23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BLAND presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will pass legislation to ease the means test and increase social service benefits payable to civilian widow pensioners and their dependent children.
– In questioning the Acting Minister for External Affairs, I refer to remarks made by the United States admiral who was our honoured guest at the Coral Sea commemoration. Was the Australian Government officially represented at a function at which our visitor spoke with violent language in terms calculated to arouse hatred against Russia and China? Did the Government’s representative at that function dissociate himself or Australia from such provocative statements? If not, would the Acting Minister for External Affairs like to take the opportunity of doing so now, and particularly of dissociating the Australian Government from the admiral’s final declaration, namely, that, with the same decisive firmness as we employed in the Coral Sea, we must eventually replace communism in Russia and China with political and economic systems of freedom? Will this apparent proposal for deliberate military aggression be allowed to pass uncontradicted on the eve of the summit disarmament talks?
– I may be pardoned for wondering at the vigour with which the question is asked, as I should not have thought that at this point of time our guest’s remarks threatened any military action. Insofar as they expressed a view as to the desirability of replacing Communist regimes with more democratic regimes, I for one would be of a mind with the admiral.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for External
Affairs. Will the Minister, as a matter of urgency, have prepared and placed on the table for the information of honorable members a map of the Soviet Union showing the closed areas - that is, the areas where access is restricted or prohibited for visitors, or, indeed, for the ordinary citizen of the Soviet Union itself?
– I am sure that the honorable member realizes the difficulty of the task which he has asked me to undertake. However, I shall see whether I can produce for the information of the House a map which will show what areas of the Soviet Union are closed to visitors.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Did the honorable gentleman know of and approve the increase of interstate freight rates by the private shipping companies? Since the Australian National Line’s booking arrangements are in the hands of those companies, is that line going to make a similar increase of its freight rates?
– The honorable member has asked me whether I approved of the rise in private shipping companies’ freight rates. It is not necessary for the Minister for Shipping and Transport to approve the shipping rates of private companies. There is no price control so far as they are concerned. I did have prior information concerning the possibility of a rise in freights because it has been obvious over a number of months that the shipping companies have been running at a loss due to the rise in costs. I point out that there have been increases in costs of road and rail transport as well. So far as the National Shipping Line is concerned, there is no prospect at the moment that it will increase its freights.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General regarding the new scheme known as Elsa. I preface my question by reminding the Minister of a statement he made to the House last year in the Budget session that the zones under the Elsa scheme would be on a basis of community of interest, and that local call fees would apply to calls up to 25 and 35 miles in some cases. Is the Postmaster-General aware that in some areas individual subscribers cannot telephone their nearest shopping centre less than 16 miles away other than by paying the minimum trunk charge of ls. 4d.? I cite the area south of Horsham, including Laharum, Brimpuen and Mockinya. Will the Minister have these particular cases investigated with a view to having these zones so altered that the subscribers can contact their nearest town or at least one town on a local call fee?
– The honorable member for Wimmera has correctly stated the principle that I outlined in the House some time ago in dealing with the introduction of the Elsa system; that is to say, the zones would be determined largely on a basis of community of interest and also, to a certain extent, on the demand on equipment and so on. The honorable member pointed out that in a particular area in which he is particularly interested, there seem to be some cases in which those principles might not have been taken into account. Speaking generally - and this might be of interest to many honorable members - the Postal Department, through the many months it has been developing this scheme, has realized that in determining what amounts to many tens of thousands of zones in Australia, certain anomalies must certainly develop in applying the basic principles I have outlined. Therefore, we have realized all along that when the scheme comes into operation, some anomalies will be apparent. In such cases, we are quite prepared to consider any adjustment that might be necessary to ensure that this scheme, which promises so well, will have a beneficial effect for all who are engaged in it. That does not mean that we shall be able to agree to all the submissions that are put forward, but I assure the honorable member that whenever it can be shown’ that an anomaly exists we shall rectify it if that can be done in accordance with the principles that have been laid down.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. For some two or three years I have directed questions to the right honorable gentleman from time to time about our flour trade with the islands and the countries north of Australia. Will the Minister inform the House whether the arrangements that have been reported from France in connexion with the sale of French subsidized flour will mean bigger shipments of flour from Australia? If this is so, will those shipments be made through the Australian Wheat Board or by individual flour millers?
– The arrangement, of which I had given an intimation some few months ago - I think it was in reply to the honorable member for Port Adelaide - has been completed, and we have reached an understanding with France. French flour, which, because of the French Government’s subsidy on wheat, may be quoted at a rate cheaper than otherwise would be possible, will not be offered for unrestricted sale in Australia’s natural flour markets. The French Government has undertaken that restraint will be exercised. The result of this will be that Australia may expect to sell more flour and, what is equally important, we shall be able to predict the level of competition that will be encountered. This is to be associated with the 100,000 tons of flour that Ceylon buys each year by negotiation, the protected market for 80,000 tons of flour in the Malayan Federation, the restraint of competition in subsidized flour as a result of negotiation with the German Government and more secure sales of flour to Indonesia that we are working towards.
– Will the flour be sold through the Australian Wheat Board?
– All of this adds up to a better opportunity for the sale of our flour. The actual operation of selling will follow the practice of recent years. This, I think, is the sale by private flour milling interests competing for business, but on the basis of an understanding worked out by the Australian Wheat Board, on which the flour milling industry has a representative.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by saying that in a speech last week in this place a prominent member of the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party expressed the view that, as a result of the recent margins rise, unionists were in a position to make greater financial contributions to the funds of the Australian Labour Party. Would the Treasurer consider developing the suggestion that he made in answer to a question by the honorable member for Scullin on hire purchase, that he, the Treasurer, might examine methods of encouraging industrial organizations to set up their own hire-purchase societies, as this would serve a far more useful purpose for the vast number of unionists than the application of their funds to support the politics of the Labour Party?
– In a free community, it is open to trade unionists to decide whether they should apply any surplus funds they may possess to the support of the Australian Labour Party, the Australian Democratic Labour Party or, for that matter, any other political organization. I am interested in the proposal that I develop further the suggestion I advanced in reply to a question asked in the House last week, that if members of trade unions were dissatisfied with the interest rates on hire purchase and the conditions of repayment, they should explore the possibility of using their funds for this purpose.
– Does the Minister know that that is done in Adelaide now?
– Thank you for the interjection. Rather to my astonishment, the Leader of the Opposition, who quite obviously did not know that this was being done already in Adelaide by a group of trade unions, issued a statement to the press which, in the Sydney “ Sun “ carried the headline, “Holt blasted, ‘Facetious’ H.P. Plan “, and in the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ carried the headline, “Calwell Slates Holt on H.P.”
– This question was a Dorothy Dix-er!
– I assure the honorable gentleman that it was not. I was hoping that some honorable member, preferably on the Opposition side, would ask me this question, because here again is an illustration of how far out of touch with affairs are those who claim to be the leaders of thought on the Labour side or who claim to express the views of responsible trade unionists in Australia. Here the Leader of the Opposition attacks me for what he says is a facetious suggestion. He says that the trade unions have no wish to become money lenders whereas, on the same day and in another part of the Commonwealth, in the press of South Australia, a Mr. Noller went into print saying that what I suggested has already been adopted by the trade unions in that State, that 22 unions have subscribed to the co-operative hire-purchase organization there, that 175 unionists have already been helped and that a 5 per cent, dividend is paid on the capital which has been provided. Mr. Noller also says the unions are not looking for high dividends but rather lower interest rates and have in fact been able to reduce their interest charges from a flat 5 per cent, to a flat 4 per cent. That is a very commendable effort on the part of the trade unionists of South Australia who have shown themselves to be much more in line with the action I proposed here than is the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is he aware that persons are purchasing shares in companies from stockbrokers by obtaining loans from life insurance companies secured against endowment policies and then deducting for taxation purposes the interest on the loan? If he is aware of this, will he take immediate action through the Taxation Branch to stop this procedure?
– I shall be glad to examine the question which has been raised by the honorable member. It is, of course, open to any person who wishes to engage in investment to raise funds on his own securities and hazard them in the investment field. In the case of share purchases that could result in a profit or in a loss, according to the movement of the shares. Capital gains on shares are not subject to income tax, nor are losses deductible for taxation purposes. Whether the fact that gains are not taxable calls for some reconsideration of the current taxation arrangements is a matter of policy which I shall be glad to explore thoroughly.
– The Minister for the Army will recall that, in answer to a letter
I wrote to him on 5th April, he told me he would give me some details later. Owing to the fact that many people in a large area are vitally concerned, is he now prepared to answer my question whether the Army Apprentices School at Balcombe, Mount Martha, is to be dosed down?
– Whilst certain changes are taking place in connexion with Balcombe there is no intention to close Balcombe down, either immediately or ultimately.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Is it a fact that prior to the introduction of the Budgets for 1958-59 and 1959-60 he rejected a recommendation from the officers of his department for a substantial increase to be made in the child endowment rate for families of two or more children? Will the Minister give an assurance to the House that he will at least submit the matter to Cabinet for consideration if a similar recommendation is made for inclusion in the forthcoming Budget?
– The honorable member for Lang ought to know that it is not competent for officers of the department to make recommendations to the Minister for an alteration in social service benefits at any time. The recommendations, whatever they are, are made by the Minister to the Government and they are considered on the merits of the question measured against all the other demands made on the Government from time to time. The honorable gentleman ought to know that during the last ten years this Government has a proud record of progress insofar as social service matters are concerned. That progress might well be envied by members of the Opposition, and could be emulated by the State parliaments in which people of the same political colour as that of Her Majesty’s Opposition in this place have control of the political destinies of certain States.
– I ask the Minister for Trade a question concerning the national export convention which is to be held in Canberra next week. I have seen a report that no trade union organizations are being invited to participate in this convention. If this is a fact, could the Minister take steps to have representatives of the trade union organizations invited to this important convention?
– I have seen a report along the lines indicated by the question. The report certainly is not correct in substance, and must arise from some misunderstanding. It is the desire of the Government, as well as the desire of the Export Development Council, which was responsible for the proposal that this convention be held, that the convention should be on a completely non-discriminatory basis, and that every section of the Australian community - political, industrial and commercial - should be equally represented without discrimination. To that end invitations will go out, or have gone out from the Export Development Council and, at its instigation, some have been issued by me to sections of industry, commerce and trade, and to employer and employee organizations, all of which have been accepted, and those parties will be represented at this great convention. Mr. Souter, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, will himself deliver one of the very important addresses at the convention on a subject which he has accepted, the title being “ Labour and its Role in Export “. I mention this to illustrate that the Government seeks to keep completely separate from this great national field anything that has a flavour of one-sidedness, political or otherwise, and I believe that the convention, constructed and conducted along these lines, will make another contribution to an Australia-wide consciousness of our need to export.
– My question to the Treasurer is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Corangamite. In view of the knowledge disclosed by the Treasurer respecting co-operative hire-purchase business, will he discuss with the Commonwealth Banking Corporation the desirability of reopening for general business the hirepurchase department of the Commonwealth Bank? Will he also discuss with the bank the subject of assisting with credit facilities approved registered co-operative hire-purchase companies, which give a much cheaper service to the public than private enterprise hire-purchase companies now supply?
– I shall examine the suggestions made by the honorable gentleman and see just how far action along the lines he has proposed is in train, or has been taken. If I can thereafter supply him with further information I will do so.
– Can the Minister for Trade give the House any information about the recent agreement that was signed between the United States and India for the disposal of very large stocks of surplus American wheat? Can the Minister say whether that agreement will have any effect on Australia’s export of wheat to India?
– An agreement was signed in Washington last week, I understand, between the United States Administration and the Government of India. It is an agreement of great significance both in respect of giving aid to India in the form of food and in respect of the establishment of certain principles upon which the Australian Government has based its views on the export of surplus food stocks. This agreement provides that over the next four years 16,000,000 tons of United States wheat and 1,000,000 tons of United States rice will be made available to India. In each of the four years, 3,000,000 tons of wheat, or a total of 12,000,000 tons will be shipped to meet a large part of India’s estimated import requirements. The remaining 4,000,000 tons of wheat and the 1,000,000 tons of rice will be used to establish in India a food reserve to be drawn upon by agreement between India and United States in the event of an emergency in India.
This generous provision has been made by the United States under its Public Law 480. Payment is to be made not in dollars but in Indian rupees, and the United States will itself provide from its fund of rupees so gained loans and grants to the Government of India for important and essential developmental projects. This arrangement has the blessing and approval of the Australian Government. I am sure that we shall all recognize the magnitude of the gesture by the United States, and the magnitude of the benefit that India will receive from it.
At the same time, 1 am able to say that, under the arrangement which was reached in negotiations when I went to Washington a year ago - the so-called Food for Peace arrangement - Australia was brought into consultation before this business was done, as were the other wheat exporting countries. The United States, of its own initiative, added the sole condition that during the period of the provision of these enormous sums for India, there should be a recognition that that country was not without some capacity to buy commercially. Consequently, India, by arrangement, will buy, in each of these years, 400,000 tons of wheat on a commercial basis.
The Indians recognize Australia as the natural and traditional provider of their wheat. Therefore, we, as the country capable of quoting the lowest sale price will enjoy the major benefit of this commercial purchase. In this current financial year, the United States has provided 3,000,000 tons of wheat for India on a similar basis, and in this year India has already purchased about 280,000 tons of wheat commercially, of which about 250,000 tons has been purchased in Australia. This position represents a reconciliation of the desire of the United States to assist a country such as India with a recognition of the normal commercial interests of a country such as ours.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question about a matter which is of great concern to the timber industry in Queensland1. Will the right honorable gentleman see that adequate protection is given to the plywood industry of Queensland against the importation of plywoods from overseas, particularly Japanese plywoods?
– The Government will maintain its policy of according appropriate protection to all Australian industries, including the very important Queensland plywood industry, against overseas competition. The level of such protection is determined after investigations and recommendations by the Australian Tariff Board, and subsequent consideration of that advice by the Government itself. There has already been a reference to the Tariff Board on this matter, but I am not sure whether it is still before the board or has been disposed of. I have made it clear that in an unpredictable emergency the Government would take special steps to protect an Australian industry from grave damage by overseas competition.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Supply, refers to the current programme of junior chambers of commerce to encourage industry to employ physically handicapped persons. As the Department of Supply is a large employer of labour - particularly of manual labour - in its munitions and other factories, can the Minister inform the House of his department’s policy concerning the employment of such persons?
– Upon my appointment to the portfolio of Supply some eighteen months ago, I undertook an inspection of the various factories which are administered by the department. During those inspections I noticed that quite a number of physically handicapped persons were employed. On inquiry from the head of the department I was informed that at that time approximately 100 were employed, and in fact they are still employed. It has been the policy of the department, during the war years and subsequent to that period, to employ as many physically handicapped persons as possible. I think that the department is to be commended, as also are the Ministers who were previously in charge of the department, for adopting this attitude towards these unfortunate persons.
– Papua and New Guinea are to be placed on a common taxation basis by virtue of legislation recently passed by this House. Seeing that similar developmental problems are common to Papua, New Guinea and the Northern Territory, will the Treasurer, when he presents the next Budget, introduce legislation to bring the Northern Territory into line as far as taxation concessions are concerned? I might add that the existing rate for Papua and New Guinea is approximately half the general Australian rate.
– The honorable member will appreciate that he is raising a policy matter here. How far there is a parallel between conditions in the Northern Territory and those with which we have just been dealing in Papua and New Guinea is a matter for study, but I shall see that the study is put in hand. Perhaps some consideration has already been given to it inside the Treasury and the Department of Territories, and by the Commissioner of Taxation as well. I shall see how far this examination has proceeded and make sure that what the honorable member has put forward is not overlooked.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been directed to a statement by Lieutenant-Colonel Chenoweth, of Mackay, that some employers at Mackay have refused to grant leave with pay, or are obviously making it difficult, for Citizen Military Forces volunteers in their employment to attend the annual camp of the 11th Infantry Brigade to be held shortly at Sellheim, near Charters Towers? Would the Minister outline the Government policy or attitude towards these employers?
– I have not read the report in connexion with the Citizen Military Forces at Mackay, but I know that their annual camps take place in many parts of Australia. Fortunately, a great number of employers in Australia fit in very well indeed and are very generous with regard to leave that they give to C.M.F. members in their employ to attend their annual camps. But unfortunately, there are a few employers who do not co-operate in this matter. As my colleague the Minister for Defence announced in the House two or three weeks ago, the Government’s policy in relation to its own C.M.F. employees is that they are granted leave to attend their annual camp and their pay is kept going in the meantime. I am glad to see that the New South Wales Government has adopted the same policy, and I hope that each of the governments in Australia will see fit to do likewise. I think it is most necessary that all employers should realize how important it is in the interests of the defence of this country that they should co-operate by allowing their employees, who are prepared to make a personal sacrifice, to attend these camps, thus enabling them to be trained for the defence of their country.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether chemists have been instructed by their guild that when making up a prescription they must mark the prescription with a code mark indicating the price charged so that, in the event of the prescription being presented anywhere in Australia, the same price will be charged? Is it true that when a doctor prescribes a proprietary medicine which can be purchased anywhere under its correct name, the guild requires the chemist to remove the label, replace it with his own and add a surcharge for doing so, although he already is making a large profit in supplying the medicine which has been prescribed? Will the Minister agree that actions of this kind eliminate competition, create monopolies and allow the people to be exploited sinfully?
– I think that a good deal of what the honorable gentleman has asked me is covered by State legislation. As to the matter of marking prescriptions, the Commonwealth is concerned only with the price which the chemist charges under the National Health Act - the price which has been arranged by negotiation and agreement between the Commonwealth and the Pharmaceutical Guild. Throughout Australia pharmaceutical benefits cost the public only5s. Any other charges which the chemist makes are his own concern and are in no way under the control of the Commonwealth Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Is it correct, as recently stated, inter alia, by a Minister, when replying to a question in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, as recorded in “ Hansard “ of that House, that the C.S.I.R.O. considers that skeleton weed in the Vic torian wheat belt is a State problem, and that it is not prepared to intensify research into this problem? Is this a fair indication of the attitude of the C.S.I.R.O. to this matter? If so, will the Minister do all in his power to have that attitude reversed and to have intensive research made into the menace of skeleton weed, which threatens to reduce our national income?
– I am not quite sure what the Minister of Lands in the Victorian Government intended to convey, but nobody should imagine that the C.S.I.R.O. has, as it were, lost interest in this problem. That is not the case. The C.S.I.R.O. has carried out a large number of investigations into the problem of skeleton weed, and the methods which the organization suggested for dealing with it have proved highly effective in New South Wales. Unfortunately, in the Mallee, which has a different soil and, therefore, perhaps one could say, a different plant physiology, the methods were not successful.
The matter is at present being investigated further in the C.S.I.R.O. Division of Plant Industry here in Canberra. It is of the opinion that until the results of those investigations are known there is not a great deal to be gained by carrying out further investigations in the Mallee. But that does not mean that the organization is not prepared to do all that it can to deal with the situation and, when the answers to the problems have been obtained, to suggest the appropriate measures to the Victorian authorities. A conference to deal with weed control generally, and at which this problem of skeleton weed will be dealt with, is to be held in Canberra in August next”. At present, the C.S.I.R.O. is maintaining a close liaison with officers of the Victorian Lands and Survey Department, and it is willing now, as it has been in the past, to do what it can to aid the Victorians in dealing with a problem which, in the broad sense, is a Victorian problem; that is to say, it is different from the problem which exists in New South Wales.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, relates to a statement made by the Minister after question time last Thursday in response to my request on the previous Tuesday for information about the circumstances in which, on 23rd April, 2,000 sacks of potatoes were left behind on the Burnie wharfs by “ Wanaka “, at great financial loss to fanners. The Minister stated -
The produce shippers, who . . . were kept fully informed, intimated that they were satisfied with the position . . .
I now ask him whether he will supply me with the names of the produce shippers who were contacted when inquiries were made or tell me from what authority he obtained the information which he gave me. Did the inquiries reveal to the Minister that, with few exceptions, merchants were receiving only half the shipping space that they required? Is the honorable gentleman aware that, in the case of “ Wanaka “, one merchant of 40 years’ standing asked the shipping company for space for 900 bags and received an allotment of space for approximately 400 bags, of which only 146 were shipped, 256 being left on the Burnie wharf? Will the Minister or one of his departmental officers visit the north-west coast of Tasmania and investigate these complaints with a view to the provision of an Australian National Line vessel for exclusive use in the produce trade in an attempt to ensure a fair and just allocation of space to all merchants in the interests of the Tasmanian potato industry?
– It is quite obvious that the series of questions asked by the honorable member will require investigation. With respect to “ Wanaka “, I should like to say that the Tasmanian potato marketing organization supplied the information. The honorable member should appreciate, particularly as he is a Tasmanian, that at the time in question there was a tremendous amount of weather disturbance and that shipping from Tasmania was further hindered by the watersiders’ hold-up. Those two factors caused some dislocation of services.
I shall take a note of the questions asked by the honorable member and. although I do not give any undertaking now that departmental officers will go to the Tasmanian north-west coast, I shall again have a look at the question of shipping. However, i should like to emphasize that shipping between Tasmania and the mainland is a matter of economics as well as of other factors. All the disadvantages experienced by Tasmania cannot be overcome unless it is joined to the mainland or a bridge is constructed across Bass Strait. We find that shippers, wishing to get the best prices from their markets, desire to have ships on the wharfs right at the time when they can catch the top of the market. This situation will never be adequately resolved, because the shipping companies themselves have to consider the economics of the matter. I assure the honorable member that everything that can be done to give the people of Tasmania the best possible service will be done.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman will recall that some time ago, when he answered a question from me about the new Canberra mint, he could not be specific about the future of gold refining. I now ask him whether discussions have taken place with the Royal Mint, in London, and with the State governments, regarding the future control of gold-refining operations in Melbourne and Perth.
– 1 have tried to keep the honorable gentleman well informed on developments in connexion with the proposed establishment of a mint in Canberra, so far as the information available to me would permit. I think that I pointed out earlier that this is not a matter of early accomplishment. Therefore, if what I now say appears to imply some lack of a sense of urgency, it is because, in our view, there are other matters which have a higher priority. I have told the honorable member previously that it is the intention of the Government to continue gold-refining operations in both Perth and Melbourne. We have not yet conducted our discussions with the Royal Mint, in London, or with the State governments, but I am informed by the Treasury that approaches to the State governments will be made shortly. I do not think that, apart from this, I have a great deal to add to what I told the honorable gentleman in November.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Papua and New Guinea Bill 1960.
Flax Industry Act Repeal Bill 1960.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to provide adequate funds to the State government housing instrumentalities to enable them to build sufficient houses to meet the growing accommodation needs of the community, particularly those in the lower income groups, and to carry out more work of slum reclamation and re-housing in their inner suburban areas.
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) -
– Mr. Speaker, in short, this subject is proposed for discussion as a matter of urgency because the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is a matter for criticism and indictment of the present Government. As you, Sir, know, the present agreement was approved by this Parliament in 1956, consequent upon the termination of the previous agreement, which had been in existence for the preceding ten years.
The housing situation of those in the lower income groups at present is particularly bad, especially in the industrialized States of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, which are bearing the brunt of the Commonwealth’s immigration policy. The figures for the other States with respect to the housing of people in the lower income groups are not so bad, but, in the three States which I have mentioned, the position is going from bad to worse under the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The previous agreement, which operated from 1946 to 1956, as I have indicated, gave general satisfaction. Under that agreement, reasonable funds were provided for the States, and they did a remarkably good job in the circumstances.
But the present Commonwealth Government made several radical departures from the earlier agreement when it entered into the new agreement of 1956, which accentuated the difficulties experienced by the State housing instrumentalities in providing homes for people in the lower income groups. I know that Government spokesmen will probably say that this Government’s policy has made a notable contribution to housing, because, last financial year, 84,000 houses were constructed and, in the previous year, about 70,000 were provided. However, I put it to the House that that level of construction made no reasonable contribution to meet the needs of the people who, by reason of their financial circumstances, are most in need of assistance in overcoming housing problems.
This matter has been proposed for discussion to-day, Mr. Speaker, because the current agreement will expire next year and the Government will have to introduce fresh legislation in order to obtain the Parliament’s approval of a new agreement. Opposition speakers will establish this afternoon that the Government should give very serious consideration to drastic alterations when a new agreement is entered into about the middle of next year. Under the present agreement, people in the lower income groups are a forgotten race, when it comes to housing. The position becomes worse every day for them. We have to remember that there are in the community people who, because of their economic circumstances, will never be able to pay a substantial deposit on a house. For the most part, they have to rent accommodation I shall prove that the position of these people is steadily becoming worse, because the existing Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement forces the State housing authorities to construct fewer homes than they built previously.
Before the legislation was introduced, the State housing authorities received 100 per cent. of the loan funds made available, but under the new legislation they have received in the past two years only 70 per cent. Of that percentage, 5 per cent. has to be devoted to housing for defence personnel. The Commonwealth Government has not been providing this money from taxation but from loans, and the States must pay it back over a number of years.
As a result of the fall in the amount of money available, the housing position in the three principal industrial States has become worse. In June, 1956, just before the new agreement was brought into operation, the Victorian Housing Commission had 11,550 applications for houses. The latest figure is 17,481 or an increase of nearly 6,000 in four years. In South Australia, the number of applications has increased from 9,684 in 1956 to 10,134. In 1956, New South Wales had 24,654 applications and the latest figure I was able to obtain is approximately 28,000. So the position has become worse in those three States in relation to applications for housing for rental or for purchase through State housing instrumentalities. These figures cannot be denied.
It might be said that the States freely accepted the new agreement in 1956, but that is not true. They had Hobson’s choice. The Commonwealth Government said in effect, “Take it or leave it”. As the Commonwealth Government wields the big stick financially and holds the financial future of the States in its hands, the States had no alternative but to accept the agreement. The attitude of the New South Wales Housing Commission to the new agreement was revealed in its report for 1956, which stated -
As from the commencement of the new financial year 1956-57, the Commission will operate under the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in respect of which the Government reluctantly decided there was no more satisfactory alternative than to this State’s participation. Its reluctant acceptance stemmed from the far less favorable conditions under which future State housing must be provided than in the past.
It is obvious that the States accepted the agreement because there was no alternative. At present, the Commonwealth Government makes available about £36,000,000 a year under the loan agreement. Last year, the State housing instrumentalities received £25,250,000 and £10,800,000 went to the co-operative building societies. For the next two years the societies will receive 30 per cent, of the money available. The Opposition does not criticize the wonderful work that has been done by the cooperative housing societies. They are filling a definite need in the community, but the Commonwealth Government made a mistake in granting the co-operative societies money at the expense of the State housing commissions. It should have given additional money to the co-operative societies. Had the Government given the co-operative societies £10,000,000 in addition to the £36,000,000 provided for housing, the Opposition would not have offered any criticism, but the Commonwealth has taken money from the housing commissions and given it to the co-operative societies.
As I stated in this House last year, the Victorian Co-operative Housing Societies’ journal pointed out that when the societies received this money from the Commonwealth, the money they previously received from private sources diminished. Last year, because they received additional money from the Commonwealth, some of the private banking institutions did not lend the co-operative societies any money because they considered that the Commonwealth Government had already done the job. We believe that the Government made a mistake in giving the societies money at the expense of the housing commissions.
Those people in the lower income groups who cannot buy houses are in an unfortunate position because nobody will build houses that they can afford to rent. It is true that a large number of luxury flats are being erected, but nobody is catering for the lower-income group by building villas for rental purposes. Only the housing commissions can build rental houses for the lower-income groups because such properties do not return sufficient to attract other investors. Referring to this matter at the end of 1959, the Minister of Housing in Victoria, Mr. Petty, stated -
The Government is making every effort to encourage investment in home building by banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions. Investors, generally, will not make money available for investment in home building at the ruling rate of 5 per cent, to 51 per cent., as they can obtain higher interest rates in other investments.
That is a truism that nobody can deny. Investors will not put money into housing for the lower-income groups because they can expect to receive only 5 per cent, or 5i per cent, return on their investment, and they can get a higher yield from stocks and shares.
The housing commissions are also providing houses which persons in the lowerincome groups can buy on a low deposit. They are the only organizations which enable the workers to buy a house on a deposit of £200 or £300. The co-operative building societies require a deposit of at least £1,000. The Victorian Housing Commission has been building units at a cost of £2,500, which can be rented or bought on a lower deposit than that required by any other organization. The Opposition believes that housing agreements should provide for both sections of the people. Because the amount available to the State Housing Commission in Victoria fell from £10,000,000 to £7,000,000, it has not been possible for that body to do its job properly.
The number of applications is the best yard-stick of the housing requirements of members of the lower-income groups because they have no one they can turn to for assistance other than the housing commissions. As soon as a person in the lowerincome groups is evicted from a house and wants another one for rental, he goes to an estate agent. Then, because he cannot be suited, he goes to the housing commission and files an application. Because of the decrease in the amount of money available for the housing commissions, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of applications. In Victoria, prior to the new agreement coming into operation in 1956, there were 11,250 applications but that number had grown to 13,349 in July, 1958. Funds were reduced from 80 per cent. of the loan money to 70 per cent. in the following year, and the number of applications at the end of 1959 was 17,481. The story is the same in New South Wales. The figures for Western Australia and Tasmania are not so bad as they are in the three industrial States because the bigger industrial States have had the largest influx of immigrants as a result of the Commonwealth Government’s policy. Also, there is wide scope for private investment in the industrial States and the growth of population has been greater.
The position in Victoria has become very acute. In Victoria last year, there were 2,000 evictions from homes and of those 2,000 families only about 100 procured housing commission homes. Because of the abolition of rent control in Victoria, the position will deteriorate further. In 1955- 56, the Housing Commission in Victoria built 4,152 units, but last year it built only 2,560 units. It can be seen, therefore, that the position is going from bad to worse. The last report of the Victorian Housing Commission had this to say -
It is obvious that on the Commission’s present building programme it is falling farther and farther behind the demand for houses - more than 2,000 worse off at June 30th than a year before. The reason is lack of loan funds with which to finance housing. The Commission could increase its output if it had the money.
So, the commission has made the explicit statement that demand is exceeding the number of houses it is able to provide by more than 2,000 a year. Unless the Government makes an effort to correct the position, it will go from bad to worse.
– For what year was the report to which you referred?
– The statement I read is on page 8 of the report for 1958-59. The Government should endeavour to increase the money available to the amount that was granted before the present agreement came into operation. The amount of £36,000,000 should be given to the housing commissions and another £10,000,000 made available to co-operative building societies. The housing commissions are making an heroic effort, within the compass of their limited finance, to provide accommodation for elderly people. It is true that the Government is helping to provide homes for aged persons, but it is not doing enough. If the Government wants to encourage housing commissions to provide additional accommodation for elderly people, it should be consistent and make grants-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, your intervention reveals that not a great deal of time is available to any of us to deal with this very big subject. Consequently, we must address ourselves to it in short terms. The matter raised by honorable gentlemen opposite on this occasion illustrates once again how desperately short they are of material with which to launch a political attack on the Government. It is almost incredible that they should seek to attack a housing record which, on the known facts, has not been matched, in proportion to population, by any other country; yet the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has chosen to use strong language when dealing with this subject! He said that the subject had been raised so that the Opposition could criticize and indict the Government. But I repeat that the record of the Government, having regard to population, has not been surpassed by any country to which the honorable member can point. If he troubles to examine the facts, he will find that there was a marked improvement between the census of 1947 and that of 1954.
– 1947 was just after a war.
– Yes; I am saying what the housing position was in Australia at that time. The average occupancy per dwelling at the June, 1947 census, was 4.05 persons. It is true that this was just after a war, but even that figure is amongst the best to be found around the world at present. By 1954, the position had improved and the ratio of occupancy had moved to 3.82 persons. In the five and a half years from June, 1954 to December, 1959, 510,677 dwellings were completed and the population increased by 1,000,000. A dwelling was completed for every 2.31 persons added to the population. That is quite a remarkable record.
It is well known by anybody who bothers to study the facts that last year the construction of houses and flats in Australia was an all-time record. We have been going through a construction boom. Not only has there been record construction of private dwellings and flats, but there has also been a tremendous government housing programme going forward. We see evidence of this programme around us every day as we move about the cities and towns. There is, further, a high rate of commercial building. The number of persons employed in the building industry has increased by some 25,000 since Labour was in office. I do not want to dwell on this aspect in the limited time available to me. Every Australian knows that never in our history b’.ve so many homes been completed or has such a big proportion of our population been in a position, in a prospering economy of full employment, to enter into the process of acquiring homes. The census of 1954 showed the quite remarkable increase in the proportion of people acquiring their homes over the num ber in 1947, and, of course, that proportion has increased considerably even since 1954. These facts are well known, so I put them on one side. Whatever else honorable gentlemen opposite may say, they cannot charge us with not having a very commendable programme of home construction at this time.
What, then, is the ground of attack? It cannot be that we are not providing finance on a scale which honorable gentlemen opposite, when they were in office, regarded as necessary, because our provision is greatly in excess of the amount that they provided. We have, as they very well know, no direct constitutional responsibility for housing. This is one of the prime responsibilities of State governments. Yet the States have been greatly assisted by the finances made available to them by the Commonwealth. The honorable gentleman says that this money is loaned to them, but it is frequently money which we raise by taxation in order to finance the programmes that we have agreed to support. Altogether, by one means or another, including our direct responsibility for the war service homes scheme, we are providing about £80,000,000 a year at present. In addition, we are using our good influences to encourage lending institutions with which we have some reasonably close connexion to make funds available for housing purposes.
If any of the Opposition’s grounds of criticism call for an answer, it is only because, judging by the remarks of its spokesman, facts are not well understood by honorable members opposite. We do not determine, as a Commonwealth, what proportion of the advances made to a State under the Housing Agreement, other than the advances in respect of dwellings built for members of the forces, are to be provided from their finances. The States are perfectly free to allocate funds for housing from their own resources, additional to funds that they choose to receive from the Commonwealth as advances under the Housing Agreement. The financial assistance provided under the Housing Agreement with the States is not determined by us. Recognizing the responsibility of the States, we leave it to them to decide what proportion of the funds available will be allocated to housing.
If the position is as serious as the honorable gentleman and his colleagues would have us believe, then the facts that I shall now give take some explaining. Last year, the increase in the total borrowing allocated to the States was £10,000,000. And the States themselves decided that of a total of £220,000,000, £36,080,000 should be allocated for housing. The point to which I want ito direct the attention of the House is that the States reached those figures by their own judgment. We had agreed to an increase of £10,000,000 in the allocation, and the total which the States combined agreed should go to housing purposes was only £270,000 more than in the previous year. I repeat that we gave them £10,000,000 more and they could have allocated the whole of that to housing had they so chosen, if the situation was as urgent as the honorable gentleman tried to tell us; but instead, I repeat, they allocated only £270,000.
I do not want to make a political issue of this matter - although the honorable gentleman has addressed it in political terms - and certainly not as between ourselves and the States, but it is interesting to note that while the Labour Government of New South Wales added £350,000 to the £12,000,000 which it had previously allocated, that was out of a total increase of £3,400,000 in the borrowing programme for that State’s works and housing. So, it allocated less than the £400,000 for increased housing. Victoria left its figure unchanged. We have just had quoted to us the Victorian State Housing Commission’s report, in which appears reference to a lack of loan funds with which to finance housing, and it is said that the commission could increase its output if it had the money. No State Government has all the money it wants - and I am not using this as a point of argument or criticism against the Victorian Government - but out of a total increase of £2,205,000 in its programme last year Victoria chose to leave unchanged at £10,300,000 the amount it provided for State housing activities. That was the same amount as it provided in the previous year. Queensland added £170,000 to the £3,310,000 which it previously allocated, out of a total increase of £1,670,000. South Australia left unchanged at £5,000,000 the amount it allocated for this purpose, although its increase was £1,085,000. Western Australia left unchanged its figure of £3,000,000 out of an increase of £940,000; and Tasmania, again under a Labour Government, chose to reduce by £250,000 the amount it set aside for State housing purposes, out of an increase of £700,000.
Let me not be misunderstood. I am not criticizing what the State governments have done. They have these resources and have to make their own judgment, looking at the problems facing them in their States, as to how these housing moneys are to be allocated; but I have no doubt that they, witnessing around them this high degree of activity in home and flat construction, have decided that it would not be a good thing at this time, with the building industry so heavily engaged, to add considerably to the programme which is before them. The honorable gentleman made a great point of the increase in allocation as set out in the report of the State Housing Commission of Victoria, but he omitted the preceding paragraph which pointed out that of a total of 12,972 new applications received, 7,746 earlier applications lapsed for various reasons - withdrawn, disallowed, lapsed through screening, failed to keep appointments, and so on. In order to get a really balanced picture, we must take matters of that kind into account.
I know there is a great difference between the attitude of honorable members opposite and that of members of this Government and those who sit behind it. Of course we have been ready to provide funds to assist the States with their own programmes, but we have stipulated, because we stand for private home ownership, that a proportion of those funds shall go to co-operative housing. While there is at this time a place for State housing of the character which the States are providing, surely our objective is to maintain an economic situation in which people have the resources to build for themselves the kind of homes they want, and not to be in the lower income group referred to by honorable gentlemen opposite. We do not want people to feel that they are of some lower status of the community. We want them to be employed on good wages so that from their own resources they can form part of that great majority of Australians who to-day are finding it possible, from those resources, to acquire their own homes during their working lifetime. It is a matter for pride on the part of this Government and its supporters that during the decade we have been in office we have seen home construction grow to record heights and a record proportion of the Australian community placed favorably in a position where they can acquire homes of which they can be proud.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, in his defence of the Government’s action the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) seems to take great comfort in being able to report that last year house construction was at an all-time high. So it was; but it must be remembered that the population was also at an all-time high last year and that, of the houses built last year, fewer were built for rental purposes than at any other time during the previous several years. Our complaint about the housing position in Australia is simply that the housing programmes being carried out by the States are not adequately meeting the demands of those people who are not able to afford the deposit to buy a house of their own and must forever be dependent on rental homes for shelter. It is true, as the honorable gentleman said, that commercial building construction was at an all-time high and that there were more building employees engaged in building operations than at any previous time. And then he very wisely said that he did not want to dwell on that aspect of the situation. I say he very wisely said that because, had he dwelt on it he would have been reminded that a major proportion of the building operations that are being carried out in Australia to-day represents the building of enormous twelve, fourteen and even 28 story hotels, insurance offices, bank offices and the like. In Melbourne one has only to visit one of the main streets to see one of the most magnificent buildings one could set eyes on being torn down to make room for another building only a few stories higher.
It is true that there is a great deal of activity in the building industry, but too much of it is being directed to luxury hotels, luxury flats, seaside resorts and so on by people who are not satisfied with one home but want one for each season of the year, as it were. It is true, as the right honorable gentleman said, that money is being raised by taxation for home-building purposes; and that is one of the complaints we make - that the Commonwealth Government raises the money by taxation on the people of the various States and then lends that money to the governments concerned at 4 per cent, interest, for the purpose of building homes for the taxpayers who have already paid the taxes from which the loans are made. As they provide money from government resources, so we find that the private banks are providing less money, with the result that the total amount available for home construction is considerably less than it was before the agreement came into operation. The State Government is not without some blame in the matter. I quote here a reference by the South Australian Housing Trust in its report for 1956, issued in the year immediately following the introduction of the new agreement. I shall tell the House what the Housing Trust had to say about the new agreement which this Government imposed upon the States - and I use the word “ imposed “ because it was imposed. There was no question of bargaining. The Commonwealth simply said, “ Here it is. Take it or leave it, and if you are not satisfied with it, go without.” The first page of the Housing Trust’s report for 1956 states -
The increase in the rate of interest from 3 per cent., the rate which has applied for the last ten years, to 4 per cent., which will be the probable rate for the next two years, will mean that the rent of the Trust’s new houses built with money at the higher rate of interest will be higher than that of houses built with money at the old rate. It would appear that the Trust must charge over £3 per week for a semi-detached three-bedroom brick house of its standard double-unit type . . .
There is no doubt that the reduction of 20 per cent, in the money available for building rental houses for the next two years, and thereafter for the ensuing three years of 30 per cent., will cause much hardship for families which are not in a position to buy houses even on advantageous terms. It will certainly increase yet further the waiting time for people applying to the Trust to rent houses.
I do not know whether this House knows what the exact position is, but the South Australian Housing Trust states in its latest report that the waiting time for homes there is from four to five years. That is the official estimate of the waiting time, but in actual fact - and I speak as one who has experience of trying to obtain rental homes for people desiring them - the waiting time is seven years. However, let us forget the actual time and accept the official statement that the waiting time is from four to five years. Surely no government can sit back and feel satisfied that everything is well, that everything that ought to be done in this country is being done, when people have to wait from four to five years for a home, according to the official statement of the South Australian Housing Trust itself.
I wish to relate some of the history regarding housing in South Australia, history which indicates that the Commonwealth, both under the Chifley Government and under the present Government, is not entirely to blame for the situation that has developed in South Australia. In 1945, South Australia signed the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, but refused until 1953 to avail itself of any of the money available under that agreement. The reason that the Playford Government refused to accept any of the money available to it under the agreement made with the Chifley Government was that the Playford Government did not like the provision that a certain percentage of the houses built with the money provided under the agreement had to be built for renting, and the provision that where people could not afford to pay the economic rent for the house built under the agreement a house was to be made available to them at a lower rental, the Commonwealth repaying to the State the amount by which the rebate rental fell below the economic rental. The Playford Government refused to pass on to the South Australian people a benefit which the other States allowed their people to enjoy.
The reason that the South Australian Government was able to remain independent of the financial facilities that were open to it under the Chifley housing agreement was that in 1945, shortly after the original agreement was signed, the South Australian Government brought down an act of Parliament turning the Savings Bank of South Australia into a State instrumentality, and writing into the legislation a provision that all the property and all the assets of the savings bank were to be treated as the property and the assets of the South Australian Government - or, to use the legal term, of the Crown. The Playford Government used the savings bank deposits for carrying on its housing programme, and for the use of this money it paid the savings bank only li per cent, interest, which was less than the savings bank had to pay to its depositors.
By 1953, however, the Playford Government had used up all the deposits and available cash in the savings bank on which it could lay its hands, and was compelled to obtain money under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It would not have done that either had it not found that, having dried up the resources of the savings bank, and its housing programme having suffered accordingly, it was beginning to lose votes. It had lost them at such a rate that in that year it nearly lost the election. So, the Playford Government decided to rectify the position as quickly as it could by importing Baltic timberframe homes against the advice of its experts, who said that these houses were not an economic proposition. When the Playford Government got these houses into the country, it found it could not sell them, and, in order to prevent the Housing Trust from being declared bankrupt, it was compelled to rely on the resources available to it under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Even at that late stage, when the Playford Government availed itself of the finance that it could always have had, it still did not allow people on lower incomes to have houses at a lower rate of interest and obtain the benefit of the rental rebate. Indeed, the South Australian Government laid it down in 1953 that nobody could get one of these homes for rental purposes unless his income was at least £14 a week at the time.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Perhaps we could be excused for thinking that we were sitting in the South Australian Parliament, after listening to the speech made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), because he made no statement in his speech that did not refer to South Australia. However, this debate is not confined to the position in any one State. It concerns Australia as a whole. I feel that housing is a subject on which the Labour Party should remain silent, in view of its own deplorable record in the housing field when it was in office and the transformation that has taken place since this Government has been in office. In fact, in 1949 the present Government faced an almost crippling housing shortage throughout Australia. The problem was immense and its solution was urgent. What has happened since? In the ten years since the Government came to office the number of houses and flats built in Australia has increased by 30 per cent. In 1959 there was a house or flat for every 3.7 persons whereas in 1949, there was a house or flat for only every 4.1 persons. This improvement in the position has been achieved despite the very substantial increase in population that has occurred since 1949.
The Labour Party has never encouraged home-ownership. There are on record some rather famous sayings uttered in this House which indicate the Labour Party’s policy regarding housing. The Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party, and the present Government, believe wholeheartedly in home-ownership. The policy followed by the present Government has been a success, as the figures shew. In June, 1947, 54.8 per cent, of homes were either owned by the occupants or being bought. To-day there are many more houses in Australia, but close on 75 per cent, of homes are either owned or being paid off by individuals. Since 1945 a total of 942,591 new houses and flats have been constructed in Australia, and 78 per cent, of that total has been constructed during the lifetime of the present Government.
I think it only right to give some of the facts in detail, because they tell a story quite different from that which we have heard from the Opposition. In the period from July, 1950, to December, 1959, 740,000 houses and flats were completed, and of this total 196,869 were provided with finance directly supplied by the Commonwealth Government to the States. As the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has indicated, the main responsibility for the provision of housing belongs to the State governments, but supplementary assistance to them from the Commonwealth was initiated by the Labour Government and has been continued - and increased - by this Government.
It is interesting to know that since July, 1950, there has been a record increase in housing investment in Australia. The comparative figures bear that out quite clearly. Between 1946-47 and 1949-50, £299,000,000 was invested in housing in Australia. From 1950 to the present time, £1,937,000,000 has been invested in housing in Australia. The building of houses and flats is at a record level to-day. In fact, over 86,500 new houses and flats were completed during the last calendar year, which is a record for any one year in Australia’s history.
Looking quickly at the position in relation to building materials, we see that there was a shortage of most building materials in 1949. Since then, this Government has given encouragement to the building industry, and to-day, with adequate building materials, we have been able to achieve a record level of building. There are, of course, some minor temporary shortages of building materials, but they will disappear as time goes on, and the fact is that the building industry has been able to supply sufficient materials to create this record level of building. That is a tribute to the people employed in the industry. The Opposition should recognize that.
Employment in the building industry has made a very substantial upward movement and is to-day a record. In December, 1959, the number of persons employed in new building construction was 127,035. That figure represented an increase of 25,000 in the work force since 1949.
Expenditure on housing also bears out the substantial improvement in the situation to which I have referred. In 1949-50, £34,700,000 was spent on housing. For the current financial year, 1959-60, £80,000,000 has been allocated. In the five-year period ended June, 1950, £97,000,000 was spent on housing. In the ten years ending in June of this year, £665,000,000 will have been spent. If that figure is halved and compared with £97,000,000, it will be seen that a substantia] improvement has taken place.
As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in 1956 a new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was signed. This agreement changed the emphasis from the construction of housing by State authorities for rental purposes to the stimulation of homeownership. At the outset of his speech, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that the position has been going from bad to worse since the signing of this agreement, but the figures that I have quoted indicate a substantial improvement, not only in the number of houses constructed, but in expenditure. The honorable member said that there was a shortage of housing for the lower income groups as a result of the agreement. I have figures which the honorable member may see afterwards and which indicate that the average cost of houses in all States of Australia has increased by less than £200 since 1956. I think that that is an answer to the point raised by the honorable member.
A portion of the moneys allocated to the States under the new agreement goes to building societies and other approved institutions which make loans for home-building. The effect of this has been that, under the home-builders’ account scheme, since 1956 more than 8,000 new homes have been constructed and nearly 3,000 of those have been purchased.
The honorable member for Batman also said that figures showed a decline in the number of houses constructed by State housing authorities; but did not cite the figures. If you add the number of houses constructed by the State authorities on to the number constructed under the homeownership scheme you will find a substantial improvement. Since 1956, nearly 34,000 houses and flats have been provided by State authorities alone with money made available by the Commonwealth.
Another aspect of this matter is the war service homes scheme. Since 1950, this Government has provided more than 80,400 new homes under that scheme. Expenditure to date is £303,000,000 and new construction is at record levels. The Commonwealth is also pursuing a vigorous housing policy in its own territories. In the Australian Capital Territory we can see ready evidence of that. In addition, a new scheme was introduced by this Government to foster the construction of housing for aged people by religious and charitable organizations. It commenced in 1954 on the basis of a £1 for £1 subsidy by the Commonwealth. In 1957, this was increased to £2 for £1. So far, this year, approximately £1,500,000 has been devoted to that purpose by the Commonwealth. The
Government has also encouraged banks and other financial institutions to invest a portion of their accumulated savings in housing and the response has been so good that in 1959 75 per cent. of all new houses and flats completed were financed from private sources.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This urgency debate emphasizes the housing difficulties of those people in the lower income groups. It is quite obvious that the two Government speakers who have participated in this debate have run away from this issue. I emphasize that the precarious position of people in the lower income group who are desperately in need of housing poses an urgent problem.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) stated that in Australia home ownership was enjoyed by 75 per cent. of occupiers. He gave no authority for this claim or for other figures which he brought forward in support of his argument. I shall take him up on his claim. A document, “ The Housing Situation “, issued by his own Government under the signature of Senator Spooner states that 64.9 per cent. of occupiers own their dwellings. Consequently about 35 per cent. of the people depend on rented accommodation, and many of these are in desperate need.
I am indebted to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) for figures relating to applicants for homes to the Housing Commission of New South Wales. These figures are cited as follows: -
With regard to the dissection of wage levels of applicants to the Housing Commission for accommodation, the table hereunder shows the position as at 30th June, 1959: -
We see from these official figures, supplied by the New South Wales Housing Commission, that over 77 per cent. of applicants do not receive more than £19 a week. Persons who are on incomes of from £15 to £19 a week are called upon to pay £4 or £5 a week for a home. They are in a pretty desperate situation. I think it is appreciated that in recent years the trend has been away from providing homes for rental purposes. The figures show that 36 per cent. of the homes available in New South Wales for rental purposes have been built by the Housing Commission. Private enterprise has given away completely this type of housing. It is interesting to notice the number of houses that have been built by the New South Wales Housing Commission.
Figures released by the Commonwealth Government in 1956, dealing with the housing situation, show that in June, 1954, there were 12,000 fewer homes in New South Wales for rental purposes than there were in June, 1947. Throughout Australia there were 13,520 fewer homes for rental in 1954 than there were in 1947. This shows the trend away from building for rental purposes. The document from which I quoted previously, released by the Commonwealth Government, contains a comment on this in paragraph 44, on page 15. It reads -
People who are unable, or for various reasons are unwilling, to purchase a home, experience great difficulty in obtaining a home to rent. Their only alternatives are to seek to obtain a privately rented house at an unpegged high rent (or, if extremely lucky, at a pegged rent), or to apply to a State Housing Authority, if eligible, for a State rental home. Whether the relief of the housing shortage will ease their lot only the future can tell. Before the war private investment in rental housing was accepted as a sound form of investment. But, during the war years and ever since, private investors have eschewed rental housing.
This section of our community is in a desperate situation, because government bodies are the only bodies which are providing assistance, and that assistance is extremely limited. People on lower incomes can look only to governments for assistance and succour in relation to housing. Private enterprise has completely given them away.
It is not within the competence or ability of everybody to purchase a home. Some reference was made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to the conditions prevailing in regard to home-purchase in this country, compared with the conditions in other countries, but the conditions here are not as good as he tried to make out. One of the features of home-purchase in this country is the large deposit which an intending purchaser is asked to pay. In other countries, the sum is considerably below what is asked in Australia. I point out that unless some action is taken in regard to this matter, many people who wish to buy homes will not be able to do so.
The States are labouring under grievous difficulties which have been forced upon them by the Commonwealth as a result of the 1956 agreement. That agreement increased the interest rate on housing moneys made available to the States and compelled the States to forgo the uneconomic rental arrangements. That situation has never been satisfactorily explained. I should like the next honorable member on the Government side who speaks in this debate to give the reasons why that course was followed in 1956. The increase in the rate of interest has automatically raised rents by from 8s. to 10s. a week, and the State governments are no longer able to take into consideration, when fixing rents, the financial position of the tenants.
It is rather surprising that although there seems to be unlimited money available in Australia to finance the purchase of home appliances and motor cars through hirepurchase companies, all kinds of difficulties are placed in the way of making money available for housing. I think it has been said that the government which builds homes for its people is truly building a nation. We have a deplorable situation in Australia. Nobody can say honestly that he is satisfied with the housing situation - certainly in New South Wales, about which I know something.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This move by Her Majesty’s Opposition to gain political capital from the housing shortage will be defeated, as it deserves to be defeated, but it gives me the opportunity of saying that no one welcomes a discussion of this very important question more than I do. For some considerable time the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) and other honorable members have been making inquiries of me on particular aspects of housing but I had no opportunity of addressing myself to the question until this afternoon
I can say that housing has been in the forefront of the Government’s policy ever since it was elected in 1949. Because the present Government parties had a solution to the housing problem, they excited, first of all, the admiration, and subsequently the confidence of the people of our country, and so were elected to office. Speakers on both sides of the House have made reference to the housing programme and policy of this Government and to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The States and the Commonwealth, meeting together, argued this question out and finally decided on a modus operandi which met with the approval of both parties.
I am rather surprised that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) should suggest that the representatives of the State governments which entered into this agreemen were so incompetent that they could not foresee the difficulties that he mentioned in the course of his speech. In addition to providing money under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth has taken an active part in housing. The honorable member who preceded the honorable member for Dalley mentioned war service homes, in respect of which the Commonwealth Government has a proud record. The Commonwealth Government has also discharged its responsibilities with regard to housing in the territories and also in respect of housing for its own services, including the defence services of the country.
This urgency proposal gives me the opportunity to make some reference to what was perhaps the most grievous lack of housing, as we came to recognize it, in 1949. When this Government was elected, it became obvious that social services should be expanded in a wide variety of ways. So it was that the Government overhauled the entire scheme of social services, increasing rates of social service benefits from budget to budget and from year to year, and also liberalizing the means test in respect to income and property, bringing within the scheme of social services countless thousands of people who previously had been excluded. But it is not a scrap of good doing these things if our aged people have nowhere to live. So it was that in 1950 this Government recognized, for the first time in nearly 50 years of federation, that the housing of our aged people was one of our most pressing social problems.
I suppose that it would have been within the constitutional competence of this Government, or of any preceding government, to have built gaunt institutions in the concentration points of population and to have marched the aged into them, separating a husband from his wife, a man and a woman from their friends, and both from their natural environment. It would have been competent for an insensitive government to adopt a policy of that kind. But this is not an insensitive government when a matter of housing, social services or anything else affecting the people arises. With all its faults, this Government can be described as a sensitive government. So, when this urgent social need for housing for our aged people manifested itself, an attempt was made to solve the problem.
This Government knew, as previous governments might have known, that a wide variety of churches and charitable organizations had been engaged for a great many years in providing accommodation for our aged people, and that those organizations were limited in their activities only by their financial resources. After a very careful examination of the position generally, the Government decided in 1954 that the public interest would best be served by the Commonwealth Government doing whatever lay within its financial power to induce and encourage the churches and the charitable organizations to increase the scope of their operations to provide additional accommodation for the people who needed it. In December, 1954, the Aged Persons Homes Act was introduced into and approved by the Parliament. Obviously, little progress could be made in the short period of the year that remained, but by 1955 the churches and charitable organizations concerned were encouraged to expand and extend their operations. From its very inception the Aged Persons Homes Act has met with singular success - something that is unusual in legislation of the kind.
The honorable member for Wimmera and other honorable members have asked me to refer to the allocation of moneys under that act and to state how it has affected the housing position, not only in all States of the Commonwealth but also in at least two of the Territories of the Commonwealth. It is my pleasure now to refer to that matter. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who, at the moment, is in charge of the Opposition in the chamber, has interjected to the effect that this is by way of a subsidy.
– I said that it is a supplementary scheme.
– That is true, it is a supplementary scheme. But as a supplementary scheme it has been singularly successful and has made housing accommodation available in perpetuity to a great many people.
– How many people?
– I shall deal with that in a moment.
The original scheme in 1954 provided for a grant on a £1 for £1 basis to churches, charitable and other organizations likely to be attracted to the provision of accommodation for aged people, and approved by the Governor-General. As I have said, the scheme met with the kind of success which encouraged the Government in turn to extend the provisions of the act in a variety of ways. I had the honour to introduce to the Parliament at the first opportunity an amendment to the original act providing for the formula of the grant to be changed from a basis of £1 for £1 to a basis of £2 for £1 and, at the same time, liberalizing the provisions of the act in a number of ways. In the short space of five years this Government has made available to the churches arid charitable organizations a sum in excess of £7,000,000.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Haylen) proposed -
That the Minister for Social Services be granted an extension of time.
– The House will divide. (The bells being rung) -
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, when I proposed that the Minister’s time be extended, I thought he was coming to an important matter, but I am informed now that the Government has imposed a time limit on the debate, so I ask for leave to withdraw my motion and ask that you call the honorable member for Yarra who has sought to get the call.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. King) proposed -
That the Minister for Social Services be granted an extension of time.
– No other speaker had an extension of time, why should the Minister receive one?
– Order! Is an extension of time approved?
Opposition Members. - No
– Order! Is a division required?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am indebted to the House for granting me an extension of time. I shall take only
– I move -
That the Minister for Social Services be not further heard.
-Order! The question is that the Minister for Social Services be not further heard. All who are of that opinion say, “ Aye “, the contrary, “No”. I think the “Noes” have it. I call the Minister for Social Services.
– We want a division, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– Order! I call the Minister for Social Services.
– A division was called for.
-Order! A division was not called for.
– I called for a division.
– I declared that the “ Noes “ had it when I put the motion to the House, and there was no murmur from the Opposition.
– Do you rule in that way?
– Order! The honorable member is having too much to say.
– I shall move dissent from your ruling.
– The honorable member for Grayndler is completely out of order. No ruling was given. All I did was to uphold the Standing Orders. If the honorable member moves dissent from that action on my part, he will have a job on his hands.
– On a point of order: I asked you, Sir, whether you ruled that no division was called for, and you said, “ Yes “. I said that I should move dissent from that ruling.
– There was no ruling. The Chair merely made a declaration.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sorry that this interruption occurred, because I shall take only about two minutes to complete what I want to say. I had mentioned the fact that, in the short space of five years, no less than £7,056,248 had been made available by this Government under the Aged Persons Homes Act, and I wanted to state for the first time the allocation among the six States and the two Territories of the Commonwealth. That is a matter of great interest to every honorable member who is interested in housing.
Strangely enough, no less than £2,573,246 of the vast sum of money allocated over the whole of Australia has gone to Victoria. The next State, in order of magnitude of the grants made, is New South Wales, which has received £1,890,885. Then comes South Australia, where grants totalling £1,103,282 have been made. Next in order comes Queensland, which received £643,239. Then comes Tasmania, with £393,883, and then Western Australia, with £392,793. The Northern Territory received £32,524 and the Australian Capital Territory £26,396. The total, as I have said, is £7,056,248.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed no -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the time allotted for discussion being extended by three minutes.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I follow in this debate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who has become notable all over Australia for his presumptuous humbug, which has produced reaction even from his own supporters in his electorate. His performance to-day is a typical example of this characteristic. The Minister knew very well that the time available to him in this discussion was limited to ten minutes, as is the time available to every other honorable member. Yet he had a special motion proposed in order to have the time for this discussion extended, thereby enabling him to produce some figures which are practically meaningless.
The Minister has taken great unction to himself - indeed, he is the personification of unction - because this Government has spent a little more than £7,000,000 on homes for aged persons, although, at the same time, it has given to big business in increased depreciation allowances £245,000,000. A gift of £245,000,000 to big business and an allocation of only about £7,000,000 for homes for aged persons is indicative of the kind of ratio - the kind of proportions - that is always in the minds of this Government and its supporters. The Minister says that this Government has done all that it can do for aged persons within the limits of its resources, at the same time as it has permitted the proceeds of taxation in this country to fall by 4.2 per cent, of the gross national product, and has collected £265,000,000 less in taxes. This Government will not tax the well-to-do in order to benefit the poorer people, and the housing position indicates this clearly.
The Opposition has raised this matter for discussion because it is concerned about the housing of those in the lower income groups. This proposal is not concerned with housing generally. Hardly anything that we have heard from the Government side of the House in answer to our arguments has anything to do with the housing of people on lower incomes. All the Government’s attention has been concentrated on aggregate figures and averages. Let me refer for a moment to some of these aggregate figures. Government supporters have quoted figures indicating the number of houses constructed in Australia as a whole. The characteristic about these figures is that they have fluctuated violently and that, over long periods, there have been considerable falls during the time that this Government has been in office. In Victoria, in 1951-52, 24,088 homes were completed. In 1953-54, only 21,592 were constructed. The number constructed in 1954-55 rose to 24,620, and in 1956-57 only 21,080 homes were built. In 1958-59, the number increased to 25,764 - only about 1,000 more than in 1951-52.
I point out that these figures indicate the number of houses completed. But we should look also at the underlying factor of the number under construction. In this connexion, I refer the House to the official figures, which indicate that in 1950-51 - nearly ten years ago - the number of houses under construction in Victoria was the highest it has ever been during the term of office of this Government. In that year, 27,308 homes were under construction in Victoria. In almost every year since, the number has fallen, and in 1958-59 only 17,906 homes were under construction in Victoria. The statistics for the number of houses completed show fluctuations in the speed at which new homes are commenced and in the speed at which they are completed. The figures for the number of houses under construction is a much more substantial indication and it shows a fall in almost every year during which this Government has been in office.
A second factor in this problem is that we are not building enough houses for people especially for future needs. Sir Herbert Hyland, who is a representative of the Victorian Country Party in the Victorian Parliament, has pointed out that in the years between now and 1963 something like 33,000 homes a year will be needed in Victoria. The present rate of completion is only about 25,000 a year and the present rate of construction is only 17,906. In particular, we say that the present Government’s record of housing in the aggregate is not good enough. This Government is complacent and self-satisfied and if it maintains its present record it will not meet Australia’s future housing needs.
But we on this side of the House are concerned with the people on low incomes - the people whose requirements these aggregate efforts are not meeting. In 1937, a royal commission in Victoria was given conclusive evidence that private enterprise could not build, and never has built, enough houses to meet the needs of these people. To-day, practically no dwellings are being built for rent, and none at all are being built for people on low incomes. The people whose housing needs can be met only by the provision of housing by public authorities are a special topic in this discussion. They are a special responsibility of this Government, because it is responsible for providing, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the funds needed for the construction of this kind of housing. There is no other source of funds for the purpose. The total funds provided in this special field of need, in which the present Commonwealth Government has a special responsibility, have fallen from £37,000,000 in 1953-54 to £33,000,000 in the current financial year. These funds have declined by £4,000,000 over a period in which the cost of construction has risen by at least 30 per cent.
The number of homes built with these funds has fallen. In Victoria and New South Wales, where the need is greatest, the allocation of funds has fallen from £24,450,000 in 1953-54 to £21,000,000. The position is indicated very clearly by the exact figures for the number of houses completed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In 1954-55, the Victorian Housing Commission built 3,960 homes with funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This year, the number will be 2,189. In New South Wales, in 1954-55, 4,932 houses were built by the New South Wales Housing Commission with funds from this source, and in the current financial year the number will be only 3,292. The total for Australia in 1954-55 was 14,318, and to-day it is 9,179. The supply of homes has fallen but the demand has risen, as is indicated by the waiting list in Victoria. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has said that applications for homes in Victoria in 1956 totalled 11,550, and the latest figure for that State is 17,481. Nobody has any hope of getting a home from the Housing Commission in Victoria unless he has been on the waiting list for three or four years.
What is the response of this Government to the situation? The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has said that most of the States have all the money they want. Is that a fact? The right honorable gentleman said also that some States had reduced the amount of money they had allocated to housing. Where does the responsibility lie? Is it true that the Government of Victoria considers that it has sufficient money for housing? As the responsibility is passed from the Commonwealth to the States the position of people Of Victoria is becoming increasingly difficult. Rent controls have been lifted in Victoria from 75,000 dwellings, and this is causing great hardship and anxiety. I know of one home at 54 Mater-street, Collingwood, on which the rent increase demanded is £1 5s. to £5 5s. The rent increase on a dwelling at 13 Egan-street, Richmond, is from £1 5s. to £6 10s. The rent increase on a house at 25 Bosista-street, Richmond, is from £1 17s. 6d. to £6, and the rent on a house at 34 Charles-street, Richmond, from £1 15s. to £6. I could cite hundreds of similar cases. All the persons affected are pensioners or people in difficult circumstances.
The Government’s record is shameful. The evidence is overwhelming. The Opposition is concerned with the housing of those whose need is greatest, and who are not being catered for by private enterprise. At the same time, they are not able to get assistance now from public sources because this Government is not willing to provide sufficient money for the purpose. The case has been demonstrated and proved conclusively, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are concerned with the housing of those on low incomes such as the pensioners and the families of workers who receive £15 or £16 a week in wages. We are concerned, in fact, with 33 per cent, of the community.
We say that the housing position is getting worse every day. Thousands of people are living in dilapidated or slum dwellings, and this Government is not accepting its responsibilities. We say constructively that at least £50,000,000 a year should be provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement compared with the total of £33,000,000 that is now provided. The Opposition believes that the Aged Persons Homes Act, of which the Treasurer is so proud, should be made a Necessitous Persons Homes Act, and that the £7,000,000 the Minister claims to have provided for aged persons’ homes should be doubled in a period similar to that which has elapsed since the legislation was introduced. The funds so provided should be available to an increased number of organizations, and municipal authorities and State governments should be brought under that legislation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) begins most of his speeches by criticizing the Government for granting tax concessions or depreciation allowances. I refuse to believe that the honorable member is so naive that he cannot see a very close connexion between the provision of homes for the people of Australia and concessions such as those provided by this Government. Such concessions encourage industries and employment, and thus assist in the provision of housing. The honorable member went on to criticize the Government because it was not making provision in its housing scheme - which it does not possess and does not have to possess - for the lower income groups. The honorable member is fully aware of the conditions under which money is made available through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Except for the money allocated to building societies and the small fraction for building homes for defence personnel, there is no restriction on what a State government does with the money. Each State government is free to build any type of house anywhere for any type of person.
Time after time, we get this criticism from the Opposition side about what the Government is doing and what it is not doing. I refuse to believe that the honorable member for Yarra is naive enough to believe himself. He spoke about rental increases in Victoria. It is easy to get figures and say that the rental of a house has risen from £1 10s. to £6. That is shocking for persons who have to pay the higher rentals; but several speakers earlier quoted from the reports of State housing commissions to the effect that the day of the speculative builder was gone, and that speculators were no longer building for investment. What is the reason? If a person has a capital investment of £10,000 or £7,000 on market values in a house, and is restricted to a rental of £1 10s. a week, he quickly loses interest in housing as an investment. Nobody will put money into the construction of houses for renting if he cannot appreciate his capital.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) and others who are interjecting should examine the position in Western Australia in connexion with housing. In Western Australia, there was the same sort of outcry that we have heard in this House to-day about the lifting of rent controls. Immediately controls were lifted, there was a rise in rental charges. That situation is inevitable, unnecessary perhaps and not very favorable to those concerned, but after a time it levels out. Many people who are in possession of large homes or who occupy them have only two persons in the family, but they will not let part of the premises to families or large groups if rentals are restricted. Therefore, couples take up accommodation which could be used by more people. Ultimately, there is a benefit from the lifting of rent controls and the situation levels itself out.
Throughout this debate, the Opposition has been placing the blame for the housing situation at the door of the Commonwealth Government. Not one of the speakers on the Opposition side has taken the trouble to look at the statistics for the whole of Australia, State by State. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that the position was worst in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the big industrial States, because they had had a greater influx of immigrants and a bigger growth of population over the past ten years. None of bis arguments was based on fact. They were pure fiction. If honorable members study any year book which contains the relevant figures, they will find that the graphs follow a certain pattern. Where there has been a big increase in the number of immigrants and the growth of population, there is a corresponding expansion in housing. I am not blaming one party or another for lack of housing, but the pattern is fairly clear.
The latest figures available - for the years 1947-56 - giving the number of new houses and flats completed in the various States and the rate of construction in proportion to population, are enlightening. In New South Wales, housing units completed between 1947 and 1956 totalled 210,133. This was an average annual rate of increase for each 1,000 of population of 7.12. The comparative figures for Victoria were 181,307 or 8.73 per 1,000; Queensland, 85,825 or 7.71; South Australia, 58,198 or 8.72; Western Australia, 55,238 or 10.43; and Tasmania, 25,956 or 9.89. The highest figure was that for Western Australia at 10.43 for each 1,000 of population, compared with the average annual rate for the six States of 8.12; yet Western Australia is the least industrialized State. The rate of increase in New South Wales of 7.12 per 1,000 of population was below the Australian average of 8.12. Victoria, the other State mentioned by the honorable member for Batman, had a rate of 8.73, which was just above the Australian average. In the same period, the population of New South Wales increased by 19 per cent., Victoria by 26.8 per cent., Queensland by 23.9 per cent., South Australia by 31.3 per cent., Western Australia by 34.8 per cent, and Tasmania by 24.3 per cent., and the Australian average was 24.1 per cent. Again, Western Australia had the highest increase in population during that period, whilst New South Wales had an increase of 19 per cent, compared with the Australian average of 24 per cent.
– But New South Wales has 500,000 more people.
– Take that argument a logical step further. If you have 500,000 more, if you have heavy industrialization and if you have greater wealth in the community, you should have a greater capacity to build more houses in the State. When I first came into this House a few years ago, I heard criticism of the Government’s immigration policy. The argument was that immigrants were robbing Australians of houses. But we find that the State with the highest percentage increase of population also had the highest number of houses completed per 1,000 of population, and that is Western Australia. I am not talking about the New South Wales or Victorian scene now, but I know that the migrants who came to Western Australia in the post-war years were the ones who produced the timber, the cement, the asbestos, the bricks and all the other articles needed to build houses. The figures show that the States with the highest intake of immigrants had the best results in the production of building materials and the best results in the building of houses.
I agree with the honorable member for Yarra that it is time we stopped laying the blame at each other’s door. The people of Victoria do not know who is responsible, the Commonwealth or the State. However, I think Opposition members should be a little careful. If they advocate another £50,000,000 a year for housing and ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to double the grant for the construction of homes for the aged, and then in a debate on education say that a further £50,000,000 should be granted for this purpose, they should add all the figures and work out where the money will come from.
– The money would come from taxation, where it always comes from.
– Yes, and then we get back to what I said at first: Surely you are not naive enough to believe that there is no connexion between the encouragement of business and the encouragement of development, and the sort of thing you are seeking. In 1957, in my own State which 1 have shown had the greatest growth in population, 1,760 houses were completed, 800 from Commonwealth funds and 571 from war service homes funds, which again comes from the Commonwealth, and the housing commission in its annual report referred to the “ improving housing situa tion”. If we did what the Opposition suggests should be done and that is have a house for every one who needs a house, regardless of all other conditions, so that not one person in Australia would need a house, instead of raising housing as a matter of urgency, the Opposition would find itself in a position where it should have to raise the subject of unemployment among building workers.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) in raising the following matter for discussion: -
The failure of the Government to provide adequate funds to the State government housing instrumentalities to enable them to build sufficient houses to meet the growing accommodation needs of the community, particularly those in the lower income groups . . .
I stress the concluding phrase. Most of the speeches of Government supporters have been concerned with aspects of housing that do not concern these groups. In raising this matter, we think of the 33 per cent, of the population who find it difficult to obtain suitable accommodation at a price within their income bracket. These groups contain the pensioners, workers on low incomes and many others.
To-day, I want to stress the humanity of housing. It is about time that the Government realized that a great deal of humanity is mixed up in the material question of housing, lt is not a matter of money; it is a matter of an attitude. If the attitude of a government is right, the finance will be right. If the Government cannot appreciate the full significance of the question, it will, of course, be hard to convince it that more money is needed. Housing is the barometer of a nation’s progress. A nation is judged on its housing programme. The building industry is the biggest and most vital of all industries. It has an amazing assortment of allied industries and employs the largest work force in the nation. When home-building is healthy, the economy is healthy. When home-building languishes, unemployment rises. Financial starvation of housing, therefore, is treachery towards a nation’s economy. I do not care what government is in power; ] still believe that that is true. Financial starvation of housing slows down our greatest industry. Shortage of homes stunts population growth, breeds discontent and disharmony, stultifies and breaks marriages, germinates slums and breeds crime, lawlessness and delinquency.
Money invested in housing is the most far-reaching and influential of all investments. Getting our people housed is the finest objective a nation can have. Our national survival, and even our spiritual survival, is bound up with a rapid, widespread housing programme. There is about housing a material and a spiritual aspect. There is a physical and a human aspect, because homes mean people and people mean homes. Building homes is different from building business premises, hotels and motels, schools, factories and workshops. These are largely impersonal, but homes are intensely personal. They concern the creation and maintenance of family life. They come first; the rest comes afterwards. They are the heartbeat of a nation. They are the first school we attend and the first university. They are the foundation of a nation’s true personality. There, character is born and nurtured. There the seeds of evil or good are sown. National disaster comes from disaster in the home life of the people.
Homes house humanity. There is thus an overriding moral and material obligation on the nation to provide sufficient homes to cater for all needs, and no excuse can be justified. The first call on finance must be for homes. That is primary, urgent and vital. In my opinion, all else is secondary. Let sufficient funds be provided and the materials and man-power will follow. That is axiomatic. Housing creates its own material needs, and acts with a snowballing effect, because of the ancilliary industries. There are at least 40 of these in Australia to-day, interlocked and interdependent on housing. They include tile, brick and timber; manufacture of machinery; nail and steel manufacture; plaster sheet, plywood and wall-board manufacture; galvanized iron manufacture; concrete; sand, gravel and stone; furniture and joinery; carpet, lino, and lino, tiles; electrical appliances such as carpet sweepers, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and washing machines; kitchen utensil manufacture; manufacture of electric light shades and globes; blinds; and the aluminium industry. Unless we provide sufficient money to keep these great industries in production, we will set up a chain reaction that will adversely affect the nation. To limit finance is like cutting an artery in the human body. Finance is the life-blood of a nation, and the effect of limiting it is as fatal to the nation as severing an artery is to a human being.
Low rental housing must be provided, for not every one can afford £4 or £5 a week. Tasmania has a scheme under which finance for housing is provided without deposit, and it is the only State with such a scheme. And last year we got £l,500,000-odd under this agreement and we were able to build only eleven more homes than in the previous year. That is not sufficient to cater for the growing needs even of our State. We appeal, this afternoon, to the Government to have another look at this scheme to see if it cannot pump another £1,000,000 or so into the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement because it is paramount, for the reasons I have stated, to have our people housed. The housing commissions alone cater for the low-rental homes and private enterprise is not interested. The building societies, lending societies and the State are all vital to-day in the housing of those who require lowrental homes, and they are usually the people who have the largest families. Some of the community can afford to pay big rentals. They can afford to pay perhaps £1,000 deposit or a rental of £5 or £6 per week for the type of house they want. But all of these agencies, the Government, private industry, building societies and cooperatives, are interested and have, together, to find the money for housing; and the weapon with which they fight this battle to house the people is finance, and if finance languishes, so does housing.
Risks must be taken for the sake of the people who are still to be housed. Our survival depends upon it and the happiness and well-being of the people depend on it, and so we appeal to this Government to have another look at the humanities of housing, let alone the material benefits that accrue from proper housing. To have any one living in shacks or with in-laws just after they are married is disastrous to their spiritual well-being and to the state of the country generally. Lack of proper housing leads to a divided set-up between husband and wife. We have many people coming to us in cases in which the husband is living in one place and the wife in another. Although there is no break in the marriage, there is a break in that sense; and if it is thought by the Government that we can build a strong nation on that basis, I am sure it has another think coming. We bring this plea to the Government in all sincerity and ask it to have another look at the question.
Statistics are all very well, but they are cold-blooded. This afternoon we are talking about people, because homes need people and people need homes and we will be a stronger nation if we have all our people properly and adequately housed at rents which they can afford to pay within their own income brackets. The Government must play its part, because private enterprise is prepared only to build homes out of which it can make a profit. The Government should be prepared to take a risk in this regard, and that is its responsibility on the basis of sheer humanity. I appeal to the Government to have another look at the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to see whether, in the next Budget, it cannot provide another £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 to meet the housing task that we have dealt with this afternoon.
– If I might remind honorable gentlemen, the charge made by the Opposition is that the Commonwealth Government is not affording sufficient finance for housing at the present time. It is an extraordinary charge for the Opposition to make, is it not? Previous speakers, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other honorable members on this side of the House who followed him, have given figures and statistics to show, first of all, that the amount of money made available by this Government was never exceeded by any previous government and, in particular, that it compares very favorably with the amount of money made available by the immediately preceding government. They showed that the number of houses being built at present is an all-time record, as is the number of people employed in the building industry.
– None of those statements is true.
– Different materials are available now, which formerly were not available; and I repeat the statements I have just made, because I am not impressed by the honorable member’s denial of them. The figures do show an all-time record in those respects which I mentioned, but of course the Opposition says that people on very low incomes find difficulty in finding the deposit necessary to enable them to buy a house.
I would like now to say a few words about what has brought about that situation. Prior to the war there was a large number of people who were prepared to build houses for renting. A lot of people were prepared to build, perhaps, a pair of semi-detached cottages against their old age, in order to live in one and rent the other on retirement and, in the meantime, have a small rent roll. Those people no longer exist and it is quite true that there are now fewer houses for renting, perhaps, than there ought to be. I understand that statement because particularly when young people are first married they might very well have the facility of being able to rent a house for a short time until they find out where they are going to settle and where the working partner is to be permanently employed. During that time a rented home would give them the necessary mobility and a short time in which to amass the savings necessary for them to have a reasonable deposit to place on a house when they had determined where they were to go.
The State housing commissions, which get a great part of the money which comes from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, are free to build rental dwellings if they so wish. The decision not to build rental homes is not that of this Government, but is entirely the decision of the State governments. In my State the government has preferred to build houses out in certain electorates rather than build flats or tourist hotels in the inner parts of the cities where people who want houses there have usually in the past wanted to rent them. That has been the policy of the State governments, over which this Government has no control; and if there is a dearth of rented houses that is entirely due to the doings of the State housing commissions. I repeat that they are free to do that if they wish to.
– Is it not true that most of the land available now is in the far outer suburbs?
– That is not true and in this regard I would refer to Surry Hills and Paddington, for instance, in Sydney. Dense housing there would house many more people than would housing in the Dundas Valley or Seven Hills; but the Government of New South Wales prefers to play politics with the money instead of offering the people what they need, as the Opposition says; that is to say, rented housing close to the city where transport costs are low and where the people will be near the facilities which they usually want.
– That would density the housing.
– I think that might be a very good thing. The other thing I want to mention is that the disappearance of those who would have provided rented houses has been due entirely to the manner in which control has been clamped down and held on too long. We cannot expect people to build rental houses if they are threatened with rent control, which at times has been quite tyrannous. So, that group of people has disappeared. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) is always fond of talking about substandard houses but the real cause of substandard housing is rent control. The basic reason for it is rent control, and nothing else.
– But there was sub-standard housing 50 years before there was any rent control.
– The shortage of rented houses for persons who wish to rent them, either because of their inability to raise a deposit to buy a home, or for personal reasons, cannot be laid at the door of this Government, which has made available enough money for the States to have built rental houses if they had wanted to. They prefer to build houses for sale and, in the case of the New South Wales Government, to make profits by the sale of these houses. At the present time the amount of money made available by the Commonwealth is regulated by this agreement, and previous speakers have pointed out that the amount is annually determined by the Premiers. They can have more if they want it.
– But the States get only 70 per cent. of the money, do they not?
– That is so, and the reason is that the building societies can provide more houses with the money they get under the agreement, because the homebuilders’ fund is a circulating fund, and as there are repayments into it the money goes out again. To date £1,200,000 has gone out for a second time from the homebuilders’ fund. That is not true of the 70 per cent. of the money which goes to the State Housing Commissions, because in that instance anything that is repaid goes to repay the Commonwealth, through the States, and if there is any profit, it remains in the consolidated revenue funds of the States. If the States want any more they can ask for it at the annual Premiers’ Conference.
– But if they get more for housing they will get less for public works.
– Of course! That is a very sensible remark by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If the States get more for one thing they will have to get less for another, because the amount of money available is not infinite. So, something has to be given priority, and some trimming has to be done in accordance with the amount of money available. The six Premiers not only decide the amount of money, but decide how it is to be cut up, and they do so annually. That is the situation at present. The main burden of the motion is that the Government is not making enough money available.
– For the housing commissions.
– If the motion merely means that the 70 per cent. ought to be changed all I can say is that that percentage was agreed to by the Premiers, and no doubt will be agreed to again.
– It is only 65 per cent.
– Because 5 per cent. is for war service homes, which relieves the housing commissions of that much responsibility.
– But the commissions do not have the right to nominate for that 5 per cent.
– Of course they do not. The Commonwealth supplements what the States do in respect of housing. A great deal of money goes into war service homes. In addition, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has pointed out, there are the aged persons homes. The money spent by the Commonwealth on these is in addition to the five per cent. of the total housing allocation which it spends on war service homes. Also, this Government has stimulated the private lending institutions into lending more money now than they have lent for a considerable time. By dint of the encouragement given by this Government the private lending institutions have come back into this field, and are to-day doing more than they have done for a very long time past.
– What about the co-operative building societies?
– They also are doing their part.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Two things stand out very clearly from the speech made by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). One is that he is opposed to State housing commissions, and to their building of homes. The second is that he is opposed to rent control. The workers should particularly note the attitude of the Attorney-General. In common with other speakers on the other side of the House he has continually criticized State governments and those two aspects of their housing administration. I can well understand the Attorney-General not wanting to see housing commission homes built. When all is said and done, in the Dundas Valley, in the very centre of his electorate, many thousands of workers to-day live in comfortable houses because they are established in good homes built by the Labour Government of New South Wales. In addition to living in reasonable comfort, they are at the same time exercising their democratic right and, in the main, vote against Liberal representation of that area in this Parliament. So, no wonder the Attorney-General would like to remove from the Dundas Valley those thousands of housing commission homes put there by a Labour government. Every one of the electors there should remember that in this Parliament their member has said that he is opposed to rent control. I believe that that shows that he is in favour of exorbitant rents, to be taken from the meagre incomes that these people have as a result of the wage-pegging policy of this Government. The Attorney-General expressed quite clearly and frankly the attitude taken by honorable members opposite in general. They do not like a socialist housing scheme. They do not want to peg rents because they are on the side of those who would exploit the people as much as they could.
The Attorney-General said that rent control has held back the building of homes. What has held back the building of homes is the failure of this Government to make available to the State instrumentalities adequate funds in order that they may provide enough homes for people in the lowerincome groups and for the population generally.
I listened to-day to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and, much to my disgust, rarely in my time in this Parliament have I had to listen to so much humbug and hypocrisy as the Minister brought forth. He stated, first, that this Government was elected because it had a solution to the housing problem and therefore had won the confidence of the people. Speakers from this side of the House have pointed out that although the Government is supposed to have a solution to the housing problem there are countless thousands in practically every State who are urgently in need of homes and cannot get them - and the reason that they cannot get them is the policy followed by this Government. That position is the reason for the motion.
The Minister also spoke of what he called the proud record of the Government in relation to war service homes and the Territories. I intend to deal at this stage with the proud record of the Minister for Social Services and the Government in relation to war service homes. First, there is a waiting period of 22 months before an exserviceman who fought for this country can get a war service home under this Government - fifteen years after the end of the last war! In 1950-51 the number of war service homes provided was 15,579. In 1958-59 the number was 14,699. Fourteen years after the end of the war the Government built 1,000 fewer war service homes than were built in 1950-51. In 1958-59 there were 22,200 applications for war service homes outstanding. In 1950-51 the number outstanding was 23,500. So in ten years honorable gentlemen opposite have reduced the war service homes lag by not more than 1,300 - a mere fraction of what is required.
Under this Government the cost of a war service home in New South Wales has increased from £2,080 to £3,918- an increase of 56 per cent, under a government 75 per cent, of whose members in this Parliament are said to be ex-servicemen - a fact of which, the Minister for Social Services says, the Government is proud. In 1950-51 the Government spent £20,150,000 on war service homes. In 1958-59 it spent only £18,390,000. So, despite the increase of costs in that time, the Government spent less in 1958-59 on war service homes than it spent almost ten years ago. Although the cost of building a war service home has increased by 56 per cent, the Government is providing a much lower nett amount for such homes than it did in 1950-51, and it still has more than 22,000 people waiting for these homes.
At one time the loan available to an ex-serviceman for a war service home was 90 per cent, of the cost. To-day, under this Government, it is only 60 per cent. Yet the Minister for Social Services talks about the proud record of the Government in respect of war service homes. We all know how ex-servicemen wanting to buy homes are forced to seek accommodation from financial houses - as the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Social Services like them to have to do - and have to pay interest at the rate of 8 per cent., 10 per cent, and 12 per cent.
– Order! The time allotted for the discussion has expired.
Debate resumed from 5th May (vide page 1484), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When this debate was adjourned last Thursday evening the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) had just concluded his speech. He seemed to be uncomfortable in seeking to justify the actions of the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford. The Minister’s usual urbane manner was greatly disturbed. He became most indignant in his declarations, but his words were very unsatisfying. Trenchant criticism was levelled against the Government of South Australia in three excellent speeches delivered by the honorable members for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), Kingston (Mr. Galvin) and Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). The facts and figures disclosed by those speakers left it very difficult for honorable gentlemen on the Government side to find any justification for the continuance in office in South Australia of a government that obviously does not possess the support of the majority of people of that State.
We all concur that this amount of £1,027,000 should be granted to South Australia. However, this bill provides an opportunity to speak about those who are required to administer the money granted by this Parliament, and to consider whether they are the rightful people to govern the affairs of that State. Information which was supplied to me by the Honorable M. ^Halloran, who is the Leader of the South Australian Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly during the recent by-election which was held in the State Division of Light in South Australia indicated disapproval of the State Government by most of the people of that State. At that by-election, the Government lost the votes of many people who formerly had supported its viewpoint. Labour improved its vote by 12 per cent, and finds itself in a much more favorable position because the people have discovered the true nature of the Government of South Australia.
In 1959, enrolments in metropolitan electorates in South Australia had increased to a total of 313,000 electors who had the right to return thirteen members to the House of Assembly. Enrolments in country districts numbered 185,000 electors who were able to return 26 members to the lower house. In other words, metropolitan seats, of one of which you, Mr. Speaker, are a very distinguished member, had an average of 24,100 electors while country seats had an average of 7,100. I resent the idea, Mr. Speaker, of your vote having only one-half of the value of the votes of, say, the Minister for Immigration, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) or the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). I suggest that most inequitable electoral methods in South Australia have resulted in the election of an undemocratic State Government.
The aggregate vote at the last three general elections in South Australia has resulted in substantial majorities for Australian Labour Party candidates. In 1953, Labour polled 167,000 votes while the Liberal-Country Party polled 119,000. Labour’s majority on that occasion was 48,000, yet it did not become the Government of South Australia because of the gerrymandered constituencies in that State. In 1956, Labour secured 129,000 votes and the Liberal-Country Party secured 100,000, a majority for Labour of 29,000. Still, Labour was denied the right to govern that State. In 1959, the number of votes recorded for Labour totalled 185,000 and the number recorded for the LiberalCountry Party was 136,000, a majority for Labour of 49,000 votes.
A viewpoint on this subject has been expressed by two eminent constitutional authorities, namely Quick and Garran. At pages 465 and 466 of their book, very strong condemnation of this kind of practice is expressed. The vital words are the following: -
– They are not electorates. They are rotten boroughs.
– As the honorable member for Parkes suggests, this system should be wholly condemned. The people in South Australia are beginning to realize that the Government which has been elected in that State by no means represents the choice of the South Australian electorate. But as bad as the House of Assembly is, as a result of this form of gerrymander, the position in regard to the Legislative Council is not much different. In South Australia threefourths of the women who vote for the
House of Assembly are denied the right to vote for the Legislative Council. It is possible, in this connexion for an ill-disposed and in other ways unworthy person who has some claim to a property to be able to claim the right to vote for the Legislative Council, whereas the mother of a wholesome and honest family is denied that opportunity. This State, which was the second of all countries in the world to grant women suffrage, denies to threefourths of its women voters an effective voice in this branch of the affairs of government of South Australia. Surely in this enlightened twentieth century, when universal suffrage is generally accepted no one would deny to a large proportion of citizens the right to express their opinion in the election of government. It is with a view to bringing these matters to the notice of the people, particularly the citizens of South Australia and to seek a correction of the electoral system in that State as early as possible, that I have stated these facts.
I now wish to make another comment about the Government of South Australia and particularly the Premier. I feel that he does a distinct disservice to South Australia by indicating that it will become a non-claimant State. South Australia continues to suffer many disabilities because its revenue is inadequate to provide various essential services for the people. There is a great need for an accelerated programme of housing, hospitals and schools. In almost every instance schools are over-crowded; and although the Government is providing many kinds of cheap temporary premises with a view to meeting the great demand, the number of children in classes is far in excess of the maximum that would enable a teacher to give effective tuition.
The position of hospitals is deplorable and is far from adequate to meet the growing needs of the State. I shall quote some figures to show how much South Australia is contributing to education and hospitals in this era of well-being that we are supposed to be enjoying. According to the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for 1957-58 the average expenditure per capita in all States on education was 171s. but in South Australia it was 154s. That State contributed the second lowest amount per head of population for education, both primary and secondary. The total payment on education, including contributions to universities, technical schools, libraries and agricultural colleges, for all States, was 212s. lid. per capita, but South Australia spent only 206s. 8d. per person. Again it was below the standard set in the aggregate for the whole of Australia.
With regard to hospitals, South Australia, under Sir Thomas Playford pays 78s. per head but the average cost, per capita, for the six States of Australia is 87s. lOd. Hospital accommodation in South Australia has suffered because of the inadequate amount made available from Consolidated Revenue for this purpose. South Australia’s payment per capita for hospitals was the lowest of any State in Australia. That is a pretty poor compliment to South Australia, particularly to its Government and those who are responsible for such a condition. That State’s infant mortality in 1958, per thousand of the population, was the highest in Australia, and very few points less in 1959.
– From what are you reading?
– I am reading from the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and from other documents. If any of these statements are challenged by Government supporters, I shall be able to cite chapter and verse to cover everything that I have said.
The Playford Government spent 5s. per head of population on child welfare, whereas the average for all States was 7s. Id. Let me now deal with a matter in relation to which not only Sir Thomas Playford but also honorable gentlemen in this House strike themselves on the chest with pride. I refer to the care of the aged. The information contained in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission exposes the gross deceit of certain public men who parade their sympathy for and interest in the aged. In South Australia 8s. 8d. per head of population is spent on the care of the aged, but the average for all States is 9s. 9d. South Australia’s payments on all items of social services are below those of the other States. It is the poor who suffer in South Australia - the State which the Premier claims to be prosperous. There may be prosperity for the section of the community whose social and financial posi- tion is secure because of the high prices, profits and dividends which it receives, but there is certainly no prosperity for the great majority of people in that politically mismanaged State.
The grand total of payments made by the Government of South Australia for social services including administration, education, hospitals, mental institutions, the care of the aged, child welfare, prisons and public security is 378s. 6d. per head of population whereas the average for all States is 409s. 7d. That figure of 378s. 6d. should be written on a piece of paper and every supporter of the Liberal Government in South Australia should paste it in his hat.
– What a terrible story!
– I have merely stated the facts. Let some of the wiseacres on the Government side of the chamber deny them if they dare. If they are honest and quote the record fairly, they will not deny what I have said. Unfortunately South Australia, with three other States, is in the lowest bracket in relation to wages, hours of employment and standards generally in industry. And the Premier prides himself upon what he regards as the prosperity of that State, and preens himself because he thinks that the position in South Australia justifies his position in perpetuity as the leader of the State Government. That Government has adopted every means at its disposal to secure itself in office. It has manipulated the electoral boundaries and has altered the electoral code with the clear purpose of keeping Labour out of office although the people have demonstrated by an overwhelming majority that they wish Labour to govern. The Government of South Australia has made its presence felt by adopting grossly unfair and gravely unjust methods which are completely opposed to the true spirit of democracy.
In the Commonwealth sphere we have adult suffrage. Every adult who is a citizen of this country has the right to vote at federal elections and each vote is of equal value. But in South Australia a great many people, who rightly feel that they should be given this form of expression, are denied it under the existing electoral code. Their votes are ineffective. Labour has endeavoured to present the true position to the electors, and we are glad to see that an increasing number of people are prepared to accept Labour’s viewpoint. The result in the recent by-election in the electorate of Light was indeed a startler to those on the Government side of the House and their cohorts in the South Australian Parliament because it indicated that the time is fast approaching when, despite all their efforts to arrest the tide, a Labour government will be returned to office - a government which will be truly representative of the people in South Australia. When this happens, the people of that State will have their first truly democratic representation for over 21 years.
The legislation which is now before us provides an opportunity to express views which I feel will find’ great favour with the majority of the people in South Australia who have awakened to the fact that the so-called prosperity which they enjoy is, by no means, the standard of prosperity which they have the right to enjoy. Much more substantial aid, than is being given at present in relation to the matters which I have mentioned, should be forthcoming.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, it is most regrettable that a man who poses as a pious person and who preaches in the Church has this afternoon made a cruel and bitter attack on the South Australian Government and, in the process, quoted entirely false and erroneous figures. The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) quoted electoral figures to indicate that, at the last State general election in South Australia, when the people showed their great confidence in the Liberal Government, Labour ought to have had an outstanding victory. He entirely omitted to mention the fact that, in a great number of electorates, the Labour Party did not even dare to oppose Liberal and Country League members. Furthermore, in the strongest Liberal and Country League electorates, since there was no contest, there was no record of voting for the respective parties. Yet the honorable member endeavoured to lead the public to believe that Labour ought to have had a majority in South Australia. He quoted only the overall figures for the electorates that were contested and left out of consideration the electorates that were not contested. His contention is not logical. Indeed, it is completely erroneous, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that the Playford Government had an overwhelming victory.
In this debate, we have heard a series of speeches from Labour members running down South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, the Liberal and Country League Premier, and the Liberal and Country League Government. Sir Thomas Playford has broken all records for a term of service as. Premier of South Australia. He has led the State out of its position as the poorest State in the Commonwealth to a position in which it is the richest, most prosperous and most happy State. I shall cite facts and figures to prove this. Last week, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) compared South Australia with New South Wales and Queensland because South Australia had had a Liberal and Country League government for some twenty years and Queensland and New South Wales had had Labour governments over the same period’. I am quite prepared to accept the honorable member’s challenge and I shall prove to the House that, while South Australia has gone from weakness, to strength, New South Wales and Queensland have gone back from strength to weakness compared with the average for all States of the Commonwealth. The facts and figures establish this.
Let us first look at employment, Sir. What better evidence of prosperity in a particular State is there than the level of employment? From 1954 to 1959, employment increased by 8.1 per cent, in New South Wales, 6.4 per cent, in Queensland and 10.7 per cent, in South Australia. In other words, employment has increased in South Australia at a faster rate than in either of the two States which were governed by Labour over the same period. If we compare the figures for the years 1958 and 1959, we find that in 1959 employment was 1.01 per cent, higher than in 1958 in New South Wales, 1.53 per cent, higher in Queensland and 2.89 per cent, higher in South Australia. The increase in South Australia was more than twice as great as that in New South Wales and almost twice as great as that in Queensland.
Let us now consider registrations for employment. The proportion of the workforce registered for employment in New South Wales is 1.2 per cent. In Queensland, the figure is 2.2 per cent, and in South Australia 1.1. per cent. In other words, South Australia has the highest rate of employment per head of population in these three States. There are fewer people looking for work in South Australia. Labour members from South Australia try to drag it down in the dirt despite the evidence of the facts and figures. All South Australian citizens know that they are lucky to have a condition of full employment, which is evidence of the best employment position in all the Australian States. South Australians know that they are lucky to be more prosperous than are the people of the other States. The housing position is better in South Australia than in the other States.
I turn now to population increase, which is a very good barometer of prosperity, Mr. Speaker. The population increase is 1.83 per cent, in New South Wales, 1.48 per cent, in Queensland and 2.71 per cent, in South Australia. The South Australian rate is nearly twice that of Queensland and substantially greater than that of New South Wales. What is the position with respect to migrants? They, I am glad to say, are free people. They choose the State to which they will go. Why is it that more migrants are going to South Australia than to either New South Wales or Queensland?
– It is because they get better television programmes in South Australia.
– It is because they receive better treatment there.
By citing figures published in the Commonwealth Statistician’s “Year-Book”, I have shown that employment is increasing faster in South Australia than in the States with Labour governments, that the population is increasing more rapidly in South Australia than in the other two States mentioned, and that the flow of migrants to South Australia has been greater than that to the other two States. Labour members who represent South Australian constituencies in this House - notably the honorable member for Bonython, the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) - run down their own State in spite of the evidence of the facts and figures, which prove conclusively that South Australia is progressing faster than is any other State.
Let us now consider housing, Sir. In New South Wales, 1 per cent, of the total loan expenditure has been directed to housing. The proportion for Queensland is 4 per cent, and that for South Australia is 12 per cent. We in South Australia have spent on housing twelve times as high a proportion of our loan expenditure as the New South Wales Government, and three times as high a proportion as the Queensland Government. Yet Labour members from South Australia, earlier this afternoon, criticized expenditure on housing in South Australia. The States are getting the money, but those that have Labour governments are not spending it on housing. The position is that, in New South Wales, loan funds are being sunk into the derelict railways. The New South Wales Government, instead of building homes for the people, is using its loan funds to meet the losses on its railways.
What is the position with respect to water schemes, Mr. Speaker? In South Australia, we are spending 26 per cent, of our loan funds on water schemes. The proportion in Queensland is 8 per cent, and that in New South Wales is 15 per cent.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The bill before the House seeks to provide an additional grant of £1,027,000 to South Australia. This is the final payment by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to South Australia because as a result of the increased reimbursements which are now payable by the Commonwealth Government to all the States, South Australia will now stand on its own feet. It will no longer be a claimant State or, as it has been called, a mendicant State. This is a triumph for South Australia and for the Premier of that State who has guided ils destinies over the past twenty years. While Sir Thomas Playford has been Premier of South Australia, that State has progressed from being the poorest State in the Commonwealth to the most prosperous. It is expanding more rapidly than any other State. I was amazed, Mr. Speaker, to read and hear the speeches that were made by members of the Australian Labour
Party in this House earlier in this debate. They went out of their way to run down South Australia and to criticize most unfairly the South Australian Government and the State premier, lt is a poor state of affairs when Labour members from South Australia come into this House to run down th( premier of the State when he is not present to defend himself. It behoves the rightthinking members of this chamber to inform the House and the people of South Australia of the truth about the remarkable progress that has been made by South Australia over the past twenty years.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) endeavoured to prove that South Australia had gone back in comparison with New South Wales and Queensland. He selected those two States foi comparison because, as he said, they had been governed by Labour governments over most of the past twenty years. I should like to read the actual words used by the honorable member for Hindmarsh because 1 accept the challenge that is implicit in his remarks when he said -
I choose Queensland and New South Wales because they are the only two States in Australia in which Labour has ever governed in its own right with a majority in both Houses of Parliament.
The honorable member then set out to prove that South Australia had lagged in comparison with those States. The facts are completely to the contrary. Twenty years ago, as I have said, South Australia was the poorest State in the Commonwealth with the highest unemployment and the lowest production per head. It had to go to the Commonwealth cap in hand to obtain assistance to pay its way. As a result of sound government and remarkable progress, South Australia to-day is as buoyant as, or more buoyant than, any State in the Commonwealth. When we compare it with New South Wales and Queensland, we find that while those two States have slipped back on the basis of Commonwealth average figures, South Australia has leapt ahead to pride of place.
What is the measure of prosperity? We on the Government side believe - even if members of the Opposition do not - that the most important measure is employment. If the people have employment opportunities, there is a high standard of prosperity and progress. If we study the figures for the five-year period from 1954 to 1959, we find that employment in South Australia has increased by 10.7 per cent., in New South Wales by 8.1 per cent, and in Queensland by only 6.4 per cent. If we consider the figures for 1958-59, the last year cited in the Commonwealth Grants Commission report, we find that employment in South Australia increased by 2.89 per cent, compared with 1.01 per cent, in New South Wales and 1.53 per cent, in Queensland. Therefore, we can say that employment in South Australia has increased nearly three times as fast as it has in New South Wales with its Labour government. In other words, in the States where a Liberal government is soundly entrenched and has had a number of years in charge of administration, employment is increasing fastest and unemployment is lowest.
Let us look at the unemployment figures as shown by the number of persons registered for employment. In South Australia last year, 1.1 per cent, of the work force was looking for work compared with 2.2 per cent, in Queensland - just twice as many - and 1.2 per cent, in New South Wales. There again, not only is our rate of employment increasing in South Australia but we have far fewer people looking for work than they have in the other States where, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said, Labour governments have been in power for so many years.
Another indicator of prosperity is the population increase. The population of South Australia rose by 2.71 per cent, in 1957-58 compared with 1.83 per cent, in New South Wales and 1.48 per cent, in Queensland. The population of South Australia is increasing more quickly because the State is prosperous and the people have confidence in the Government and in South Australia’s progress and development. Let us study the immigration figures. Fortunately, in Australia, immigrants are free to go to any State they like. It is only natural that they should go to the State where prospects are brightest; where there is the greatest prosperity and living conditions are better; where there are more homes available and other amenities of that nature. We find that the net increase by immigration in 1957-58 was 1.31 per cent, in South Australia compared with .53 per cent, in
New South Wales - one-third of the South Australian rate - and a decline of .10 per cent, in Queensland, where more people are leaving the State than are entering it.
Earlier to-day we heard something about housing. I should like to refer to the net loan funds expenditure on housing by the South Australian Government. In South Australia, in 1957-58, we spent 12 per cent, of our loan funds on housing. Queensland spent 4 per cent, and New South Wales 1 per cent. Is it any wonder that people cannot get houses in New South Wales? In that State, the Government is spending only 1 per cent, of its loan expenditure on housing while it is diverting so much more to other things such as railway losses and expenditure which the people know is absolutely wasteful. Let us consider the provision of water which is one of the most essential commodities for decent living and industrial development. In South Australia, we spend 26 per cent, of our loan funds on the provision of water. Queensland spends only 8 per cent, and New South Wales only 15 per cent. So, whatever indicator we take, we find that While South Australia is making progress, New South Wales and Queensland - until recently when Queensland fortunately had a change of government - were going downhill under Labour.
Let us now look at the savings of the community. When conditions are prosperous, when people are receiving good wages and when there is full employment, people are able to save. In South Australia, the savings per head of population are £171.8; in Queensland, £116; and in New South Wales, £130. Yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh wants us to adopt the kind of government that is in office in New South Wales, which has provided unemployment, a desperate shortage of houses, only a small increase of population, very little money for water and very poor savings. In South Australia, we have high employment, a rapidly increasing population, ample money spent on housing and water and very substantial savings by the people. So, I suggest that there is not one fact to support the wild assertion made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh when he went out of his way on this splendid bill to take up the whole of his time running down the Premier of South Australia and the South Australian Government.
Then we had the statement made by the honorable member for Kingston, the honorable member for Hindmarsh and, earlier to-day, the honorable member for Bonython, that South Australia was not doing enough for the aged. Again, we were told that New South Wales and Queensland were doing more to provide social services than we were. This is completely contrary to the facts. I have just received the figures of the number of beds provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act since it was passed in 1954. In South Australia, 1,361 flats, houses and other accommodation have been provided as a result of the Aged Persons Homes Act - one for every 36 pensioners in the State. New South Wales has provided one for every 96 pensioners, and Queensland one for every 71. The people in South Australia have seized the opportunity made available to them by this Government and have got on with the job of building homes for the aged. I have the honour to be chairman of one organization, Aged Cottage Homes Incorporated, which has itself provided beautiful little flats for more than 50 people in the short space of five years, and before very long it will be able to accommodate more than 100. What have Labour members done in this direction. Let me find one of them who has found a single bed for any of these aged persons! All they do is come here and criticize the Liberal Government of South Australia and the Premier who has provided favorable conditions to enable the State to progress from the poorest to one of the richest States.
Not many years ago, because South Australia’s population was increasing faster than the population of other States, we were given an additional member in this House. Before very long we will have yet another member, because our population is continuing to increase, and we will get the additional member at the expense of one of the Labour States because the Labour States are going backwards and1 the Liberal States are progressing.
There is not a tittle of evidence to support the baseless, cruel attack made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Kingston upon the
Premier of South Australia and the South Australian Government. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) also dealt with this matter. I have noticed that the honorable member for Port Adelaide is always fair and always factual. He is a Labour member and he is entitled to criticize. I make no objection to the point of view that he put before the House. However, when we find attacks such as this made by the honorable member for Kingston and the honorable member for Hindmarsh against a man who has no opportunity to defend himself in this House, I say quite definitely that it is not cricket. Although I had no intention to rise on this bill, I thought it essential for those of us who believe in the development, progress and prosperity of South Australia to get up and pay tribute to the South Australian Premier and the South Australian Government for the magnificent job that they have done in providing the economic climate and conditions to enable South Australia to rise from a poor State to a progressive and prosperous State.
.- I support the bill, but before dealing with its provisions I think I should refer to some of the misstatements made by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) whilst they are fresh in our minds. It was rather pathetic to hear the almost musical refrain running through his speech - “Labour members attack South Australia “, “ Labour members attack South Australia “ and again “ Labour members attack South Australia “. This was the refrain, but it is completely erroneous. The Labour members did not attack South Australia. They attacked the administration of the Playford Government and its attitude to the ordinary people, to the wage and salary earners and the recipients of social service entitlements.
The Opposition has been attacked for alleged deception over electoral results. It was claimed that we did not mention that the Liberal and Country League in South Australia did not contest several Labour seats. There was no need to mention this because, on the other hand, Labour does not contest blue-ribbon Liberal seats, and an analysis of the situation would show that there is almost a 50/50 balance. Sp, the results of our State elections must be assessed on the overall figures of the seats contested. In the 1959 election, the Labour Party polled a majority of 49,000 votes and had sixteen members out of a House of 39. That is the type of electoral justice that is meted out to the people of South Australia. He did not mention the percentages which I propose to mention in respect of the South Australian elections. We have an extraordinary paradox existing in that State in that 62 per cent, of the electors elect thirteen members of Parliament whilst the remaining 38 per cent, elect 26 members of Parliament. Expressed in percentages of the elected members this means that 62 per cent, equals 33 per cent., and 38 per cent, equals 66 per cent. That is the mystery of South Australia’s electoral democracy. I would like to challenge the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and his colleague, the Premier of South Australia, to fight the State elections there on an equally balanced electorate such as obtains in the Federal sphere. The outcome would be obvious. There would be no doubt about the result, because the Federal figures in South Australia reveal that the Labour Party holds six of the eleven seats in the House of Representatives. After the next Senate election, we will hold six of ten South Australian seats in the Senate. Those figures completely refute the claim that South Australia is receiving electoral justice.
The honorable member for Sturt went on to draw comparisons between Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. He assured us that Queensland and New South Wales were slipping and that South Australia was the only State that was going ahead. I warn the honorable member to keep a very close eye on the next census when it is held, because it is quite possible that following it, not South Australia but either New South Wales or Queensland will obtain an extra seat in this Parliament as a result of an increase in population. Industries development is supposed to be related to population. While the honorable member for Sturt was concluding his speech my thoughts went back to some few months ago when the Premier of South Australia, with a spetacular flourish of propaganda, flew to New York on what was supposed to be a secret mission. The bush telegraph told us that mission would astound that State because of the number of industries it would attract to South Australia.
But the Premier came back without anything; yet the Labour Premier of New South Wales, who stayed home, was able two weeks later to announce that a new £8,000,000 industry was to be established in that State. I will leave the comparison there, and revert to the provisions of the bill.
The measure provides for a payment to South Australia as a claimant State under the States grants scheme, and since the money has to be voted by this Parliament honorable members have the right to discuss and assess in some detail how that money is to be expended. It is interesting to examine the attitude of the South Australian Government to the formula under which the Commonwealth Grants Commission works. The honorable members for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), Bonython (Mr. Makin), Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) have detailed the disadvantages that South Australia will suffer because of the attitude of the South Australian Government to the States grants scheme. Figures supplied during this debate prove that South Australia lags sadly behind other States in vital matters such as social services, health and education. I want to direct the attention of the House to a few budgetary matters and then refute the claims of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and, to a lesser degree, those of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer). From the 26th Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission - the last one published - we find that a large number of submissions made by the South Australian Government were rejected by the commission. That fact may be explained by the rather stubborn approach and outlook of the South Australian Government to the formula and proceedings of the commission.
Let us take South Australia’s basic wage policy, for instance. The official report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on this matter reveals the attitude of the South Australian Government to the workers of that State. At the same time it explodes the myth, which was repeated, unfortunately, by the honorable member for Angas, that the Premier of South Australia is regarded as a good Labour Premier. At page 52 of the report of the Commonwealth Grants
Commission under the sub-heading “ The Effects on State Budgets of State Basic Wage Policies “, in paragraph 129, we read -
At the Adelaide hearings, South Australia submitted that it should receive a favorable adjustment for 1957-58 because its basic wage policy had had a relatively beneficial effect on the South Australia Budget result. It claimed that the adjustment should not be included with other adjustments, but should be treated separately and allowed in full.
What do we find to be the policy of the South Australian Government towards the basic wage? We know that it has resolutely refused to effect cost of living adjustments to the basic wage in that State. We know further that with the Commonwealth Government it paid counsel to go to court to oppose an increase in the basic wage for the workers of South Australia. In respect of this same subject, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, in paragraph 133 of its report, states -
The Commission has continued its examination of the relative effects of basic wage policies on State Budgets, and the differences among the States have been taken into account in the adjustments for the differential impacts of State undertakings on the Budgets. The procedure advocated by South Australia has not been adopted, because it could result in the grant to South Australia exceeding the Budget standard determined by the Commission.
There we have the contrast - the miserable attitude of the South Australian Government and the national outlook of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The net result of the policy of the South Australian Government on the basic wage issue is very unfortunate because, in the long run, the only people who suffer are the wage and salary earners. That Government fondly hoped, of course, that it could go to the Commonwealth Grants Commission and say, “ Look what we have done - what good boys we have been. Therefore, let us have more funds in your grant to South Australia.”
Fortunately, the Grants Commission does not function on the narrow parochial lines suggested by the South Australian Government in that instance. The net result was that South Australia received no gain from the savings that resulted from its government’s attack on wage standards. The formula followed by the Grants Commission is such that, provided a claimant State does not spend more on its services than is spent by the non-claimant States on comparable services, it is entitled to reimbursements in respect of the money so expended. So the fact that the South Australian Government has deprived wageearners of standards that they could have had has benefited nobody, and shows a lack of consideration on the part of that government.
The South Australian Government seems to revel in boasting about the new commercial enterprises that intend to commence in Adelaide and its suburbs. Humanity comes second with that government. Commercial and industrial affluence are its No. 1 objective, and human betterment is a secondary consideration. The Premier boasts of prosperity in South Australia. But, in order that good production figures may be achieved, thousands of workers must work overtime. In many cases wives must go out to work so as to be able to afford to buy the home appliances that are now available in the shops. It is the workers who produce wealth, and they should be the chief consideration of the government of the day. I am reminded that the wage rates paid in the textile industry in South Australia are the lowest in Australia. That, too, is something for which the South Australian Government should hang its head in shame. The federal award for textile workers made many months ago, among other things was designed to attract the textile industry to South Australia, but instead of that we have the situation that from time to time announcements are made that possibly textile factories now operating in South Australia will have to close their doors. I repeat that it is the workers who produce wealth, and they should be the first consideration of the South Australian Government.
Now let us look at some of the social service facilities provided by the South Australian Government. Here again the State cannot blame the Commonwealth instead of accepting the responsibility itself. First, I shall deal with the hospital bed rate in South Australia as compared with the rate in other States. The latest figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician reveal that the number of persons in each State to every hospital bed is as follows: - New South Wales, 171 persons to every bed; Victoria, 221; Queensland, 126; Western Australia, 159; Tasmania, 141; and in South Australia there are 232 persons for every bed available. The Australian average is 174, and that is inflated because of the high figure in South Australia.
These figures indicate that South Australia has the dubious honour of being the worst-off State in the Commonwealth in respect of availability of beds in public hospitals. A similar position is evident in regard to the provision of trained nursing staff. Despite high hospital fees, we find that the number of persons per nurse in each State is as follows: - New South Wales, 302; Victoria, 316; Queensland, 347; Western Australia, 251; Tasmania, 270; and South Australia has 401 persons to each trained nurse.
– How many?
– Four hundred and one. Those figures show the grave disadvantage from which South Australia suffers in relation to many social service activities compared with the other States - States which South Australia, in its false pride, tends to look down on as small fry not to be considered in the scheme of things. These are the services to which the South Australian Government is devoting a smaller proportion of its budget than is any other State government. By that process the South Australian Government has hoped to earn the approbation of the Grants Commission, but the commission, unfortunately for the people of South Australia, took a different view. Had the Playford Government spent on social services an amount equivalent to that spent in the other States it could have received reimbursement from the Grants Commission of the moneys so spent. This goes for all social service expenditure by the States. What an unhappy picture the Playford Government’s attitude to social services reveals!
The figures disclosed by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Bonython, together with those that I have given, draw a comparison between the position in South Australia and the position in the other States.
These are official figures from the Grants Commission and the Commonwealth Statistician.
Now I want to correct some of the errors made by speakers on the Government side. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) in an unctuous manner referred personally to the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I think that we can quickly dismiss that personal reference if we compare the contribution that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has made to this Parliament with that made by the honorable member for Barker. Later the honorable member for Barker referred in a flippant manner to our old and revered leader, and former Prime Minister, the late Ben Chifley. Here again I think comparisons are odious. I think we can dismiss all of the honorable member’s rather personal affronts, Mr. Speaker, as an exhibition of the fact that unfortunately the honorable member is suffering from intellectual indigestion.
The honorable member went on to try to convert the House on other matters, but here again his arguments will not stand analysis. He implied that progress in South Australia was largely due to the joint efforts of the Menzies Government in the Commonwealth, and the Playford State Government. I have listened in vain during this debate for even the slightest recognition that perhaps the workers of South Australia have made the State’s position sound. Are members on the Government side of the House so cheeky that they can afford to ignore the hard fact that industrial stability in South Australia is due to the fortitude, the patience and the efforts of thousands of industrial workers together with the forbearance of their union officials?
– What about the primary producers?
– They are doing their best. The last kind of interjection the honorable member for Mallee ought to make is one about primary producers, because in the time I have been here I have seen cost after cost imposed on the primary producers, and the honorable member for Mallee and his colleagues have voted in favour of those impositions. So when the honorable member pretends to speak for the primary producers he is treading on very thin ice. I suggest that he compose himself and maintain silence as he has done on other occasions. I was reared on a farm, so I know something about the primary producers. I am not an auctioneer like the honorable member. I am rather amused when I hear these so-called representatives of the primary producers in the Australian Country Party trying to tell me that I know nothing about primary production.
We did expect Government supporters to recognize the great part that the workers of South Australia have played in the reconstruction of that State. But no! We have had no statement whatsoever to that effect. Government supporters were too busy trying to maintain the Premier of South Australia on the pedestal on which a very efficient propaganda machine has kept him for a number of years. There is only one kind of public opinion in South Australia because there is only one kind of press there. That press tends to take people’s minds along one channel - in support of the Premier and his political party.
– What about the “ News “?
– I am glad that the honorable member for Wakefield has made that interjection because from time to time, the “ News “ does give Labour its due recognition; although it does not do so often enough. However, it certainly did so last week. If the honorable member for Wakefield has not read the “ News “ of last Friday I commend it to his reading for the next week-end when he has a few spare moments. There he will read many home truths that he would not be able to read under ordinary circumstances.
I mentioned before, and I think it is worth repeating, that had South Australia brought its public services to the levels of those in the other States, the expenditure would have been reimbursed and some of the observations that have been made from this side of the chamber to-day would not have been called for. Government supporters have tried to canvass the erroneous formula adopted by Premier Playford that if you cut down services, you are treated better by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I need not emphasize the fallacy of this idea. That it is a fallacy has been proved by the observations set out in the twenty-sixth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
This is a revealing document and should be read by all members who are seeking out the truth.
From! time to time, in South Australia, the cost of public services rises. Recently rail fares were increased by 12 per cent, in the city and 14 per cent, in the country. The South Australian Government professes to represent country people. Because of the rigged electoral system, the House of Assembly has 26 country members and thirteen metropolitan members. Yet the Government has increased country rail fares by more than the increase in city fares!
The metropolitan areas in South Australia have electricity charged to them at base rates while country people have to pay the differential rate. There is a power station 200 miles from Adelaide the power from which is channelled to the metropolitan area. Yet the country people between that station and Adelaide are not supplied with electricity at the concession rate which applies in the city of Adelaide.
I want to refer, again, to the electoral jerrymandering that operates in South Australia. This is, in effect, a system of guided democracy. That is another name for a dictatorship. Liberal and Country League members in South Australia try to excuse themselves by saying that it is a benevolent dictatorship. But a dictatorship is a dictatorship wherever it may be and it becomes no different if it is smoke-screened by the term “ benevolent dictatorship “. We have a rather remarkable situation in South Australia under this dictatorship. Now, Government policy is not announced to the Parliament. It is announced every Wednesday night in a radio broadcast over a commercial hook-up.
– On which station?
– On station 5 AD.
– Who owns that?
– It is owned by the organization which also owns the “ Advertiser “. But the point that I want to emphasize is that members of the South Australian Parliament, who should be the first to be informed of Government policy, have to read the newspaper on Thursday morning in order to find out what the Premier of South Australia intends to do next. Such announcements should be made in the Parliament first and written in the daily press afterwards. That is a practice which we have a right to criticize.
We have a situation in South Australia which I believe can only be remedied by a supreme effort by the Labour Party to surmount the formidable barriers placed in its path by the present Government. When that time arrives the treasury bench in South Australia will again be re-united with the express will of the people as disclosed through the secrecy of the ballot-box. 1 support the bill, subject to the reservations that I have made.
.- I had the impression that, although this was the National Parliament, honorable members came into it with a real affection for their own States. I am proud to stand up as a South Australian to support this bill under which South Australia, for the last time I hope, will receive assistance as a mendicant State through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. This is an historic occasion on which the State of South Australia is saying, in effect, “ We will to go it alone “.
This achievement has not been easy. We have a great many natural disadvantages in South Australia. We have a very poor, rainfall. I never cease to be envious of, New South Wales and Victoria in which States you can drive for hundreds of miles, and still be in good rainfall areas. In South Australia only a fringe of country has a sound rainfall. Much of our land is poorer than that which is used in any other country. It is poorer in soil texture and poorer in fertility. It is only because of the tech,niques and energy that we have used that we have been able to develop the 90-mile desert and similar areas. We are not rich, in minerals. We have no black coal. We, lack many resources.
– The Labour Party did not mention that.
– No. Those are some of: the obstacles that we have had to surmount. Up to recently, we have had a small popula-tion. We have not had sufficient people orsecondary industries to be able to take advantage of the fiscal policy of the Com1monwealth which naturally encouraged the development of secondary industries in the largely populated States and cities. We have had to do it the hard way. It has not been an easy struggle. In spite of these handicaps we have increased our status from that of a poor State which depended on the Commonwealth for aid until, now, when we are proud to say that we are no longer a mendicant State.
How did we do it? There are two reasons, I should think. One is the quality of the people of our State. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton) made the point that no credit had been given to the workers of our State. I would say definitely that one of the reasons that we have come out of our former position is the quality of our people and they, of course, include the workers of all classes. I am not claiming for our people that we are paragons of virtue and possess all the attributes. You, Mr. Speaker, of course, would be a brilliant exception to that statement, but the rest of us have many drawbacks. People are quick to point out that we are a stodgy and conservative people, that Adelaide on a Sunday afternoon is a rather dull place and that we have not a King’s Cross to gladden our hearts.
But we have certain attributes, and one of them is ability to settle down and face our responsibilities as a people - to knuckle down and do our own work. That is one of the factors that has brought us out of the position we were in. The other is that we have had sound government for a long time. All honorable members know that. I think there would not be any member of this House who does not envy South Australia the quality of its Government. We have had a vigorous, imaginative and hardworking government, led by a premier with all those attributes and one more - the attribute of being a great leader. Those are the kind of qualities which have led us, as a people, from the position we were in 20 or 30 years ago to where we are to-day. I should have thought that would have been cause for pride on the part of all South Australians. I know it is to me, and I should imagine it is so to most of my fellow South Australians. But that does not seem to be the case with the Labour members from South Australia who have spoken in this debate.
As I have already said, by the initiative of our people and the quality of our Govern ment, we have surmounted the last obstacle in our path. But even as the Premier puts his head over that last obstacle, he is kicked in the teeth by the people who have been lolling in the shadow of irresponsibility while all this progress has been going on. I should have thought that all South Australians would look upon the performance of our State with a proper sense of pride. I believe most of them do, but there seems to be an element here that is trying to make petty, party capital by pouring scorn on South Australia’s achievements. South Australian members on the other side who have adopted that attitude have done neither themselves nor their cause any good by so doing. During the week-end I met many South Australian Labour supporters who said to me, “ Now, leave me out of this kind of criticism; I won’t be in this. I am proud of the things that our State and our workers have done “.
I shall not enter into argument about what has been done in New South Wales compared with South Australia’s achievements. That aspect has been effectively dealt with by many of the speakers on this side, particularly the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). If anybody wants to find fault it is easy to find something wrong if one looks hard enough. For example, some one might compare the percentage of houses in Sydney connected to the sewer with the number so served in Adelaide. Even then different people would draw different conclusions. But I do not think that that is the sort of thing we should be discussing in a National Parliament. To Labour members who have been complaining I say that if they do not like the conditions in South Australia they can go to New South Wales if they think it would be better. But I have not noticed any rush of people from South Australia across the border. If there has been any movement, it has been to South Australia.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) made a particular attack on the South Australian Premier and asked what could have steeled him in his resolution to go it alone. He asked whether it was vanity. Could it be anything but vanity? I can think of plenty of reasons for the Premier’s attitude. One of them - it eats like a canker at the root of our national development - is the imbalance between one State and another, and the States and the Commonwealth. This is a problem which all federations face. We in Australia have faced it in the past and will continue to face it in the future - the dependence of one State on the Commonwealth and the problem of one State being poorer than another. I should have thought that that fact would be accepted by all of us as a motive for South Australia to go it alone. If we can now stand on our own flat feet, if we have demonstrated that we are able to go it alone and cease to be a burden on the rest of the Commonwealth, I should think that is sufficient motive for any State to go forward and take this big step.
Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh want any other reasons? There is another. All of us agree that any young man who wants to stand on his own feet, takes the responsibility for his mistakes and credit for his achievements, does the kind of thinking that will make him develop. It is the kind of thinking that has made Australia great in the past - the feeling of independence, adventure and initiative. That is the quality that has made this country. It is totally opposite to the spirit of sitting in deck chairs waiting around to be helped by a good government. Is not this spirit of adventure that has characterized every true Australian to be accepted as a motive for South Australia taking its step? Has not the Premier, in that spirit, demonstrated true statesmanship and encouraged that kind of thinking? I should have thought so, but evidently Labour members from my State do not think so.
I have been most interested to observe that the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) has not taken part in this debate. I am not surprised. He knows better than anybody else the contributions that have been made by the State Government to the big towns in his electorate, such as Whyalla, Iron Knob, Port Pirie and Port Augusta. That spirit of enterprise and progress has made South Australia great and has developed a good deal of the electorate of the honorable member for Grey. I am very glad to find that he has not been on his feet yapping at the heels of the Premier. I congratulate the State Government on what it has done in the past, what it is doing in the present and I look forward with confidence to what it will do in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 4th May (vide page 1353), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition is in favour of this measure because we feel that it will do something which the family, of which this institution is a new member, was created nearly ten years ago to do, but has not done to date. As was envisaged in the original plans, this measure will authorize the granting of economic assistance to those countries which, in terms of population, probably form the majority of the peoples of the world to-day. To put this matter in perspective, I should like to quote briefly three statements which to me sum up the problem that the Inter* national Development Association seeks to solve. I cite, first, a statement by M. Mendes France who, prior to the decline of parliamentary government in France, was an important member of the Government and at one time was Premier of France. He said -
The evolution of under-developed countries is the problem of the century.
The February, 1960, issue of “ Barclay’s Bank Review” - Barclay’s Bank is one of the big five of the British system of banking - contains this statement -
The battle for Asia and Africa will be won, in part at least, through economic aid, though, let it be added, that nothing will be gained by attaching political strings to such aid.
Finally, a document entitled “Broadsheets on Britain, February, 1960, Britain and the Colombo Plan” contains a description of the Colombo Plan. In a sense, the measure with which we are dealing is an extension of the concept of the Colombo Plan. The document states -
The Colombo Plan was described in Parliament recently -
That is, in the British Parliament - as “the sum of all the individual plans of tha countries of South and South-East Asia, and of the contributions of the Western countries in assistance of these plans”.
Primarily, this legislation and the statements which I have read recognize that, largely, the world still can be divided into what may be called the “ haves “ and the “ have-nots “. If we, as democrats, can conceive of these problems in terms of human beings, we find that far more people are embraced in the “ have-nots “ than in the “ haves “. In fact, the schedule to the bill divides the nations of the world - at least, those nations which are outside the iron curtain - into two groups which are covered by Part I. and Part II. Part I. lists seventeen countries including Australia, and Part II. lists 51 countries beginning with Afghanistan and ending alphabetically with Yugoslavia. I do not have the population figures of the seventeen countries covered by Part I., but I have no doubt that there are something like three times as many people in the “ havenot “ group - Part II. - as there are in Part I. When you think of our geographical position in relation to such countries as China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia, and consider their populations as compared with the populations of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, you find that there are something like four times as many people in the underdeveloped areas in Asia and South-East Asia as there are in the developed areas of the other countries.
Basically, the International Development Association seeks to implement a scheme whereby the seventeen countries - Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Union of South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States of America - or in other words the “ haves “, will assist the economic development of those parts of the world which are poorer in economic circumstances and much larger in terms of human beings. There is to be an original subscription to the association of about 1,000,000,000 dollars- and I shall endeavour to put that in perspective in a moment -of which 131,000,000 dollars will come from the United Kingdom and 320,000,000 dollars from the United States of America. In other words, nearly half of the total subscription is to be provided by the two great “have” nations, the United Kingdom and the United States. One thousand million dollars sounds a lot of money when stated in isolation from anything else. In our currency it is roughly £500,000,000, which is something like two and one-half times the amount that Australia expends annually on defence activities. We spend on defence about £200,000,000 a year which is about 400,000,000 dollars. However, the United States budget provides the astronomical sum of about forty billion dollars annually for defence. As I have said, this association, which has not yet commenced operations, envisages the expenditure of about one billion dollars in the next few years. I think that the annual expenditure on defence budgeted for in the United Kingdom is £1,500,000,000 sterling - something like £1,800,000,000 Australian. Yet this practical measure that we are now considering deals with an International Development Association which is to have a total initial subscription of 1,000,000,000 United States dollars. This, weighed against the appropriations for defence against potential aggression, indicates the kind of perspective in which these things are put.
We on this side of the House feel always that the thing that leads to aggression as between nations is the kind of differentiation that exists between nations in relation to economic advantage. One country wants to attack another, not primarily because the first country has aggressive tendencies, but because it feels that, somehow or other, the second country is withholding from it a chance to improve its standard of living. As I have indicated, the funds being provided for this new International Development Association, when measured against the annual appropriations for defence expenditure, seem to me to indicate that we put these matters in a strange sort of perspective.
This association is a new member of the international banking sphere. In the late 1940s and the early 1950’s we saw established the International Monetary Fund and, alongside it, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. More recently, we have seen established a new member of this international banking group - the International Finance Corporation. All these were born essentially of the feeling after World War II. that, in the era of post-war reconstruction, we should so alter our economic structure as to make impossible recurrences of the sort of upheavals that were known as World War I. and World War II. I think that the world was genuine enough to have meant what it said about these various international organizations at the time, but, since then, most of these things have been sidetracked. I think it can be said, without being unduly critical, at least of the International Bank, that, primarily, it has aided the economic development, not of those countries which needed development most, but of those countries that offered, in terms of strict banking criteria, the best prospect of the ultimate repayment of both annual interest and the original capital. Basically, the International Bank lends to borrowing countries at interest rates of about 6 per cent. I think it will be realized that this does not provide for the problems that are faced by what may be called the undeveloped areas of the world.
At this juncture, I should like to read to the House an extract from a journal published in Italy. It is published in the English language and is regarded as being an international forum in which economists from all parts of the world state their views. The publication is the “ Quarterly Review of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro “. In the issue of September, 1959, there is an article under the rather pretentious title, “Export Credits to Under-developed Countries on a Multilateral Basis “. The author states -
Those countries are considered by authoritative opinion to be non-industrialised, in the process of development or under-developed, where, if modern productive techniques are adopted full employment of existing capital does not fully absorb the available manpower. In under-developed countries available manpower is kept fully employed by the use of antiquated production techniques with a very low productivity level. Unemployment and inefficient full employment result in personal incomes that on the average are far lower than in industrialised countries. Nearly the whole of the African Continent, most of Latin America, parts of Southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, Southern and Insular Italy, Greece and Turkey) and of Russia, some countries of the Near and Middle East, many Asiatic countries (among which India and Continental China) are all underdeveloped areas or areas in the process of development. About two-thirds of the world population live in these areas; in some the rate of population increase is very high.
That is the sort of problem that we are endeavouring to get at by means of this measure, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The new International Development Association is to have, as I have indicated, an initial capital of 1,000,000,000 United States dollars, or about £500,000,000 Australian, which is to be devoted to the solution of problems that affect two-thirds of the world’s population.
The author of the article which I have mentioned goes on to indicate the kind of economic development that is necessary in the countries that he has listed. He states -
The above definition of under-developed areas implies that capital imports are the prime necessity of a development policy. Such imports can be classified under three main headings:
It will be seen that these are distinctive channels for economic development in the countries concerned -
That means that you cannot measure the economic return from a school or a hospital. But nobody here would deny that a country will improve the quality of its population only if it first improves the standard of health and then does something, by education, to raise the standard of the social and cultural environment. The articles goes on with the remaining headings of capital imports as follows: -
That is not the normal criterion for investment in developed parts of the world. The article continues -
I suggest that that sums up very well the sort of problem that we are facing. First, it is a problem that confronts two-thirds of the world’s population. Secondly, it is a problem related to the kind of development that has already taken place in countries such as ours. Admittedly, we have border squabbles about whether more money out of our given total should be devoted to hospitals or schools and less to something else. But those of us who have looked at any of these countries, as I have looked at least at Latin America and some of the British colonies, will know that we are far in advance of these under-developed countries. Mostly, we have adequate water and power facilities and reasonably efficient transport systems, and we are at a stage of industrial development at which we have textile industries already established and a reasonable degree of heavy industry either developed or in the process of being developed. This is the kind of development that is basic to the needs of these particular people. However, we have here a measure that is not even under way yet but which proposes to distribute among, I suppose, nearly 2,000,000,000 people something like 1,000,000,000 dollars. That is the primitive way in which we approach this great project.
Admittedly, it is not as simple as it appears. I certainly think it is much more complex than has been indicated by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in the speech he made recently. He gave no indication then that the problem was one cf this perspective at all. The evolution of undeveloped countries is the problem of the century. The Treasurer put this problem to us last week, and yet he expects us to debate it to-night. That shows the astonishing lack of perspective on the part of this Government. But let that pass for the time being. I want to examine now some of the points which the Treasurer stated he pressed at the international meeting which was convened to establish this organization. I quote from page 10 of the typewritten statement he presented to the House last week. The right honorable gentleman said -
The Australian Government has expressed its sympathy with, and support for, the objectives of the Ida proposal from its inception.
We on this side of the House express our sympathy and support with it except that we are critical of the extent of it, and we imply that there is a lack of perception on the part of the Government as to the problems embraced within it. The Treasurer said also in a reference to the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Bank, wherever it was held - and I suppose it was in New York because it sprang from an American impulse -
I pointed out, when the proposal was under discussion at the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Bank last year, that the proposal recognized only two categories of country; industrialized countries who would be called upon to provide the bulk of Ida’s usable capital and who would not themselves be eligible to obtain finance from Ida;
They are those mentioned in Part I. of the schedule. If there is a need to develop undeveloped countries, there is no reason why the countries which are called developed should expect to get something from that development. The right honorable gentleman continued to give the second category which included - less developed countries whose subscriptions would be largely in inconvertible currency but who would be able to look to the institution for assistance.
They should be able to look to the institution for assistance, but the right honorable gentleman seemed to imply somehow or other, as a technical exercise, that there were countries between the category of developed and undeveloped. Possibly there are, but their circumstances are much more fortunate than those this measure is supposed to embrace. The Treasurer also said -
We regret that the Ida charter fails to recognize the position of “ intermediate countries “ and that the scale of contribution of the countries who will be making the whole of their subscriptions in inconvertible currencies is simply based on the International Bank scale.
That seems to me to be merely a verbal quibble at best.
– He believes that Australia is one of the intermediate countries.
– Yes, and the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) when returning from a trade mission two years or so ago said it was wrong to say there are only developed countries on one hand and undeveloped countries on the other because there are developing areas in between. It is also true that there are “ have “ and “ havenot “ areas, and Australia does not come within the category of the “ have-not “ areas which this measure is supposed to embrace. The point on which I take issue with the Treasurer is what he called his third point. He said -
The third point I raised at the bank annual meeting was that the “local currency” aspects of the proposal could cause difficulty and seemed out of keeping with the times. … I said
I did not believe it to be beyond the ingenuity of the bank’s executive directors to devise means of avoiding the creation of new holdings of local currencies. lt seems to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Treasurer has missed the whole point of why this measure is necessary. After all, if the so-called undeveloped areas had available to them supplies of convertible currencies, they would not be seeking the aid which is envisaged in this particular measure. The fact is - and I think the Treasurer hinted at this - in many ways the best approach to this matter might be straight-out gifts to these countries to assist them in their economic development. When you say that, you come up against psychological problems such as problems of pride of the countries concerned; but you also come up against a very real economic difficulty which has caused a certain amount of controversy in Australia. I refer to what are known as the surplus commodity transactions on the part of the United States of America and the arrangements under which quantities of wheat, butter and other commodities produced in the United States of America beyond its capacity to consume have been lodged in large sheds pending their ultimate disposition.
It has been suggested that it is a crime and an economic travesty that there should be commodities on one side of the world and millions of people on the other side who really need them. I suggest that it is a travesty of what might be called common sense; but once you try to deal with this travesty, you run against all sorts of contradictions and complications in the capitalist methods of producing these commodities. One scheme that was devised was to offer to India or Pakistan some of these products. Instead of having to pay for the wheat or the wool, the products would be given to them, in a sense. The Governments would then sell it at whatever the commercial price was within the country and the money derived from the sale would be put into blocked accounts which virtually belonged to the United States Government. They would be accumulations of local currency.
We had the same sort of problem in reverse almost at the end of the war. America and Britain had expended sums of money in feeding their troops quartered in other countries and those countries had built up large holdings of foreign exchange.
If these holdings had been spent immediately, great confusion would have been caused, certainly in the United Kingdom, and inflationary problems might have arisen in the countries where the credits originated. Accordingly, arrangements were made to block off these amounts and they were allowed to sift back into trade only gradually.
We now have the same sort of situation with these undeveloped countries in determining how they should make their contribution to the new institution. It seems to me rather odd to tell the countries listed in Part II. of the schedule to the bill that they must contribute 236,000,000 dollars before they can borrow any of the 1,000,000,000 dollars. Senator Monroney of the United States of America suggested that the sensible idea would be to allow these countries to contribute their amounts in local currency. That seems to be the point at which the Treasurer raised his objections when the matter was being considered some six or eight months ago. I must confess that I find it very difficult to comprehend precisely what he meant by his objections, even in terms of the explanation that he gave recently. In all fairness to him, I point out that the matter is at least arguable and I shall quote from two documents that express opposing views on the matter. The November, 1959, issue of the journal of the First National City Bank of New York, which seems to hold the Treasurer’s view, contained this statement -
If money repaid by Thailand in bahts-
That apparently is the currency unit in Thailand - were lent to India for financing imports from Thailand, Thailand would, in effect, be extending aid to India.
I cannot see anything wrong in Thailand extending aid to India. If the only difficulty in Thailand providing something that India wanted was a matter of currency, I would think that nothing was wrong with the arrangement. The other document from which I shall quote is Barclays Bank Review for February, 1960. I suggest that this is a reasonably orthodox source. Speaking about the question of local currency, the bank said -
The formulae under which such assistance will be given have yet to be devised. One possibility is for the loans granted in foreign currencies to be serviced as to interest and capital repayment in the currency of the borrower. The amounts paid in local currency could then be used either for capital development involving strictly domestic resources, or alternatively, -if there is already too much pressure on those domestic resources and further expenditure would be inflationary, these local .currency payments could best be used in the repayment of domestic debt.
That seems to .me to be an eminently sensible approach. After all, if we conceive of the problem as it must be conceived in the form of aid to some of these undeveloped areas, basically it does not matter whether the aid is given from dollar sources or from sterling sources; money will still be expended in the area. We can take as an example the project that was mentioned in the House recently, the Indus waters scheme which affects Pakistan and India. Whether the machinery comes from America, Australia or the United Kingdom, a large part of the expenditure will be for labour provided by the people of India and Pakistan. This money, in turn, will be expended by them on goods and services in India and Pakistan. If more money is circulated as a result of this activity, it seems reasonable to suggest that some of it should be withdrawn and blocked away in the International Development Association. If this is not done, inflationary tendencies may develop in the country where we aim to give service. However, I think we fall into error when we suggest that the circumstances and the monetary techniques used in developed countries are necessarily applicable to undeveloped areas. Unfortunately, most of these people live very close to a subsistence level. They have very few monetary transactions. Mostly they live in primitive villages and farm in a very antiquated manner. Very little money needs to pass from one to the other. Inflation is an entirely different concept in such a structure.
As I said earlier, payments to the association in local currencies could serve as an anti-inflationary device against the expenditure of the loan and could also have the psychological advantage of making the borrowing country feel that in some way it is helping to pay for what has been given. I think that one of the factors that have bedevilled the kind of economic assistance that has been given to some of these unde veloped areas in recent years is the feeling in thses areas that political strings are attached to the assistance. I quoted earlier the statement in “ Barclays Bank Review “ that we should avoid creating the impression that we expect the country to which we give aid, somehow or another, to be under a political obligation to us. It is sometimes said that one of the great challenges to the future peace of the world is the kind of economic development that is occurring in India, on the one hand, and in China, on the other hand. India is trying to develop by what are called democratic processes, and China has adopted a different method. I am not arguing as to which system is better in the .context of the particular country, because I think the context is different. However, that is the sort of thing that is happening.
To put this .matter into some kind of perspective, I should like to contrast this measure that is supposed to embrace the economic development of two-thirds of the world with the expenditure of 1,000,000,000 dollars, with a recent move on the American continent through what is called the Inter-American Development Bank. This is simply a scheme jointly between the United States of America and the Latin-American countries to promote the mutual development of both areas. But the .amount of expenditure that is involved in the Inter-American Development Bank, to quote from the “ International Financial News Survey “, dated 4th March, 1960, shows that the resources of the bank after all ratifications are completed will total 2,000,000,000 dollars, that is for the mutual development of the United States of America and Latin America. Primarily it means the development of Latin America, with a population of, I suppose, some 200,000,000 people, as against 2,000,000,000 people in this instance for whom 1,000,000,000 dollars is to be provided. Contrasting that expenditure with the vast amounts of aid which have been poured out in recent years by the United States of America, we see that since the end of World War II., in the period from 1945 to 1960, the United States of America spent something like 62,000,000,000 dollars in giving economic aid and “ mutual assistance “ as lt is called in various parts of the world.
Most of that sort of aid was given with strings attached to it; and it is the kind of thing which is resented by the rest of the world. When we compare the order of that kind of thing with the sort of problem which is involved here, we see how far we really are from reaching a satisfactory solution of the problems with which we are involved. As I say, although we are dealing with something like two-thirds of the population of the world, just a mere trickle of 1,000,000,000 dollars is to be provided as a start. It is true that this is said to be only a beginning, and that the position may improve when the scheme gets .going.
I shall quote now from an article in the “ New Statesman “, dated 12th December, 1959, and entitled, “The Economics of World Tension”, by Thomas Balogh, a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. Some honorable members might not like what Thomas Balogh says, but he is an eminent economist in the United Kingdom. He said -
In the post-war years government aid in the form of low interest bearing loans or outright grants channelled either directly or through international agencies has represented a very considerable contribution. In the years since the war, America alone has provided 62,000,000,000 dollars in this way. Total bilateral and multilateral aid and technical assistance programmes represented 11,000,000,000 dollars between 1954 and 1957.
For the three-year period it is an average of nearly 4,000,000,000 dollars a year and yet we have this comparatively trifling measure which is not yet established but which, shared among two-thirds of the world’s population aims to expend 1,000,000,000 dollars. We have been critical of this measure, because it does not go far enough; but we welcome it as a move in the spirit in which the great international organizations were conceived. Originally, under what was known as the British plan, the late Lord Keynes who largely inaugurated it had in mind some sort of exchange system which would enable countries temporarily in deficit - which meant underdeveloped countries which wanted to import more than they could export - to carry on on the idea of an international currency, but the rest of the world could not see things in that light. Then we had these new organizations, but they did not afford help to those who most needed help.
This measure, trivial to begin with, may grow into something which in the long run will be more permanent as a contribution to the peace of the world than the launching of Blue Streak missiles or something of that nature from one part of the world against another. We feel that the world is basically peaceful when the people live in content, and they cannot do that when there is a great disparity between standards of living. After fifteen years of comparative peace in the cold war there is still a great disparity. The average living standard of an Australian is ten to fifteen times higher than that of a person living in India or Indonesia. We hope that this measure may do something to promote the capital development without which those standards cannot be improved and the disparity bridged.
.- As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) pointed out, the uplifting of the standards of the under-developed countries of the world is one of the grave problems of the century. It is not surprising that Mr. Mendes-France has been one of those who played a very prominent part in the formation and in many of the subsequent activities of) the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This new institution, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) pointed out in his second-reading speech, is the fourth member of that particular family and the second to be attached to the International Bank as its offspring. It is appropriate to congratulate the Treasurer on the text of his second-reading speech which struck most members as being a much better and more accurate description of legislation and the misgivings and doubts that might be attached to it than are most of the second-reading speeches we listen to in this House.
The problem of the development of the under-developed countries is undoubtedly one of the great present problems of the world, at least as far as bringing about results in uplifting the standards of living of the less fortunate people is concerned. And it also presents very many problems, because aspirations and desires are one thing, but the material needed to fulfil them is another. The schedule discloses that one quarter of the membership of the Inter- national Bank is subscribing three-quarters of the funds for this new institution, and of the remaining quarter, 90 per cent, will be subscribed in the respective currencies of those countries. It is a measure of our responsibility that we feature as No. 9 on the list of subscribers, that is of those subscribing currencies which are available for use in any part of the world. This great problem has taken many forms and is being discussed in many forums; and since the war the major part of the burden of advancing the poorer countries and developing their economic resources has fallen on the United States of America. This problem, which is so frequently ventilated within the United Nations, is usually dealt with in highly emotional and coloured terms; but coloured terms and political aspirations are not usually particularly useful in producing satisfactory material results. There have been various moves within the United Nations to set up a special fund to assist under-developed countries. The United Nations, by technical assistance and grants of various kinds, has itself done much to further this cause; but the greatest body of know-how as to the technique of going about the technical and somewhat humdrum task of developing backward countries economically is undoubtedly to be found among the staff of the International Bank, in its headquarters at Washington. The bank’s expert staff is conversant with the problems of those countries and is sympathetic to them. It is an international staff, upon which about 50 countries are represented in one way or another. It is under the control of a board of directors which is in itself international. Although there is, of course, a provision for voting strength according to the contribution made - which is probably essential for securing sensible behaviour in any economic institution - the voices of the underdeveloped countries, of the intermediate countries and of countries in different positions are heeded and serve as a very useful guide in applying economic aid to the various member countries.
This International Development Association is, of course, as I think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports said - and as we must all recognize if we are honest - the thin end of the wedge. There will be many subsequent passings round of the hat after this initial excursion. This body provides a means of extending the field of International Bank loans, which, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, are made on strictly commercial terms, but anyone connected with the International Bank realizes that there are many things which cannot be reduced to commercial terms. For instance, the International Bank in the course of its activities has had to refrain from advancing funds for non-economic non-revenue producing projects, for the simple reason that unless a project is economic and produces revenue, and unless the foreign exchange resources of the country concerned are likely to develop sufficiently to enable the loan to be repaid eventually, it is not satisfactory, from a strictly economic viewpoint, to lend on it. There are many projects, such as water supplies and education and hospital services, which, although basic to economic development, do not fall at present within the province of the international Bank; nor can they, in truth, be satisfactorily the subject of international financial loans in the normal sense.
This institution will open the way to loans for such purposes, and although the beginnings may be small, in comparison with the vast sums mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports as being spent on armaments, they are sizeable. It must be remembered that, with the best will in the world, it is not easy to spend vast sums of money on development in effective ways in these under-developed countries. The process has to start with training people in the country concerned to know what to do and how to go about it, and to establish priorities for providing the necessary power stations, road transport facilities and so on. lt is only after a period of many years that large sums can be spent, because human beings and social institutions have to change in order to enable satisfactory economic results to be attained. It is all right for the politically conscious people in many of the under-developed countries to urge speedy development, but in many cases they do not understand the difficulties from the economic viewpoint, and the changes that have to be brought about in the social fabric of their countries in order to achieve economic success. It is very often questionable whether an unduly rapid rate of economic advance brings in its train social welfare and happiness. It is only when changes come about fairly slowly, and when the nationals of the countries concerned are themselves able to participate in and take charge of the process, that international and internal tensions of a very disturbing character are not brought about.
The Treasurer mentioned three particular points which Australia had made in the course of the discussions which led to the establishment of the International Development Association. He explained that there were two classes of countries concerned. They are those mentioned1 in Part I of the Schedule and those mentioned in Part II. He regarded that as a rather arbitrary division between the haves and have-nots. Internationally, these comparisons are always extremely difficult to draw. But surely the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who somewhat criticized the attitude of the Treasurer on this point, must face the existence of certain problems.
Although Australia is, relatively, a very wealthy country, we have to remember our own peculiar circumstances. One of our problems is, not that we have a high standard of living, but that we have peculiar difficulties on our international exchanges and are subject to periodic balance of payments difficulties. We also have every cause to import capital at a high rate. I appreciate that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not altogether realize that fact. We have to keep our weather eye open, because we have already very considerable international obligations, the first being to the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Unless we discharge that obligation to the satisfaction of the world - and the world will not be easily satisfied in this matter - and demonstrate that we are doing our utmost to promote the development of Papua and New Guinea, we will find this territory an increasing burden on our resources. We also have a virtually growing commitment under the Colombo Plan. We have undertaken, too, to subscribe quite sizeably to the Indus Waters Scheme in the event of a satisfactory settlement being reached between Pakistan and India. Finally, we are contributing in various ways to the United Nations.
It is essential, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for any country which is obliged to import capital and to incur long-term obligations to keep its weather-eye on its annual out-go over the international exchanges. It was well that the Treasurer, through his officers overseas, impressed on the representatives of other countries that Australia was not quite in the position of some of the very mature capital-exporting countries which are called upon to contribute the major share of the funds of the International Development Association.
Also the Treasurer is to be congratulated on insisting, with the aid of his representatives overseas, that funds from the International Development Association should bc available to make loans and grants to the dependent territories of countries which are themselves members in the “Part I.” sense. It behoves us to look very closely at the possibility of the International Development Association assuming at least part of what will become an increasingly heavy burden to Australia in New Guinea and Papua. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also mentioned this question of local currency. He was rather critical of the attitude of the Treasurer on this subject. This is a difficult question.
Clearly, it was an accumulation by the United States of currencies of different countries of the world, notably that of India, which first thrust this problem to the forefront. To this question of international development there are two sides. On the one side is the point that it is desirable for people who know more about it and who are greatly experienced in economic matters, not only to give contributions to underdeveloped countries but also to guide their footsteps. In guiding their footsteps, very delicate political issues arise. From some viewpoints, it may be desirable, instead of accumulating local currencies, for the International Development Association to hand over moneys as grants. There is no guarantee that if this were done those grants would always be used in the manner best suited to the economic success of those countries. From that viewpoint, some outside guidance might be desirable. On the other hand, outside guidance, for whatever real motive, is often bitterly resented.
This is surely a great step forward. I think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will agree that those great pools of local currencies which have been accumulated by the United States and which will be accumulated by the International Development Association should be brought under some kind of international aegis which basically is looking at the problem from the viewpoint of the good of the country concerned. In many cases although the financial and economic authorities of the under-developed countries want to pursue at certain course, the political factors are too much for them. They cannot contend with some of their less responsible elements In such instances there is scope for an international body to come in and guide the destiny of the local currency concerned.
It is encouraging to note that, whatever the resources of this type are to start with there is scope for further contributions in future, not only in local currency which no doubt will come heavily from the United States, but also from other countries. This does offer some effective international guidance on problems of development and because of the way in which grants can be administered, it is likely to lead to a more prosperous world, both for the undeveloped countries themselves and for other countries. It is to be noted that these grants or loans to be given by the International Development Association will not be such as to conflict with the general development of international trade. There is also particular scope for rendering technical assistance.
This institution, in the first place, will come under a very great man in this field. Whatever aspirations may exist, they nearly always have to take shape eventually around the personality of a man. In Eugene Black who is president of the International Bank we have a great man who can lead the countries of the world along enlightened paths. His activities are well-known in the International Bank. We know of his intervention in the dispute with Egypt over Suez which eventually was brought to a satisfactory conclusion. His ability to bring the tycoons of Wall-street together and lead them along paths which hold back the most irresponsible elements in under-developed countries and keep all parties happy is indeed a great contribution to the future of the world. This association is another milestone along that path and I am sure that in supporting it, as the Opposition and the Government do, Australia will play its part in solving what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has described as one of the great problems of the century.
.- The bill before the House this evening has the aim of making Australia a foundation member of the proposed International Development Association, the purpose of which is to extend financial assistance, in the main, to under-developed countries. The Opposition is not opposing this bill but is making clear the defects and deficiencies of this association and of this proposal. Summarizing our argument, the Opposition says that this proposal comes too late and involves far too little. Proposals for an organization of this sort were made first in 1947 or 1948, and that was the time when the association should have been set up. But at that time the parties which form the present Government were not in favour of such action. Later on, when a proposal came before the United Nations to set up a special fund for economic development, the present Government, which was then in office, did not support it. This was because international lending, during and after the Korean war, had become a strategic and military matter.
It was the Western powers that decided to use international lending for strategic and military purposes. This use of international finance for military purposes has not achieved the aims of those who favoured it. So we claim that the putting of this kind of lending on a non-strategic and nonmilitary basis is too late and involves too little. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) began his discussion without having any regard to these facts. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) began his speech by quoting figures showing the disproportion between military and semimilitary spending and spending for economic development. He indicated the disproportion between the concern for peace of the governments associated in this move, and their concern for war. I think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports adequately proved the point that he was making.
The Minister commenced by asking: Why should the International Development Association be established? He answered by saying that the three existing international financial bodies - the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank and the International Finance Corporation - do not fulfil the needs that this association is supposed to meet. He went on to say that -
The charter of the International Bank enables it to extend long-term loans for economic development: but it can make such loans only if repayment and fulfilment of other terms and conditions are guaranteed by the Government of the recipient country. Moreover, the Bank’s continued operations depend on preserving the confidence of the private investors who, through their subscriptions to the bonds issued by the Bank on the world’s capital markets, provide the bulk of the Bank’s lendable funds.
He established that the International Monetary Fund is concerned only with balance of payments problems. Then he went on to say that the International Finance Corporation operated on a principle similar to that of the International Bank. Putting it in a nutshell, these three international bodies have been conducted, in the main, by private investors and have not had the higher profit opportunities because these have been left to private investors - to Wallstreet and associated bodies. These international bodies, the bank and the finance corporation, have taken the next steps but have, in fact, applied the ordinary kind of financial standards which international financiers apply. It was expected, when these international bodies were first established, that, being composed of government representatives, they would be outside the criterion of international finance, but we have found - and the Minister has admitted - that the International Bank and the International Finance Corporation have operated generally within the kind of criterion that international financiers in fact have established.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) pointed out that these international bodies have not reached inside the problems of the have-not countries. On reference to the International Bank figures in the fourteenth annual report just issued to us, honorable members will find out that of the 3,386 billion dollars, as the Americans express it, almost half has been lent to developed countries. That is 1,650 billion more than the 1,733 billion that has been lent to under-developed countries. If we refer to individual countries, the largest loan that went to an undeveloped country was to India - 444,000,000 dollars. Australia came next with 254,000,000 dollars, Japan next with 237,000,000 dollars, then France with 232,000,000 dollars, Brazil with 229,000,000 dollars, Italy with 207,000,000 dollars, Mexico with 164,000,000 dollars, United Kingdom with 161,000,000 dollars, South Africa with 126,000,000 dollars and Belgium with 112,000,000 dollars. Most of those countries are developed countries, with the exception, perhaps, of Brazil and Mexico, and to some extent Italy. Those countries were the largest borrowers from the International Bank, and they are all developed countries.
Therefore, the International Bank has clearly not discharged its implied responsibilities to begin with. When one sees South Africa borrowing from this source, I think, under present circumstances that no international body should lend to South Africa until it changes its policy. Therefore, the Minister is quite right in pointing out that the way in which the members of the international financial bodies have now been turned into this development association indicates that this is necessary because the existing international associations have not been able to lend, except at the criterion of the financiers, and they have not been able to lend sufficient to underdeveloped countries.
There is one point of criticism I would like to offer here. This association is just what one might call a cold-war or unilateral association. It would be far better, to my mind, if a body of this sort were set up under the United Nations, including all members of the United Nations - Communist powers and non-Communist powers - in an attempt to involve them in the job of financing under-developed countries. It would be better to bring them together in that action rather than set up an organization predominantly under United States influence, suggested by the United States and undoubtedly following, predominantly, American ideas. This proposed body will do a lot of good, but the one I suggest would be much better if it were established on a United Nations basis and brought together the two great blocs of world powers in a joint effort to develop the under-developed parts of the world.
The fact that this International Development Association is a one-sided instrument raises the question: Will it be able to depart from the kind of strategic influences that have so far so much influenced international lending? The facts are that international lending is mainly part of the Western powers’ strategic policy. The Western uneconomic lending has been mainly done for the purpose of attempting to reinforce the Western world against communism. When we refer to the military aid programme we find countries that have been lent money by the United States.
Here I shall quote from the Congress Quarterly Weekly Report, No. 8 of 1960. It shows that countries have received Congress military aid in order to integrate them into the network of powers around the Communist powers. It has also been given to France, which is carrying on a colonial war in northern Africa. The largest recipient of military aid from the United States is France with 4,500 billion dollars. The next is Taiwan or Formosa which received just over 2,000 billion dollars. The next was Italy with nearly 2,000 billion dollars, then Turkey with 1,800 billion dollars, and Korea with 1,500 billion dollars. The whole of Latin America, where the threat of communism is not great, received 423,000 million dollars and Africa 48,000 million dollars. This shows the dispersion of military aid.
When we turn to mutual or non-military aid we find the situation is just the same. I have here some figures from the Statistics Abstract for the United States for 1959. For France this amounted to 3,192 billion dollars and for the United Kingdom to 3,828 billion dollars. These are not underdeveloped countries requiring that aid for the purpose of economic development. Korea received 1,300 billion dollars and Greece 911,000,000 dollars. Whichever way one examines these figures they indicate that military aid or economic aid has had an underlying or strategic influence all the way through. Certainly this kind of development shows a recognition of the need for economic development but it does not always show a need for decent honest government as democratic as could be obtained in the circumstances.
Of course, Korea is now a classic example of a recipient of both economic and military aid. It is very clear that the world must have economic progress and stability if we are not to have in many places on the surface of the earth unrest and disorder which will lead to conditions that will endanger the peace of the world and cause widespread hatred and death. The association’s purpose is not to reinforce existing governments or to produce economic development only in the limited sense. Its purpose is much broader than that - to prevent economic shortage, poverty and distress from leading to unrest and disorder from which events will occur which may disturb the peace of the world. I should think that every one, irrespective of his politics, prefers to see a condition of stability in that sense, which will prevent the occurrence of events such as we have seen in Korea, which may endanger the peace of the world, rather than the alternative.
It must be recognized - I emphasize this in relation to this measure - that the incidence of communism in various countries is not the result of a conspiracy or of something imported from Russia or China. Basically, communism is the result of economic and social conditions in the area where the trouble arises. It has been said that this has not always been the view of the Australian Labour Party and that this view arose at the Hobart conference of 1955. That conference basically stressed the principle that the incidence of communism in various parts of the world is not only, or mainly, the result of some kind of conspiracy or some imported influence from Russia or China, but is something much more complex and difficult than that, and that it cannot be met by military measures alone, or in the main, but has to be met in some other way. That is the principle which underlies the foreign policy of the Australian Labour Party as enunciated at the Hobart conference.
I hope that the International Development Association Bill 1960 will not result in something which overlooks that fundamental fact. Many of our most bitter opponents have said that this policy of the Australian Labour Party is a recent development. They have referred to the days of Mr. Chifley and Mr. Curtin and have said that in those days things were different. I remind the House that this is not so. I should like to refer to a number of statements which were made by the late J. B. Chifley to demonstrate that the principle which I have mentioned has always been the fundamental view of the Australian Labour Party. I emphasize it now because it is of great significance in relation to this bill. In September, 1948, Mr. Chifley made a speech in which he stated that he had no illusions about the way in which Communists assumed power in various parts of the world in which there was unrest. He said -
I have no illusions about that, but the great upsurge of nationalism that is occurring now throughout the East has roots that go deeper than communism. This upsurge may not have any clear objectives. It is a rebellion, sometimes an economic rebellion, against conditions under which the people have been living. Let us consider the position in Europe. Could communism flourish there if the people were contented, and well fed, and enjoying decent living conditions? Given those conditions, communism would not have found a footing anywhere in Europe.
This kind of measure is too little too late, because the conditions to which Mr. Chifley referred in 1948 have been permitted to continue since that time. They have not been met substantially enough by economic measures calculated to remove them. We say that economic measures always have had this military and strategic consideration underlying them. We hope that that will not continue when the International Development Association comes into operation.
To indicate the degree to which these views have been underlying the policy of the Australian Labour Party, let me now refer to a speech which was made in this House by the late J. B. Chifley, on 23rd March, 1950. He said-
I have heard a great deal of talk about communism, and what the Communists have done in Russia and in central Europe. The fact is that communism has developed in Europe because of conservative action - or inaction - in the past. No one can deny that in most European countries the ordinary people did not receive from governments and from the ruling classes the consideration they deserved. In many European countries such as Italy, Hungary and Poland, more than two-thirds of the land was held by wealthy absentee landlords. That reflected no credit on those who had guided the destinies of such countries in the past. Such a situation constituted a fertile seed bed for the growth of communism Indeed, it may be said that the seeds of communism were sown by those persons who are now referred to as rightists, and who fought against every attempt to liberalize the laws for the benefit of the people.
That is the traditional view of the Australian Labour Party. Unless you get away from this negative anti-communism, or the kind of thing that installed the corrupt Syngman Rhee Government for seven or eight years in Korea, you will not stop unrest and disturbance. You will not stop the advance of communism. You will feed it, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is now interjecting, is included in the rightists to whom Mr. Chifley referred in 1950.
When we turn to the traditional Australian Labour Party view on China, Mr. Chifley, continuing the speech to which I have already referred, stated -
I often considered that I should have told the House long ago about the real position in China. The facts were known to the late President Roosevelt in 1942, and he sent many envoys, including Mr. Donald Nelson, General Marshall and Mr. La Guardia to that country from time to time. The administration of the Nationalist government was completely corrupt. When I make that statement, I want it to be understood that I am not referring to the Generalissimo himself, but am speaking of the administration of national affairs in China. That administration was so corrupt that the arms which were sent from the United States of America to assist the National government in the war against Japan were sold or given to the Communist armies in China. In fact, communism triumphed in China because of the arms which had been sent to that country by the United States of America for the purpose of defending democracy. If time permitted, I could describe to the House what happened to large quantities of supplies and stores including those consigned to U.N.R.R.A. The Chinese administration was prepared to sell, give away or surrender large quantities of goods which America was providing to assist the Allies against Japan.
If you want to know why there is communism on the mainland of China, there is the reason. It is not something which was imported from Russia; it is not something which came about as a result of a conspiracy of the Communist parties; it was the result of the conditions which the corrupt Nationalist government and administration in China permitted there. It is not much good giving economic aid at this late stage unless you are satisfied that you will not encourage governments of the kind I have mentioned.
That is not the end of the traditional and fundamental views of the Australian Labour
Party - the views which were not acquired by us for the first time in 1955 at Hobart. They were expressed in Hobart as part of the traditions which the late Mr. Chifley played a distinguished role in making. The people who criticize the foreign policy of the Australian Labour Party as expressed at Hobart do not know the history and the traditions of this party. Neither do they know the emphasis which has been given in this House time and time again to the kind of thing that we have said must underlie legislation of this kind, or it will not be worth the paper on which it is written. At this period Mr. Chifley had this to say also -
It is a grave mistake to attribute to the Communists responsibility for all the disturbances that have taken place in the Bast. On this point Pandit Nehru said:
If anybody thinks he can stop the spread of radicalism in Asia by guns, soldiers and ships, he makes the greatest possible mistake.
He also said that the only thing that can save the East from some form of radicalism is an improvement in the economic conditions of the people. He said that until that was achieved nothing could happen except, perhaps, a worse state of affairs than existed in the first place.
Has not that been illustrated to perfection by the events in Korea? Mr. Chifley continued -
I know we cannot give all the help that we should like to give to these people. They need technical men and, perhaps, plant.
The point was emphasized quite correctly by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), who preceded me in this debate. Interestingly enough, there is made in this examination a point with regard to Korea which I think is fundamental to this bill. I want to remind the House particularly of a statement made by Mr. Chifley in 1950 just after the outbreak of the Korean War. In a speech made in this House of 27th September, 1950, he said -
I want to make it clear that our acceptance of the principle of resistance to North Korean aggression must not be taken to mean that the Labour Party of this country stands for the support of corrupt governments. There has been a tendency in some quarters to make a pretence of defending Formosa, which would be, in effect, giving protection to Chiang Kai-shek. I do not propose to relate the history of the Chiang Kai-shek administration, which is well known to everybody. I am not speaking of the generalissimo himself-
Mr. Chifley made that distinction all the time - but of the Chinese nationalist administration, which was completely -corrupt. Perhaps t may say in .passing that the administration in the Philippines to-day is something of which no democracy has any reason to be proud. I have emphasized those –points in order to make it perfectly clear that the acceptance by the Australian Labour Party of the principle -enunciated previously by the Prime Minister must not be taken to mean that we are prepared to help to restore to power the kind of governments of which I have spoken.
Mr. Chifley went on to say that the Government of South Korea was corrupt at that time. As we know, it has remained corrupt ever since.
Mr. Speaker, communism is not a cause; it is a result. It is a result of economic conditions and of corrupt, undemocratic government. Economic progress and stability are needed. But what is needed even more is decent self-government in the areas concerned. This International Development Association is a body of nations which has to face the responsibility of providing that kind of government. If the association continues to face this responsibility with a negative anticommunism associated with a positive emphasis on military and strategic conditions, it will fail. Failure has been the record of this kind of effort for more than ten years. The funds of this association should not be used purely for antiCommunist purposes. They should not be used just for economic aid, because you can have economic aid without results and without development. The economic aid given should lead to economic development with all the necessary development of social institutions and technical knowledge which were emphasized by the honorable member for Wentworth. And economic aid should be provided only for decent, honest governments - not for corrupt ones. It should be provided only for governments which are as democratic as is possible in the circumstances.
What is being done now in Korea as a result of necessity could have been done there two, three, four, five or ten years ago. But no. Those responsible would not take the necessary action until the circumstances forced them to do so. Economic aid and assistance should not be given to governments of the kind that practise the corruption that was practised by Syngman
Rhee. Honorable members on the Government side of the House were defending him only a month or six weeks ago - in particular, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who has said not a word about it since. This kind of pretence and this kind of policy are breaking down under their own weakness.
I want to make one point in conclusion, Mr. Speaker: Whatever is done in relation to economic development, international trading is of prime importance. We know, as a result of the United Nations world economic survey made in 1958, that, in terms of trade, the under-developed countries lost, in the two years prior to 1958, more than they had received in economic aid of every kind since the end of World War II., solely because of the adverse turn in their trade. So, any association of this kind, or any effort of the kind now proposed, ought to be concerned primarily with international trade in basic commodities. We found, at the same time as the under-developed countries lost so heavily because of the adverse turn in their terms of trade, that an improvement in the standard of living in the European countries came as a result of the gain from the favorable turn in their terms of trade. So the prosperity in Europe, which no doubt led to the return of the Conservative Government in the United Kingdom last year, was a gain achieved as a result of the losses of the have-not, under-developed countries.
This sort of thing cannot go on without a worsening of international economic conditions and the creation in various parts of the world of those centres of unrest and disturbance which may endanger world peace. The responsibility to prevent the development of this unrest is the kind of responsibility that the International Development Association will have. It is the kind of responsibility that neither this association, so far, nor any other association, has shown any real concern to meet. In discussing this bill, we must emphasize that aspect of the problems involved. The International Development Association will have to do something about this problem. If the association is to be nothing more than a financiers’ club, it will fail as failure has been the record of these ventures in the past.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Swartz) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Pursuant to Standing Order No. 17, I lay on the table my warrant, nominating Mr. Chaney, Mr. Clark, Mr. Failes, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Luchetti, Mr. Lucock, Mr. Makin, Mr. Peters, Mr. Timson and Mr. Wight to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The Reserve Bank has not subscribed to the capital of any of the companies that are authorized dealers in the short-term money market. With regard to loans, the Reserve Bank has determined a maximum limit for each authorized dealer and the dealer may obtain a temporary loan for an amount up to this limit from the Bank as lenderoflastresort against lodgment of security. The amounts of loans made under these lines of credit are not published.
Capel Court Securities Proprietary Limited.
Delfin Discount Company Proprietary Limited.
Discount Corporation of Australia Proprietary Limited.
First Federal Discount Company Proprietary Limited.
National Discount Corporation Proprietary Limited.
Short Term Acceptances Proprietary Limited.
United Discount Company of Australia Proprietary Limited.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 to 4. No applications under the provisions of Part II., Division 1, of the Banking Act 1959 for authority to carry on banking business in Australia are at present under examination. The implications of those provisions in relation to certain forms of business activity are, however, being considered.
Nuclear Weapons Tests.
.- On 22nd March, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) directed to the Minister for External Affairs a question without notice asking whether he could elaborate in any way on the progress of the conference at present taking place in Geneva between the three powers on nuclear disarmament. The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
For eighteen months now the United Kingdom and United States on the one side, and the Soviet Union on the other, have been negotiating at Geneva the draft of a Treatyon the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests. In that time, substantial progress has been made in working out the details of the treaty, including a control system which would ensure that an undertaking written into the treaty to refrain from further tests could not be broken without the breach being detected.
For a comprehensive treaty covering the suspension of all tests, the control system would need to cope with four different categories of nuclear explosions - surface or lower - atmospheric tests; underwater tests; high altitude tests; and underground tests.
Clandestine explosions of the first three types would be comparatively easy to detect with the comprehensive control system (consisting of a world-wide network of 180 control posts, aircraft samplingflights, &c.) agreed to by the two sides. Large underground explosions (of 20 kilotons or more) could also be fairly readily detected by these methods combined with a reasonable number (yet to be agreed) of on-site inspections by mobile teams.
The detection of smaller underground tests, however, presents a much more formidable problem. In the first place, it is very difficult by means of instrument readings alone to distinguish between the tremors given off by small underground nuclear explosions and those given off by the thousands of earthquakes which occur each year. Secondly, exploding small nuclear devices in large underground holes would almost completely muffle the characteristic signals by which they would ordinarily be detected. In doubtful cases, the only way of resolving the issue would be to send an inspection team to the site of the event to see whether it was nuclear or natural in origin.
The Soviet Union, however, has demanded the right to veto the despatch of inspection teams unless the West agrees to a small, politically determined annual quota of on-site inspections. The Western position, on the other hand, is that a veto would be completely unacceptable, and that, if there is to be a quota, it should be determined on scientific grounds and could not safely be as small as the Soviet Union apparently has in mind.
In an endeavour to break the deadlock, the United States of America proposed in February, 1960, that, rather than let this problem of detecting small underground tests hold up the whole negotiations, it should be put on one side and a treaty concluded which would ban all categories of explosions except undetectable underground explosions, which could be taken as being those below a certain critical size. The United States suggested that this “ threshold “ should be a reading of 4,75 on the seismic magnitude scale. This reading is obtained from a nuclear explosion of 20 kilotons, in the view of Western scientists, but of only 2 kilotons in the Soviet scientists’ view. They also proposed that a joint research programme be simultaneously undertaken to enable the treaty in time to be extended to cover small underground tests too, through the development of betterinstrumentation and control techniques.
The Soviet Union promptly rejected the “ threshold “ proposal on the ground that it would allow the resumption of nuclear tests, even though only small ones. On 19th March, however, they reversed this attitude, indicating their readiness to accept these American proposals provided the West agreed to a moratorium on tests below the threshold - that is, a “ gentleman’s agreement “ not to conduct underground tests giving a reading of 4.75 or less for the duration of the joint research programme, which it was suggested might be four or five years.
On 29th March, President Eisenhower, and Mr. Macmillan, who had flown especially to the United States to discuss the implications of the Soviet offer and to reach an agreed Western position on it, issued a joint statement setting out their views on the Soviet offer. The President and the Prime Minister said that they would be prepared to institute a moratorium or gentleman’s agreement on underground tests below the “ threshold “ provided -
that a treaty had first been signed covering all tests except underground tests below the threshold;
that arrangements had first been finalized for a co-ordinated research programme on methods of detecting tests below the threshold; and
that the moratorium, to be “ of agreed duration “, was not part of the treaty itself.
Should the Soviet Union accept this offer - and recent indications are they might be disposed to do so, although subject to certain conditions which must be carefully studied - it would be a most encouraging step forward. As the Prime Minister and President pointed out in their statement, however, there are several outstanding issues which must be resolved before a treaty as in proviso (i) above can be signed. These include -
the question of the exact size and method of calculating an adequate quota of on-site inspections;
the composition of and voting - veto - in the control commission which is to guide and supervise the work of the detection and identification system;
the staffing pattern of the control posts; and
arrangements for nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes - already agreed in principle.
Even if some of these issues were settled reasonably soon, perhaps at the Summit meeting later this month, complete agreement on the terms of a treaty banning nuclear tests will probably take some considerable time.
m asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
New South Wales -
Group A -
Davis, Florence Amy.
Lockwood, Rupert Ernest.
Group A -
Kennelly, Patrick John.
Sandford, Charles Walter.
Group A -
Dittmer, Felix Cyril Sigismund.
Poulter, Maxwell William.
South Australia -
Group A -
Finger, Alan Henry.
Moss, James Laurence.
Johnston, Elliott Frank.
Western Australia -
Group A -
Scott, Malcolm Fox.
Branson, George Howard.
Sim, John Peter.
Group A -
Cole, George Ronald.
Dilger, Bruce William.
Morgan, Virgil Daniel.
z asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will the Minister give consideration to the inclusion of the new Commonwealth administrative building in Toowoomba in the works programme for the next financial year?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is planned to erect a Commonwealth Office building in Toowoomba. If funds can be made available the project will proceed next financial year.
Homes for the Aged.
t asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Although the United Kingdom Pood Standards Committee stated in its Report on Preservatives that its use in certain products such as cheese and the more acid canned foods could be advantageous, the addition of Nisin to foodstuffs sold in the United Kingdom is not yet authorized by law. As far as can be ascertained no other country permits its use at present.
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - .
The assisted migrants who paid these sums were returning to the United Kingdom; South Africa; Malta; United States of America; the Netherlands; Austria; Western Germany; Greece; Italy; Finland; Sweden; Switzerland; Denmark and Norway. During these three years 182,297 assisted migrants arrived in Australia.
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Australia’s immigation programme falls into two classes - assisted and unassisted. The detailed answer hereunder covers the broad lines of policy relating to unassisted migration. Firstly, however, as to assisted passages: these are available to certain categories of persons eligible for permanent entry subject to conditions which differ from country to country. Suitable nationals of the following countries may, under varying circumstances, be considered for assisted passages: - United Kingdom, Eire, Malta, the Netherlands, West Germany, Australia, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Spain and the United States of America. Assisted migration from the United Kingdom is the subject of a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and Australian governments. Whilst Australia bears most of the financial cost of the scheme, the United Kingdom makes a modest annual contribution under the terms of its Commonwealth Settlement Act. Bilateral agreements have also been negotiated with certain other countries listed above, namely Malta, the Netherlands, West Germany, Italy. The Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration - I.C.E.M. - is associated with the agreements with the Netherlands, West Germany and Italy, and this organization, together with Australia and the country of origin normally contribute towards movement costs. Migrants also are required to make passage contributions. Special arrangements exist whereby nationals of Denmark, Austria and Greece and Spain can obtain passages to Australia subsidized by the Commonwealth Government in association with I.C.E.M. Nationals of other listed countries are assisted by Australian passage contributions only under the general assisted passage scheme. 1. (a) Entry for Permanent Residence - Persons of European descent -
Persons not of European Descent. - The established policy is that, in general, persons not of European descent are not eligible to enter Australia for permanent residence. Exceptions are -
highly qualified and distinguished persons, in any of four categories -
Visitors’ visas may be made valid for an initial stay of up to six months, and extensions up to six months more may be granted on application. Under visa agreements entered into with a number of countries, their nationals may obtain visas good for several journeys, free of charge. Many other categories of persons may apply for temporary entry. Perhaps the most notable are students, of whom some 6,000 - from Asian countries - are attending our universities, schools and other institutions. Intending students must satisfy overseas posts that they have been enrolled for a suitable course, have a sufficient knowledge of English to pursue the course, are in good health, have accommodation to come to, and have adequate financial arrangements made. Differing conditions apply of course to Colombo plan students.
Visas for temporary stay are available on special conditions to a great number of other special categories - for example, merchants, assistants to Asian businesses, buyers for overseas firms, entertainers, persons needing medical treatment not available in their homeland and so on. Information as to the conditions applicable to any particular category and the procedure followed could if desired be obtained from my department.
z asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Superphosphate, 956,908 acres. Agricultural chemicals, 782,178 acres. Seed, 285,510 acres. Baits for rabbit destruction, 94,510 acres.
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is: -
The information sought by the honorable member is not available. To obtain it would involve an unreasonable amount of work. To be eligible to receive unemployment benefit a person must be able and willing to undertake suitable work. The question of accidents in relation to unemployment benefit is not directly relevant unless a person, after having received sickness benefit or an invalid pension following an accident, subsequently became fit for work but was unable to obtain employment and was then granted unemployment benefit
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The Government of the Federation of Malaya has announced that the emergency which has been in force for twelve years, will officially end on 31st July, 1960, and the Emergency Regulations be repealed at the same time. However, Communist terrorists still remain in the border area between Malaya and Thailand, and it is expected that operations against them will continue. When Malaya became an independent member of the Commonwealth in September, 1957, arrangements were agreed between the Governments of the Federation of Malaya and the United Kingdom, with which the Governments of Australia and New Zealand were associated, for the continued stationing of Commonwealth Forces in Malaya after independence. Details of these arrangements were announced at the time. Since then, Australian forces have remained in Malaya as part of the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve and with the agreement of the Federation Government. There has been no change in this situation.
z asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In view of the extensive re-organization of the Army which is now being undertaken, will he approve the release of land held by the Army in the Marrickville Municipality in order that it may be made available for housing and other purposes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The future requirement for land and buildings held by the Army in the Sydney area, including the depot in Addison-road. has recently been examined by a special committee, which has recommended that as there is a continuing Army requirement for this property, it should be retained. Marrickville has for many years, been a major Army centre and will continue to be so when the current re-organization is fully implemented. The depot is to be occupied by some twenty-four units and sub-units of the Citizen Military Forces and Supplementary Reserve, the combined personnel establishment of these units being over 1,500. The policy of the Army is to group units together in populated areas to avoid excessive travel. Under the re-organization this factor will be most important as the Citizen Military Forces will have to rely on volunteer enlistments. The depot, situated as it is, in the densely populated area of Marrickville, is strategically placed for this purpose. The Addison-road Depot is a valuable asset providing urgently needed accommodation and training facilities for C.M.F. and other units. In view of the above it is not proposed to release the land and buildings concerned.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Children of Japanese Servicemen in Papua and New Guinea.
a asked the Acting Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are asfollows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600510_reps_23_hor27/>.