24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLcay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Is he in a position to make any statement on published allegations of malpractice or dishonesty by members of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force in the operation of a towing-service roster? As these allegations at present reflect on the Police Force as a whole and. on the integrity and honesty of individual members of the force, will the Minister lake the earliest available opportunity either to rebut them completely or to announce the results of any departmental inquiry?
– I am not in a position to make an announcement yet. I hope to be able to do so shortly.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade. Is he able to advise the House whether arrangements have yet been made for an extension of the plan to have supplying countries restrict their exports of butter to the United Kingdom after March, when the present arrangement finishes, so that Australia may continue to receive its fair share of this traditional market?
– Unfortunately, I am not in a position to give the honorable member an answer at present. The information is expected to be available very shortly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that the Department of Trade has not yet received from the Tariff Board a report on its inquiry into permanent protection for the Australian paper industry, although the board completed its hearing in August, 1961? Is the Minister aware that this delay is causing great uncertainty in the industry? How does he reconcile the present state of affairs with previous assurances that the procedures of the Tariff Board have been streamlined and that delays have been eliminated?
– This matter has been carefully considered by the Minister for Trade, who, as the honorable member knows, is overseas at present. I suggest that the question be placed on the noticepaper so that a considered reply may be given.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question. In view of the financial stress that is placed on some parents who are trying to keep their children at universities, will the Government consider providing, in the forthcoming Budget, for small personal loans to be made through the Commonwealth Bank for third-year university students who are proving themselves scholastically capable of completing their courses, responsibility for repayment of a loan to rest on the student?
– The proposal of the honorable gentleman constitutes a novel approach to the problem of bank lending, particularly where personal loans are involved. I should like to study the implications and give some further consideration to the proposal.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Although the High Court has ruled that the agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia for the construction of a standard gauge link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie is not enforceable at law, will the Government favorably consider providing assistance for this work in the near future; or is it intended not to grant assistance until 1968, by which time the Commonwealth will have fulfilled its commitments with regard to the construction of the railway between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana in Western Australia?
– The Government’s position on this matter remains exactly the same as it was before the litigation. We are in fact putting a substantial sum of money towards the cost of diesel locomotives for this line. Their use, we are assured by the Premier of South Australia, will lead to very considerable economies in the operation of this part of the system. Apart from that, I have nothing to add to what has been said before.
– Mr. Speaker, I seek your guidance. I have here a brochure, a copy of which I shall pass to you, giving particulars and setting out the purpose of the first Commonwealth and British Empire Paraplegic Games to be held in Perth in November of this year. I ask you, Sir, whether a brochure such as this, containing information which honorable members should have, may be distributed in the House? If not, in what way can this information be conveyed to honorable members?
– J will have a look at the subject raised by the honorable member and I assure him that I will bring him up to date on the procedures that are necessary to comply with the rules of the House.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is he aware of the disabilities suffered by the people of the Geraldton district in Western Australia because of the high cost of living there? Did he in recent months discuss with a representative of the Geraldton people their request for Geraldton to be included in zone B to give them some income tax relief? Does the Government intend to introduce legislation to amend the Second Schedule of the Income Tax and Social Service Contribution Assessment Act to include. the district of Geraldton? If so, will the legislation be introduced in sufficient time to allow the people of Geraldton to receive taxation relief for the income year 1961-62?
– I assure the honorable member that his predecessor made representations to me on this matter several times on behalf of the people of Geraldton. It is a fact that not very long ago I received a representative from Gerald ton who elaborated the case for the reclassification of this town in such a way as to give further taxation relief under the zoning arrangements. I have since written in some detail setting out the reasons why it would not be appropriate to do this at the present time. Whilst living costs can be said to be higher in Geraldton than in some other parts of Australia, the people of this apparently very delightful town do enjoy certain advantages, and there are other parts of Australia not included in the zoning arrangements for taxation relief where living costs are considerably higher than they are in Geraldton. If there is to be a general review of these arrangements, then I can assure the honorable member that Geraldton will not be overlooked. I shall make available the full text of the reply which I have written.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. I understand that the Government of the United States of America announced publicly that it would aid Thailand in resisting Communist aggression without depending upon the prior agreement of other Seato nations. How might this decision affect Australia?
– A day or so ago, I indicated that the United States Secretary of State had made a very important public statement after a meeting in Washington with the Foreign Minister of Thailand. I then said I thought it would be as well if the whole of that statement were published in “ Hansard “. The honorable member for Corangamite has put on the notice-paper a question addressed to me on this subject. I hope to answer it formally to-day and include that statement in full.
Briefly, the effect of what the Secretary of State said was that the United States regarded the Seato agreement as being wide enough to enable the United States to act in aid of Thailand without the assent of every other member of Seato. I said on the last occasion on which I was asked a question on this matter that Australia welcomed that statement and that I could see great benefit to Australia from the statement, and from the execution of what was inherent in it, if ever that should become necessary. I also indicated that Australia took a similar view to America on the interpretation of the treaty.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport what progress, if any, has been made with the proposal to provide a roll-on roll-off type of ferry to operate between Sydney and Hobart in Tasmania. I further ask him whether any firm decision has been made about the number of ports that will be used in Tasmania or whether it has been decided to use the southern Tasmanian port only.
– Progress has. been made with the proposed ferry vessel to operate between Sydney” and Tasmania. Tenders have been called, and the contract has been let with the Cockatoo shipbuilding yards. This was a particularly good order for those yards because it meant that they would have employment that would not have been available otherwise. The plans for the vessel are being drawn up now. Some time always elapses between the acceptance of a tender and the actual beginning of construction because plans have to be completed and the various materials required must be ordered.
The question of the ports at which the vessel will call is a matter for the Australian National Line, which will operate the vessel. The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which operates the line, will announce the ports of call in due course
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs which is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Isaacs. Did the Australian Ambassador to Thailand, in his recent public statement over Radio Saigon, say Australia could or would - there is a difference between the two - be willing to act independently of Seato to defend Thailand against Communist aggression? Apart from the interpretation of the treaty, which has never been in doubt, has the Government decided to take action similar to that taken by the United States of America to guarantee the defence of the South-East Asian countries?
– I understand that the Australian Ambassador to Thailand made a public statement in which he incorporated the substance of the reply I made to the honorable member for Corangamite a few days ago. As far as I know, he correctly interpreted my statement. As to the rest of the honorable member’s question, I think it will be best if the honorable member reads the written answer that I shall give to the honorable member for Corangamite.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. The honorable gentleman knows that the new companies acts being introduced in the States give priority in the winding-up of a company to the wages of each of its employees up to £300 and to workers’ compensation up to £1,000, as well as to annual or long-service leave commitments, whereas the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act still affords only a limited priority, on the bankruptcy of an individual, to the wages of each of his employees up to the original limit of only £50 and to workers’ compensation up to £200. Therefore, I ask the honorable gentleman whether, in view of the time it is taking to obtain a report from the committee set up in 1954 to review the bankruptcy laws, and in view of the record number of sequestration orders last year, he will introduce a bill to give the same protection to the employees of individuals as is now given to the employees of companies.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked his question in a tone which implied that only members of the Opposition could have thought of such an idea. In point of fact, I put this idea to the committee on bankruptcy some time ago, and I was hopeful that very soon we would have a report from that committee. It is quite true that the committee’s report has been long delayed, but I am sure that honorable members will accept the proposition that to re-cast the entire Bankruptcy Act is by no means a small task. It is being done very thoroughly, and I hope to have the report very soon.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Has the sits for the television transmitter to serve the central western slopes of New South Wales yet been finally determined? If the tentative site on the Warrumbungle mountains is to be the final choice will the Minister inform the House whether the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is aware that the Australian National University is examining a site on Siding Spring Mountain in the Warrumbungle mountains as the possible site for an observatory? Would there be any technical difficulties in having both the transmitter and the observatory on almost the same site?
– This is a matter on which I have had some discussion with the honorable member for Lawson in the past few days. The position is that a site for a television transmitter to serve the central western slopes of New South Wales has been tentatively selected in the Warrumbungle mountains area, but the exact site has not yet been chosen. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Postal Department are aware that there is a proposal for the establishment of an observatory also in that area. I am advised that the exact site for the observatory has not been chosen either. However, since the plans are known both to the department and the board and to those responsible for the establishment of the observatory, I can assure the honorable member that discussions will take place between the bodies concerned to ensure that there will be no interference between the two services when the sites are finally chosen.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that Miss Cynthia Nelson, whose charm and efficiency are recognized by all who know her, has been appointed counsellor in the Australian Embassy in the United States of America? Is Miss Nelson the first woman to be appointed to such a position? Will Miss Nelson receive the same rate of pay as a male officer occupying a similar position in the Department of External Affairs? If not, how can the differentiation in salary be reconciled with the Australian Government’s obligations, undertaken at the 1931 International Labour
Organization convention, in respect of equal pay for the sexes?
– It is true that Miss Cynthia Nelson has been appointed to the post mentioned by the honorable member. Miss Nelson is the first lady to be so appointed and I welcome her appointment. I am sure she will be very successful. The question of pay and conditions is governed, as the honorable member well knows, by Public Service regulations and not by the Department of External Affairs.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral’s Department completed its plans for improving radio broadcasting, particularly for the elimination of static and interference as has been done by broadcasting organizations in other countries? If these plans have been completed can we be provided with an outline of them?
– I would not say that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had completed all its investigations and its planning for the elimination of static from broadcast transmissions. Such a claim would be rather far-fetched because new problems are always arising, particularly with the development of other forms of communication, of power reticulation and things like that. Nevertheless, the question is constantly under review and I can assure the honorable member that the matter will be further investigated. I think that the best thing that I can do for the honorable member, seeing that this is a highly tech-, mca matter, is to ask my officers to prepare a report containing the latest information on this matter and let the honorable member have a copy of it.
– I preface my question to the Postmaster-General by -referring to the proposed opening of transmission by the national television station at Bendigo, probably in April of next year. Will these transmissions merely be relays from the national station, Channel 2, in Melbourne? If so, will the programmes have no local content? Will the new station not employ local artists or televise local events? If it will not, what steps will the Government take to ensure a better service to the citizens of Bendigo and district, perhaps along the lines of the national regional radio programmes which combine both local and relayed items?
– This question seems to be similar to one which I think was asked yesterday by the honorable member for Newcastle.
– You might have improved since then.
– The position has not altered. The honorable member for Bendigo asked whether this station would merely transmit the programmes which are televised by the national service in Melbourne. I do not think that “ merely “ is an appropriate word to use in this context. The viewers in the honorable member’s area will receive from the local national station programmes of exactly the same high quality as those which are received in the capital cities. As I pointed out in reply to a previous question, although country television stations will all relay programmes for a start, it is the plan of the Australian Broadcasting Commission eventually to provide matters of local interest among items from the general programme put out by the national stations in the capital cities. I repeat that this is the policy which has been pursued in national broadcasting with such good effect for a number of years.
– Will the Prime Minister take steps to have any outstanding departmental reports that are within the jurisdiction of his department presented to the House as early as possible? I have in mind, particularly, the annual report for 1961 of the Commonwealth Office of Education, and I think there are one or two others outstanding.
– I will be very glad to do my best to expedite presentation of these reports. There are, of course, various circumstances affecting each of them, but I will do my best to produce the result which the honorable member wants.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that recent amendments to the income tax legislation were designed to encourage life assurance offices to place a greater proportion of their investible funds in government and semi-government loans? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the life assurance offices report that, at the current rates of interest, they obtain an advantage, after tax, on new investments in Commonwealth Government securities as compared with securities of local government and semi-government bodies, and that accordingly they have declined loan applications from municipal councils? Finally, in view of the Government’s hopes that increased local government activities will assist in absorbing the unemployed, can the Treasurer suggest alternative arrangements whereby local councils can obtain loan funds?
– It is a fact that the Government introduced legislation’ which, it was hoped, would have the effect of attracting more of the income of life assurance offices into Commonwealth loans. I believe that the results of recent loans reveal that the legislation is having useful effects in that direction. The comparative advantage to be obtained from investment in Commonwealth loans and semigovernment or local government securities will, perhaps, vary from time to time, but I have not been made aware, Sir, that local government bodies are experiencing any serious difficulty in securing the loans required by them up to the totals authorized by the Australian Loan Council under the gentleman’s agreement. The last check of the position that I made indicated that loan raisings by semi-government authorities had been proceeding rather more favorably than was the case in the previous year and that those for local government authorities were proceeding at about the same rate as in the previous year. In respect of both of those groups, according to my recollection, the full entitlement was taken up in the previous year. At the time when we met the Premiers at the Loan Council meeting quite recently it was agreed that no limit should be imposed on borrowings by local government bodies up to an amount of £100,000 between that point of time and the end of the financial year, and I do not recollect anybody seriously claiming that the money would not be available. If particular instances can be brought to my notice, I shall see whether there is any room for assistance either through the banking system or, perhaps, from one of the superannuation funds, but I can do no more than exercise my good offices in that regard.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Because of the important role that the stock exchange plays in industry to-day, and the fact that generally country people do not have the same up-to-date facilities for receiving the latest stock exchange information ‘ as other sections of the community, will he investigate the possibility of having the five-minute stock exchange session at 5.55 p.m. over one of the national networks increased in scope so as to give a complete coverage of stock exchange activities?
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission sets aside - and has done so for some considerable time - certain time for the provision of stock exchange information which it obtains so that listeners may be fully advised of movements on the exchange. I know that the times set aside are chosen in order to cater to the demand which has been evidenced. I do not know whether the time devoted to such broadcasts can be extended in the area represented by the honorable member for Wimmera, but I shall be very glad to submit his representations to the commission in order to see whether the service already provided can be extended.
– I direct to the PostmasterGeneral a question arising from reports of a 251 -word hoax telegram sent from Melbourne last night to leading newspapers throughout Australia and purporting to come from the Victorian Young Liberal and Country Movement, demanding the Prime Minister’s immediate resignation. Is it a fact that it will cost that organization £50 for the hoax telegrams?
– Did you say “ hoax “?
– I am glad of that.
– As. this is an important question,-, because it concerns everybody in this Parliament, I ask the Minister: What precautions does the Postmaster-General’s Department take . to ensure, that telegrams involving .such high charges are, in fact, genuine? Will the Postmaster-General investigate the source of this telegram?
– I can assure the honorable member for Wilmot that an investigation is already taking place to trace, if possible, the sender or source of this telegram. It is perfectly obvious to every one, and the fact is admitted by the honorable member, that this telegram was simply a hoax. The honorable member asks what action is taken by a phonogram operator, to whom the caller transmits a message, to ensure that the source is a reliable one. Because of what I have seen to-day I have naturally made some urgent inquiries. I find that, in this case, the phonogram operator did make exhaustive inquiries from the caller about the name of the organization he was supposed to represent, and the telephone number, which the operator later checked to ensure that the caller was telephoning from that service. Those queries were answered in a manner which seemed to the operator to be satisfactory, the answers being given in confident manner. The person who transmitted the message to the operator obviously had very clear information about the addresses of the various newspapers and people to whom he wished the message to be sent. It was, obviously, a well-prepared hoax and, as a result, there was nothing to suggest to the operator that the material submitted to him was not authentic. Of course, immediately the hoax became apparent, the Postmaster-General’s Department assigned its Chief Postal Investigation Officer to investigate this matter and we are pursuing urgent inquiries to try to discover the identity of the person who originated the hoax.
– Did it come from Tasmania?
– If I find that it came from Tasmania I will let the House know.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and
National Service is prompted by the question asked by the honorable member for Lang. In view of the fact that the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party and Trades Hall leaders severely criticized me for advocating equal pay for equal work in 1934, I ask: Does the Minister know whether the Labour Party has become educated over the last quarter of a century and has now changed its policy?
– If the experience of the last few weeks is any criterion, Sir, no.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Does he recall promising the electors, in November, that Australia would be - I quote his words - “ at the bargaining counter “ in any negotiations on the proposed entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community? Does he regard the present overseas mission of the Minister for Trade as fulfilment of that election promise? Does he consider that the prestige of Australia is enhanced by the methods which are being taken to have Australia’s voice heard at the bargaining counter, one such method being, apparently, an attempt to have pressure put on the United Kingdom by the United States of America-
– Order! I think the honorable member is now introducing comment into his question and that is not permissible.
– The Prime Minister can anticipate the rest of my question. Would he mind answering it?
– I do not mind telling my friend that I guessed it before he started. My colleague, the Minister for Trade, is on a journey which begins in Washington, extends to Canada and goes on to London and the Continent. This is a very important errand and he will, I think, conduct it with considerable skill, as one would expect from him. I pay no attention to incidental reports or speculations that are made during the course of the journey. I will undoubtedly hear from the Minister from time to time the results of his talks.
The honorable member need be under no misapprehension about this matter. The Minister for Trade is thoroughly competent to discuss the matters at issue from Australia’s point of view. He will discuss them at all relevant points. I myself have helped, so far as I can, by communicating with certain heads of government who are involved. The Minister’s journey will, I think, turn out to be extraordinarily useful. It will not necessarily be the end of the matter, because these negotiations will go on for a long time. There is one point about which the honorable member may be perfectly clear: No effort will be spared by this Government to get the best possible result for Australia out of these negotiations.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen a report by the Australian Dairy Industry Council to the effect that certain margarine producers, principally Marrickville Margarine Proprietary Limited, have, relying on the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution, been flouting the regulations for restricting production? Has any action been taken to discipline these manufacturers? If they refuse to comply with the regulations, will the Minister consider asking the Government to impose a sales tax on margarine?
– I have noticed general references to this matter attributed to the Australian Dairy Industry Council. I have also had some communications directed to me, as chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council, from a section of the margarine manufacturers. They were forwarded to me before the last meeting of the council and, as chairman of the council, I referred those representations to the State Ministers for their consideration. They have decided to confer on this very important matter. ‘
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. It concerns a disability suffered by certain people who are transferred from place to place at various times in the course of their employment. They include such people as bank officers, public servants and school teachers. Most of them need telephones, and whenever they go to a new residence they have to pay an installation charge of £10. It is not always possible for them to receive compensation on transfer in such circumstances. Will the Postmaster-General consider amending the regulations so that such people will not be required to pay the installation charge more than a certain number of times?
– The honorable member refers to one of the apparent anomalies connected with the telephone installation charge. This is not an easy problem to solve. Various arrangements may be made by a person being transferred. For instance, the telephone already installed may be transferred to the new occupant of the person’s residence, and the payment of any rental charges, installation fees or anything of that kind may be decided after negotiation between the outgoing person and the incoming occupant of the premises. Sometimes this is done, sometimes it is not. When it is not done, the department must abide by its regulations. I have discussed the matter previously with several members of the Parliament, including the honorable member for Corangamite. I realize that there is some difficulty, and if, as a result of discussions, I can find a way around it, I shall be happy to do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has he received a request from any branch of the Australian Country Party for the re-introduction of subsidies on superphosphate fertilizers and trace elements? If he has, will a report be made to the House? If not, will the Minister intimate his views on this important matter?
– I should like to inform the honorable member that members of the Australian Country Party are alive to their responsibilities towards primary industries everywhere and are always on the ball. The second part of the question relates to a matter of policy, which will be dealt with in due course.
– I wish to ask the
Treasurer a question * Wis capacity as
Leader of the House. Is he aware that a number of members of this House have been invited to take part in the celebrations marking the departure of, and to travel on, the first standard-gauge passenger train from Sydney to Melbourne on 12th April? Can he arrange for the House to rise earlier than usual in that week so that members will not miss this historic occasion?
– The occasion, as the honorable gentleman has suggested, is a very notable one. This Government and, indeed, the Parliament, through the Government, have made a very substantial financial contribution to the successful completion of this standard-gauge project. We, after all, made it possible for something which had been talked about for very many years to become a reality and - as we sincerely believe it will do - to contribute to the economic progress of this country in the years to come. It had not come to my notice that an extensive list of invitations to members of the Parliament had been issued. I shall certainly consider that matter. I presume that some of these invitations have reached honorable gentlemen opposite as well.
– Do not look to me for pairs.
– No doubt, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues will be willing to look at the matter in the spirit in which we believe the people of Australia would wish representatives of this Parliament to regard the celebration of a notable national occasion.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that the Government has been advised by its experts that hopes of oil being discovered in commercial quantities at the Moonie field in Queensland are not justified by present and recent happenings? When will the Minister be in a position to make a statement clarifying the position so that all Australians will know what to expect and so that stock-exchange speculation in oil shares may be reduced to the minimum?
– I am sorry if I rightly detected in the honorable member’s tone of voice disappointment that there has not proved to be more oil in Queensland than we think there is. I shall ask my colleague in another place to supply an answer to the honorable member’s question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Yesterday, in a question to the Minister, I sought information regarding the limiting of the import of cotton seed. I want to explain now that small quantities of cotton seed can be imported, and small as well as large quantities are subject to quarantine regulations. Is the inability of quarantine authorities to handle large quantities of cotton seed the reason for the limiting of imports?
– The answer is “ Yes “. Obviously, the number of personnel available to supervise quarantine conditions, plantings of seed, and the inspection of plants when grown, is limited. Although small areas of plantings can be supervised, the Department of Health, which handles this matter, cannot attend to much larger areas of plantings.
– I have received a letter from the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The injury to the public interest involved in increasing the number of commercial television licences in the capital cities; and the need instead to increase the number of national television licences in all areas and to appoint a select committee to investigate the conduct and standards of television in Australia.
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, the Opposition considers it desirable that, before the Government proceeds to issue any more licences for commercial television stations in accordance with the announcement made recently by the Postmaster-General (Mr.
Davidson) and one made by him on 18th October last, a select committee of this Parliament be appointed to examine the whole conduct of television in this country. The Australian Labour Party has never been happy about the way in which television has operated in this country. The system that we have is different from that which operates anywhere else. The United States of America has a commercial system and no national system. The United Kingdom, for many years, had a national system and no commercial system but, in recent times, commercial interests there have been permitted to tender for time on government-owned transmitters operated by what is known as the Independent Television Authority. That means that the instrumentality continues to be owned and operated by the Government. But, in Australia, commercial stations are owned by interests most of which are controlled by newspaper enterprises.
Until recently, six national stations were operating in this country, together with ten commercial stations, four of the State capital cities having two each and the other two State capitals having one each. Now, in the third and, fourth phases of the Government’s plans, it is proposed to extend the commercial television system rapidly. Commercial television licences are to be issued for certain country areas, but no national television stations are to be set up in those areas. We think that is wrong and we want a select committee of the Parliament to investigate the matter.
– Would you say that again?
– No national television stations are going into some of these country areas simultaneously with the commercial television stations. I instance Wollongong and Newcastle. We can do nothing about the extension of the commercial system, whatever we may think of it, because section 92 of the Constitution, while it remains unaltered, precludes us from nationalizing the television services. But the commercial system should not be extended at the expense of the national system. If a commercial licence is given for a big country area, a national licence ought to be given at the same time. I know that under the plans announced by the Minister, Western Australia will have some nine television licences,. of which perhaps four or five will be national stations, by the end of 1964. But at the moment the commercial interests are being permitted to establish themselves and are receiving all the advantages. We think that is wrong.
– Do you want television out of the country areas?
– No, we want television in the country areas, but we want the better type of television in the country areas first and not the cheaper type of television. If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), who has been making himself rather ridiculous in some of his recent contributions to the debates, would read the reports of the board, he would understand what I mean. The Thirteenth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board shows how the transmitting time of the commercial television stations was devoted to various types of programmes. This does not do much credit to the commercial stations. The amount of time spent on information, agriculture and industry, foreign lands and people, nature and science, and miscellaneous was 2.1 per cent, of the whole transmitting time. Time spent on current affairs, Australian activities, political matters, religious matters, social and human relations, and controversial matters was 3.4 per cent. The time spent on arts, fine arts, dance and ballet, serious music and opera was 0.3 per cent., and on educational programmes 0.3 per cent. The whole of the time spent on programmes that could be regarded as contributing to the improvement of the mind amounted to no more than 6 per cent, of the total time.
When we look to what the stations call drama, we find that crime and suspense take up 12.8 per cent, of the time; adventure, which in many instances is just another way of saying “crime and suspense”, 11.9 per cent.; and western, which is a most euphemistic term, 12.7 per cent. If that is the best the commercial stations can do, the sooner we get more national stations and national stations in country districts the better.
Our complaints about the present situation can be expressed in this way: The restrictive trade practices that arise from the bulk purchase of programmes and other materials and the employment of artists from overseas all operate to the detriment and exclusion of Australian actors and writers, who are suffering acute and widespread unemployment. The present situation demands that a quota be allotted to Australian plays, and Australian actors should get a fairer deal so that we can restore the national content to, and improve the standard of, all television programmes. The quota should be similar to that provided in Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada. We want to raise the standards of television and broadcasting; we do not want to play down to what people think they would like. This medium is such a powerful means of education and entertainment that it ought to be properly organized and used for the best end and not for the purpose for which it is being used now.
We think that a film footage tax should be imposed on imported films. Out of the proceeds of the tax, we could create a fund for producers of Australian plays, to enable local productions to compete with overseas plays which are produced on a much more lavish budget. After all, we are all proud of our country, of our artists, of our prose writers, of our poets and of our singers. But, at the moment, we do not seem to be proud of those Australians who could perform on television screens for the education and entertainment of our people. These Australians are the forgotten people of the television world, and those who control the television empires in Australia to-day will do nothing to help them.
We want a select committee to inquire into the capital structure, the profits, the interlocking directorates and other interests of commercial television companies. Once a licence is issued, the shareholders who obtained the original licence may not remain in the company. The shares may be sold. In Melbourne, for instance, Electronic Industries Limited was the major shareholder in the company that obtained the licence for GTV9. In due course, Electronic Industries Limited sold the licence to the Pye organization in England. Under a resolution of the Parliament, the foreign-owned company could not hold a television licence. I have no complaint about that; I wish the principle were extended to other companies, including banking and insurance companies. But because the Pye organization could not hold the licence, another company had to buy it. It was sold to the “Daily Telegraph “ interests in Sydney. To-day, these interests hold two licences, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. It was surely never intended that one newspaper organization should bold two big commercial television licences in the two principal cities of Australia.
Apparently, nothing can prevent a company from circumventing the decisions of the Government. A company may act through subsidiaries to obtain the ownership or control of all the commercial television stations operating in Australia. To us, this seems to be against the public interest. It seems to us to be injurious of the public interest. We believe that the present position with two commercial stations in each of the four main capital cities of Australia is wrong. We believe that the extension of the system to include a third commercial station in each of those capital cities would also be wrong. Such an extension would make the present position even worse than it is and the public interest would suffer. That is why we use the words “ the injury to the public interest involved in increasing the number of commercial television licences in the capital cities “. There is another consideration that must be given some attention by this House. Why must we pander all the time to the great swollen populations in the capital cities? What about the great outback? What about the people in other areas of Australia who do not see television at all? What about the people in the northern part of Australia? Why, there are some parts of Australia in which the people cannot even hear the radio broadcasts of the proceedings of this Parliament.
– Thank God for that!
– I hear a Liberal thanking the Almighty that they cannot, but that, of course, is the cry of the dinosaur. One part of Australia is just as important as any other part, and the facilities that are provided for one part should be made avail able to every other part if it is humanly and economically possible to do so.
Before considering plans to put more commercial stations into the capital cities, we should be considering phase 4 and some other aspects of the Government’s programme to provide television services in other places in Australia such as north Queensland and parts of Western Australia. Geraldton and Albany want a television service. Kalgoorlie also wants one. These places will not get television services for a long time to come. There are also places in Tasmania such as Launceston and Burnie which have no television service. Why are we to have the rat race over again with at least 20 or 30 combinations of big interests fighting before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to get the additional licence in Melbourne and in Sydney because they regard the licence as a gold mine, something out of which they will make money, and not something through the possession of which they will be able to serve the public interest?
In our view, the time has arrived when a select committee of this Parliament, on which the Government will have a majority, should be appointed to inquire into the whole question of television and the whole of the operation of the act to date. It should look into the future of broadcasting in this country, even under the dual system which cannot be altered, apparently, while the Constitution remains as it is. If such a select committee reported back to the Parliament as the Broadcasting Committee, which was appointed under the original Australian Broadcasting Act, used to report to the Parliament, then we would know what the next step ought to be. Before such a select committee is appointed, nothing further should be done to extend the grip of the commercial interests on commercial television in this country.
– I confess that when I received notification of the intention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to raise this matter as one of urgency - rather late, if I may say so - I was somewhat surprised at learning that he proposed to deal with the injury to the public interest involved in increasing the number of commercial television licences in the capital cities.
Injury to the public interest! I asked myself just how such a statement could be justified if, having regard to what we have done already in the expansion of television, the interests of all the people are properly to be regarded and looked after. But then, after a little thought, it occurred to me that I should not be very surprised about the action of the Leader of the Opposition, because, of course, we have had many indications, not only from the honorable gentleman but also from those sitting behind him, that they believe that the establishment of commercial stations is not in the public interest.
Why do they say that this is not in the public interest? Is it because of the plan for socialization which is the basis of the Opposition’s policy in this matter. The Opposition does not want commercial stations to develop. Honorable members opposite have said that time and time again. This is not something new. Therefore, when we announce our intention to license a further five commercial stations in the capital cities honorable members opposite say, “ This is not in . . . “ - I delete the word “ public “ and insert “ our “ - meaning the Opposition’s - “ interest “. I repeat, the Opposition says, “ This is not in our interest”.
The thought having occurred to me, I was very interested indeed to listen to the words of the Leader of the Opposition. They confirmed what I have just said. He has pointed out that the Labour Party has never been happy with the policy adopted by this Government in 1956 for the development of television in Australia. Honorable members know just exactly what that policy is. It is to provide for potential viewers throughout Australia a dual service - a national service and a commercial service operated by private enterprise. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Labour Party had never been happy about that, and he went on to make comparisons with the practice in other countries. He made a significant remark that in one other country - I think it was Great Britain - the television service is owned and operated by the Government. There again we have the basis behind this proposal. The honorable gentleman went a little further. In fact, I was rather surprised at his being quite so frank, and I hope that all those interested in the development of both national and commercial television stations in Australia will remember his words. The effect of what he said was that he regarded it as rather a pity that section 92 of the Constitution precludes the nationalization of broadcasting and television stations.
– What rubbish! They could be nationalized.
– But that is what he said, and I believe that it indicates the basis for his proposal. Another thing which surprised me was that, in spite of the condemnation by my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, of our proposal to give an opportunity for another commercial station to operate in each of these capital cities, I find upon reading the press - if one can believe what one reads in the newspapers; and sometimes one can - that the Australian Labour Party intends applying for some of these commercial licences.
– You have told the board not to grant such licences, too.
– I have done nothing of the sort! Let me reply to that. The Leader of the Opposition has just said by way of interjection, “ You have told the board not to grant such licences “. That is completely untrue.
– It is true.
– I have replied to some questions in which some comment has been made about newspaper interests, and I say again now by way of further reply that we have published a notification in the “ Gazette “ stating that applications will be received for television licences in these areas and that the applications are to be sent to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Any person or organization who desires to submit an application may do so and his application will be properly considered by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which will make full inquiries but will itself not make any determination. The board will submit a recommendation to the Government and the Government will then make a decision as a matter of policy. No determination has been made as to whom the licences are likely to be given because of the very relevant fact that we just simply do not know who will apply, except that we have heard that the Australian Labour Party will be making application.
– I can give you a list of the applicants from this document which 1 have before me.
– I do not mind if you can. Let me revert to the terms of the proposal. It contains the words “ injury to the public interest”. Just what is the public interest? It is obvious to me that the ideas of the Government as to what constitutes public interest differ very widely from those of the Opposition. Let me outline what the Government believes to be the public interest in this matter. Put briefly, the Government believes that there should be available to viewers a wide variety of programmes catering for all the varied tastes of all those who buy television sets and want to see programmes of their own choosing. That is the public interest for which we should cater. It is not in the public interest to say to the viewers, “ You will look at this type but not that type of programme”. We also believe it is in the public interest to lay down standards of decency which must be observed. I repeat that, very briefly stated, public interest is served by ensuring that all types of programmes required by the varying tastes of viewers are provided. We say we have fulfilled those requirements with the dual service which we have established and which, I have found, is very much appreciated by visitors from overseas. Our dual service has been commended by all visitors from Britain and the United States of America. They have told me many times that they wished they had established exactly the same process, because they believe it is the best.
This policy was recommended in the first place by a royal commission on television. That is the charter upon which we have established this service. Therefore, in reply to suggestions that a select committee should be appointed, I would say that we have had a wide inquiry already. Certain recommendations were made and have been adopted by us, and they have proved to be very successful. We are providing a steadily increasing scope of television ser vices throughout Australia, and they are becoming the envy of many other countries. This process proved successful in the broadcasting fields and we have transferred it into the television field, with a proper consideration, I believe, for what constitutes the public interest.
Let me explain briefly how that process has proceeded. Honorable members know that, as a result of the recommendations of the royal commission, we decided to proceed with the development of television in stages so that there would not be too great an impact upon the national economy from an over-fast rate of development. We wanted to benefit from experience overseas and also from the experience of our own early operations. Only six years ago, in 1956, we started with the major capital cities - Sydney and Melbourne. In the second stage, we extended the service to the other capital cities. At the same time, we made provision for the establishment of commercial services.
Now we have reached the third phase, and we are extending television into the country areas. Already six of the thirteen commercial stations that have been licensed in the country areas are in operation, I believe. Perhaps one or two will not begin operations for a week or two. In the public interest, we are providing services in the country areas, and it will not be long before all the thirteen stations licensed in the third phase are in operation.
Having done that, we have gone into phase 4, which provides for another twenty stations in country areas. Are we operating in the public interest by providing a variety of programmes to an audience as widespread as possible? As I have said before, when the fourth phase is completed, we will have provided television services for 91 per cent, of the Australian population within ten years of initiating services. The fact that, in a country like Australia, with wide space and difficulties in communication, we will have provided a service for 91 per cent, of the population in ten years is evidence that we are operating in the public interest.
I turn now to the recent announcements about the granting of new commercial television licences in metropolitan areas. I point out that such a provision was agreed upon and announced only after preparations for the establishment of twenty country stations under phase 4 were well under way. That is in accordance with the statement I made when I announced phase 4. I said then that the question of the establishment of additional stations in the capital cities would be considered further at a later stage.
On 30th November last, I called for applications for licences for country stations. After making that provision, we turned our attention to our undertaking that we would consider the licensing of further stations in the capital cities. That is all there is in this proposal. We are simply following out a plan that was formulated many years ago and are proceeding with it in stages.
I want to make it plain that the provision of more commercial licences in the capital Cities will not have an adverse effect on the further development of television services in country areas. Any one who studies the plan for additional licences will find that for the first group - the country licences - I expect to receive a report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board early in next July, whereas the report on the capital city stations is not likely to be received until early in September. Therefore, the granting of new metropolitan licences is not taking precedence over the provision of television services in areas that are not already provided with such services.
I wish to refer now to that part of the resolution which deals with the alleged need to increase the number of national television licences in all areas. I think the people generally will agree - even if the Opposition does not - that we have done a pretty good job with the national television service. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) twitted me with the fact that commercial licences were being granted in areas where a national service was not yet available. I made it plain when I announced the various phases that there would be a national service in each of the areas that had a commercial service. As a matter of fact, before we have finished phase 4, I am sure there will be a national service operating in areas that are not served by commercial services.
I pointed out that, in phase 3, there were thirteen commercial licences, and that thirteen national stations were also to be estab lished. Each commercial licensee has the task of providing only one station. Obviously, he can do that much more quickly than the Postal Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission can complete the task of providing thirteen new stations. Therefore there must be a lag between the establishment of commercial stations and national stations in some areas. That will apply also to phase 4. In that phase, there will be twenty national stations.
Therefore, in the light of those circumstances, how can it be suggested that, as a matter of urgency, there is a need to increase the number of national television licences in all areas? Where are the additional stations to be put? We have spent £27,000,000 in six years on national television services. If that is not a good record, I do not know what is.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has not touched upon the establishment of a select committee to have a look at the operation of television over the past six years, as has been suggested by the Opposition. We want to see what has happened. We do not want to hear about phase 4 or phase 2 or something like that. We have asked the Minister to give us a select committee to tell us what has been done with television in Australia since it was established. We want to look at our television system, and we can give the Minister very good reasons why it should be looked at. I shall deal with those reasons in a minute. The Minister has tried to evade the issue by saying, “ Yah, yah! You are going to nationalize television.” The Bruce-Page Government ran into difficulty with national radio broadcasting away back. If members of the Government want to know which leopard has the most spots, they should have a quiet look at themselves.
We on the Opposition side have asked for a select committee on television. Is our television service the best that the Government can give the people? We want a select committee to examine whether we are giving the nation the best television services. We believe that commercialism has taken over. It is utter rubbish for the Minister to say that you can make an application for a television licence if you want one. A cabin boy can ask to be made an admiral, but what chance would he have? The Minister’s statement on that point was absurd.
What I want to ask the Minister in the short time at my disposal is this: How does it happen that under his wonderful administration, a private company can make £647,533 a year from showing on television mostly imported rubbish, while 1,000 scriptwriters, photographers and technicians are out of work? Would that not be a fair question to put to a select committee? Is not the Minister interested in the provision of employment?
I propose to deal now with the much discussed question of the sort of programmes we are getting. But we can discuss here important matters in relation to the standard of programmes and the standard of conduct. Are we to give a licence to just any company? One has only to read appendix “ D “ of the Thirteenth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to see that, in the words of W. S. Gilbert, it is a case of “ their brothers and their sisters and their cousins and their aunts “. If it is not Frank Packer it is Fairfax, if it is not Fairfax it is Associated Newspapers, if it is not Associated Newspapers it is Consolidated Press, and if it is not Consolidated Press it is some other old stooge down the line.
If the honorable member who is interjecting would like a television station he has only to write a friendly note to the PostmasterGeneral and it will be considered. We all know how absurd that is. This is careering big business and naked commercialism taking over a public service. We should be able to say, “ We do not like this”, or, “We do not like that.” We should bc able to say that we do not like profits being made at the expense of good taste and good standards, and that we do not like to have unemployed actors, actresses and others in television. The question of programmes will eventually work itself out. But the question of control, if it is not handled now, will be gone for ever. The Labour Party, representing the people, looks seriously at the practice of issuing licences haphazardly and only for the reason that people want to make a profit.
The Television Corporation Limited which operates channel TCN9 in Melbourne and its subsidiaries, earned a combined profit of £647,553 in the year ended 1st July, 1961. That was equal to 44.7 per cent, on capital employed during the year. The 20 per cent, dividend declared by the corporation absorbed £289,800. This was an enormous profit. But what do these organizations do about the out-of-work Australian actors? Do they say, “ Come in and we will see if we can make an Australian film or knock together the background for a good Australian story “? Of course not! Their policy of commercialism is dictated by shareholders, including overseas shareholders. They do not give a tinker’s damn for the kind of television the people get. They are out after profit.
I think that the Postmaster-General made out a good case for controlling television as the Bruce-Page Government was forced to do with radio by the naked cupidity of entrepreneurs who would do everything except give people good programmes. The Minister tootles along on his coaxial cable and tells us what he will do in the sweet by and by. People in many electorates have been waiting for years for telephones, and I am afraid that in this matter the Minister will be just as dilatory. Surely, we on this side of the House are entitled to ask for a select committee and not be fobbed off by the Minister saying “ Why do you want a select committee?” I will tell him why. I think the Minister is weak. I think the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is absolutely vapid and is senseless to the demands that are made on it. We should give the whole damn show a shake up. It is valid for us to ask for a select committee to do as the Leader of the Opposition has asked.
There is in New York a company called the American Musical Society. Whatever broadcasting station you listen to, and whatever television station you look at, the music all comes from this concern. It is a sort of B.H.P. of the musical world. If a television station wants a musical film this organization has one. It will supply a musical film, but with this film the station will have to take half a d’ozen live artists to support it. The station has to buy the lot. It is a package deal. Yet an honorable member opposite has had the temerity to say that the Australian people are getting a wide sweep of entertainment! That is all rubbish!
Art is international; entertainment is international. We all like to be able to see the greats from all parts of the world, but we do not want rubbish. The commercial television stations are making enormous profit while our Australian artists and writers are standing by without jobs. 1 am a member of Actors Equity as a scriptwriter and I know that in Sydney to-day there are people who were famous on radio but who are now living on much less than the basic wage. Some of them are in receipt of social service payments. That information came from Hal Alexander, the secretary of Actors Equity, and Hal Lashwood, the president, only the other day. People have been driven out of the industry by the naked commercialism of the commercial stations. There is no room for any one with an Australian outlook in his mind and Australian patriotism in his heart.
We want something better. Surely no responsible government will parcel out further licences just to extend what is being done now. The root of the trouble lies where the Minister will not touch it. The set-up is rotten. It is wrong that television companies should be allowed to make huge profits by exploiting people.
I have mentioned an overseas organization which has a clamp on all entertainment. If you do not take all they send you, you do not get any. Some of the programmes are good, some bad and some indifferent. Does the Minister agree that Australian commercial stations should have to accept whatever entertainment the combine in America says that they must’ have?
The Government has tried to avoid answering the Opposition’s questions about a quota. The United Kingdom is the home of entertainment. It has a great background of culture and a great number of playwrights. To safeguard its own writers and artists it imposes a quota of up to 70 per cent. In other words the United Kingdom Government says, in effect, “ You can bring in programmes from outside the country but you must give adequate opportunities to the people who live in this country “.
There is no national content in Australian television. It could be from anywhere. It belongs to the great bodgy conglomeration of westerns and so on. It is all right if you like that sort of a show, but somewhere there should be a content of Australian thought, culture and understanding, otherwise money is being wasted and we are being derelict to our trust as Australians. If somebody from another country asks, “ What is your Australian television like?” we only reply, “ Exactly what you get in Kalamazoo on a wet night”. There is nothing Australian in it.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) says that Australian films are not much good. If we took some money from the swollen profits of commercial stations and taught Australians how to produce better films and how to mount plays better, and if we helped them in the production of their scripts, we would get first-rate Australian drama. It is only waiting to be born. The reason it cannot be brought to television is the muddleheadedness of the Minister and the stupid licensing system which enables people to make £500,000 a year or more out of television programmes. The Opposition is asking for a select committee to inquire into these things and the other matters enumerated by the Leader of the Opposition. There are the questions of trade malpractices, quotas-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It seems to me that somebody has committed the unpardonable crime in the Australian Labour Party’s eyes of making a profit and, consequently, must be condemned. This is an odd kind of motion. Apparently, it is another effort on the part of the Labour Party to identify itself with what it defines as the public interest. Look as you may at the words of this motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you must come to the conclusion that it definitely calls for a limitation of television services to the Australian people. How, in the words of this motion, the Labour Party assumes that an extension of commercial television must be at the expense of the national service, I do not quite understand. The Opposition is inviting us to accept the proposition that we ought not to persist with the extension of commercial television by permitting an additional service in each of the capital cities, as well as new stations in country areas, until the national service has been further extended. Let us look at this proposition because it will not bear the minutest investigation.
The frequency channels for the extension of commercial television are available and are reserved for that purpose. There is no call on public funds to establish these stations. They will be established by private investment. These stations will open up completely new sources of television programmes and will then make a great contribution in the field which is supported so heavily by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). In addition, and for the reasons quoted by the honorable member for Parkes, there is available adequate advertising revenue to maintain these new commercial stations.
What the Labour Party seeks to do is to tell the people of the capital cities that although somebody wants to come in and give them additional service and although there is revenue to sustain such a service, they must not have it until somebody else gets national stations. Well now, I have been having a look at this question of expenditure by the Government on the extension of television, and I think that I ought to say, first, that the way in which television has been handled by the Government has been outstandingly in the public interest. In the first place, we delayed the introduction of television in this country with the result that when we did produce it we were the first country to go on to international technical standards at the outset. This means that to-day the Australian people see on their screens a picture of higher definition than is seen in any other country. This really means something. At the same time, the public interest is definitely being served because the Government extended television only slowly, so that in Australia our television has grown into a firm service on sound foundations and has done so without injury to the Australian economy which has so much else to do. That is surely in the public interest.
I want to get back now to this question of expenditure. I do not have to go back any further than the financial provision for television services in the current year, 1961-62. That expenditure will be £2,750,000. Next year the expenditure budgeted for is £4,920,000 and in the following year the expenditure will be £5,300,000. These are the things about which the Labour Party is arguing to-day. Honorable members opposite are not complaining that this is not going to be done. There is the evidence that it is going to be done, and in a completely orderly fashion. The Postmaster-General himself has given sound technical reasons why, because of the limitation in the number of people who are able to build transmitting equipment, if for no other reason, this job cannot be done more quickly than is being proposed.
– The Labour Party wants to import our television requirements.
– I should imagine that is true. But here is the evidence that the job is being done and being done expeditiously and in the public interest.
I am quite sympathetic with the position of the Leader of the Opposition. We all know very well that most of the honorable members present on this side of the House represent country electorates, and there is not a member on the Government benches who would not, if he could, see that services like telephones, good roads, water and sewerage, good radio and television and so on were taken out to the very limits of settlement, because that is where they are most urgently needed. Yet we have to be a little practical about this because otherwise we have no right to sit here in this Parliament, and practical considerations show beyond doubt that that is not just the way it can be.
The Labour Party is only anxious to prevent the city from having an additional service that will soon be available for it. It is the old story once again. The Leader of the Opposition deplores public taste in entertainment. In other words, these gentlemen opposite are prepared to say: “ We are sorry for the public. Their taste in entertainment is so poor that they are wasting their time on second-class television.” And they invite us to improve television programmes by installing more national television stations. I have had a quick look at the figures, which are quite authentic, and to-day the national television chain is drawing 12 per cent, of the Australian audience. This is not a complaint about the national service. It does not mean that the national service’s programmes are no good; it merely means that the Australian people prefer the type of programmes presented by the commercial networks. This, of course, does not stop the Labour Party from saying, “ When we get hold of this, if we have our way, we will put on super programmes “ - written no doubt by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and people of that kind - “ and you will listen to them whether you like to or not”. They may listen under some sort of compulsion, but I assure you they will not like it.
It is not as if there were nothing else to do. You ask why, if 88 per cent, of the Australian people prefer to watch commercial television programmes, and those programmes are rubbish, they do not do something else. You only have to look at the falling attendances in theatres to-day to understand that the Australian people prefer this kind of entertainment to any other available to them on or outside television. So what the Labour Party is arguing with is the free choice of the Australian people.
I sympathize with the honorable member for Parkes also. He has written some books which are quite readable, though I do not agree with all the detail. I think he is a true novelist. He has written a chapter or two from experience and observation and filled in the balance. But this, of course, is what they do on television, and he complains about it. Included in programmes on the air to-day there are some first-class offerings from Australian services. I have been particularly proud, when I have had a little time to look at television, to see the enormous openings for Australian artists which are there. When I look at the musical programmes and see all the young instrumentalists and the vocalists and the dancers coming in and see the titles that flash across the screen, and realize the number of openings created by television for people in the writing, acting, producing and scripting fields I know it is simply not true to say that television is producing unemployment in the ranks of artists and writers. The truth is that television, run by commercials mostly, has opened up these completely new channels for the employment of writers and artists.
I am very touched by the generalizations uttered by the honorable member for Parkes. He tells us of the artists and actors, members of Actors Equity - they are brother unionists of his and I do not object to that, because it is a good thing - and about the thousands of them who are unemployed. He talks in general terms. I should like very much to know whether one has to do a paper or write a play or produce something before one can join Actors Equity, because if one has to do so I will be very concerned about the unemployment that allegedly exists to-day among its members. But if you are going to have Actors Equity and invite people to come along with their membership fees and join it, and they think that thereby they have a passport to easy entry to this new, well-paid and rather exacting industry, then I would quarrel with the honorable gentleman and tell him that he does not know what he is talking about.
I do not particularly want to say too much about the people in Actors Equity, because that would be doing an injustice to those members of that organization who are in it really to try to do a job; but if we are going to have a lot of hangers-on who are merely invited to join this union and have their friends come here and demand that the Government distort the whole structure of Australia’s major entertainment industry in order to provide jobs for second-raters, exclude me from this sort of support. I do not know what is to come out of the inquiry-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Clark, Mr. Drury, Mr. A. D. Fraser, Mr. E. James Harrison, Mr.Makin and Mr. McEwen be members of the Standing Orders Committee; five to form a quorum.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 13).]
Mr. Chairman, Customs Tariff Proposal No. 13 provides for a temporary additional duty of £4 each on taximeters from all countries. The new duties, which will take effect from to-morrow morning, are being imposed on the recommendation of a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board whose report I shall table later this day.
The normal protective needs of the local industry have been referred to the Tariff Board for full inquiry and report. The temporary duty will remain in effect only until the Government has taken action on the final report of the board, but in any case not longer than three months after the receipt of the relevant report.
I commend the proposals to honorable members.
– I lay on the table of the House a report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board on the question of whether temporary duties should be imposed on taximeters.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - I move -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
three members of a sub-committee constitute’ a quorum of that subcommittee;
In proposing this motion may I say that its terms are the same as those that were used in the last Parliament. I have given some consideration to whether there was any need for a change in those terms and thought that there was none. . This is not to indicate that I am not prepared to consider any constructive proposals for modifying the terms. The terms have been modified in the past, as suggestions have been made to, and accepted by, the Government.
However, I feel that I ought to say several things. First, the committee has proved its value as a useful forum in which a representative group of members can examine and become familiar with external affairs problems. As has been said before, this body is not a policy-making body and for that reason the initiative that is permissible to the committee is necessarily restricted. . Policy-making must remain the responsibility oftheGovernment.
Looking through the records of past discussions on the typeof motion I have proposed I see that it has been thought at times that there is room for establishing a foreign affairs committee of the kind associated with the United States Congress; However, I remind honorable members that the constitutional arrangements of the two countriesare so radically different that there is no place for such a committee in our system. Our system of ministerial responsibility and of governmentleaves no room for a committee of the kind with which the United States is familiar.
The Foreign Affairs Committee does get very valuable information from my department. It receives a great deal of confidential information which, because of its nature, cannot be publicized or publicly attributed to any particular source.’ The limited size of the committee makes it possible for its members to receive foreign affairs experts from time to time and question them in a private and informal atmosphere. This results in the House having the benefit of the views of a substantial group of members, who are not merely very interested in this topic, but who also become informed in a manner which fits them to assist the House in discussion and which enables them, when they desire to do so, to converse with the Minister in an informed manner.
.- The Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) says that the terms of the resolution are identical with those of the resolution passed by the last Parliament. Since they are identical with those passed by the last Parliament, the Opposition takes the. identical attitude towards this resolution as it did to the previous one. The resolutions governing the appointment and functioning of this committee have not been altered in any material particular in the ten years during which the committee has existed.
The difference between the present Government parties and the present Opposition party on this matter does not flow from any misunderstanding or confusion concerning the role of a foreign affairs committee in an Australian or British parliamentary system, as compared with the role of a similarly named committee in the United States of America or. under what wecan call a congressional system. We have never suggested as a ground of our criticism, nor was it ever suggested by several of the present ministry who spoke in support of some such committee in 1949, when the party to which I belong was in government, that this committee should be a policy-making committee. That has never been suggested. We quite understand that in a parliamentary system the executive determines policy on foreign affairs and other matters, and that it continues to determine policy as long as it retains the confidence of the popular House.
Nor, Sir, is our objection to this committee that it would consider foreign affairs purely in the abstract, or in order to inform itself, or that it would merely be a study group. None of these things would be objectionable. Our objection to this committee is that it is so circumscribed and so superintended by the executive that it serves no useful purpose at all.
I direct the House’s attention particularly to the following parts of the Minister’s resolution: -
Sub-paragraphs (e) and (g) of paragraph (4) read -
(e) the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the Committee otherwise directs;
It is clear, therefore, that the Opposition can choose from its ranks certain members who will be appointed by the House to this committee. Once, however, the Opposition’s chosen members are on the committee, they cease to be representatives of the Opposition. They are precluded from discussing the proceedings of the committee with their colleagues. They are precluded from discussing the proceedings of the committee in Parliament. They are precluded from discussing the proceedings of the committee, or the information they get as members of it, in public. That is, the committee does not serve as a body to educate members of the Parliament or members of the public.
Nobody disputes the proposition that external affairs are of very great importance te Australia, and that they are becoming of greater importance to Australia. External affairs, both strategic and commercial, are becoming more and more crucial to this country in its exposed strategic and trading position. But, Sir, this committee does not serve to educate members on these subjects unless the Minister consents to its doing so, and, unless the Minister consents, members of the committee cannot play their part in educating the public on these subjects.
Let me summarize our objections, Sir. The committee must sit in camera, unless the Minister for External Affairs otherwise directs. It must regard as confidential all written or oral evidence submitted in camera. It shall not, without the Minister’s consent, report to the Minister or inform the Parliament on any matters that the Minister has not referred to it. That is, the committee must, except by the Minister’s leave, remain silent.
But, Sir, that is not the end of the matter, because even if the committee does report to Parliament - and it can do so only with the consent of the Minister - no dissents or protests may be expressed, and no minority reports may be submitted. This is a consequence of the provisions of Standing Order No. 340, which deals with committee reports in general and concludes -
There are other committees of which members of this House, and of the other place as well, are members. Some of them operate under statute. They include the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Those committees are parliamentary committees in the fullest sense. They are committees with almost the same powers as congressional committees in the United States of America. They do not sit in camera unless the witnesses desire that they should. Their proceedings are reported to the Parliament which set them up, as a matter of parliamentary right. Any protests, dissents or minority reports, as well as particulars of the voting, are recorded in the committees’ reports and made available to the Parliament and to the public.
Again, Sir, committees which are set up under our Standing Orders can make provision to meet the objections that I have outlined. This was done, for instance, in the case of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, which was constituted sue years ago and reconstituted three, years ago. It was composed of equal numbers of members from both sides of each House of the -Parliament. There is no question that its deliberations were quite prolonged and the evidence it took quite exhaustive. There was provision in its charter for the committee to send for persons, papers, records, &c, and to sit in public if it wanted to, and also, overriding the Standing Orders, for any member to add a protest or dissent to any report made by the committee. That was a parliamentary committee on which both sides of politics were equally represented, and both sides were equally free to express their opinions before the committee, in this Parliament or in public, and every member was free to record his opinion, his dissent, his protest, or his minority report.
Members of my party freely and willingly, and, I think it would be conceded, usefully and profitably, participate in the work, and always have participated in the work of the statutory committees - the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee - as well as in the work of such a potentially contentious parliamentary committee as the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. But we have always adopted the attitude that we cannot participate in the work of this Foreign Affairs Committee, because although we are free to choose members of our party for appointment to the committee, those members, once having been appointed, no longer represent the Opposition and are no longer individuals. They can express no views other than those expressed by the majority of the committee and approved for publication by the Minister.
The criticisms I have offered are not confined to my side of the House. The original, and so far the only, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee has been the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes).
– That is not correct.
– I regret if I am not strictly correct. At any rate, the honorable member for Chisholm has been chairman of that committee for several years. In a television programme in Melbourne on 21st January last, he was interviewed about his general view, which he had expressed in the press and in the Parliament, that the Australian public should be made much more fully and quickly aware of Australia’s exposed position in the world. The questions which were put to the honorable gentleman on this matter and the replies which he gave are reported as follows: -
Mr. Warner: “ Couldn’t you have done something along those lines yourself in Parliament through your Foreign Affairs Committee? “
Sir Wilfrid: “We have tried. We have sent In recommendations, which I am not allowed to give in public. In the past three years, we have been warning of the shape of things to come.”
Mr. Howard: “Does anyone take any notice of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee? “
Sir Wilfrid: “I do not know. The reports got to the Ministers, but none has been presented to Parliament.”
Mr. Howard: “None has been presented to Parliament? “
Sir Wilfrid: “They cannot be without approval of the Minister.”
We do not know what is in these reports, Sir, but we do know that they dealt with the general position in which Australia finds itself, and we have the view of the honorable member for Chisholm that they made vital recommendations. We have, also, his statement that these reports were given to the Minister but were not given to the Parliament. As we know from the terms of the motion for the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee on each occasion in the last few parliaments, the contents of the committee’s reports may not be given to the Parliament unless the Minister for External Affairs consents.
We know of only three reports by this committee. The latest of them related to extradition treaties. It was made in October, 1956. The two earlier ones were of lesser moment, and no action was taken on them. The report on extradition, as I have said, was made in October, 1956. I almost said “ expedition “. That certainly would have been inadvertent because expedition is one thing which has never been shown in the Ministry’s handling of the reports of this committee. About a year ago, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was at the time also Minister for External Affairs, what action had been taken on this report. On 2nd May of last year, the right honorable gentleman answered to the effect that the Government had decided against the termination of the extradition treaties mentioned in the committee’s report. As regards the onus of proof under the present Extradition Act, and the committee’s recommendations on that matter, he stated - . . the Attorney-General has decided that a review should be made of the act, and the committee’s recommendations are under consideration in this connexion.
The committee’s report on extradition treaties, which was made five and one-half years ago, has been rejected by the Government as to one point and is among the mess of pottage on the Attorney-General’s plate as to another point. It is one of the numerous matters on which the recommendations of a committee are being sought or considered, but on which no legislation has’ yet issued.
We know that a great number of reports on important subjects have been made by the Foreign Affairs Committee and that these reports have never been given to the Parliament, Sir. The inference is that the Minister has suppressed them. We know that the committee has made three reports, the last having been made five and onehalf years ago, that nothing has been done about any of them and that something may be done at some stage about one feature of the third’ of them. We on this side of the House certainly agree that honorable members should be much more diligent and courageous in trying to educate themselves and the public about the many difficulties with which our international relations are fraught. But the Opposition cannot support this committee as long ‘ as its charter so severely limits the- opportunities for members to inform themselves and completely prevents them, unless they have the Minister’s consent, from helping to educate their party colleagues and the public.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has made a much more rational and reasoned defence of the Opposition’s refusal to join the Foreign Affairs Committee than his leader has done in past years, and I think the House should be grateful for that, although I still do not agree with the honorable gentleman.- The
Opposition has, on this occasion at least, attempted to put forward a reasoned defence rather than the tirade of invective and abuse in which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) indulged, both as Leader of the Opposition and, for many years, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whenever this matter came up. All honorable members who have heard the Leader of the Opposition on this subject will recall the contempt which he poured on the committee in his scathing remarks about its being a study circle. He more or less consigned it to the ash bin as not being worthy of consideration.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested that because the Foreign Affairs Committee has not the same powers as other statutory committees of the Parliament have it is of no use. In my view, he forgets, in making that contention, that the subject-matter with which the committee deals is in many respects very closely allied to the security of this country. That subject-matter is very different from the matters with which other committees of the Parliament deal. If the Executive, which has the primary responsibility in external affairs, had not an opportunity to study the reports and recommendations made by the Foreign Affairs Committee, we could run into a very difficult state of affairs from the stand-point of Australia’s security. I do not believe that any government under the British parliamentary system could agree to the appointment of a committee concerned with foreign affairs with a constitution less prescribed than is that of the committee which we are now discussing.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because he and members of his party have never served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, has not had an opportunity to test his contentions about the way in which the members of the committee are circumscribed. In many respects, what he has said about the restrictions on the freedom of members of the committee is not true. I am sure that most honorable members on this side of the House who, like me, have served on the committee at one time or another will agree that membership of the committee has never restricted an honorable member’s freedom as a member of the Parliament to state in this House his individual view about any question concerned with foreign affairs. The fact that mem- bers of the Foreign Affairs Committee study _a subject closely and have continuous access tq information enables them, when they take part in a debate on foreign affairs, to speak with an informed mind and not to base their comments on ignorance and prejudice.
To take a case in point, I wonder whether the Leader of -the Opposition, if during the last few years he had been a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and had made a continuous study of West New Guinea, as we have done, would have burst into print in January last with the point of view that he expressed at that time.
If he had been a member of the committee, he would have come in contact with the people concerned and would have known something about the susceptibilities of our
Asian neighbours. He would have known that to call the head of a great state that is important to us a fascist and to accuse him of Hitlerism would not win us friends in Asia. This is one very good example of the educative role of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It may well be that the honorable gentleman would still have made the remarks he did; but he would have done so on the basis of prejudice and not on the basis of ignorant prejudice.
I cannot believe that Opposition members understand the nature of the committee. It would be in the interests of the country if they were at least to give it a try and become members of the committee. They would then find out whether their suspicions are justified. If they find this is- so, they can leave the committee. But surely they owe it to their country at least to try, through the commiteee, to develop a bipartisan view on matters of foreign policy which are so vital to us. At least they owe it to their country to give it a try, to find out whether their fears are confirmed in the event. They can always leave the committee, but their responsibility to their country requires them to become members of the committee to find out what happens there.
.- The subject-matter dealt with by the Foreign Affairs Committee, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) contends, is -not the difficulty that the Opposition experiences. The difficulty, confronting the
Opposition is the essential structure of the committee. It is absolutely unlike anything else in the Parliament. Perhaps the nearest analogy to .it is- the Committee of Public Accounts, which also has power .to.question the administration and .to. look-.. into (tie actions, of the executive government. . But -it -also has the power to report back to. the -Parliament. The Foreign Affairs. Committee has not the power to report back to the Parliament and Opposition members on -the committee would have no power to report back to their party . The party, therefore, would have no knowledge of what its members on the committee were doing, saying or thinking on questions that may be vital to it. This would, I think, be quite serious for the Australian Labour- Party, having regard to its structure and creed, particularly if members who were supposed to represent it on a committee could not in fact be responsible to it. Members could be responsible to it only by violating the oath or the undertaking given by members of the committee from time to time.
One of the troubles with the committee is that it has been dignified with a name that is well known in the United States constitutional practice. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States Senate is, of course, a powerful body. But in that constitution the Parliament has power, without overturning the executive government, to accept or reject the actions of the President and the .presidential cabinet. Members of the committee there are the eyes and the ears of the Congress in scrutinizing the actions of the executive. The constitution, of the United States gives the Senate very great powers in relation to foreign policy, in the ratification of treaties, in the appointment of ambassadors and in many other respects.
Our political structure is such that it does not matter what committees’ are constituted - this is the only committee that is in any way an adjunct to the executive- - foreign policy remains a responsibility of the executive government - of the country. The. only. respect in which the Parliament has power over foreign policy is in the rejection of a government on the basis of some issue of foreign policy or in the ratification .of treaties. But the Parliament has very little power in the day-to-day conduct of foreign policy. ……..
The honorable member for Barker may not remember that a Labour government set up an all-party advisory committee on the Japanese peace settlement. It was different in structure from the Foreign Affairs Committee in that it included people who were not members of Parliament, but who were experts in different fields. For instance, Antarctic whaling questions were considered to be related to the prospective Japanese peace settlement; so the late Sir Douglas Mawson was a member of the committee because of his specialized knowledge in that field. If the honorable member cares to look back, he will find there was considerable discontent on the part of the then Opposition members of the committee. It was a committee set up by the Government that I was supporting at the time. We received from the department documents with the “ Secret “ stamp on them, but any persons could go to Keesing’s “Contemporary Archives” and be much better informed than they would be if they confined themselves to the material that came from the Department of External Affairs.
I do not know whether that is the position now. I do not know whether the Foreign Affairs Committee can extract evidence from witnesses, from officers of the Department of External Affairs, from our ambassadors or from other people who may give it advice. If it can, the information is no doubt very interesting. But the fact still remains that the information is unusable from the Opposition’s point of view. It could not be used to attack the Government. Let us suppose that experts came before the committee and gave very strong testimony that was contrary to the Government’s policy. The position we would be in would be completely invidious. We may regard the subject- as a valid ground of criticism of the Government’s position, but we would be obliged by undertakings not to reveal the proceedings and this would be a disability to us.
I accept absolutely what the honorable member for Barker has said. I have observed members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, including its former chairman, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), speaking on foreign affairs matters. No one would suggest for one moment that they are inhibited in expressing their points of view. But, after all, when the debate becomes really important, we deal not only with points of view but also with facts on foreign policy. If we were members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, we would not be able to reveal those facts. There is no derision of the Foreign Affairs Committee on our part; there is merely the contention that, with its existing structure and with undertakings concerning the confidential nature of material before the committee and so on, it is quite impossible for us to serve on the committee.
. I am sure honorable members of this House will have been far better informed of the attitude of mind of the Australian Labour Party on this subject by the two speeches we have heard this afternoon than they would be from the normal ill-tempered speeches we used to hear from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). We regret that the Opposition cannot take a broader national outlook on this question of foreign affairs. I believe the basic reason why it cannot do so is because it cannot use the Foreign Affairs Committee as a weapon in the party political struggle. If honorable members opposite would only realize their responsibilities as an Opposition on the broad level of the need for a bi-partisan foreign policy, I am sure they would be serving their country a great deal better than they do by regarding this committee purely as a possible weapon in the party political struggle.
It has already been pointed out that the committee has done, and will continue to do, very useful work. For instance, it brings a different type of scrutiny to the recommendations and decisions of the Department of External Affairs. It possibly puts a practical political tinge on subjects from an electoral angle which could concern the Government in its relations with countries overseas. Whilst it is not a prolific producer of reports - I will have something more to say about that . later - it does do extremely valuable work, from the direct angle, particularly in connexion with matters in respect of which it may influence departmental thinking.
As to publishing reports of its proceedings, I submit that it does not require any great imagination to realize that the contents of many of the reports submitted by the committee to the Minister are so secret that it obviously would be quite improper to table them in a place such as a House of Parliament. That is mere common sense. Some of the conclusions reached, and recommendations made, in those reports would be dynamite if published and would probably have a dangerous effect on some of our representatives overseas who obviously must submit the information upon which the committee works. That is one important point which I think has escaped the minds of the more imaginative honorable members opposite who have spoken on this subject. The fact that we were being fed with information from our neighbouring countries, or from other countries elsewhere, about their internal economic and political situations would become known and it would be obvious that the information could come from only one source. The position of our representatives in the country concerned would be prejudiced if the sources of information, or the conclusions drawn from the information coming from those sources, were broadcast in this place and published in the press. If - a little more consideration were given to that point I think honorable members would realize that it is impossible for the Opposition to ask that reports from the committee be presented in this place every month.
I deeply regret that the Opposition has decided not to co-operate by appointing members to the committee, but I do say that the attitude expressed by the two speakers on behalf of the Opposition was in very refreshing contrast to the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition on other occasions when he has spoken on this subject. Quite frankly, his recent illtempered and ill-informed outbursts on this and other matters have done neither himself, his party, nor Australia any good overseas. If the speeches we have heard this afternoon may be” taken as a sign of a better approach towards problems associated with foreign affairs policy, we at least have achieved something by having had the opportunity of criticizing the Leader of the Opposition for his rather extravagant and offensive remarks.
.- The strongest arguments supporting the rejection by the Opposition of the Government’s proposal that its members participate in the work of this committee have been furnished by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon). Although we have never been told so, it is obvious now that when this committee was formed in October, 1951, it was the Government’s intention to manoeuvre the Opposition into a position in which it would be supporting a bipartisan policy on foreign affairs. That would be impossible because our views on foreign affairs differ from those of the Government as greatly as they do on internal affairs. In effect, what the Government really wanted to do by establishing this committee was to enveigle the Opposition into agreeing to have what would in effect be the equivalent of a national government dealing with internal affairs. The Labour Party refuses to have any truck with such a proposal. As the committee- is at present constituted we cannot see how it can serve any useful purpose whatever.
The honorable member for Barker has just suggested’ that those members of the Government who have served on the committee are now much better informed than they were previously. All I’ can say in reply to the honorable member is that I have not noticed evidence of that during the debates we have had on foreign affairs here. If they are better informed now, they must have been very ignorant when they first joined the committee.
Let us examine the proposed constitution of the committee. The Government does not say to the Opposition, “We will have seven Government members from the House of Representatives and the Opposition will have six “. The Government merely says, “ There will be appointed thirteen members of the House of Representatives “. If we were to agree to the proposal I assume that six would be appointed from the Opposition and seven from the Government side. This Government is very generous, especially when we remember that it represents less than 41 per cent, of enrolled electors, whereas the party to which it offers six places on the committee represents approximately 7 per cent, more of the electors of this country. In those circumstances, if any party has a right to determine not only internal but also the foreign policy of Aus- tralia it is the Labour Party, which now sits -in opposition because, under our electoral system, this Government was able to win a majority of one vote on the floor of the House by inducing the people supporting other political organizations, including the -Communist Party, to extend their preference votes to it. This Government occupies the’ treasury-bench by the grace of a handful of Communist preference votes.. There can be no doubt about that.
The honorable member for Barker could not resist throwing a shaft at the Leader of the Opposition by referring to a statement which he had made some little time ago and implying that some speeches by Opposition members in connexion with foreign affairs had antagonized the Afro-Asian -nations against the Australian people and the Australian nation. If this committee is to avoid antagonizing the Afro-Asian nations, it should avoid any dealings with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself. If there is one person in this country who has helped to antagonize the Afro-Asian nations against the Australian people and -the Australian nation by his speeches during debates on foreign affairs, and by his published statements and by his actions overseas, it is the Prime Minister. But the honorable member for Barker has made no mention whatever of the affairs overseas in which the Prime Minister has taken some part. We recollect the part played by the Prime Minister in the Suez negotiations. Did his actions there help us with the AfroAsian nations? We also remember that he expressed no strong disapproval of what happened in South Africa at the time of the massacre at Sharpeville. Did that improve the attitude of the Afro-Asian nations towards Australia? Why, we have only to consider his latest performance at the -United Nations . General Assembly when he opposed a motion for a summit conference moved by some of those nations which were then friendly disposed towards Australia and later proposed an .amendment in an endeavour to spike their guns. - When the vote was taken, so lacking in support from :the nations of the world was he that only -five votes, including his own,. were recorded -in .favour of the amendment.. -*j .
It can be seen, therefore, that if this committee is really designed, as the Government claims, to promote a more sympathetic approach to matters of vital concern to Australia by other countries of . the world, it has ample scope for work, amongst the members of the Government . parties. The Labour Party, will have nothing to do with the proposal. .
The ‘Government parties have made a number of statements which will require some explaining in the near future. To-day, when the trend in most countries is towards the ending of colonialism, we have a Government and a leader of- a government that think differently; On a visit to New Guinea not long ago, the Leader of the Government declare’d that we were there and were there to stay. There was no question on that occasion of independence for New Guinea in the future. So there can be no doubt in the world that this is the attitude and the policy of the Government -and- its leader, and that they alone are arousing the antagonism, particularly in Afro- Asian countries,- to which- the -honorable member for Barker referred.
I believe that the Foreign Affairs Com.mittee has had ample opportunity to prove whether it is worth while and whether the expenditure on it is justified. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitiam) pointed to the two or three” reports that have been submitted by the committee to this Parliament in a period of about ten years and upon which the Government had taken no action. Yet the Government has had the audacity to submit the motion which states in paragraph (g) - - Provided the Opposition is represented on the Committee, copies of the Committee’s reports to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives for his confidential information;
So the Leader of the Opposition is to get the reports only if we are prepared to be represented on the committee, and if he gets the reports they are for his own confidential information. This is a secret organization. It is a bad thing for the Parliament and the country to have this type of organization established. ‘
I have .a. question on the notice-paper seeking more detailed information about this committee and await the answer with great interest. I have asked what this worthless committee has cost the Australian taxpayers. It is all right for Government supporters to talk in a general way about honorable members being able to become better informed on foreign affairs by becoming members of the committee, but they have given us no demonstration that members of the committee have become better informed. I strongly support the attitude of the Opposition to the Foreign Affairs Committee. It has been consistent since 1951. We refuse to participate with this Government in a bi-partisan foreign policy and in this worthless and extravagant committee.
.- I shall not detain the House long but I wish to refer to a matter that was raised by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I understood him and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) to say that under the Australian Constitution, the Executive has the responsibility for decisions on foreign affairs. Therefore, this was a recognition of the fact that there is a difference between our type of constitution and that of the United States of America in respect of the way in which foreign policy decisions are made. Surely that is recognition of the fact, as the Opposition has already expressed it, that the chief aim should be to provide a Minister for External Affairs with the best possible advice on confidential matters that may not be made public but on which views can be expressed by persons on both . sides of the House and then can be conveyed to the person who has to make the decisions.
As I understood him, the reason why the honorable member for Fremantle is opposed to the appointment of Opposition members to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee is that they would not have the right afterwards to inform other members of the Opposition and the public of matters discussed in the committee. I should like to put to the Opposition the other point of view, which is that the main aim surely should be to influence the person who actually has. to make the final decisions in the name of Australia. Therefore, those views are of greater importance to the nation than are the disadvantages to which the honorable member referred. I wonder whether that is a valid argument against the views put forward’ by the honorable member for Fremantle and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– in reply - Until the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had spoken I rather agreed with my colleague who thought that the Australian Labour Party, as represented by the Opposition, was making a more sound and useful approach to this matter than it had done previously. However, I prefer to address myself to the speeches made by honorable members who spoke before the honorable member for East Sydney because I think they rightly brought some thoughtful views to bear on the motion.
It seems to me that those speakers conceded that the Foreign Affairs Committee is a useful body. Formerly, I heard something to the contrary. I was pleased to hear that they did not deride the committee or its members. Up to a point, that is something new.
I think honorable members opposite have stated the fundamental reasons why the Opposition will not join in what we hoped would be a committee that might have lead progressively to something which this country could well do with. I refer to a bi-partisan foreign policy. After all, I suppose that the Australian Labour Parly at some time will provide the government, and it is shattering to think that those who will attain office have not participated in the dissemination of information on foreign affairs and on the approach to problems that are vital to the nation and the people, whether they vote for this side of politics or the other.
We have had an open declaration by Labour members that they will not, for any reason, enter into a bipartisan foreign policy. I beard that statement with great regret, but, of course, we have to accept it. I think the reason that was put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was - I say this with great respect - somewhat spurious. He said that because the Foreign Affairs Committee was not like other parliamentary committees, and because we do not have reports from this committee or debates on them in . the House, the Opposition should not have anything to do with it. But in very truth, there is a marked difference between a proposal for the erection of a new courthouse in Canberra, upon which the Public Works Committee can report, and a discussion on confidential information, derived not only from Australia but also from other countries whose confidences we must respect. There is no similarity whatever between the two problems. Foreign affairs, of their very nature, are different and one would expect most significant differences between the Foreign Affairs Committee and other parliamentary committees.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke of the ability of the Constitutional Review Committee to sit in public. There are no secrets about the Constitution except to those who do not understand it.
– Who are they?
– I do not say to whom that comment applies. But, when it comes to foreign affairs, the setting up of a Foreign Affairs Committee of this House to meet in public, unlike the committee of the United States Senate, would simply mean that the supply of information to members would have to be cut off.
– If the parties changed sides and we became the Government, would you willingly sit on such a committee and hear discussions in confidence?
– That is not the question. If you asked me, I would have a quite different reason. I know how to respect confidences. My colleagues would not be frightened because I had some confidential information that they did not get. My colleagues would trust me. Your colleagues will not trust you and that is the difference. I would serve on such a committee and I will come to that in a minute, because there is another basic reason.
I was speaking about what was said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I was saying that there is a great difference between the Foreign Affairs Committee and other parliamentary committees. If we derived from one of our allies highly confidential information but we .thought it was the sort of information that members of the committee could well have, they could not just sit in public. It is folly, in such circumstances, to talk about sittings in public. The committee simply would not get the information. If the committee is to be of any use, of necessity it must sit in camera. It must, of course, be under the control of a Minister who has charge of policy. The Opposition says, on the one hand, “ Of course the Government must have charge of policy “, and on the other hand it complains of these minimal controls, which have been brought down in this resolution. I have perused them closely to see whether they could be relaxed and still maintain ministerial responsibility for policy. I do not think they can. I am open to be convinced if any one brings a proper matter before me in that respect. But my own consideration leads me to think that these are minimal to protect the fundamental constitutional principle of ministerial responsibility which the Opposition concedes. It is idle and spurious to say that this is different from other committees. Of course it is; and it must be. As for reports, he who measures a man’s worth or influence by the number of reports that he writes does not understand how things work in this world. This committee, without writing a line in the way of a report, could have much greater influence than fellows who write reports by the yard.
Lastly, the Opposition declines to participate in this committee because, it says, it would lose control of its members. Basically, this is what I said in answer to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). They do not trust one another. The members of this committee are not representative of a party in a narrow sense. It is not right to say that Opposition members of the committee would lose their individuality or their right to express their views. I thought that the honorable member for Fremantle rightly indicated what happens on this side of the House. Of course, members of this committee are free to express their views, based on all that they know. But, quite understandably, they are not free to disclose the detailed facts or the sources of the facts. I should not have thought that that was a very great hardship.
The reason for the Opposition’s nonparticipation in this committee is not that Opposition members feel that they would not be able to pull their weight in the House. The real reason is basic and it differentiates us on this side of the House from honorable members on the other side. The Opposition will not have a single member told something which is not told to all. On that footing, you cannot run a foreign affairs committee. While they do not trust one another I understand quite well why they cannot come on to this committee. I am grateful that, on this occasion, instead of a lot of table thumping, we have been privileged to hear the real reasons why Opposition members cannot participate in this committee. We know them and understand them. We hope that, some time, part of the difficulty will be overcome, but until members of the Opposition trust one another it cannot be overcome.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 776) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7th March (vide page 520), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, on the last sitting night of the last Parliament every member of the Government parties voted against the amendment which we will at a later hour this day unanimously pass. As a matter of fact, Sir, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), who is interjecting, not only voted against this amendment but spoke against it.
– But I did not.
– I am not going to dignify all these interjections by writing them into “ Hansard “. The present honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) would have voted against the amendment just as the then honorable member for Moore voted against it. The one thing, Sir, in which the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party have been most in unison in recent years is the devising and implementing of methods of rationing war service home finance.
This is a very simple amendment. It will permit eligible persons to borrow up to £3,500 for the acquisition of a house. The argument that was raised against this amendment when the Opposition put it up on the last sitting day of the last Parliament was that if applicants were able to borrow a greater amount, individually, a smallernumber of applicants could borrow at all. That is, the Government was then.- trying to help the maximum number of applicants instead df helping applicants- with the maximum need. There is no more money available for war service homes in this financial year now than there was at the time when the Government and its supporters, voted against our amendment. There is still only an amount of £35,000,000 all told, and the arguments then expressed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong and a few others, which were supported by every one in the Government parties, still hold all the’ validity that they had then. But they are now disregarded.
There are three arguments given by the Minister in favour of this legislation. The first was stated as follows: -
It is apparent that, to some extent, applications have declined because some ex-service men can no -longer , bridge the gap between the maximum amount of the war service homes loan and the prevailing costs of constructing or of acquiring a home.
That is very true. In fact, it was pointed out by the Director of War Service Homes in his annual report a” month before every Government member and supporter voted against the amendment last October. The” director reported to us, in his report which he signed on 26th September, and which was tabled- the following day-
Whilst inquiries have been received from a large number of eligible persons, it is apparent that many are not in a position to provide the deposit necessary to finance the acquisition of a home.
The director so’ reported to the Parliament. Honorable members on this ‘ side of the House quoted that passage to the “ Parliament, and Government supporters and members repudiated the view which they now advance.
The second reason given by the Minister representing in this place the , Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division was expressed as follows: - . . the Government .took into account the housing’ needs of ex-servicemen and particularly views placed’ before if by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers . and Airmen’s Imperial League , of Aus tralia regarding the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme.
It did take those views into account - after a long interval. And the views of the” Returned Soldiers League on ; this subject’ have been quoted in each’ of the last three Budget debates by honorable members on this side - and have been ignored, and sometimes expressly- rejected, by members of the Government parties.
At its forty-third .national congress in October, .1958,. the Returned Soldiers League unanimously passed a resolution that “ the maximum war service homes loan be increased to £3,500 with a corresponding increase in the war service homes Budget allocation “. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) replied that this raised a matter of policy and ‘should be kept in abeyance for the time being.
So the first reason given by the Minister in introducing this bill was reported to the Parliament a month before honorable members opposite voted against the Opposition’s amendment in the last Parliament. The second reason given by the Minister was also public property then, because all of us received the R.S.L. national congress report three’ years before honorable members opposite voted against the amendment.
The final reason for this, legislation was stated by the Minister in this way -
This Government believes in the principle ot home ownership and has always accepted the responsibility of encouraging home ownership within its .constitutional powers..
I suppose that that is why so many devices have been used to reduce the eligibility of ex-servicemen to obtain war service homes, and why the amount of accommodation available to immigrants has been reduced, and why no housing provision is made for pensioners, except age pensioners; That,I suppose, is why no provision is made for service pensioners, invalid pensioners, totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners and other recipients of social services, for all of whom this Parliament can exercise a constitutional responsibility in respect of housing. I say finally that no adequate initiative has ever been shown by this Government in. the provision of housing for public servants - again a constitu.tional responsibility, in the housing field, of the Commonwealth Government. .
However, we are dealing with this broad field of responsibility which applies to men who have enlisted for service overseas or who have served overseas. A war service home was for long the only tangible and predictable advantage of war service. It is true that one could be granted a pension or medical treatment if one were injured, and that one could have a war service land settlement block according to the luck of the ballot; but it used to be the principle that every ex-serviceman who asked for a war service home was able to obtain one. It is only under this Government that rationing schemes have been introduced. First’, there was the introduction of the waiting periods. Then there was the intro- duction of the schem’e for interim mortgages. Then there have been various ministerial directions abrogating the legislative provisions concerning eligibility. For instance, one cannot have a second advance except on very restricted conditions, nurses cannot have war service homes, and so on.
The advantages of the war service homes scheme used to be very great, and for those who were able to find, or are able to find, the requisite deposit, they are still very great. The scheme provides for a long period of repayment, for low interest, for low insurance and for secure occupation in times of economic adversity. But all these advantages depend on the ability to find the necessary deposit, and even the provisions which are now being made belatedly available by this amending bill will not be available to persons who had already received permission to raise interim mortgages - that is, those who had already undertaken, with the division’s approval, the usurious interest conditions that apply to interim mortgages. A person who was told, before the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made his announcem’ent on 6th February, that at that stage he would have to wait twenty months for his loan but in the meantime, if he desired, could receive permission to raise finance elsewhere, still has to wait the full twenty months. He still has to pay the usurious interest, guaranteed by the division, and will get no assistance from this bill in this financial year or, in all probability, in the next financial year, either.
I come now to the very restricted benefit that this bill will provide within the £35,000,000 gross made available for war service homes this year. I know that £35,000,000 sounds a great deal, but in actual fact the net cost to the Commonwealth of war service homes this year will be less than it has been in any other year under the Menzies Government, because the repayments now amount to almost twothirds of the gross advances made in any year. Therefore the cost of war service homes to the Commonwealth this year will be less than it has been in any other year under the Menzies Government.
– The Government cannot use that money.
– The act can be altered to provide that there should be a revolving fund under this act, as under the housing agreement legislation.
– It is a constitutional matter.
– It is not a constitutional matter at all, but a matter of statutory enactment by this legislature. The legislature has refused to do it in respect of war service homes, although it has done it under the housing agreement with the States. The amount of £2,750 which formerly applied had applied ever since 1952. At that time that sum was greater than the average cost of house and land for applicants who were assisted by the War Services Homes Division. As honorable members know, the reports of the division contain a table setting out the average cost of dwelling house and land for applicants who had received advances from the division during the preceding years. In 1951-52 the average cost of dwelling house and land for applicants who received advances was, in every State, less than £2,750. So when, in 1952, the amount of the advance was raised to £2,750 it was more than enough to cater for the total average cost. In the last full financial year the average cost of house and land had gone up by £2,000 and even now, with this increased amount of £3,500 available, the average borrower from the War Service Homes Division will have to find more than £1,000 in New South Wales and South Australia, more than £750 in Victoria, and £200 or £250 in the other States.
– For what size of house is this? How many squares?
– That is the average cost of house and land. All this information has been published in the annual reports of the director. In his 1960-61 report presented to us last September he informed us that the average cost of dwelling house and land for those applicants who received advances from the division was £4,503 in New South Wales, £4,256 in Victoria, £3,739 in Queensland, £4,650 in South Australia, £3,762 in Western Australia and £3,708 in Tasmania, lt is therefore quite plain that even with this amendment the War Service Homes Act will now provide a smaller measure of assistance for otherwise eligible applicants than was the case when the advance was last increased ten years ago.
When one compares the position of the War Service Homes Division with other forms of lending-
– Are you in favour of it?
– Of course we are for it. We were for it five months ago, when you were not. The discrimination against war service homes applicants becomes all the plainer when one compares the advances now available from other lending sources with those available from the division. Ten years ago the amount of money one could borrow from the War Service Homes Division was in most cases greater than one could borrow from any other source. The principal other source for which this Parliament is responsible is that under the housing agreement legislation. In Tasmania one can purchase a housing commission house for no deposit at all, in New South Wales with a deposit of £50, in Victoria and Western Australia with a deposit of £100, in South Australia with a deposit of £200 and in Queensland with a deposit of £250. It does not matter what the cost of the housing commission or trust or department house is in those States or how many squares are in it. You can buy it as long as you can find that deposit.
– And as long as there is a house available.
– The availability of both commission houses and war service homes depends upon the amount of money which this Parliament appropriates. It is true that the amount of money which it appropriates for the purposes of the housing commissions has constantly been declining, and even with the increased amount being made available in a bill which we have to discuss to-morrow the number of houses available will not increase. But that is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament, because this Parliament can make grants to the States for all purposes on any terms and conditions which it thinks fit. And it has chosen to make inadequate grants to the States for housing.
I will deal now with some of the other sources of housing finance and compare them with the provision which has been made available over the last ten years for war service homes applicants. In New South Wales persons could borrow up to £3,025 from building societies from 1951 to the end of 1961, and up to £3,500 from the beginning of this year. That is to say, there has been no advantage in going to the War Service Homes Division as against the building societies in New South Wales at any time in the last ten years.
– No advantage!
– It is true there is an advantage in the interest, repayment period, insurance and security for widows. Undoubtedly that is so, but all those advantages depend upon the person concerned being able to find an adequate deposit to qualify for the advance from the division. It was possible, throughout that period of ten years, to get assistance from a building society in New South Wales with a smaller deposit than that for which one would get it from the War Service Homes Division.
The amount which one was permitted to borrow from building societies in Victoria was increased in 1955 from £2,400 to £3,000, which was above the War Service Homes Division’s provision at that time.
Coming next to the savings banks, it has been possible since 1959 to borrow as much from the State Savings Bank of Victoria as from the War Service Homes Division, and since 1960 to borrow £3,000 from the Savings Bank of South Australia.
At the present moment the body which makes the smallest individual loans is the Commonwealth Savings- Bank, the other authority exercising direct Commonwealth responsibility in housing. And this, one remembers, is under a government which believes in exercising to the utmost the Commonwealth’s responsibility in housing! Only a month ago the Commonwealth Savings Bank increased its maximum permissible loan from £2,500 to £2,750. It cannot increase the maximum beyond £2,750, no matter what its board desires, until the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) makes new regulations under the act. The Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 permits the Government to prescribe the amount of housing loans to be granted by the bank. On 9 th January, 1960, the present Treasurer, by His Excellency’s command, gazetted a limit of £2,750.
It is true that henceforth one will be able to borrow more from the War Service Homes Division than from most other sources except the housing commissions, but the source which grants the smallest maximum amount is the other direct Commonwealth responsibility, the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Let me remind the House, too, that the advantage that can be gained by approaching the War Service Homes Division rather ‘ than other sources is smaller now than it was when the maximum amount available from the division was last increased.
A new device has been introduced administratively, by a direction of the Minister, under section 20 of the War Service Homes Act, to limit the availability of War Service Homes Division finance. In deciding whether an applicant had sufficient assets over and above the maximum loan of £2,750 to finance a project, the practice of the division was to treat the applicant as the owner of any land from which he could not be evicted or any movables which could not be repossessed. This became of particular significance in recent years when the various electricity authorities and gas corporations adopted the practice of financing the provision of heating and lighting facilities and other amenities in new houses. These bodies refrained from insisting upon- the usual bill of sale or hire-purchase agreement in respect of the * goods involved if they, were satisfied of the credit-worthiness of the purchaser. They allowed him to pay off the goods over a period of years. The War Service Homes Division cooperated with the electricity and gas authorities by deeming such goods to be, in fact, the property of the applicant, although he had not yet paid for them.
Furthermore, many land companies, project builders and estate agents permitted war service homes purchasers, without the execution of mortgages, to occupy property on which the applicants had not yet paid the full price. That is, these development companies, estate agencies and like bodies and individuals trusted the war service homes applicants. They said, “ Very well, we will not take a mortgage over your property. We will trust you to pay off the amount you still owe us.” Many such arangements were made, of course, between members of individual families. Sometimes, I suppose, a deposit was paid by way of dowry, but whatever the procedure, the land and the movables were not owned outright. They had not been fully paid for by the applicant for a war service homes loan. Nevertheless, the division assumed that the land and the goods were owned by the applicants, and included them in the calculation of their assets.
– Until the applicants had a clear title the division could not do that. You know that.
– That was not the experience of many hundreds of ex-service applicants to the War Service Homes Division before the Minister issued the direction to which I have referred. The division was instructed by the Minister in September, 1960, to disregard any land or goods which had not been completely paid for. This administrative action naturally made it more difficult for applicants to find the necessary deposit, and many were priced out of the field. At least they will now be able to borrow more. They will not have to find as large a deposit as they had to do previously.
All this was publicized in the Sydney “ Sun “ in November, 1960. No denial was made of it. Questions have been asked in this Parliament, statements have been made about it and have never been denied by the Minister up to this stage. He has had plenty of opportunity, but he has chosen not to take advantage of that opportunity.
I conclude, Sir, by fitting the contribution made by this legislation into the general housing picture in Australia. It has been our unfortunate experience on three occasions under the Menzies Government to find, after horror budgets and credit squeezes, a catastrophic decline in the number of houses commenced or - approved. The value of private housing which was approved in Australia in the calendar year 1960 was £303,770,000. In 1961, the value of new houses and flats approved dropped to £221,931,000. I am referring to nouses and flats financed from private sources. In these circumstances there is all the greater obligation to keep the building industry going, to promote the housing of all Australians, whether by birth or by immigration, by increasing the public contribution to housing. However, no significant increase has been made in this contribution. In 1960, the value of houses approved for construction from government sources was £39,558,000. In 1961, it was still only £42,504,000.
In the public sector, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is obvious that there has been no significant increase in the amount of funds available. In the private sector the amount of funds available has declined by one quarter. This legislation makes no provision whatever for an increase in the funds overall. It makes provision for increased funds for individual applicants, and we believe, Sir, that it is more important to cater for those whose need is greatest than for the greatest number.
I said earlier that the net amount of money being provided this year for war service homes will be smaller than the amount that has been provided in any other year in which the Menzies Government has been in office. The net amount that one can expect to be provided is less than £13,000,000. In no other year has it been so small.
This bill, as far as it goes, is a good one. It will mean that many of the most deserving cases will now receive the benefits of the War Service Homes Act. Unfortunately, not everybody who is eligible under the act will be able to get an advance. The Government saw to that in the Budget for the current financial year, which was presented in August of last year, by sponsoring an appropriation for war service homes of the same amount as had been appropriated in the previous four financial years. This inevitably ensured that the number of applicants receiving assistance this financial year would be reduced.
– Would not the number of applicants be lower?
– The number of applicants has been lower for the reason that it has become increasingly difficult for applicants to accumulate the necessary deposit. That is the reason given by the Director of War Service Homes for the slight decline in the number of applicants. But the director estimates that 70,000 people are still waiting for advances under the act. This means that people who saw active service in Korea ten years ago or in the Second World War at least seventeen years ago will have to wait, on the director’s own estimate, at least another five years. I have never known one of these estimates to be pessimistic. I imagine that the number of people wanting war service homes advances will increase. We all know that if the intention of the act were fulfilled - if everybody who is eligible for assistance were able to get it - the number of people seeking advances from the War Service Homes Division would be, not 70,000, but well over 100,000.
– If a 35-hour working week were introduced, the waiting period for a war service home would be longer than it is now.
– If the honorable member took a more precise interest in housing matters ami looked at the. publications of the Commonwealth Statistician or the Department of National Development, he would see that the reduction in the number of houses under construction as a result of this third horror Budget has not meant a reduction in the cost of housing. Productivity in the building industry has. not in creased at all.
One of the troubles in relation to the cost factor in housing in Australia is that the domestic building industry has deliberately been dealt three blows by the Menzies Government. In 1951-52; 1956-57 and 1960- 61, this Government deliberately took measures relating to credit which cut off the sources of housing finance. It took measures which it knew would reduce theconstruction of houses and the production of motor cars and which it intended to have that result. These represent the two biggest purchases which most people make throughout their lives. They are therefore the two purchases for which people have to borrow the greatest sum. I certainly do not underrate the difficulties in employment and production in the building industry. Those difficulties ‘ have been due’ to the demoralization and disruption wrought in the industry by these three applications of the credit squeeze.
– Order! I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has now spent sufficient time answering an interjection.
– That is quite so, Mr.Deputy Speaker. I propose to say no more than that this bill will afford a measure of justice to those ex-servicemen who need it most.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), in his opening remarks, stated that in October last, during the second-reading debate on the War Service Homes Bill 1961, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) foreshadowed an amendment which Mr. Speaker ruled could not be moved at that stage but could be moved only at the committee stage: The amendment was later proposed by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) in committee. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition members have since chided honorable members on this side of the House for having voted against the amendment, which would have raised the maximum advance from £2,750 to £3,500 as is proposed in the bill now before us. Let us have a look at what was said on that occasion. As reported at page 2592. of “ Hansard “, I discussed the amendment foreshadowed by the .honorable member for Lang on that occasion and said - 1 have no fault to find with the contention that there is an argument for increasing the amount’ of the loan ‘for a war service home. In fact, there have been many occasions on which ex-servicemen have had to withdraw their applications, because. in the period between making the applications and. having the loans granted costs have increased to . such an extent that their ready cash has proved insufficient to make up the difference . ‘. .
I went on to say - ‘ . . any attempt to use a bill such as the one now before us, which simply seeks an administrative amendment, as a means for proposing the amend- . ment that the honorable member has foreshadowed represents another political trick . . . For this reason I say that I cannot support the amendment that has been foreshadowed, although I may be in sympathy with the principles underlying it . . . I cannot go along with such tactics, and for that reason alone I will not support the amendment. I would agree that a recommendation could be made to the Government to consider raising the amount of the maximum loan next year. I would go .along with such a recommendation.
So much for the accusations made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition! I sug-gest that the Opposition is again guilty of a cheap political trick similar to that .which I branded as such in October last.
I propose to mention just a few of the points on which I disagree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He suggested that the Menzies Government has a bad record with respect to war service homes and that the number of applications being processed has fallen under this Government’s administration. If we have a look at the record, we see that from the inception of the scheme on 6th March, 1919, to 30th June, 1950 - the nearest date after the Menzies Government had taken office for which I could get figures - only 29.3 per cent, of the total number of houses provided under the scheme were built. Between 30th June, 1950, and 30th June, 1961, 70.7 per cent, of the total number of houses was built. The Menzies Government has provided 145,806 homes under the scheme compared with 60,000 provided between 6th March, 1919, and 30th June, 1950. This is a striking indication of the present Government’s record.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated, also, that- the cost of war service homes has not been reduced and that there is no stability in costs. I refer him to the last annual report of the Director of War Service Homes. It is an excellent document which presents all the facts concisely and extremely well. In it, the director, states- :
The economic measures of -November, I960,- checked and halted . these . trends. Labour and : materials are now in full supply, there is strong competition for the Division’s jobs and tender prices have stabilized.
He went on to say -
For example, the cost of group homes erected by the Division in Brisbane has fallen by more than £300 per home whilst the cost of erecting a group home in Sydney has fallen by about £125.
That quite disproves the contention by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the cost of war service homes.
I could not follow some of the honorable gentleman’s other tortuous arguments. In arguing about the different sources of finance available to people who wanted homes, he gave me the impression that he wanted the maximum advance available from all the other lending authorities in which the Commonwealth is interested blown up to proportions the same as those of the proposed new maximum limit for advances by the War Service Homes Divi-sion so that all who want homes can have similar benefits to those extended to exservicemen under the War Service Homes Act. I hope that the honorable gentleman did not mean that, but that appeared to be his meaning.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– The bill before the House seeks to amend the principal act. Its purpose is, in the words of the introduction -
To reduce by Seven hundred and fifty pounds the Minimum Deposit required from Purchasers, and to increase by that sum the Maximum Advance available to Borrowers, under the War Service Homes Act 1918-1961.
The amendment affects two sections of the principal act - section 19, sub-section (4.), paragraphs (a) and (b), which refer to the sale of houses on the rent-purchase system, and section 21, sub-sections (1.) and (1a.), which deal with the maximum advance on mortgage for the purchase of homes. The amendment to section 19 has the effect of reducing the deposit to an amount by which the total purchase price exceeds the advance. Under the existing legislation, if the purchase price is £4,250, the deposit required from the borrower, after allowing for the maximum advance of £2,750, is £1,500. The amendment now before us increases the maximum advance to £3,500. If the purchase price is £4,250, the deposit, with a maximum advance of £3,500, is only £750.
The amendment to section 21 merely increases the amount of the maximum advance from £2,750 to £3,500. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that this is a most significant contribution and will reduce the gap which previously existed between the purchase price and the amount of the loan to an amount that can be more readily met by the purchaser. This will, therefore, increase the number of people who can accept this special repatriation benefit - and that is what it is.
Unfortunately, several other effects, which - are disadvantageous, will follow the increase of the maximum loan. The two main disabilities were referred to by the Director of the War Service Homes Division, Mr. Medbury, in a statement which he made to a body of national ex-service leaders. He is reported in the press as follows: - “ If £3,500 is set as the new limit, and the Federal Government does not raise the allocation, it must result in a restriction in granting finance to applicants “.
Mr. Medbury added, “ It could result in a reduction of one-fifth in the number that could be assisted, or approximately 2,000 a year fewer than at present “.
He also stated that it would appear certain that the waiting time would be longer if the limit were raised.
I would like for a moment to look at the history of previous increases in the maximum amount of war service finance. In December, 1951, the Government increased the maximum loan from £2,000 to £2,750, which amount was available only for homes built through the division. But the allocation of funds for war service homes in the following year, 1951-52, increased from £25,071,000 to £27,607,000. In November, 1954, the maximum amount of £2,750 was extended to cover mortgage advances and the other operations of the act. On this occasion, the allocation of war service finance by the Government was increased from £26,874,000 in 1953-54 to £30,000,000 in 1954-55. This has been the pattern: Where the maximum loan has been increased, the allocation of finance has been increased in the ensuing year. If the Government continues to follow this pattern, we can expect the allocation to be increased.
This could well be done for the next five years, because it is in this period that the Director of the War Service Homes
Division expects the greatest number of applications to come from potential applicants. In his report, the director said that only 16 per- cent, of First World Warexservicemen who were eligible had applied for and obtained a home through the war service homes scheme. Up to the present, about 21 per cent, of those eligible because of service in the Second World War, Korea or Malaya had applied for assistance. The director estimated that 30 per cent, of ex-servicemen from the Second World War, Korea and Malaya would eventually apply for assistance. He then said that if the estimate of 30 per cent, was correct, about 240,000 persons would be provided with homes under this scheme. He reported that at 30th June, 1961, about 170,000 persons had been granted assistance, leaving 70,000 homes to be provided before the full demand would be satisfied. He went on to say - i would expect that these 70,000 homes will be required to be provided at a progressively diminishing rate over the next twenty years with, perhaps, the bulk of these being provided within the next five years.
I would suggest that the next five years is the time when additional finance should be provided by the Government to meet the expected demand.
The director also pointed out that the waiting time would necessarily be extended because of the increase of the maximum advance. At present, we have a delay of twenty months in the granting of assistance for the purchase of an existing home. The director estimates that 40 per cent, of the outstanding applications will be for assistance to purchase an existing home. If we take into account the repayment of mortgages on existing homes, we could say that a little under 50 per cent, of the total applications are for assistance to purchase an existing home. If the delay is twenty months now and if fewer applications can be mct because of the increase in the maximum advance, then it necessarily follows that the applications for assistance to purchase a home, which are estimated at 40 per cent, of the outstanding applications, will be pushed further back and will perhaps be delayed for 24 months. I cannot tolerate this at all. I feel that it amounts to discrimination against an ex-serviceman when he is not allowed to decide what home he will buy. I do not see why he’ should- be forced to take a new home, why he should be” forced to move out into an undeveloped suburb sans sewerage, sans roads, perhaps only with’ electric light and water and located at some distance from the nearest transport centre, which means that he going to work, his wife going to do the shopping and his children going to school are all forced to pay high fares. He should not be compelled to live at a great distance from his place of employment or from the school his children attend. If a man chooses a home close to his work and close to a school, he should not be denied the right to buy that home and thereby save himself unnecessary expense in fares. Many men now buying homes are past middle age. They do not want to go pioneering in the new suburbs where the residents are mostly young, newly-married people rearing young families and with whom these men have no community of interest. Such men are at the time of life when they want their wives and themselves to enjoy the convenience of living in a built-up area close to the facilities they have learned to enjoy. I am afraid that this idea of restricting the non-waiting period to new homes only has not been based on very sound premises. It is all very well to say that the reason behind it was to stimulate the building industry, but it seems quite factual to me that if I buy an existing home the man from whom I buy it has to find somewhere to live and must buy either a new home or an existing home somewhere else. At any rate, somewhere along the line a new home is purchased. Thus the private sector of the building industry must receive a stimulus because of the additional money being spent on war service homes. We must look at this matter again with a view to removing this discrimination against the purchase of existing homes. It seems to me to be something that has just developed. As the Director of War Service Homes estimates that in perhaps only five years we shall see the bulk of the remaining potential applications coming before the division to be processed, surely now is the time to straighten out some of these problems. It seems to me intolerable that as it is likely that the bulk of the applications will be attended to and processed within the next five years, we should now have twenty-odd months’ delay in the purchase of an existing home or in the satisfying of 40 per cent, of the applications. In the words of the -director, the effect of this provision will be that waiting time will be further protracted. It is time we examined the position with a view to bringing about a balance between existing homes and new homes. I am afraid that there is some departmental feeling that sufficient homes are not being built by the division and if the waiting time on existing homes is eased some of the ex-servicemen who want a new home might not readily be able to get it. Do not let us get down to thinking of that kind. A man should be able to choose the home he wants and should not be directed to outlying areas simply because he is not able to get a new home closer to the city.
There are several other matters which cause me a great deal of concern. It is hard to estimate the potential number of outstanding applications. I know that in the metropolitan area of Melbourne, because of the operation of the Landlord and Tenant Act, many landlords became sick and tired of being required to accept low, controlled rentals while their houses got out of repair. They could not afford to repair them, and so, .perforce, they sold the properties to their tenants who, in many cases, were exservicemen. They sold their properties to these tenants on low deposits and rental terms. This was a god-send to many ex-servicemen as well as to many people who were not ex-servicemen. As these people obtain a greater equity in the homes or pay them off, they put them on the market; sell them and then say, “ We- will now go for our war service home “. This is happening in quite a number of cases. There are people at present housed who still will claim their right, and properly so, to a war service home. So it is hard to estimate with any exactitude what the outstanding potential is. Nevertheless, when I examined the figures I found a remarkable difference between New South Wales and Victoria in this connexion. The total advances made in New South Wales under the scheme since its inception amount to about £131,000,000 while advances in Victoria amount to about £125,000,000. In 1960-61, New South
Wales had 6,896 applications for an expenditure of £16,000,000 while in Victoria there were only 3,827 applications involving an expenditure of £9,000,000. This bears out my argument that, from the inception of the scheme, about the same amount of money has been spent in each State, but, over the past year - in fact I think the pattern has remained constant over the last few years - there have been almost double the number of applications and almost double the amount of money spent in New South Wales because so many people in Victoria have been able to buy homes as tenants, and many of these people will ultimately apply for a war service- home. This could mean that in the next few years about 3,000 people per annum could be added to the back-log of 70,000 unsatisfied applicants mentioned by the director.
Another point about the operation of the act which has always caused me a great deal of concern relates to what is known, perhaps wrongly, as second assistance. The act quite rightly lays it down that the home must be bought, but there is some misconception about what is the actual repatriation benefit to the ex-serviceman. Is it the home he buys, or is it the loan he gets? I may be wrong, but it is my opinion that the repatriation benefit is the loan. If he gets a loan on the property of his choice at a time when perhaps he cannot afford to pay more and when he has one child, and if, as his family grows, he wishes to buy a larger house, or if he is transferred to another State and is compelled to buy another home, I feel that, provided the second security is acceptable to the division, he should be able to transfer the amount outstanding on the home which was first secured. In other words, he should be able to transfer the outstanding amount, and no more, of the first loan- the repatriation benefit - to the second security.
– The division will not do that.
– I know that, but I think it is a point that should be looked at. I emphasize that I am not asking that a second loan be granted; I am merely suggesting that the amount borrowed from the division as a repatriation benefit should be capable of being transferred in the exact amount granted less the amount repaid.
For instance, a man might have reduced his debt to£2,000. If he wants it, he should be able to have that balance of £2,000 transferred to the purchase of the new home. Under that system, the division would not be losing anything, the security is there and the man is retaining his repatriation benefit.
Mr.L. R. Johnson. -No extra “money would be involved.
– There would be no extra money involved.
Let me mention another matter which gives rise to a . feeling that anomalies develop in the administration of this act. I refer to the case in which an exserviceman, who is compelled to sell his home, sells it to another eligible ex-serviceman. Let us call the first ex-serviceman A. A desires to sell his property to B. There is already in existence a loan of £2,750 on the property, which has been reduced by repayments to£2,700. B requires a loan of only£2,700. He wants a transfer of the existing loan from A. Under the present provisions, there can be no transfer of mortgage. . What happens? At settlement the solicitor for B has to produce the funds from a new loan from the War Service Homes Division provided for B out of the annual appropriation. A’s loan has to be paid oft” and the money put back into general reserve and consolidated revenue in the required proportions. This is stupid. There is no exchange of money. The amount has already been advanced. I cannot see any reason why there should not be a straight-out transfer of the mortgage from A to B. There is merely an exchange as -between eligible ex-servicemen. The mortgage stays the same. I had a lot of experience of this work on the legal side and on the property side and I think it is dodging to some degree the responsibility to make the maximum amount of £35,000,000 available. All this cheeseparing means that the money available is less able to do the work it was meant to do. - This scheme is drawing to its conclusion. The Director of the War Services Homes Division has stated that in the main it has about five years to go. Within that period, we will have catered for the majority of the outstanding applications. Surely now is the time to look at these things, straighten them out and go ahead with replanning to ensure that the scheme does not reach a certain stage and then flop . Some people have said to me: “ It is a pity we did not have the allowance of£3,500 earlier. We could have this and that with the additional money “-. I think that if we plan far enough ahead we can provide for this scheme to taper off and not slip over the precipice. The scheme can be brought to finality in an orderly way unless we are forced to re-open it by engaging in another war, and we all earnestly pray that will not happen.
One of the good things that has been done by the War Service Homes Division has been the acquisition of developmental land. This work is outstanding although ‘ more could have been done in that direction. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to State housing authorities and how they made homes available for, say, £4,000 in some States without a deposit or with deposits ranging from £50 to £100 with repayments spread over long periods. In Victoria, wives are covered for the full repayment of the loan if the husband should die. However, I believe that the outstanding contribution the division has made to the problem is in the acquisition of what we call developmental land. I refer to land which can be developed for subdivision.
The War Service Homes Division has made roads and channels and provided other features of land subdivision including paths, electricity and water. It has eliminated the profits of land speculators and has made the land available to ex-servicemen at the cost to the division plus developmental costs. I am pleased to see that the Director of War Service Homes believes that with the£500,000 worth of land he still holds in the various States he will have sufficient to meet demands for building under the group scheme over the next five years.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes). Personally, I do not doubt his integrity and sincerity when he is speaking on measures relating to war service homes. On this occasion I found that he was expressing the views of the Opposition. The honorable member will find no difficulty in convincing members of the Opposition on matters such as the advance that should be given for war service homes, the waiting period for a loan and similar problems associated with applications for war service homes.
What concerns me and most members of the Opposition is whether the honorable member has been able to convince members of the Government he supports. It is they who have to be convinced. Nevertheless, it is pleasing to know that at least one supporter of the Government is prepared to stand behind the Opposition on matters it has been raising in the Parliament for many years.
The honorable member began his speech by saying that when I moved in this Parliament on behalf of the Opposition in October, 1961, an amendment designed to increase the maximum advance of £2,750 to £3,500, it was a mere political stunt. I assure supporters of the Government that such a proposal was not merely something thought up by the Opposition. It had been supported by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and every other interested organization for many years. They recognized that the maximum advance allowed for exservicemen was not sufficient to enable them to buy the sort of home to which they were entitled under the War Service Homes Act.
If the honorable member for Maribyrnong wants to join issue with me on that, point, I remind him that when I moved an amendment in the House for an increase in the advance to £3,500, he had an opportunity of voting with the Opposition, but with every other member on the Government side, he voted against our amendment.
– I told you why.
– The record is quite clear for the honorable member in “ Hansard “.
The Opposition does not oppose the bill. After all we have moved on a number of occasions, and as recently as October, 1961, for ari increase in the maximum advance to the figure that is now proposed in this legis lation. We have advocated such an increase in Budget debates and particularly when measures affecting war service homes have been before the House. We are pleased that the Government has now acknowledged its responsibility and proposes to increase the advance for war service homes.
A similar proposal was moved on 24th August, 1961, in another place. On that occasion, the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division (Senator Spooner) said that it was not possible to increase the maximum advance to £3,500, and he gave several reasons why it could not be done. Yet less than six months later, the Minister has moved in that direction. I have been amazed to find that the arguments raised earlier by the Minister in another place to explain why the maximum advance should not be increased are the very reasons why the Government has decided to increase the overall allocation as suggested by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. Certainly, that is not the complete answer. We agree that the maximum advance should be increased. It has. been, increased. But certainly the amount of £35,000,000 which is now available for war service homes will not be sufficient to meet the number of applications that will be made during this financial year. Simple arithmetic will indicate at once that if the maximum advance is increased by £750 and the overall allocation is left at £35,000,000,. the same number of homes cannot be acquired as previously. The Opposition believes, therefore, that as well as increasing the maximum advance, the Government should have moved to increase the overall Budget allocation for’ the War Service Homes Division.
Let’ me return to the Minister’s statement on this measure. As reported in “ Hansard “ in August, 1961, the Minister was adamant that the maximum advance should not be increased. He said that annually approximately 14,150 applicants were being provided with homes through the War Services Homes Division. The Minister argued that, if the maximum advance were increased from £2,750 to £3,500, this would require an increase of approximately £12,000,000 in the overall Budget allowance. That would be an increase from £35,000,000 to £47,000,000. The Minister said that if there were no increase in the Budget provision for the War Service Homes Division only 10,700 applicants could be assisted annually instead of the 14,150 applicants to whom I have just referred. Surely, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if that is the situation, the honorable member for Maribyrnong was quite correct in saying that the Government should increase the overall allocation as well as increasing the maximum advance to £3,500.
It is perfectly true, as the Minister has indicated, that the number of applications for war service homes dropped, particularly during the financial year, 1960-61. In 1959-60, 20,833 applications were received by the War Service Homes Division compared with 21,935 in 1958-59. In fact, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the number of applications had remained fairly constant at around the 20,000 mark but in 1960-61 the figure dropped to 16,040 applications. The Minister has now used the fall in the number of applications to suggest that the £35,000,000 now available for war service homes will be sufficient to enable the same number of applications to be satisfied each year. This is completely contrary to the point of view expressed by members of the Opposition.
I believe that Government supporters should ask themselves whether the fall in applications in 1960-61 was duc merely to a slackening of the demand for war. service homes. We do not believe that it was. We believe that other factors were involved. Those factors are closely related to the Government’s economic measures of 1960. Not only was there a fall in the demand .for war -service homes in 1960-61 but there was a fall in demand for all types of homes throughout Australia. This was because insufficient finance was available to those who wished to purchase homes. I submit that, because the maximum advance has been increased to £3,500, there will be an immediate increase in the number of applications to the War Service Homes Division. I have no hesitation in saying that the financial year 1961-62 will again find the number of applications to the War Service Homes Division around the figure of 21,000. The reason, for the fall in applications for war service homes cannot have been merely a slackening in the demand for the homes as suggested by the Minister. The real reason was the economic measures inflicted by the Government on the people of this country.
A second reason for the fall in the number of applications for war service homes was probably the abnormally large deposit that was required. The Government has now moved to overcome that factor. That is one further reason why the number of applicants for war service homes will increase in the next financial year. It would be completely wrong’ for the Minister to assume, as I believe he has assumed, that there has been a fall in applications because the demand for war service homes has been largely satisfied. The honorable member for Maribyrnong quoted to the House from the report of the Director of War Service Homes in which the director indicated that 16 per cent, of ex-servicemen, from the First World War who were eligible for war service homes had made applications for assistance from the division. The percentage, of course, is much lower in respect of ex-servicemen from the Second World War. It is perfectly obvious, therefore, that if the maximum advance is to become more generous, as it will be under the terms of this legislation, the number of applicants will be increased.
I turn now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to another factor in relation to. war service homes which has been evident since the present Government assumed office. I refer to the waiting period. I believe that this factor, too, will be influenced by the fact that the Government, on the one hand, has increased the maximum advance, but, on the other, has taken no action at all to increase the overall amount that will be available during this financial year to the War Service Homes Division. Almost since the inception of this Government, there has been a waiting period for those who have applied for war service homes finance. In 1955, I moved for the adjournment of this House in order to draw attention to the unnecessary waiting period that had been enforced by the present Government. We are told by the Minister for National Development that there is no waiting period for 60 per cent, of applicants to the War Service Homes Division. On the other hand, there is a waiting period for 40 per cent, of applicants.
Three types of assistance are available from the War Service Homes Division. Assistance may be obtained to purchase an existing home, which may have been erected for a number of years. The waiting period in respect of such, assistance varies from State to State. In Tasmania, it is approximately eighteen months. In New South Wales, I understand, it is approximately twenty months. I submit that, sixteen years having passed since the end of the last war, it is a serious indictment of this Government that applicants should have to wait twenty months to receive financial assistance to purchase a home to which they are entitled under the act. In recent years, because of the low maximum advance, more and more ex-servicemen have been obliged to turn to the purchase of an existing home as an alternative to building a- new home. The value of an existing home purchased by an ex-serviceman would be much less than that of a new home. They have been forced to this course because of ministerial directions, . yet they have still been obliged to face a waiting period which varies from eighteen to twenty months. If it was possible in 1959 to show the faults in the implementation of the legislation and to show the hardships being imposed on ex-servicemen as a result of the long waiting period, these can be shown even more cogently to-day.
I turn again to the subject of group homes. Here again the situation is much the same in that a long waiting period is involved. I have no desire to single out any particular section of the War Service Homes Division, because I wish to voice no criticism of the people there who, I believe, do their best under very difficult circumstances. I shall merely give an example of what has happened in the city of Launceston, in northern Tasmania, where no group homes have been built for three years or more, although there are now five under construction. In that situation, exservicemen have to get homes- by some other means, and the means that they have to use is the purchase of existing homes. An exserviceman forced by circumstances to accept that alternative should not be obliged to find the money to cover a waiting period of approximately twenty months before the : division .is prepared to discharge the mortgage. -It is true that in respect of new homes the division has been somewhat more generous. Recently, the Minister for National Development issued a direction that a home newly erected which had not been lived in could be purchased immediately by an applicant. The same thing applies to an ex-serviceman who has an existing home and desires to build with the aid of the department. There is no waiting period in those cases, and neither should there be in the case of an ex-serviceman who is obliged to. purchase an existing home.
Now I turn to the subject of existing mortgages. Unfortunately, when one deals with the war service homes legislation one realizes that there - have been so many ministerial directions affecting the legislation that it is difficult to understand the legal provisions merely by examining the bill itself. The Minister for National Development frequently issues ministerial directions regarding war service homes. One of the directions he has issued is a regulation governing existing mortgages. Before this Government came to office it was possible for an ex-serviceman who qualified under the act to have his mortgage discharged by the War Service Homes Division. This Government changed that practice. The reason for its doing so has never, been given to this Parliament, and an ex-serviceman who was purchasing his home before he enlisted for active service, and later became qualified for a war service home under the act, is no longer able to have his mortgage transferred to the War Service Homes Division from such other lending institution as holds it. Another ministerial direction by the Minister for National Development! The Opposition believes that the Government should seriously consider the position of the people to whom I have referred who, through no fault of their own, cannot transfer an existing mortgage to the War Service Homes Division because of a ministerial direction.
The maximum advance under the legislation is being increased to £3,500. I have already acknowledged that the Opposition supports that. We advocated it in 1960 and 1961 and we believe it is long overdue. Let me point out at once, however, that because of the greatly, increased prices of existing and new homes even now the maximum advance will not be overgenerous. In New South Wales an exserviceman who purchases a home through the War Service Homes Division - and I quote the division’s own figures - will have to find, according to the 1960-61 report of the Director of War Service Homes, a deposit of £1,003. An exserviceman in Victoria will have to find a deposit of £756 and an ex-serviceman in South Australia a deposit of £1,150. An exserviceman in the Australian Capital Territory, despite the increase in the maximum advance by £750, will be obliged to find a deposit of £2,875 - and this in respect of the. house only, excluding the land.
So we say that the new maximum advance is certainly not over-generous. If we compare it with the generous treatment available to people who are not exservicemen, and therefore, not eligible persons under the legislation, who are seeking assistance from Government institutions, we see how harsh is the lot of the exservicemen. I point out that in such cases in New South Wales and Tasmania no deposit is required. Yet, I repeat, in the Australian Capital . Territory an ex-serviceman is obliged to find a deposit, of £2,875. We do not regard the increase in the maximum loan from £2,750 to £3,500 as overgenerous, but at least it . will assist exservicemen who have hitherto not been able to bridge the gap between’ the maximum advance and the cost of a home.
I want to refer once again to a matter already raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) - that it will be a serious indictment of this Government if the number’ of war service homes completed by the division in this financial year falls because of failure to increase the Budget allocation to the War Service Homes Division. I am prepared to accept the argument advanced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), when he was trying to answer the Opposition’s case for an increased maximum advance some time ago, that unless the Government increased the overall allocation to the division from £35,000,000 to £47,000,000 there would be a reduction to 10,700 in the number of homes constructed by the division in any one year. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) opened the debate to-day he pointed out that the Government is not making available £35,000,000 each year for war service homes. Any one who takes the trouble to study the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes will see at once that from its returns from interest, rent and other items outlined in the report the Government received from its war service homes transactions at least £12,000,000 during the last financial year. I have no doubt that that figure will be increased substantially during the present financial year; so if we reduce the £35,000,000 by approximately £12,000,000 we find that the Government is making available no more than- £23,000,000 annually for the purpose of providing war service homes in this country. If that is factual, then obviously the Government should have taken the opportunity, as the Minister for National Development so rightly pointed out, to increase the overall allocation from £35,000,000 to at least £47,000,000, as his figures suggested.
If the Government is prepared to accept the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Maribyrnong as well as by honorable members on this side of the House with regard to the overall amount of £35,000,000, the waiting period, which is. a serious indictment of this Government, and the cost of the homes - in many parts of Australia the maximum deposit will even now be far too high in relation to the average income of the ex-serviceman who wishes to apply for a home through the division - the Opposition will be prepared to agree that the Government is attempting in some way to honour the obligations contained in the original War Service Homes Act. On the other hand, we do not oppose the opportunity that is being taken at this stage to increase the maximum advance from £2,750 to £3,500.
.- The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has spoken, as usual, with a very thorough knowledge of this subject, to which he has obviously given considerable study - a knowledge which, in view of recent events, does not appear to have been shared by his party. There are other matters to which I will refer later, but at this point I wish to deal with the purposes of the bill, which are twofold: Firstly, to give additional financial assistance to ex-servicemen seeking -it from the War Service Homes Division for the purchase of new homes, and secondly to adjust the deposit. Under the bill the advance for new homes will be increased by £750- from £2,750 to £3,500 - and the minimum deposit required will be correspondingly reduced. The bill is a simple one and does not appear to require a great deal of debate. It was introduced in another place and passed, I think, with the minimum number of speeches required. Its passage through another place took only a few hours.
I notice that clause 2 of the bill provides that the legislation shall come into operation on the day upon which it receives the Royal Assent. To my mind this is an important provision. It is one which was overlooked to-day by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who spoke for 35 minutes on this measure. He should not have required to speak for more than five minutes on it. I think he is in agreement with it - and that goes for other members opposite-
– Are you in agreement with the bill?
– Of course I am. I am pointing out that one of the requirements of the bill is that it should be put into operation expeditiously, and when people talk at length on other aspects of the war service homes scheme they are to that extent denying it from being available to the ex-servicemen who need the benefits contained in it.
To-day the Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke for 35 minutes on this measure, setting the example to other members of the Oppositon who followed him in the debate. He charged the Government with all sorts of inefficiency and with not carrying out the aims of the act in regard to the amount of money provided overall, and matters of that sort. While this has been going on, time has been slipping away.
Some very important matters were raised by the honorable member for Bass and with some of them we may agree. It would be very nice if we could do all the things we wished to do. I have no doubt there are members on this side of the House who feel that some of the points the honorable member raised would be excellent if they could be put into operation. It is easy to tell some one else how to spend his money and easier still to tell him how to spend somebody else’s money. That is a position which often arises when we are debating subjects such as this. I recall that when the honorable member for Bass moved an amendment to the War Service Homes Bill 1961 before the committee last October he sought to raise the amount of the advance by £750, but I do not recollect that there was in his amendment provision for raising or budgeting for an increased amount of money to meet that increase in the advance.
– I left it to the Government to decide.
– That was the basis of the whole thing. The honorable member implied in his speech to-night that the increase in the advance will not be satisfactory because there will not be sufficient money to provide the same number of homes as would have been provided under the old advance. That may be so, but there is- the question of how much money is available with which to do all the things we need to do. We might say “ Yes, we would like to have the advance available for the purchase of old homes without a waiting period.” Quite right, but that would require more money. The honorable member for Maribyrnong chided members of the Opposition for trying to put over a trick in the amendment moved last year. Surely the honorable member for Bass and other honorable members opposite are sufficiently seised of parliamentary procedure to know that no government will allow an opposition to take the business of the House out of its hands. And there is no simpler way of doing that than to persuade a government to pass legislation increasing expenditure to meet which it has to raise money that has not been provided for in the Budget. Obviously, while it was the ambition of honorable members opposite to get more money for this object, it was the sort of thing which could not be done in the normal course of parliamentary business.
While any member of the Government may sympathise with many of the propositions put forward by the Opposition he is entitled to say that unless the ways and means are obvious those things cannot be done. This measure gives great benefits to ex-servicemen who are seeking homes and the additional amount provided can be used for several purposes. It can be used for the erection or purchase of a new home, for the purchase of a home previously occupied or the provision of certain utility services. I mention these things because I do not think they have been referred to in the debate so far. The services referred to may be the provision of sewerage, or road-making, or the amount may be used for the enlargement of an existing war service home when the applicant can satisfy the Director of War Service Homes that the additional accommodation is necessary in order to house his family adequately.
We have here a bill which makes provisions that ex-servicemen have been seeking for a number of years. The Government has found that the number of applications has declined in recent months, and as a large part of the financial year has passed, the Government can see ahead and has decided that it can make these alterations, increasing the maximum amount of loan available in individual cases and reducing the deposits that applicants are required to produce.
I should have thought that the Opposition would not want to take up a great deal of time in discussing this legislation. I should have thought it would want to see this bill passed as quickly as possible. It was introduced in another place, and it has only to be passed in this House. As soon as it is passed in this chamber and receives the Royal Assent, the additional amounts will become available for those who require them. For that reason I am not going to take up any more of the time of the House.
– Set an example!
– I intend to set an example. I merely say that none of the charges of negligence in the administration of the War Service Homes Division, which have been levelled at this Government, can be justified. I say also that the officers of the department have been most helpful, as all honorable members know, to those who have applied to the department for assistance. They have also been most helpful to members of this Parliament who have taken up specific cases with them when, perhaps, a particular applicant has been suffering from an incapacity which has prevented him from approaching the department in person. The department has given us an example of what a government department can do to help people who not only require assistance but are also entitled to it.
We have nothing to be ashamed of in our administration, over the years, of the War Service Homes Division. Rather can we be proud of it, as the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has said. The total amount of advances that have been made by the division - admittedly it has been in existence for many yeaTS - is £418,000,000. Some years ago we were able to claim that this Government had advanced more money for war service homes than all other governments put together. This, of course, holds good to-day, and we can now say that of the total amount of £418,000,000 advanced, this Government has provided £382,000,000. In other words, all other governments put together have advanced only £36,000,000. Why, Mr. Speaker, we are advancing only £1,000,000 short of that amount every year! For some years the amount provided each year in the various budgets for war service homes has been £35,000,000.
I say, therefore - and I shall be as brief as possible - that this bill is one that should receive the ready approval of the whole House. It embodies the highest of ideals, increasing the maximum amount available for individual loans and reducing the amount of deposit required. The extra money is provided not only for the building or purchase of a new home, but also for additions and necessary alterations to existing homes. In presenting this measure to the House, the Government is proud of its record of administration of the War Service Homes Act.
.- The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) can be quite sure that the Opposition will be no more desirous of delaying this measure now than it ever has been. Any delay that has occurred in providing an increase in the maximum amount of loan available under the War Service Homes Act can properly be laid at the door of honorable members opposite, including the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He and hiscolleagues strenuously opposed a proposal along these lines when it was made in this House by the Opposition in October last. It was opposed also by Government supporters in the other place in August of 1951. There is some kind of hypocrisy inherent in the honorable member’s attitude this evening.
I agree with the honorable member for
Lawson that the War Service Homes. Division has done a most praiseworthy job over the years. The division was established in 1919, and many years have elapsed since then. In the intervening period, about £400,000,000 has been expended on war service homes, about 200,000 homes having been provided for ex-servicemen. The war service homes scheme is avery good one, principally because it provides money at rates of interest which are a good deal lower than those available from most other sources. It also provides for repayments over extended periods, and it allows the applicant in many cases a choice of locality, site and design of home.It is unfortunate that this excellent scheme has been marred by certain deficiencies which should have been put right by the Government some considerable time ago. The belated endeavour that is now being made to correct some of these deficiencies and shortcomings is. to be appreciated, but we claim that it does not go far. enough.
Thedeficiencies that have been most apparent in recent years have included the inadequate amount of the maximum loan available.Up to now the maximum has been £2,750. Another glaring deficiency has been the long period of waiting between the time of making application and the time of granting a loan. In. many cases applicants have had to seek temporary finance, at high interest rates, to tide them overthis period. Anothercause for complaint has been the Government’s unwillingness to meet claims for second assistance. This has been referred to at some length this evening.
It is interesting to read in a volume of “ Hansard “ for the year 1921 a speech by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), who, fortunately for us all, is still in this place, in which he complained about the high interest rates being charged at that time for housing finance and about the long waiting period before loans were granted by the War Service Homes Division. His speech reads very much like the speeches that one hears in the Parliament at the present time. Since 1949, when this Government came to office, we of the Opposition have been making complaints of the kind made by the honorable member for Bonython in 1921, but unfortunately our grievances have not been redressed as they should have been.
The purpose of this billis to overcome one of the main problems, by increasing the maximum amount of a loan from £2,750 to £3,500, and by reducing the amount of deposit by£750. TheMinister for National Development (Senator Spooner), when introducing this bill in another place, said quite plainly that the legislation is being introduced because of the housing shortage. We on this side of the Parliament, while fully appreciating the value of the legislation, believe that there are other reasons for the Government’s action. The disapproval shown by the people at the election in November is another cause of the Government’s renewed interest in this matter. This is apparent when one considers the way in which the Government steadfastly refused to implement these proposals when they were put forward by the Opposition a short time before the election. The Government has suddenly come to appreciate the extent of the concern felt throughout Australia with regard to its policies. On 21st February the Minister said in another place -
The Government’s recent review of the national economy showed that - an increase in the home’ building rate was desirable.-
That is a most profound utterance by the Minister! We have been waitingfor such a declaration of concern for a long time. No one can deny the truth of that statement. There. is indeed a great housing shortage in Australia. In fact, what the Minister said would constitute the understatement of the year. If any proof is needed of the fact that a serious housing shortage exists, I can say that 71,353 Australian families were waiting in June,1961, for homes to be provided by the various State housing commissions. In the year. 1960-61 the number of new applications received by the housing commissions totalled 42,637.
-(Hon. Sir John McLcay). - Order! I ask the honorable member not to stray too far from the subject before the Chair. We are discussing the War Service Homes Division and not the State housing commissions.
– It is quite true that the situation in regard to the War Service Homes Division is similar to that in which the building societies, the housing commissions and the other authorities and institutions providing housing finance now find themselves.
There is a long waiting list of applicants for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. At 30th June last year 15,374 applicants were waiting. This was 16 long years after the war, and applications were still coming in, during that year, at the rate of 16,040 per annum. So we have quite some distance to go. I think that the Minister for National Development probably believes that he can raise the amount that an ex-serviceman may borrow and not increase the total allocation of funds because the number of applicants will very rapidly diminish. However, I am not sure that the number will diminish. The annual report of the Director of War Service Homes for 1960-61, at page 8, states -
Of the total number who enlisted for service in the Second World War and in the ‘ Korean and Malayan operations, it is thought that there would be about 800,000 ex-servicemen who could be eligible for War Service Homes benefits. Therefore, if the estimate that 30 per cent, will eventually seek and obtain assistance is correct, about 240,000 eligible persons will be provided with a borne under the Scheme.
The report goes on to state that about 170,000 eligible ex-servicemen of the Second World War and the operations in Korea and. Malaya have been granted assistance and that the Commonwealth could be called on to provide a further 70,000 homes. That number of additional homes may be required over a long or a short period, and there is no room for placation on the part of the Government. There is no occasion for the apathetic attitude which it has exhibited by failing to make sufficient’ funds available.
There is no doubt, Sir, that the limitation of the loan has in fact been a deterrent to many intending applicants. We wonder why the Government has not taken action earlier to increase the amount that an ex-serviceman may borrow. The Minister for National Development, in his second-reading speech on this, bill in another place, said -
It is apparent that, to some extent, applications have declined because some ex-servicemen can no longer bridge the gap between the maximum amount of the war service homes loan and the prevailing costs of acquiring a home. In the Government’s recent review of the national economy this was accepted as a factor which was preventing many ex-servicemen from taking advantage of the benefits offered by the war service homes scheme.
We un this side of the House pointed out that position years and years ago, and so did the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. We wonder why there has been so much delay. We wonder why the Government has quibbled in this regard.
It is a matter for concern that no additional funds are being made available by increasing the appropriation for war service homes. The net effect of the Government’s proposal, of course, is that some people will get bigger loans and others will have to wait longer for the money that they need. With no increase of the allocation of ?35,000,000 made in the last Budget, we can reasonably assume that if some individual loans are increased there will undoubtedly be a corresponding decrease in the number of loans made. The Government, in effect, then, sets out to solve one problem and, in the process, it quite unnecessarily creates another very serious problem. This bill undoubtedly will result in longer waiting periods. Therefore, many ex-servicemen will be forced to seek temporary finance. This is not just my view; it is the view of the Minister for National Development. He is the authority for my statement. On 24th August, 1961, at the committee stage of the consideration of the War Service Homes Bill 1961 in another place, when the Opposition moved an amendment designed to have the maximum advance increased by the amount now proposed, the Minister, replying to the Opposition’s arguments in support of the amendment, retorted -
Under the existing arrangements, from the present allocation of ?35,000,000 the Government is giving assistance to 14,150 applicants annually.
If the maximum loan were increased - to £3,500, the servicing of the same number of applicants in a comparable manner would require an increase of expenditure from £35,000,000 to £47,000,000.
That was the Minister’s attitude as stated not so long ago in another place. Yet, on the present occasion, we find that no additional allocation of funds is to be made. The conclusions to be drawn from the Minister’s comment are clear.
I want to discuss, briefly, Mr. Speaker, the point that the maximum limit of advance proposed is no more than is absolutely necessary. The annual report of the Director of War Service Homes for 1960-61 makes this quite clear. At page 22, it indicates that the average cost of a war service home, including both land and dwelling, in 1960-61 ranged from £3,708 in Tasmania to £6,375 in the Australian Capital Territory. In each case, the amount spent by an ex-serviceman is in excess of the maximum advance proposed in this bill. In New South Wales, where the largest number of war service homes applications was approved last financial year, and in quite a number of years before, for that matter, 6,189 applications were approved last financial year at an average cost of £4,503 for the dwelling and land. The proposed maximum advance of £3,500 was exceeded by the average cost in New South Wales and Victoria in 1956-57, in Queensland in 1960-61, in South Australia in 1955-56, in Western Australia in 1958-59, in Tasmania in 1959-60, and in the Northern Territory in 1956-57. As far back as the records go, the proposed maximum advance has been exceeded by the average cost in the Australian Capital Territory. So there is nothing unusually generous in the Government’s proposal. In 1960-61, the average cost of dwelling house and land was £4,503 in New South Wales, £4,256 in Victoria, £3,739 in Queensland, £4,650 in South Australia, £3,762 in Western Australia, £3,708 in Tasmania, £6,375 in the Australian Capital Territory and £3,738 in the Northern Territory. I emphasize that these are only averages and that many exservicemen who want to borrow a good deal more than these amounts will not be assisted adequately under the terms of this bill.
The fact that quite a number of exservicemen, as a result of inadequate funds available through the War Service Homes Divi sion, find it necessary to seek the division’s permission to obtain finance from other sources is worth mentioning, Mr. Speaker. This matter was the subject of a question on notice, the answer to which appears in the “ Hansard “ of this House, of 1st September, 1960, at page 771. It is interesting to see what is involved in the obtaining of temporary finance. A survey was made in June, 1960, and we were able to ascertain that many ex-servicemen had paid high rates of interest for the money which they had borrowed over short terms. In March, 1960, 70 applicants were given approval to raise temporary finance at rates not exceeding 5i per cent.; 246 at rates exceeding 5i per cent, but not exceeding 7 per cent.; 96 at rates exceeding 7 per cent, but not exceeding 8 per cent.; 47 at rates exceeding- 8 per cent, but not exceeding 9 per cent.; 109 at rates exceeding 9 per cent, but not exceeding 10 per cent.; and four at rates above 10 per cent.
A total of 572 applicants were given approval in that month to raise temporary finance. They were forced to seek temporary accommodation at these expensive rates. Only 70 of them were able to get their temporary finance at rates not exceeding 5i per cent. Banks accommodated 268 of the 572 applicants, or fewer than half. Private money-lenders assisted 261, and 43 obtained the money from finance companies and building societies. Honorable members can readily see the effect of temporary finance. Many of these people were not raising only the £2,750; they were raising the total cost of the home.
We put it to the Government that the lucrative nature of the war service homes scheme is such that the need for temporary finance and long waiting periods can easily be eliminated. The honorable member for Lawson said that there were insuperable problems in this. We are able to say to him that we would not for one moment stand for a continuation of these deficiencies in the scheme. We would find a way to overcome the difficulties. The waiting period is still twenty months for’ assistance to purchase an existing property and eighteen months for the extension of a home. We must realize that the biggest group of applicants - 38 per cent, of them - seek to purchase an existing home. It is. quite clear that this bill does not contemplate reducing the waiting time or relieving these applicants of the expense of “temporary finance. These problems are not to be solved by this legislation.
I want to make some reference to the cost of borrowing from the War Service Homes Division. The principle of usury has come to prevail here to a far greater extent than is necessary. I shall give honorable members some figures and ask that they reflect on them. An exserviceman who borrows £2,750 over a period of 45 years, repaying at the rate of £10 lis. a month, finally pays no less than £5,625. A war widow could obtain a loan for a period of 50 years and repay it at £10 13s. Id. a month. For that £2,750, she would repay no less than £6,082. The interest on £2,000 is £6 5s. a month or 6s. 3d. for each £100. This is dead money. For every £16 owed, ls. a month interest is paid. The interest on £2,750 for one month is as high as £8 lis. lid. Thus, an ex-serviceman’s repayments are loaded with interest.
The excess of revenue from interest charges over administrative expenses in any year is considerable. My colleague, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), was the last honorable member to examine this question thoroughly. On 30th April, 1957, at page 913 of “Hansard”, the honorable member obtained advice from the Minister to the effect that the excess of interest payments over administrative expenses from the beginning of the war service homes scheme in 1919 to 28th February, 1959, was £37,594,619. That is the profit that governments, Labour and Liberal, have derived from the war service homes scheme. This profit has resulted from the conduct of the business of providing homes for ex-servicemen. In the year 1960-61, interest payments amounted to-
– Order! I think the honorable member is now going a little away from the purpose of the measure before the. Chair. I ask him to come back to the subject of the bill.
– I was trying to show that there is such a lucrative return from the war service homes scheme-
– Order! The honorable member must tie his remarks to the subject-matter before the Chair. He is referring too much to generalities.
– I have the feeling that I was being very specific in showing the extent of the profit made-
– Order! The honorable member is now canvassing the request I have made. The honorable member is fully aware of the purpose of the measure. 1 am trying to be tolerant and I ask that he co-operate.
– I want to show the House that the lucrative nature of the war service homes scheme is such that it is not-
– Order! The honorable member cannot pursue that line. I ask him to be reasonable in making passing references and to come back to the measure before the Chair.
– I am talking about the measure precisely. At this moment, I am talking about the Government’s proposal to increase the amount that ex-servicemen can borrow. I think that is an appropriate subject to talk about.
– Order! The honorable member would not have been interrupted if he had been in order.
– I was saying-
-Order! The honorable member will not argue. I ask him to proceed with his speech.
– I am proceeding as you suggest, Sir. The Government could be more generous and provide a larger loan for ex-servicemen than is provided even by this legislation. I have no doubt that a revolving fund technique would enable the Government to assist ex-servicemen much more than it has done so far, for instance, by directing the profits that I have mentioned to the acquisition of land. That would be a big help to ex-servicemen because they would be involved in a smaller outlay for the homes that they hope to acquire.
I think it is appropriate for me to talk about second assistance. Other honorable members, including members of the Government parties, have done so in this debate at some considerable length. The honorable member for Maribyrnong took the view that it would be desirable in certain circumstances for an ex-serviceman to be able to dispose of his home and direct the proceeds and the unexpended amount of the war service loan to the acquisition of another home. I have always been at a loss to understand why the Minister has been reluctant to cooperate with ex-servicemen who have made such a request. An ex-serviceman may want to change from one home to another for many reasons. One reason may be sickness. I have had cases in which a family has developed an asthmatic condition and has wanted to move to a more suitable climate. An application to dispose of the home and to apply the proceeds and the unexpended amount of the loan - not additional money - to the purchase of another home has not been approved.
In other circumstances, ex-servicemen have moved from one place to another because of the requirements of their employment. For instance, ex-servicemen have come from the northern coal-fields where employment opportunities have terminated, to the southern fields in my electorate. The Government has taken the view that in circumstances such as these, the exservicemen should not be given the right to use the unexpended part of his war service loan. Serious consideration should be given to reversing this decision.
The latest case to come under my notice in which such an application was made concerns an ex-serviceman who borrowed from a company building society. It was the S.T.C. Building Society. After he terminated his employment, the company building society told him that he must relinquish his loan. As an eligible exserviceman, he made application to the War Service Homes Division for a loan. I was surprised that in this case the decision was given not by the deputy director in a State, but by the director. The decision was that a war service loan could not be granted because the ex-serviceman now had assistance from a building society. We looked into this matter carefully and we were able to ascertain that if the ex-serviceman was forced to dispose of his home and return what he could to the building society, he then would be able to make application to the War Service Homes Division and repurchase the home he loved so dearly and was so reluctant to sell in the first place.
This sort of bureaucratic control-
– That is not in the bill.
– That is for Mr. Speaker to decide. He does not need the advice of anybody else. I suggest that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is sitting at the table, and who has never shown a great deal of interest in these things, might take particular notice of the matters that I have raised to-night. I have received-
– Order! Is the honorable member now bringing up an individual case?
– No, I have passed, that.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to co-operate with the Chair, otherwise I shall have to ask him to resume his seat. I ask him to confine his remarks to the subject-matter before the Chair. If the honorable member will resume his seat for a moment I shall explain the position for the information of all honorable members. The second-reading debate on a bill is primarily an opportunity to consider the principles of the bill and should not deal with matters of detail which can be discussed at the committee stage. Debate is not strictly limited to the contents of the bill and may include reasonable reference to matters relevant to the bill, the necessity for the proposals, alternatives to the provisions, the recommendation of objects of the same or similar nature, and reasons opposed to the bill’s progress, but discussion of these matters should not be allowed to supersede debate of the subject-matter of the bill. The honorable member for Hughes was drifting away from the subjectmatter of the bill from time to time.
– I rise to order.
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– Surely I may take a point of order on your decision.
– No. There is no decision.
– This is a soldiers’ bill in relation to - -
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member. I ask him to resume his seat. - Mr. Haylen. - You have decided to restrict the ambit of the discussion.
– That is not so. The honorable member will resume his seat. I ask the honorable member for Hughes to comply with my request. I have explained exactly what the procedure is.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have taken the opportunity to-night to refer to matters which have generally been referred to by honorable members on both sides of the House and I was hoping to comply with the direction of the Chair.
I think it is worthy of mention that this Government has failed to be consistent in its attitude on this matter. I refer to the point I raised in the earlier part of my address. When the Opposition spoke on a similar measure in August last year in another place and in October in this place, the Minister for National Development in another place, and the Minister, under whose jurisdiction the War Service Homes Division is administered, indicated that the Opposition’s proposal to increase the amount which an ex-serviceman may borrow was impracticable. That view was also expressed by the Minister who represents him in this place. The Minister for National Development went to great pains to indicate this view, and he did so in many ways. For example, he said -
If such major matters of policy were to be dealt with they would be dealt with in the Budget.
Clearly, on this occasion, there is no concern about a budget or whether or not the appropriation is sufficient to cover the amount. The Minister for National Development also said -
If this proposal were adopted, it could have a major effect upon the Budget.
– Order! The honorable member’s time bas expired.
.- I think we have had a fairly good innings in discussing this measure. Both sides are in complete agreement with it and I think both sides have a . high regard for the administration of the War Service Homes Division. For those reasons, I do not intend to delay the House for very long.
Let me begin my speech by referring briefly to one or two of the points made by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnston). I realize that I must refer to them very briefly to remain in order. The honorable member for Hughes followed the line of the honorable member for Wei.riwa (Mr. Whitlam) and other Opposition members in trying to make capital out of the fact that some months ago in this place the Opposition proposed an amendment seeking to increase the allocation of loan funds for war service homes. Surely no one in the Opposition believes for a moment that when a motion is proposed in this House the Government must necessarily agree to it. Every honorable member opposite knows that such a procedure would immediately mean taking control of the finances and of the government of the country out of the hands of the Government. It would be quite impossible for us to agree to an increase simply because the Labour Party had suggested it. Measures of this kind are introduced as soon as the Government can see its way clear to making the necessary money available. Had we promised the benefits of this bill in the Prime Minister’s policy speech during the last election campaign, we would have been accused of merely using it as a vote catcher. This is a case in which we cannot win. When we bring down the measure without having tried to catch votes by it or without endeavouring to obtain kudos from it, the Opposition says, “ But you should have agreed to our amendment last year “. It is no wonder that when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) was speaking, he referred to the Opposition’s proposal last year as a political stunt. And that is what I believe it was.
The honorable member for Hughes also said that the war service homes scheme was a lucrative scheme. He said that the division had made a profit of some f37.000.000. I think he said that the division was usurious because it had shown such a large profit. Does not the honorable member for Hughes realize that the money that was made available for war service homes had to be borrowed from the people and that interest had to be paid on it? It would seem that he does not. The War Service Homes Division charges the very moderate interest rate of 3i per cent, and I should be very surprised if the Government was able to borrow money anywhere at 3i per cent. It is more than likely that it is paying 5 per cent, or more for the money. I am sure that the exservicemen would not expect something for nothing. They do expect to have to pay and, in fact they are getting a particularly good bargain with their war service homes. That is one of the reasons why the scheme has been so very popular and why we have run into some of the difficulties and anomalies that we have encountered. Because the ex-serviceman can get a loan from the War Service Homes Division at a rate of interest far lower than he would have to pay elsewhere, there has been a heavy demand for loans. Most of the applicants have built their homes. Some of them have been in their homes for some time and look upon these loans as a means of getting money at a lower rate of interest than they could get it from anywhere else. They regard the saving in interest as being as good as money in their pockets.
– I rise to order. In view of your previous ruling, Mr. Speaker, do you not think that the honorable member is rather wide of the principles contained in the measure?
– Order! The honorable member is in order. If he departs from the measure before the chair I will ask him to come back to it. That has not been necessary so far.
– I said that I proposed to refer briefly to matters raised by the honorable member for Hughes, and I think I have done so. I have shown that the war service homes scheme is not a lucrative scheme but one that has cost the Government quite a considerable amount of money.
This bill proposes to increase by £750 the maximum loan that may be made available to ex-servicemen for the purchase of a war service home. It will be of great advantage to many ex-servicemen. Before bringing down this measure, the Government took into account the views of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. One of the reasons for the fall-off in the demand for war service homes has been the fact that ex-servicemen have experienced great difficulty in bridging the gap between the cost of purchasing a home and the maximum amount they could borrow under the provision of the “War Service Homes Act. We all know that the average cost of building a war service home in Australia to-day is about £4,050 and hitherto there has been a large gap between the maximum advance and the cost of a home, and some exservicemen could not bridge it. On the basis of the average cost of building a borne they would require a deposit of £550 in addition to the amount they could get from the War Service Homes Division. As the director said recently -
The benefit to ex-servicemen from the increase in the maximum loan in relation to the deposit requirements is illustrated by the example of a home costing £3,800. When the amendments come into operation, a deposit of only £300 will be necessary where assistance is made available under the rent-purchase conditions provided in Part IV. of the act. Where assistance is made available by way of an advance on mortgage under Part V. of the act, the amount of deposit required will be £380.
As the Act stands at present, with the maximum loan fixed at £2,750, an amount of £1,050 must be lodged as a deposit (i.e. all in excess of £2,750) under both Parts.
As I have said, there has been a decline in the number of applications for war service homes. This is due partly to the fact that it is now sixteen years since the Second World War ended and most of those persons who were eligible for homes have obtained a dwelling in one way or another. Therefore, fewer people are interested in applying for a war service homes loan. The decline may also be due to the improved position in relation to loans for housing because the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated recently -
The supply of housing finance was very tight during the first half of 1961, but is now much easier. The availability of housing loans from banks is reasonably good but in the case of trading banks, loans are available only to regular depositors in the banks concerned. Finance is also generally available through building and housing societies, though in this case the supply is not yet adequate in many particular areas.
So the fall in applications is due mainly to the fact that people have had an opportunity cations fell from 20,833 in 1959-60 to to obtain loans over a long period. Appli- 16,040 in 1960-61. The Government has assisted more people to buy homes because the £35,000,000 it has voted has covered more cases since there has been a fall in the number of applicants.
First, the Government abolished the waiting period. This was of great advantage to ex-servicemen because in effect it saved them about £200 in interest by eliminating the cost of temporary finance. The measures introduced in November, 1960, with which some people disagreed, were responsible for reducing building costs. In Queensland, the cost of building a war service home was reduced by some £300. In New South Wales, the cost was reduced by £125. As the number of applications for loans has fallen, the Government has been able to accede to many requests made from both sides of the House and by exservicemen for an increase in the maximum loan. So we can be proud of the Government’s record.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) tried to make capital out of the various measures that the Government has had to adopt to ration the money available; but let us pay credit where it is due and realize that the Government has a magnificent record. To-day, 10 per cent, of all homes built in Australia are built with war service loans. From the inception of the scheme in 1919 until June, 1950, 29.3 per cent, of applicants were granted loans and 60,350 homes were built under the War Service Homes Division. In the life of this Government, there has been a tremendous increase in home-building. Between June, 1950, and June, 1961, 70.7 per cent, of applicants for war service home loans received advances and built 145,806 homes.
In money terms, the record is even more striking. Out of a total of £418,000,000 made available from the inception of the war service homes scheme until to-day, £382,000,000 has been made available by this Government. That is an excellent record. What was the record of the previous Labour Government? In the four and a half years during yhich a Labour Government was administering this scheme, provision was made for 17,570 homes. The Liberal-Country Party Government has been providing homes for ex-servicemen at the rate of 14,500 a year. [Quorum formed.]
I have almost finished my remarks, but there are certain other matters I wish to raise. First I want to make some reference to the speech of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes). He delivered an interesting, thoughtful and reasoned speech, but he was in error on one point. I am surprised at this because the honorable member has obviously made a deep study of the war service homes scheme. He said that it was not possible to transfer a mortgage when an ex-serviceman sold his home to another ex-serviceman. That is not correct. If the honorable member studies the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes, he will find that there were 1,082 such transfers in 1959-60 and 1,014 in 1960-61. This involved an annual expenditure of some £2,000,000 over and above the £35,000,000 expended by the War Service Homes Division.
Undoubtedly, there are difficulties and anomalies. I know that the War Service Homes Division does its best to make the money go as far as it can. As a country member of Parliament, I find that some people who live in areas remote from Sydney or Melbourne sometimes are badly advised by local organizations. They are told that they are eligible for war service home loans and to go ahead and raise finance. They are told that the War Service Homes Division will take up the loans for them. I have heard of persons who have not checked whether they were entitled to a loan and have started to build before the loan arrangements were completed. Then they have been refused loans. In some cases, the War Service Homes Division has been able to make the money available because the persons concerned obviously were ill-advised by those who did not know the correct procedure. I hope the time will come when such cases will not arise.
I look forward to the time when the demand will taper off and the transfer of mortgages will be allowed. At present, the only way in which a person in a home with a mortgage can get a loan from the War
Service Homes Division is to vacate the home and go into a new one. This seems to be an anomaly although the provision was introduced for a very sound reason. While we have had to limit the amount of money available, that was the only way the matter could be handled administratively. I do not intend to speak any longer because every one in the House is in agreement on the bill, and I congratulate the Government upon bringing it forward.
.- I will follow the lead given by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) and not delay the House unduly. I shall commence by referring to the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) who pointed out that this bill had a two-fold purpose - to increase the maximum loan and to reduce the deposit required to purchase a home. The Minister pointed out that although for several years, there had been a consistent demand for loans, in recent times, there has been a downward trend in applications. He seemed to be at a loss to understand what had caused the reduction. He said -
However, it has become increasingly evident that the decline in new applications was greater than might be expected from a natural fall in demand due to the passage of time and to the satisfaction of a large part of that demand. It is apparent that, to some extent, applications have declined because some ex-servicemen oan no longer bridge the gap between the maximum amount of the war service loan and the prevailing costs of constructing or of acquiring a home.
Of course, we are all aware of that. Many ex-servicemen have been unable to obtain the deposit necessary to purchase a home. The Minister went on to talk about the Government’s recent review of the national economy which had showed that an increase in the home building rate was desirable. He said -
Naturally, when considering the ways and means of increasing the building rate, the Government took into account the housing needs of ex-servicemen and particularly views placed before it by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia regarding the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme.
Then, in an interesting paragraph, he said -
Family life is the foundation of a vigorous, progressive and a happy community.
If any other Minister had made that comment, one might have paid some attention to it. The sorry record of the Minister for
Social Services, who is in charge of this bill, is that since he has occupied his present portfolio there has been no increase in child endowment. I make that passing reference, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to show you that the comments of this Minister are not sincere. Surely if he meant what he said about family life he would have done something about child endowment which is his responsibility as Minister for Social Services.
The Director of War Service Homes said that the reason for the reduction in the number of applications for loans could not be determined with certainty. He said that an analysis of the figures did not indicate any consistent pattern. He went on to say -
The economic measures taken in November, 1960, to check the domestic boom conditions appear to have decreased the rate of receipt of applications.
I believe that we should endeavour to ascertain why this measure has been introduced. Why has there been a sudden change of front by the Government? Why is it that honorable members on the Government side are now supporting a proposal which, late last year, those of them who were in this House opposed? Why is it practicable, at this stage, to increase the. maximum loan although in October of last year this was not possible? As the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) asked, how is it that the £35,000,000 that is now available for war service homes will be sufficient, in the Government’s view, to cope with an increased demand for greater loans although insufficient money was considered to be the barrier when the Labour Opposition took this matter up last year? On that occasion, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who is Minister in charge of the war service homes, said that sufficient funds were not available to increase the amount of individual loans. Now, although the Government does not propose to increase the total available funds, it wishes to have this measure passed.
I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this bill has been introduced by the Government, not to honour its obligation to the ex-service men and women, but to attempt to adjust the economic conditions prevailing in this country to-day. The measure has become necessary because last December the people of Australia passed a vote of no confidence in the Government. The Government had deliberately depressed the building industry and had set about creating a man-made depression. Now it is looking for some way of picking up the slack. It has decided upon this move, not to assist ex-servicemen in need, but to bolster the building industry which it has deliberately depressed.
The bill has been covered fairly widely by speakers on this side of the House, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. However, I think it worth while again asking what is going to happen when this sum of £35,000,000 has been used up as a result of the increased number of applications which I believe will be made for war service homes? Will the Government do anything?
The Government has an obligation to supply homes to ex-service men and women. I believe that the increasing of the maximum loan will not make a great difference to a large section of the community. One of the main reasons why applications for loans have decreased is that during the two years since the 1960 blitz began, part-time work and unemployment have become a part of our economy. It has not been much good a man who is out of work applying for a loan. A loan twice as big as that proposed would not help him. Neither can people on part-time work avail themselves of loans. Where can the unemployed chap or the man on part-time work find the £1,000 or so which will still be required as a deposit on a home in many instances? Some people may be able to buy a home on a deposit of £500, but £1,000 is required to purchase certain homes from the Housing Trust in South Australia. I have no doubt that in Canberra many thousands of pounds are needed to bridge the gap between the purchase price of a home and the money that will be available under this bill. I should have liked to see something done either in legislation or administratively to correct the position regarding the discharge of existing mortgages.
– This has nothing to do with the bill either.
– Well, I am thankful that you are not hr charge of the House. Other honorable members have dealt with this aspect of the matter to-night. I think , that the Government should revert to the practice of the Labour Government of allowing the War Service Homes Division to take over existing mortgages.
I turn now to the problems of the applicant who has to find temporary finance while he is awaiting a loan from the War Service Homes Division. In such a case an applicant is advised to find finance elsewhere. We are indebted to an honorable member who furnished the House with details of the interest of from 8 per cent, to as high as 12 per cent, charged for such temporary accommodation. I can see no reason why, if the Government cannot make sufficient money available to provide for such people, it cannot arrange for the Commonwealth Bank to advance the necessary temporary finance instead of forcing ex-service men and women desperately in need of homes to go to hire-purchase companies and pay high interest rates for temporary loans.
Early in his second-reading speech the Minister referred to eligibility under the act. I should like to see something done for single people such as nurses who are not eligible. I know of a case pf a nurse who applied for a war service home and was told that as she had no dependants she was not eligible for a loan. However, she was told, “ If you like to go and live with a de facto husband you will become eligible for a loan “. She could live with a former enemy of this country, in fact, and thereby make herself eligible for a war service homes loan. It is a sorry state of affairs when we are dealing with a measure to assist ex-service men and women that we cannot do something to correct the anomalies that consistently crop up in the implementation of the legislation.
A measure almost identical to the present measure was proposed by the Labour Party during the last budget session, and the Government and the Minister in charge of war service homes said that the proposition was impracticable, and that the £35,000,000 available for war service homes would not be sufficient to finance the Labour Party’s proposal. Now the Government has introduced this measure which will do what the Labour Party proposed. Surely if the Minister was honest on that previous occasion, and if the Government was sincere, their objections to the Labour Party’s proposal are as valid to-day as they were then. If they are sincere in a desire to help eligible men and women they should be increasing the total amount of money available to people who need assistance. However, as I said earlier, I believe that this bill has been introduced mainly not to assist ex-service men and women but to try to help the building industry to get back on its feet. We are very glad about that, but do not forget that this Government is responsible for the present depressed condition of the building industry. There is a lot of leeway to be caught up in order to get ex-service men and women back in jobs and so able to take advantage of this legislation.
I sincerely hope the measure wm help all these people who are in need, but I do not think it goes far enough. I should like the Minister, perhaps at the committee stage, to give us some assurance that the Government will overcome any problem that arises if the total amount available is not large enough to deal with all the applications made. What is going to happen when the full amount of £35,000,000 provided for the year is used up?
I am glad to see that there has been a change of mind among members on the Government side, even if it took a general election result to bring that about. In the space of a very few months these members have suddenly found themselves prepared to put into operation a plan that first came from the Labour Party. 1 am glad to see that once again Labour Party policy has been taken up by honorable members opposite, because ultimately if they take up all our policies security will come not only to ex-service men and women but to everybody in the community.
.- Having regard to the ruling of Mr. Speaker a few minutes ago, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not intend to get too far away from the bill. Neither do I wish to comment at length on some of the speeches made by honorable members opposite. One thing to which I would like to refer is that during the debate some honorable members opposite have accused members on the Government side of not supporting an Opposition amendment which was moved last October. I think it can be taken for granted, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the people on the opposite benches do not think for one moment that we, as Government supporters, are going to fall into this trap of supporting their amendments on measures such as this. If we were weak enough to accept a thing like that we could not possibly govern. If they expect us to join them and vote in sympathy with some of their proposals they might find that if ever the day came when they were back in office some of their members might want to cross the floor and support us.
Earlier to-day the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said that the Returned Servicemen’s League supported unanimously the principle of increasing the maximum loan from £2,750 to £3,500. In answer to that I should like, as a keen and active member of the R.S.L., to direct his attention to the fact that over the year the R.S.L. has not really been unanimous on this issue. The unanimity has been conditional, and one of the conditions was that the £35,000,000 provided for war service homes would be increased so that the waiting period for a loan would not be increased. I can assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he was a little bit off the beam in that regard. I think that the R.S.L. makes a closer study of those things than some honorable members opposite do. I suggest that the R.S.L. wants to see this legislation go as far as it can. In other words, it is a case of working out whether the waiting period for a loan will be increased if the loan made to individual applicants is increased. That is a fairly important factor. It is a case of a lot for a few or a little for a lot. To-day we find ourselves in a position where we can increase the £2,750 advance to £3,500. [Quorum formed.] It is interesting to note that when the Opposition is being found out on such issues one of its members decides to call a quorum. It is interesting also to see, when a quorum is called, that it is nearly always the Opposition benches which are empty. This proves, beyond doubt, that the hearts of members opposite are not in this legislation.
If we examine page 5 of the report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division we find that since the inception of the division no fewer than 200,000 homes have been provided. At least 170,000 of these homes have been provided since 1950, that is, since this Government came into office. Ten per cent, of the homes built throughout Australia during this period have been built from war service homes funds. In this report it is estimated that there are 800,000 ex-servicemen of the Second World War eligible for war service homes grants. On page 8 of the report we see that 16 per cent, of the eligible exservicemen from World War I. have received assistance of various kinds and that at least 21 per cent, of the eligible exservicemen from World War II. have received some benefit. However, we cannot take these as the true figures, because we do not know how many ex-servicemen are desirous of securing war service homes. But it is estimated that 30 per cent, or 240,000 of the 800,000 ex-servicemen referred to will require homes. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition agrees with that estimate, and this calculation leaves 70,000 homes still to be provided. On the present basis of an advance of £3,500 for each home, and 70,000 applicants, we find that less than £250,000,000 is necessary to complete the war service homes project. We also see from the report that it is expected that most of these 70,000 applicants will be catered for in the next five or six years. If we regard that as likely to happen some twothirds of these homes, totalling in cost about £165,000,000, will be financed with the amount which the Government has allocated. But all these things are contingent upon the time factor, and if that factor is reduced the money will be expended more rapidly.
Knowing that it is desired to complete the debate on this measure to-night I will not delve deeply into my reasons for supporting the measure-
– Why did you oppose the attempt to increase the loan to £3,500 last year?
– If the honorable member had not had to be brought into the House when a quorum was being formed a few minutes ago he would have been given the answer earlier. I desire to direct attention to the expenditure on war service homes over the years. It is interesting to note that in 1946-47, when the present Opposition was in office, the expenditure of the War Service Homes Division was £2,000,000. In 1947-48 the figure had risen to £4,000,000 and in 1948-49, the last full year of the Opposition’s term in government, the figure was £8,000,000. For the first full year of the present Government’s term that figure jumped to £25,000,000 and it has increased gradually each year since then. In 1954-55 the figure was £30,000,000, and in 1957-58 it was increased to £35,000,000. We have reached the stage where we could possibly increase that amount and cut out the twenty months’ delay. As I said, the number of ex-servicemen now desirous of securing war service homes is down to an estimated 70,000. I am sympathetic towards the suggestion of ploughing back into expenditure on war service homes some of the repayments of principal, rentals and so on. I think it was the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who made this suggestion. In view of the fact that the Government is receiving just on £10,000,000 a year for principal alone from this source I think it could give that suggestion consideration.
I believe that there are many eligible ex-servicemen who, perhaps because they inherited homes with a mortgage on them, and have not been able to secure the necessary finance, have not received assistance in the purchase of their homes. If these men were given the opportunity to transfer their mortgages to the War Service Homes Division it would be of great help to them. But to-day the only way in which such a man can get assistance is by disposing of his present home and then purchasing another old home or second-hand home. I would like the Government to examine these matters in view of the fact that we are virtually over the hill, as it were, with the war service homes scheme. I support the bill and trust that it will have a speedy passage.
.- Honorable members on this side of the House view this bill with a certain amount of delight. We have certain reservations, of course, which have been outlined by previous speakers during the course of the debate. We view the measure with delight simply because it is a vindication of our belief that dogged perserverance and adherence to a principle in which one honestly believes, notwithstanding that one sometimes appears to be facing an insurmountable obstacle, will win through in the end.
As honorable members on this side of the House have said, and as Government supporters have admitted, the Labour Party in October of last year put forward a proposal to increase the maximum amount of a war service homes loan to £3,500. This is precisely the effect of the legislation that the Government has now brought down and which we are discussing. With a certain amount of pain we heard the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) repudiating our claim to have initiated this proposal. However, the facts are evident from the “ Hansard “ report. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) moved an amendment in this chamber on 26th October in terms more or less identical with those contained in the bill now before us. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) followed the honorable member for Bass in that debate, and the record of his speech is an indication of the attitude adopted by the Government at that time to the Opposition’s proposal. Less than five months afterwards we now find that the Government has had a change of heart. It now recogniizes the benefits to be gained from the implementation of the Labour Party’s proposal, just as it appreciates the benefits to be gained from the adoption of the Labour Party’s economic policies as announced during the election campaign - policies which it recently introduced as legislation.
Just to remove any doubt as to the Government’s attitude towards the Labour Party’s proposal in October last year, let me read what the honorable member for Fawkner had to say at that time. The report of the honorable member’s speech appears at page 2608 of “ Hansard “ for 26th October, 1961.
– He was a Government spokesman?
– Certainly he was. He said -
There we a large number of people in my electorate, whom I know, who would be very glad of a loan of £2,750. These are people who have already gone out of their way to save money ‘for a home. Is it not right that we should help them before we should think of helping the people for whom a loan of £2,750 would not be sufficient and who would require a loan of £3,5007 Surely it is better that we should help people who have saved to give themselves a stake in the country.
He went on to say-
Surely we can help more people if the loan is £2,750 than we will be able to help if the loan is £3,500.
That was the Government’s* attitude in October last, as expressed by the honorable member for Fawkner. Why has the Government now made this amazing aboutface? The honorable member for Fawkner referred to people who saved money as being worthy of preference in the granting of loans under the war service homes scheme. What of people who have battled to bring up families? One of the primary objects of the Government should be to encourage people to rear families, thus assisting in the development of the nation. They are the ones who should be given consideration. They are not able to save sufficient money to produce a large deposit for a house. These are the needy cases, and these are the people that the Australian Labour Party would like to see given assistance.
– Do you mean to help exservicemen?
– An honorable member has referred to ex-servicemen. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said when introducing this bill in another place -
Superficially these glib statements appear most commendable, but we find on investigation that the view of the Returned Servicemen’s League is at variance with that implied in the statement made by the Minister. In the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 9th February, 1962, an article appeared, of which the following is an extract: -
The State secretary of the Returned Servicemen’s League, Mr. W. G. Osmond, said last night tha vote should be increased to £45-million a year.
He was referring to the amount provided by the Government to cover advances made under the War Service Homes Act for the financial year. The article continued -
He said: “We are delighted at the decision to increase loans, but the Federal Government’s gesture will be worthless unless the allocation is increased. “It is a matter of simple mathematics. The amount of £3,500 goes into £35 million fewer times than £2,750.”
Then, according to the news item, Mr. Osmond went on to express perturbation at the possibility that the Government’s policies might interfere with the group homes scheme operated by the War Service Homes Division. The Labour Party, of course, contends that the total amount provided for war service homes should be increased to an extent sufficient to satisfy the overall demand. Does the Government honestly believe that by increasing the maximum amount of individual loans without increasing the overall allocation it will make a worth-while contribution towards improving the housing position and assisting the housing industry, which has been depressed by the Government’s economic policies? The Minister for National Development, who is in charge of the War Service Homes Division, has admitted that the increase in the maximum amount of individual loans, unaccompanied by an increase in the total amount allocated, will mean that the number of persons to be satisfied may be reduced from 14,150 to 10,700. How will this measure serve to stimulate home-building? The Government has contended that this measure will help the home-building industry to get back on its feet, but I invite honorable members to consider the annual report issued by the Director of War Service Homes for the year ended 30th June, 1951. On page 5 of the report we find the following statement: -
Developments of major interest during 1960-61 included -
The elimination of the waiting time for applicants requiring assistance in respect of a new home.
If the waiting time in respect of new homes has already been abolished, what possible contribution can this new measure make towards stimulating the demand for new homes, since satisfaction in this field has already been attained and since the overall number of homes that can be built will be reduced because the total amount of money provided has not been increased although the maximum loan has been increased?
We must also remember that the situation will be further aggravated by a rush of applications. This rush has already become evident in various States. In this connexion I can give some relevant figures from the annual report to which I have already referred. The report states that 600,000 people are eligible for assistance under the war service homes scheme. Of these, 176,000 were returned serviceman from World War II., the Korean and Malayan campaigns. I think it was an honorable member on the opposite side of the House who said that only 22 per cent, of those eligible have been granted assistance, which means that about 136,000 people still remain who have not yet applied. We must remember that there were 15,000 applications outstanding at the end of June, 1961, and the situation will become far worse when the expected applications flood in, as they are already flooding in.
The answer is, obviously, that the Government should increase the overall allocation. We know that given sufficient time, and with perseverence by honorable members on this side of the House, the allocation will be increased, but we must keep hammering away at the Government on this matter if we wish to be successful.
I think that one of the Government’s main purposes in introducing this measure is to deceive the general public by suggesting that home-building generally will be stimulated by an increase in the maximum advance available under the war service homes scheme. The Federal Government at present is only too well aware of its tenuous position with its reduced majority, and it expects that it will be forced against its will to go before the people at another general election rather prematurely. Therefore, it is trying to boost its stocks in every conceivable way. The restricting of the overall amount available under the war service homes scheme - that will be precisely the result of this measure - will force many people to place themselves in the usurious hands of the money lenders, as has been pointed out in this House before. The War Service Homes Division charges interest on advances at a flat rate of 3$ per cent. But people who are unable to wait any longer for advances from the division and who are forced to go to the hire-purchase companies and the usurious money lenders will have to pay interest at rates up to 20 per cent, with repayments over long terms. This is the sort of thing that the Government is forcing people to undertake. We ought to remember that the hire-purchase companies, with their high rates of interest, are creating inflation to-day.
Let us go back to the application of the credit squeeze in November, 1960, when the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) told the Australian people that damping down of the home-building industry throughout the Commonwealth was necessary, because the activity in the industry was contributing to the upward spiral of inflation. He claimed that speculation was rife. The people are forced into speculation, not by their own desire but by this Government’s policies. One of the main causes of speculation in the building industry is the sub-dividers who obtain worthless land and inflate its value overnight by providing a few very inadequate facilities such as poorly tarred road surfaces. If the Government were to enforce a flat rate of interest at 3 per cent, for all the people, not only those borrowing from the War Services Homes Division, for what is possible for one section of the community-
– Order! The honorable member is getting away from the bill and discussing a much wider subject.
– I was just making an observation, as one of my colleagues has pointed out. I think that we should put the matter in its right perspective. We have heard much about what this Government has done in an endeavour to repudiate the record of the Australian Labour Party and bring it into disrepute. Government supporters may be interested to know that in 1948-49, the Labour Government undertook capital expenditure of £8,550,000 on war service homes and serviced 6,285 applicants. The latest figures available show that in 1960-61 the present Government allocated £35,000,000 to war service homes. Let us convert the amount allocated last year to 1949 values by applying the consumer price index, which shows that £100 to-day represents only £53 in 1949. If we do this, we find that, in terms of 1949 values, the £35,000,000 allocated for war service homes by this Government last financial year represented only £18,550,000, or an increase of 118.23 per cent, compared with the expenditure of £8,550,000 in 1948-49. The number of applicants serviced in 1960-61 was 14,150, an increase of 125.13 per cent, compared with the 6,285 serviced in 1948-49. In other words, the present Government has reduced the money allocated, compared to the number of applications serviced, by about 7 per cent. This shows that the financial support offered to the nation by this Government is slipping away compared with the support given by the Labour Government.
It is very interesting, also, to note the manner in which the present Government is shirking its responsibilities. Every year, at Budget time, it tells the people, in general terms, how much money it will provide for war service homes, but, when the figures are analysed and dissected, one finds that the Government’s claims are not correct and that every year it is reducing the amount which it actually provides for war service homes. The receipts from interest and rentals paid by people who have obtained homes under the scheme are ever increasing. Of course, we know that this Government’s eventual aim is to make the scheme self-supporting. As the returns from the scheme are increasing by about £2,000,000 a year, this aim no doubt will eventually be achieved. In the meantime, many people are forced to remain on the waiting list, hoping for assistance by the War Service Homes Division.
As I have pointed out, capital expenditure on war service homes totalled £8,550,000 in 1948-49 - the last complete financial year for which the Labour Government held office. The net receipts from interest and repayments in 1948-49 amounted to £2,020,000. This means that the net government aid in that year amounted to £6,530,000. Net government aid was £14,020,000 in 1960-61, when capital expenditure totalled £35,040,000 and receipts £21,010,000. This rising trend in receipts has been evident throughout the years during which the present Government has been in office. Receipts from interest and repayments have increased each year by nearly £2,000,000, and the net amount spent by the Government has been correspondingly reduced. In 1959-60, the net return from interest and repayments was £19,830,000, and the net amount spent by the Government was £15,230,000. But the Government told the people of Australia that in 1959-60 it provided £35,060,000. It claims that it provided £35,040,000 in 1960-61, but, as I have stated, it really provided only £14,020,000, because it received £21,010,000 in interest and repayments.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, if this Government were to pursue a policy of stimulating the building industry generally, as well as in the field of war service homes, by financially assisting the States, the community would benefit greatly. This benefit would not be restricted only to the timber industry. In the electorate of Oxley, which I have the honour to represent, a considerable number of very large timber-mills were operating at full capacity until the application of the credit squeeze, which caused many of them to close down, some permanently. Quite a number of those which have closed down permanently have been sold up and the plant and equipment have been either scrapped or put into use in other mills throughout the nation. The benefit of any stimulation of the building industry would, as I have said, be felt not only in the timber industry. A host of other industries are subsidiary to the building industry. The manufacturers of tools, nails and plumbing ware and a host of tradesmen, in addition to carpenters, who depend on the building industry for their livelihood all would benefit. An increase of the maximum advance obtainable from the War Service Homes Division, without any increase in the overall allocation of funds to the division, will result in fewer homes being provided under the war service homes scheme, and the building industry will be further depressed. We all know how seriously it has been depressed already by the Government’s policies.
As previous speakers on this side of the House have pointed out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the time is overripe for the Government seriously to consider giving second assistance to people under the war service homes scheme. There are very many worthy and needy cases in which second loans by the division would be justified, but all applications for second assistance are rejected. 1 do not criticize the officers of the division for this. They must accept the directions given by the Minister for National Development and the Government. One case which I call to mind is that of a man who is at present serving in the Royal Australian Air Force and who has an excellent war-time record. A transfer in the course of his service took him to a State far distant from his home, which he had purchased with the assistance of the War Service Homes Division. He was forced to sell the home, and he subsequently moved to several parts of this country and also overseas before he finally settled near Ipswich, in my electorate. He has decided that this is the area in which he wishes finally to retire and in which he wants to provide his family with a home.
– Order! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the bill. It does not relate to second assistance.
– One of the most significant statements in the Minister’s secondreading speech referred to the fall in applications for war service homes. He said - . . some fall off in applications might reasonably be expected in the normal course of events. However, it has become increasingly evident [hat the decline in new applications was greater than might be expected from a natural fall in demand due to the passage of time and to the satisfaction of a large part of that demand. It is apparent that, to some extent, applications have declined because some ex-servicemen can no longer bridge the gap between the maximum amount of war service homes loan and the prevailing costs of constructing or of acquiring a home.
An honorable member opposite earlier pointed out that the cost of homes has been reduced by £400. Obviously, the statement of the Minister has a hollow ring. It is very significant that this huge fall in applications occurred at a time when the Government had inflicted a credit squeeze on the nation. Obviously, the Government, with its economic policies, is responsible for a decline in the demand for assistance from the War Service Homes Division.
While we on this side of the House agree in principle with the proposal to increase the maximum loan available from the War
Service Homes Division, we object very strongly to the Government’s shortsightedness in not increasing the overall allocation of finance. This defeats the whole purpose of the measure before us. As I said, an increase of the maximum loan without a corresponding increase of the total allocation will mean a reduction of the number of applications that will be satisfied.. This will result in further chaos in the building industry. We must remember that those who seek assistance from the War Service Homes Division are the people who at the end of the war were told that nothing that could be done would be good enough for them. Already more than 15,000 people are on the waiting list and the short-sighted policy of the Government will ensure that this number is greatly increased.
While the Australian Labour Party supports the move to increase the maximum loan, it strongly criticizes the Government for its failure to increase the total allocation of finance for the War Service Homes Division.
– During the debate I had the opportunity to listen to the speech of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). He was the spokesman for the Opposition for many years on matters concerning ex-servicemen, but I notice that he has been relegated to another position now. Nevertheless, he continued to take up the cudgels on behalf of the exservicemen in his usual responsible way. However, he was a little astray on one or two points, and I shall refer to them.
He said that the Government adopted this proposal following recommendations from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and from the Opposition. I agree that we did accept recommendations from the R.S.S.A.I.L.A., because it is a responsible body which submitted its recommendations in a responsible’ way. But I am very much afraid that the Opposition did not submit its proposals in a responsible way. The honorable member for Bass moved a motion, and I will refer to that in a moment.
The honorable member also said that last year the demand for war service homes fell off because of special economic circumstances. The history of war service homes shows that exactly the opposite situation obtains. When economic conditions are difficult for the average ex-serviceman, the demand for war service homes always increases. This would have applied last year, if difficult economic circumstances had obtained. The fall last year was not due to economic conditions or other similar circumstances, but to a factor which arises, from the age of ex-servicemen. As the years go by, the demand for war service homes automatically declines. A second factor was mentioned by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) when he introduced the measure in another place. This is the disparity between theoverall cost of a home and the amount that could be advanced through the War Service Homes Division. Ex-servicemen were compelled to provide larger sums of money than they formerly had to provide and some perhaps could not do so. Consequently, the demand for war service loans declined. However, this measure is designed to correct that position.
The honorable member for Bass said that no action was being taken to increase the overall amount allocated for war service homes during this year. He will be aware that an overall amount is not mentioned in the bill. The conditions laid out in the bill will be completely honoured. If there is an increased demand in this year for homes because of the provisions of the bill, it will be met, whatever the amount is. This proposal is for the remainder of this financial year. Provision for the next financial year will be made in the Budget that the Government will introduce in just a few months’ time.
I believe that that point should be made clear, because it was a point on which the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) based most of his speech - where his speech was relevant to the bill. The honorable member for Oxley also pointed out that the Government had not accepted the proposal put forward by the Opposition in the debate that had been initiated by the honorable member for Bass. Of course, that is quite correct. It has been pointed out time and time again that this is a- matter of Government policy and the proposal of the Opposition at that time could not be accepted. What has not been pointed out is that this was not the only proposal put by the Opposition at that time. Matters of policy involving many hundreds of millions of pounds were raised by the Opposition. In some instances, these matters were raised in a responsible way, as this proposal was; in other instances, I am afraid the matters were raised in a rather irresponsible, political way. However, that is a problem for the Opposition to consider. These points should be mentioned when a categorical statement is made that the Government declined to accept a proposal put by the Opposition.
The honorable member for Oxley used what I can only call a fallacious argument. He calculated the difference between the total amount provided by the Government last year and the total amount of repayments. He said that the difference between the two amounts was the only amount provided by the Government for exservicemen’s homes. That is, of course, a piece of arithmetic that just does not fit into the picture. The Government’s total Budget allocation is spent on providing homes for ex-servicemen. If the amount is £35,000,000, as it was for the last financial year, that amount is injected into the economy for housing purposes and the repayments are quite a separate matter.
The honorable member also referred to the matter of second loans to exservicemen. If the Opposition wishes this matter to be taken seriously, it should submit a concrete proposal, because the only way to expand the system so that second loans on an extensive basis can be made to ex-servicemen is to reduce the number of first loans. Many applications for second loans are made and if they were all granted the amount available for initial advances would be substantially reduced. However, the honorable -member for Oxley may not yet have found out that, in special cases, the Minister has certain discretionary powers which enable him to consider making second advances. They can be considered, and a small number of second advances is actually made. This bill assists the ex-servicemen in two directions. First, it reduces by £750 the minimum deposit needed for a home. Secondly, it increases by £750 the maximum advance to approved borrowers. This reduction and this increase apply to all types of assistance under the present act. As I pointed out earlier, there has been some trend towards a reduction in the demand for war service homes loans. This has been due to some extent to the difference between the total cost of the home and the maximum advance available at the present time. This measure is specially designed to overcome that problem.
It is interesting to know that war service homes built under this scheme account for about 10 per cent, of the total of all homes built in Australia during each year. In drafting this- bill the Government took into very careful consideration expressions of opinion by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and other ex-servicemen’s organizations.
I should like now to look very quickly at the background of the war service homes scheme in Australia. The scheme began in 1919 when it was visualized that £50,000,000 would be sufficient to satisfy the housing needs of all ex-servicemen. Up to the present, as has been stated, over £418,000,000 has been expended on the scheme and 231,694 applicants have been assisted. The annual expenditure over recent years has been in the vicinity of £35,000,000. In that period between the inception of the scheme and the end of June, 1961, just on £400,000,000 was spent. Of that amount, £130,900,000 was spent in New South Wales on a total of 68,007 homes. In Victoria £125,300,000 was spent in providing 67,825 homes. In Queensland, the expenditure was £49,600,000 for the provision of 29,000 homes. In South Australia the amount was £39,800,000 and 24,339 homes were provided. In Western Australia, the amount spent was £42,800,000 and the number of homes provided was 23,276. In Tasmania, £9,900,000 was spent in providing 5,966 homes. In the Australian Capital Territory £1,800,000 was spent on the provision of 735 homes. In the Northern Territory, 62 homes were provided while in New Guinea 22 homes were provided under the scheme. At Norfolk Island the number of homes provided was five.
– Would you read those figures again?
– They will be published in “ Hansard “, where the honorable member will be- able to read them to-morrow. Between January, 1950, and December, 1961, this Government provided £365,000,000 or 87 per cent, of the £418,000,000 that has been spent on the scheme since 1919. This has resulted in 168,756 ex-servicemen and other eligible people becoming home-owners in eleven years compared with the 62,936 people assisted during the whole of the previous 30 years. That is a very substantial record indeed and one of which this Government can feel very proud. It refutes entirely the arguments which we have just heard from my friend, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden).
The war service homes scheme provides the most liberal housing finance in the Commonwealth. Homes may be obtained for deposits as low as 5 per cent., with an interest rate of only 3f per cent. As we all know, up to 45 years is allowed for repayment.
But there is another very important item associated with war service homes. I refer to the insurance scheme. All war service homes are insured under the division’s own insurance scheme, which provides cover at a cost less than one-quarter of the normal premium charged by private insurance companies.
Another big advantage may be enjoyed by war widows under the scheme. I refer to the relief system which assists the widows of ex-servicemen in purchasing homes. Further, when they are in needy circumstances, their repayments and maintenance costs can be reduced to a level that they can afford. At present, applications for war service homes are coming in at the very substantial rate of approximately 13,000 a year. There is now no waiting time for loans for the purchase of new homes. This means that 60 per cent, of the applicants for war service homes loans can obtain assistance without any waiting period.
The war service homes scheme in Australia is considered to be the most comprehensive scheme of its type to be introduced by any nation which makes provision for homes for ex-servicemen and their dependants, as a very quick comparison will reveal very clearly. For instance, in the United Kingdom there is no scheme for the government to lend money to exservicemen for the purchase of homes on special terms. Loans are available to exservicemen in the United Kingdom only from local authorities or building societies in the same way as they are available to any other person in the community. In the United States of America, the Government does not lend money to ex-servicemen for houses, but it does guarantee loans raised by them, at a specified interest rate. In addition, the veterans’ administration may make direct home loans where private lending facilities are not available or are inadequate. Also, when we compare our scheme with that of our near neighbour, New Zealand, we find that ex-servicemen in New Zealand can be given interest-bearing housing loans by the government. They may also be granted supplementary interest-free loans which are designed to assist them to meet the increase in housing values and building costs that took place during the war years. There is also a system of suspensory loans of amounts equal to no more than 10 per cent, of the value of the house, with a £200 maximum, which may be made to help compensate for building cost increases in recent years. In some circumstances, this is an interest-free loan. Including any supplementary and suspensory loans, the maximum housing loan ranges from £2,200 sterling for a married couple without children to £2,600 sterling for a married couple with four or more children.
– What has this to do with the bill?
– It has a lot to do with the bill because it illustrates quite clearly how favorably our scheme compares with the schemes operating in those countries where some form of financial assistance is provided to ex-servicemen to obtain homes. The Australian system shows up as the most favorable in the world to-day and I think that we in Australia, irrespective of the side of the House on which we sit, can well take a great deal of pride in the system that has been built over the years.
Since the present Government took office in 1949, a number of major amendments have been made to the War Service Homes
Act. In 1951, the act was extended to make people who served in operational areas in Korea and Malaya eligible for war service homes benefits. In that year, too, the maximum loan was increased from £2,000 to £2,750. In 1954, certain exceptions which had been contained in the act were eliminated and the maximum loan of £2,750 was extended to cover all classes of assistance. In that year also, the provisions of the act were extended to cover applicants from Norfolk Island and Papua and New Guinea. This bill further increases the maximum loan to £3,500 for all classes of assistance and also reduces the minimum deposit. I believe not only that the bill has the support of all honorable members of the House but also that it is a measure that deserves the support of all people in the Australian community.
– 1 find it pleasing that the measures which have been introduced in an attempt to rehabilitate the fortunes of the Menzies Government included this measure to increase war service homes advances by an amount of £750. Despite what honorable members on the Government side have said, it is perfectly clear that in October, two months before the recent general election, the Government, with a majority of 32, rejected a proposed amendment which would have provided exactly this increase in war service homes advances. Two months after that election, when the Government had its majority reduced from 32 to two, the Government has introduced its own bill to provide the increase which it had rejected previously. Despite what the Minister and other speakers on the Government side have said in connexion with this matter, it is perfectly clear to the people of Australia that, had this Government been returned with a substantial majority on 9th December last, this bill would never have been introduced. The Government may prate as it might of what notice it takes of representations by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia; it can talk about the falling off in the demand for war service homes; but surely it is patent to everybody that had this Government been returned with a substantial majority it would have treated those representations with contempt and this measure would not have been introduced until the time approaching another election. Let us have it on the record, let us have it straight, and let us have it honest.
This measure amends two sections of the War Service Homes Act. Apart from the qualification of war service, an over-riding provision of the act is that an applicant for a loan must be married or about to marry or. has dependants for whom it is necessary for him to maintain a home. I want to suggest to the Government once again that the definition of a borrower should be widened to include single men and women who have served in a theatre of war. The measure is designed to give a recompense to those who served Australia overseas in time of war. It is purely a matter of financial assistance. If it be true, as the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has said, that there is a downward trend in the number of applications for war service home loans in recent months, this may be the time to consider that there are people who served Australia in time of war and who would profit from the assistance provided in this measure, lt is true that the single soldier was the cheapest soldier, and the Government could well extend assistance to those in that category.
Many women served in various ways during the Second World War. No doubt many are known to honorable members, including women who served in the nursing services, for example. Many women who served in the war have had no desire to marry or have no prospect of marrying, but they want homes of their own. They could be given financial assistance to buy their homes under the War Service Homes Act. I can see no reason why such people should be denied the benefit of what is purely a measure of financial assistance.
Moreover, the benefits from this assistance begin to flow back to the Treasury immediately a loan is granted. Figures have been quoted to-night to show that on an advance of £35,000,000, there is a return approaching £23,000,000. So I suggest to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), who is at the table, and the Government, that they consider this proposition. The numbers of people concerned would be small but there are men and women who faced all the dangers and hardships that were to be faced in theatres of war. They would not value their services in terms of pounds, shillings and pence but they cost the country less as members of the services than did those who are entitled to the benefits provided in this bill. It would not cost the Government much to give these single men and women assistance to enable them to buy homes for their declining years.
I myself have reason to be grateful to the War Service Homes Division. I will be 94i years old when I finally own my house and I will reach the age of 143 years before my lease is due for renewal. But that is only by the way. I ask the Government to consider the extension of war service homes provisions to single men and women who are qualified in terms of war service but are barred by the requirement that they must be married or about to marry. If the Government wants a precedent, one can be found in the Australian Capital Territory where the Government provides loans to single persons, among others, to finance the purchase of a home. I suggest that it extend that provision to the War Service Homes Act. This would give a diminishing number of persons the assistance they need.
.- I do not intend to occupy the time of the House for long, but I would say to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) that his attack on the Government was rather unnecessary and not really like him. The two ideas he propounded were worthy of attention. As the honorable member has said, the War Service Homes Act provides some recompense for war service and I support his plea on behalf of single men and women.
The Government’s measure will remove a further obstacle to ex-servicemen obtaining homes without paying crippling interest as they do when they obtain a loan on the open market or through a hire-purchase company. Both the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) have made two points. The first is that homes are essential if families are to live a full and happy life. The second is that there has been a downward trend in the demand for war service homes. The Government provides about £35,000,000 a year under the War Service Homes Act and builds about 10 per cent, of the homes that are constructed in Australia.
The Government actually has a dual role. It is the banker because it supplies the capital for the original outlay. It could also be called the borrower because it reduces the rate of interest payable by exservicemen since it is paying the difference between what a man would have to pay for his home on the open market and what he has to repay to the War Service Homes Division. The interest rate of 3i per cent, is very fair.
Most honorable members know of exservicemen who have had to obtain temporary finance or other assistance and are paying between 8 per cent, and 10 ner cent, and sometimes more. On an average, this would be approximately 5 per cent, higher than they would have to pay to the War Service Homes Division. Their average repayments would be about £3 12s. a week more than repayments of a loan and interest on a war service homes advance. These higher charges make it almost impossible for many persons to get homes.
War service privileges are cherished by ex-servicemen. They have helped to keep the free world free and to keep Australia a part of it. These men would probably be the nucleus of our defences if we should be involved in trouble again.
Both the Minister for Repatriation and the Minister for National Development mentioned, as others have, the eligibility of people to receive these loans. We all know that an Australian ex-service man or woman with the qualification of overseas service is definitely eligible. Some munition workers who were transferred to the United Kingdom to help with munitions making in that country are eligible. Other war workers who went overseas, members of the British mercantile marine who were domiciled in Australia while their ships were in Australian waters, and various other people became eligible. I would be eligible for a loan, if I wanted one, although, as most honorable members know, I was a member of the British forces. I am eligible for two reasons; first because I am .an Australian, and secondly because I was domiciled in Australia before the Second World War. Even an English businessman who was sent to Australia by his firm before the war, lived say in Sydney, and went back to England to serve in the United Kingdom forces, would be able to receive a loan if he caine back to Australia at a later date.
But, Mr. Speaker, “there are Australian citizens who are qualified by their service but who, because of an anomaly, remain ineligible. I refer to British ex-servicemen. They have done their share to maintain our freedom. As I have already said, they will be a nucleus in the event of any future trouble, and they are Australian citizens. Yet they remain second-class ex-servicemen. 1 have already referred to the difficulty of obtaining a home through a mortgage or finance corporation. The interest rate of from 8 to 10 per cent, or higher is a crippling factor for many aspirants.
This bill is a very good one. It provides for a maximum loan of £3,500 at 3i per cent, interest. I have already pointed out that the difference between the interest under this scheme and interest under other arrangements means £3 12s. a week to the borrower. I am glad to see that the Minister for Social Services has come back into the House. While he was away for that very short period during which another Minister was at the table-
– For three hours!
– Honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber who make remarks like that are proving themselves very unworthy. I am not allowed to say what I consider that remark to be, but the honorable gentleman who made it knows exactly how truthful it is.
I hope that at some future date the Minister will consider introducing a scheme under which British ex-servicemen will receive some help. It is not necessary that the Commonwealth should be a banker for them and supply £3,500 to each of them; but some scheme might be devised which would not be exorbitant and would cost the country only a very small amount of money. In that way the Australian people could show their appreciation for what these British ex-servicemen did. Perhaps the Government could pay the difference between the 3i per cent, interest and the interest they have to pay to a mortgage or finance corporation. I thank you, Mr.
Speaker, for allowing me just that little latitude that you gave so willingly to other honorable members.
.- The” Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) spent a considerable time in answering, some of the arguments that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) put forward earlier this evening. I wish to comment on only two points that the Minister made. First of all, he said that it was useless for the Opposition to argue that the economic measures of November, 1960, had anything to do with the decline in applications for war service homes assistance. He said that the records showed that when the economic situation was difficult applications for war service homes assistance rose instead of falling.
Whilst I appreciate that the Minister is an ex-serviceman and has some sympathy for the problems of ex-servicemen, I believe that he made a very great mistake in making that statement. Had he bothered to look at page 8 of the report of the Director of War Service Homes for 1960-61, he would have seen these words -
Undoubtedly the large number of homes already provided since the termination of the Second World War has been a very important factor making for a reduction, but it seems certain that there have been other influences at work. The economic measures taken in November, 1960, to check domestic boom conditions appear to have depressed the rate of receipt of applications.
I believe that the authority on what caused a decline in war service homes applications is the Director of War Service Homes rather than the Minister for Repatriation. The Minister also chose to reprimand the Opposition for not having studied this bill in the manner in which it should have been studied. I suggest to the Minister that it is he who is in default in this matter and that he should now go out and look at the report of the Director of War Service Homes for 1960-61.
The Minister gave the House and in particular the honorable member for Bass an assurance that if applications rose to such an extent that the present allocation of £35,000,000 per annum was not sufficient to meet the demand, that matter would be investigated and an increase in the allocation would be made. I shall quote from the remarks of the Minister for National-
Development (Senator Spooner) when he was asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) whether the allocation would be increased if the demand warranted it. As reported at page 340 of “Hansard” of 6th March, 1962, the Minister for National Development said -
Because of the decline in the number of applications, the Government thinks that the programme for this year can be financed from within the limits of the £35,000,000 that was appropriated. I cannot go much beyond that at this stage. It is now early in March. We shall have to wait and see what the result of the Government’s policy will be in the next three months. We shall then review the situation and consider the circumstances at Budget time.
The Minister was also asked by Senator Cooke whether he would give an assurance that the allocation would be increased if that was warranted. As reported at page 346 of “ Hansard “ of 6th March, 1962, the Minister said - 1 said earlier that I would not give an assurance, because this is a very big matter indeed.
Who are we to believe - the Minister for Repatriation who gives us an assurance in this place, or the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division who refuses to give an assurance in the Senate? I do not say that the Minister for Repatriation was not sincere in the assurance that he gave in this place, but I want the House to remember that he is a new Minister, a Minister who has not the confidence of Cabinet and a Minister who, whilst he might be endeavouring to put a little reason into Cabinet and into the Ministry generally, will not succeed because the Minister for National Development, who is Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division refused to give an assurance and said only that the matter would be considered at Budget time.
The second-reading speech on this bill, which was delivered by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), was very short. I believe that the shortness of that speech indicated the embarrassment of the Government in having to bring down this legislation, particularly when we consider the record of the Government in war service homes. The bill that we are discussing now is a complete reversal of Government policy. It is one of the greatest back-flips that any government has ever taken. I do not criticize the Minister for Social Services, who is now sitting at the table. I am certain that he was very pleased to get rid of the control of the War Service Homes Division which he had for a number of years, because he realized that the act was not being administered in the way that it should be administered and that the Government was not giving due consideration to the demands of ex-servicemen for a greater allocation of money and for an increase of the maximum loan.
Control of the War Service Homes Division was transferred to the Minister for National Development who is well known for his complete lack of interest in the division. Since he has been in charge, complaint after complaint has been levelled against the Government for its failure to increase the maximum loans available for war service homes and the allocation to the division. The Minister for National Development has made no attempt to keep the maximum loan or the allocation of funds at a correct level in order to provide for the number of ex-servicemen who wish to obtain finance from the division.
During the last twelve months the Government has reversed its policy with regard to the War Service Homes Division. It is interesting that members of the Government are now patting themselves on the back because they have increased the maximum loan from £2,750 to £3,500. On 3rd May, 1961, I received, through the Minister for Social Services, a reply to a question which I put on the notice-paper early last year. Part 5 of my question read as follows: -
How far will the proportion of maximum loan to purchase price have to decline before an increase in the maximum loan is granted?
The answer provided by the Minister for National Development was as follows: -
It is not practicable to furnish an answer to this question. This is a matter which can only be determined in the light of overall budgetary considerations, bearing in mind that the division has on hand applications from a large number of exservicemen who are anxious and willing to proceed on the basis of the existing loan and that an increase in the maximum loan would necessarily reduce the total number of applicants who can be assisted.
Despite the fact that the Minister said there was a sufficient number of applicants who were anxious and willing to proceed on the basis of the existing loan, the Director of War Service Homes, at page 6 of his 1959-60 report, said-
There was some evidence of a slackening in demand for War Service Homes finance, particularly over the last six months of the financial year.
He went on to say -
Of the total number of applications dealt with during the year, 36.3 per cent, of applications were withdrawn or refused because the applicants concerned were unable to comply with the requirements of the Act.
There are certain reasons why applicants cannot comply with the requirements of the act. But I put it to the House that the essential reason why 36.3 per cent, of applicants were unable to go on with their applications was that they were unable to obtain sufficient deposit to purchase their homes. During the last Budget debate, both in this House and in another place, the Opposition moved amendments with the object of increasing the maximum war service home loan from £2,750 to £3,500. It is interesting that all Government supporters in this House and in the other chamber voted against the amendment proposed by the Opposition at that time. They refused to believe that the situation merited an increase in the maximum loan despite the fact that the Director of War Service Homes had indicated as far back as 1959-60 that 36.3 per cent, of applicants were unable to continue with their applications, mainly because they were unable to obtain the necessary deposit.
It is interesting to examine reports of the debate which occurred in another place when the proposal to increase the maximum loan to £3,500 was made. The Minister for National Development, in answer to arguments advanced by Labour senators said, as reported at page 223 of “ Hansard “ of 24th August, 1961 -
I wish to give some figures in order to show the effect of the proposal. Under the existing arrangements, from the present allocation of £3j,000,000 the Government is giving assistance to 14,150 applicants annually. If the maximum loan were increased to £3,500, the servicing of the same number of applicants in a comparable manner would require ah increase of expenditure from £35,000,000 to £47,000,000.
So, at that stage the Minister rejected our proposal because he felt that if the loan were increased to £3,500 there would be a decline in the number of applicants who could be serviced. Now, when the maximum loan is increased to £3,500, the allocation to the War Service Homes Division is left exactly as it has been for the last five or six years. The Government has that inconsistency to explain away. Was the increase in the maximum loan merited when we moved in October, 1961, that it should be granted or was it not merited in October, 1961? If it was merited in October, 1961, and was rejected because the allocation would have had to be increased why has not some mention been made of an increased allocation in this instance? Amendments were moved by the Labour Party, both in another place and in this House, to have the maximum loan increased to £3,500, the exact amount that has now been proposed by the Government.
I have already quoted the report of the Director of War Service Homes who said in his 1959-60 report that there had been evidence of a slackening in the demand for war service homes, particularly over the previous six months. In the 1960-61 report of the director there are two or three references to the same matter of demand. The 1959-60 report was presented to the Minister for National Development about October, 1960. The 1960-61 report was presented to the minister on 26th September, 1961. These reports are always compiled three or four months after the close of the financial year. But no one can tell me that the War Service Homes Director, from time to time, is not in close consultation with the Minister for National Development and does not point out to him developments with regard to the allocation of funds and the question of whether the maximum loan is sufficient or otherwise. Yet in May, 1961, only three months before the Budget was introduced, at the same time as the Government would have been considering its Budget proposals, the Minister gave me a reply to a question in which he said that a lot of ex-servicemen were willing and anxious to proceed on the present basis. Yet, in his report which would have been prepared at the end of the financial year, only six weeks after this question was answered, the War Service Homes Director said, at page 6 -
In my last annual report I mentioned that there was some evidence of a slackening of demand for war service homes finance, particularly over the last six months of the financial year. Since that report, the trend towards a reduction in applications has gathered momentum with the result that applications lodged declined from a total of 20,833- for 1959-60 to 16,040 for 1960-61.
On page 8 of his report he said -
Undoubtedly the large number of homes already provided since the termination of the Second World War has been a very important factor making for a reduction, but it seems certain that there has been other influences at work. The economic measures taken in November, 1960, to check domestic boom conditions appear to have depressed the rate of receipt of applications.
He went on to make this most interesting comment -
Whilst inquiries have been received from a large number of eligible persons, it is apparent that many are not in a position to provide the deposit necessary to finance the acquisition of a home.
There we have a definite, categorical statement by the Director of War Service Homes in the report presented to this Parliament in September, 1.961, the text of which must have been indicated to the Minister for National Development many weeks before the report was presented. If the Director of War Service Homes saw fit to include in his report the statement that I have just read, surely it is reasonable to suppose that he had made many submissions to the Minister in charge of the division to do something about the matter.
The Minister had received ample warning prior to the Budget being introduced, and even after it was introduced, because the Opposition had moved an amendment and had put forward strong and tangible arguments in support of its contention that the maximum amount of loan should be increased to £3,500. Yet the Minister and the Government refused to do anything about the matter. Had it not been for the fact that the Government went so close to losing its majority in this House on 9th December last I am absolutely certain that the demands of the Opposition would still not have been heeded. It was the fright which the Government received on 9th December that caused it to introduce this bill. We have only to trace the actions of the Government over the last twelve months, as I have attempted to do to-night, to see that this proposal is a complete about-face so far as the Government is concerned.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) took great credit from the fact that 16 per cent, of World War I. diggers had applied for advances and had obtained loans through the War Service Homes Division and that, so far, 21 per cent, of those eligible for war service loans by virtue of., service in World War II. and in Korea had been granted assistance by the division. He . went on to applaud the fact that the Director of War Service Homes expected that 30 per cent, of eligible applicants would apply for and eventually obtain assistance from the division. But there are 800,000 ex-servicemen who could be eligible for such assistance. Thirty per cent, of that number would be 240,000: No one can tell me that the Government’s administration of this legislation could cater for anything like that number. The Minister for National Development, during the debate in another place some six or seven months ago, made some comments which I think bear repeating in the light of the argument I am advancing at present. On 24th August, 1961, the Minister is reported at page 223 of the Senate “ Hansard “ as having said -
The amount of £2,750 is higher than the average amount made available by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and other savings banks. There is a low interest rate and there is ready access to the money. Nowhere else can any one wanting to purchase a new home get money without waiting. One has to wait his turn with savings banks, insurance companies, and other organizations, and he does not receive any more than £2,750. Advances for war service homes are’ made at a very advantageous rate of interest and applicants are supported by a first-class organization in the division.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by the Minister on that occasion, but at the same time I cannot see how any member of the Government or any member of this House could be satisfied with the fact that only 16 per cent, of World War I diggers and an expected 30 per cent, of World War II and Korean War ex-servicemen will obtain assistance under this act. The terms and conditions under which the loans are made are good. There are thousands of ex-servicemen who, because of the administration, or perhaps I should say maladministration, of this act by the Government - I do not blame the officers in the department at all - have had to go to other organizations to obtain loans. They have had to borrow money on worse conditions than those provided by the War Service Homes Division and are unable to have the division take over their mortgages. Many ex-servicemen have not been able to wait for loans from the division to purchase existing homes, because if they had done so they would have lost the chance to buy the homes they were intending to buy. This scheme is a good one provided it is administered properly, with efficiency and with sympathy towards the problems of ex-servicemen.
I pause here, Mr. Speaker, to remind you of the promises that have been made to exservicemen by governments of various political complexions. Promises have been made that ex-servicemen would be able readily to obtain finance to purchase homes, but the honouring of such promises has been neglected by this Government since 1949. This is only the second occasion on which the maximum amount of loan has been increased. On 1 2th December, 1951, the Government increased the maximum amount from f 2,000 to £2,750, and now, at this stage, we are discussing a proposal to increase it from £2,750 to £3,500. The Government has been completely neglectful of the wishes of ex-servicemen and of the promises it has made to them. The War Service Homes Act should be administered much more sympathetically and much more leniently than has been the case to this point of time. We have to reach the stage where ex-servicemen can not only apply for loans to build homes and obtain the money immediately, but also apply for loans to buy existing properties and get the money immediately. In passing, I say that every citizen of Australia should have the same conditions made available to him. Whether or not he is an ex-serviceman he should be able to obtain a loan to build or buy a house at the best possible rate of interest and without any waiting time at all.
A comparison of costs of war service homes is well worth looking at. If we go back to December, 1951, when the maximum loan was increased from £2,000 to £2,750, we find that the average cost of a dwelling house and land was as follows: -
If we take the lowest cost, that of £2,326 in Tasmania, we see that the maximum amount of loan exceeded it by £424. If we take the highest cost, that in the Northern Territory, we see that it exceeded the maximum amount of loan by £647.
Let us now turn to 1960-61. The figures for that year are the latest that are available. We find that the average cost of land and dwelling house at that time was as follows: -
It we take the lowest cost at that time, that of £3,708 in Tasmania, we se that it exceeded the maximum amount of loan by £958. The highest cost, that in the Australian Capital Territory, which does not include the cost of land because it is leasehold land and the figure relates only to the capital cost of the construction of the home, exceeds the maximum amount of loan by £3,625. Admittedly, there may be special circumstances in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. For the life of me, I cannot see why the cost in the Australian Capital Territory, where the land is leasehold, should be as high as it is. However, for this purpose let me leave out of consideration the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The Northern Territory had the highest cost in 1951-52 and the Australian Capital Territory had the highest cost in 1960-61. Dealing only with the States, the highest cost in 1951-52 was in Western Australia, and was £2,621. In other words, the loan exceeded the cost of a house by £129. The highest cost in 1960-61 was in South Australia, where the cost of a house and land was £4,650. In other words, the cost of a house and land exceeded the loan by £1,900. When the maximum loan was increased from £2,000 to £2,750, the lowest cost was £424 below the maximum loan, but last year we arrived at the stage, leaving aside the Australian Capital Territory, where the cost was £1,900 above the maximum loan available. No amount of double-talk, back-sliding or illogical reasoning by members of the Government can cover up the slipping back in regard to war service homes. I know that ex-servicemen in the Government parties are most uncomfortable about the Government’s actions in relation to the rights of ex-servicemen under the War Service Homes Act. They feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and guilty, and they have every reason to be.
The Labour Party has said on previous occasions that the allocation for war service homes should be increased. The argument has been advanced to-night that money received back by way of repayment of loans should be put into a revolving fund. The Labour Party has made demand after demand that the Government increase the maximum loan to the amount to which it is now being increased. I would like to make my protest against the implied insult directed to many ex-servicemen’s organizations in the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). I do not blame the Minister for that speech, because it was almost an exact replica of that delivered by the Minister in another place. I feel that the responsibility for it belongs to the Minister in charge of war service homes. In the course of the secondreading speech delivered in this House, the Minister said -
The Government took into account the housing needs of ex-servicemen and particularly the views placed before it by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia regarding the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme.
The insult implied there is that it was only the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia which had made a demand upon the Government to remedy the situation that had developed in the War Service Homes Division. The Australian Legion of Ex-Service Men and Women also bad made demands upon the Government. The Air Force Association had approached the Government on this problem, as had the Ex-Naval Men’s Association. Members on this side of the House made repeated representations, both in correspondence and by way of speeches in this House.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to address myself briefly to this measure. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and other members on this side of the House have said, it has been introduced only because of the result of the recent general election. This increase of the maximum advance made under the War Service Homes Act is being made only because of the effect on the Government of the almost overwhelming vote against it in that election. During this debate, much has been said about the increase of the maximum advance from £2,750 to £3,500. The Minister made great play of this matter during his speech, as though it was something which the Government has instituted. I think it is worth reminding the ex-servicemen opposite that an amendment to that effect was moved by the Opposition during the last Budget session and that every member opposite, including that great and redoubtable fighter for ex-servicemen, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), crossed the floor to vote against a proposal which to-night they commend. Is not this an indication that the Government is now prepared to do almost anything, even to exploit the ex-servicemen’s vote, in order to retain the plums of office?
Why do honorable members opposite support this measure to-night when, during the Budget deliberations last year, they stated that the proposal contained in it was not worthy of consideration? Why is it that members of the Government parties are now supporting this proposed increase from £2,750 to £3,500 although a few months ago they stated, not only that the Budget of that year could not afford it, but also that the allocation made to the department under consideration was not sufficient to permit the larger loans to be made? I intend to-night to show up the humbug and hypocrisy of the Government in relation to this measure. In the final passage of his second-reading speech, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said-
Family life is the foundation of a vigorous, progressive and happy community. Homes are essentia] if the family is to live a dignified and full life. This Government believes in the principle of home ownership and has always accepted the responsibilty of encouraging home ownership within its constitutional powers.
Never in the history of any peace-time administration were war service homes more scarce, never was the demand greater and never was there a less efficient administration of this department. The Minister also said -
The increase in the loan to £3,500 will enable the War Service Homes Division to continue making its vitally important contribution to the national welfare by the provision of homes for exservicemen and their families in all parts of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put-
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr.Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Maximum advance).
.- The clause provides that the maximum advance under the act shall be increased from£2,750 to £3,500. There has been no appropriation message accompanying the bill at any stage. One assumes, therefore, that the appropriation for the purposes of this act this year will remain the same, or at least is the same up to this stage.
I rise to seek an explanation from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) who is in charge of the bill, of the following passage in his second-reading speech:-
The Government’s recent review of the national economy showed that an increase in the homebuilding rate was desirable. Naturally, when considering the ways and means of increasing the building rate, the Government took into account the housing needs of ex-servicemen and particularly views placed before it by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia regarding the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme.
The explanation I seek is: How will the home-building rate be increased by increasing the maximum loan under the act without increasing the appropriation for the purposes of the act? The mystery is all the deeper, Sir, when one remembers what the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) had to say on this subject only some six months ago. He said -
Under the existing arrangements, from the present allocation of £35,000,000 the Government is giving assistance to 14,150 applicants annually. If the maximum loan were increased to £3,500, the servicing of the same number of applicants in a comparable manner would require an increase of expenditure from £35,000,000 to £47,000,000.
I interpolate that that is this provision. He continued -
If . . . the maximum loan were increased to £3,500 and each applicant took the maximum loan, then the number of applicants who could be assisted would be reduced to 10,700. Under the present formula we assist 14,150 each year, but if the formula were changed-
That is, from £2,750 to £3,500-
Now, Sir, in the terms of the appropriation as we still have it, the Minister for National Development said that the number of applicants assisted would drop very considerably. He said, in effect, that the rate of homebuilding, as far as this act is concerned, would be decreased. The Minister in charge of the bill in this chamber said only last week, in effect, that there would be an increase in home building if the maximum loan under this act were increased. How can these two conflicting statements be reconciled? How will there be an increase in home building under this act without an increase in the allocation?
– There is no need for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) to weep crocodile tears over what is alleged to have been said in some other place. Clause 4 of the bill is not only simple; it is also specific. It states -
Section twenty-one of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “Two thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds “ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ Three thousand five hundred pounds “.
Nothing could be more specific than that and, in all the explanations incidental to the introduction and the adoption of this proposal, it was stated that the circumstances in this financial year, for a variety of reasons, had caused a falling off of the’ number of applicants, and because this piece of legislation has been the subject of public discussion for some time a great many of the current applicants are not anxious to reach conclusions with regard to their applications.
So, Mr. Chairman, there is a degree of urgency in the desire that this bill should be passed as rapidly as possible, and that royal assent should be received as rapidly as possible, in order that the current applicants may be encouraged to reach conclusions concerning their applications. Only a few weeks of the current financial year are left, and the Government is most anxious to make the increased benefits of this amending bill available to those who apply for assistance under the War Service Homes Act.
In that connexion, I should say that the principal act is a very old piece of legislation. Indeed, it is more than 40 years old. But this is the only government in that 40 years that has ever been able to bring that legislation to life. In the first 21 years of the operation of thispiece of humanitarian legislation only 37,000 houses were constructed. There were governments of a wide varietyof kinds, but I repeat that in 21 years, only 37,000 homes were constructed. In the next ten years 22,000 houses were built.
Since the present Government has been in office the picture has been transformed. In the last ten years no fewer than 145,000 homes have been built. This is a record achievement for any government. It is a splendid achievement even for this Government, which has the welfare of exservicemen at heart. The provision we are now considering makes a substantial increase in the maximum amount of the loan. It deserves the approbation of members of both Houses of the Parliament.
Thursday, 15 March 1962
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is, “That clause 4 be agreed to “.
– Mr. Chairman-
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler does not wish to speak on clause 4, surely?
– Yes, Mr. Chairman.
– But the question has already been put.
– You called clause 4, Mr. Chairman, and I was on my feet.
-I remind the honorable member that the committee has already decided the motion that the question be now put. The question was that clause 4 be agreed to. The question is now being put, and there is no opportunity for any honorable member to speak on this clause.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Before this bill is read a third time I think it is appropriate for the House to note certain facts. This bill is simple enough. It provides for the increase of the maximum amount of a loan under the war service homes scheme from £2,750 to £3,500. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said that the Government’s recent review of the national economy showed that an increase in the home-building rate was desirable. One might have expected in those circumstances, the decision having been taken to increase the maximum amount of individual loans, that a message would have been received asking for an additional appropriation.
– No necessity for it!
– Very well, if you people are so little concerned about the fundamentals of parliamentary appropriation, all right. This, as everybody knows, is one of the Government’s measures to stimulate the economy. Everybody knows that for years there has been a long list of people waiting for assistance under the war service homes scheme. The money available has been insufficient to satisfy the demands of the applicants for assistance. The Government is increasing the amount of the loan, which suggests that the total expenditure will be increased. Despite what the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table, may say there is still nearly one-third of the financial year to go. There is certainly more than a quarter of the year to run. Calculated on the basis of a total appropriation of £35,000,000, a sum of £12,000,000 at least still remains unexpended. Seeing that the amount of the loan for each house is to be increased by approximately one-quarter, if this measure is to mean anything there should be an additional appropriation of some £4,000,000. I suggest, particularly in view of the explanation that was given in another place some months ago when a similar measure was bruited, that the Minister for Social Services, if he is competent, or the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), if he knows, should at least indicate the overall financial difference that this measure will involve.
– There will be no change in this year.
– I should like to know from the Treasurer why there will be no change for the remainder of the year.
– It is because we have not altered the Budget appropriation.
– When this bill was introduced in another place, there was still more than one-third of the financial year to run. If this measure is designed to increase the rate of home building in the next four months, how can that objective be achieved when, if a greater sum is to be made available to each applicant, there is not an increase of the total appropriation for the year? I should be glad to hear the Treasurer give an adequate answer.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put -
That the question be now put
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.22 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information sought by the honorable member is given in the table below: -
Australian Representation Overseas.
m asked the Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice -
Between what dates in the last year did each Australian Ambassador or High Commissioner reside in the Asian or Indian Ocean country to which he was accredited?
– The answer to “the honorable member’s question is as follows: - - Burma. - During 1961, Mr. A. H. Loomes Australian Ambassador, resided in Burma from 1st January to 4:-h June; 11th June to the termination of his appointment (6th July).
Cambodia. - During 1961, Mr. F. H. Stuart, Australian Ambassador, resided in Cambodia from 1st January to 30th January; 8th February to 11th March; 15th March to 30th April; 3rd May to 2nd June; 21st June to 21st October; 26th October to termination of appointment on 30th. November.
Ceylon. - During 1961, Mr. J. C. G. Kevin, Australian High Commissioner, resided in Ceylon from 1st January to 26th February; 22nd April to 4th July. Between 26th February and 22nd April, Mr. Kevin was Leader of the Australian Delegation at the International Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and immunities in Vienna. On 4th July Mr. Kevin returned to Australia on termination of his appointment.
India.- During 1961, Mr. W. R. Crocker, Australian High Commissioner, resided in India from 1st January to 4th July; 26th July to 31st December.
Indonesia. - During 1961, Mr. P. Shaw, Australian Ambassador, resided in Indonesia from 1st January to 29th January; 20th February to 9lh April; 24th April to 4th June; 16th June to 14th December. Between 29th January and 20th February, 1961, Mr. Shaw was in Australia for consultations. He was also in Australia for consultations between 9th and 24th April during General Nasution’s visit. From 14th December to the end of the year Mr. Shaw was in Australia for consultations and leave.
Japan.- During 1961, Mr. L. R. Mclntyre, Australian Ambassador, resided in Japan from 1st January to 14th September; 22nd December to 31st December. Between 14th September and 22nd December, Mr. Mclntyre was a member of the Australian Delegation to the United Nations Assembly in New York.
Laos. - During 1961, Mr. A. M. Morris, Australian Minister, resided in Laos from 1st January to 25th March; 30th March to 11th May; 28th June to 25th August; 29th August to 27th October; 28ih October to 7th December; 21st December to 31st December. From 11th May to 28th June, Mr. Morris was in Australia for consultations and leave.
Malaya.- During 1961, Mr. T. K. Critchley, Australian High Commissioner, resided in Malaya from 1st January to 7th March; 23rd March to 4th June; 10th June to 10th September. Between 10th September and 28th December, Mr. Critchley was a member of the Australian Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Pakistan.- During 1961, Mr. A. R. Cutler, Australian High Commissioner, resided in Pakistan from 14th January to termination of appointment, 17th June. On 17th June Mr. Cutler returned to Australia on termination of his appointment. Another officer of the Department of External Affairs became Acting High Commissioner. Mr. J. C. G. Kevin, Australian High Commissioner, resided in Pakistan from 26th September to 16th December, when he was flown to London gravely ill.
Philippines.- During 1961, Mr. A. T. Stirling, Australian Ambassador, resided in the Philippines from 1st January to 18th September; 14th December to 31st December. Between 18th. September and 14th December, Mr. Stirling was a member of the Australian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Singapore. - During 1961, Mr. G. A. Jockel, Australian Commissioner, resided in Singapore from 22 nd January to 31st December.
Thailand. - During 1961, Mr. M. R. Booker, Australian Ambassador, resided in Thailand from 1st January to 20th July; 12th September to 31st December. Between 20th July and 12th September, Mr. Booker was in Australia for consultations and leave.
Viet Nam.- During 1961, Mr. W. D. Forsyth, Australian Ambassador, resided in Viet Nam from 1st January to 4th June; 10th June to 29th September. On 29th September, Mr. Forsyth returned to Australia on termination of his appointment. Another officer of the Department of External
Affairs became Chargé d’Affaires. Mr. B. C. Hill, Australian Ambassador, resided in Viet Nam from 15th December to 31st December.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The question of including oxygen as a benefit has been given considerable attention by the committee but because of practical difficulties involved in arranging distribution under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, it has not been found possible for oxygen to be made a pharmaceutical benefit.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Is he able to make any statement on the decision announced by the Secretary of State of the United States of America that, in the event of Communist pressure on Thailand or other South-East Asian countries, the United States would be prepared to take preventative action with or without her allies in the South-East Asia Treaty Organization?
– The following is the answer to the honorable member’s question: -
The full text of the joint statement issued in Washington on 6th March by the Foreign Minister of Thailand, Thanat Khoman and the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Rusk, as received from the United States Embassy in Canberra, is as follows: -
The Foreign Minister for Thailand, Thanat Khoman, and the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, met on several occasions during the past few days for discussions on the current situation in South-East Asia, the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty and the Security of Thailand. The Secretary of State reaffirmed that the United States regards the preservation of the independence and integrity of Thailand as vital to the national interest of the United States and to world peace. He expressed the firm intention of the United States to aid Thailand, its ally and historic friend, in resisting Communist aggression and subversion.
The Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State reviewed the close association of Thailand and the United States in the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty and agreed that such association is an effective deterrent to direct Communist aggression against Thailand. They agreed that the Treaty provides the basis for the signatories collectively to assist Thailand in case of Communist armed attack against that country. The Secretary of State assured the Foreign Minister that in the event of such aggression, the United States intends to give full effect to its obligations under the Treaty to act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. The Secretary of State reaffirmed that this obligation of the United States does not depend upon the prior agreement of all other parties to the Treaty, since this Treaty obligation is individual as well as collective.
In reviewing measures to meet indirect aggression, the Secretary of State stated that the United States regards its commitments to Thailand under the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty and under its bilateral economic and military assistance agreements with Thailand as providing an important basis for United States actions to help Thailand meet indirect aggression. In this connexion the secretary reviewed with the Foreign Minister the actions being taken by the United States to assist the Republic of Vietnam to meet the threat of indirect aggression. The Foreign Minister assured the Secretary of State of the determination of the Government of Thailand to meet the threat of indirect aggression by pursuing vigorously measures for the economic and social welfare and the safety of its people.
The situation in Laos was reviewed in detail and full agreement was reached on the necessity for the stability of South-East Asia, by achieving a free, independent and truly neutral Laos.
The Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State reviewed the mutual efforts of their governments to increase the capabilities and readiness of the Thai armed forces to defend the kingdom. They noted also that the United States is making a significant contribution to this effort and that the United States intends to accelerate deliveries to the greatest extent possible.
The Secretary and the Foreign Minister also took note of the work of the joint ThaiUnited States committee which has been established in Bangkok to assure effective cooperation in social, economic and military measures to increase Thailand’s national capabilities. They agreed that this joint committee and its sub-committees should continue to work toward the most effective utilization of Thailand’s resources and those provided by the United States to promote Thailand’s development and security.
The Foreign Minister and the Secretary were in full agreement that continued economic and social progress is essential to the stability of Thailand. They reviewed Thailand’s impressive economic and social progress and the Thai Government’s plans to accelerate development, particularly Thailand’s continuing determination fully to utilize its own resources in moving towards its development goals.
The Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State discussed the desirability of an early conclusion of a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation between the two countries which would bring into accord with current conditions the existing treaty of 1937.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620314_reps_24_hor34/>.