young children needing a home, and the mental strain of rearing their family to manhood and womanhood have often resulted in a complete breakdown in the health of both parents. These conditions mean the destruction of family life which many legal luminaries describe as an indictment of the Government generally.
This tragic position demands that something be done. Action could be taken in various ways if the Government were prepared to grapple with the problem. We pride ourselves on our supposedly high standard of education and our high standard of living, yet there are 100,000 people in Australia needing homes. What is the cause of this neglect? This is a national need. Why not grapple with it? On the one hand we hear members of the Government extolling the virtues of one another; it is a mutual admiration society. They point to the great prosperity which prevails under their leadership. We read statements issued by all types of experts, long-haired professors, advisers, lecturers, leaders of industry and economists, all of whom claim, to have a solution of the problem. Herethen, is a question for the economists: Wehave an abundance of bricks, cement, timber and tiles but there are thousands of building trades workers idle, subsisting on Government relief. Then there is an abundance of Crown land which could be subdivided into building blocks, and on. which roads could be made, kerbing and guttering constructed, sewerage connected, and homes built out of a share of thiswonderful prosperity which the Government says exists throughout Australia.
No difficulty should be found with’ finance. Most people seem to forget the Commonwealth Bank has branches in all’ suburbs of the big cities and in the country towns throughout Australia. This bank could make the necessary money available at reasonable rates of interest which would be attractive to all who needed a home. What greater bastion against communism could we have than every family settled in its own home? We are told that a Britisher’s home is his castle. I should like to know what greater crime could be committed against a married couple than to deny them a warm comfortable home in which to rear their family. Let us be practical. Surely the cruelty and savagery of alleged practices of Russian Communists could not be worse than this. I should like private members on the Government side to remember that the real cause of the shortage of homes in Australia is the support given by this Government to land’ speculators called real estate agents, who are allowed to exploit the homeless at will.
Fictitious and artificial prices for homebuilding blocks are sought which, indeed, border on the ridiculous. Who can deny that? Auctions for land take place and prices up to £2,500 a block are obtained. These prices, of course, are beyond the reach of the ordinary working man. Do we need experts to tell us that? Do we need long-haired professors to tell us these things when we can see them happening all around us?
A favorite technique of these sharks is to release only a few blocks at a time. A certain gentleman in this House used this technique not so long ago when he sold a sub-division that he owned on the south coast. The technique involves the creation of an artificial shortage, making it appear, by cunning propaganda, that keen disappointment was felt by the buyers. We see unsuccessful bidders for a few blocks auctioned, when in fact the bids were helped along by dummies working in conjunction with the auctioneer. This method was used recently here in Canberra. Such tactics were also adopted a short time ago in my own electorate by the Hooker organization, which is notorious for this particular technique. On this particular occasion, however it made it so hot that the moves were forestalled by a Liberal-controlled council which refused to endorse the sale. One block was sold to the managing director of the Hooker firm for £2,700. Every one knew what the block was worth. The council refused to endorse the sale. It then called tenders for the block of land, which eventually brought £4,000. Of course Hooker’s managing director was apologetic, saying that some mistake had been made. Of course it had; the mistake was that the council failed to endorse the sale.
Such methods are being used day by day, and it is time that honorable members opposite ceased treating the matter lightly. They should become serious about it and face the problem of land sales, which is causing such misery and hardship among young married couples in our community. Home ownership, according to honorable members opposite, makes for stability in the community. Of course the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is seeking to interject, does not believe in stability, except for himself. A home gives a person an incentive to work, to save and to secure a stake in the community. But it is not easy to become a home-owner, especially for the middle class and the working class.
After a block of land is secured, whether by purchase or by ballot, a large deposit has to be found for the builder, usually of about £1,000. Of course a considerable sum must be set aside out of the weekly pay packet to satisfy the spectre of interest. Then there are other charges that must be faced, such as repayment of principal, rates, maintenance and other recurring charges, as well as stamp duty and legal costs. Then, of course, provision must be made for furniture, a radio or television receiver and such necessary items as a clothes hoist. In the aggregate, these items require approximately £450 a year, or £8 a week. How can this be found by a worker on the basic wage? It is, of course, impossible, as he still has to pay for life assurance premiums and fares to work, and, obviously, food for his family, the costs of which are not inconsiderable. Wife and husband then become worried. The wife decides to go to work, and while she works she cannot have children, so another fundamental right of every young couple goes by the board.
Where are we going? It is time this Government took stock of the situation, before it is too late. According to a recent estimate made by the Rural Bank of New South Wales, in the period since 1949 in which this Government has been in office, building costs have increased.
– And the Government has a good record.
– The honorable member for Mallee says that the Government has a good record. Well, this is part of its record. Building costs have increased by 118 per cent., while retail prices generally have increased by 87 per cent. One Sydney newspaper asks, “Where does the fault lie? “ It poses these questions: Are builders inefficient? Are their methods antiquated? Are they taking too much profit? Are labour costs too high? Of course, it inevitably gets on to the subject of labour costs. It asks: Are bricklayers, for example, not laying enough bricks? We hear again the old, old story. This newspaper could not confine itself to giving the truth of the situation. It had to cloud the issue by attacking the bricklayers. This is the usual method, of course, adopted by all anti-Labour forces. If this newspaper had done the decent thing it would have directed attention to the real culprits, the shady members of the Real Estate Institute - and there are many of them - and the moneylenders, the usurers who are allowed by this Government to charge almost what they will.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) must accept his share of responsibility also, for not allowing the Commonwealth Bank to exercise its real function as a financier, and to play the role for which it was first instituted, of assisting local development. The Treasurer, following the dictates of his masters, the private bankers, refuses to allow the people’s bank to operate in the most lucrative fields, because he knows it would act as a brake on the financial manipulations of the shady and corrupt followers of the Liberal Party. If it were allowed to do so, the Commonwealth Bank could finance home building and hire purchase at much lower rates of interest than are being charged to-day. That would be the solution of the problem. It would take a load of worry off every individual in the community. But that is not what the Government wants. It is obligated to its profithungry supporters, the private banks and other shady dealers in real estate and home construction who are demanding their pound of flesh and are given an open go by this spineless Government.
High interest rates are the cause of all the trouble. Why does not the Treasurer face this fact and ensure a place for his name in the history books as the one member of this Government prepared to stand up to the unprincipled crooks who levy such exorbitant interest charges?
To support my arguments I would like to quote some statements made by two eminent housing experts. The first is Nathan Strauss, a former administrator of the United States Housing Authority, and Sir E. D. Simon, a former mayor of Manchester, England, and parliamentary secretary of the United Kingdom Minister for Health. These gentlemen said that the most important single factor in determining rent is the rate of interest that has to be paid on capital. In order of importance, cost of capital comes first. The cost of building materials comes next, and the cost of building labour is a comparatively unimportant factor. The wage question, they say, should come last, not first, in a national analysis of housing costs. There can be no doubt whatever that a progressive reduction in interest rates would be the most important single service that this Government could render in contributing to the success of a housing programme.
The two gentlemen I have mentioned give the following example to indicate the effect on housing of the cost of capital. Consider a loan of £2,500 at interest of 5 per cent, over a period of 30 years. The interest paid would amount to £2,660, £160 more than the amount of the original loan. The interest paid over 35 years would be £3,186, and over 40 years £3,732. On a loan of £3,000 the interest paid over 30 years would be £3,192, over 35 years £3,822, and over 40 years £4,478. The interest paid on a loan of £3,100 over 30 years would be £3,298- That is a crippling burden, and that is the reason for all the misery in our community to-day in regard to housing. In respect of a house costing £3,100, material overhead and profit would on an average cost £2,380. The labour cost would be £720. I want the Ministers on the benches opposite to bear that in mind. Where the £3,100 is borrowed at 5i per cent, over 30 years the prospective home-owner would finally pay £6,398 for the house. Weekly payments would be £4 2s., made up of 30s. 6d. for materials, profit and overhead, 9s. 3d. for labour costs, and the crippling burden of 42s. 3d. for interest.
The statement of those two gentlemen gives the lie direct to those who wish to put the blame for housing costs on to the humble brick-layer, but who in reality are only throwing a smoke screen around the real culprit, the financier. I say again that it is time something was done about it.
Mr. F. Kraegan, manager of the Associated Country Sawmillers Association of New South Wales, has gone on record as saying that it is extraordinary that municipal councils cannot go on to the loan market for housing loans when hire-purchase companies, by offering up to 10 per cent, interest, can raise unlimited amounts of money for their purposes. Has not the Prime Minister inquired into the reason for this? The Prime Minister knows the reason, but he is tied hand and foot to big business, like the’ rest of his spineless Government. If he wishes to prove to the contrary, may I suggest to him that he take a; little time off from globe-trotting to make a study of the sub-standard conditions in which large numbers of his fellow Australians are doomed to exist to-day - in tents, tin sheds, garages, caravans and tiny ill-ventilated, rooms and sometimes in fowl houses? The Prime Minister should climb down from his ivory tower and mingle with these long-suffering people. Then he would discover that he is not one of the “ greats “ after all.
In conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me quote from the pre-election policy speech of the Prime Minister in 1949. He said -
We give, this firm promise to young couples.
This is in 1949-
The- Liberal! Party when returned to’ office will regard as’ its paramount and most vital responsibility the speeding up of the housing: programme. We will not allow any public works other than those of the utmost public importance, the most extreme, -urgency, to be given priority over the building of homes for the Australian boy and girl.
I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that statement is a gem of deception, at which the Prime Minister is. a pastmaster. Ten long years have gone by and we find fewer homes are being built to-day than were built prior to the advent of this tragic Government. The Prime Minister and his Government are anti-Australian in their outlook and their actions. They show no interest in the welfare of our native land. They are tied hand and foot to the big business monopolies whose policy is high interest and will remain so until this Government is removed from office.
I should like, before i conclude, to make some reference to the co-operation of this Government with some real estate companies in our midst. Some time ago there was a sale of a hotel in Canberra called the Hotel Ainslie. The Hotel Ainslie was sold to the L. j. Hooker interests for £80,000. It was knocked down to a gentleman by the name of George who is the manager of Rex Investments Proprietary Limited, a subsidiary of the L. j. Hooker people. After the sale, which every one knew at the time smelt to high heaven, it was found that the valuation of this hotel was £120,000, and that it was believed to have a real value- of £150,000. Now, at that, time the Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister- of this country was Mr. Arthur Fadden: - now Sir Arthur Fadden,. Senator Neil O’sullivan - now Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan - was Leader of the- Government in the. Senate. Both these gentlemen have been conveniently knighted in the interim.
– By whom?
– By our Prime. Minister. Now,, let me read a statement from the “ Sydney Morning. Herald “ of 26th September,. 1959. The: long arm of coincidence may reach out. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ says this -
– What, has this to> do with the bill?
– Well, Sir Arthur Fadden was Treasurer when the hotel was sold for £80,000’ to the Hooker people. Now he is a member of the Hooker board.
Mir. Turnbull. - But what has it to do with the bill?
– T shall leave that one to the honorable member. I would not think that there was a suggestion ot anything shady in that transaction whatsoever.
-. - Order!: The honorable member might touch on the bil.
– Well, just to show the interest of this Government in regard to housing–
– Order ! Come back to the bill.
– I think that some consideration should be given to this matter and the matter I mentioned in regard to the Hooker company and its directors, by the people of Australia, and I suggest that that be done as quickly as possible.
.- This is a bill which concerns the advance by the Commonwealth to the States of the sum of £36,080,000 for the purposes of carrying out the Commonwealth and State Housing
Agreement. This is a very large sum of money. When one realizes that in addition to that the Commonwealth provides the sum of £35,000,000 for war service homes it will be seen that the Commonwealth is the authority which is providing vast sums of money for housing. Now, of course, housing is a matter which primarily is within the State sphere. But the Commonwealth is providing these vast sums of money in addition to other vast sums of money which it provides for the conduct of government in the States. It is no wonder that in those circumstances, when so much money is being found by the Commonwealth, which some States could not possibly obtain otherwise, some of the States naturally say they prefer the system of uniform taxation to continue. They are so much better off under the system of uniform taxation than under the old system where they did not get these vast sums of money now provided by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has had to enter the housing field because of the housing shortage. That shortage was brought about by the war years, but it was not peculiar to Australia. It was a world-wide shortage. In fact, Australia has been in the forefront in providing housing. Australia’s record in providing housing and overcoming the housing shortage is second to none. We in this country have no need to be ashamed of our record in this regard. Our record is far better than that of many other countries. The struggle to overcome the housing shortage in this country has been difficult becase of the huge immigration programme undertaken by the Government.
I propose to refer to some figures with regard to housing. In 1947, the shortage of houses was 247,000; in 1954, it was 158,500; and in 1958, it was 77,000. That indicates how the shortage has been reduced during the years this Government has been in office. The number of dwellings completed in 1957-58 was more than 74,000. The number of dwellings completed in the year ended 30th June, 1959, was approximately 84,000. That is an all-time record for Australia. As a result the shortage of houses is now less than 50,000.
– That is an ivory tower approach.
– The people who know least are the people who shout loudest. We in this House are accustomed to vacant minds on the other side of the House. The figures I have cited - they were also cited this evening by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer)- may be obtained from the Department of National Development. Not one honorable member opposite is aware of the meaning of those figures. Honorable members opposite prefer to be ignorant on this subject, because ignorance enables them to make reckless statements without any belief in their truth. The figures that I have supplied to the House may be checked.
Building activity in Australia has not been confined during the last twelve months to houses. In that period a record number of offices and factories has been built. This building programme has stimulated employment and led to industrial expansion. The immigration programme has played a great part in this upward swing in building. Many migrants have entered not only the building industry but also allied industries, such as the steel industry, which bear directly on the building industry.
The housing position of migrants is a difficult one. It is true that the Government has provided temporary accommodation for hundreds of thousands of migrants who have come to this country. It has been suggested that the hostels that have been provided should be abandoned in favour of more luxurious accommodation. But that would mean an expenditure of at least £50,000,000, and it is much better that that £50,000,000 should be spent in the provision of houses. If one visits those hostels one finds that the occupants are well fed and happy. It is clear that they are not in any way suffering from having to live in a hostel. Their difficulties commence when they leave the hostels and endeavour to obtain a home. Very often they occupy houses which, because of their age, have been vacated by other people. They even share accommodation - flats, houses and apartments. They live in overcrowded conditions. Those situations are most serious in the period in which the migrants are waiting to purchase a home of their own.
The housing situation is such that by the middle of 1961 there should be no shortage whatever. That is a statement of fact that should be accepted by honorable members. I am not speaking to those who do not understand or who do not want to understand. I am speaking to those who are prepared to listen and who have a degree of intelligence. I repeat that the shortage as such should be overcome by the middle of 1961. A great deal depends, of course, upon what one means by the term “ shortage “. The figures supplied by the Department of National Development in its paper entitled “ The Housing Situation “ disregard entirely the quality of housing. There can be no question that the quality of housing is a matter that requires careful consideration. Many people are to-day living in sub-standard houses that must be replaced. Houses must be built in which people can live decently. It is not right to say that we have overcome the housing shortage if in fact many houses of a substandard nature are still occupied. We must remember also that the standards of people change and that with rising living standards what to-day may not be regarded as a substandard house will be so regarded in years to come.
Consequently, I differ entirely with the Minister for the Army and the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), who suggested that there will come a time when the building industry will be in difficulties because the shortage of houses will be entirely overcome. I feel that two factors will necessitate the continued building of dwellings at the present rate for many years. The first is that statistics show that from about 1963 onwards, the number of marriages will greatly increase, and the number of homes required will therefore greatly increase also. That trend will go on developing in very rapid progression. I have already mentioned the other factor, which is the need to replace sub-standard houses with houses of a decent quality.
The housing situation is not a matter for complacency. It is a constant challenge and will be a challenge for years to come. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said that insurance companies were not investing in housing propositions, but the figures for the last year, which were stupendous, are due entirely to the fact that private financial institutions have come into the field during the last twelve months as they have not done for many years. Indeed, they have in all probability never been in the housing field to the extent that they are in it now. It cannot be said that either banks or insurance companies are not now vitally interested in the provision of dwellings.
The honorable member for Werriwa also made the point that the present housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States was foisted on the States. He apparently had in mind that the agreement makes substantial provision for the building of homes for those who wish to own them. He suggested that the States did not want this. It is true, of course, that this is not what the Australian Labour Party wants. When the Labour Minister, Mr. Dedman, introduced the bill for the original agreement, he made it quite clear that he had no time whatever for home owners. He was bitterly opposed to home ownership. But the present agreement provides for home ownership and the honorable member for Werriwa attacked it because it provides for home ownership. Strangely enough, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) pointed out in his speech that the trend of Australian feeling to-day is towards home ownership. I say “ strangely enough “ because this was so different from the comment of the honorable member for Werriwa. Of course, the statement of the honorable member for Bendigo fully justifies the agreement which the Commonwealth Government made with the States. It did not foist the agreement on the States, as the honorable member for Werriwa said; the States willingly accepted it because, as the honorable member for Bendigo pointed out, it is in accordance with the general trend of Australian feeling towards home ownership.
– In the short time at my disposal, I want to point to one feature of the agreement which, I regret, is perpetuated in the bill before the House. In 1955, the amending legislation provided that the agreement would be for five years and that for the first two years 20 per cent, of the money that previously went to housing commissions would go to co-operative building societies and for the remaining three years, 30 per cent, would go to co-operative building societies. It was said in justification of this change in the original policy that the money being diverted to co-operative building societies would enable an increased number of houses to be built by the societies and no home ownership would be encouraged.
The Australian Labour Party is not opposed to home ownership, as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) said it was. At all times in the history of the Australian Labour Party, its members have supported home ownership wherever it is possible. In Victoria, Labour men have always taken their places on the boards of co-operative building societies and have always encouraged home ownership. However, when this bill was amended in 1955, we pointed out that the legislation would not result in increased home ownership. We said that when the Government put money into the co-operative building society arena, private enterprise would withdraw the money that at that time it was providing. We were derided and scoffed at for this statement, but subsequent events have proved that we were right. Instead of an increased number of houses being built through co-operative building societies, the same number has been built in Victoria; but the number of houses built by the Housing Commission has considerably decreased. At the peak of the Victorian Housing Commission’s activities before the amending legislation, 4,000 housing units were built by the commission in one year. The latest figures show that this number has declined by 1,700 to 2,300, since 30 per cent, of the money provided under the agreement has been allocated to the cooperative building societies.
We therefore have an undesirable situation for two reasons. First, the Housing Commission that was formed by the Victorian Government to build dwellings for people in need of assistance is finding it increasingly difficult to provide homes. Secondly, the co-operative building societies, which hoped to receive more money under this legislation, find that additional funds are not available. That is not my opinion only. I shall quote from the 1959 winter issue of “ At Your Place “. the journal of the Federation of Cooperative Housing Societies of Victoria. In an article headed “ Government Assistance “, this statement appeared -
The inauguration of the current Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (1957-61) has given a steady flow of Government money. Under this scheme a proportion of funds loaned to the
States by the Commonwealth for the specific purpose of housing was diverted to home ownership through Co-operative Housing Societies. It was not the intention of the Commonwealth Government that this influx of finance should be offset by a decrease in private lending: rather it was anticipated that such money would be in addition to the existing funds. Unfortunately, as our graph clearly shows, private finance has diminished in proportion to the increase of State finance.
This is just what Opposition members said would happen when the legislation was before the House three years ago. But when we said that, we were laughed at. Here is the proof positive that what we said was correct. When we look at the graph, we find that co-operative housing societies in Victoria are getting less money from private lending institutions. Private trading banks two years ago were lending £700,000 a year to the co-operative housing societies, but now they are lending only £250,000 a year. We were told that the private savings banks would put a lot of money into housing. Two years ago, Victorian societies were receiving £1,700,000 a year from the private savings banks. This year they will receive £250,000. Unfortunately, the State Savings Bank, which is indirectly under the control of Mr. Bolte last year lent £1,000,000 less to co-operative societies in Victoria. The fire insurance companies have given £100,000 less over the last two years. So, while, on the one hand, the Commonwealth gives money to the co-operative housing societies, on the other hand the private institutions that previously gave money to the co-operative housing societies in Victoria have withdrawn their support. Therefore, the Government’s intentions have not been carried out. That was what took place according to the winter issue of the journal to which I have referred. Apparently, there is an issue for every season of the year, because here is what the spring issue says -
Concurrently with our articles, the Federation of Co-operative Housing Societies of Victoria has conducted a dose search into finance past and future. In the course of this year the Federation personally through its officers has waited on every main lending institution operating in Victoria. Discussions have taken place on many aspects and the overall conclusion was as shown in graph form in our last issue - a lessening of private institutional finance offset by a greater influx of Government spending.
It was definitely not the intention of Senator Spooner when introducing the last Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement that the consequent influx of Government money to Cooperative Housing Societies should be accompanied by a lessening of support from private sources.
There we have clear proof that the Government’s action three years ago in taking 30 per cent, of the money away from the housing commissions and giving it to the co-operative building societies has not had the desired effect. As a result, the number of applicants who have asked the Victorian Housing Commission to provide homes in the last three years has risen from 11,000 to 16,000. The expectation that additional housing would be provided in Victoria as a result of the co-operative societies getting extra money has not materialized. I suggest that the Government should tell the members of the private lending institutions what is expected of them. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself has called them in and asked for their support but apparently his appeal has fallen on deaf ears as far as Victoria is concerned. I suggest that, at the earliest possible opportunity, the Prime Minister should contact these recreant private lending institutions, take them to task and tell them, in the interests of national welfare, that they should restore the volume of lending to what it was three years ago, before the cooperative societies received Commonwealth Government money.
What operates in Victoria also operates, although not to a large extent, in New South Wales. In 1957, when the cooperative housing societies received their first grant from the 20 per cent, of moneys made available to the State, 4,800 houses were built under the co-operative housing scheme in New South Wales. In the next year, despite the fact that the societies got 20 per cent, of the State’s housing moneys, the number of houses built took a nosedive to 3,900. Last year the figure took a turn in the right direction, rising to 4,300. But it is still not as high as it was two years ago. Again, you see the same policy operating. It is quite apparent that when the Government is prepared to give money to the co-operative building societies, the private lending institutions turn their money to other investments from which they can obtain a much more lucrative return. I suggest, in the circumstances, that the Government should again look at the existing legislation because it has not had the effect that the Government would have us believe. It has definitely been proved that the expectations of the Opposition three years ago have been realized and that fewer houses are being built to-day as a result of the Government’s policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to return to a subject that was raised in the House this afternoon at question time, namely the relationship of the security service to the congress on disarmament, &c, which is to be held shortly in Melbourne. This afternoon, I addressed a question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), believing that he was the one who would give an answer, but he passed it on for reply to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). The burden of that question was whether the Prime Minister and the Government were aware of what Brigadier Spry had been doing with regard to a particular sponsor of this conference and whether what he was doing had their approval. Finally, I said that it appeared to me that in this direction the security service was being used for purely political reasons. That statement was not answered.
I am one who believes that the network of security, as it operates in this country, is mainly unnecessary. I believe that a parasitic body is being built up in this country which is prying and sniping and snooping into the affairs of well-intended citizens. I resent the fact that on this occasion the well-meaning endeavours of certain prominent citizens in this community, some of whom I can vouch for personally, having known them over a long term of years and about whose integrity I have no doubt, should have been set back by the activities of this organization.
According to this afternoon’s press, a further sponsor of the congress has now withdrawn. He is Professor Oliphant. I shall not read the whole of his statement, but will cite two points. Following on the objections expressed by certain Anglican bishops and also the fact that Professor Stout had withdrawn he said -
These developments will serve to drive still more people from the Congress and will make it inevitable that there will be very little representation of the points of view of those who oppose Communism.
That may be Sir Mark Oliphant’s point of view. It is not my point of view. I suggest that he is passing judgment where he is not entitled to pass judgment. This congress has the support of the State Labour Party in Victoria. It has the support of certain individual representatives, at least, of the Christian community or some branches of it.
– And of the Labour Party?
– Yes- of the federal Labour Party body. I do not think that that is relevant at this stage. This is an alarming matter. I shall quote, with the permission both of the person to whom it was addressed and of the acting Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, a letter that was addressed on 20th August, 1959, two months ago, to Sir Mark Oliphant. It reads as follows: -
Since Mr. Casey wrote to you last June in connection with the Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament to be held in Melbourne next November, he has been following developments with close interest. Before he left Canberra to make his present overseas tour, since he does not expect to be back in Australia by the time the congress is held, he asked me to write to you on this subject.
He asked me to say that reports which, he is convinced, are authentic, now show that the Communist Party (not the Sponsoring Committee) has built the following plans around the Congress:
I repeat that the Communist Party has built these plans, not the sponsoring committee, and I am not answerable for the Communist Party. The letter continues -
Mr. Casey thought it right and fair to you to send you the foregoing notes, so that you would be all the more readily able to help towards ensuring that the meetings serve their publicly stated purposes and do not slip away into channels that would defeat those very objectives.
To begin with, Mr. Deputy Speaker, where would the Department of External Affairs obtain the kind of mainly suppositious information that is contained in that letter and referred to as being the dangerous things that a man of Professor Oliphant’s stature is supposed to guard against? What is the nexus, as it were, that exists between the security service and the officers of the Department of External Affairs? Where does one begin and where does the other end?
The Prime Minister has a case to answer to-night. He must say what he believes the role of the security service to be. Is it purely to cover seditious activities about which, if they can be proved, action can be taken in the courts of law, or is it, as I believe it is becoming, a body to intimidate by intruding upon the political views of certain sections of the community? I am not a defender of the Communist Party, and I hope that nobody will be so foolish as to suggest that I am. 1 speak as a member of the Australian Labour Party, as one who has acted, and is still prepared to continue to act, as a sponsor of this congress, believing as I do that no danger arises where people of goodwill - they may not all be people of goodwill, but the majority of them are - meet together to discuss and to determine matters which they believe are for the benefit of mankind. I would always be on the side of a movement which I believed was doing that, I believe that to be the endeavour of the organizers of this particular congress.
There may be people who hold the views that have been mentioned in the letter to which I have referred, but they are not a majority of the people who are organizing this conference. I, for one, resent the attempts that are being made - unfortunately, apparently being successfully made - to take people from the congress on evidence that is not made public but which is produced by hole-in-corner methods. If this matter were so important, why did not Brigadier Spry suggest that I, as a sponsor, might be interested to assess the information that apparently has been taken to Professor Stout? Or does Brigadier Spry feel that the security service should hand-pick one or two of the sponsors whom it feels may be susceptible to the blandishments of politics in this matter? To my mind, this is becoming a very serious state of affairs indeed.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the function of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization is perfectly clear. It was established by the late Mr. Chifley; it has been continued by us. It operates in a direct sense under the Prime Minister, but it is attached to the Attorney-General’s Department for certain administrative purposes. It reports to me on matters about which it thinks I should be informed. It undoubtedly maintains contact with the Department of External Affairs. It would be a very remarkable state of affairs if it did not, since the Department of External Affairs is charged with responsibility for our relations with other countries and is in charge of a general policy which, in one of its major aspects, consists of resistance to Communist aggression. The Security Intelligence Organization is our principal weapon for gathering knowledge about Communist activity, and I will continue to encourage it to perform its duty in that respect in spite of anything that may be said about it. lt is quite true that in one exceptional case, the circumstances of which were referred to by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) this afternoon, and on request, information was given to one gentleman in Sydney who was a sponsor of this congress. It is not the function of the Security Intelligence Organization to go around persuading people. It has no instructions to do so and, with that one exception on request, it has not done so. But it keeps me informed and, through me, it keeps the Government informed of what goes on. I am happy to say that there is very little that goes on in the Communist Party organization of Australia with which one is not familiar as a result of the activity, loyalty and zeal of the officers of the security service.
This particular congress that is to be held seems to have been the occasion of this trouble. In the very few minutes that I have, let me say one or two things about it. There is nothing very mysterious about them. They have only to be stated to have their effect on the minds of sensible people. This congress issued a printed pamphlet describing what it was about and what its functions were; and it made no secret, because on the very first page it said -
The idea for the Congress arose from the postwar history of the struggle for peace-
That is a phrase we have heard so frequently from those who have conducted the cold war. The statement went on - and, in particular, from the Stockholm Conference for Disarmament and International Co-operation last year.
Does anybody, with any wits about him, doubt for one moment that the Stockholm conference was a Communist front which then began to operate through the World Peace Council and, as it comes to Australia and New Zealand, through the Australian Peace Council, enlisting the aid of those remarkable bodies like the Eureka Youth League and half a dozen bodies of that kind, notoriously Communist or Communist-controlled or made up of Communist “ fellow travellers “? There is no mystery about that. The marvellous thing to me is that anybody should suppose that the eminently respectable people whose names have been put forward as sponsors are actually those who have promoted the conference. They are not. This conference was promoted as a result of the Stockholm conference. It is perfectly clear that this conference has been made the main 1959 activity of the Communist Party in Australia. This is their great effort for this year and if it succeeds in attracting the attention of a sufficient number of thousands of non-Communists, they will regard that as rather a propaganda victory.
Those are the simple facts about the matter. These are the people who have promoted the conference. What they have done is to go to a number of eminently respectable people and say, “ Would you mind having your name used as a sponsor for this conference? “ And a lot of people, who, like everybody in this House, desire peace and would do much to secure it, said “ Yes, if this is for peace, you may use my name “. But there is a very great difference between being an invited sponsor and being an inviter, an organizer, a promoter; and I say, with no hesitation, that the whole of the initial promotion of this conference goes back to Communist, and Communist-allied organizations. Indeed, anybody who cared to examine the list of the executive officers would, without knowing too much, know that that list embraces a number of well-known and notorious Communists.
Therefore, Sir, I want to say this: If it is the desire of the Labour Party to promote a peace conference, good. Let it do so. That is intelligible. If it is the desire of the churches to promote a peace conference, they have an enormous constituency and a powerful spiritual influence on the people of Australia; let them do so. But it does seem odd that some of them should allow themselves to be drawn into the organization of a congress which they have not promoted at all but with which, unhappily, they have allowed their names to be associated. I wonder if honorable members ever cast their eyes on the “ Tribune “, the Communist official journal? They will find that that has given a powerful boost to this conference and well it might because this is the task for this year.
Now I must confess that I am surprised that my friend, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who just concluded his speech, and whom nobody would accuse - and I thoroughly agree - of being a Communist, and whose intentions on this matter are of the highest, should take some pleasure in the statement that the Labour Party in Victoria is supporting this congress. At the risk of occupying a minute longer than I should, I just want to say this: The Labour Party has spoken about this matter twice. The Australian Labour Party through its federal conference and executive in 1951 gave consideration to the Australian Peace Council, one of the active promoters of this conference. What did they say? They said -
Your Executive gave consideration to the standing of the Australian Peace Council in relation to the Australian Labour Party and determined as follows: - That this Federal Executive, being of the opinion that the Australian Peace Council is a subsidiary organization to the Communist Party, we therefore declare that it is not competent for any member of the A.L.P. to be associated therewith.
If that was true in 1951, when did it cease to be true? It certainly had not ceased to be true in 1955, because once more the party came back to the same problem - and this is something which I will quote and, having quoted it I need say no more. What they said was this -
The Executive now declares that it is Communist strategy to use these conventions to represent the West as aggressive and the exclusive centre of danger to world peace; to conceal the aggressive actions of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and in Asia; and to bring about negotiations between Communist regimes and the West under circumstances when territorial concessions will be made by the West in return for concessions which have no substance.
Sir, that is a pretty clear and powerful exposition of the present position. Therefore, as I said, I satisfy myself by quoting it. I agree with it. I stand by it.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- It is as futile for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to refer to resolutions and statements made some time ago .at Australian Labour Party conferences as it is to refer to his attitude to summit talks some years ago and his attitude to-day. The short answer to that is that circumstances change; and throughout the world there is a yearning for peace that will not he denied because of the smear put upon Labourites or other people who are prepared to go through that obloquy in order to be represented at the table where peace can be hammered out. If it is fair enough to meet the Communists at the summit it may be fair enough to meet them where the worker meets his colleagues so that between them they may be able to beat out a pattern of peace.
What the Prime Minister has very cleverly said here to-night is not what his amateur colleague, the acting Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) said earlier to-day. We say that the serious business is not the constituency of the peace conference. It will always be a subject of discussion as to whether or not that is a good thing. But to-day the Australian Labour Party, through its federal executive, has put the matter beyond doubt by giving approval of attendance at this conference. But what we said this morning and what we are asking an answer upon is: Since when has the Director-General of the Security Intelligence Organization been able to go from place to place preparing a white list in some cases and a black list in others, followed by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) whom we now charge with subverting the security service to his own ends. That charge we make here specifically.
I wish to refer to a statement by Mr. W. J. Latona, of Balgowlah, in the electorate of the honorable member for Mackellar, but before I do so, I shall refer to an article in the publication, “ Nation “, which warned of what was going on concerning an unfortunate situation in regard to Professor Stout. It reads as follows: -
Members of the Department of Philosophy at Sydney University were amazed recently to see the well-known features of the head of the Australian secret service as he paced along their faculty corridors. On the same day, a member of the Security Service had contacted Professor A. K. Stout, Head of the Department of Moral Philosophy, a well-known non-Communist and a member of the panel of sponsors of the Peace Congress.
The journal pointed out that this had not been done purely on the suggestion of Spry himself, but that he had been nudged along by the honorable member for Mackellar. The statement said, further -
The order of events of some of Brigadier Spry’, approaches suggests that the operations of the Security Service have extra-ministerial assistance. In one case, Mr. W. C. “Wentworth, M.P., knew all about the impending visit before it took place.
It added that the close association of the head of the security service - with a Liberal back-bencher in the course of his duties, and, what is more, a Liberal back-bencher whom Mr. Menzies has not appointed to Cabinet rank, is contrary to the bi-partisanship of Security.
The matter goes a step further when Mr. Latona, of Balgowlah, who is a constituent of the honorable member for Mackellar and joint secretary with Professor Wright of the Preparatory Committee of the Peace Congress, anti-Communist and pacifist, rang the honorable member in the course of his duties.
– What has this got to do with the peace conference?
– It has everything to do with it. Mr. Latona called on churches, universities, schools, and so on as part of his organizational work for the congress. He made a statutory declaration of the fact that he contacted the honorable member on the telephone. He said, “ I telephoned Mr. W. C. Wentworth, my federal member, and said I wanted to see him about this conference. He phoned back on Monday and said the congress was Communistdominated, and that he had proof.” Latona then said, “I asked him the nature of this proof and he offered to send a security officer to see me. I replied that I would not receive such a person as I considered that their employment as an instrument of political pressure by Mr. Wentworth or his party was too reminiscent of Hitler’s tactics, but that I was willing to listen to any information that he - Mr. Wentworth - could give me. Wentworth strongly defended the right to use the security service. They are our enemies ‘, he said “.
The honorable member for Mackellar made it clear that he had been using the security service by taking Brigadier-General Spry around to various districts, to interview people whom he thought could be convinced. So it is apparent that behind the action of Professor Stout, and also that of Sir Mark Oliphant, have been the machinations of the honorable member for Mackellar. Mr. Latona further said, “ Mr. Wentworth said that he had seen information on private citizens, and reiterated that I should see a security officer “.
Things have reached a pretty pass when the members of the security service, which, as the Prime Minister has said, was established by a Labour government for a specific purpose, are allowed to become the police officers of a police state. This development has been encouraged by the activities of the honorable member for Mackellar. What a tragedy, and what a pity, to see a security officer being led to every little bung-hole by the honorable member for Mackellar, who dances like a ferret in front of a burrow and says, “ There is one in there. Bring him out.” We object to this. We think it is bad for our society, bad for the honorable member for Mackellar, and, above all, bad for the security service.
I remind the House that it was the honorable member for Mackellar who faked the phoney protests about taking Mrs. Petrov from this country, and who faked the phoney depositions which have now been proved not to have been taken from the migrants in question. We are desirous of attending this congress, in the company of such distinguished gentlemen from overseas as Mr. J. B. Priestley, Mr. Pauling and others, to talk about peace, despite the smearing of the congress and the attempts that have been made to pick prominent persons out of it, as one would pick raisins out of a suet pudding.
I support what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has said. It is quite obvious that a man such as the honorable member is above any smear.
– You are not
– That is just a matter of opinion, too. I shall take my place at the congress, despite the smears, because I believe that the only way to come to an understanding of the problems of the world is to meet the people. How ridiculous is the outlook of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who is again seeking to interject. He would probably have a summit conference without Khrushchev; he would like to talk peace without having the Communists present. There must be two disputants in a contest, but the honorable member cannot see this. To suggest that there may be Communists at the congress in Melbourne - and there would be - is not to suggest that it will be totally dominated or organized in every way by Communists. Attempts have been made to get other people interested, and it is a pity that prominent men have been approached by the leader of the security service and told something. It is evident that the despicable practice has been followed of making out a black list and a white list. There are some preferred people who are picked out and told, “ You must not go there “.
Of course the establishment is using every pressure. The professor concerned has many affiliations outside of teaching. He must not get off-side with certain people. The same applies to Sir Mark Oliphant. So we have the remarkable position in which attempts are made to smear the top men in order to intimidate the little men underneath. But they will not be intimidated.
I come to my final point. I would like to hear from the honorable member for Mackellar on this aspect. What right has he, as a member of this House, to defy the orders of his Leader and to deny the implicit obligation to conduct himself in a certain manner as a member of this Parliament? What right has he to lead a security officer around the country, saying, “ I suspect him, and I suspect him, and I suspect him; go to it and see what you can get”? If we have reached such a pass, then we should do something more about it than just speak of it on the motion for the adjournment of this House. This is not the first time that the honorable member for Mackellar has so offended, but it is the first time the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is acting as Minister for External Affairs, has trangressed - and he has trangressed badly. We would expect a man of his calibre to approach this matter gently. We know that the Prime Minister would not have made the faux pas that the Attorney-General- has made. We also know that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) would not have made such a faux pas.
This matter that we are debating to-night was really a storm in a teacup until we started to unearth the facts, because of our feelings of revulsion, at the smearing and the subversive utterances. We found that the nigger in the woodpile was, as usual, the honorable member for Mackellar, who goes about taking charge of the security service and creating a police state in this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I can readily understand the chagrin of the Labour Party in this matter, because the Communist roots of the congress have now been exposed, and the congress itself has been weakened. The effect that the Communists wanted it to have has been weakened by the general reaction that has set in because of the resignation of Professor Stout from the committee of sponsors. I can well understand the reasoning of the Labour Party, and its indignation at the fact that something which hurts the Communist Party’s baby should have been done.
Let me pass to some of the alleged facts mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). He started by quoting passages from a periodical called “ Nation “, which was published only a few days ago. That passage was grossly misleading, and I will tell the House exactly why it was misleading and what happened with regard to it. Some weeks ago I was told that Professor Stout was worried about the Communist affiliations of this congress. He was one of the sponsors of it. It was said that if he had factual evidence - conclusive evidence - that it was Communistinspired and controlled, he would resign from the committee sponsoring it. I mentioned this matter to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who said that he would make arrangements for somebody to call and see Professor Stout. Subsequently the Minister asked me to make quite certain that this was what Professor Stout really wanted, so that the person who saw Professor Stout would do so with the professor’s concurrence and full permission. I rang Professor Stout, not without some difficulty. It was some hours before I got through to him. I checked with him that what I had heard was true and that what was proposed was what he himself wanted.
I put it to the House that nothing that I have done in this regard, or that the Attorney-General has done, has been anything but commendable. We are people fighting against communism. We want to help those who are genuinely worried about communism to know the facts about the Communist associations with which they are being surrounded. There is nothing wrong in this. Indeed, if there is any criticism to be offered, it would be to the effect that we have not been doing enough in these matters. We have not been telling the people what the Communists are doing and who the Communists are.
From time to time in this House I, for one, have endeavoured to explain that the most effective thing you can do with a Communist is to expose him. He should be known and named as a Communist so that those who are dealing with him will not be deceived.
I would not say that the honorable member for Parkes misquoted information, because I imagine that he was speaking from a document, but I would say that the document gave a false account of what occurred. Mr. Latona is the New South Wales organizing secretary of this congress. He lives in my electorate. He has been frequently in touch with me before in regard to matters of this character. He has assured me, and has given me his word, that he is not a Communist. As to that, I know nothing beyond what he himself has told me, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I accept his word. He contacted my secretary first and asked for me to ring him, which I did on Monday. He commenced by quoting this matter in the “ Nation “. I vigorously defended the view that there is a positive duty on the part of all who have factual knowledge about Communist agents to make it available to people who want to know. He then said that he would like to know something about this, that he was not a Communist, that he did not want to be associated with Communists, and would I please tell him the facts. I told him that unfortunately I had to go to Canberra early the next morning and that we would not have time to meet but if he wanted to know I would try to get somebody else to see him. At that stage I did not necessarily have in mind a member of the security service, but I did have in mind somebody who would know something of the background of this congress. I know something of the background, and I have seen some of the documents, but not from the security service. I have seen them from other people.
I know from the documents, although I cannot recall all of them verbatim, that this is a congress which is Communistcontrolled. I know perfectly well that the evidence I have would be sufficient to convince, for example, Professor Stout, as he was convinced by something told to him by Brigadier Spry. There was nothing wrong in what I said to Mr. Latona. There has been a certain amount of misconstruction by a man who is the organizing secretary for New South Wales of this Communistcontrolled conference, this Communist front for which certain people - some innocent and some guilty - are being successfully used.
I have one question that I want to put to the House, and perhaps it will be answered. I want to ask about the position of the national secretary of this congress, a certain Mr. S. Goldbloom, who was an endorsed Labour candidate at the last federal elections. I have been told to-night by a member of the press - not by security, but by a member of the press - that to-day at the Labour executive a signed statement was put forward showing that Mr. Goldbloom was all the time a Communist agent and a member of the Communist Party. I should like to see that statement. I should like to know something about it. I think it is very reprehensible, if such a statement exists, that the Labour Party should be sitting on it and allowing other people - innocent people - to be deceived by a Communist who is masquerading as a member of the Australian Labour Party and is being covered up, screened and shielded by the Labour Party executive. We would like to know something of what was in that statement. We would like to know something of the charges that were laid before the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour Party as to this man being a Communist. They were laid, I understand, by people who were in the Labour Party. What is sauce for one is sauce for another. In order to reduce to a minimum the harm that the Communists are doing, the great thing to-day is to know who they are. Anybody who covers up for a Communist is doing something against the real interests of Australia. I hope that is something of which I will not be guilty. In fact, I hope that I will continue to do what I can to expose communism wherever I see and find it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has proved by his admissions that it is possible for a private member of Parliament to make arrangements for the chief of the Australian security service to interview a professor at a university and to make statements about other people which may be harmful, libellous and damaging, those people having no chance of knowing what was said or of answering what was said. The honorable member for Mackellar has proved that it is possible for a private member of Parliament to make these arrangements for the head of the Australian security to do that.
The honorable member has been accused by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) of considering another arrangement - which he did not deny - in relation to Mr. Latona. It is quite possible, as is shown by the arrangement made by the honorable member for Mackellar, to have a person interviewed and intimidated by the senior officer of the Australian security seivice. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave the impression that this was an isolated case and that such a thing had never happened before. I want to know if the right honorable gentleman approves of this practice of private arrangements being made by a member of the Parliament, whose political bias and fanaticism is well known, to use the Australian security service as an instrument of political intimidation to attempt to secure the ends of Liberal Party political policy. I want to know if the right honorable gentleman approves ot that kind of course.
This great debate about the peace congress has taken the congress probably into every home in Australia. It has raised the issue for people to examine. It was concerned once only about the nature of the congress. Had the congress been held without this debate taking place, and had its decisions been good, they would have been approved by everybody, and all must have benefited. Had the decisions of the congress been bad, had they amounted - as the right honorable gentleman suggests they will - to criticism of the Western powers and approval of the Soviet Union, those decisions would have been accepted as bad and they would have been forgotten in no time. But this great debate has now extended in scope, so that it covers not only the nature of the congress, but also the right of people to meet and associate for lawful purposes, and the question whether the security service should be used as an instrument of party-political policy and should supply, on request by the honorable member for Mackellar and other such people, to private citizens in this community, secret information about other people, who have no chance to know the nature of that information or to answer any charges that might be made. The information might be libellous, but it is provided by the security service on such a request. The Government could be respected if the action it has taken was calculated to produce free and open discussion. But we have a strange contrast. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) advised Professor Oliphant on 29th August to go to this conference to see that its aims were not defeated; but to-day, the honorable gentleman who is in his place, the AttorneyGeneral, is doing everything he can to intimidate and dissuade people from going to the conference. The conflict in attitude is worth noting.
The Government’s use of the security service to influence people can be seen in the effect upon Professor Oliphant. Although there is no evidence that Brigadier Spry has interviewed Professor Oliphant he has been influenced by the set of circumstances surrounding Professor Stout. Now, Professor Oliphant has so far proved to be a man of integrity and strength of character, and he said yesterday -
Official statements have been made that the organization of the Congress is in the hands of Communists and extreme left wing sympathisers. Whatever truth there may be in these statements, the natural reaction of all decent-minded citizens should be to flock to the conference and ensure that whatever resolutions are passed and whatever conclusions are reached, represent a true majority view of the public as a whole.
Surely, that is the reasonable and fair thing to do. That was the spirit of Mr. Casey’s instruction in the letter to Professor Oliphant on 29th August. But to-day, a mere 48 hours after Professor Oliphant had written that letter, he has written another letter to the chairman of the congress in which he says -
As a result of our correspondence and our talks together, I have become conscious that the organization, apart perhaps from that of the scientific section, involves so many people that no effective discussion can take place. I have decided, therefore, to withdraw as a sponsor of the Congress . . . because, in all the circumstances, I do not now believe that it can present, in its conclusions, an Australian point of view.
Yesterday Professor Oliphant believed that all should flock to the conference to make sure that it acquired a public point of view. To-day he says that he must withdraw because the congress will involve so many people that effective discussion of an Australian point of view cannot take place. The very condition that Professor Oliphant wanted to achieve yesterday hesees to-day as a reason for withdrawal.. I suggest that this remarkable change of. view within 48 hours by a man normally of integrity and strong will indicates the degree of force that has been generated by the Government, its security service and the other voices of power and authority which have been raised. I suggest that the decisions by Professor Oliphant and Professor Stout are not completely free decisions. I believe there is no other explanation of the contradictory situation Professor Oliphant finds himself in within the space of 48 hours. These professors and others have been under great pressure, and I think the evidence revealed to-day by the AttorneyGeneral in his admissions shows that this pressure is deliberate - organized with the assistance and the connivance of a private member of this House to bring to bear whatever authority and weight the chief of the security service can have upon a private citizen.
The question at issue has gone beyond the nature of the congress, lt extends to whether the Government is to be allowed to use its security service to build up such a degree of pressure as can force a man of integrity and will, like Professor Oliphant, into a contradictory situation within the space of 48 hours. It extends to the question of whether the Government is to use its security service to provide, on request, to private individuals who have no special claim to consideration or protection, statements of a harmful nature about other private individuals who are without defence or redress. This conduct falls into line with telephone tapping and the supplying of information by the security service about applicants for employment in public and private capacities which have no security implications. This business that has been referred to by the Prime Minister is not an isolated case. The method of using security in this sense is a network of influence, and is not in any way isolated, and the evidence that that is so has become widespread and significant.
These events involve issues of vast importance, not only for men of academic position but also for the Public Service, for the press and for the public generally. Every one of us who may find himself the target of the power of the State, just as did Professor Stout and Professor Oliphant, is in the same position. Every one of us to some extent is already influenced by that situation.
The answer to this is not what this conference might have been as designed by the Communist Party. The material quoted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports may show the intention of the Communist Party, but that does not mean that it is going to succeed. Because somebody in the Communist Party perhaps has decided that it is in the interests of the party to try to get control of this conference does not mean they will succeed. This conference will still be a widely representative organization, and the proof of what the congress is will be shown in the resolutions that it passes and the decisions it comes to. But no, the Government is not prepared to allow that conference to go ahead and to be tested by its results. It wants to use the methods of the security service, the method of intimidation, to attempt to break down the meeting together of the people in a congress such as this. What is the Government afraid of? Why is it afraid of the ordinary people meeting together in a congress of this sort or any other sort? Why is it afraid of the resolutions that will come from this congress? It has treated this matter very seriously in recent times. It is surprising to me that the issue has been brought to the stage where the Prime Minister has to attempt to defend the use of the security service.
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I bring up a different matter altogether. I wish to bring up the case of Mr. A. R. Johnson, who has made a plea to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for an increase in the special pension paid to him. This is the only pension of its kind paid in the Commonwealth. This man was blinded in the execution of his duty in 1932 - a long time ago. He has been trying to get some increase of the pension paid to him.
Mr. Johnson was blinded when he was escorting a postmaster from the Commonwealth Bank branch at King’s Cross, Sydney, to the William-street post office. In the course of his duty he was attacked by a bandit who threw a mixture of red pepper, acetic acid and ammonia in his eyes. The upshot was that this poor man became blind. At that time Mr. Johnson was a single man. Later, he married and reared a family of three children. His attacker received a penalty of 35 years for this terrible assault, and in addition a sentence of ten years for the robbery of the money that the postmaster was carrying from the bank. The sentences, of course, were served concurrently. The person who committed this attack on Mr. Johnson has served 24 years in gaol and has since been released. He has both his freedom and his sight. Mr. Johnson is still blind.
Mr. Johnson claims that he was never properly compensated. At the time of the attack the Government - a Liberal Party government - decided to pay Mr. Johnson compensation in the form of a pension of £2 14s. a week, plus a lump sum of £1,000. Being a Commonwealth public servant he also received a superannuation benefit of £1 16s. a week, making his combined pensions £4 10s. a week. In 1932, his special pension of £2 14s. a week represented 83 per cent, of the basic wage, and therefore had a greater value than £2 14s. has to-day. His pension has been increased since then. In 1953, Mr. Johnson made representations to the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, and his pension was increased to £6 a week. But that £6 now represents only 42 per cent, of the basic wage. Recently, Mr. Johnson applied to the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for a review of his case, but was refused any increase in his pension, the Treasurer stating that the matter has been properly considered and that Mr. Johnson is being appropriately paid.
I ask the Treasurer to have another look at this case in the light of the present value of money. Mr. Johnson is a married man who when he was blinded lost not only his career but also excellent prospects of promotion. In all the circumstances, I submit that his present rate of pension is most inadequate. I suggest to the Treasurer that he compare this man’s position with that of a returned soldier who lost his sight at the war. Such an ex-serviceman would receive a much greater pension than that being paid to Mr. Johnson. First, as a married T.P.I, pensioner, he would receive a pension of £12 10s. a week, plus £2 a week for dependants - Mr. Johnson does not receive that - plus £1 15s. 6d. which would be paid to his wife. In all, the returned serviceman would be enjoying an income of £16 5s. 6d. a week.
Mr. Johnson receives only £6 a week and, in order to live and maintain his family, he is forced to supplement his income by going to work under great difficulty as a blind man. He has now reached the age at which it is not easy to go out working. At the moment, he travels about 10 miles from his home at Strathfield, Sydney, to Central Station, then another 5 or 6 miles by bus from the station to the factory where he is employed. He is suffering great hardship. I submit that, in all the circumstances, he is getting a raw deal, especially when we appreciate that he lost his sight in the execution of his duty. He bears no malice towards the man who inflicted this terrible injury upon him, but the fact is that the person who inflicted the injury is now enjoying his freedom while the unfortunate victim continues to suffer the affliction of blindness. This man’s pension should be increased at least to a rate which bears the same relation to the basic wage as the pension he received in 1932 bore to the basic wage applying at that time. If he were paid on that basis, he would be receiving £11 ls. to-day. Again I ask the Treasurer to look into this case.
.- I wish to deal very briefly with two matters. First, I direct my remarks to the debate initiated last week by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) concerning the automatic acceptance of cancer as a warcaused disability. For the enlightenment of the honorable member, I point out that this matter was not raised originally by him. As a matter of fact, questions about the automatic acceptance of cancer were asked as far back as 1954 by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). Questions have also been asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitiam) about this matter. Indeed, this question has been dealt with adequately in this Parliament for many years.
In view of the information that has been made available by medical experts concerning the causes of cancer, we believe that, just as tuberculosis has been accepted as a war-caused disability, so should cancer be accepted automatically. In any case, irrespective of what the honorable member for Lilley may have said on this question, I point out that as far back as 1956 a congress of the returned soldiers’ organization requested the present Government to agree to the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability.
If the honorable member for Lilley disagrees with the opinions expressed by honorable members on this side that cancer should be accepted as a war-caused disability, he is not merely disagreeing with honorable members on this side; in point of fact, he is disagreeing with the returned soldiers’ organization in this country. I point out to him that the notice of motion on this subject, standing in the name of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) is supported by honorable members on this side because we believe that cancer should be accepted as a war-caused disability.
When I dealt with this matter during the debate on the Repatriation Bill 1959 recently, I was able to quote the opinion expressed by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), when, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, he stated that so far as he was aware there was no known cause of cancer. We submit at once that if there is no known cause of cancer then obviously cancer should be accepted by the Repatriation Department as a war-caused disability, as is the case with tuberculosis.
I turn now for a moment to another matter. I refer to war widows’ pensions. It will be remembered that under the legislation debated in this Parliament only a few weeks ago the war widows’ pension was increased by 7s. 6d. a week and the domestic allowance to war widows was increased by the same amount. This means that the war widow is to receive a total increase of 15s. a week. According to the information supplied to me by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), approximately 90 per cent, of the war widows in this country are in receipt of the domestic allowance. The point I make as that one fact obviously escaped the Minister who dealt with the matter in this House. It is clear that he overlooked the fact that approximately 90 per cent, of the war widows are also in receipt of an age pension which supplements their war widow’s pension. Hitherto, in addition to their war widow’s pension and domestic allowance, these women were able to qualify for part age pension. Under the legislation introduced only a few weeks ago, the total income of war widows will be £8 a week. Previously, when they were eligible for part age pension they enjoyed a total income of £8 5s. a week. The fact is that hitherto they had been able to supplement their war widow’s pension by 15s. a week. The effect of the new legislation, therefore, has been to reduce by 15s. a week the amount of age pension these women were receiving.
I wish to refer now to the case of one war widow who receives each fortnight from the Department of Social Services a cheque for the magnificent sum of 2s. Honorable members will agree that a war widow would be extremely reluctant to cash a cheque for 2s. a fortnight, lt is obvious that the Government has no intention of rectifying the position of these war widows, the majority of whom are receiving 5s. a fortnight from the Department of Social Services. In this case the amount is 2s. a fortnight, probably as a result of income exceeding the maximum allowable limit. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) might see fit to refer this matter to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and request that 5s. a fortnight should be paid through the Repatriation Department. No responsible government should expect a war widow to cash a fortnightly cheque for 2s. at the bank with which she may have her account. The Minister for Social Services should see whether it is possible to have that amount incorporated in the amount payable to that widow each fortnight through the Repatriation Department.
This is a matter that should have been dealt with by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) and certainly should have been dealt with by the Minister who introduced the Repatriation Bill in this Parliament. Neither of the responsible Ministers made any reference to the fact that the great majority of war widows in this country, although they were to receive an increase of 15s. a week in their war pension and domestic allowance respectively, would have their social service payment reduced by a corresponding amount. In view of the fact that those widows now will receive a cheque for 5s. a fortnight, this Government should give consideration to having that amount incorporated in their pension payments through the Repatriation Department rather than expect them to cash a cheque for 5s. a fortnight or, in the case that 1 have mentioned, 2s. a fortnight.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.22 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
How many companies have been registered in the Australian Capital Territory in each year since the war?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The following table shows the number of local companies incorporated and foreign companies registered, respectively, in the Australian Capital Territory in each calendar year since 1st January,
m asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
What are the constitutionalprocesses in accordance with which, pursuant to the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, Australia would have to act in the event of armed aggression in the treaty area against any party to the treaty, or against any State designated by the parties to the treaty?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Article IV. (1) of the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty is the operative article in the event of armed aggression against any party to the treaty or against any State designated by the parties to the treaty.
Article IV. (1) reads as follows: -
Each Party recognizes that aggression by means of armed attack in the Treaty Area against any of the Parties or against any State or territory which the Parties by unanimous agreement may hereafter designate, would endanger its own peace and safety, and agrees that it will in that eventact to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. Measures taken under this paragraph shall be immediately reported to the SecurityCouncilof the United Nations.
The measures to be taken under the above article are not defined, but could,involve military action by the Seato powers.
The expression “in accordance with its constitutional processes “, occurring in this article, is not familiar in Australian legal discussions but is frequently used nowadays in multilateral Conventions because some constitutions (e.g. that of the United States) lay down special procedures in connexion with the taking of military action. So far as Australia is concerned, the constitutional responsibility for military action in the performance of Australia’s treaty obligations, if such a course becomes necessary, rests squarely with the Excutive Government. There would naturally, in practice, be such reference to the Parliament as the circumstances require and permit.
m asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows.: - 1. (a) During the last five years (1954-58 inclusive) the General Assembly of the United Nations did not adopt any resolution specifically concerning the Trust Territory of New Guinea. A number of resolutions have been adopted by the General Assembly in relation to all, or several, Trust Territories, concerning certain principles or objectives, for example eventual attainment of self-government or independence, and the fixing of targets and dates for the attainment of these objectives. These resolutions are readily available in printed form, and are not reproduced here because they applied to Trust Territories generally.
Petition from Mr. Charles Smith (T/PET. 8/12)
The Trusteeship Council,
Having examined the petition from Mr. Charles Smith concerning New Guinea in consultation with Australia as the Administering Authority concerned,
Draws the attention of the petitioner to the observations of the Administering Authority.
For (7) Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States.
Against (2) Soviet Union, United Arab Republic.
Abstained (5) Burma, China, Guatemala. Haiti, India.
Terms of reference of the United Nations Visiting Mission to the Trust Territories of Nauru, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, 1959.
The Trusteeship Council.
Having decided to despatch a periodic visiting mission to the Trust Territories of Nauru, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands in 1959,
Having decided that the Visiting Mission should be composed of Mr. Chiping H. C. Kiang (China) as Chairman, Mr. Alfred Claeys Bouuaert (Belgium), U Tin Mating (Burma) and Mr. Sergio Kocianich (Italy) and assisted by members of the Secretariat and also by such members of the local administration as may be appointed by the latter,
Having decided that the Visiting Mission should depart in February, 1959, that it should visit the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands, Nauru and New Guinea in that order, and that the duration of its visit should be approximately three months,
For (11) Australia, Belgium, Burma, China, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Italy, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States.
Against (0) nil.
Abstained (3) India, Soviet Union, United Arab Republic.
Reports of the United Nations Visiting Mission to the Trust Territories of Nauru, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, 1959.
The Trusteeship Council,
Having examined, at ils twenty-fourth session, the reports of the United Nations Visiting Mission to the Trust Territories of Nauru, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, 1959,
Having also examined the written observations submitted by the Government of Australia concerning the report on Nauru and the oral observations made by the representatives of Australia and the United States of America concerning the reports on New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, respectively,
For (12) Australia, Belgium, Burma, China, France, Haiti, India, Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States.
Against (0) Nil.
Abstained (1) Soviet Union. (The United Arab Republic was not represented at the meeting when this vote was taken.)
Petition from Mr. To Vetenge.
The Trusteeship Council,
Having examined, in consultation with Australia as the Administering Authority concerned, the petition from Mr. To Vetenge, Councillor of the Toma area concerning New Guinea (T/PET.8/13), T/OBS.8/6, T/L.929);
For (13) Australia, Belgium, Burma, China, France, Haiti, India, Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, United Arab Republic, United Kingdom, United States.
Against (0) Nil.
Abstained (1) Soviet Union.
During the period in question the Trusteeship Council adopted “ conclusions and recommendations “ on New Guinea amounting in all to about one hundred. These conclusions and recommendations are readily available, in the Reports of the Trusteeship Council for the years 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958. During this period the only members of the Trusteeship Council who are also members of Seato were: Australia, France, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Japanese Peace Treaty.
t asked the acting Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the State will not be recognized.
In 1950, following the outbreak of the Korean war and the immediate transfer to Korea of a considerable part of the United States forces then garrisoning Japan, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers instructed the Japanese Government to take measures to maintain order within the country. A “Police Reserve Force” of 75,000 men was organised in August, 1950.
Article 5 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, which was signed at San Francisco on 8th September, 1951, reads as follows: - “ (a) Japan accepts the obligations set forth in Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular the obligations.
to give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the Charter and to refrain from giving assistance to any State against which the United Nations may take preventive or enforcement action.
Article 6 (a) of the Peace Treaty reads as follows - “All occupation forces of the Allied Powers shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as possible after the coming into force of the present Treaty, and in any case not later than 90 days thereafter. Nothing in this provision shall, however, prevent the stationing or retention of foreign armed forces in Japanese territory under or in consequence of any bilateral or multilateral agreements which have been or may be made between one or more of the Allied Powers, on the one hand, and Japan on the other”.
A Security Treaty between Japan and the United States of America was signed concurrently with the Peace Treaty. The preamble of the Security Treaty stated that, in the exercise of its inherent rights as a sovereign nation, Japan desired, as a provisional arrangement for its defence, that the United States should maintain armed forces of its own in and about Japan.
The United States agreed to do so, in the interests of peace and security and “ in the expectation “ that Japan would itself “ increasingly assume responsibility for its own defence “. Article 1 of the Treaty provided that United States forces disposed in and about Japan “ may be utilized to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East and to the security of Japan against an armed attack from without “. An Administrative Agreement was signed on 28th February, 1952, in which Japan agreed to grant to the United States the use of the facilities and areas necessary to carry out the objectives stated in Article 1 of the Security Treaty, and to pay a variable proportion of certain costs involved. A series of Mutual Defence Assistance Agreements provided for United States assistance to Japan from United States mutual security funds.
In 1952 the Japanese “ Police Reserve Force “ was increased to 110,000 men and re-named the “ National Safety Force “. Tn the same year a “ Maritime Safety Force “ was formed and both forces placed under the control of a “National Safety Agency”. In 1954 the National Safety Agency became the Defence Agency, and Ground, Maritime and Air Self Defence Forces were created. In 1956 a National Defence Council was established under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister. 3. (a) The budgetary appropriation for the Defence Agency in the last five financial years (1st April to 31st March) has been as follows (800 yen to the Australian pound): -
The Japanese contribution to defence costs shared with the United States is a relatively minor, additional amount.
Ground Self Defence Force: 180,000 service personnel, partly mechanized; approximately 200 liaison aircraft.
Maritime Self Defence Forces: Approximately 25,000 service personnel; total tonnage of 124,000 tons, mainly composed of vessels designed for anti-submarine duties; approximately 200 reconnaissance aircraft.
Air Self Defence Force: Approximately 30,000 service personnel; 1,300 aircraft, composed of 500 trainers and 700-800 operational aircraft, including jet fighters but no bombers.
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) 9.67d. (Depreciation 3.82d., fuel and oil 1.7d., tyres .85d., maintenance 3.3d.) (b) This make of car is not used in the general passenger fleet in Canberra. One large Ford and a few Zephyrs are used on police work. In view of the nature of this work, running costs are higher hari average for this make of car. Consequently the figures have not been included as they would not be a fair comparison, (c) 7 pence. (Depreciation 2.5d., fuel and oil 1.3d., tyres .5d. maintenance 2.7d.)
It should be appreciated that the cost per mile figures are based on the costing methods adopted in the Transport Section, Department of the Interior, and on local costs in Canberra and should not therefore be regarded as having general application. The figures given are higher than those given by the Minister for Supply in answer to a question in similar terms asked of him by the honorable member. This is primarily the result of the Department of the Interior adopting different methods of assessing depreciation and of allocating overhead costs to the maintenance account. The cost of fuel and some other items is higher in Canberra than in the State capitals.
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) The peace-time establishment authorized by the Government is 26,000.
The actual establishment as at 31 August, 1959, was 23,816.
Queensland (including the Territory of Papua and New Guinea) - Two C.M.F. Brigades with supporting units, one A.R.A. Brigade Gp. unit, one National Service training unit, various head-quarters and maintenance units, one A.R.A. Regiment in Papua and New Guinea, one C.M.F. unit in Papua and New Guinea. Strength - A.R.A., 3,329; C.M.F., 8,175; National Service full-time trainees, 819.
New South Wales - One C.M.F. Division with supporting units, one A.R.A. Brigade Group (less some units located in other States), one National Service training unit, various A.R.A. head-quarters and maintenance units. Strength- A.R.A., 7,977; C.M.F., 17,433; National Service full-time trainees, 973.
Victoria - One C.M.F. Division (less one C.M.F. Bridage) with supporting units, two A.R.A. Brigade Group units, one National Service training unit, various head-quarters and maintenance units. Strength - A.R.A., 6,434; C.M.F., 14,129; National Service full-time trainees, 1,253.
South Australia - One C.M.F. Brigade with supporting units, one A.R.A. Brigade Group unit, one National Service training unit, various head-quarters and maintenance units. Strength- A.R.A., 1,129; C.M.F., 4,037; National Service full-time trainees, 323.
Western Australia - One C.M.F. Brigade with supporting units, one A.R.A. Brigade Group unit, one National Service training unit, various head-quarters and maintenance units. Strength- A.R.A., 1,156; C.M.F., 4,418; National Service full-time traineers, 300.
Tasmania - Two major and several minor C.M.F. units, one National Service training unit, one head-quarters and several maintenance units. Strength - A.R.A., 379; C.M.F., 1,939; National Service full-time trainees, nil. (The intake of National Service trainees will be made shortly.)
Northern Territory - One head-quarters and several minor units. Strength - A.R.A., 159; C.M.F., 63.
Note - 1,345 A.R.A. members serving in Malaya and elsewhere outside Australia are not included in the above.
z asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Royal Australian Navy.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon: notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers: -
a asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Mr.Davidson-The answers to the honorable member’squestions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice: -
Is the Minister able to. say whether the Hang Fung Shipping Company of Hong Kong is to operate between Eastern ports and Australia two of the vessels disposed of by the Australian, Coastal Shipping Commission?
Is the Minister also able to say whether any member of, or person associated with, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has any interest, financial or otherwise, in the purchasing company?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The acting Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable mem-: ber’s questions: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What payments have been made to the National Debt Sinking Fund in each of the last five years in cases where a war service home has been sold before the end of the repayment period?
– The acting Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s questions: -
Prior to 1st July, 1958, separate records were not kept of payments to the National Debt Sinking Fund in respect of liabilities discharged on war service homes prior to the expiration of the repayment period. However, details of the actual number of such cases are available, and, from statistics maintained since 1st July, 1958, it was possible to prepare estimates for years prior to that date. The following table shows the actual amount credited to the National Debt Sinking Fund for 1958-59 and amounts estimated to have been paid for the preceding four years: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19591027_reps_23_hor25/>.