24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In reply to a question on notice, the Treasurer has said that the total investment by life insurance companies in housing mortgages increased by £17,000,000 in the year ended 30th June, 1961, but increased by only between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 in the year ended 30th June, 1962. Will the Minister inform the House of the reason for this alarming fall in investment by life insurance companies in housing? Is this due to life insurance companies transferring their investments from housing to government securities as a result of the taxation measures relating to life insurance companies which were enacted in May, 1961?
– The facts, broadly, are as the honorable gentleman has indicated in the sense that there has been a decline in housing investment by life insurance offices in the period he has mentioned. I have had this matter discussed with the offices concerned. It is a fact that, in order to qualify for the taxation inducement offered in the legislation to which the honorable gentleman referred, insurance offices have temporarily reduced investment in housing loans. I am told that these offices expect that their rate of lending for housing will increase hereafter, and there will be a more even balance between housing and other kinds of investment, Earlier this session, I was able to inform the House that the total available funds for home lending had been maintained at a higher level than previously and that, taking into account housing finance available from the banking system, from other finance houses and from life insurance offices, not only was a greater total amount available for housing, but a greater number of loans had been executed.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Repatriation in his capa- city of Minister representing the Minister for Health I refer to the conference which was held in Canberra yesterday, and which was attended by State Ministers for forests and the Commonwealth Minister for Health, to discuss the menace of the sirex wasp to Australian pine forests. As I understand that decisions were made which the Minister for Health agreed to discuss with the Government, will the Minister for Repatriation give an assurance that the Government will give every possible assistance to the States to rid their pine forests of this lethal pest and, in the process, keep it out of the great pine plantations in the south-east of South Australia where it has not yet appeared?
– This matter was first raised at the Premiers’ Conference in February of this year, and after that conference a special National Sirex Fund Committee was established, representative of the Commonwealth and the States. From the members of that committee, two sub-committees were formed, one to conduct a survey and eradication programme within Australia and the other to conduct research into the control of the sirex wasp, both within Australia and overseas. It is very pleasing to note that much success has been achieved so far by these two sub-committees and much good work has been done, with excellent cooperation between the officers of the Commonwealth and State departments concerned. A meeting was held in Canberra yesterday, chaired by my colleague, the Minister for Health, and attended by the State Ministers in charge of forestry. This followed a conference held in about April of this year. Yesterday, it was stated that the infestation is at present to be found only in the eastern part of Victoria and in Tasmania. As a result of recommendations made at the conference yesterday, the work of the two subcommittees will continue. The Commonwealth is at present allocating about £100,000, matching on a £1 for £1 basis contributions made by the States. In addition, about £7,500 has been provided by the private forestry interests. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the work will be continued in an effort to protect from the attack of this pest our £80,000,000 worth of pine forests.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that under the administration of his Government an extra maternity allowance payment of only £5 is made for each additional child in a multiple birth, although £15 is given for the first child? Also, is he aware that the value of the maternity allowance has been halved during his term of office? We all join in congratulating the right honorable gentleman on the happy event that has occurred in his family, but will he explain why the Government regards one of his grandchildren as being only onethird as valuable as is the other, and why he regards these grandchildren born in 1962 as being only half as valuable as were children born before he came to office? Will the Prime Minister also explain to his family that, but for the re-election of his Government, a payment of £30, and not £15 as at present, would be payable for the birth of the first child, rising to £35 for the fourth and subsequent children?
– I am bound to say, in reference to the last part of the honorable genleman’s question, that I doubt whether there would have been twins if there had been a change of government. As to the earlier parts of his question, I must say that, although I hope to get to know my twin grandchildren quite well in the future, I have not decided yet - nor have I had the slightest opportunity to do so - whether one is worth three times as much as is the other. I hope they will turn out to be of equal and high value.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I ask: Is the right honorable gentleman aware that some woolgrowers are of the opinion, and are stating openly, that they have never been repaid or credited with the amount withheld from the proceeds of wool sales under the Wool Sales Deduction Act? Does he know that cases investigated reveal that repayment has been made in full? So as to dispel any doubt, will the Treasurer undertake to investigate fully any case submitted to him in this regard?
– I shall examine the matter and see what information I can supply to the honorable gentleman.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that on 31st October last what was believed to be a war-time mine was found by prawn fishermen in Moreton Bay, Queensland? Is it a fact that, due to the lack of man-power, the Navy has searched for the mine only spasmodically? Is it a fact that the Navy has had to engage a private underwater research group to try to locate the mine? Did the Navy state that the mine probably contains some 500 lb. of T.N.T.? Will the Minister undertake to have a more comprehensive search made to recover this mine in view of the danger to shipping and human life?
– This question is addressed to me but it concerns the Navy. I shall convey it to the Minister for the Navy and obtain a reply for the honorable member.
– Have the forecasts made by the Minister for Labour and National Service of the movement of regis*tered unemployed over the past few months been proved to be correct? If these forecasts have been correct, will he now predict what unemployment will be in November and December when, for seasonal reasons, the position can be expected to be less satisfactory than it has been in the past few months?
– I do not like saying “ I told you so “, but, as the honorable gentleman has raised this matter, I think I can say that the estimates of unemployment made by the Government in November last year and February this year have proved to be accurate. In February we forecast a reduction in registrants for employment for nine successive months. I have not the figures yet for last month, but I have the greatest optimism that they will show the expected fairly substantial reduction. However, I shall know the figures on Friday or Saturday next and they will be published on Monday. I am glad that the honorable gentleman has given me the opportunity in answering this question to show that the Government’s forecasts have proved to be correct and that the comments by Opposition members and critics of the Government have proved to be incorrect.
As to the second part of his question relating to the forecast covering the period from the last week of November to the end of January, we always expect an increase in the number of registrants during those months mainly because we expect 53,000 or more school-leavers - people up to the age of 21 who leave school, university or technical college - to register. Consequently, we expect that by the end of January, the figures for which will be published in February, there will have been a quite substantial increase in the number of registrants. But this is quite normal and should not give rise to any criticism. In fact, the sensible person will accept it as a matter of course.
– The Minister for Trade will remember that under Article 9 of the trade agreement which he signed with Great Britain in February 1957 the Australian Government undertook that, consistent with its obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, no new protective duty would be imposed and no existing protective duty would be increased on British goods in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Board. I now ask him whether the British Government has ever contended, or the Australian Government ever conceded, that a duty recommended by Sir Frank Meere, the Special Advisory Authority, in default or excess of a duty recommended by the board would be a breach of this trade agreement.
– It is not uncommon for discussions to be held about the interpretation of trade agreements, and especially of this trade agreement. I refer not only to the current agreement but also to agreements between the United Kingdom and Australia going back to the 1930’s. There have been many discussions about by-law entry, interpretation of availability and so on. As to the particular issue which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has raised, speaking from memory I think that there has been some challenge - not on a government to govern ment level - of this Government’s action in imposing temporary duties on certain commodities, but the Government has quite clear in its mind, and has so stated to the United Kingdom Government, that under Article 19 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade the Australian Government, like all other signatories to the agreement, is authorized to take whatever special action is necessary to protect a domestic industry under threat from imports. That is the explanation we have given, and that is the ground on which we have justified our action. No challenge to the validity of that ground has been pressed.
– I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question. Some little time ago it was suggested, or announced, that a mechanical device would be installed in this chamber for the purpose of timing speeches. I ask: Is it intended that such a device will operate, or has the idea been rejected?
– The answer is, “ Yes “.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. In reply to a question on 6th November the Minister said that in the event of hostilities doctors would be either recruited or conscripted. Is it a fact that Cabinet has before it a plan for inducing or compelling medical students in Australia to serve part of their training period in two special military hospitals in order to study military medicine? When is it likely that a decision on this matter will be announced?
– As I said in the House last week, we have a very good committee which is meeting on this subject now. It is examining not merely the question of the training of medical practitioners for the Army and the Navy, but also the question of hospitals, equipment and related matters. As soon as this committee has reached its decisions they will be considered by the Government and the House will be notified.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen a report that the Canberra Trades and Labour Council intended to organize a go-slow, noovertime and rolling-stoppages campaign designed to impede seriously progress on important building projects in the Canberra area worth more than £25,000,000, including some scheduled for completion before the Royal visit next year? Was such a campaign intended to force the hands of employers to concede three weeks’ annual leave outside a court decision? Can the Minister inform the House whether the reported campaign has, or has not, been shelved, temporarily at least, by the Canberra Trades and Labour Council, following a recent decision of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that trade unions should not seek to re-open their application for three weeks’ annual leave until February next year?
– My department has informed me that the Trades and Labour Council of the Australian Capital Territory has decided on rolling strikes and go-slow tactics in order to push the demands of unions for three weeks’ annual leave in the Australian Capital Territory for their members. The best I can say about that - or the worst, according to how one looks at it - is that this decision by the Trades and Labour Council was made prior to the time when the Australian Council of Trade Unions decided that its constituent trade unions and trades and labour councils should not take direct action in order to enforce their demands for three weeks’ leave. I am glad to be able to inform the honorable gentleman that this morning Mr. Commissioner Findlay called the parties together in order to see that the tactics referred to were discontinued. As Mr. Findlay has the matter under his control I think it would be unwise for me to make any further comment on it.
” HANSARD “ REPORT.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Will you examine the original “ Hansard “ transcript and tape recording of the reply given during question time last Wednesday by the Minister for Trade to the honorable member for Wakefield? You may recollect, Sir, as other honorable members will, that the Minister for Trade, when referring to want of confidence on the part of the public in the Tariff Board said, “I think this has been stimulated by the member for Wakefield more than any other single person “. As the meaning conveyed in the “ Hansard “ report is entirely different, will you, Mr. Speaker, in the event of some alteration having been made, take the appropriate action?
– I will examine the request made by the honorable member and see if it calls for any action.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I learned that this question was likely to be asked to-day. My memory is that a member of my staff came to me with the “ Hansard “ transcript to which the honorable member for Bendigo refers and pointed out to me that the transcript had a mark on it which he told me indicated that “ Hansard “ was not confident that its own copy was a true record of what I said; and the member of my staff asked me to study it, in relation to that part of the question in which I referred to the honorable member for Wakefield. I studied it. I was convinced - and I am still convinced - that the “ Hansard “ proof did not record what I said. That seems to be confirmed by a variety of newspaper reports of what I was reputed to have said. The “ Hansard “ transcript, to me, did not make sense and I proposed that it would be more lucid, although not accurate, with the words “ because I think “ deleted from it. “ Hansard “ in fact did not delete those words. There was no alteration, so far as I am aware, in the printed copy of “ Hansard “ compared with the original “ Hansard “ transcript. I do not think either is accurate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation. It is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Barker. I preface it by saying that prior to my entering this House a well known and experienced timber man of New South Wales - and an importer - brought me specimens of timber imported from Sweden, which showed the impact of the sirex wasp and what it can do. He asked me to take steps, if possible, to have the whole of the shipment of timber destroyed, in view of the danger of infestation of our own forests. My recollection is that the matter was not treated very seriously at the time. I now ask the Minister whether he can assure the House that every step has been taken to prevent the introduction of timber from countries, including Sweden, where I understand the sirex wasp is prevalent. Such timber is a menace to the forests which our people are building up at great expense.
– I can give the assurance for which the honorable member has asked. The Department of Health, through Commonwealth quarantine law, is taking very careful notice of this particular problem. That fact has been brought out, as I mentioned in answer to a previous question, by discussions at the Premiers’ Conference earlier this year. Resulting from that, one of the subcommittees I have mentioned sent Australian scientists overseas to study this pest in the countries where it is prevalent. I can give a complete assurance to the honorable member that everything possible is being done to prevent this parasite entering Australia in timber.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade. I preface it by saying that in reply to a question last week the right honorable gentleman said that on Monday, 5th November, he spent two hours talking to and being talked to by members of the Tariff Board. My question is: Did Sir Leslie Melville advise the Minister of his intention to resign prior to or after the right honorable gentleman’s two-hour harangue to the board?
– Two-hour harangue! Was that in the question provided for you by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition? He is providing a lot of duds, isn’t he?
– No, we are picking on a dud.
– You are not doing very well.
– Be careful that “Hansard “ gets it down correctly this time.
– You are a bit worried, old boy. The answer to the honorable member’s question, as, I am sure, the honorable member would know by referring to “ Hansard “ reports, and the Deputy Leader would know-
– Which “ Hansard “ report is this?
– You look up the “ Hansard “; I am not your secretary.
– Before or after.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will set a better example.
– He treats me as a poor debtor in a court of petty sessions. But it is not that way. The truth-
– It is false pretences he is up on now
– Fancy listening for two hours-
– I have said in the House that whilst I was overseas on the recent mission with the Prime Minister I received a letter from Sir Leslie Melville intimating to me that he wished to retire. You will find I have said that in “ Hansard “. That is the answer.
OVERSEAS INVESTMENTS IN i AUSTRALIA.
– Has the Treasurer studied the figures of British investment in Australia over the past fourteen years and compared this with the very different methods used by American financiers who plough back into industry a greater proportion of undistributed income? Can we expect larger American investments here from which there could be a still greater injection of capital by the ploughing back of undistributed profits?
– I do not know that I can answer precisely, without notice, the question put by the honorable gentleman. From time to time, I have looked at the figures on overseas investment and, of course, the greater proportion of investment in Australia in the period mentioned by the honorable gentleman is from United Kingdom sources. With investments from both countries, a proportion - I think a valuable proportion - of the profits earned are ploughed back into further development of the enterprises to which the investments are related. My recollection - it is subject to check - is that a rather larger proportion of American profits has been transmitted back to the United States, but I believe that as knowledge grows of the potential of Australia and the security offered here for investment, the tendency will be to allow profits to accumulate here either by the expansion of the enterprise or by investment in some other area of Australian enterprise. We can all take some encouragement, I believe, from the fact that capital investment from all overseas sources is being maintained at a buoyant level and the tendency is for that investment to grow rather than diminish.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that Government supporters have asked questions in this House concerning the foreign military bases being located in Indonesia? Has his Government discussed with Indonesia, or any other nation in the near north, the proposed foreign base at North-West Cape in Western Australia? If so, what was the reaction to the establishment of this base?
– The honorable member asks about a foreign base. Does he mean some military base?
– I refer to a statement made by you on 17th May of this year.
– Well, any statement I made on 17th May this year was dead right.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. It has been reported that the Department of the Army has recently made further valuable concessions to rifle clubs in connexion with the supply of ammunition. Is this true? If so, can the Minister give some details of the concessions?
– It is quite true that we gave some assistance to rifle clubs in connexion with the supply of ammunition. Honorable members will recall that concessions were made covering a period of five years, the value of the concession diminishing each year. In the fourth and fifth years the amount of ammunition to be given free will be exactly the same as this year. This will make a great deal of difference to the rifle clubs.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. As recipients of social service pensions look forward to Christmas as eagerly as other members of the community, and as they are faced this year with the prospect of having to wait until two days after Christmas Day to receive the pensions payable at that time, has the Minister made a decision to advance the pay day by one week, so that pensioners may have a little money in hand during the week before Christmas?
– I am indebted to the honorable member for Lang for his question, and I shall be most grateful to him if he will exert his good influences to have leave granted when I ask for leave to make a short statement on this matter immediately after question-time to-day.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has anything been done to give effect to the proposal inherent in a statement made by the Minister for Health that pensioners will not be charged for hospital treatment, as from 1st January next year, if the hospital authorities will agree to accept the 36s. a day provided by the Government without making a charge on the pensioners? Has any agreement been reached with the States on this matter? Will legislation be introduced to give effect to the proposal made by the Minister at his conference with the State Ministers for Health, so that such legislation may be passed before Christmas?
– I know that my colleague, the Minister for Health, has such legislation in course of preparation, and I understand he intends to have it introduced before the end of this sessional period. As to the first part of the question, I cannot say whether agreement has been reached between the State Ministers for Health and the Commonwealth Minister in regard to this matter. I will have inquiries made and get the information for the honorable member.
– I ask the
Minister for Shipping and Transport: Is it a fact that Australia is one of the few maritime countries in which shipowners do not enjoy some form of subsidy or tax concession to help bridge the gap between the original purchase price and the eventual replacement cost of ships? Have representations been made to the Government by Australian shipowners, including the Australian National Line, to obtain subsidies or tax concessions? When does the Minister propose to supply members of the Opposition with copies of the material prepared by his department on the subject of shipping, which was mentioned in a question I asked of him some time ago, and which I specifically sought in a letter to him on this subject?
– I am not aware of what subsidies are granted in other countries, but there is a ship-building subsidy of up to 33J per cent, on vessels built here and used on the Australian coast. I will take notice of the honorable member’s question, which is rather long and involved, and see whether I can get the details of overseas industries. In reply to the last part of the question, I can inform the honorable member that the data is now in the course of preparation. I have not ignored the honorable member’s earlier request; I asked only last week that the information be supplied to me, and I hope that it will be here before the end of this week.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Minister for Territories. Is the Minister in a position to tell the House the accurate story of the primitive Kagua people of the southern highlands of New Guinea who, it is reported, resorted to their arrows rather than be punctured by the immunization needle last week? What was the result of this righteous indignation?
– The one thing that does surprise me about administering this portfolio is the speed with which information reaches here from the Territories. I was informed that Administration medical officers had gone into the Kagua area in order to give triple immunization injections with hypodermic needles against whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus, and the natives had responded in exactly the same way as I might have done in similar circumstances; they pulled out their bows and arrows and drove off the medical officers. Fortunately, some patrol officers were in the area and they prevailed upon the natives to agree to the immunization. I have not the final report on what happened, but I believe the immunization programme has gone along successfully and that the natives have accepted the necessity of having hypodermic needles thrust into their arms.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, has been selected by the Australian Chiropractors Association as having one of the best seven postures in Australia? Is it a fact that he defeated the Prime Minister easily for the title? Does this indicate that the Minister for Trade is bearing up better under the strain than the Prime Minister, and was the award made before the resignation of Sir Leslie Melville?
– Sir, the answer to these questions is undoubtedly either “ Yes “ or “ No “, and I would not know which; but, if it comes to competition, I thought my friend, the honorable member for Banks, was about to nominate me as the grandfather of the year.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Army and refer to the land at George’s Heights, Mosman, which the Minister informed the House would be released by his department. Can he inform me whether the survey has yet been completed, and whether it is possible that the area for release will be in excess of 20 acres? If this is so, what is the area for release likely to be?
– As the honorable member knows, I made a personal inspection of this land with some of the surveyors, and, while I cannot say anything final about it, it does appear that the original 24 acres would be increased to about 32 acres, but I will let the honorable member know as soon as finality has been reached.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I ask this question because the status of the House of Representatives is involved. Is there any reason why the report and the recommendations of the committee which inquired into the crash of a Viscount aeroplane into Botany Bay during turbulent weather last year have been discussed in another place but, six weeks later, have not been brought to the House of Representatives for our consideration? Is the House of Representatives also to be given an opportunity to voice its opinion on the merits of the recommendations, and the governmental decision which leaves the responsibility for taking a plane up in turbulent weather still in the sole hands of the unfortunate pilot?
– I shall talk this matter over with the Leader of the House and see whether such a discussion can be arranged.
– With reference to the Prime Minister’s criticism of the Australian Labour Party’s policy of a nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere, has the Prime Minister noted that Brazil has moved, at the United Nations, for South America to be declared a nuclear-free zone, and that the African delegates have indicated that they will take similar action in relation to Africa? If three continents with a considerable bulk of their territories in the southern hemisphere seek a nuclear-free zone for their countries, how can the Prime Minister dismiss this plan as suicidal? On the contrary, is it not a triumph for Labour foreign policy among its continental and hemispherical neighbours? Finally, is there really any danger to Anzus in the Labour Party declaration since both Anzus and Seato are under critical survey by the United States of America? Is the Prime Minister using the Anzus pact as a propaganda smokescreen to introduce by stealth a nuclear base into the north-west of Western Australia?
– The answer to the last part of the honorable member’s question is, “ No “. The answer to the first part is that the Brazilian resolution is still under considerable discussion, and has not yet reached the point of time at which it will be decided. Whatever the conclusions may turn out to be about the Latin-American republics or, for that matter, about Africa, my principal responsibility is for this country - Australia. I have said repeatedly, and I repeat now, that for Australia to tell her greatest effective allies possessing nuclear power that under no circumstances should they be allowed to employ a nuclear weapon from Australian soil, not only in their own defence, but in the defence of this country, would be to adopt a suicidal policy.
– It is Labour policy.
– It is the same thing. This policy would be calculated to deprive Australia of allies at the very time at which she needed them.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the difficulty experienced over the last few years by certain wheat-growers in the south-west corner of New South Wales in connexion with the delivery of their wheat crops? Will delivery to Victorian rail-heads be allowed this year? If the Minister is not able to give this information at once, will he make an investigation into the position?
– I cannot inform the honorable member of the latest position. I do know that the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria conferred with the wheatgrowers of southern New South Wales and, later, the Australian Wheat Board conferred with them, with a view to making suitable arrangements. I do not know that they have finalized those arrangements yet, but I shall try to get the information for the honorable member and let him have it.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that, of the amount of £3,200,000 paid to the Queensland Government as an additional State grant, approximately £2,500.000 remains unspent. Also, is it a fact that this grant, which was made to assist in alleviating the serious unemployment in Queensland, is being withheld to enable the Queensland Government to make a splash just prior to the 1963 State elections in an endeavour to boost the stocks of the Country-Liberal Party Government in that State for election purposes? If this is so, does the Minister not agree that the Country-Liberal Party Government in Queensland has been guilty of a great breach of faith with the Federal Government in not expending this grant in the manner intended by the Federal Government, in view of the serious unemployment still existing in Queensland?
– It is a fact that the Commonwealth made sums of money available to Queensland and other States for employment purposes. It did not dictate how that money should be spent nor for what purposes it should be used, although the money was to have been available for employment-giving activities. I shall have some examination made to ascertain the present state of the matter, and I shall see whether I can supply that information to the honorable gentleman. In reply to the honorable member’s suggestion that the Queensland Government is withholding these moneys in order to boost its political stocks, I would say that the record of achievement by that Government over recent years, and the dynamic level of development being attained in Queensland, would guarantee its re-election next time the people have an opportunity to confirm it in office.
– by leave - Considera tion has been given to the dates on which social service payments will be made during the Christmas and New Year period. The main payments involved are age and invalid pensions which are due to be paid on Thursday, 27th December, 1962, and widows’ pensions which are due to be paid on Tuesday, 1st January, 1963. With regard to age and invalid pensions, since Thursday, 27th December, 1962, is not a public holiday in any State, and in the interest of age and invalid pensioners generally, it has been decided to adhere to the normal procedures and pay on that date. It will be appreciated that to depart from normal procedures and pay in advance of Christmas Day would involve pensioners in a waiting period of three weeks before the subsequent payment would become due on Thursday, 10th January, 1963, and thus create hardship in a great many cases. These circumstances leave the department no alternative but to adhere to the normal date.
With regard to widows’ pensions, the normal date for their payment is Tuesday, 1st January, 1963, which is a public holiday in all States. Monday, 31st December, 1962, is a public holiday in New South Wales and Queensland and a bank holiday in Victoria. Friday, 28th December, 1962, is a public holiday in South Australia. To meet these circumstances and in the interests of pensioners generally, arrangements are being made to pay widows’ pensions on Friday, 28th December, 1962, in all States except South Australia, where payment will be made on Thursday, 27th December, 1962. With regard to other benefits, Mr. Speaker, no alterations are necessary. These benefits, which include unemployment and sickness benefits, are paid by cheque. The department will, in the normal way, arrange for cheques to be posted to reach the beneficiaries on the due date or, where that day is a public holiday, on the preceding working day.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, last week, in answer to a question, I told either the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam that I would provide certain figures regarding Tariff Board staff as soon as I had them. I have the information in a very short form and, with the concurrence of the House, I shall incorporate it in “ Hansard “. The figures are as follows: -
The particular officers of the Tariff Board with whom the chairman is concerned are described as project officers.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Forty-first Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, dated 1st June, 1962.
Taxation Statistics, 1960-61– and move -
That the papers be printed.
As a result of proceedings in the High Court of Australia in the Magrath case, it is not desirable that copies of the report be made available to honorable members or published until the Parliament has given the necessary authorization. I have mentioned this aspect to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and he has agreed not to oppose the motion, in order that the report may be circulated as soon as possible.
– May I ask: How is it that the commissioner signed the report on 1st June and that it has been tabled only to-day?
– All I can tell the honorable member is that the commissioner presented it to me this morning. I shall follow up the inquiry which the honorable member has made.
– The printed report is dated 1st June.
– I was notified that the commissioner wished to present it to me this morning. He did so, and I now table it in the House at the first available opportunity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation in relation to a misrepresentation which appeared in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of 9th November, in a report of a statement made in another place. The newspaper reported that Senator Cavanagh, when referring to the shareholding in Wilkinson and Company Limited, had said -
We find also that there is a Mrs. Elizabeth Hornibrook Wilson of 79, Tusmore Avenue, Tusmore, who owns 1,100 shares. Mrs. Wilson resides at 79, Tusmore Avenue, Tusmore. That happens to be the address of Mr. K. C. Wilson the Honorable Member for Sturt in the House of Representatives.
Senator Cavanagh is correct when he says that Elizabeth Hornabrook Wilson resides at 79 Tusmore-avenue, Tusmore, and he is correct also when he says that I reside at the same address. Strange as it may seem to Senator Cavanagh, Elizabeth Hornabrook Wilson is my wife.
Although my wife does not now own any shares in Wilkinson and Company Limited, as she owns shares in G. and J. Coles and Company Limited in place of them, she did own 1,100 shares in the Wilkinson company which she purchased twenty years ago or more. Neither my wife nor I was ever a director of Wilkinson and Company Limited, nor did either of us ever attend a meeting of shareholders. Neither of us knew of the sale of that company’s building to the Post Office until we read of it in the newspaper after the sale. Senator Cavanagh’s innuendo that the Government purchased the building to assist my wife or any other member of the Liberal Party of Australia as a shareholder is false. His statement that my wife or any other member of the party was in difficulty as a holder of Wilkinson shares is equally false. Prior to the sale of the building, Wilkinson shares were a highly profitable investment and the company had paid excellent dividends for many years. Senator Cavanagh casts a slur upon those civil servants who advised the Post Office to buy the building and who, no doubt, believed that they had made a good buy for the Post Office. I am informed that the building was sold at a reasonable price and is worth far more than the price that the Post Office paid for it.
Debate resumed from 8th November (vide page 2283), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to authorize the borrowing of £45,900,000 to be advanced to the States for the purpose of housing. I want to make just four points in regard to this measure. First, it relates to decisions which have already been taken and implemented. Only four and a half months of the financial year have gone, but these decisions were taken in June last. As a result of them, certain programmes have been put in operation, and the whole of the money is virtually committed. So this bill relates to a thing of the past. The Parliament is being asked to approve something which has already irrevocably been done.
The second point is that this measure flows from the system of the Australian Loan Council, under which this Parliament has very little say in the committing of large sums of money, is never informed about what is being done and, in point of fact, cannot find out anything more than the bare bones of what is done. It is wrong that financial responsibility in these major matters should be taken right out of the hands of this Parliament, and that members of the Parliament are not even allowed to know the truth about what is being negotiated and what is taking place.
The third point I want to make is that this amount is a residue of a works and housing allocation and the decision, I understand in general, has been made by the various States as to how much they want to devote to housing and how much they want to devote to works. I shall not enter into any discussion as to whether the total amount devoted to housing and works is too great, too small or just right. All I say is that the amount which we are voting is the residue after the States have decided how much of their total allocation should be allocated to housing. It is from this that the unfortunate fact flows that the amount made available for housing this year is not greater but rather less than it has been.
My fourth point is that this allocation, large though it ls, is only a part of the housing funds which are available in the Commonwealth from both governmental and private sources. However, when looking at the building industry one must consider it as a whole and consider the governmental allocation in relation to the industry as a whole.
Let us start with a review of the three years ended June, 1962. In the first of these three years 90,000 housing units, including flats, were completed. In the next year, 1960-61, the number was 94,500 and in the last year, 1961-62, the number was much smaller, 86,200. Probably, in addition to these figures, 6,000 or 7,000 houses are completed each year but are not recorded. However, that does not alter the fact that there has been considerable unevenness in building output over these three years. The figures themselves - 90,000, 94,500 and 86,200- argue a considerable unevenness. In point of fact a good deal of our employment difficulties over the past eighteen months have been correlated with the unsatisfactory level of private building.
It is also demonstrably true that in 1961-62 the number of houses completed has been considerably short of the potential, without taking any account of the need to overtake the back-lag in demand which perhaps is not as large as it was but which undeniably still exists. The short fall in building last year was correlated with considerable under-employment in the building industry, both in direct construction and in the industries which supply materials for building. One can say, therefore, that last year’s result was unsatisfactory. This is even truer from the Commonwealth’s point of view when one thinks of the special need for the housing of migrants. This is a feature to which I shall return in a moment.
Let me turn now from the past and say something about the future. It appears that for the year ended June, 1963, we shall complete about 96,000 or 97,000 dwellings, including unrecorded ones. But what are our needs? I do not refer to the back-lag; I do not refer to the 5,000 or 6,000 houses that we fell short last year. In estimating our needs I think we can consider the monograph on housing which was produced recently by Dr. Hall, senior fellow in economics at the Australian National University. On the basis of 80,000 migrants a year, which is the Government’s basis, he believes that for this year the housing demand will be about 102,000 units and that over the years between now and 1970 it will rise to about 131,000. I shall not go into the details of the basis of these figures because they seem to me to be reasonable enough. However, it is clear from the figures that our aim should be to increase the present rate of building - the 1962-63 rate - by something like 7i per cent, and thereafter at the rate of about 3i per cent, per annum. That is a greater increase than the increase in the overall labour force, so it appears that during that period an increasing proportion of our real resources will have to be devoted to home building.
One point which must be remembered in relation to this future policy is that we must avoid the past unevenness. In doing this we might have some regard to the present high rate of city building. We have seen how this is absorbing a considerable number of workers and a great amount of building materials but I think the statisticians will agree that while there may be no catastrophic decline in the rate of city building it is unlikely to continue at its present high level for more than a year or two. So, if we are to have this evenness of employment in the building industry we must consider adapting our housing policy to take up the slack. We should be making some substantial increase in the rate of home building now and we should be preparing for greater increases in the rate of home building in the next two or three years.
This is particularly so in relation to the Government’s migration programme. For many reasons the Government is not finding it as easy as it was to fill the migration quotas. The same number of migrants is not offering. This is possibly the result of changed conditions in Europe, but whatever the cause at least it is clear that one of the main reasons why it is difficult to persuade migrants to come to Australia is their fear of housing difficulties when they arrive here. In other words, we need a stock of houses if we are to maintain our target of 80,000 migrants a ye:r. Indeed, we hope that this target will be maintained and even increased.
It is all very well to have these pious resolutions about the number of houses that we need. I do not think there is any difficulty in providing them from the physical point of view. The industry can produce them. The impediment has undoubtedly been finance; and here you will allow me, Sir, to quote from Dr. Hall’s recent monograph on the subject. Having reviewed the present shortfall in output in relation to potential demand he has this to say - the obvious policy now, at a time when there is still considerable excess capacity in the industry, is to try to even out this expected fluctuation by taking up as much as possible of the present slack in the industry. In the unlikely event that such action would result in some excess capacity in terms of the stock of houses this should prove to be a boon two or three years hence.
There are a variety of ways by which this policy objective could be achieved. Thus state housing authority allocations could be raised, especially, perhaps by tieing a proportion of their increased advances to slum clearing activity. A higher rate of public authority housing construction now might well make it much more feasible to cut it back when there are signs of boom conditions in the private sector. The obvious way to stimulate private housing activity now is to ease the terms on which housing finance is made available. This should probably take the form of still further increasing the upper limit of the permitted maximum loan for all types of major lenders.
When we look at this we ask what we are going to do. What are the practical steps we could take about easing housing finance? In this debate honorable members have spoken of the need to provide second mortgages on reasonable terms - that is, at a reasonably low rate of interest. They have mentioned, with approval, the action that has been taken by the Victorian Government along those lines by giving some kind of guarantee in respect of second mortgages. This is excellent and constructive action and I notice, with some regret, that my own State of New South Wales appears to be less progressive than Victoria in this particular instance. This is a great pity, and it is no doubt due to the fact that the New South Wales Government is not as competent to defend and advance the interests of its own citizens as the Victorian Government is in respect of its citizens. As a New South Welshman I regret this very much, and I commend to the New South Wales Government the action that has been taken in Victoria.
It might be well, perhaps, if some of the Commonwealth’s own instrumentalities - the Commonwealth Bank for example - were to regard second mortgages in a somewhat more favorable light in order to help people to get housing finance. But, after all, are second mortgages the answer? I should think not. I should think that they are an unnecessary complication in the whole scheme of things. Second mortgages generally carry a somewhat heavy rate of interest, and we do not want to have housing loans at high interest rates. Would it not be better if the money were made available through building societies on first mortgages? It seems to me that there is no inherent difficulty here. After all, the building society, operating under government guarantee, lends up to a very high proportion of the valuation, and in those circumstances it seems to me that if building society money is available - and that is the point - on first mortgage then there should not be any need to have recourse to a separate second mortgage.
So, basically, the thing comes down to getting more money for such institutions as building societies. How can this be done? How can we channel more money into the building societies? The amount that the building societies can raise is, of course, dependent upon the lender’s ability to meet them at the interest rates which they can offer and, as I said a few moments ago, I believe it is essential to keep the interest rate on housing loans down to a reasonable figure. Would it be competent - I think it would be - for the Government to consider a scheme for stimulating the building industry by giving some kind of interest subvention to building societies and similar institutions?
Perhaps in the second place we should have a speeial release from the special account funds of the trading banks held by the Commonwealth Bank, made on condition that this money be lent out at a low rate of interest to building societies.
In the third place, if indeed we want to continue with the legislation which compels insurance companies and superannuation funds to put a certain amount of their resources into government securities in order to obtain tax rebates, perhaps we could amend the act to provide that for the purposes of that act advances for housing under guarantee of a government would count as investment in government securities. It is true, I think, that the legislation we passed in regard to these rebates has had the effect of channelling real resources away from housing, and has thus increased the overall difficulties in respect of housing finance.
Those are some of the things which we might do. We might also pay more attention to the constitution of permanent, as opposed to terminating, building societies. We might make even more generous the amounts we are giving in war service homes loans, and we might adopt the suggestion which Dr. Hall made, and which I quoted a few moments ago, of raising the limits for Commonwealth Bank, building societies and war service homes advances to make them more realistic in relation to existing housing costs so that, without incurring a second mortgage, the average home purchaser would be able to go ahead with a reasonable building.
I do not suggest that we should make the sky the limit, or anything like that. What I am suggesting, however, and what we should have done and should now be doing, is to take action which would raise the level of house building in this country by some 7 per cent, or 8 per cent., and thereafter keep it rising at a rate of 3 per cent, per annum.
This should be our target. If we are exceeding that target then perhaps there is reason to cut back the finance; but if we are falling short of that target - as we have fallen short of it - then there is reason to turn on the financial tap a little bit wider. We do not want to go to the point of inflation. We certainly do not want to have the position where the building industry could not meet the demands of those who want houses but are unable to finance them. We want to absorb the present slack in the building industry. We want not only to maintain but also to have a substantial increase in the rate of house building. This is needed both because it will help the employment situation and because it is necessary from a social point of view and the demand for houses, as such, justifies it. These are things which I feel we should be doing. The Commonwealth Government has a special interest in this problem, because of the necessity to keep up its migration programme. We all have an interest in maintaining high employment in the building industry and elsewhere. We all have an interest in raising living standards, including housing standards. I suggest that the time is overdue for the Government to take not a dramatically changed view but a more generous view on the question of housing finance. We must look at this problem as a whole. The bill before us is only one aspect of what goes to make up the housing problem.
.- The bill we are now discussing is a measure to authorize the borrowing of £45,900,000 for advances to the States in the year 1962-63 in accordance with the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Some few weeks ago, when addressing myself in this chamber to the housing situation I declared that next to unemployment the most pressing social problem facing this young and growing nation was that of housing. I firmly believe all honorable members of this House will agree fully with that statement. I further stated that the construction of new houses had been drastically cut by the recent credit squeeze and that the number of new dwellings being constructed is still falling. I declared, also, that it costs more than three times as much to build a house to-day as it did sixteen years ago. I did not think any honorable member would be prepared to challenge that statement.
The timber industry is linked with housing. We cannot build homes without timber. The Australian timber industry normally employs 52,000 workers directly. Of these approximately 20 per cent, are engaged in milling and extracting operations whilst the remainder are engaged in the 2,800 saw mills that normally operate in Australia. Our timber export trade is worth approximately £3,000,000 a year, the bulk of these exports being shipped from New South Wales and Western Australia. All States except South Australia have large economic interests in the timber industry. The Menzies-McEwen government’s credit squeeze and its adverse effect on Australian home building and on other timber-using activities had, in turn, a disastrous effect on our timber industry, causing very serious unemployment and the closing of many timber mills. The position has been accentuated by the Government’s removal of import restrictions. We witnessed a sharp rise in imports of timber from overseas in 1961, as compared with 1960, as is illustrated by the fact that imports of dressed and undressed timber for the year ended June, 1960, were valued at £17,840,000, and imports for the year ended June, 1961, were valued at £20,304,000, an increased import expenditure of £2,464,000 in one year, and in a period when unemployment was rampant in the timber industry and Australia’s balance of trade position was extremely adverse. A Labour government would ensure that import restrictions machinery and tariffs were used to protect the timber industry. We would vigorously stimulate Australian home building and allied indus. tries which provide the main demand for Australian timber. I agree with an article which appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 8th September, 1962, which stated -
Australians are the victims of a massive national confidence trick if their much vaunted high standards of living do not allow them to live high in the place where they do most of their living - their own homes.
We are close to this situation: Too many of the benefits of wages, working hours and the welfare state are absorbed by high house deposits, high interest rates and high costs in putting roofs over our heads. A privileged class of Australians can finance their housing needs at the bank interest rate or less, but they represent less than 25 per cent, of the community. The other 75 per cent, buy homes with great difficulty at interest rates up to 20 per cent. The average Australian home-buyer is applying about 25 per cent, of his annual income to pay off his mortgage. In the United States of America an equivalent home-buyer need apply only 14 per cent, of his income to meet mortgage payments. The American home-buyer is also required to pay a smaller deposit. He can. in many cases, borrow more than 90 per cent, of the total value of houseplusland, whilst his Australian equivalent is struggling to borrow more than 60 per cent, pf the value involved. Therefore, it should be crystal clear to all thinking people that the high deposit policy and high interest policy of this Government must lead to a fall in the level of home building. About 75 per cent, of Australian housing loans bear interest rates of more than 5i per cent, and 66 per cent, of those loans bear an interest rate above 6 per cent. Of those loans about 47 per cent, bear interest rates from 7 per cent, to 20 per cent, and more. This much seems certain: The existing system of financing Australian home ownership is not meeting the increasing demands of a growing community. The building and manufacturing industries and many disinterested authorities strongly believe that the traditional patterns of home ownership can be maintained only if we initiate new systems of home finance.
I should like to quote from an article by Sir Douglas Copland, published in the “Australian Financial Review” of 16th August, 1962. The article is headed, “ Home Building Crisis Demands Action “, and reads -
Sir Douglas Copland last week called for a national housing corporation to co-ordinate the activities of all home building agencies and promote co-operation between all institutions associated with home building.
Sir Douglas said that such an organization should be able to encourage existing home finance companies and institutions to finance on a more liberal basis and also be able to support them and be able itself to provide finance for home building, and advise governments and industry on the likely future needs of home building. Sir Douglas put forward his proposal in his opening address to the National Housing Finance Conference in Canberra last August. He said that home-building in Australia had deteriorated in the past two years from 97,000 units in 1960 to 80,000 units in 1961, and the prospects for 1962 pointed to a home-building programme of about 85,000 units. Sir Douglas said that Dr. Hall, of the Australian National University, had provided probably the most modern estimate of the increase in the demand for new homes over the next ten years. Dr. Hall had estimated that the demand for new homes in Australia in 1962 would total about 90,000. This demand would increase, he said, to 94,000 by 1966 and 107,000 by 1970.
Sir Douglas said: “ My own feeling is that these estimates are rather conservative. Probably more will be required.” I believe we all agree with that contention. If it is true, our rate of building is below what is to be regarded as the minimum demand for homes. Is there a bigger, more important, national problem in Australia to-day than the building of homes for the people who will populate Australia, make its citizens, and become the future controllers of the destiny of this country? Are we going to let them down? That is what we are doing right at this moment.
Taking the four major home-building authorities in Victoria as an example, Sir Douglas compared their activity in 1961 against their activity in 1946. He said, “ We emerged from a war of great severity in which we had to average resources of great magnitude and we found on emerging that it was possible for any young man or woman to acquire a house on a very low deposit”. The deposit for war service homes was only 10 per cent, of the cost of the house and land and the cost of the house and land on the average in 1946 for war service homes was £1,261. The cost to-day of a similar house and land for the average war service home is £4,256 and the deposit required is £1,506, which is 35 per cent, of the cost of the land and the house. Why is the deposit now 35 per cent, when it was 10 per cent, in 1946? The deposit in 1946 was £126; to-day it is £1,506.
The deposit now in money value is more than twelve times the deposit in 1946.
Sir Douglas said that in 1946 the cooperative building societies required a deposit of 10 per cent., which by 1961 had increased to 34 per cent. The deposit required by the State Savings Bank over the same period had increased from 25 per cent, to 40 per cent. The deposit required by the Commonwealth Bank had increased from 15 per cent, to 45 per cent. - three times as high in real terms as it was in 1946. Sir Douglas said -
The fact is that in spite of growth and rise in living standards, increasing profits, increasing income, the average person on the lower income level had to find three or four times as much to establish a home as he did when we emerged from the war.
He added -
Surely we could unite, all of us, in industry and Government to correct this position.
I believe, Sir, that it should be the fundamental purpose of every government, irrespective of political colour, to shape its housing policy on the basis of homeownership, and that the number of homes built for rental should be the lowest possible number compatible with housing only those for whom ownership is obviously impossible. The policy of the Australian Labour Party to provide cheap finance for houses is one that should have wide appeal to every member of this National Parliament and particularly to the younger generation. What chances have young married couples or young people contemplating marriage, even though earning £20 a week, to get a home together or own a house? Every one knows that with inflated costs to-day it is nigh impossible. Home life is the core of any nation and every assistance should be given to young people to set up a home and to be able to have children and to clothe and feed them decently. A contented and happy younger generation is the greatest safeguard against communism or “ isms “ of any kind. These have no chance of survival where prosperity reigns.
There will not be any ruin in allowing people to pay 5 per cent, deposit on a home, whether built by government authorities or building societies, which are doing a wonderful job in providing homes. It would be a tremendous stimulus to the building industry. I believe that at least 100,000 families in Australia need homes to-day and to my mind that is a tragic state of affairs. I believe that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement should be amended to require a deposit of only 5 per cent, with repayments over 45 years at 3 per cent, and interest to be computed on monthly balances. I believe further that an arrangement should be made for co-operative societies to get special advances from the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank should find the necessary money to build homes for the people. It should use its credit resources to provide adequate supplies of cheap money for industry.
The policy of the Menzies-McEwen Government in relation to housing, of course, has always been destructive. Credit restrictions introduced by the Government some time ago have made it virtually impossible for the average man to build a home. Sufficient finance has simply not been made available to the various States. Only to-day a gentleman who, I would say, is no more than 50 feet from me at the moment, told me of the experience of his son, who wants to get married, who had a deposit of £1,000 but could not get accommodation from the Commonwealth Bank and who was refused point blank. Such things should not occur. In New South Wales the consequences of the Government’s policy have been that the Housing Commission has been beseiged by applicants for accommodation. Private enterprise has completely failed to provide enough homes to meet the ever-increasing demand. Ever since this Government took office it has directed its efforts towards strangling the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The Government’s credit squeeze has been directed towards starving the States of housing finance, and the Government has refused to allow sales to tenants to be made easier.
It has been stated frequently that the main obstacle to the easy purchase of homes by Housing Commission tenants is the insistence of the Menzies-McEwen Government that the Commonwealth be paid cash at the point of sale. The Government uses its secret trump card, its banking policy, against the States. It restricts finance so that no matter how eager a tenant may be to buy his home, he finds it impossible to obtain finance on the open market. The Menzies Government could, by means of a simple agreement, have made it easy for the States to introduce a scheme of purchase on small deposits and easy repayments. Housing Commission tenants continue to pay rent only because they have no alternative, because the Menzies-McEwen Government will not provide the initial financial cover. If the Government of New South Wales had not, after the end of the war, established the Housing Commission, only luxury homes would have been built. Everybody remembers the thousand and one efforts to defeat regulations aimed at spreading materials in short supply over as many homes as possible. The first real effort to provide homes for the people was initiated by the Chifley Government, which set up machinery under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and implemented its part of the programme. The scheme was gaining momentum when the Chifley Government was defeated, and the Menzies Government has kept the damper on.
The Opposition Whip has told me that this debate is due to conclude at 6 o’clock, and he has asked us to cut our speeches short. A good deal more could be said about the housing situation, but I shall conclude so that other members on this side of the House may have an opportunity to speak. I appeal to this Government to do the right thing. I ask it to provide a sufficient number of homes for the people it is bringing here from overseas, who are at the present time returning to their homeland in great numbers because of the shortage of homes and jobs in Australia.
.- I am sure you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that the speech we have just heard was one of the most interesting speeches ever made by Sir Douglas Copland. We also heard, of course, a number of inaccuracies contributed by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) himself. The honorable member said that the housing shortage is the sole responsibility of the Menzies-McEwen Government, as he called it, but I remind the House that the housing shortage in New South Wales, which has had a Labour Government for a considerable time, is worse than anywhere else in Australia. The honorable member also conveniently forgot that under the policy of rent control that has been followed by the New South Wales Government, nobody will invest money in housing for rental purposes. It is just not a sound proposition.
Listening to the honorable member for Hume, the young people of to-day may think that Utopia is just around the corner, and that if ever a Labour government comes to power it will provide substantial numbers of delightful new homes. This, of course, is quite false, because the policy of rent control has had the result that no new homes for rental purposes have been built, other than those built by housing commissions. A similar situation existed in Victoria. When a Labour government was in power in that State it implemented a policy of rent control, and at that time no new homes for rental purposes were built. It could be said that throughout Australia home building for rental purposes is a thing of the past. No investor will take the risk that a Labour government may come to power in a particular State and introduce restrictions making unprofitable any enterprise involving home building for rental purposes. Those who suffer under rent control legislation are the people themselves, because the only houses available for rent are those that were in existence at the time of the introduction of the legislation, and those houses are old and neglected. The only other houses available are those built by the Government housing authorities, and these houses are not always of a very high quality. I have been informed - and I do not vouch for the complete accuracy of the figures - that there are 42,000 fewer homes for rental in New South Wales than there were seven years ago.
I listened to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), and I agreed with many of the statements made by him. I was not in complete agreement, however, with the figure of 7 per cent, that he gave when speaking of housing requirements, and which he took from Dr. Hall’s latest book. The honorable member for Hume, and also the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) were others who quoted extensively from Dr. Hall’s book. Let me say to the House that I believe Dr. Hall has done Australia a great service in conducting his research, but I remind honorable members that Dr. Hall himself admitted, in his recent publication, “ Housing Demand - A Second Look “, that in the previous survey he had made, in December, 1960, he had made certain false assumptions. I do not say this in criticism of him. In any research one may make the mistake of anticipating .a situation which later does not eventuate. However, in reply to those honorable members who have made predictions about future developments, let me quote some remarks made by Dr. Hall in December, 1960, in his publication, “Housing Demand in Australia, 1959- 74 “:-
This analysis clearly raises a number of important policy issues. To consider first the long-term position. A rapidly expanding house-building industry tends to sustain a high level of investment generally. It does this directly, and indirectly also through its various derived demands on both manufacturing output and public works (roads, water and sewerage, etc.). To that extent our analysis suggests that there may be difficulty in maintaining sufficiently high levels of investment to sustain the hoped-for rates of growth in the economy through the 1960’s. But the stimulus to demand resulting from recent levels of housebuilding has probably involved undue pressure on resources, and release from this pressure may be very welcome. In either case it is clear that some reorientation in thinking is necessary about the scale and character of investment, both public and private, over the next decade.
The next paragraph is important because this is where he made a wrong assessment, although, I think, on quite reasonable grounds.
As to the more immediate prospects, since it is not possible to be specific about the timing of the likely decline in house-building, it is difficult to make many precise policy recommendations. One conclusion does, however, seem sufficiently firmly based, even apart from its desirability in the current over-extended state of the economy. It is that it would be unwise to allow house-building activity to rise any higher than its present level.
That is what Dr. Hall said in December, I960. He has since admitted, in his new review, that he had not allowed for certain factors which had arisen. Clearly it is difficult to forecast the level of housebuilding.
In his new review, “ Housing Demand - a Second Look”, to which the honorable member for Mackellar referred, Dr. Hall says at page 10 -
The medium term prospects for housing demand are not ambiguous but all point to a rising trend.
If there should have been a short-fall of effective demand in 1961-62 then with the recovery in incomes associated with the general recovery of the economy there is the likelihood that in a year or so effective demand may be above rather than below the trend.
In 1960 he was saying it would be below; now he is saying that certain things have occurred and it could Increase. He continues -
At the moment the most reasonable expectation about the impact of the post-war baby boom on the demand for houses is that it should begin to become influential about the middle ‘sixties and should not be damped down as was expected in Housing Trends. All these factors are presumed to operate on what would otherwise be a gently rising trend. Their likely effect is to make the recovery of demand much stronger than was formerly expected.
He then speaks of the long-term financial position and states what in his opinion is needed. He says -
The obvious way to stimulate private housing activity now is to ease the terms on which housing finance is made available. This should probably take the form of still further increasing the upper limit of the permitted maximum loan for all types of major lenders. From the point of view of the longer term stability of the industry this technique has the advantage that it can be reversed relatively easily if subsequently general economic policy called for tightened conditions in the supply of finance for private housing.
However, he concludes -
Unless the details of such a policy are worked out now it is unlikely to be available for implementation at that felicitous time when the requirements of equity and efficient utilisation of resources coincide with those of economic expediency.
I think that honorable members on both sides of the House are in agreement with what Dr. Hall has summed up in his latest survey.
One of our great problems with housing in Australia, as I see it, is to a certain extent constitutional. The States have always been regarded as the authorities responsible for housing. Since the war, with the great demands that have been put on us by the immigration policy, and with the great development that this country has had, the housing problem has now come to be, I believe, one of the major factors in the economic stability of this country. The Commonwealth Government, over the years, has put much money into housing. Most of it has been made available through grants to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. However, this has created certain problems, one of which, I think, is that at no time has there been an overall review of housing on the Australian scene at a national level. There have been housing inquiries in Victoria, in New South Wales and in all the other States, but at no time that I know of has there been a complete top-level inquiry into the housing needs for the whole of Australia.
All honorable members will agree, I am sure, that home-building is essential, not merely to ensure that all those who want homes shall have them, but also to stabilize the economy. The building industry has always been fairly regarded as a barometer of the economic stability of any country, and I think that when honorable members consider the effect that home-building and commercial building have on all other associated industries, they will see that trends in the building industry are carried right through the economy. The associated industries cover almost the whole field of manufacturing - bricks, tiles, glass, timber, metal, carpets, curtains, porcelain, &c. There is hardly any manufacturing activity that is not affected by lack of stability in the building industry. If we leave out politics, as we should in a debate on this topic, and look at the problem fairly, I think we will agree with what the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Hume have said in respect of the various organizations which make funds available for housing throughout Australia. I feel that there should be a top-level consultation between the Commonwealth and State governments to seek some new agreement whereby stability can be introduced into this industry and so into the Australian economy.
One must be careful, of course, to ensure that inflationary trends will not be regenerated to the extent that they were evident in the past. I think we are all aware of that danger and none of us want uncontrolled inflation. However, it is to the advantage of all that stability of this basic industry should be achieved.
The problem facing young people and immigrants is the confusion of financial arrangements relating to housing. Between the different States there are differences in terms; between the different banks there are differences; between the life assurance companies there are differences; between the building societies, co-operative and per manent, there are differences. There are differences in terms of lending, differences in the percentage of deposit, in interest rates and in methods of repayment. For example, one savings bank in Victoria has a rule that a house must not be more than one year old and that a person must have had £350 in his account for a period of three months before being eligible for a loan. One person, when he applied, was told that he did not have the £350, so he went away and saved it. By the time he had saved it one year had passed, and when he returned to the savings bank he was told, “ Sorry, chum; you have the £350, but the house is now a year old so you are out again “. So he went out the door and back on to the street. This variation in terms is confusing and it is something that all governments should look at.
– Which State was that?
– It is the only State that has given assistance to second mortgages - Victoria. Let us look at the various terms and interest rate variations that we are confronted with. The Commonwealth Savings Bank, I understand, charges 5i per cent, on monthly balance. The State savings banks charge 5i per cent, on quarterly balance. With the private savings banks it is 5) per cent, on daily balance, chargeable halfyearly. The charge by the building societies varies from 6i per cent, to 9i per cent, calculated on varying balances from quarterly to annual. Co-operative housing societies charge 5i per cent, on monthly balance; friendly societies charge 6 to 6i per cent, on quarterly balance, and so forth.
Instead of the various lending authorities such as the War Service Homes Division, other government institutions, trustee institutions, hire-purchase companies, private mortgagees, &c., having a common basis, there is nothing but confusion in housing finance in Australia. The differences are caused, in my opinion, by the failure to look at the problem on an overall basis. This is now essential.
However, the Labour Party, in any plans its puts forward, always seems to advance the suggestion that people or organizations can be forced to put their money into various spheres. We of the Government believe we should consider how people and organizations can be encouraged to help themselves and to achieve their own destiny, rather than to rely on socialism or charity. The Government or governments must, however, set the climate and assist where necessary by supporting any such scheme.
When one hears members of the Australian Labour Party talk of compulsion one should remember that we in Australia are a capital-hungry country, and that when we talk of spending money or forcing people to invest in certain areas, that money must come from some other sphere. If an insurance company or other such institution is not putting money into housing it could well be putting money into industry. If the flow of money into industry ceases, so do job opportunities and there is a loss of essential industries which could be vital to the country. Therefore, any plan should encourage the people themselves to put money into housing. This should be able to earn a reasonable rate of interest and should be guaranteed by the Government. If money could be obtained by the people from one legitimate source at a reasonable rate of interest for a reasonably long period it would mean that demand for housing would be maintained, the industry could be stabilized, and land prices could be reduced.
Land prices represent one of the most inflationary sections of the housing industry, and I think that they could be reduced very considerably. In all cases, the high interest rate which is charged on mortgages to the various people who are forced to borrow to subdivide are eventually passed on to the purchaser, and represent an additional burden to him. The price of an ordinary suburban, subdivisional, vacant block of land is increased by the general interest charges made in excess of bank rates. These are included in the price structure, even before the purchaser starts to build. Equally, if the builder has to borrow temporary finance for building operations at excessive rates of interest this is included in the eventual price paid by the purchaser. I feel that the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State governments, has to look at housing very much more closely than it has in the past. We have been restricted because of constitutional issues. But I think that if we could co-operate with the States to work out a scheme it would be to the advantage of Australia not only by providing homes but by bringing stability to an industry which is of paramount importance to Australia.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, as one of the most senior members of this Parliament, in terms both of years and experience in the House, I would earnestly suggest to one of the youngest members of our Parliament that when he makes a statement, particularly in criticism of a government or person, he should make very sure that the alleged facts that he uses are in accordance with the truth. The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) made some criticism of the Government of New South Wales for having allegedly hampered the construction of new homes in that State. Let me inform the honorable gentleman that since 1st January, 1955, there have been no controls of any description upon new home construction and no rent control thereon in New South Wales. I feel that the honorable gentleman may wish to review the statement that he has made. I am sure that if he has made an incorrect statement on this matter he will do justice to this House and to the people whom he criticized by amending that statement.
I am credibly informed by members from New South Wales that it was not until a Labour government undertook the duty of seeing that housing was made available in country areas that anything of a substantial nature was accomplished in this regard. It is much to the credit of the Labour Government of New South Wales that this has been done. I agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with many of the statements that have been made by honorable gentlemen from both sides of the House as to the inadequacy of the amount of £45,900,000 which it has been proposed to lend to the States for housing purposes. I find that there is an ever accumulating number of applications for housing and it would appear that the building procedures of this nation are not adequate to provide the people with the housing needed. In 1961-62 there were 47,000 applications for housing commission homes in Australia. In June of this year, 75,000 applications were outstanding. This illustrates how the gap between the number of houses constructed and the applications for housing is constantly growing wider.
The home is the cradle of the nation. It is there that character is formed. It is there that the circumstances of the future life of our young people are determined. Neither this country nor any other country can afford to neglect the important issues involved in home making. The Government is not doing sufficient to assist in that direction. Last year there were 76,686 marriages in Australia. A progressive increase has occurred in the number of marriages over the years. That is only one aspect of the increasing demand for new homes. Newly married couples should be able to establish themselves immediately in a home and see a full life before them.
This problem does not concern only newly married people. This problem presents itself in a very decided way to the migrants who come to this country. In many instances, they are required to remain in hostels for two years or longer before a home is made available to them. Some may get out of hostels in less time. However, I believe that many migrants who have felt discontented with the conditions that they have found in this country have become dissatisfied, either because of lack of employment or lack of homes. Thus many of them have elected to return to the country whence they came. Many of these unfortunate people are our own kith and kin from the United Kingdom. We can ill afford to permit any conditions that appear to those people to make it essential for them to consider returning to the country whence they came with such bright hopes for the future of themselves and their families in this great country.
Another matter about which the whole country, I am sure, will be very greatly concerned when informed of it is the fact that 80,000 families are sharing private homes. That is a most reprehensible situation and one of which any government responsible ought to be ashamed. Furthermore, 42,000 families are domiciled in garages or huts.
– In New South Wales.
– Those are the figures for the whole of Australia. Whoever is responsible for this state of affairs must answer to the people for the neglect of which this is evidence. Primarily, the blame rests on this Government because it has restricted the finance available to the States for the proper housing of our people.
I have mentioned the demand for houses by newly married couples who are seeking to makes homes for themselves. I have mentioned the demand for homes by migrants who come to this country seeking to establish themselves in a new way of life and in better circumstances and who are at a great disadvantage because they cannot obtain proper housing. I have pointed out, also, the difficulties that face many of our people who are forced to live under sub-normal conditions. Then there are the aged people. They have to be considered. Surely, humanity requires that we do something much more adequate than is being done at the present time. I acknowledge that much has been done by many church institutions which have a wonderful conception of their responsibility for the housing of aged people and which have been enabled, by the subsidy provided by the Commonwealth in recent years, to house many aged people. But this is not sufficient, and much more of this work should be undertaken. All our elderly people should bs able to feel that we are mindful of their needs in the eventide of their lives and that we remember gratefully their pioneering efforts in establishing and developing this country to make it what it is to-day.
Quite apart from all these matters, there is the question of slum clearance and the improvement of housing conditions in many of our older cities. I believe that the governments of all the States are quite unable to make the plans that are essential for slum clearance. They are prevented from doing so by the inadequacy of the funds made available to them. The remarkable thing is that, although the housing requirements of our people are increasing, the funds available to the State housing authorities this financial year will be £2,600,000 less than was available last financial year.
– That does not allow for the fact that £7,500,000 of last year’s allocation was a special grant.
– I am speaking of the amount available to the State housing authorities, which are responsible for the greater part of the housing programme for this nation.
– But you did not make allowance for last year’s special grant.
– No amount of quibbling by the honorable member or any one else will disguise the situation that is revealed by the cold facts and the figures presented in the housing statistics. I hope that honorable gentlemen will at least be prepared to examine the statistics that are available. Those statistics show that the number of houses under construction is at present lower than at any time over the last eight years. If time permitted, I would give honorable gentlemen the figures for each of the last eight years, but, unfortunately, owing to the limitation of the time available for this debate, I shall not be able to do so. However, I earnestly suggest that honorable members and those people outside this Parliament who are interested in this subject and who wish to ascertain the facts examine issue No. 58 of the “ Quarterly Bulletin of Housing Statistics “ for the June quarter of 1962, which is published by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. The figures shown at page 3 bear out what I have just said.
The matter that we are debating to-day is, with the single exception of employment, the most important of all the problems that face this country. The relief and prevention of unemployment, surely, stands first. Then, I believe, comes housing. That is the second consideration that rightly should engage our attention.
– The two matters are linked.
– Exactly. I earnestly hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table, will convey to the Government the genuine concern of all members of this House, and particularly those on the Opposition side, that something more adequate shall be done to provide better housing for the Australian people by allocating, under the provisions of legislation such as this relating to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agree-
*(The text of this interjection, and the one immediately preceding it, has been corrected in conformity with the personal explanation made by Mr. Turnbull on 14th November, vide page 2379.) ment, greater funds to the States, which are responsible for administering public housing policy in the main.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Bonython, and I wish to make a personal explanation. To my amazement, the honorable member misrepresented me when he followed me in the debate. As one of the older members of this House, he addressed himself to me as one of the younger members, and told me that the facts that I had presented were inaccurate. I had said that the problem of the lack of housing, particularly in New South Wales, had been brought about by the policy of rent control. The honorable member for Bonython stated in his speech that I had made a mistake and that there was now no rent control in New South Wales.
– On new construction. That is what I said.
– I am instructed that all property that was controlled in 1945 and before in New South Wales is still controlled at 1939 levels.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I address myself to the bill, let me refute something that was said by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). Both honorable members said that the most important things that we in this country have to consider are, first, employment and, secondly, housing. I do not agree with that. The most important thing that we in this country have to consider is defence. Surely men of the experience of the honorable member for Bonython, who has long service in this House, and of the honorable member for Hume, whose experience in this place extends over some years, know that defence is the most important thing for us in this country to consider. It does not matter what employment or housing we have; if we cannot defend this country, we are completely lost. Yet both honorable members stated very definitely that the most important things were, first, employment and, secondly, housing.
– The honorable member is a minority of one.
– I am not a minority of one. I think that both honorable mem- bers would agree that what I say is correct, only they did not think about it. I know that they both regard defence as vital to this country and would agree with me now if they were given a second opportunity to say what they thought.
This is a very simple bill. According to the Treasurer, its purpose is to authorize the borrowing of £45,900,000 for advances to the States in 1962-63 in accordance with the provisions of the housing agreement. One could almost leave the matter at that, but let me emphasize this important fact - £45,900,000 is the amount which the Premiers themselves decided upon at the Australian Loan Council meeting after the total works and housing programme had been determined. We have heard all kinds of side issues from honorable members on both sides of the House, but the point to remember is that this Parliament has been given legislative authority to implement the works programme decided upon in Loan Council.
All that remains for me to do is to try to reply to some of the questions which have been raised. The honorable member for Hume stated that Sir Douglas Copland had quoted certain estimates by Dr. Hall. This is not a matter for Sir Douglas Copland or Dr. Hall; it is a matter for this Government, which has the responsibility of keeping the finances of this country on an even keel and of spending in the best interests of the community the money which is collected by way of taxation.
It is all right for people outside to say that this or that should be done. It is not very hard for the Opposition to say the same thing because it has not the responsibility to carry out the programme which it puts forward. The honorable member for Hume and the honorable member for Bonython talked about housing and employment, but they did not mention other things which are vital to our economy. It is very easy to pinpoint some activity and say that more money should be spent on it, but the Opposition never tells us where the money will come from. We never have any indication of that. If we were to go through the speeches which have been made by honorable members opposite during the life of this Parliament and add the additional amounts which they claim should be spent by different departments or on various works, the total would be tremendous and disquieting, particularly as the Government has budgeted this year for a very substantial deficit. That kind of talk is all right, but it takes money to carry out various programmes. An Australian saying is, “ Talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy land “. I might say, “ Talk is cheap, but it takes money to finance a great Commonwealth like Australia and to keep the economy sound “.
During the course of his speech, the honorable member for Bonython told me that I need not interject because the bill contains the cold facts of the matter. I have the bill in my hand and there are not many cold facts in it except those which I have mentioned. According to the Treasurer’s second-reading speech, the amount being appropriated is £4,500,000 less than the aggregate of £50,400,000 which was raised and applied for the purpose of the agreement in 1961-62 - the last financial year - including, of course, the supplementary amount of £7,500,000 which was especially advanced to the States as part of the Government’s measures to stimulate economic activity. But the allocation for 1962-63 is £3,000,000 more than the basic amount made available last year, excluding the special grant. That is the point I was trying to make in my interjection, but the honorable member for Bonython, realizing the accuracy of my statement, merely said that I need not interject because the bill contains the cold facts of the matter. I have mentioned the cold facts.
Why was the additional allocation of £7,500,000 made last year? It was made to overcome what has become known as the credit squeeze.
– Which you supported.
– Which I supported throughout my electorate and in this House. I am tremendously happy to say that I supported it because look how very successful it has been! It is all right for members of the Opposition to say that the timber industry was somewhat embarrassed by the credit squeeze, but I repeat that the primary producer is the very base of this country’s prosperity. Had we not somehow retarded the inflationary trend which was becoming so noticeable, the primary producer would have gone out of business. But of course representatives of city electorates do not understand these things. They believe that because the city is able to buy and sell on its own high price structure everything is all right; but the primary producer also must buy at that same high level and sell to countries with lower standards of living.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that we are discussing a housing bill, not primary producers.
– The honorable member for Mallee should talk about housing, not primary producers.
– I know the honorable member for Phillip does not like me to speak about these things, so let me turn to some remarks which have been made by the honorable member for Hume. “ Hansard “ will support my statement that when he previously was a member of this Parliament he stated on perhaps 20 or 30 occasions that the yardstick of a country’s prosperity is the deposits in the savings banks. Although our savings bank deposits are at a record level to-day, he claims that we are not prosperous.
What is the Government’s record in relation to housing? The honorable member for Hume asked what chance have young people to-day to secure a home. My reply is that to-day they have a better chance than ever before in the history of this Commonwealth. The honorable member for Bonython said that we should look at the statistics. Well, let us look at the statistics. They show that to-day more people own or are paying off their homes than ever before in our history. One cannot lease or rent a house in a town to-day because the people living in them either own them or are paying them off. I know many young couples to-day who before the war or when Labour was in office would not have had the slightest chance in the world of even beginning to own their own home. I know that and the honorable member for Bonython knows that, but he is a member of the Opposition so no matter how good or effective the Government’s programme is he must oppose it. That is how democratic parliaments operate. There is a government and an opposition.
I do not blame him for his attitude. Probably if we were in opposition we would do the same thing. But the fact is that young people all over the country are buying homes and that this Government has provided a record amount of money for housing. The War Service Homes Division has spent more money since the end of the last war than was spent in the period from its inception in about 1920 until the end of the war.
The honorable member for Bonython mentioned the housing of migrants. Surely he knows that if you nominate a migrant you guarantee to provide accommodation for him for a certain period. As to the number of people living in huts, Opposition members forget the case which I mentioned just before Labour went out of office. The time was approaching Christmas and a man and his family who were living in a borrowed tent in Geelong had to return the tent to the owner, who wanted to go camping over the Christmas holidays. So the family was put out on the road. Labour forgets these things. In the days of the Labour Government the housing position was so serious that the members of the Labour Party want to divert attention from the better position now existing.
The honorable member for Bonython, with a great wave of his hand, said that young people should be considered, and that aged people also should have some consideration. Then he went on to commend the work of churches and charitable organizations in providing homes for the aged. But he did not give any credit to the Government for its work in that regard. He gave the Government no credit for making the original £1 for £1 subsidy available - the subsidy has now been increased to £2 for £1 - which made possible the building of many homes for the aged. Fancy a member of long standing in this House saying that something should be done for the aged by this Government when the Labour Government did nothing at all for the aged in the way of providing homes! The Labour Government either never thought of such a scheme as our homes for the aged scheme or, if it thought of it, did not put it into operation. This Government put it into operation originally on a £1 for £1 basis, but after a relatively short time the subsidy was doubled to £2 for £1.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has told me that since the inception of the scheme a total of £14,300,000 has been paid out in subsidies for the building of homes for the aged. A proportion of that amount of £14,800,000 has been matched on a £1 for £1 basis and later on a £1 for £2 basis, by the charitable organizations and churches concerned, so the total expenditure on homes for the aged would be about twice that amount. Yet we have a member of the Opposition attempting to curry favour for his party - I do not think for himself personally - by saying that something ought to be done by this Government for the aged. Only last Sunday, T was at the unveiling of two honour boards at Quambatook in the Mallee electorate to replace two boards, one of which had been destroyed by fire. At that ceremony a district councillor of the Returned Soldiers League paid a tribute for the work that had been done as a result of the Government’s homes for the aged scheme in providing homes for aged ex-servicemen. But such things are not mentioned by Labour.
An honorable member opposite said that he was just giving the cold facts. He could not have given a better definition of the facts during Labour’s term of office, because then aged people were left out in the cold. The present Government has shown great human understanding by introducing the Aged Persons Homes Act, and by administering that legislation so that aged persons have benefited. The whole country is richer as a result of that legislation.
The honorable member for Bonython said that he hoped honorable members would read the statistics that are available. I also hope they do. I have something that I want to read to honorable members. It has been said that the housing programme could be improved. I am very conscious of that, and I am also conscious of the silence of the Labour Party on the subject of unemployment during these last few weeks, although honorable members opposite made unemployment their main topic at the beginning of this session. Why have they forsaken the subject? The simple reason is that the recovery in this country under this Government recently has been amazing. I have looked at the statistics in this respect. People do not read government statistics, but they do read the newspapers, and I should like to quote from the Melbourne “ Sun “ of 10th November, which prints a report under the headline “ Employment Now at Record Level “. The report commences -
Employment in Australia reached a record level at the end of September.
It goes on to say -
Preliminary estimates of employment issued to-day by the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Archer,-
Whom the honorable member for Bonython also mentioned - showed that the number of people in jobs in September was 8,600 more than the previous record in November, 1960 - the peak of the boom.
So employment is back at record levels. That is the point, yet members of the Opposition are all the time trying to divert attention in this debate to some other issue. They talk about the cold facts. The facts that I have read from that newspaper are the warming facts as far as the Australian people are concerned.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that we are debating the Loan (Housing) Bill.
– Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. 1 intend to link this matter up with the employment of men in the housebuilding trade. I am of the opinion that if the Government had increased its housing subsidies by another SO per cent, the only effect would be to make necessary the adoption of restrictive methods to deal with inflation. After all, if we put more money into the housing field the cost of housing would go up. I do not find many people round the country now looking for homes.
My suggestion to the States, which I must put through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that they should allocate as much money as possible for housing in country areas. This would be one of our best weapons and one of our best means to attain the objective of decentralization.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) displayed a remarkable facility for talking about a lot of subjects, but forgot the subject of housing. He confined his remarks to criticism of preceding speakers on this side of the House. But nobody can really blame the honorable member for Mallee for refusing to face the critical housing position to-day. I must disagree with his contention that the first consideration in this country is the defence programme. The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) pointed out, quite correctly in my opinion, that defence is most certainly closely related to the housing position. No successful defence policy would be possible without a housing policy capable of meeting the needs of the Australian people generally.
I criticise the restrictions placed on debate by the Government at this secondreading stage. It is appalling that debate on a bill which is to provide for the raising of loans amounting to £42,900,000 for expenditure by the States on housing should be restricted in the way it is being restricted now. Housing is one of the most important responsibilities of any government in Australia, and we on this side believe that the Government is vulnerable on its policy of housing. That is an opinion not confined to honorable members on this side. I am merely stating the opinion of people with some knowledge of the housing situation, and who are able therefore to speak with authority on it. I refer to people like Professor Copland and Dr. Hall, who have been mentioned by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) on the Government side, and by other honorable members on this side. The statements made by these two authorities were carefully considered statements which show that there is a serious housing situation.
As I said, the bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to £42,900,000 to meet the needs of the State housing authorities.
– Only about £14,000,000 was available in the Labour Government’s last year of office.
– I am prepared to concede that, but the honorable member should consider that in the years when Labour was in office the basic wage was only one-third of what it is to-day. In other words, the cost of housebuilding was not as high as it is. now. Costs have more than trebled. If the honorable member for Mallee is not prepared to accept roy opinion in that respect I refer him to the last annual report of the Director of War Service Homes, in which he will clearly see that costs have more than trebled since the time of the Labour Government. It is obvious that this £45,900,000 would not match the amount of money made available by the Chifley Labour Government prior to the present Government being elected to the treasury bench in 1949. For years we of the Opposition have indicated during the debate on this legislation that insufficient money is being made available to the State governments to meet their housing programmes. I stress, further, that the sum being made available this year is less than that made available during last financial year, disregarding the fact that an additional £7,000,000 was made available earlier in 1962 for housing purposes, principally to take up the slack in employment which had then developed.
The Opposition maintains that the Government has now reached the stage where it should be prepared, because of the shortage of homes in Australia, to take a more responsible attitude towards housing the people. It is now six years since the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was accepted, in 1956, by the Commonwealth and the six States. The States have had six years in which to consider whether the 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has proved successful or not. It should be pointed out that this was not an agreement in the proper sense of the term, but a statement placed before the various State Ministers for Housing, which they had to accept whether they agreed with it or not. That is the position which has obtained since 1956, with the exception of the amendment made in 1961. The 1956 agreement provided that 70 per cent, of the funds then made available under the legislation was to be made available to the State housing authorities, whilst the remaining 30 per cent, was to go to co-operative building societies and other approved lending institutions. The legislation was amended in 1958 to provide that 40 per cent, of the amount made available by the Commonwealth should go to the co-operative building societies. The fact is that although the co-operative building societies now have a greater share of the money made available each year under the 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, fewer homes have been provided by them and other approved lending institutions. The agreement has certainly increased the number of homes in this country and I believe it has made the homes more expensive, but it has not reduced the waiting lists of applicants for homes.
The figures contained in the report of the twenty-fifth annual conference of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies of New South Wales, held in 1962, clearly indicate that home construction through building societies has been reduced rather than increased as a consequence of the increased revenue made available to them under the legislation we are debating. The figures show that, in 1953, 8,667 homes were built through co-operative building societies. By 1958, two years after the agreement had been amended and more money made available to building societies under the 1956 Housing Agreement Act, the number of homes built by co-operative building societies in New South Wales had fallen by almost 5,000 to 3,969. In 1961, 6,150 homes were built by approved societies. That showed a distinct improvement in the position, but in 1962 the number has again fallen to 5,950. This clearly indicates that the fact that building societies now have more funds available to them has in reality not improved the housing situation. The same position applies in regard to loan funds. In 1953 the co-operative building societies in New South Wales had available to them for the purpose of individual loans f 11,730,000. By 1958- again two years after the agreement was ratified - that figure had fallen to £8,772,000, showing a decline in that three-year period of £3,000,000. In 1962 the figure has risen again, in three years, to £12,500,000. In my opinion this clearly indicates that the fact that money has been appropriated for the States for the purpose of building housing commission homes has merely taken money from the co-operative building societies and has not provided them with additional revenue.
The traditional lenders to building societies are no longer lending, certainly not at the same rate, as they were prepared to lend to the building societies prior to the amendment of the act in 1958. Insurance companies now find it much more profitable to invest in investments that will return them a greater rate of interest than the co operative building societies can. I join with other honorable members on this side of the House in pointing out that the number of homes provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is falling because the State housing authorities have not had sufficient money with which to carry out their building programmes. The real test is to consider the reports made available to this Parliament by the various State Ministers for Housing. I will refer to two such reports in order to indicate that the housing commissions in the States, because of lack of funds from the Commonwealth, are not able to meet the demands now made on them for homes. I will quote first from the 23rd report of the State Housing Commission of Victoria, issued in 1961, which is the most recent available to me. It states -
The demand for accommodation - 14,424 applications held at 30th June, 1961, still greatly exceeds the number of dwelling units the Commission can build with its reduced finance. This year 2,217 dwelling units were completed.
With the steadily rising costs aggravated by the recent increase in interest rates, latest rents are ranging from £5 4s. to £6 Ss. which is beyond the means of the Commission applicants.
The report continues -
The demand for the purchase of Commission houses on low deposits continues, 2,728 were sold for the year. Although good work is done by the Co-operative Building Societies and other institutions to meet the requirements of families anxious to purchase their own homes, the Commission stresses that the need of the low income group is not satisfied by these institutions as the deposits required are far beyond the potential of the average low income family in Victoria whose maximum available deposit lies in the £100 to £200 bracket.
That report clearly indicates that there is a lack of finance for State housing authorities. They are not able to satisfy the number of applications being lodged with them each year. The report further stresses the fact that people in the low income bracket are not able to provide the margin of security required by the approved lending institutions. I have indicated during a similar debate in other years that it is almost impossible for any young person to secure through the Commonwealth Bank, the private banks or the various co-operative building institutions the finance necessary to purchase a home. The Commonwealth Bank to-day will advance up to £2,500 for a weatherboard home or £2,750 for a brick home.
But any one who cares to study the latest report of the Director of War Service Homes will see that the average cost of a home to-day is close to £4,000. That means that a person who wishes to build a brick home must have a deposit of approximately £1,300. Quite naturally, people who want to build such a home must turn to State housing authorities for assistance.
The only way that the shortage of homes can be overcome is for the Government to make more money available for housing. No one criticizes the work being done by co-operative building societies and other approved lending institutions. I have said before and I repeat now that they meet a great need in the community and have been able to assist those people who can provide the deposit required by the institutions. But the fact remains that the great majority of potential home builders can provide only a low deposit and obviously there is a great need for the Commonwealth to make more money available to the States to assist them with their housing schemes. The Commonwealth Bank and the private banks also should recognize that the deposit required to-day is beyond the resources of most people on low incomes who are potential home seekers.
When 1 commenced to speak on this subject I said that the time allowed for this debate had been restricted. There are others who also want to speak and therefore I shall confine myself to reiterating what 1 have already said. As I have said in other years, the Commonwealth has refused to adopt a national plan to meet the housing needs of the people. It cannot be denied that the applications received by State housing authorities and co-operative building societies are increasing each year. Obviously, there should be a more realistic approach to the problem of housing. In the pre-war years, the backlag in housing was estimated at 100,000 homes. Despite what was said by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in 1957, I believe the backlag is now in excess of 100,000. That is one of the reasons why Opposition members are so critical of the Government’s approach to this problem. The Government has never been prepared to issue a report on the subject, other than the report issued by the Minister for
National Development in 1957. Honorable members and the public generally must rely on statistics supplied to them by people such as Dr. Hall of the Australian National University and Professor Copland. Normally, the second-reading speech on the Loan (Housing) Bill is one of the shortest speeches made in the House and this debate will be one of the shortest debates on such a bill that I have known.
The Government must face this problem. It has been responsible for fluctuations in the number of homes built each year. In 1957, the Minister for National Development told us that at least 77,000 homes would have to be constructed annually in the succeeding six years if we were to bridge the gap between the number of homes available and the number of homes required. The fact is that only in several years have we exceeded this figure. The number of homes erected each year has fluctuated. A more realistic approach by the Government is needed, if we are to provide homes for those who urgently need them.
The honorable member for Bonython referred to the 1961 census figures provided by the Commonwealth Statistician. They show that throughout the Commonwealth 42,000 people are residing in what are described as sheds and huts. Of these, 19,000 are in New South Wales. Opposition members say at once that these conditions should not be tolerated in any enlightened community. The Government has a very grave responsibility in the field of housing. It said in 1949 that one of its principal objectives would be to ensure that the people were adequately housed. That promise was made in 1949, but it is much more difficult to-day than it was in 1949 for a young man to acquire the deposit on a home that is required by lending bodies. Housing should be made available at a reasonable rate of interest to those who need it, and the Government should do everything it can to enable this to be done.
.- This Government undoubtedly represents the reactionary forces of this country. It stands condemned for its official decision this afternoon to curtail this debate to one of the shortest periods we have known for such a debate - that is, five and a quarter hours. Our Whip informs me, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has said, that no debate of this kind has been so curtailed previously. We are dealing with probably the second greatest problem in human relations in Australia. Despite what was said by an interloper from the Australian Country Party earlier this afternoon, the two most important problems with which the Australian people are concerned to-day are unemployment and housing. They are interrelated and the solution of one depends substantially on the activity in the other.
In its legislative enactments, the Government has shown an absolute disregard for the interests of the mass of the Australian people. This has been shown in all the actions taken by the Government since its narrow, fluke win at the last election. This bill does not make any change in the destructive, bogged down conditions that have pervaded the housing industry and the provision of finance for homes since the Menzies Government came into power. Not since the Chifley housing agreement of 1 945 have we had adequate Commonwealth legislation to deal with this national problem. Some 80,000 people to-day are more or less officially listed as being unemployed, but that number would have to be doubled to give a true representation of the picture. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is cock-a-hoop about the decrease in the number of unemployed. I personally am pleased that the number has decreased, and we of the Australian Labour Party hope that under our control there will be a complete elimination of unemployment. We will not have a pool of 60,000 unemployed, which the Government calls full employment, but we will reduce the number of unemployed to the absolute minimum.
The construction of homes is not keeping pace with the needs of the community. An important ingredient in our increasing population is immigration, and I am pleased that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) is with us to-day. The pressure put upon Opposition members by the curtailment of the debate means that we cannot develop our arguments as logically as we would in a half-hour speech.
My electorate contains probably the largest high-density group of immigrants in Australia, and I can say that many of these people are leaving the Cunningham electorate, which includes the steelproducing district of Wollongong and Port Kembla, in great numbers, basically because they are dissatisfied with this Government’s refusal to make a reasonable effort to help them to obtain homes. We have three large immigrant hostels in the district, containing great numbers of immigrant families, many of which have reared two, three and even four children while living in those hostels.
This is something that was never envisaged by the Labour Government when the great immigration scheme was inaugurated. We looked on hostels as being staging camps, places where immigrants would stay overnight, as it were. We believed that hostels should be provided only as temporary accommodation until the immigrants gravitated into the general community. But that gravitation is not taking place, and immigrants are going back to their homelands because they are dissatisfied with housing conditions in Australia. There .is work for most of them, and the other conditions of life in this country appeal to them, but they cannot accept this Government’s tyrannical housing policy, as a result of which they must either remain in hostels or else assume a colossal burden of debt, which they can repay only by slaving for the rest of their lives. In the Wollongong district you cannot buy an ordinary home for less than about £6,000. You cannot buy a block of land for less than about £1,000, and you cannot get money from lending institutions to enable you to buy a block of land or a house. Any worker with a bank balance of £1,000 who tried to-morrow morning to get financial accommodation to buy a new home would find it impossible to do so.
One result of the Government’s housing policy is to be seen in widespread overcrowding and sub-standard housing conditions. The Minister has told us of the numbers of immigrants who have left the various hostels, but he did not tell us that many of them have exchanged their hostel accommodation for overcrowded and substandard conditions elsewhere. I know of cases in which beds are never cold. With shift-workers living in overcrowded conditions, one finds that when a person leaves his bed another will take it over. I know of cases of whole families living in one room. We have numbers of caravan parks which are continually choked with caravans and tents, 95 per cent, of the inhabitants of which are not holiday makers but workers in industry. They are both new and old Australians who are desperately anxious to solve the housing problems but find themselves unable to do so.
This Government’s housing policy has throttled the development not only of my own district but also of practically every other part of Australia. Everywhere there is a keen demand for homes. To-day there are great numbers of young married couples seeking to embark upon family life who cannot obtain homes to enable them to do so. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has spoken of the difficulties of building societies, which this party strongly supports. The proportion of available funds allocated to building societies has been reduced, and these societies find themselves unable to cope with the demand for finance. They have lists of applicants running into thousands. The New South Wales Housing Commission has about 40,000 approved applicants on its waiting list. Yet this Government says the position is satisfactory and that the Parliament should not waste its time debating the matter. This shows a callous attitude and shows the way in which this reactionary government is directing the people and the country. I contend that when you deny other people finance for homes you are directing them in many different ways. You are directing them in the field of employment; you are directing whether they will be able to rear families; you are intruding into the innermost sanctum of family life and you are striking at everything that is decent in the community.
I contrast the Government’s inaction in respect of housing with the situation in time of war. When we went to war we did not have to worry about whether we had the power and the finance to build a factory that was considered necessary. We simply looked for men, materials and know-how, and the job was quickly done. That is the proper approach to the housing problem.
It is a national problem and a dangerous one, and failure to solve it is preventing our development and the growth of our population. The present situation reflects no credit on a government which brings great numbers of immigrants to this country and hands many of them nothing but disillusionment and bitterness. If these immigrants could muster sufficient funds to shift themselves and their families back to their homelands, the exodus would reach frightening proportions. Every member of this Parliament who has a group of immigrants in his electorate knows the difficulties faced by these people.
The Chifley Labour Government, in the housing agreement that it negotiated, produced a proper plan to cover a period of ten years. This Government, however, has reduced the amount of money available over a five-year period, so that the State housing administrations cannot engage in long-term planning. The result is that in New South Wales alone about 800 aged couples have been waiting for homes for many years. About 2,800 single age pensioners are waiting to get their little flats. This is the direct result of reducing the amount of money available to the State housing authorities. The Government has also taken away some of the financial cake by demanding that a percentage of the total amount made available should be used to provide houses for the members of the defence forces. Yet the Government is spending £200,000,000 each year on defence. Chisel a few quid out of that and use it to build homes for members of the forces, and then let the maximum possible amount go to the State housing administrations, which will direct it in the interests of the average wageearner, who is constantly battling, who will never have much money, and who must have the maximum assistance to enable him to provide a home for his family. This Government should examine its conscience, if it has any. I suggest that the answer will eventually be found by the electors of Australia, who will decide to throw it out neck and crop, and to place on the treasury bench a Labour government which will tackle the housing problem on a nationally planned basis in the best interests of our people.
.- Earlier in this debate the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), in his customary brazen and brash fashion, made a statement that cannot be borne out by any facts. He said that rent control in New South Wales had prevented private enterprise from entering the building trade and proceeding to build houses and flats, because rents of the edifices and buildings that might be erected would be controlled by State laws. The honorable member was taken to task by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), one of the most honoured and most honorable members in this House, who obviously was upset because the honorable member for La Trobe had made untrue statements. Then we heard the honorable member for La Trobe, after having said that new buildings are not being erected in New South Wales because of rent control, declaring that he had been misreported. I advise him to take care that he does not alter “Hansard”, which will have a true record of what he said.
Then the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) made one of the most remarkable speeches that he has ever made in this Parliament, because he dealt with everything except housing. Still, he made one remarkable statement. He said, “ I do not find many people round the country looking for homes now “. That remarkable statement is proof that the honorable member for Mallee either closes his eyes as he travels about the country or visits only those areas inhabited by rich graziers and farmers or other wealthy men of this country.
I interpret the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, as I think anybody would, as an agreement to help solve the great housing shortage of this country. If one were to take a beneficent view of this one would feel optimistic enough to think that the purpose of the agreement and the appropriation of funds by the Commonwealth through the Loan Council to the States for housing really meant that this Government was trying desperately to overcome the housing shortage and satisfy the needs of the people of this country. But if one examines the situation one finds that that does not apply at all, because during the year 1961-62 the applications lodged throughout the States of Australia with the housing authorities only, that is, housing trusts and housing commissions, totalled 47,022. In New South Wales in that period there were 18,192 - more than 300 a week - and in Victoria there were 9,699; in Queensland there were 2,502, in South Australia 8,161, in Western Australia 6,701 and in Tasmania 1,767, making a total of 47,022. At 30th June, 1962, 36,322 applications were outstanding in New South Wales, 13,147 in Victoria, 4,166 in Queensland, 12,000 in South Australia, 7,658 in Western Australia and 1,652 in Tasmania, a total of 74,945. This means that 74,94-5 families in the low income group, because they are the ones who make applications to housing commissions, do not have a home, yet need one desperately and urgently.
Let us look at how the legislation we are discussing at the moment will correct this situation. The money to be made available by the Commonwealth in 1962-63 is less than the expenditure in 1961-62, despite the fact that the amount made available last year was not nearly sufficient to take up any lag. In fact, as I pointed out, the number of outstanding applications grew during that year. In 1960-61 the Commonwealth provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, plus the emergency allocation, £17,000,000 for New South Wales, whereas this year it is providing £15,000,000; last year it provided £13,527,000 for Victoria, but this year it is providing £12,600,000; the £4,200,000 made available to Queensland last year becomes £3,800,000 this year, whereas South Australia received £9,036,000 last year, this year it will get £9,000,000; the amount for Western Australia last year was £3,706,000, but this year it is to be £3,000,000; for Tasmania last year it was £2,978,000, but this year it is to be £2,500,000. Is this Government serious? Does it really mean to take care of the people in Australia who are homeless? Does it really mean to alleviate the situation, or is it prepared to go on year by year reducing the amount made available to the States for housing? Will it reduce the amount again next year? If so, what hope will there be for all those people on low incomes who need houses so desperately and who, year by year, make applications to the housing commissions?
Let us examine the 18,000 applications lodged in New South Wales. Of that number, 17.9 per cent, are from people in receipt of incomes of less than £12 a week; 3.75 per cent, receive an income between £12 and £15 a week; 19.7 receive between £15 and £18 a week; 18.78 per cent, receive between £18 and £20 a week; 26.21 per cent, receive between £20 and £25 a week; and 13.59 per cent, receive £25 a week, or a little more. What chance have the low income earners of getting houses if the housing commissions of the States cannot provide them, and are unable to do so because the Commonwealth Government will not face up to the situation and make available more money in a way that will satisfy the circumstances in which these people find themselves?
In the year 1961-62 the housing commissions of the States completed 11,019 houses. In New South Wales, 4,286 houses were completed; in Victoria the number was 2,400; in Queensland, 1,152; in South Australia, 1,846; in Western Australia, 843; and in Tasmania, 492. Despite the fact that by 30th June, 1962, there were 74,945 applications lodged and pending with the housing commissions, during that year only 11,019 homes were built by the housing commissions or housing trusts, as they are called in some States. That is a most remarkable situation. This Government in providing this money must know full well that not only will it not satisfy the needs for one year, but it cannot possibly take up the lag. Indeed, not only can it not take up the lag, but even with private enterprise and State governments building as many houses as they can with the money provided, the lag will continue to increase.
Despite the number of people in the low income group who are in a hopeless situation and unable to find housing for themselves, the honorable member for Mallee and his colleagues cannot find people in the country who are looking for houses. This Government and its supporters are for ever telling us of Labour’s poor record, but let us look at the situation under a Labour Government in New South Wales. In 1961-62 the New South Wales Housing Commission broke all previous records and completed 4,700 homes and had a further 3,995 under construction. Despite that tremendous effort, the housing shortage in that State is still acute, with about 36,000 families still requiring houses. In 1960-61, despite the disastrous economic policies of the Commonwealth Government, the joint efforts of government and private enterprise in New South Wales established an all-time high in home building by erecting 36,397 units. More than 38 per cent, of total completions throughout the Commonwealth were in New South Wales, although only 33! per cent, of the building workers live within New South Wales. There is still an acute housing shortage in New South Wales as there is all over Australia.
In 1961-62 government and private enterprise in New South Wales completed 32,349 houses and flats, which was 37.5 per cent, of the national completions. But there are still 18,000 applications coming in each year to the Housing Commission alone. In 1961-62 New South Wales built, through its governmental agencies, a total of 12,700 homes, 4,700 of which were built through the Housing Commission, approximately 2,500 were subsidized with funds provided by the Government and the Rural Bank and the balance through co-operative building societies. The New South Wales Government, while charged all the time with not putting in its own funds, provided more than £20,000,000 of its own funds for the building of houses. Yet New South Wales, like other States, is in serious financial difficulty. The 1960-61 annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust shows that during the year 9,099 new applications were received under all schemes - 313 more than in the previous year - but that only 3,314 homes were completed. That is, 6,000 less than the number of applications received. In the two years ended 30th June, 1961, the trust received more than 17,000 applications but completed only 6,488 bornes, leaving an outstanding balance of more than 10,000 applications just for these two years.
In Victoria, the Housing Commission’s applications at June, 1961, were 14,424 and, according to the commission, greatly exceeded the number of houses that the commission could build. In that year the commission built only 2,217 units, while there were 2,300 applications for home units for aged persons. The New South Wales figure for 1961-62 of 32,349 houses and flats completed was more than three times the completion total of South Australia, which was 9,729, and almost equal to the combined totals of the main Liberal States- Victoria, 23,039, and South Australia, 9,729.
The South Australian Housing Trust’s report for 1960-61 said-
The Trust is only too well aware that the position, as regards the availability of reasonable, adequate accommodation for the less fortunate section of the community is far from satisfactory. Applications for rental houses, especially in the metropolitan area, continued to pour in to the Trust’s office and the waiting period for applicants is still quite considerable.
All State governments need more money for housing. The New South Wales allocation for 1962-63 is £15,000,000, which is £2,000,000 less than that for the previous year. The lag is increasing every day. In New South Wales it is increasing at the rate of 300 a week, and in other States it is increasing proportionately. In any case, it will take many years to overtake the shortage, wipe out the slums and provide proper accommodation for people generally, and for aged people in particular. With restricted funds it is quite impossible to do this. If applications continue to be received faster than housing units can be built, what will be the position next year, and the next year, and the next year? The position will become more desperate. The Government is not facing up to this tremendously important problem. Yet the honorable member for Mallee continues to go around the country and find that there are no people in need of houses.
– There were 25,000 approvals in the December quarter.
– Of course there are approvals. Everybody admits that houses are being built. New South Wales has received £15,000,000 for this purpose, and this bill will provide a little more than £40,000,000. But what is the sense of providing insufficient money to do the task? Of course units are being approved. But there were 18,000 applications in New South Wales. In two years, about 9,000 houses have been built. As I have mentioned, the number of applications received exceeded by 10,000 the number of units built. The honorable member for Mallee might think that defence is the important thing because he does not mind people needing houses; but 75,000 families have lodged applications for housing commission homes and have not been able to get them. Now, less money is to be allocated this year than was allocated last year, because members on the Government side are not prepared to face up to this very serious situation.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) 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, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 17th October (vide page 1602), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, on 17th October, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) brought down in this House, and explained to us, a bill designed to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960, as amended by the Tariff Board Act 1962. In discussing this bill, one should point out, I think, that Australia has had a Tariff Board for 41 years, since 1921. Over that period, this instrumentality has served every Commonwealth Government well, I would say. The personnel of the board has produced hundreds upon hundreds of reports over the years, some of them pleasing to manufacturers, some of them, no doubt, pleasing to importers, some of them pleasing to the government of the day and some of them not so pleasing to the government of the day. I think it can be said that, traditionally, the Tariff Board has been looked upon by governments and by the people generally as a completely impartial authority. Indeed, it has become usual to say that the board is an independent and impartial authority. The end result has been that governments, although they have not always accepted the board’s reports, publicly have treated them with respect, regardless of what the same governments may have said about the chairman and members of the board to their faces or behind their backs.
Over the 41 years of the Tariff Board’s existence, the complexion of Australian industry has changed greatly. In the initial stages, I think it would be correct to say, the operations of the board dealt in the main with very small industries indeed - industries employing a mere 200 or 300 men, or even fewer. In those days, an industry employing 200 or 300 men would have been, by Australian standards, a relatively large industrial concern. With the passage of time, there has come a transformation in Australian industry. Enterprises have expanded and vast sums of capital have been invested. There has been a tendency for large industries to swallow smaller industries, and, as the smaller industries have been swallowed, there has developed in our midst a variety of monopolies each of which exclusively controls a whole production unit. So this evolutionary process has gone on. Yet, with the exception of some alterations to the Tariff Board Act made earlier this year and some proposed now, there has not been any really basic change in the charter which the original act gave to the first members appointed to the board.
Perhaps it is natural that, with the passage of the years and the ever-growing complexity of modern industry and the impact of vast international combines and organizations in Europe and in other parts of the world, the problem of protecting Australian industry has become more and more complex and increasingly difficult. It is natural, Mr. Speaker, that, if a government is incompetent and does not know how to tackle a job, the complexities of dealing with these problems become more and more evident and trouble looms up. We note particularly the effect of the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in Australia, especially in 1960, and the impact of this Government’s economic policy on Australian industry. This has been accentuated - we want to be factual and impartial–
– Hear, hear!
– We want to be factual and impartial always. The impact of the Government’s economic policy on Australian industry has been accentuated by substantial falls in the prices received for Australia’s exports. The decline in the prices received for our exports has been so great that, if we take 1953 as the base year and put the index of our terms of trade in that year at 100, the index of our terms of trade at present stands at 66. This means that, compared with the prices paid for our imports, the prices received for our exports are only 66 per cent. of what they were in 1953. Inevitably, Australian industry and those who have any desire to see this country properly developed, and to provide adequate opportunities of employment for our people, are concerned when the protective devices available to a government are not used properly for the prevention of unemployment and the adequate protection of our local industries against being submerged by cheap imports. So long as a government fails to take adequate steps, so long does the crisis continue.
The present situation has been brought to a climax by an event which, in the existing circumstances, has attracted more public and press attention than would otherwise have been the case. Let us have a look at the climax which has been reached with the very recent resignation of Sir Leslie Melville from the position of chairman of the Tariff Board. I do not know why Sir Leslie resigned - whether for purely personal reasons, because of disagreement with the Government’s policy or perhaps because of resentment at being frankly informed by the Minister for Trade - the Minister is a pretty frank gentleman - that in his opinion the board was not giving effect to the Government’s policy. We are left completely in the dark about the reasons for Sir Leslie’s resignation from the board.
– The reason was certainly not the one last suggested by the honorable member.
– Well, why does not the Minister produce the facts? In some respects, a development like the recent one may do some good. I have no doubt that, because of it, members of this House will examine the Tariff Board Act more thoroughly than otherwise would have been the case.
Let us see how the Tariff Board operates. To what extent is it free and independent of government restrictions and instructions, and exactly what are the Minister’s powers? I find, putting the situation briefly, that the board comprises eight members. Under the terms of the principal act, two of those members must be officers of the Commonwealth Public Service at the time of their appointment, and, if the Governor-General - in other words, the Cabinet - so desires, three of those eight members may be men who, at the time of their appointment, were members of the Commonwealth Public Service. According to the discretion of the Minister - the Governor-General is specified in the act but in reality the authority lies with the Minister - the other five may come from various walks of life including primary or secondary industry, academic pursuits, &c. By that method of appointment we get what is considered generally to be a fairly well balanced board.
Then we must ask ourselves what is the charter of this board. If we examine the act we find that apart from the Minister’s right to do certain things in relation to appointments, the granting of leave and a variety of other relatively unimportant matters, he has very little authority of any kind. In fact, in some respects his authority is curtailed substantially. Let us consider what authority he has. First of all, before the board can consider certain matters those matters must be referred to it for inquiry and report. In that respect it is the Minister who determines, on behalf of the Government, whether an Australian industrialist or a captain of industry will get a hearing before the board. The particular matters which the Minister may refer to the board are mentioned in the principal act. Section 15 is in these terms - 15.- (1.) The Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters: -
any question whether a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff, and in particular in regard to his - (i) charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods; or
That is a fairly wide field in which the Tariff Board can operate. Then we have the extraordinary situation that the Minister’s powers are curtailed by the act. As far as I know, that situation has existed since the inception of the act. The final part of section 15 (1.) states that the Minister - shall not take any action in respect of any of those matters until he has received the report of the Board.
Obviously when the Tariff Board has before it a most intricate matter for inquiry and report it may not be able to make up its mind for perhaps twelve months. In those circumstances the industry concerned, in the absence of any power in the Minister who is prohibited from taking any action at that stage, may go to the wall.
In 1960, perhaps because of that limitation on ministerial power, the Government amended the act and provided for the appointment of deputy chairmen. The deputy chairmen were given power to bring down emergency reports and to recommend temporary tariff protection pending full inquiry by the Tariff Board. In March last, when the situation became so critical following the removal of import restrictions, the act was again amended to provide for the appointment of special advisory authorities. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I know, although provision was made for the appointment of more than one Special Advisory Authority, to date only one, Sir Frank Meere, has been appointed. Obviously some action was taken to deal with the situation caused by the limitation placed on the Minister’s powers by the then existing act. However, another rather difficult situation arose. Under the March legislation, when the Special Advisory Authority brings down a recommendation for a temporary duty, which the Minister may impose behind the Parliament’s back, or for a quantitative restriction, there must be a recommendation or a reference to the Tariff Board for full inquiry and report. This has brought about a situation that may have been the reason why Sir Leslie Melville resigned. In the Minister’s own words the Special Advisory Authority is not expected to conduct a detailed examination, but he may recommend, say, a fairly high protective tariff rate or quantitative restriction. When the board inquires and reports the manufacturer concerned, who has jumped to the conclusion that the temporary duty or restriction will remain for a long time, may find to his horror that the Tariff Board has recommended a lower rate of duty than was recommended by the Special Advisory Authority and imposed by the Minister. That position tends to create misunderstandings and difficulties, not only outside but also among members of the Tariff Board.
To make matters worse, when the last amending bill was before the Parliament in March and April members on both sides of the House suggested that the power given to the Special Advisory Authority to impose quantitative restrictions should be given also to the Tariff Board, but the Government would not listen. That is the purpose of the legislation now before us - to give to the Tariff Board the right which should have been given to it six months ago to recommend a quantitative restriction in conjunction with a duty or whatever it may consider necessary.
Out of the crisis largely, though not entirely, of the Government’s own making which followed the removal of import restrictions imposed under the power vested in the Government by the Customs Act, the Government passed all this hurried emergency legislation. To say that all the emergency legislation has done no good would be false. I think possibly that it has saved some people; but if the right thing had been done at the right time and if the Government, instead of doing things bit by bit, had taken the bull by the horns five years ago when it must have realized that trade in the whole civilized world was in a state of flux and had appointed a subcommittee of Cabinet to go thoroughly through the Tariff Board Act, it could have introduced promptly well studied, thoroughly prepared proposals for the amendment of the act.
What is the position now? We have a chaotic situation and suspicion in the mind of the public that the chairman of the Tariff
Board has been done some injustice or has been treated unfairly. It has been even suggested that the traditional independence of the Tariff Board has been breached. A lot of people believe that. I do not know whether that suggestion is correct because I am not in a position to know, but it has been stated in the press that the independence of the Tariff Board has been breached by Government interference. I do not know whether that allegation has been denied.
– I have denied it.
– You have denied it! Let us see how far you denied it. Here is what we get in this House: I asked in a question without notice whether there were any serious differences between the Tariff Board and the Minister, and the Minister said that there were no serious differences. I necessarily put an emphasis on the word “ serious “, but if I had been more wide awake I would have asked whether there were any “ serious or other “ differences between the Tariff Board and the Minister. The Minister replied that there were no serious differences. But there were probably differences.
– I said that the chairman’s ground of complaint was staff, and I have given you the staff figures.
– Interpretations of a “ serious difference “ as against a “ difference “ could vary. What appears to the Minister to be a minor difference may be a serious difference in the minds of the public, the manufacturers, the importers, Sir Leslie Melville and members of this Parliament. The Minister is very cagy about it.
Then we had the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) asking the Minister a question on this matter. He was snubbed. In effect, he was told off in no small way. Then the question is raised as to the accuracy of the “ Hansard “ report of the Minister’s answer to the honorable member for Wakefield - and the blame is put on “Hansard”. It will be very interesting to see, to-morrow, Mr. Speaker, what the words are as reported in “Hansard”. Apparently the Minister afterwards came to the conclusion that he had been unduly severe on the honorable member for Wakefield, and the report that appeared differed from the words actually used.
Then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) asked a question regarding the reason for the resignation of Sir Leslie Melville and the Minister replied that Sir Leslie had not given “ either verbally or in writing” what the Minister would regard as a “ conclusive explanation “. What is the interpretation of the word “ conclusive “? The situation is, apparently, that Sir Leslie Melville gave an explanation, but the Minister says that it was not a conclusive explanation. This House wants to be the judge of what is conclusive.
– Why is it not conclusive?
– Nothing ever concludes here.
– That is right. The Minister says it is not a conclusive explanation, but he does not say that there was no explanation made either in writing or verbally. Then he comes up with the extraordinary offer to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that he is prepared to hand over to the Leader of the Opposition some correspondence that he has from Sir Leslie Melville. Just imagine the leader of any party accepting in confidence a condition which would prevent his revealing to the members of his party or the press or the public the contents of something just because the Minister had said, “ You are the only one who can have this “. What the Government is prepared to give to the Leader of the Opposition in regard to an occurrence affecting a public office every member of this House is entitled to know, and the public are also entitled to know what it is all about. This is a pretty fishy business.
Honorable members opposite are interjecting. I know that they are uncomfortable and a bit mixed up at the moment. If there is any explanation this House is entitled to know what it is. Sir Leslie Melville is a public figure, a man of some qualifications. He has been the chairman of a board which has submitted to the Government many reports that have later come to this Parliament. I have not agreed with some of his reports, but surely when a Minister has said that the Government believes in the independence of the Tariff Board, and then you find something going on that savours of interference or dissatisfaction, and you cannot get to the bottom of it, you are entitled to start asking questions.
In the Senate recently a senator directed a question regarding this matter to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who represents in that chamber the Minister for Trade. In reply Senator Spooner said-
– I think you are out of order.
– No, I have it in print here. Senator Spooner replied - .
I should have thought that Senator Wright would need no assurance from me or any other Minister about the Government’s desire-
It is only a desire, you see - to maintain the independence of the Tariff Board. Unless we can look to an independent authority to give us answers to these great questions that come before us, we shall be in difficulties. To my knowledge, there is no substance in the allegations that there has been a difference between the Minister for Trade and the Tariff Board and that there is an attempt to undermine the independence of the board.
So there was a Minister of this Government saying that there has been no attempt to undermine the traditional independence of the board. But the strangest thing of all - and this follows the introduction of this bill and will not be very palatable to honorable members opposite who are interjecting - is that although we are told by a Minister of this Government that there is no interference with the independence of the board, if you look at the last page of the Minister’s second-reading speech delivered on 17th October you will find the following statement: -
The Tariff Board, for its part, has a vital and important role in advising the Government in this direction.
Along the lines that he had designated -
Obviously the board in effectively carrying out its advisory duties must keep within its sights the objectives of Government policy . . .
You know what you do when you keep a thing in your sights. You shoot it down. You have a good look at it and make sure you have drawn a bead on it. I shall repeat that sentence -
Obviously the board in effectively carrying out its advisory duties must keep within its sights the objectives of Government policy - the objectives I have outlined in my remarks to-day and as given in Government statements from time to time.
What a nice state of affairs! In effect, the Minister says in his speech that this board, this authority which his own representative in the Senate says has a traditional independence and has not been interfered with, must keep Government policy within its sights. Then we have the statements that the Minister makes from time to time on the same matter. What all that means is this: For the first time in history we have a Government that has said in a public statement in this Parliament that the Tariff Board has to keep within its sights the objectives of Government policy and, in effect, give effect to them. We have this extraordinary situation now: The moment the Labour Party comes to office it will have had this precedent set for it. If we see fit, when we are in government, we can say: “ The Tariff Board must keep within its sights Labour’s traditional policy in regard to protection of Australian industry “. Do not worry. We will do it. If it is good for you it is good for us. Undoubtedly the situation has arisen where the charter of the Tariff Board as laid down in the act is affected. The Minister, as everybody knows, makes many public statements, and it appears that the objectives of Government policy mentioned in these statements must be kept in the Tariff Board’s sights. The public statements made by the Labour Party, the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party in this Parliament are entirely different from one another. So there will be various policies, and the traditional charter of freedom of the Tariff Board apparently goes by the board.
Let us look at another side of the problem. Honorable members will see what, as a result of the neglect and ineptitude of the Government, has happened in relation to an authority that has always given reasonable satisfaction to every government prior to this one. Here is the shocking state of affairs that may be behind Sir Leslie Melville’s resignation. The Tariff Board’s report for 1960-61, referring to the legislation to which effect was given during the year said -
Briefly, the legislation provides for -
tariff changes to be effected by notice in the “ Gazette “ when Parliament is not in session;
the imposition of temporary duties follow ing inquiry and report by a Deputy Chairman of the Tariff Board-
That is, by the board under the amending legislation we are dealing with to-night - to accord interim protection to an industry whilst its case is being considered under the normal Tariff Board machinery;
Then we get to the section dealing with the staff; and perhaps this may be a major cause of the chairman’s resignation. In its annual report for the year 1960-61, the board records its appreciation of the work of the staff in 1960-61. It says-
Following the fire at Blythswood on 30th June, 1960, the staff was accommodated in temporary quarters before moving to the Board’s present offices in I.C.I. House, Melbourne. Working conditions for the staff in the early part of the year were consequently difficult.
The number of Section 17a references received in the second half of the year, together with an increased number of normal references, imposed a strain on the Board’s staff resources. It became apparent that additional staff would be required; but despite the full co-operation of the Public Service Board and the Department of Trade, the staff position had not been alleviated by the end of the year. The work of the Board will continue to be hampered until adequate staff is available.
That was twelve months ago. In this year’s report of the Tariff Board under the heading “ Staff “, appears the following: -
At present the staff of the Board is part of the staff of the Department of Trade. Existing arrangements, particularly as regards the recruitment of staff, have proved cumbersome in practice and there have been delays in the filling of vacancies. The Board considers that, for this and other important reasons, there would be advantages if the Tariff Board staff were a separate establishment.
The position outlined in what I have just read is that obtaining twelve months after the board’s critical staff position was called to the notice of the Government. Surely it was incumbent on the Government in those circumstances to have taken more effective measures to deal with this critical situation. How can the Tariff Board adequately perform its task with limited staff? How could it be a happy board when more than twelve months have elapsed since it brought its staff difficulties to the notice of the Government, but the Government, with all the resources of Australia at its disposal, has not remedied those difficulties?
The board then refers to other important matters. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) the other day asked what those matters were. The board may have been referring to the fact that the act is not very specific in some respects, as far as I can see. The board’s staff, or a large Section of it, is recruited from the Commonwealth Public Service. I have not been able to discover by what means the board recruits all or part of its staff, although it is obvious that a large portion of that staff comes from the Department of Trade. It appears that the department’s supply of staff has dried up. Is there any reason why the Government could not have recruited competent staff from outside the Public Service to deal with the desperate situation with which the board was confronted? That is another source of irritation, in the situation which is implicit in the board’s statement about the desirability of having separate staff arrangements. There may be something in that. I and my party would want to examine that question more closely before being dogmatic about it. But apparently the Tariff Board, as constituted to-day, feels that the situation is most difficult when the key men of its staff come from the Department of Trade, which is responsible in the first place for assisting and recommending to the Minister and discussing with him whether a reference should go to the board. That is a complicated situation to which some study should be given before we say what is right or wrong.
– As you know, that has been the position under all governments for the last 40 years.
– That is so; and I see no reason why the system should not work. If the Tariff Board is being subjected to pressure by the Government, if the words uttered by the Minister in the concluding paragraph of his second-reading speech on 17th October with respect to the board being required to observe government policy are correct, then the board’s statements are true. If all the rumours that are going about in the absence of a satisfactory explanation by the Minister regarding the resignation of Sir Leslie Melville are true, then we have a situation in which the statement made by the Minister in another place is a departure from the truth and we are justified in believing that we are being deceived and that there is interference with the work of the Tariff Board.
To look upon the Tariff Board as a factfinding institution is possibly a very good and satisfactory procedure. The board makes a full and impartial examination of the situation and makes a recommendation to the Government, which it may or may not adopt. Nothing compels the Government to adopt the recommendation of the board. The Government may reject the recommendation and, by the same rule, if it does not like the Tariff Board’s report it may of its own volition say, for instance, “ We do not like a 10 per cent, ad valorem duty. It is not enough. Without any further reference to the board we will add another 5 per cent.” The Government may do that, but it should not coerce the board under its existing charter. It would be wrong to do so. If the Government wants a board which will give a recommendation along a particular policy line which may vary from day to day or from month to month - just as the policy line of the Australian Labour Party may vary from conference to conference - it should put in the legislation some instruction that the board shall make a recommendation along the lines of government policy as enunciated, from time to time. Do not be hypocritical about it or create discontent in the minds of members of the Tariff Board or of the manufacturers or the public.
If an importer feels you are interfering with the Tariff Board he thinks you are crook; and if a manufacturer thinks you are interfering with the board in seeking a free trade policy, he thinks you are crook. The only redeeming feature from the Government’s point of view is when the board brings down high protection recommendations. We know the Minister is a member of a free trade party. If the Government is able to say, “ This is a very strong recommendation from the Tariff Board for an increase in duty on weedicides and insecticides”, it can appease the gentlemen in the corner. But if the board, as is rumoured now, is in the habit of not recommending high duties, the Government has no defence against the men in the corner who put it where it is.
The time at my disposal is not sufficient to enable me to go into all the aspects of the bill. It makes the following general alterations: It vests power in the Tariff Board to recommend quantitative restrictions or a combination of duties and quantitative restrictions. It abolishes the position which previously obtained, where deputy chairmen could be set aside to report. Furthermore, it authorizes the board to break its membership of eight into sections in order to handle its business more expeditiously, no section to exceed more than two in number. There are in the measure a number of consequential amendments. The Opposition will support the bill. We call to the notice of the House and the country that, in the circumstances, these amendments should have been made long ago. We demand that the Government furnish to the Parliament a statement of the facts, there being so much uncertainty in the mind of the public, regarding the resignation of Sir Leslie Melville. The details of the amendments can be dealt with at the committee stage.
.- The development of secondary industry in a country so predominantly devoted to primary production as Australia is has been a story of ups and downs inevitably linked with the degree of protection provided by Government policy and the outlook of the Tariff Board. In the last few years particularly, tariff making has become a complex task as manufacturing industry has extended its activities wider and wider. I can recall what were to me very bitter experiences of the Scullin tariffs at the beginning of the ‘thirties when we saw the first real application of government policy to tariff-making. Deliberately the government of the day set out to allow infant Austraiian industries to enjoy the lion’s share of the local market. Imports and importers were just pushed aside so that Australian factories could give employment to Australian workers. Having been engaged in importing at that time, I well remember the reaction of importing and grazing interests, and the same pressures are apparent now.
We have to thank that tariff policy for providing the solid foundation of many of our large industrial concerns to-day. Factories that play a major role in the Australian economy, giving employment on the grand scale, providing a wide range of consumer goods and now reaching out to export markets, owe their initial kick along to the encouragement they received from the tariff policy of that time. The war years were the making of many of our factories and, of course, a large number of new enterprises were established to fill defence requirements.
Since the war, a major feature of our economy has been the development of Australian manufacturing industry and the establishment of hundreds of first-class factories. Some of them are the off-shoots of world famous organizations, and many others operate under licence or by arrangement with world leaders. They have made a major contribution to the vigorous rise in our gross national product and have been the main factor in making a policy of full employment possible.
There is no doubt that a very large number of these factories were enticed to Australia. They were induced to come here either under the umbrella of import licensing or because they would otherwise have been shut out from this market by import licensing. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt of the tremendous benefit that the development of a strong manufacturing sector has been. Are we to abandon these industries now by making it easy for competitors who were not so enterprising to beat them in the markets we held out to them? I am sure that nobody wants that.
If we are to maintain our migration programme and absorb newcomers and schoolleavers into employment, a strong and healthy manufacturing sector is essential. It should be the purpose of any government to shape its policies towards this end; to create the sort of climate that will give worth-while industries a sufficiently large portion of the home market to let them keep unit costs down to a minimum - not merely to hold prices at a level which the Australian consumer is able to pay, but to give the hope of allowing some portion of output to be sold in export markets. Because this Government has been doing just that, it has been necessary to introduce adjustments to tariff-making procedures in the past year or two.
The first step was to try to adapt the rigid processes of the Tariff Board, with its longdrawnout and painstaking inquiries, to the speed with which changes can occur in modern merchandizing. By enabling a deputy chairman to make temporary arrangements for tariff protection against a rapid increase in imports, it was hoped that serious damage to specific industries would be averted. It became apparent that this was not a flexible enough arrangement and it slowed down the regular inquiries in which the board was engaged. So a further adjustment was made, providing for the appointment of special advisory authorities to assess quickly the position of industries suffering from the effect of intense competition from overseas manufacturers who were prepared to go to unusual lengths to secure an outlet for their products in this market. There was some outcry at the time and some expression of apprehension, because it was proposed to give the special authority the right to impose quantitative restrictions on imports as one of the means by which he could preserve the marketing capacity, and also the employing capacity, of factories exposed to the pressure of excessive imports, very often at prices written down with government support to levels that would make the capturing of the market certain.
The present bill is a further adjustment to our existing act. It gives the Tariff Board itself authority to provide protection by means of restriction of the importation of goods as well as, or instead of, the normal practice of imposing a duty. Import restriction of this nature is practised by some of the most industrialized countries in the world, such as the United States of America, France, West Germany and Italy. It will be one of our problems in future dealings with the European Common Market.
Until quite recently we have been very stodgy in our approach to protection, whereas these industrial countries, as well as Japan and the Communist bloc, continually employ more sophisticated methods that have developed their secondary industries under protective measures that make our efforts look kindergarten. They know that the out-dated technique of tariff protection on its own will not prevent damage by imports. The art of export incentives is most refined and it is not difficult to design techniques that overcome normal tariff protection.
To-day we claim to be - or I should say we aim to be - an important industrial nation as well as a great primary producing nation. We have over 50,000 factories turning out consumer goods that must cover practically the whole range of our normal base requirements. Because there are only 10,500,000 of us and we have to compete with other industrial nations five, ten and twenty times our size, we are under quite a distinct handicap because of the smallness of our home market. We handicap ourselves with a wage level based on the capacity of industry to pay - a capacity made possible only by increasing trading margins and inflating the price of local products. We choose to put a further burden on ourselves by giving ourselves more leisure, more holidays - fewer working days and so less output - than any other major industrial nation, and indeed we are in the last four or five of all nations in the world. So we have problems peculiar to ourselves in tariff making and our factories require special consideration in evolving suitable protection.
With this background in mind, it is very easy to see why so many people have been asking for an inquiry into the tariff and the operations of the Tariff Board, why there is a pressing need for an inquiry into its purposes and the extent to which it should probe into figures in an attempt to make its findings scientifically accurate, the results, in actual practice, becoming simply absurdly pernickety. It is easy to understand why people ask whether it is necessary to spend months and even, sometimes, years seeking information that may be out of date by the time it is obtained, while the industry being examined withers in the winds of competition for lack of a supporting stake. It is easy to see why people ask whether delay may often be more costly than some increase in price that may follow the prompt granting of the encouragement needed. It is easy to see why there are demands for an inquiry, not only into the actual machinery of operation of the board, but also into the principles on which it should offer advice, and on which governments should act in accepting it.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has announced that an inquiry is to be undertaken into the economy as a whole, including such interesting aspects of it as availability of resources, savings, the significance of overseas investment, growth and distribution of industry, primary, secondary and tertiary, and the consequences of this on the work force, import replacement and production for export, and, tagging along last, the effect of customs tariffs on our broad economic objectives. These proposals are vastly interesting, Sir, but I do not believe we have the time to wait for this marathon exercise before bringing our tariff-making procedures into line with modern business practice. Ultimately the report of the committee, which is yet to be appointed - and the members of which, I sincerely hope, will be selected on business experience and ability rather than academic theories - will be of the utmost value. In the meantime there are urgent reasons why a general appraisal of the role of the Tariff Board should be made immediately, and as an urgent task.
The Government has said its intention is that protection shall be effective. In the Minister’s words, “ So long as an industry remains economic and efficient it has an assurance that where necessary it will receive protection”. But for any major industry to remain economic and efficient, it must be allowed to supply the major portion of the base load of local demand. Where industry cannot supply a particular requirement, imports should be freely available. The Government should clearly announce its support of Australian manufacturing industry by enunciating a tariff policy that would permit this. Too often it appears, from Tariff Board recommendations, that the objective is to see that duties are kept down to a level that will make sure that imports can supply the major portion of Australian demand. Because I believe that Australia should make tariff policy one of its main weapons for the improvement of the Australian standard of living, as seems to be done by every other country - and this is certain to be our major worry in dealing with the European Common Market - I suggest that certain changes should be made at the earliest possible moment.
First, the Tariff Board should be transferred to a more appropriate setting as part of the Department of Customs and Excise. The calm atmosphere of a department, concerned only with carrying out decisions and not initiating policy, would suit it much better. It is essential that, whatever the board’s role may be, it should be completely independent in its approach to the inquiries it undertakes, and should be influenced only by government policy, not departmental pressures. I agree with the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that it is right for staff to have the rights and privileges of the Public Service, but clearly staff should not be recruited mainly from, or associated with, officers of the Department of Trade whose contacts with industry are made on an entirely different basis.
Secondly, the board should be enlarged to cope with the complexity of Australian secondary industry, so that in no case should it take more than three or four months for the board to arrive at its conclusions. It is said that delays occur because of the difficulty of obtaining authentic figures from overseas competitors. This is one of the weaknesses of the system that must be overcome. In business to-day the meticulous efforts made to obtain such information are nullified before they get a chance to bear fruit, if competitors really want the business. A small cut in prices can make all the difference between an Australian industry operating satisfactorily, and imported goods capturing the market. Too often we find an import price being reduced by the exact amount of some new duty. In place of the long-drawn-out, painstaking collection of detail, which is then carefully considered, at such intervals as industries find it necessary to request a specific tariff inquiry, the board, which has access to continuing sources of information, through statistical authorities, should maintain a continuing watch on all industries seeking its protection. It should also initiate changes in protection, if warranted.
Thirdly, I suggest that we need an entirely new department of secondary industry, to function along similar lines to those of the Department of Primary Industry, that is, to act for or control every aspect of secondary industry within the bounds of the Australian scene. This would leave the Department of Trade free to do an even better job on a task that it is already doing extremely well, that is, the promotion of Australian interests in all matters affecting both primary and secondary industries in overseas markets. This is a task that will grow even more in importance in the future. It would also leave the Department of Trade free to promote export trade, and to arrange trade agreements covering twoway trade where desirable. That department could be the mouthpiece through which overseas suppliers could seek opportunities for trade. It could also inform the Tariff Board on commodity prices and trends in overseas markets.
Fourthly, the Government should declare a tariff policy. It is time we defined this phrase “ economic and efficient “. Interpretation of it has been a constant bone of contention. The Tariff Board is required to make a judgment on the varying degrees of efficiency inevitable in the many factories that may be covered by one inquiry. It has no standard of efficiency for its own examination of every inquiry. There is often a great deal of difference in the amount of evidence available, as between one commodity and another. Too often results must be dependent on assumptions of what is likely to happen if something else happens. The element of guess mars the exercise of judgment. Instead of relying on a decision whether an industry is “economic and efficient”, without laying down any degree of economy and efficiency, the Government should, through the Department of Trade, say how Australia’s interests would be served by having particular goods manufactured locally or by depending on imports. Whether an industry is worth while must be decided by some one. The Tariff Board has to collect the facts, but this decision, I believe, should be a matter of Government policy.
In making these suggestions I have tried to put forward a practical plan for strengthening the economy and improving our position on the list of trading nations of the world. In agriculture and grazing we have an enormous capacity to expand production, providing we can find markets for our grains, dairy produce, meat and wool. But increased production does not mean any great increase in employment in the primary sector. It does help employment in secondary and tertiary industries, and these in their turn, of course, provide the primary industries with their best markets at home.
In mineral resources we are on the verge of enormous expansion through newly found deposits of iron ore, aluminium, coal and many other minerals. There is indeed a fantastic future in the primary products from the mines to be developed, and they provide growing support for secondary and tertiary industries. They also increase the demand for the heavy type of employment. But if we are to fulfil our destiny and populate this country as it should be populated, if we are to tackle the job of developing our north, for instance, and acting as leader for our Asian neighbours, we must use every means to strengthen our manufacturing industries.
A growing appreciation of the part that only secondary industry can play in absorbing the migrant intake that we must have, and the growing number of school-leavers each year, is required to achieve the national objective so concisely expressed by the Prime Minister recently in the following words: -
A high rate of economic and population growth, with full employment, rising standards of living, external viability, and stability of costs and prices.
If in these costs and prices we pay the wages of foreign workers in foreign factories by importing goods that could, with some encouragement, be made here, we limit our employment opportunities to tertiary industries. It is argued that imports can sometimes be obtained more cheaply than locally produced goods, but rarely are imports offered at these lower prices unless local goods are available.
On balance I believe that the suggestions I have made would increase our status as a trading nation and bring improved standards of living for all sections of the community. Once again I urge the Government, deliberately, to allow Australian industries, no longer infant and enjoying the lion’s share of the local market, the market that is rightfully theirs. The Tariff Board should be the servant of Parliament, not Parliament the servant of the Tariff Board.
.- The right honorable the Minister for Trade (Mr.
McEwen), in introducing this legislation sought to delude the people of Australia and honorable members of this Parliament into the belief that the leopard can change its spots; that he, as the leader of the free trade Country Party, can, as it were, overnight, become the champion of Australian industries and of protection. Every one remembers that it is not so long ago that the Country Party preached the doctrine that there should be allowed into this country, free of duty altogether, all those commodities that were necessary for the primary producer - this meant almost all manufactured goods - in order, so members of that party alleged, that the primary produce of this country could be sold in competition with the products of other countries on the markets of the world. They alleged that the cost structure was inflated as a result of tariffs and duties upon manufactured commodities, and therefore those commodities should be free of duty.
The proposed amendment of the Tariff Board Act now being considered is apparently designed to make the act a more effective instrument for the protection of Australian industry - a weapon that can be operated rapidly in the defence against competition from imports. We are told that the problem is how to prevent goods coming into Australia. It is not so long ago that this Government said the problem was to restrict the manufacture of goods within this country and to prevent the expansion of Australian industries. The Minister for Trade, who is also Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Country Party, in introducing this measure said -
We have had experience of our intention to give tariff protection being systematically countered, and not always by means which could be regarded as entirely ethical. There are circumstances in which tariff protection can be undermined to an extent which can make it an inadequate medium for protection.
It is not entirely new for overseas big businesses to seek to put their commodities upon the Australian market by means that are not altogether ethical, but was this Government adverse to that in the past? I remember the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) getting up in this Parliament, to the plaudits of members on the Opposition side, and stating, “We upon this side of the House are a party of free trade”. That occurred within the last twelve years.
In 1951 another deputy Prime Minister, leader of the Country Party, and Treasurer of Australia, said that there existed in this country inessential industries that had grown up during a period of war, that had secured protection to which they were not entitled, and that were utilizing in this country resources of man-power and material that should be diverted to the use of primary industry or to basic industry. That right honorable gentleman said in his speech on the Budget in 1951 that this Government could use all the powers it had over banking and credit in order to encourage the flow of imports into this country to do the dual service first of reducing prices and seeking to cure inflation and, secondly, relieving the pressure upon goods and materials that were being used in those less essential secondary industries. In his opinion, those materials should have been diverted to primary production or to basic industries. Does any one deny that that was the policy of the Government or that that was the enunciation of the Treasurer and leader of the Country Party of those days? Of course not. That was in 1951.
In 1952, within a short period, the restriction of Australian industry by this Government had been so successful that 100,000 Australians were out of work and Australia’s overseas funds were in danger of being dissipated to such an extent that the Prime Minister of this country declared the nation to be in danger of international insolvency. He then introduced measures designed to restrict or to control the flow of imports into this country. To do this he went outside the tariff machinery of this country. Just as the Treasurer had gone outside the tariff machinery of this country in order to increase the flow of goods within Australia, so the Prime Minister went outside the Australian tariff legislation in order to restrict the flow of goods into this country. He introduced import licensing and savage restrictions on imports into this community in order to redress the evil that his Government had created. Ultimately, the restrictive measures were partially successful.
At that stage this Government was not so firmly convinced of the virtues of tariff protection, or of increasing the powers of the Tariff Board so that it could become an efficient and rapid weapon to defend Australian industries, as to cause it to introduce legislation to do those things. On this side of the House, we pointed out that it took up to two years to determine an application to the Tariff Board and that in that interval the industry that had applied for protection was so damaged that the belated protection given to it did not adequately restore it to its former position. In many cases, such industries had been destroyed beyond all redemption. During the war, industries were promoted in this country by the Labour Government. They were decentralized throughout the length and breadth of the nation. Textile industries, boot factories, light machinery industries, clothing and other industries were diffused throughout the country areas. At Bridgewater, Portland and other places factories were constructed to produce textiles, clothing, rugs, druggets and other manufactured things. During the debacle between 1951 and 1952 not one but dozens of those industries in country towns closed their doors. They have never opened their since.
At that time, had the Government adopted the Labour Party’s policy for the protection of Australian industries, those industries would have been protected. As a result, factories which do not now exist would have continued to grow in strength and magnitude. We would not have been seeking frantically the creation of export industries on the one hand, or of import replacement industries on the other hand. The import replacement industries that we seek now to create are industries which yesterday this Government destroyed. First it destroys them; then it says that we have to replace them. First it says that there are not sufficient imports coming into Australia; then it says that too many imports are coming in. The Government pretends to be making both those statements in the interests of our economy. To-day, it is pretending to the people that it has introduced amendments to the tariff legislation at this late stage in order to re-create the nonessential industries that it destroyed from 1951 onwards, or to create new industries the existence of which was prevented by the goods that the Government induced importers to bring into Australia. The issue that has moved the Government at present is not the issue of protection for Australian industries against importations. This is not a question of free trade as against protection.
Honorable members on this side of the House stand for the protection of Australian industry in order to maintain conditions and pay wages which are greater than those payable overseas, and which have been built up over the years. We believe that Australian industry should not be destroyed or damaged by imports from countries such as Japan, mainland China or Russia - countries with planned economies - or from countries in Europe or elsewhere which produce goods under conditions which do not operate in Australia. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) as well as other honorable members proposed legislation that would make more effective and rapid the operation of our tariff. It was Opposition members who, for the first time in this Parliament, said that we required quantitative restrictions. We suggested the adoption of a course which the Government now proposes to follow. Because of that, we do not oppose this legislation. But we do say that, because of the delay that has occurred, the remedy which was suggested by Labour is now inadequate. Whilst it will prevent conditions from deteriorating as rapidly as they otherwise would have done, it will not reverse the trend and rapidly improve conditions.
Why has the Government introduced these amendments? It has introduced them merely because it is faced with economic difficulty in connexion with our overseas funds and overseas trading. This is a position for which the Government is itself responsible and from which it cannot see a clear-cut method of escape.
– The position is getting worse every month.
– That is so. I put a proposition to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as one of the intelligent members of the Liberal Party. I say that in spite of the fact that I was doubtful for a moment. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has announced that the Government will secure three loans overseas this year - one from London and two from New York. He has said that the securing of those loans will prove that we have the confidence’ of the great financiers of other countries. This morning the Treasurer said, in answer to a question from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn), that the Government was encouraging capital investment to come to this country from overseas to help in our development. Of course the Liberal Party is doing this. Liberal Premiers, Liberal members of this Parliament and members of the Government have gone around the world in order to induce capitalists from other countries to invest their money in Australia. There is no limit to the overseas loans that the Treasurer would secure if he could. Am I right?
– Of course you are right. ‘
– Of course I am right. There is not a word of denial from the Government side of the House. How are we receiving the proceeds of these loans raised in New York - in dollars or in goods? How are we receiving the proceeds of the loans raised in London - in £1 notes or in goods? How is the overseas capital invested in this country coming to Australia - in money or in goods? All this must come in goods. During the last quarter, we have had a deficit on overseas account of more than £95,000,000. We have received in goods - in goods, mark you - £95,000,000 worth more than we have exported. We have raised £12,000,000 of loan money overseas and £83,000,000 of investment capital has come into this country during the last quarter. This information appears in the financial statements issued by the Treasury just the other day. In three months, £95,000,000 has come into this country from overseas in the form of goods, financed by investment capital and by loans raised overseas. It should be obvious, then, that, if the Government seeks loans overseas wherever it can raise them and investment capital from overseas wherever obtainable, our tariffs will be impotent to keep goods out of this country.
Not long ago, the Government raised in Holland a loan of 40,000,000 guilders, or about £4,000,000 Australian. As a result, about £4,000,000 worth of packaged peas came to this country from Holland. Not long ago, this Government raised a loan in
Switzerland. Everybody knows that the proceeds of that loan came to this country in the form of-
– Not only cheese, but manufactured brummagem jewellery and, perhaps, even some jewellery that was not brummagem. The proceeds of overseas loans come to this country in the form of goods of all descriptions. This Government, having encouraged by raising loans and seeking investment capital abroad a flood of these goods on to the Australian market, now has the audacity to claim that it is now worried about our industries and that it will protect them by tariffs. We need more than tariffs to protect Australian industries. I have pointed out before, and I point out again, what is happening. The Myer Emporium Limited, in Melbourne, recently declared a dividend of 16J per cent., after making a profit of more than 33 per cent. David Jones Limited recently declared a dividend of 12£ per cent., which was covered more than twice by its profits. How have these high profits been made? They have been made by the sale of goods from overseas, such as ties, manufactured clothing of all kinds, foodstuffs such as canned chickens and fruits-
– Cosmetics and goods of many other kinds. But let us mark this, for this is where the unethical element appears: The Australian manufactured article could probably sell as cheaply as can an article manufactured in Japan, England or Italy, but there is a bigger margin of profit on the imported goods than on those made in Australia. Naturally, no man will be so much an infidel as not to believe in what makes for his own profit, and imported goods are pushed for sale and goods manufactured in Australian factories by Australian workmen are kept under the counter. The output of goods made in Australian factories by Australian workmen could be increased, because there is hardly a manufacturing industry in this country that has not idle productive capacity to-day. That excess capacity would enable us to produce a vast additional volume of goods. But producing those goods is of no use if they cannot be sold, and they cannot be sold because goods imported from overseas give a margin of profit of 25, 30 or 50 per cent., compared with a margin of 10 or 12 per cent, on goods made in Australia. Because of the high margin of profit on imported goods, those goods are pushed by the retailers and the wholesalers to the disadvantage of Australian products. This Government could prevent the retailers of this country from making immense profits while they destroy Australian industries. But it just will not act. Instead, it produces a measure of this kind, allegedly to protect Australia’s industries.
In 1953, 1958, in 1960 and twice in 1962 - this being the second occasion this year - the present Government has tinkered at the Tariff Board. The Government is content to tinker at the board, but it cannot radically alter the Australian economy merely by interfering with the board. A lot more is needed. The Government should have done earlier some of the things that it now proposes to do. As I have pointed out, if these things had been done earlier, they would have been of much greater advantage than they will be now. All that the things now being done will do, as I have already said, is to prevent the situation from getting worse as rapidly as it otherwise would have done.
The Government is on the horns of a dilemma. It can reduce unemployment by dissipating our overseas funds and increasing our overseas indebtedness, or it can increase unemployment by safeguarding our overseas funds and reducing our demand for overseas loans and overseas capital. But, unless the Government radically alters other phases of its economic policy, our economy will continually seesaw between unemployment and the dissipation of overseas funds. The Government has either continually to increase our overseas indebtedness or to increase unemployment. No third choice is available unless the Government radically alters the economic policy that it has been pursuing up to date.
The Australian Labour Party, not once, but a dozen times, has advanced the proposition that there ought to be a radical investigation of economic policy and of the effects of the inflow of overseas funds on the Australian economy. The Government has now decided to make an investigation of the economy, just as it has now adopted, in respect of the Tariff Board Act, proposals made by us. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), for at least the last six or seven years to my knowledge, has been advancing the proposals which are now to be given effect to by this latest measure to amend the Tariff Board Act. However, because we have suggested them in the past we support them. But we do not want the people of this country to be deluded into thinking that the Country Party leopard has changed its spots and that it now is a highly protectionist tariff party whereas once it was a free trade party. We do not want the people of this country to be deluded into thinking that the remedies which we said ten or twelve years ago should be applied will be as effective to-day as they would have been then.
– 1 am afraid that I must return this debate to a less passionate plane, and I hope that I can keep it on a more logical one than has the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). At the outset let me say that I declare myself to be an unashamed protectionist in favour of the protection of efficient Australian industries. Therefore, I support this measure. I believe it to be a necessary measure. I ask the House to consider a little of the history which lies behind it. Honorable members will remember that in 1951-52 we had an unexampled trade deficit on current account amounting to about £550,000,000. As a result of that we introduced, as we were bound to do, a system of import licensing which remained with us, with some ups and downs and with some modifications, until recent years. Finally we decided to get rid of it. I believe that we got rid of it very largely because the confusion and corruption which were inherent in it became too great a weight for the economy to bear. However, when we got rid of it we unwisely did not put anything in its place and, as a result, our balance of payments started to run adversely again.
Let me state the position broadly and consider first the ten years from 1947 to 1957. If one excepts the single extraordinary year of 1951-52 to which I have referred, during that time our debits and credits on current account came out about even. Sometimes they were favorable; sometimes they were unfavourable. Naturally one expects these things to veer from year to year, but generally speaking we kept our balance of payments within reasonable bounds. But what has happened since 1957? I ask the House to consider the figures. For the year ended June, 1958, we had a deficit of £152,000,000. For the year ended June, 1959, the deficit was £181,000,000, for the year ended June, 1960, it was £224,000,000 and for the year ended June, 1961, it was £369,000,000. Then the November, 1960, measures took their effect. For the year ended June, 1962, we had a deficit of £8,000,000 but for this current year the deficit will run at over £300,000,000. This can be seen quite plainly in the trend of figures over the last five or six months. This is a serious situation. Australia has never had a run of deficits like these at any previous time in its history. The Government has to do something about it.
As I have said, we were unwise in 1958 and 1959 to remove import restrictions without putting anything corresponding to them in their place. I agreed with the Government’s assessment that the system of import licensing was becoming unmanageable and had to go, but I did not agree with the Government’s assessment that the system could be eliminated in a flash. I said so at the time and the Government’s assesment proved to be wrong because we had this deficit of £369,000,000 in 1960-61. The November, 1960, measures were introduced and the Government took the futile course of endeavouring to repress the level of internal activity to redress the deficit in the external balance of payments. This was a wrongful course. I am glad that the Government has realized this and is now back-tracking and going about the matter in a more sensible way.
Those of us who warned the Government at that time of the consequences of its action have received scant credit from the Government, yet we were right and the Government was wrong as is shown by the figures, as is shown by the results and as is shown by what is happening to-day because the fundamental imbalance has not been corrected. The run of deficits which was interrupted temporarily last year reasserted itself as soon as internal prosperity returned and as soon as the stocks that had been built up were dissipated. So the Government is facing up to the reality of the position.
We cannot afford to allow our foreign trade to remain in the kind of imbalance which it has shown since 1958. As I have said before, a deficit in one year or two years does not mean very much, but a run of deficits such as we have had in the past few years and have never had before in Australia’s history means a very great deal. Therefore, the Government, quite rightly, is taking steps to undo its past policy. I am afraid that it may have to go a little further in this direction than it has yet admitted to itself that it will have to go. A deficit of £300,000,000-plus, which will be registered on current account this year shows no short-term prospect of correcting itself. It is true that in years to come oil will redress a part of our import excess because we shall be producing own own oil. Several exports, particularly minerals and partly manufactured minerals, looks like coming good in a few years. But they will not come good in 1962-63 or 1963-64. Something has to be done in the meantime. Hence we have this policy of new protection to which the Government has been converted, and which the Government should perhaps have seen much earlier as a necessity of our economic life. Therefore I support this measure.
Let me say that I think we want to have a look at a few details of it. If honorable members will study the principal act - the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960- they will see that section 15 (1.) reads - 15.- (1.) The Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters: -
any question whether a manufacturer is taking undue ^vantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff, and in particular in regard to his -
This is an excellent provision which has not been activated by any government, Labour or Liberal, to any great extent, and which I hoped would be invoked a little more, particularly since the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has told the House that he intends in the near future to make a statement in regard to restrictive trade practices. Section 17 of the original act provides as follows: -
The Board may on its own initiative inquire into and report on any of the matters referred to in sub-section (2.) of section fifteen of this Act.
I am therefore considering whether it might not be a good thing, while this bill is before us, to remove from section 17 of the principal act those few words, “sub-section (2.) of”, so that the board will be able to act on its own initiative in respect of overcharging in the way I have referred to. I say that because one of the things you have to possess concurrently with a policy of high protection is some protection for tie consumer. I am all for a policy of high protection, giving to Australian industry the power to use its resources to the full and to produce high employment. It seems to me - the Attorney-General has already said in this House that it appeals to him in the same way - that the functions given to the Tariff Board under paragraph (h) of sub-section (1.) of section 15 might be more generally availed of. That is one matter.
The other matter which worries me in regard to quantitative restrictions is: Who gets the licences? If you are going to have quantitative restrictions, you must say that licences to import will be given to Mr. A, Mr. B, Mr. C or Company D. This is, in the nature of things, unavoidable. In the past the system of import licensing broke down because of the confusion and corruption that were inherent in the giving of monetary advantages by administrative action.
– Did your Government allow that?
– This is something that applies to both sides of politics, so do not kid yourself on that. It seems to me it would be a good thing to put into this act a section to say that when quantitative restrictions are in operation the details of any import licences granted shall be published in the “ Gazette “ so that we would know exactly where and to whom these licences were going. This would, I think, remove one of the inherent difficulties which proved a stumbling block in the previous system of import licensing and caused that system to break down and, very properly, to be rejected by the Government.
These are two minor matters. May I now mention one major matter? I am by no means certain that we could not alleviate - not remove, but alleviate - the pressure of imports by raising significantly the exchange rate, and quickly. To raise the exchange rate discourages imports. It also has the effect of encouraging exports, so you reach a balance from either side. You do not do all the adjusting on one side. I do not for one moment think that even if and when you raised the exchange rate you would be able to do without tariffs. I agree with the view of the Government that some kind of emergency tariff power which can be operated quickly and effectively is necessary. But I believe you would reduce significantly the number of occasions on which you would have to invoke this power if you did something quick and substantial in regard to the exchange rate. It is no good raising the exchange rate by a few points. That is futile. It is as futile as trying to turn a mob of sheep by following them, because the closer you come to the sheep the more they move ahead of you. If you raise the exchange rate by a few points - from, say, 125 to 127 on London - all that happens is a necessity to move the rate further, because the mob of sheep, so to speak, runs further and further in front of you and you never reach stability. If you are going to touch the exchange rate at all you must move it drastically in the first move and then come back against the pressure. You must get in front of the mob of sheep and turn it. That means that your first correction must be an over-correction, and then you come back against the pressure.
This is a sensible and a reasonable thing to do. I am not suggesting that even if you did this thing you could do without tariffs. I believe that tariffs are very necessary and that the Government must have power, in the interests of the overall economy and in the interests of full employment, to act suddenly and as an emergency measure. But the problem has to be looked at as a whole. It has to be looked at from the larger point of view. It sometimes seems to me that the Government is failing to look at it from the larger point of view, is failing to see the problem as a whole and is driven, therefore, into changes of course from time to time. However well you judge events you still need to keep in hand the power to make minor adjustments and changes of course. We need a better overall view of the position. If we have that we can keep these minor emergency adjustments within reasonable bounds, and the operation of this and the other parts of the tariff legislation will be less arbitrary and less productive of economic disturbance.
.- I do not propose to argue with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) the pros and cons of variations in exchange rates, whether free or otherwise. I think one would need the whole time allowed in this debate to consider fully a problem such as that. Suffice it, on that question, to say I believe that if the exchange rate today were to be varied by way of depreciation as the honorable member mentioned we could have a position which would create a lot of disruption in our economy and affect exports along the lines which the honorable member mentioned but would not necessarily overcome any balance of payment problems which might exist. But that is a broader question. I was rather surprised at the honorable member’s admission that under this Government which he supports there have been irregularities in the administration of import licences. Any qualified person with a knowledge of this problem will advise the honorable member that any irregularities that might have existed could easily have been clarified and overcome by efficient administration.
I am also surprised that the honorable member agrees with large elements of Labour policy regarding the protection of Australian industry. The honorable member says he agreed, at that time, with the criticism voiced by Labour in February, 1960, when the Government decided no longer to limit imports by quantitative restrictions. As he agreed with Labour policy at that time, I find it hard to understand how he can in conscience refuse to cross the floor of the House and vote with
Labour on matters such as this. I find it impossible to understand how a man on the Government side of the House can advocate policies which are being advocated by this side of the House and then vote the opposite way on them. To-day there is a great deal of division in the Government’s forces. On the one hand members of the Country Party are violently opposed to any form of protection for Australian industry unless it involves protection against imports of a rural nature. Among members of the Liberal Party there is a complete division between protectionists, free traders and those trying to sit on the fence. We have, for example, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), who is a very strong free trader. Then we have the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who, being a Country Party member, tries carefully to balance on the fence between Country Party free trading and his own conscience when he realizes that there must be protection for Australian industry. Then we have the Labour Party which has consistently advocated the protection of Australian industry and the maintenance of our overseas reserves. That is Labour’s history in this regard. We, on this side of the House, have a long history and tradition behind us and are united on this policy. The Opposition is the only party in this House which is united on this question. We can go back to the days of federation, when we advocated the protection of Australian industry. We realize and are fully aware of the vital necessity, if we are to become an industrial arsenal on the edge of Asia, for Australian industry to be nurtured and looked after so that, finally, some industries which may not be fully effective early in their existence may become stronger and ultimately help us achieve our destiny as a fully industrialized nation.
We should consider also the question of Sir Leslie Melville’s resignation. I do not think anybody in the House will deny that he is a man of great personal integrity. I do not think many would disagree that he is a man whose policies tend towards the support of free trade as against protection.
– Who gave him his knighthood? ‘-
- His knighthood, of course, came from the Government. It is important for us to remember - this is the principle which is at stake - that Sir Leslie Melville believes that when experts are appointed by the Government to make inquiries into the tariff and the necessity or otherwise for protection to industry, they should be allowed to bring in recommendations which are in accord with what they believe to be correct and in accordance with their conscience and should not be subject to pressure by the Ministry to bring in recommendations in which they do not believe but which the Ministry may want to rubber-stamp. The other vital principle involved here is that the final decision on any such questions must rest with the Parliament. It is the responsibility of the Parliament to make a determination on the question of protection, the limitation of imports or any other matter of that nature.
– That means the Government.
– That is so; it rests with the Parliament. The Labour Party supports this legislation, because it goes a little of the way towards the achievement of Labour policy. But we make the point very clearly that we believe effective protection of Australian industries and of our reserves can only be finally achieved by quantitative import restrictions. Tariff provision does not necessarily overcome the problem. There could be a situation in which a duty is placed on an article and shipping freights from the exporting country are immediately reduced in order to enable the product to compete against the Australian product. We could have a situation where imports into Australia could be subsidized by the exporting country, once again shortcircuiting the duties imposed by the Australian Government. That is the basic reason why we say that the only effective and long-term method by which this problem can be overcome is by means of quantitative import restrictions.
We have a good example in my own electorate in respect of citrus fruit of the need for this type of restriction. I will read out the text of a telegram recently sent to the Minister by the Arcadian Galston branch of the Agricultural Bureau of New South Wales. It reads -
Statewide conference of citrus growers to-day has expressed deep disappointment at the absence of recognition of Sir Frank Meere and your Government with the continuance of an inadequate tariff on citrus juices and resultant continued intermittent imports seriously prejudices any possibility of stabilized marketing conditions for the Australian citrus growing industry. Further that is considered redundant to suggest the industry re-present its case to the Tariff Board with inevitable delay and requests that your Government itself reviews its adoption of the Tariff Board report of March 1961 rejecting same in the light of subsequent development and immediately applying the tariffs then sought by the citrus growing industry.
This branch of the Agricultural Bureau makes the point that it is almost impossible to stabilize the citrus juice industry from the point of view of the growers because the processors can use the threat of imports to reduce the price paid for fruit and are reducing the quantity processed this season because of the fear of a repetition of last season’s imports. The citrus industry adopts the same policy and the same approach to this problem as does the Australian Labour Party - that is, that the problem can be finally overcome only by the introduction of quantitative restrictions against the import of citrus juices or citrus products.
It is important for us to remember that Labour’s policy on the introduction of quantitative restrictions is based on two points - first, the protection and assistance towards the growth of Australian industry and, secondly, the protection of our balanceofpayments position. We should look back at this stage at the history of the recent Government-created recession. It is now just on two years since the Government deliberately created a recession and largescale unemployment. I think we should look at history to learn how that recession came about. It was in February, 1960, that the Government abolished import restrictions. As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) mentioned to-night, in no time our balance-of -payments position was serious. Reserves were shrinking rapidly and imports were growing rapidly. The Government had then to make a decision as to the action it would take to correct the position. It had to decide whether to admit its mistake of February, 1960, and adopt Labour’s policy on import restrictions or alternatively to adopt the indirect method of trying to limit imports by reducing the demand for imports by the creation of unemployment and by the reduction of the spending power of the public. The Government adopted the blunt and cruel method of reducing the spending power of the public to solve this problem.
It is important for us to remember that little piece of history, because I do not think there is any doubt that there is evidence of a further crisis developing in our balance of payments position in the next twelve months. We should ask ourselves what policies the Government will adopt to meet this position. Only recently the press carried the headline, “Increased Demand for Imports. Fourth Month of Deficit In Overseas Trade.” I think we should examine the growth of our imports. The latest issue of the “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ shows that imports in the September quarter of 1961 were £211,000,000, in the December quarter £195,000,000, in the March quarter a rise to £220,000,000, in the June quarter £233,000,000 and in the September quarter of this year £263,000,000. Our imports have increased from £195,000,000 in the December quarter last year to £263,000,000 in the September quarter of this year. That surely shows that there is a very great danger of a further balance of payments crisis developing in this country.
We should also look at the balance on current account. In the September quarter of 1961, this was down by £18,000,000; in the December quarter it was up by £27,000,000; in the March quarter it was down by £3,000,000 and was then down by £96,000,000 in the September quarter of 1962. So from being £27,000,000 ahead in the December quarter of 1961, we were minus £96,000,000 in the September quarter of 1962.
This has been financed by a complete dependence of the Government on the induction of capital and particularly of private capital. Official transactions and loans and private capital movements have increased from £1,000,000 in the December quarter of 1961 to £95,000,000 in the September quarter of 1962. That is surely an indication that the Government is more and more depending on the induction of capital to meet a serious trade balance deficit. We cannot depend on this in the long term. In the December quarter of 1961, capital increased by only £1,000,000 as compared with £95,000,000 in the latest period. Accordingly, we are depending more and more on this capital which could, through movements overseas or domestically in Australia, be cut off at any particular time.
For this reason, I make the point that the Government is sitting on the edge of a razor on this question of the balance of payments. There is very little doubt that in the next twelve months it will once again have a balance of payments crisis and will then have to make a decision. It will have to decide whether to rely on import controls - that is the only basis on which it can meet the situation, apart from the other policies it previously introduced - and so admit its previous mistakes and agree with Labour’s policy, or whether to use the blunt edge that it used in November, 1960, and introduce another credit squeeze in order to limit imports by reducing the demand for imports. Those are the alternatives. The Government must adopt one of them. There is little doubt that its tariff policy would be virtually useless against the flood of imports.
I believe that the public to-day wants the Government to adopt sound policies. Business people and wage and salary earners alike are fed up with the Government’s switches of policy. To-day they want a stable policy not only for the protection of Australian industry but also to ensure that our overseas reserves are protected in such a way as to obviate a balance of payments crisis with a consequent introduction by the Government of another credit squeeze. We make the point that this can be obviated, and that a stable policy can be introduced, only if the Government is once again prepared to impose quantitative import restrictions, not only to protect Australia’s industries but also to protect our overseas reserves and to prevent a balance-of-payments crisis. That is the only policy that can finally solve the problem.
In conclusion, let me say that I believe the Government is going to have to admit its mistake of February, I960. Obviously, the honorable member for Mackellar has much the same idea in his mind. The sooner the Government is prepared to produce a plan for the future development of Australian industry, and the sooner it is prepared to admit its mistakes of the past and bring down a suitable policy, the sooner will Australian industry grow at a faster rate, and the sooner will economic recovery be brought to this country and our industry protected.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I claim that I have been grossly misrepresented. The honorable member for Mitchell said I was following the policy of the Labour Party enunciated in February, 1960. The opposite is the case. I made my views known - and in this House - long before February, 1960, and Labour adopted the views I had put forward in this chamber.
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. He is now debating the matter.
– I shall refer, in opening, to the speech made by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in introducing the measure now before the House. He said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had announced in February last that a certain series of economic measures would be taken to remedy a position that had developed in this country, and that these measures included certain proposals designed to strengthen and speed up the operation of our machinery for assisting local industry and meeting competition from imports. He went on to say -
Special Advisory Authorities are now provided to advise the Minister for Trade on the need for temporary protection of Australian industries - primary and secondary - against serious damage from import competition, pending review by the Tariff Board of normal protective requirements. . . . The power of the Government to apply quantitative restrictions, as was explained at the time, was not something new.
I have sat here this evening with feelings akin to those I experienced when, as a small boy, I looked up and saw a man whose name was, I think, Blondin, walking a tightrope, and wondered how long it would be before he would fall either to the right or to the left. I have listened with intense interest and a great deal of amusement to my friends of the Opposition giving a series of imitations of Blondin. They have tried to attack the Government by all sorts of means, in an endeavour to create the impression, somehow or other, that the Minister is wrong, that the Government is wrong and that the bill is wrong whilst still maintaining that they will vote for the bill because it is going to protect Australian industry. They do not want to come out in the open and say that they are opposed to protection. They are not quite sure how they can get their message across and, like Blondin, they have been walking the tightrope, airily suspended and always close to an impending crash.
I heard the spokesman for the Opposition, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), tearing a passion to tatters over the resignation of a fine public servant. I know Sir Leslie Melville very well. I have known him for years. I have a great admiration for his ability. The honorable member for Lalor, in his endeavour to avoid the thorny patch into which he might fall if he were not careful, devoted much of his speech to a discussion of the resignation of this gentleman. Then we heard a succession of speakers, one of whom was the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), who traversed a complete circle and finally arrived back at his starting point, still not quite sure whether he had fallen off his tightrope or whether he was still balancing fairly successfully in mid-air.
Let me say to the House at the outset that a government obtains information from various sources and not from any one particular source, and that its decision as to the wisest policy to pursue, having considered all the information available, may cause it to reject, in part or in whole, a particular proposal that is put forward. That is a prerogative and a responsibility of a government, which must, in the final analysis, make the decision. Then the Parliament determines whether the Government has made a wise decision, and later, of course, the people give their verdict. If an authority makes a report - and the Tariff Board has made many reports since I have been in this House - and the Government thinks it wise not to accept that report, that is the Government’s responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Tariff Board, of course, to present a completely impartial and balanced report, based on all the information at its disposal. The national government, which must deal with international matters and give attention to the interplay of forces overseas, the inflow and outflow of capital and so on, may find reason to differ from the report presented by the board. In the present situation, the fact that a senior and very able public servant has resigned and taken up another position is no reason why his name should be continually dragged in the dust, or why the Government or the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) should be accused of some heinous crime that was never committed.
What we are discussing at present is an amendment which will enable this Government to move, with statutory authority, much more quickly, and with greater security in its decisions, than it can under the existing legislation. In a theatre of war, when you are faced with certain economic circumstances, you have to act in a certain, way. In matters affecting trade you must adopt a similar approach because, after all, whether we like it or not we have been engaged in a cold war. This war has been waged ever since the shooting war ended in 1945. At any time during the intervening period the economy of a particuar country may have been under fire. This has been particularly true of Australia, because of its association with many different countries. In circumstances such as have existed in recent years, a country may find that even those it has deemed to be friendly will try to gain some temporary advantage by making a raid on that country’s economy. Your government has to have the means to act swiftly. Consequently, the Government set up the Special Advisory Authority to review quickly claims that Australian industries were suffering to such an extent that unemployment was rising. Surely if anything were to appeal to the Opposition it would be action to enable the Government to prevent unemployment from mounting. It was to avoid this eventuality that provision for the appointing of special advisory authorities was introduced.
I know that some honorable members on my side of the House incline to the view that this action should not have been taken, but I entirely disagree with them. I disagree with them in perfect good humour, but I want to point out to them that I, as a representative of a great country electorate, have had primary producers’ organizations come to mc and ask me, more than once or twice, to put before the Minister a reason why their particular industry should not be jeopardized by the inflow of imports. They have claimed that swift protection was needed. I remember one honorable member on this side of the House producing a piece of chain. I am not sure whether his purpose was to show that tariff protection was hitting the primary producers, but I could have produced pieces of ham, soya beans and quite a number of other things to support the argument that the Government should have power to grant swift protection to certain sections of primary industry. For the same purpose the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) might have produced a bottle of orange juice. But I think those things are beside the point. What we are really considering is the overall policy and the basic philosophy behind it.
Now I will state my own position. I came into politics a confirmed free trader. Subsequently, I supported the Australian Country Party’s view that it would be an excellent thing if we had subsidies to encourage the local manufacturer and to enable him to compete with overseas manufacturers. We all know that, over the years, subsidies have not afforded protection, for the simple reason that overseas exporters will still undercut our price and pour their goods in. Very often, when imported goods hold an established market, it is very hard for Australian manufacturers to break in. So, I became convinced that subsidies were not the answer, although in a limited sphere they might have succeeded. With subsidies only, Australian industries would not have got far.
Then we had the experience of the 1914-18 war, followed by the depression of the 1930’s. What did we find then? We found that Australia, because our secondary industries were not effectively developed beyond a certain point, was fair game. If I remember rightly, I think we owed £520,000,000 in London at about 5 per cent. But although the interest rate was normally 5 per cent., that money was owed at a time when the price of wool was down to 8d. a lb. and wheat was selling at ls. 3d. a bushel, so the effective rate was 15 per cent, or more. The interest on New York borrowings was even higher.
The lesson burned into my consciousness was that Australia would always be vulnerable unless we could have a policy which recognized that the primary and secondary industries were inter-related and that if one sagged the other fell; that if one was not there we paid far too much for what we had to buy overseas. I never again wanted to see Australia placed in that dependent position - a position in which, unfortunately, it appears there is a danger of New Zealand being placed as a result of the Common Market proposals.
I do not wish to talk of my own part, but after discussions with the various leaders of primary producers’ groups and others, I introduced into a Country Party conference a resolution, which was carried unanimously, that we appoint a committee to approach the manufacturers of this country and try to get a reconciliation of interests under a common secretariat to watch the effects of the ebb and flow of the economy on both sections upon the nation. Although that was not achieved, there was a great deal more understanding, and I think there is to-day a very considerable recognition of the fact that, unless the primary industries are properous, the secondary industries begin to feel the impact. Apart from the fact that the primary industries have to pay overwhelmingly for our imports, the money earned in those industries flows out through so many avenues that the benefit to the economy as a whole is far greater than the immediate effect on those engaged in primary production.
I have in my possession a most interesting commentary, dated March, 1962. It is in a review by the Bank of New South Wales, and I think it is worth while quoting. I want to make it clear that, in my opinion, despite the fact that we had a record export income of £1,080,000,000 last year, for which the primary producers were largely responsible, the position of the primary producer in this economy has materially gone down hill as compared with other sectors. This responsible review, which I know was drawn up by first-class economists, said that although some primary producers experienced a brief period of high returns during the Korean war boom, the rural industries as a whole have failed to match the growth and prosperity of other sectors of the Australian economy in the period since 1948-49. The review then goes on to say that, according to the official national estimates, net farm income in 1960-61 was only 40 per cent, larger than it had been twelve years earlier, while the income of wage and salary earners had risen by 240 per cent, and company incomes had increased at a similar rate. I ask honorable members to note that although the farm income was only 40 per cent, higher than in 1948-49, wages and salaries had risen by 240 per cent, and the income of companies had risen by about the same proportion. As a proportion of net national income, farm income has declined from 17 per cent, in 1948-49 to about 8 per cent, in the past four years, which is a decline of more than 50 per cent. Yet these were the industries which produced, as I have said, the overwhelming part of our export income, which rose to £1,080,000,000 last year! I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this places clearly before us a lesson that we should assimilate. We shall be playing with fire if we continue to ignore the impact on the primary producing industries of costs and returns in other sections of the economy. The report continues -
Net farm income in 1960-61 was little more than two-thirds of what H was in 1948-49, despite a 50 per cent, increase in the volume of rural output.
I think those words ought to be repeated again and again. I am sick and tired of hearing people talk about the inefficiency of rural industries. I have seen people in other walks of life who were looked upon as financial wizards go down in some spectacular crashes. It has not been said that this was due to inefficiency. Primary producers have increased their output by 50 per cent., yet there is a downward trend in their returns. If there is any charge that can be laid against the primary producers, I think it is that they have not put up the fight that was put up when I was a younger man. We said then that we were sick and tired of the argument that the payment of lower wages in our industry would enable us to remain solvent. We demanded returns similar to those enjoyed by other industries so that we could pay comparable wages and give comparable conditions to workers on the land. We said that otherwise the only employees we would get would be people who were of no use to other industries. It is time that the primary producers took that line. again and said to the other people in the community, “ We do not object to your getting good wages and conditions but we demand returns which will make it possible for us to give equivalent wages and conditions to those who work in our industry
If there is any failure on the part of the rural community beyond that, it is a failure due to the slide in the returns that they get, despite the extra work that they do. To use the rather graphic words of the report to which I have referred, the farmer is running harder and harder to try to catch up with losses which are growing greater and greater. Those losses are not due to inefficiency. They are due to the loading of the economy against the farmer. When we face up to the real problem we find that the primary industries have been exposed to intense competition in the world’s markets - in many instances from the subsidized exports of other producers. I believe that we may have to come back to the idea that to give high protection to secondary industries and tertiary industries is, in effect, to subsidize those industries. The right way to proceed is not to complain about that but to face up to a fact to which I drew attention in a little booklet in 1955, when I said that the day might come when we would have to subsidize the food which we sell to our own people and pay the primary producer a return which would enable him to be on balance with the rest of the community. By that means we could stabilize wages and living standards. We could maintain a good standard of living with basic foods and, at the same time, give the producer a fair deal. The real trouble to-day is that, in spite of all his efforts, costs and values are running against the farmer. The position cannot be adjusted by free trade. This would just allow our industries to be destroyed. It would show that we had forgotten the lessons of the 1930’s, when we were held for ransom because we did not have highly developed secondary and tertiary industries in this country. We have not yet gone as far as we can go.
There are people who say that we should produce only those things which we can produce economically and that we should let other countries do the rest. The answer to them has been provided by Sir George Stapleton, the great oecologist of Great Britain. He said that it is a futile policy. He said that you will never have a nation of well-developed people unless you have a policy which enables them to exert all their talents in every possible field of human endeavour. I thoroughly agree with that statement. I feel that excessive protection might not be necessary for luxury industries, but I think we would be wrong in trying to curb the natural inventive, experimental and constructive abilities of our people.
I agree wholeheartedly with the measure before the House. I believe it represents a practical recognition of the fact that when you are engaged in war, whether economic cold war or any other form of war, you have to be able to change your tactics quickly, although your all-round strategy may not be altered. One of the ways to enable you to alter your tactics is to provide a means for industries to obtain aid - a means which does not leave them struggling for two years while awaiting a reply from the Tariff Board. It is necessary to speed the process of handling applications for protection by giving a ready assistance when a prima facie case is made out and subsequently letting the Tariff Board review the case and make a final decision. If the European Common Market idea develops, we will need to be able to take swift action. That swift action will be possible with the machinery now proposed. Failure to use such machinery would be equivalent to saying to a drowning man, “ Wait until I fashion this surfboard. That will take about 24 hours, but I will then throw it out to you and you will be able to save yourself.” That does not appeal to me as a means of meeting the economic requirements of the nation. We must be able to think fast and act fast in order to save our people.
There may be theoretical objections to this measure - objections that are invalid to-day and that were invalid years ago - but on the ground of the basic philosophical approach I feel that the Government has done well to bring the measure forward, and I support it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
The year 1960 was the year in which the Commonwealth Government decided to permit the export of iron ore from Australia on a carefully controlled and limited basis that would ensure that iron ore reserves considered essential for Australia’s industrial future were conserved. Since the relaxation of the export policy there has been a tremendous amount of activity in exploration for new deposits and in investigation of existing deposits. This has resulted in the discovery of new reserves and a substantial increase in Australia’s resources of iron ore. As yet, there have been no commercial exports of iron ore made from Australia, although, since 1960, three approvals for the export of iron ore have been granted. Approval has been granted to Western Mining Corporation Limited for the export of 3,600,000 tons from four deposits in the Tallering Peak area, 40 miles north of Mullewa, Western Australia, and 1,300,000 tons from the Koolanooka Hills area, about 12 miles east of Morowa, Western Australia. There have been two approvals for the export of 200,000 tons each from small deposits at Fineflower Creek, near Grafton, New South Wales, and at Kangaroo Hills, near Townsville, Queensland. Furthermore, the Commonwealth Government has indicated to the Western Australian Government that it will favorably consider an application for the export of 15,000,000 tons of iron ore from the Mount Goldsworthy deposit, about 60 miles east of Port Hedland, when such application is made by the companies now investigating the deposit. There have been exports of iron pyrites, but this material should not be regarded as iron ore. In addition, various small sample parcels of iron ore have been exported for metallurgical testing by companies investigating deposits of iron ore in Australia.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
On 12th April, when I placed a question on the notice-paper for the Minister of External Affairs relating to the text of the resolutions concerning West New Guinea against which Australia’s representatives had spoken or voted in the General Assembly or Political Committee of the United Nations, how many copies were available in the National Library’s United Nations Records Section of the documents mentioned in the Minister’s answer on 2nd May, appearing in “Hansard”, on page 1894.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
On 12th April one copy of each of the documents referred to was held in the National Library.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has supplied the following information: -
The by-products of coal extend to more than 200,000 compounds, many of which, however, can also be made from basic materials obtained from other sources. With the exception of those byproducts shown on the attached lists, statistical classifications which form the basis for import statistics do not distinguish coal-derived importations.
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. Australia has bilateral trade agreements with the following countries in what is sometimes referred to as the Afro-Asian grouping: - Japan (6th July, 1957), Malaya (26th August, 1958) and Indonesia (17th December, 1959). As distinct from these bilateral agreements the honorable member will be aware that Australia is also a signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and therefore has a multilateral trade agreement relationship with the following countries: - Burma, Ceylon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Tanganyika, Tunisia and Uganda.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– In answer to the honorable member’s questions I have obtained the following information from the British Phospate Commissioners: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What profits were earned by the (a) Australian private trading banks, and (b) Commonwealth Trading Bank during the last financial year?
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Rates on Commonwealth Properties.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Upon what basis are payments made by the Commonwealth to local government authorities in lieu of fixed rates and services?
h. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Commonwealth, in accordance with its constitutional rights in relation to property used exclusively for Commonwealth purposes, does not pay rates on such property. However, payments are made in respect of any particular services rendered by a rating authority, such as water, sewerage, electricity, sanitary or garbage services, and the construction of roads, footpaths, guttering, &c, adjoining Commonwealth property. In addition, and as an act of grace, local authorities receive payment of the equivalent of rates in respect of certain Commonwealth properties which are not used exclusively for Commonwealth purposes, such as houses used solely for domestic purposes and Commonwealth properties leased to private enterprise.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What has been the annual increase in Australia’s (a) population and (b) work force since 1950?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
American Aircraft in Australia.
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
My colleague, the Minister for Health, has supplied the following answers to parts 2 and 3 of the question.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 November 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19621113_reps_24_hor37/>.