25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay’ took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the House that yesterday I issued the writ in connection with the by-election for the Robertson Division and that the dates fixed were those announced to the House on the 20th instant.
– My question about concessions in respect of telephone charges to country manufacturers is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister, because when I asked a question on this matter recently of the Postmaster-General he replied -
The request for such telephone concessions to promote decentralisation should be addressed to the Minister in charge of the appropriate department and not to me as Postmaster-General.
I now ask the Deputy Prime Minister: In view of his rousing statement about decentralisation, delivered in Goulburn on Friday night, will the right honorable gentleman take up the matter, which he will agree is within the financial and constitutional competence of the Commonwealth, and get us some of the action which speaks much louder than words?
– At the meeting at Goulburn the other evening I was glad to have from the honorable member for EdenMonaro a message of welcome. His question will receive my consideration.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the defence of the Asian, South East Asian and Pacific areas against militant revolutionary Communism. Has the right honorable gentleman’s attention been directed to a doctrine recently propounded by a prominent Opposition spokesman that a new line of containment, conveniently identified as the Cairns line, should form the primary basis of defence arrangements in the Pacific and South East
Asian areas? So that the country may better, appraise the doctrine, will the Prime Minister say whether the Government has any information to indicate whether the Chinese Communist Government has endorsed it?
– I have seen some reference to this proposal so aptly described by the honorable member. We have no information to suggest that the doctrine referred to has been endorsed by the potential enemy, but I will be anxious to hear, of course, whether there is some agreement.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been directed to the recent report of a United States Senate Committee that there is a very definite connection between the anti-social behaviour of juvenile delinquents and television programmes, particularly those which feature brutality. I would like the right honorable gentleman also to keep in mind the recent report of the Australian Senate Select Committee, which was very critical of television standards in Australia. In the interests of the mental health of the community will the right honorable gentleman take positive steps to lift Australian commercial television programmes out of the mire of salaciousness, brutality and banality in which they preponderantly appear to be bogged? In doing this will he provide guarantees of a greater Australian content of programmes, particularly drama on an increasing scale, to foster and develop Australian talent?
– Towards the end of his question, the honorable member put up some proposals about policy. I do not propose to deal with those matters at question time. I have not read the report of this committee in America. I know that there are arguments about the respective qualities of programmes on the national stations and on the commercial stations. I would be a mere humbug if I did not confess that I look at the commercial stations mostly.
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Mr. WHITTORN.- I ask the Minister for National Development whether he has taken any steps to ensure that private enterprise finance is used for production purposes and not for the development of ports, the building of roads, the building of schools, and the like. Is it correct that private enterprise is spending more on development in Western Australia and Queensland, and in the north generally, than the Federal and State Governments combined?
– There does not seem to be any fixed formula as to how much development should be undertaken by private enterprise, and how much should be undertaken by the State and Federal Governments. Most of the development to which the honorable member refers is development undertaken by the States, and they seem to use different formulas. For example, at Weipa, the Queensland Government is undertaking die development of harbour facilities and the wharf whereas in Western Australia private enterprise is asked to undertake such works. This is a matter more for the States than for the Commonwealth, but I would say that both the Commonwealth and the States are expending a considerable amount of money on development projects in the north. In the last two financial years, they have spent some £20 million on the development of such things as beef roads and the Mr Isa railway.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Navy arising out of his answer to a question on notice last week. The honorable gentleman will recall that I asked him whether the guided missiles on Australian destroyers could outrange the guided missiles on the Indonesian types of patrol boats. The honorable gentleman explained that the guided missiles on the Australian destroyers are surface to air missiles and those on the Indonesian patrol boats are surface to surface missiles. May we conclude from this that the trajectory of the surface to air guided missiles cannot be lowered to enable them to be used as surface to surface missiles and that a destroyer would have to defend itself with short range, comparatively light guns against a surface to surface attack, while having to reserve its missiles for surface to air purposes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is: “No”. The two missiles are for two different purposes. I think the honorable member refers to what is called the Komar missile which is said to be in the possession of the Indonesian Navy and which has a surface to surface capacity. The other missile that he mentioned in his earlier question is the Seacat missile which is designed purely for use against attacking aircraft. I think I said in my reply that the Navy was aware of this problem. But my answer did not mean that we are entertaining the idea of trying to adapt the surface to air missile for surface to surface attack.
– Can the Minister for Territories say how many proposals the Department of Territories has at present before the Northern Division of the Department of National Development for consideration in respect of Northern Territory development, and state the nature of the proposals submitted, if any?
– To my knowledge we have made no proposals to the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, but that does not mean that we have not a considerable number of measures under consideration at present.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. How will the recently announced British economic measures affect Australia’s exports to the United Kingdom?
– We are not completely clear on this. It is clear, however, that the proposed surcharge of 15 per cent, will not apply to the overwhelming majority of our exports to the United Kingdom. It has been stated that it will not apply to foodstuffs or raw materials. That lets out our exports of food, lead, zinc, concentrates, wool and so on. What we are not completely clear on yet is whether an item like leather will be in the category of a raw material or a manufactured item, or at what point steel, of which we export a useful quantity to the United Kingdom, might be transferred from the category of a raw material to that of a manufactured item. These are the questions that remain unanswered, and the
Department has taken steps to obtain elucidation. There are a number of manufactured items that we do send to the United Kingdom, for instance about £1 million worth of photographic equipment each year, that would appear to be affected, but we will study the matter closely in an endeavour to obtain any possible alleviation. At least we will want to be able to inform Australian exporters clearly of their position.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. There have been reports that the site for the new space tracking station for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be transferred from Captain’s Flat to another location for economic and political reasons, and that it is politically desirable to have the space tracking units in the Australian Capital Territory. Can the Minister say what these political considerations are and as a result of pressure from whom the transfer is to be made?
– There are already under construction in the Australian Capital Territory two space tracking stations for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. One of them is to work with interplanetary missions and the other with scientific satellites. A mission from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was recently in Australia seeking a site for a third station which will work with the Apollo programme - the man on the moon programme. At no time was the Captain’s Flat site anything but one of several sites being looked at. There are very tight specifications in respect of a tracking station. Such a station needs to be shielded from sources of interference. It should be sited away from roads and air routes, for instance. So it may be said that for technical reasons it is desired to establish the tracking station at some place other than Captain’s Flat. There are also some economic advantages in putting it in the Orroral Valley area where the two existing tracking stations are located. Having regard to the importance of these stations in respect of the moon mission and, perhaps, the safety of the astronauts, the honorable member may rest assurred there will be no political considerations in connection with the location of the station.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Housing. I ask the Minister whether the central administration of the War Service Homes Division, Canberra, has issued a statement concerning the specifications of a material known as cladding which I referred to in this House recently? Do the instructions that have been given to officers of the War Service Homes Division, particularly in Victoria, state that this material is highly inflamable and that there is a real danger that a fire in the immediate vicinity will set fire to the house on which it has been used? Do the instructions state that the organic basis of the material would tend to decay in our climatic conditions; that the malthoid would tend to creep in the hot sun; that the effective life of the product is estimated not to exceed 10 to 12 years at the most; that the material cannot be restored; and that the use of the material in a property will result in the insurance premium being increased by ls. per £100?
– Order! I think the honorable member is making his question far too long.
– I end on this note: Is it a fact that 12 municipalities in the metropolis of Melbourne are refusing to issue permits for the use of this material?
– The honorable member has sought the elucidation of a long, technical, complicated question. I suggest that he put it on the notice paper and I will supply the information requested in due course.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is he aware that the last quinquennial report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund covered the period ended 30th June 1958? In view of the fact that the next report would cover the subsequent five-year period to 30th June 1963. will the Treasurer ensure that no undue delay occurs in bringing down this report so that any review, consequent upon a surplus being disclosed by the report, will result in early adjustment of benefits to the advantage of members?
– My understanding of the position is that following the statutory changes of 1959 the next review was to apply to the period up to the end of June 1964. However, I shall certainly bear in mind the substance of the question and ensure, as far as practicable, that there is no delay in having the report on this later period brought before the House.
– My question is directed lo the Prime Minister. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is aware of the criticism levelled at the Government by Government supporters and members of the Opposition about the deplorable state of Australia’s defences during, the recent debate on the defence estimates? Would he say that this was unjust criticism because he has been proving to the world that Australia has been the leading nation pursuing a policy of disarmament under his administration?
– I compliment the honorable member on a rich and unexpected vein of humour. As I think I indicated to the House last week, we hope - indeed, I am confident - that next week, when the House is in recess, the Cabinet will be busily engaged in examining our defence measures.
– This will be your twelfth or thirteenth defence review.
– That is right; you know all about a Cabinet, you poor, little ignoramus; you talk about what goes on in Cabinet. The Cabinet, without the benefit of advice from this genius in the corner, will be sitting next week to examine-
– It will be-
– If you are not interested in this problem, I do not mind. I was about to say that next week Cabinet will be examining some papers that have been prepared now with close scrutiny, in the Defence Services and in the Department of Defence. I indicated to the Leader of the Opposition, I think last week, that I hope we will be in a position, in terms of decisions on these matters, to make a statement to the House in the week after next.
– Has the Prime Minister recently received numerous representations from members on this side of the House in respect of telephone rentals as they affect certain pensioner groups? If so, has he had an opportunity to consider those representations? If he has, is he in a position to make a statement on the matter?
– On this question of telephone rentals as they concern age, invalid and widow pensioners and blind persons, we have received many representations from honorable members on both sides of the House and I have heard representations in my own party room. The Government has been giving the representations very close consideration. I am, therefore, happy to be able to tell the honorable member and all other honorable members who are interested in this matter, that we propose to make a 33 J per cent, reduction on telephone rentals to pensioners enjoying concession rates for radio and/ or television licences.
– Another election gimmick.
-! would have thought that this would have given even the Leader of the Opposition some pleasure, but he has lost interest. It is very hard to please him. If we do not do something he says: “Ah! This is a good advantage for us “. And if we do it he says: “ Ah! You are crawling to the voters “. So it seems that we just have to deal with the matter on its merits. I am happy to tell those honorable members who are genuinely interested in the position of these people that in the case of age, invalid and widow pensioners and blind persons who enjoy concession rates on radio and/ or television licences, there will be a concession on the new rates of telephone rental of 33i per cent, or one-third. This not only will restore the position that existed before October but also will make a further saving for these people in the direction of telephone connection charges. That will be done forthwith.
In the case of war widows, there are different rules in relation to radio and television licences, but Cabinet has decided that these widows are to become entitled to the telephone rental concession that I have just described. That may require some statutory amendments and some technical arrangements which will be looked at. But the other aspect of the matter can be dealt with forthwith.
– I should like to engage the attention of the Prime Minister on an entirely different matter. I ask him: Is it a fact that a gentleman named Reginald Myles Ansett, who is not entirely unknown to him, visited Canberra last week in order to put to the Government a request that the duty payable on his new aeroplane, the Boeing 727 jet, amounting to £130,000, be remitted? If this is a fact, was the amount of duty remitted? If it was remitted, what is the reason for this additional benefit being given to the much benefited Mr. Ansett?
– The honorable member is well ahead of me because, first, I did not know that Mr. Ansett was here last week; secondly, I had never heard of the problem to which the honorable member has referred. Mr. Ansett would no doubt have taken the matter up with the appropriate Ministers, if he came here. Thirdly, if it is the honorable gentleman’s intention to suggest, as he has very frequently and publicly suggested, that Mr. Ansett is some sort of intimate of mine, I want to tell him that Mr. Ansett is fortunate or unfortunate enough to see me once a year. I understand that he is a much closer personal friend of the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, who will recall that a serious shortage of supplies of superphosphate developed in New South Wales this year necessitating the importation of manufactured superphosphate from other States, at considerable expense and inconvenience to primary producers in New South Wales. I ask: Is the Minister satisfied that effective steps are being taken to ensure adequate supplies of matured superphosphate to New South Wales farmers next year, thereby obviating the necessity for further costly importations from other States which will endanger the availability of sup plies of mature superphosphate to growers in those States?
– Arising out of the bounty that was given by the Government upon superphosphate there was an increased usage throughout Australia. As I mentioned some months ago, and as the honorable member has said, surplus supplies of superphosphate were brought from Western Australia to help out in New South Wales. I am satisfied that the two New South Wales manufacturers are doing everything possible to meet the increased usage for the forthcoming year. I have been advised that they expect to produce 750,000 tons this year as against 600,000 tons last year. There is also a procedure in train whereby Victorian manufacturers will supply the Riverina district. It is expected that they will go even further afield and supply areas of New South Wales additional to the Riverina district, as well as supplying areas in Victoria. The procedure proposed ought to meet the position.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. Because Tasmanian timber exporters have no alternative to shipping timber to the mainland markets and in view of the demand by mainland buyers for timber to be shipped on time and regularly, will the Minister negotiate with the Australian National Line to put on another ship for the Tasmania-mainland run to take up the surplus that cannot be handled by the present shipping services? Will the Minister ask the Australian National Line to appoint someone to assess constantly the Tasmanian timber export position by keeping in touch with the shipper customer, the key person in our timber exports? Is the Minister aware that some Tasmanian consignments of timber urgently needed in South Australia recently have been on the wharf for three weeks waiting for shipping space?
– Both the Australian National Line and the private shipping companies are well aware of the requirements for the shipping of timber from Tasmania. One of the great difficulties that is preventing timber from being lifted is the refusal of the Seamen’s Union of Australia to supply crews for ships.
– I ask the Prime Minister: What action has he taken, or does he intend to take, to settle amicably the dispute between the Commonwealth and the States that has arisen from the decision by his Government to issue licences to intrastate airline operators under the new Commonwealth Air Navigation Regulations? Will the right honorable gentleman honour the undertaking contained in his letter to the Premier of New South Wales to consult the transport authorities of that State respecting intrastate airlines and will he act on the advice received from the sovereign State of New South Wales? Will the Prime Minister give effect to the assurance to East-West Airlines Ltd. that it will be fairly treated under the Commonwealth Government’s regulations and grant the company justice by immediately issuing further licences to it?
– I regret that the honorable member, who usually likes to be accurate in these matters, has fallen into the error of thinking that there has been some breach by me of a statement in my original letter of 6th August that the transport authorities of the States would be consulted. What I stated in the letter, as the honorable member will see if he is good enough to read it again, was that we proposed to promulgate our regulations but that, in putting them into operation - that is to say, before granting or refusing a licence for an intrastate service - we would put ourselves in consultation with the State transport authorities. That is quite right, and if it has not been done I will make it my business to find out why it has not been done, because that was the meaning of my statement. It was a matter, not of our general regulations, but of their particular application to specific actions, or demands or requests by people for services.
In the second place, I want to make it quite clear that, assuming that the Commonwealth regulations are valid - that is a matter that the courts ought to deal with, and we shall facilitate their dealing with it -the purpose of the Commonwealth is not to give preference to one airline over another but to see that there is an equitable allocation of routes within the State.
– That is what I asked the right honorable gentleman to do.
– That is quite right. I will insist on an equitable allocation of routes, the predominant interest being the interest of the people in country centres who depend on these services. I want to make this quite clear, as I have already tried to make it clear in one or two other places. This procedure may mean that one of the two airlines gains or loses a route. I would not know. I have no views on this. All I know is that each of the airlines must have a square deal and must be enabled to carry on a service that will be financially successful, with the assistance of subsidies by the Commonwealth. One is not to be preferred to the other, but the interests of the people in the rural areas are to be preferred to the interests of both the airlines. I believe that I cannot state the matter more plainly or more fairly than that.
As to what has happened since my letter was written I just want to say to the honorable member that I notice that there is a little disposition to say that the Premier of New South Wales suggested a conference of Attorneys-General and that I ignored his letter. I think I ought to make the position clear, in justice to myself. The letter in which the Premier suggested to me a conference of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General was written on 2nd October. On 4th October, before I actually received Mr. Renshaw’s letter, I wrote to him saying that my Attorney-General would be in touch with the New South Wales Attorney-General to discuss the new Commonwealth regulations. On 9th October, my own Attorney-General wrote to the Attorney-General of New South Wales suggesting a meeting of all the AttorneysGeneral to discuss the regulations. In addition, my information is that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth was in personal touch with the Attorney-General of New South Wales on 7tb October. We do not want to argue about irrelevancies. The fact is that the Premier of New South Wales thought it would be a good idea for the Attorneys-General to have a talk. So did I, and so did my Attorney-General. Indeed, I understand that a meeting of that kind has now been arranged. I thought I would like to put the record straight in answer to my friend’s question.
” Mr. TURNBULL. - Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport consider initiating a conference of representatives of the New South Wales and Commonwealth Railways to discuss the building of a rail link between Yass in New South Wales and the National Capital, Canberra? Is the Minister aware that, as Canberra’s popularity as a tourist centre is constantly increasing, such a rail link would be used and appreciated by many Australians and that, with the up to date rail service now operating between Sydney and Melbourne, which by-passes Canberra, such a rail link must form a vital part in our future transport system?
– The honorable gentleman in the second half of his question almost precludes the need for the consideration he seeks in the first half. As he does not commit me to anything, I will be very happy to give the consideration he seeks in the first half of his question.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister as the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. The right honorable gentleman will remember that at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference last July he and the other P,rime Ministers welcomed the decision by the British Government that the existence of sufficiently representative institutions should be a condition of the grant of independence to Southern Rhodesia and expressed the view that an independent conference should be convened which the leaders of all parties in Southern Rhodesia should be free to attend. I ask: How did it come about then that the Australian Trade Commissioner in Salisbury accepted an invitation to attend the meeting which the Rhodesian Government held with African chiefs and head men yesterday and which the British, Canadian and United States representatives, and most other consuls, declined to attend? I ask whether the Prime Minister will ensure that this official does not again make it appear that Australia condones a political system which our closest associates are doing their best to correct?
– I was not aware of the circumstances alleged by the honorable member. The problem in Southern Rhodesia is both delicate and difficult. The honorable member is quite wrong when he says that all the Prime Ministers called on the British Government to have a conference. They did not.
– I said they expressed the view.
– I am sorry. Some of them did. I make no secret of my own belief. The Government of the United Kingdom had this tremendously difficult problem involving people of strong minds. We all agreed that the one government that had the responsibility to deal with this matter was the Government of the United Kingdom, and I took the old fashioned view that it was not for us to give riding instructions to that Government. It is quite true that I would like a conference to be held and that I would like to see a lot of these things happen, but I want to make it clear that I was not in the business of giving instructions. What happened was that the previous Government of the United Kingdom, through Sir Alec Douglas-Home, contacted Mr. Smith, the Premier of Southern Rhodesia. Discussions were held and an arrangement was made, which perhaps was not of great particularity, that he was to ascertain, by appropriate means the views of his own people. Now a dispute has arisen. Indeed, it arose before the election, because the view of the present Government is, as I understand it, identical with the view of the outgoing government. The Prime Minister, Mr. Smith, says: “ This meeting that I have with the chiefs who have been the hereditary spokesmen for their people will be sufficient to enable me to say what the people want”. The other school of thought is that there ought to be a vote on an adult franchise - that this, of course, would provide an African majority of voters, and that this is the only kind of vote that is any good. This is the present state of affairs.
I really do not think it is for us to determine this matter. We have already gone on record as saying at the Prime Ministers’ Conference that we could not recognise a government established by a unilateral declaration of independence on the part of Southern Rhodesia unless there was reason to believe that this represented the view of the people of Rhodesia. I do not recoil from that at all. I was not consulted by the Trade Commissioner. I would have been rather surprised if a trade commissioner had thought that attending some meeting, no doubt as an observer, was a breach of some duty he held to us. What is he there for? He is there to meet people, to know people and to deal with trade, and to impute to him some political tendentious.ness because he attended some meeting of which I have never heard is, I think, pushing the matter much too far.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a declaration by a Brisbane clergyman, Rev. T. Carty, with respect to what purports to be a peace gathering in Sydney, that he had been quite misled in a miserable and contemptible way and that he resented the tactics used by the organisers to obtain his support? Has the honorable gentleman any information which would suggest that the deceit practised on Mr. Carty was exceptional, or is the Ministier’s information such as to show that the deceit is of a nature which is widely employed by the organisers of this gathering?
– I have seen published reports to the effect of what the honorable gentleman stated in the opening to his question. I believe the organisers of the congress in Sydney had in their minds the necessity of giving it an appearance of respectability by obtaining sponsors who were prominent in public life. I should think that the organisers would have made inducements to prominent people to obtain from them their sponsorship. No doubt the nature of the inducement would depend on the particular person from whom it was sought to obtain sponsorship.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to one asked earlier by another honorable member. Will the Prime Minister favorably consider applying to all people of pensionable age who do not receive a pension but whose income does not exceed the amount of pension plus permissible income, the concession which he announced today, of a one-third reduction in telephone rentals which is to be given to pensioners and other social service beneficiaries? I understand that a precedent for such equal justice has already been applied in the taxation laws.
– If the honorable gentleman will allow me to say so, that opens up a somewhat complicated problem and I would prefer to examine it before I answer the question.
– My question also relates to telephone charges to pensioners but may I, in contradistinction to the view expressed by honorable members opposite, say how much we appreciate the Government’s gesture, which means so much to this class of person? Is the Prime Minister aware of the serious blow he has dealt to the much-needed confidence of supporters of the Opposition throughout Australia, many of whom have written to me in recent weeks assuring me that it was useless for a group of newcomers on the back benches to try to influence his monolithic dictatorship in respect of telephone rates? Will the Prime Minister express his awareness of the blow that has been dealt to the confidence of the proponents of that theme?
– This rather seems to be my day in the House. I have been called all sorts of things, some of them profane and some not. I have never before been called a monolith. But the honorable gentleman is quite right. He knows as well as I know that this matter was elaborately raised and discussed by private members before it reached Cabinet. It has been dealt with by Cabinet to the great satisfaction, I am sure, of all honorable members.
– On 13th October the Deputy Prime Minister presented for the information of honorable members copies of the replies received from the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania to my letter of 6th August concerning civil aviation control. Replies have since been received from the Premiers of South Australia and Western Australia and with their consent I now present copies of those replies for the information of honorable members.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In June last, my colleague the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) made a statement following the completion of the Government’s review of defence preparedness. In this statement two measures, designed to improve Australia’s defence situation in circumstances short of general war, were announced. It is to give legislative effect to these two measures that the Defence Bill has been introduced. At the same time, the opportunity has been taken of amending certain other existing provisions of the Defence Act which are largely of a machinery nature.
The two particular measures, namely the establishment of a volunteer Emergency Reserve and changed obligations for the citizen forces derive specifically from the Government’s assessment of the military requirements, if having regard to the currently unstable situation in South East Asia, we are to meet our defence commitments. This is the area of direct strategic importance to Australia and, as the Minister for Defence has said, our treaty commitments and vital interests demand that we should be in a position to commit troops at short notice and that we are prepared to make greater contributions than at present, should the situation demand it.
As in most facets of human existence evolution has produced situations which could have been little contemplated even a couple of decades ago, so, in the defence sphere, we must be prepared to keep abreast of these changing times. The situation today is, of course, vastly different from that foreseen when the existing defence legislation was enacted. Cold war and limited war were unheard of. No provision was made for the shades of grey which now exist between peace and war. The citizen forces could only be called out, and this is still so, in time of war, that is, when there was an attack or threatened attack on Australia or its Territories.
Honorable members will recall that the Government took positive steps in this direction some years ago by developing a highly trained Regular Army to be available to meet immediate initial requirements, and by maintaining the Citizen Military Forces at the highest state of training to provide, as quickly as possible, the essential follow up forces. This policy has been pursued diligently. However, the ability of the forces so developed to meet present requirements is drastically limited by the existing legislation. The employment of the Citizen Military Forces in many circumstances where they could be essential is denied and even were it permissible, there would remain a vital, but inevitable, gap in time between deployment of the Regular Army and the first echelons of the C.M.F.
One has only to contemplate the present, and in the foreseeable future, the continuing unstable situation to see how possible it is that hostilities could occur in South East Asia which, whilst posing no immediate direct threat to Australia, could, if unchecked, gravely prejudice our security. Yet, in such a situation our C.M.F. could, because of present legislation, have no hand in arresting the possible course of events. It is therefore obviously necessary, not only to maintain an adequate permanent force but to have the ability, should the situation so demand, to augment this immediately by a well trained reserve specifically available for call up when operationally necessary, and also the ability to call out the C.M.F. in a period short of war. Further, and consistent with the aim of keeping hostilities away from our shores, the C.M.F. must have an obligation for overseas service. So much for the background to the Bill.
The Bill provides for these two requirements. It establishes the Regular Army Emergency Reserve, to provide a readily available source of trained manpower which may be called out when the GovernorGeneral considers it desirable to do so. The Army plans initially to enlist a force of some 3,600 men in this Emergency Reserve. The R.A.E.R. will consist of eligible former regular soldiers who have served continuously for not less than three years, and who volunteer and are enlisted in that Reserve. Members will be engaged to serve for four years, and may re-engage for periods of two years. All or part of this Emergency Reserve may be called out for full time service with the permanent forces. Except in time of war or defence emergency, members of the Emergency Reserve called out for full time duty are liable for service, under that call out, for any period up to 12 months, but once they have served 12 months they will be released and cannot be called up to render full time service again until a period of 12 months has elapsed. If they were called out for six months, then on release they cannot be called out again for six months. In effect there is to be a break, equal to the period of full time service, before members are liable to be called out again. If the Reserve is called out and the military situation deteriorates to such an extent that the Governor-General declares a time of defence emergency, then members of the Emergency Reserve are liable to be employed on continuous service during that time pf defence emergency. If the deterioration continues and merges into war, then, of course, members of the Reserve would be liable to be employed on war service.
Members of the Emergency Reserve will be required to undergo 14 days annual training to keep them up to date. In addition each member will be medically examined and then interviewed to see if there are any circumstances which might preclude his attendance if called out. It is only those members who are ready, willing and able to answer the call who will be retained in the Emergency Reserve.
The obligations taken on by members of the R.A.E.R. are onerous but it is felt the rewards will be commensurate. However, nobody is compelled to join the R.A.E.R. lt will be a volunteer force. It is expected ils ranks will be filled quickly. Each member of the R.A.E.R. is to receive normal Army rates of pay for each day during which he performs full time duty. A member who completes a year of service and who has during this time satisfactorily completed his annual training is eligible to receive a bounty of £100, which bounty increases by £25 per year until in the fourth and subsequent years it is £175. In addition, if he is called out for continuous full time service he will receive a call out gratuity of £55. The aim of the Emergency Reserve is to have trained men available at a moment’s notice; the aim of the call out bounty is to provide ready cash for the member and his family to tide them over till his Army pay commences.
In addition to the R.A.E.R. the presently existing Regular Army Reserve will continue but its strength will probably be depleted to the extent that some of its members may enlist in the R.A.E.R. This Regular Army Reserve consists of former members of the regular forces who have volunteered to serve in a time of national emergency. This time of national emergency is provided for in Australian Military Regulations, and is a time proclaimed by the Governor-General. The provision for call out of the Regular Army Reserve will be changed by the Defence Bill. Members of the Regular Army Reserve will be liable to be employed on continuous full time service, only after the Governor-General has declared a time of defence emergency and they have then been called out by the Minister.
As mentioned earlier, members of the Citizen Military Forces are not available, under existing legislation, for call-up other than in time of war as defined. Also they cannot be sent overseas unless they are volunteers. The Bill provides for call-up of the C.M.F. by proclamation by the Governor-General, after a state of defence emergency has been proclaimed but short of war. I should add that in the event of the situation reaching sufficient gravity to warrant calling out the C.M.F. by proclamation, the Governor-General is obliged to report the reasons therefore to Parliament. Further, under the Bill members of the C.M.F. may bc required to serve overseas in a defence emergency. 1 am sure honorable members will appreciate that the provision of a regular force, supplemented by the Emergency Reserve and the C.M.F., represents the most economical use of the nation’s resources, but unless the proposals for earlier availability and overseas service for the C.M.F. are implemented, the effective use of this force will be greatly impaired.
I might add here that I am convinced that members of the C.M.F. generally will welcome the amendments, as they will give real meaning and a true sense of purpose to C.M.F. service. It is clearly inherent under this concept, that, irrespective of the size of the Regular Army, the maintenance of the Reserve and citizen forces at the highest standard of strength and efficiency, is a vital element. In view of these changes in obligations of the C.M.F., the Bill provides for members to have the right to resign or obtain their discharge if they are not prepared to serve on the new basis. Once however, a member volunteers for overseas service he will be bound so to serve if required.
The Government has appreciated the need to ensure the protection of the civil employment of men who volunteer to join the C.M.F. or Reserves and the Bill makes comprehensive provision for this. Subject to some qualifications, a member of the Reserves and citizen forces will be entitled, upon his return from a period of defence service, to resume his employment with his former employer or to be reinstated in employment with that employer’s successor if the employer has gone out of business. He will be protected from dismissal, except for legitimate causes, for a period after returning to his civil employment equal to the period which he has just spent on defence service.
The qualifications of these rights are that the member, unless under a contract of apprenticeship, must have been employed by the employer for at least 30 days immediately prior to commencing a period of full time service and that he must present himself to his former employer, or that employer’s successor, for work within a reasonable period. The Bill also provides that a member who resumes his civil employment, provided that he remains in the employment for a period equal to that of his absence on full time service, will have the period of absence counted as time worked in employment for the purpose of computing rights to some entitlements such as leave, and, where applicable, superannuation and pension funds. The provisions of the Bill in relation to the protection of civil employment rights are modelled upon those which operated during the last war and, since then, in relation to national service (raining.
In summary, therefore, the main changes proposed in the Bill are: -
Army will be available, (if) If the Governor-General considers it desirable to do so, he may, by order, call out the Regular Army Emergency Reserve.
Governor-General may proclaim a time of defence emergency, after which the Minister may call out the Regular Army Reserve, whose members have volunteered to serve at such time; and
General may call out the Citizen Military Forces.
It will, of course, be appreciated that whilst for the reasons I have outlined provision for this progression must be made, it is still possible that our country could be faced with a transition from peace to war overnight. In such circumstances the declaration of a state of war would involve the mobilisation of the nation.
I turn now to other provisions included in the Bill. As I have said, opportunity has been taken to amend other sections. Generally, these are purely matters of machinery. However, there are several issues of substance to which I would like to refer specifically at this stage. Provision is made in the legislation removing the statutory right to discharge in cases when a member’s term of engagement terminates in time of defence emergency, as well as in time of war as at present provided, and, in the case of the permanent forces, at a time when the Emergency Reserves are called out. It should be clearly understood that although members will not have a statutory right to discharge during these times there is no bar to their being discharged if the circumstances of any particular case justify it.
Honorable members will have noted the proposed amendments to section 17 relating to resignations of officers. This amendment has been included pursuant to the recent comments by the High Court to the effect that the statute should more precisely indicate the circumstances in which an officer may reasonably expect to have his tender of resignation accepted or rejected. The High Court was unanimous in the judgment that the Crown retains the right to accept, or to decline to accept, aa officer’s resignation. There is no intention to alter this basic law. However, provision is now made to show quite clearly the type of circumstances that must exist before a Service board would be entitled to refuse a resignation. The new provisions recognise the practice whereby the appropriate Service board makes a recommendation as to whether a resignation be accepted or refused, and in cases where it is clear that a resignation should be refused, the power to refuse is vested in the Service board without the necessity for the resignation to go forward to the Executive Council. In any other case, the resignation will be forwarded to the Minister for transmission to the Governor-General and, it may fairly he implied that, in normal circumstances, such a tender of resignation would be accepted. Provision is made, however, that, if the Minister considers an officer’s resignation should not be accepted unless he complies with certain conditions, the officer’s resignation would not be submitted to the Governor-General for acceptance until the officer had complied with the conditions.
There are a number of officers on whom considerable amounts of public money have been expended in furthering their education. I refer to the cost of putting officers through the Royal Military College, the training of undergraduates at universities for appointment as medical and dental officers and the post graduate courses which are made available to officers with the necessary potential. In many instances if an officer who has received these educational benefits wishes to resign, acceptance of his resignation will not be recommended unless he has given in return a predetermined period of service. There will be instances, however, where it is impracticable or inequitable to require an officer to continue to serve, but in which it would be appropriate to grant him his release only if he reimburses the Commonwealth in whole or in part for the funds expended on him.
Prima facie, the preservation of the basic right to reject a tender of resignation may seem out of consonance with our democratic principles and without counterpart in civil life. The Military Board has no desire to retain any officer against his wishes, but in the ultimate we must guard against the possibility of a situation arising which could threaten our national security, and for this reason, apart from the other factors 1 have mentioned, this basic provision is essential.
Two other measures relate to powers of summary punishment and the application of the United Kingdom Army Act. First, a commanding officer was authorised in 1903, when dealing summarily with a soldier, to fine him £5. In those days this was a substantial penalty having regard to rales of pay at that time. A soldier’s basic rate of pay in 1903 was 3s. 6d. per day. Today a fine of £5 is so inadequate for the more serious breaches of discipline that commanding officers in the Army have found it necessary to remand soldiers for trial by court martial when they have felt their own summary powers were inadequate. It has therefore been considered desirable to meet some of the difficulties facing an Army commanding officer by increasing the fine which he may award from £5 to £20. This increase in fine should enable a commanding officer to reserve only serious cases for trial by court martial. Safeguards of the right to elect for trial by court martial will ensure that the increased powers will not be exercised harshly. In addition every summary award made by a commanding officer is reviewed by superior military authority who may quash or reduce the award.
Secondly, the present provisions of the Defence Act provide that when Australian troops are serving with the United Kingdom forces outside Australia they are subject to the disciplinary provisions of the United Kingdom Army Act. The Defence Bill amends the relevant section to provide in essence that whenever Australian troops are serving outside Australia they are subject to the United Kingdom Army Act. It is inappropriate nowadays to restrict the application of the United Kingdom Army Act to circumstances when our forces are serving with the United Kingdom forces because it is very probable, with our South East Asia Treaty Organisation commitments that our forces could be serving with American forces or those of the S.E.A.T.O. countries. It is essential that our troops be subject to the Army Act as distinct from the peace time military code of discipline when they are serving outside Australia because it is the Army Act that gives courts martial power to try civil offences. Where the troops of one country are serving in another friendly country, the almost universal practice has developed whereby the Government of that friendly country concludes a Status of Forces Agreement with the country sending the troops. Under such agreements courts martial deal with servicemen who commit offences against members or in relation to the property of members of their own force, and the courts of that friendly country try servicemen of a visiting force only for offences against or in relation to their own citizens. It is basic to such arrangements that courts martial have jurisdiction to try civil offences and this is the primary reason for widening the application of the Army Act to our military forces wherever serving overseas.
I refer now to another amendment which it is considered appropriate to deal with on this occasion. The present Defence Act provides for the establishment of a military college. There is no statutory authority for the Officer Cadet School at Portsea nor for the Australian Staff College at Queenscliff. The present Act also confines the admission of students to the Military College to British subjects. The opportunity has therefore been taken to widen the eligibility of entry to the Royal Military College, in particular to allow soldiers of the Pacific Islands Regiment to enter that College. Pacific Islanders born in Papua are British subjects but those born in New Guinea are not. It is necessary therefore to remove this discriminatory bar. In addition, persons who are not British subjects but are members of the forces of friendly nations will be eligible for admission as students. Not only will the Defence Bill achieve this but it will also provide the necessary statutory authority for the setting up and government of other military instructional institutions in addition to the Royal Military College.
The phrase “ in time of war “ appears in many of the sections of the present Act. It was necessary therefore to consider which of the sections should be amended to include reference to a “ time of defence emergency “. Amongst these sections were provisions in the Defence Act relating to the passing of prescribed examinations for appointment and promotion of officers and for exemption from such examinations in time of war. These sections have been unworkable because it has been found impracticable to prescribe detailed examinations. Accordingly, these sections have been repealed and replaced by a provision which authorises the Governor-General to appoint and promote officers subject to such conditions, qualifications and requirements as are provided for in the regulations. The Governor-General’s power to delegate his authority to appoint and promote officers has also been provided for in the circumstances of today.
Opportunity has also been taken to repeal a number of provisions currently contained in the Defence Act, but which have been superseded by later Acts such as the Defence (Visiting Forces) Act 1963. I commend the Defence Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is the second of three bills that are necessary to give effect to the Government’s announced policy of improving the availability of trained manpower for the defence forces in circumstances short of general war. The Bill amends the Naval Defence Act, making those amendments that are necessary in relation to the Navy. The Government’s policy involves the formation of Emergency Reserve Forces in each of the three defence Services and the Bill will amend the Naval Defence Act to provide for a Naval Emergency Reserve force in addition to the existing permanent naval forces and Citizen Naval Forces. This Emergency Reserve will consist of a body of officers and men who are fully trained and available at a few days notice for full operational service whenever the Royal Australian Navy has to meet extra operational commitments arising out of the international situation.
The Government’s policy also involves amendments of the existing law so that members of the citizen forces may be called up in time of defence emergency, that is, when a proclamation declaring such a time is made by the Governor-General in circumstances short of general war. This matter will be dealt with primarily in the Defence Bill which contains provisions applicable to the citizen forces of the three Services, but a number of consequential and related amendments are necessary to the Naval Defence Act.
This Bill is designed therefore to give effect to this policy and provides for the formal constitution of the Naval Emergency Reserve forces as part of the Navy. The Naval Emergency Reserve will be a third part of the naval forces, that is, separate from the permanent naval forces and the Citizen Naval Forces, and not a part of the permanent forces as is the case with the Army’s Emergency Reserve. This difference is related to the manner in which each Service is organised and in no way implies any difference in the intended role of the respective Emergency Reserves or their liability for service. The other provisions in the Bill relating to the Naval Emergency Reserve are virtually identical with the corresponding provisions in the Defence Bill relating to the Army. That is to say,
However, in the event of a general war or a period of defence emergency members of the Naval Emergency Reserve will be liable for fulltime service for the duration of that period.
It will be necessary for members of the Naval Emergency Reserve to undergo refresher training each year. The period will be prescribed in the regulations. The regulations will also make the necessary provision for the gratuity payable on call up and the annual bounty payable to each member. Precise details of the scale of the bounty and the amount of the gratuity were given by my colleague the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) in his speech on the Defence Bill, and it is not necessary for me to repeat them. The provisions in the Defence Bill for the protection of the civil employment rights of members of the Reserves and citizen forces apply to the three Services and no provision is necessary in the Naval Defence Bill.
The provisions for the calling out of the Citizen Naval Forces are similarly contained in the Defence Bill. These provisions, which render members of the citizen forces liable for service in time of war or in time of defence emergency, alter the existing conditions of service of present members of the Citizen Naval Forces, and the Naval Defence Bill accordingly provides a statutory right for serving members to resign or claim their discharge if they are not prepared to serve under the changed conditions. The introduction of the Naval Emergency Reserve, and the liability for service of members of the Citizen Naval Forces in time of defence emergency, necessarily involve reconsideration of the present statutory right of all members to discharge. It is appropriate to change the right of members of existing parts of the Navy, so that this right does not apply when a member’s engagement expires in time of defence emergency and, in the case of members of the permanent naval forces, at a time when the Naval Emergency Reserve is called out. This should not be misunderstood. Discharges may still be granted at these times when the circumstances of any particular case justify it. As members all know, a statutory right to discharge does not exist during time of war and, under this legislation, this will also be the case in the new circumstances already outlined.
The opportunity is being taken to make a number of other necessary amendments to the Act. The first relates to persons called up in time of war under section 60 of the Defence Act for service in the citizen forces. These people are not enlisted in the Citizen Naval Forces unless they volunteer for service in the Navy. This practice is followed because all members of the Navy are liable for service overseas, and it therefore accords with the policy that persons should not be required to serve overseas unless they volunteer for such service. There is, however, no bar in the existing Act to such a person being enlisted in the Navy although he is not a volunteer, and the Bill includes such a provision.
Another matter concerns the right of an officer to resign. The purpose of the clause on this matter has already been explained in some detail by the Minister for the Army and the provisions now presented in this Bill are identical. A further matter relates to the provisions in the Act which require the passing of prescribed examinations for appointment and promotion. These provisions suffer from the same defects as the corresponding provisions in the Defence Act and are being replaced by provisions virtually identical with those in the amending Defence Bill. Provision is also being made, for the first time, for the Governor-General to delegate his authority to appoint and promote officers.
Opportunity is being taken to change the manner in which the English Naval Discipline Act and the Queen’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions are applied by the Naval Defence Act to the Australian Naval Forces. This English legislation contains the disciplinary code of the Navy. The Queen’s Regulations also contain regulations on such matters as rank and command, boards of inquiry, &c, to the extent that these matters are not dealt with in regulations made under the Naval Defence Act. The application of the English legislation is subject to two important deficiencies. In the first place, it applies the English legislation for the time being in force. This is objectionable on legal grounds, since the legislation as applied may be and is amended at any time by the English authorities without reference to this
Parliament which accordingly lacks adequate control over the legislation. Amendments to the English legislation are usually in force for some time before the amendments are received in Australia. Consequently it is impossible to be certain at any time that a particular provision under which action is being taken has not, in fact, been amended or repealed. The second deficiency arises from the application of the English legislation - and I quote - “ to the naval forces “. This has raised problems where members of the Military and Air Forces serve in Her Majesty’s Australian Ships, and in respect of certain other matters relating to the naval forces.
These deficiencies are being removed by applying the English legislation in force on the date of commencement of the Naval Defence Act 1964 and otherwise amending the relevant section. The question of the continued application to the Navy of this English legislation in this day and age, was raised when this Bill was under consideration in another place. The whole of defence legislation is under review with a view to resolving this and other questions. I hope that the time is not far distant when legislation will be brought forward which will include a purely Australian code of discipline for the Navy.
Although the existing Naval Defence Act applies to the naval forces wherever they may be, its application in the Territories in respect of matters incidental to those Forces is not always easy to determine. This is particularly important, for example, in the case of the Papua-New Guinea division of the naval forces. Appropriate provision is being included in the Act to clarify this aspect by specifying that the Act extends to every territory of the Commonwealth. The Naval Defence Act contains a number of provisions that have been superseded by later Acts such as the Defence (Visiting Forces) Act 1963. The superseded sections of the Naval Defence Act are being repealed. Opportunity has also been taken to clarify and bring up to date some aspects of the present legislation which are not of substance and therefore need not be adverted to in detail here. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned. w
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is complementary to the Defence Bill and the Naval Defence Bill which have just been introduced into the House. The Bill is intended to give effect to the Government’s policy for the formation of a voluntary Emergency Reserve for the Air Force and for the calling up of the Citizen Air Force to the extent necessary to meet the requirements of the Air Force in circumstances short of general war. My colleagues, the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney), have dealt in detail with the reasons actuating the Government in deciding this policy. It remains for me to deal with this matter only from the point of view of the Air Force. The Emergency Reserve for the Royal Australian Air Force will be constituted as a separate part of that force with the name Air Force Emergency Force.
I might say at the outset that there is a requirement for an emergency reserve for the Air Force as there is for the Navy and the Army, but the needs of the Royal Australian Air Force are not the same as those for the other Services. However, there will be opportunities for men generally to help the Air Force fill the gaps in its support establishments. Honorable members will realize that the plans of the Air Force are based on rapid expansion of the operational squadrons. The aim is to achieve part of this expansion by reinforcements from support establishments, such as training and maintenance units. These and other gaps would then have to be filled by the Air Force Emergency Force. Some of these gaps will be in Australia; some overseas. Details of the callings and trades for which there will be requirements are being worked out at present. It will be obvious that these, in general, are of a specialised nature and spread over the whole of the Air Force. I would like to have had the opportunity of providing vacancies in the Air Force Emergency Force for pilots and aircrew for operations here or abroad. I find, however, that this is impracticable. Many young men, at pre sent untrained as pilots, who might feel that they could help their country in this capacity will probably therefore be disappointed. But training on modern jet aircraft is intensive and takes many months.
I believe that competition for the various positions is likely to be very keen; for I anticipate that in the initial stages of the Air Force Emergency Force there will be a requirement at most for 1,200 personnel. Preference will be given to former members of the permanent Air Force and present and former members of the Active Citizen Air Force, the Air Force Reserve and the University Squadrons with the requisite qualifications. Men not in the categories I mentioned will also be considered. All those who are interested should apply to the recruiting officers giving full particulars of their previous service, if any, their age and qualifications. There will be opportunities for some professional and semi-professional men to serve as officers and for the skilled and the not so skilled to fill the niches in the establishments where their services can best be used at a variety of bases throughout Australia and overseas. Those selected will be appointed, in the case of officers, or enlisted, in the case of airmen, for periods of four years with extensions of two years at a time if they so volunteer and their services are required. They will have the right to resign or to be discharged on giving three months notice at any time other than a time when they are called out for continuous full time service.
Honorable members have been given details of the duties that will be expected of personnel serving in the Emergency Reserves. So far as the Air Force Emergency Force is concerned, members will be required to undergo a short period of annual training of a fortnight. They will be called up for full time service only when the Government considers that the operational commitments of the Air Force require additional personnel for a limited period. The Bill provides that the maximum period of full time service required of members of the Emergency Force will be 12 months at any one time. Having given this service, the members can return to their normal peacetime occupations in the knowledge that they have helped their country during a time of pressing need. Furthermore, they will not be expected to serve continuously again until at least another year has passed. The longest period of total service required of them will be 24 months in their period of engagement. They will, however, be liable to be called up for continuous full time service in a time of defence emergency or time of war. My colleague, the Minister for the Army, has explained the meaning of these terms and has given full details of their conditions in terms of service. I only wish to add one further point. Members who serve in the Air Force under these conditions will have the full protection in their civilian employment which has been spelt out in the Defence Bill.
This Bill deals mainly with the establishment of the Air Force Emergency Force and the liability of the Citizen Air Force to serve in time of defence emergency. The amendments required to give effect to this policy make it necessary to repeal and reenact a number of sections already in the Air Force Act 1923-1956. The Bill reaffirms the principle of voluntary entry to any part of the Air Force. It safeguards that principle even in relation to persons who are called upon in time of war, under section 60 of the Defence Act, to enlist and serve in the citizen forces. These persons will not be required to serve in the Citizen Air Force unless they volunteer to do so. It has always been a cardinal principle of Air Force service that members may be required to serve on land or sea or in the air either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia. The situation cannot be otherwise in a force which of necessity must be capable of operating outside the territorial limits of Australia. The Air Force would be ineffective if it were restricted in its operations by the fact that its personnel could not be required to serve outside the generally recognised international three mile limit of the Australian mainland or its Territories.
The Bill sets out the service required not only of members of the permanent Air Force and the Air Force Emergency Force but also of the existing Citizen Air Force which includes both the Active Citizen Air Force and the Air Force Reserve. Under existing law, members of the Citizen Air Force are liable to be called out for continuous Air Force service only in time of war. The Bill now extends this liability to cover a period of defence emergency. In consequence, a special provision has been included to enable the present members of the Citizen Air Force to resign from the Force if they feel that they are unable to commit themselves to full time service in this period of time of defence emergency. Clause 6 gives them this right if they exercise it within 30 days of the commencement of the Act.
I refer now to pay and other emoluments. Members of the Air Force Emergency Force will receive a bounty of £100 for the first year of their part time service rising to £175 in the fourth and subsequent years provided they carry out satisfactorily their training commitments. In addition they will receive a gratuity of £55 when they are called up for continuous full time service. During their part time training they will receive rates of pay and allowances now applicable to members of the Citizen Air Force for their part time training. The allowances involved include marriage, separation, travelling and similar allowances. If members of the Air Force Emergency Force are called out for full time service they will be paid the same rates of pay and allowances as are paid to members of the permanent Air Force.
I mentioned earlier that the main purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s policy on the creation of the Emergency Reserves and the liability of the Citizen Air Force for continuous full time service during a time of defence emergency. The Air Force Act is a short Act. I am very conscious of the fact that in its present form it has certain limitations as a statute covering the establishment, control, organisation, administration, good government and discipline of the Air Force. The whole field of defence legislation has been under review for some years. 1 am hopeful that at no distant date the Government will be in a position to submit to the Parliament a comprehensive bill relating to the Royal Australian Air Force. In the meantime I shall take note of any further comments that may be made during the course of the debate on this Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 11th August (vide page 86), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, this Bill authorises the raising of loan funds to be spent by the States or handed on by the States in accordance with the conditions which the Commonwealth laid down in the 1961 Act which authorised Commonwealth grants to the States for housing and which is known as the Housing Agreement Act. The amounts authorised by this Bill are not determined by any consideration of the efficiency of the building industry or the state of the economy or the demand for the particular forms of housing authorised by the Housing Agreement Act. At the Loan Council meeting every June the Commonwealth states the amount of money which it is prepared to Tend to the States for public works and for housing. Whether or not the States approve the amount proposed, that is the amount which the Commonwealth finds. The States merely determine how the total loan funds will be divided in each State between public works and housing. Therefore, the States have the determination of the proportion of the total loan funds which will be authorised under this Bill, but they do not determine bow much should be spent on housing in the abstract, nor does the Commonwealth concern itself with that aspect.
The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), in his second reading speech which was made 11 weeks ago, made some small references to the state of the building industry. It may be that he would express different views now. The “Australian Financial Review “, for instance, suggests that there is talk in the building industry that the boom may be coming to an end, that the output of the industry is stabilising. Again, the September figures for approvals of housing if seasonally adjusted suggest also that this may be so. Approval figures, however, are not reflected in commencement figures for another quarter or half year. If the boom is coming to an end there may be a danger of the downswing getting out of hand, although it is too early really to be sure. If the position developing is as I have surmised it may no longer be true to say, as the Minister did in August, that to pump additional funds into the building industry could be completely abortive. I do not know whether this is still his view. I make those references in the light of the Minister’s own short references to the state of the building industry and, more particularly, the home building industry. I make no reference to the general position that he stated concerning the economy. There is a regrettable tendency by the Commonwealth to regard housing as just another economic factor.
It is not possible for us in debating this Bill to take any sound statistics as to housing needs in general. It is now seven years since the then Minister for National Development, whose functions at that time included housing, produced a survey of housing needs. In later years that Minister refused to bring those figures up to date. In March last year he said to me, in answer to a question - my department does not consider that the repetition of the calculations . . . would be useful.
Also in March last year all State Housing Ministers requested that a committee of inquiry be established, consisting of representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments, to inquire into the expected increased housing requirements in the next five years. The Commonwealth rejected that request. In September last year in debating the Loan (Housing) Bill 1963, the Opposition moved that a committee of inquiry be set up to inquire into these matters. All Government supporters voted against that motion. The Treasury has recently prepared figures on the subject for the Vernon Committee. The Vernon Committee’s deliberations, however, are very deliberate indeed. I cannot imagine why Treasury figures on this subject should not be published, but the fact is that they have not been published. Accordingly, one cannot, in debating this Bill, relate it to official estimates of the general demand for housing in the community. If one looks at the Bill in the narrow field of how many houses should be provided by the States or by building societies with money made available under this Bill, then one can only note that last year fewer houses were completed in both categories than in the year before and, further, that at the end of last financial year more people were waiting for such houses in both categories than were waiting 12 months earlier.
I do not propose to analyse the figures of demand and production by the State housing authorities in any further detail, nor do 1 propose to analyse the figures for building society demand and production. Where the latter are available they are scantier than the figures for the State housing authorities. But I do wish to refer to the general obligation that the Commonwealth has for housing in general. I put the proposition that Commonwealth assistance should be concentrated where there is the greatest housing need. There are four broad categories of such need. First, there arc families on low incomes, many of whom are forced to live in inferior private rental accommodation. Secondly, there are pensioners - particularly age and invalid pensioners. Thirdly, there are widows. Fourthly, there are migrants. I list migrants among the needy categories because migrants are without family or social capital in general, as distinct from people who were born here or who grew up here and have relatives with whom they can live or from whom they can borrow. It so happens that the last three categories that I mention - age and invalid pensioners, widows and migrants - are three categories in respect of which the Commonwealth can itself spend money directly on housing, either by erecting houses or by financing the erection of houses. The Commonwealth, in those respects, does not have to make money available through the agency of the States by grants under section 96 of the Constitution.
The early concept of the housing agreements between the Commonwealth and the States was that rental accommodation should be made available for people in the greatest need. This concept has been eroded in several ways. First of all, in 1956, the Commonwealth refused to continue the system of granting rebates to tenants of houses who were unable to pay the economic rent. Accordingly, the only houses in Australia in respect of which the Commonwealth will assist in the rebate of rents are those built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements of 1945 to 1955. Secondly, and also in 1956, the Commonwealth commenced the diversion of funds from the State housing authorities to building societies. For the first couple of years, 20 per cent, of the funds was so diverted. Ever since, 30 per cent, has been diverted to building societies. This is one of the occasions on which the Commonwealth has made public moneys available to private organisations whose operations it does not supervise. The present Government had already made donations of public funds to medical and hospital benefit funds and to aged persons’ homes. This, on the face of it, is an abdication of public responsibility because public funds should be spent and allocated according to standards which are superintended by governments themselves, auditors-general and parliamentary committees. The third way in which the Commonwealth has eroded the principle of providing accommodation for rental or sale to people in the greatest need has been in respect of the £250 homes savings grant. This undoubtedly helps to close the deposit gap for persons purchasing houses, but it is not of assistance to people who most need help.
The way in which the Commonwealth has done most to erode the original intention of the housing agreements with the States has been to encourage the sale of houses built with funds provided under the terms of the agreements. The State housing authorities have now become selling agencies. Instead of making the selling of houses their principal objective, the State housing authorities should build up their stocks of houses and become a powerful competitor in the rental market. Of the houses built under the 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, 22 per cent, have been sold. Of those built under the 1956 Agreement, 46 per cent, have been sold. I do not dispute that houses built under the Agreements of 1945 and 1956 and the continuation Agreement of 1961 are the only houses in Australia which can be purchased on a small deposit and over a long term and at a low rate of interest. With the long term and the low interest, they share the advantages of war service homes, but they can be purchased for a much smaller deposit than war service homes.
Quite apart from the advantage of being able to buy houses on these favorable terms, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Australians to rent accommodation. Rental accommodation is required not only for people on low incomes. In fact, it is cheaper to buy a house than to rent one. The person who rents a house has to pay others to maintain it and has to provide a profit for the owner. So it is cheaper to buy a house if one can. But, quite apart from people on low incomes, there are people whose jobs require them to move from place to place. Often, these are among the most skilled people in the community. There are also people who, for perfectly natural and worthy motives, reject the obligations and responsibilities which belong to home owners. The fact that the Commonwealth has withdrawn and is withdrawing from the rental field means that rental housing is becoming, once again, more and more the preserve of private rentiers. Probably, fewer houses are available for rental in Australia now than at any other time in this century. But the rents which have to be paid for the available houses - existing houses which become vacant and new houses which are built - have risen to exorbitant levels. Private rental housing is now in the category of holiday homes which are let for short periods and, particularly at certain times of the year which are favorable for holiday lettings, at exorbitant rates. The mischief which has been created by the Commonwealth’s withdrawal from the rental field is the encouragement of exorbitant rentals. The Commonwealth, if it were still directly to participate in this field through its grants to the States, would not only assist directly those who rent these houses but also assist indirectly all other people who rent houses from private owners.
The Minister for Housing acclaims the fact that the trend in housing construction is towards decreasing reliance on governmental activity and increasing private construction. He said that this was a very healthy trend and one that he hoped would continue. I am not really concerned with the ideological motives behind this. I know that many Government supporters seek to handicap the operations of the War Service Homes Division because it is a socialist enterprise. Private persons are not now interested in constructing houses as an investment. Inevitably, houses are built these days by governments or through the expenditure of the funds of insurance companies, savings banks and, to a certain extent, trading banks. All these institutions operate under conditions laid down by governments. Before the war, private mortgagees were common. Now, they are extremely uncommon. People who build houses now do so for their own occupation or for rental as holiday homes.
Apart from providing accommodation for those in the greatest need, there are two other fields in which the Commonwealth itself can act. It can provide housing for serving members of the forces and for public servants. The Commonwealth makes provision, under the terms of the Housing Agreement Acts of 1956 and 1961, for serving members of the forces. I am glad to see that there is a considerable increase this financial year in the amount to be provided under the terms of this Bill for accommodation for servicemen. More soldiers live in my electorate than in any other, and I am convinced, from my own observations, that one of the great difficulties in retaining servicemen in the forces is that housing is not available for them. The problem is not so much that our recruiting rate is low. It is not high enough. But the problem is that the wastage rate is appallingly high. One of the reasons for the appallingly high wastage rate is that adequate housing is not available. The Commonwealth is not confined to making housing available through the War Service Homes Division for returned servicemen. It is not confined to making housing available for serving members of the forces under the terms of the Housing Agreement Acts, through the agency of the States. The Commonwealth can itself make money available to enable serving members of the forces to build or buy houses. Particularly as the War Service Homes Division is now receiving a smaller number of applications each year, this is one field in which it could continue its great contribution to housing in Australia. It could make money available for serving soldiers to obtain housing on the favorable conditions which apply to those who already receive advances from the Division.
– The Division still has 11,000 applications that have not been met.
– -Indeed it has. There is still a very great number of unsatisfied applicants for assistance from the War Service Homes Division, but the number of new applications is now declining in practically every category. I do not overlook (he fact that, if more money were available for the operations of the Division, the number of applications would increase, but for the present argument I confine myself to the suggestion that the facilities of the Division should be made available to serving soldiers. This would be completely within the Commonwealth’s power.
The other remaining field in which the Commonwealth could make housing available directly, not just through the States, is for public servants. Public servants are not in the category of persons suffering the greatest hardship, but nevertheless here again the War Service Homes Division, a Government enterprise, could provide facilities for the construction or purchase of houses by public servants. 1 am not suggesting that this should be at the cost of the community in general. It should be done by allowing public servants to use their superannuation fund through the War Service Homes Division. The Division might have to be given a new name. It is quite anomalous that public servants are unable to borrow money from the superannuation fund for housing purposes. Most private employees can borrow from their superannuation funds for their houses, and we find that the public servants’ superannuation fund is made available to private enter.preneurs. David Jones Ltd. borrowed £1 million from it. Without any cost to the public - indeed, at some profit to the public - the public servants’ superannuation fund could be made available through this public agency for their houses. I mention mis because it is one other field in which the Commonwealth could itself make money available for housing without having to go through the States or through other financial institutions.
I now come to some of the fields in which house building could be improved in efficiency and the cost could be reduced. First, there is greater scope for large scale building projects, particular, in inner city areas. It is well known that the big builders, those who build the commercial buildings in the cities, are able to attract not only engineers, architects and surveyors who are the leaders in their fields, but Also the most skilled tradesmen. It is the ambition of most tradesmen to become regularly employed by the big builders. In the United States and in Western Europe the big builders, those who do the big commercial projects, also do the big housing projects. This is one way in which economies could be effected. It would make for better cities and for cheaper accommodation. The margins of big builders are in fact smaller than those of little builders and smaller still than those of spec builders.
Another means by which we could improve the efficiency of home building and reduce its costs is to seek uniform building regulations. This suggestion was made some time ago by the managing director of Lend Lease Corporation Ltd., Mr. Howard. One of his former directors, the Minister for Housing, has also made the suggestion. Mr. Howard has estimated that the present confusion of housing regulations adds £250 to the average cost of a house. That is, it takes away as much as the home savings grant gives. Many of the housing regulations are too detailed; many are quite unnecessary and inflexible. Examples of the costs of the present regulations and housing conditions in Australia were given last March by Mr. A. V. Jennings, who is a member of the Commonwealth Building Research Advisory Committee and who has built 18,000 houses since the end of the war. He gave the following examples of unnecessary additional housing costs -
Septic tank installation pending sewer mains, £120.
Going under fences to lay sewers, £100.
Plumbing anomalies in sewerage installations, £13.
Delays by municipal and other authorities in approving plans and sites, £100.
Lack of private road standards, £40.
Differences in drainage requirements, £10.
Lack of standard regulations for kerbs and roadside channels, £4.
Interest charges for builders’ advance . payments for water and power, £10.
Here is a man who is in a big way as a builder and who has very great experience in the construction of houses giving the cost of these various delays and anomalies that we have in our building regulations at the moment.
I pass to a third field of economy. We should encourage the modernisation of old bouses. Some builders now specialise in modernisation. It should be developed much further and should become an important part of the building industry. In America, the Federal Housing Administration has a special section devoted to home improvement programmes. We lay very great stress in Australia on the building of new houses. The War Service Homes Division encourages the building of new houses. There is a waiting period for those who want to buy an existing house.
– It is difficult to get money for old homes.
– It is. Men who would be entitled to an advance from the War Service Homes Division are priced out of bidding for older homes because they must wait 17 months before the loan can come through. The Bill with which we are dealing makes money available principally for new homes, the only exception being if any building societies make money available for existing houses. But as the Minister has said in answer to questions I have put on the notice paper for him, most of the existing houses for which building societies make advances are in fact new houses. Here again, the savings banks have been encouraged to make money available for new houses and the insurance companies give preference to advances for new houses or rather impose less advantageous conditions on advances for old houses. This is uneconomic, because very many people live in old houses that are now too big for them and, for financial reasons, new families have to go into new houses which are too small for them. There would be a much better use of the space if the bigger but older houses were available for purchase by the new families, because they would be big enough for the family as it grew. Furthermore, the younger breadwinners could probably help to rehabilitate such houses. This is a third field in which we could make considerable contributions to the economy of home ownership by making some Government assistance available directly and by bringing Government encouragement to bear on financial institutions so that they would make money available for modernising old houses.
The fourth and concluding suggestion I would make is that research should be pro moted into house building. This should be done by the Minister’s Department. Design competitions should be held not only in the Sunday newspapers but by the War Service Homes Division and the Department of Housing.
The biggest demand for housing is in the cities and increasingly on the outskirts of the cities. This falls in the general planning for urban living to which I have referred on earlier occasions in the House. The present divided responsibilities of local, State and Federal governments are resulting in a chaotic situation in our cities. The position is going to become worse unless plans are made. Technological changes, new factories, more cars and trucks will make city life uncomfortable or even unbearable. The trend of population is to the cities. It should be not only to the capital cities, but to the provincial cities; however, so far it is mainly to the State capitals.
The Commonwealth is in the best position to co-ordinate the attack on the problems of city living. In 1962-63 housing loans were made available as. follows - by savings and trading banks, 49 per cent.; by State housing authorities, that is, under bills such as the one with which we are dealing today, 11 per cent.; by war service homes, 12 per cent.; by building societies, that is, largely under this Bill and its preceding counterparts, 194 per cent.; by life assurance offices, 7 per cent.; and by other sources, 2 per cent. It will be observed that all the specific sources are ones where the Commonwealth itself makes the loans or where it regulates the loans. The Commonwealth itself makes available all the money which State housing authorities spend, all the money which the War Service Homes Division spends, and half the money which the building societies spend. The Commonwealth regulates the money which is made available for housing by the savings and trading banks - and by the building societies, insofar as they get the balance of their funds from the savings banks, trading banks, and insurance companies. Lastly, the Commonwealth regulates the amount of money made available by life assurance offices.
When I say that the Commonwealth is in the best position to co-ordinate the attack on the problems of city living I start by pointing out that the Commonwealth provides or regulates all but 2 per cent, of the loan money which is made available for home building or home purchase in Australia by the main financial institutions.
In addition, the Commonwealth provides large amounts for roads, which are so critical for urban living. Here again, whatever may have been the position before the war, the biggest problems in roads and in all other forms of communication are now in the cities. This is recognised in the other federations, like the United States of America, Canada and West Germany. They are dealing with the problem in the same way as Australia must deal with it - through federal action, through action by the national Parliament. In co-operation the Commonwealth, State and local governments must draw up plans for urban living in each of the major centres of population. This not only refers to the State capitals. Such concerted planning is also the great hope for building up provincial centres in Australia - “ poles of attraction “, as the French call them.
The features of such a plan should be: First, the location of industry should be carefully determined. If necessary, assistance should be given to enable existing factories to move. Unless the location of industry is planned uniformly and comprehensively industry will play off one area against another. We could, in the next few years, come to the situation where factories in one area will be demolished and the people who live nearby will have to travel further to work. At the same time, factories will be set up in other areas where the workers will not be living nearby. Quite clearly, one contribution we can make *o more convenient living in our cities is to see that residential development and industrial development bear some relation one to the other.
The second feature of such a plan is that commercial building should be carefully controlled to avoid ugliness, obstruction and air pollution.
– Would you say that Canberra is the ideal in this respect?
– Canberra is an ideal example of the planning that should take place in any new centre. Canberra is scarcely an industrial centre yet, but it is becoming a commercial centre. The planning which has gone into Canberra should have gone into Woollongong, should have gone into Mr Isa, and should go into all other provincial centres in Australia. The positive way to bring about decentralisation is to build Canberras in the principal areas of Australia where resources are available for men to process. If all facilities are concentrated in this way and not dispersed in many small centres, poles of attraction will be established.
The third feature of urban planning is that house planning must be integrated with transport planning. We must build and re-develop towns for the motor age. Honorable members will remember that this is what the Buchanan report dealt with in Britain. Public transport must become the basis of urban transport. An effective way must also be found to price the scarce space on our roads. Those who use the roads most and cause the most congestion should pay for new and better roads. The United States has recognised the inadequacy of urban transport by providing Federal assistance for the solution of certain urban transportation problems. The United States does this under its housing acts.
The fourth feature of the plan for urban development which I have been describing should be the redevelopment of slum areas and areas containing obsolescent housing. The best building land in our cities is being wasted. The community services are already available - telephones, water, sewerage, roads and transport. All the State Housing Ministers have asked year in and year out for this form of assistance. The development of inner city areas should not be left to individual real estate operators and builders. It should be planned by public authorities. Where necessary, private sites should be amalgamated for comprehensive development. We must aim to develop attractive neighbourhoods with ample light and air, ready access, unobstructed views and community facilities. Something has already been done along these lines by the New South Wales Housing Commission around Sydney, and that body certainly could do more if funds were available or if the funds were available on terms providing for such development. The Victorian Housing Commission has lamented, in several reports, that it is unable to carry out the proper redevelopment of Victoria’s obsolete areas.
The final suggestion I should like to make in respect of the proposals for urban living would be for an attack on land prices. Land prices can be attacked, I suggest, in some three ways. First of all we can concentrate on high density housing in preference to the costly urban sprawl. Sydney and Melbourne have metropolitan boundaries almost as wide as those of London, which has five times their population. Secondly, Commonwealth funds should be provided to enable State and local government authorities to acquire and develop land. Thirdly, the Commonwealth should pursue an economic policy which would prevent the periodic housing booms which force prices up. In the recessions which follow each of these booms prices never go down. In 1951-52, in 1956 and in 1960-61 the Commonwealth killed the housing booms, but the prices of housing and of housing land did not go down.
I have made a few references to the United States practice in housing. I feel it is necessary to do so because again and again in debating matters concerning bousing, roads, hospitals or education one is met with the argument that these are State functions and that the Commonwealth should keep out or, if the Commonwealth makes grants, it should leave them as unspecific as possible. This argument is completely discredited in all the other Federal systems, in particular the three I have mentioned - the United States of America, Canada and West Germany. In each of those systems the national initiative is acknowledged. It is all the more necessary to acknowledge it in Australia because the national Parliament here has greater financial powers than have the national parliaments or congresses in the United States, Canada and West Germany. The Commonwealth has a monopoly of the principal revenue producing powers - income tax, customs duties, excise duties and sales tax - and further, it alone has the responsibility in raising public loans. So wherever these matters which I have mentioned are involved the national initiative is all the more essential, but this is particularly so as regards housing.
No public funds have ever been spent on housing in Australia except by the Commonwealth. The States get all their money from the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth, through the War Service Homes Division, spends money directly on housing. But for a generation - ever since Franklin Roosevelt and continuing through Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy - the United States Congress has acknowledged its obligation in matters of housing and every President has urged Congress to accept this responsibility. The United States programme of urban renewal, to take the feature about which I have been last speaking, is an excellent guide although not necessarily a model for Australia. The programme is an attempt by the United States Federal Government to produce some order and responsibility into an inefficient Federal structure of government. It depends on the co-operation of the Federal and State Governments, local government bodies and private enterprise. It is a concerted effort by a community, through its public and private resources to prevent and correct urban blight and decay and to set in motion long range planned redevelopment.
In the United States Federal assistance takes three principal forms. The first is technical assistance. The second is advances and loans to finance surveys and planning work necessary before actual operations on the project. Temporary loans may be obtained as working capital to acquire land and buildings in the project area and to prepare the site. The third form is capital grants. These are available for no more than two-thirds of the aggregate net cost of the project. An alternative programme is a three-quarters grant but here local authori-ties must meet all the expenses for planning, surveys, legal services and administrative costs. The net result in either case is that the Federal Government provides two-thirds of the grants.
I will conclude with a reference to the American practice concerning housing for the aged. There is no provision in the Bill before the House for housing for the aged; there is none under the War Service Homes Act; there is none by any of the lending institutions which the Commonwealth regulates, be they building societies, savings banks, trading banks or life assurance societies. The only assistance the Commonwealth makes in this respect is under the Aged Persons Home Act and here anomalies have arisen - one might almost call them malpractices - because the aged persons who are best able to make some contribution towards their housing are often those who get preference in the housing. That is, if people are able to make a loan or a gift to one of the approved organisations it accelerates and facilitates the obtaining of accommodation in many of the homes built under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
Three sections of the United States Housing and Home Finance Agency concern themselves with this matter. First, the Community Facilities Administration makes direct loans to create housing for those older persons whose incomes make them ineligible for public housing but who cannot afford rental charges of housing in the private market. Secondly, the Public Housing Administration administers the Federal programme for low rent public housing, under which local housing authorities are required to establish admission policies with full consideration for elderly tenants of low income. Thirdly, the Federal Housing Administration has three schemes. The first is to insure mortgages for financing the construction and rehabilitation of rental accommodation for the elderly. The second is to insure lenders against loss on a mortgage for a house purchased by a person 62 years of age or over, where the down payment is made by friends, relatives or an approved corporation. The third is to insure mortgages to finance certain new or rehabilitated nursing homes.
I have been specific in this field because it is one where the Commonwealth’s obligations are quite clear. The Commonwealth can make money available to house social service beneficiaries on any terms it chooses. It is no longer possible for the States to make houses available for purchase or rental to aged persons, who in fact stand most in need of this assistance. The rebate scheme has been ended for the last eight years.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It was not my intention to speak on this Bill, but as Opposition members have shown a keen interest in the legislation I thought I should say a few words. This Bill is the authorising bill for the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which, under the Bill, is extended until 1966. By and large I agree with most of the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) because they were to the point and indicated positive thinking. But the honorable gentleman said that the Government had done very little, if anything, for aged persons and that certainly this Bill did nothing for them. I remind the honorable gentleman that last week in answer to a question the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said that the Government had allocated, in the form of grants to the various organisations in the States, about £22 million for the erection of homes for aged people. I think that the grant of £22 million must be considered a reasonable effort, taking into account the period for which the Aged Persons Homes Act has operated. Added to that £22 million is the sum of £11 million which the organisations themselves have collected to erect homes for aged people.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also indicated that the Commonwealth had as much or more authority than the Governments of West Germany, the United States of America and Great Britain in the matter of erecting homes. I think the honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) has pointed out in other debates that a committee formed in 1947 reported definitely that the building of homes was the right of the various States and that constitutionally the Commonwealth, except in certain circumstances, has very little authority in the matter of building homes. The Commonwealth has authority in relation to homes built for the War Service Homes Division, homes built in the Northern Territory through the Department of Territories and homes built in the Australian Capital Territory through the Department of the Interior.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to research. I must agree with him that a considerable amount of research should be carried out by the industry. Some research is now being done by a housing industry research group in
Victoria, but I believe that research and surveys should now be carried out by the Commonwealth under the auspices of the new Department of Housing. In reading about the construction of houses, we learn that in Australia there are 800 municipalities or shires. I think it was during the last recess that the Minister pointed out that because of the different building regulations in force in these municipalities and shires, approximately £250 would be added to the cost of a home. When we remember that approximately 100,000 or more homes will be built in Australia this year, we realise that an additional £25 million will be spent on home construction which otherwise could have been spent in other ways.
As I have said, this Bill relates to the Loan (Housing) Act of 1964. It seeks to authorise the raising of loan moneys totalling £51,350,000 which will be distributed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to the various States according to the amounts requested by them at the Loan Council meeting. New South Wales requested, and will receive £17,500,000. Victoria is to obtain £13,500,000, Queensland will get £3,300,000, South Australia will receive £10,250,000, Western Australia is to have £3,600,000 and Tasmania £3,200,000. This grand total of £51,350,000 will be divided between the State housing authorities and the various builders’ accounts. In all £17.6 million will be allocated to the various builders and approximately £37.75 million will be used by the State housing authorities.
As all honorable members know, we now have a Department of Housing, and it is quite evident that both the Minister and the staff of this new Department have done a considerable amount of work since the Department was established this year. Indeed, they have followed up most of the suggestions put forward not only by members on the Government side but also by members of the Opposition. They have done excellent work in connection with war service homes and will continue to carry out the policy that was set down prior to the setting up of the new Department. In. his policy speech for the 1963 election, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) pointed out that two avenues of assistance would be exploited by the new Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury). The first is the homes savings grant scheme, which has already been approved by this Parliament. The second is now being considered by the Minister and his Department. It is llC government insurance or mortgage scheme. I am one of those who are hoping that the Minister will be able to bring this scheme into operation before the Parliament goes into recess.
The homes savings grant scheme has proved very popular. The Minister has told us that already £1 million has been granted to 4,600 young married couples for the’ building or purchase of homes. Despite! the assertions by some members opposite when the Estimates were being debated last week that very few young married people could obtain a homes savings grant, the Minister has told us that 80 per cent, of those 4,600 young couples have received the maximum amount of £250 on the basis of £1 for every £3 which they have saved in the last three years or more. I emphasise here that in order to qualify for the grant, one of the saving partners must be under 36 years of age. There is in circulation at the present time, an excellent booklet published by the new Department of Housing. It is entitled, “A Grant for your Home “. I urge all young married people who are about to purchase a home or are thinking of purchasing one to go along to a post office or their bank and obtain a copy of this booklet because it does refer to many of the pitfalls that they could encounter when applying for a grant. Over the years we in this Parliament have debated opposing points of view with relation to housing finance. We all admit that for many years finance for housing, particularly at reasonable interest rates, has been a problem. I have mentioned a research group in Victoria. This group consisting of 19 organisations associated with building and under the sponsorship of the Master Builders Association, and the Building and Allied Trades Association, has been carrying out surveys with relation to the gap in the initial deposit required for the purchase of a home and many other matters connected with building. Those surveys disclose that there are at least seven different avenues through which finance may be obtained for a home. The first is the Commonwealth Government itself. The Commonwealth provides money in three different ways. First* it spends approximately £35 million a year on building war service homes to sell to those who qualify and apply for them. Secondly, there is the Department of the Interior, which I mentioned earlier. It is responsible for constructing and selling or renting homes in the Australian Capital Territory. Thirdly, the Department of Territories builds homes for sale or rental in the Northern Territory.
The second major avenue of finance is the State housing authorities which, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, build homes for sale or rental to people who qualify. In addition to the State housing authorities, there are other State instrumentalities which provide finance for bousing. For instance, in Tasmania there is the Agricultural Bank. In Victoria we have the Home Savings Trust which provides finance in special cases. In South Australia, the South Australian Superannuation Fund covers special cases. These State instrumentalities are the third avenue of finance. The fourth avenue consists of the Commonwealth and State banks in the various States. These have different qualifying requirements and provide varying amounts for the purchase or building of homes. The fifth source from which finance is obtained is the private banks. The sixth avenue is the life insurance companies and the seventh is the building societies. We could add an eighth, the private lenders who usually lend at higher interest rates. Each of these groups contributes in its own way towards the financing of housing. The Commonwealth contributes at least 33 per cent, of the finance required for housing in Australia each year.
Although I agree with what is being done in connection with war service homes and by the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory and in the Australian Capital Territory, I do suggest that under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement we have set up what might be termed a socialised form of housing construction. The States have set up magnificent offices to control the spending of the huge sums that are made available to them. Belonging as I do to a private enterprise party, I would like to see this money channelled through private enterprise builders and lenders instead of being made available to State housing authorities. We have all too few trained personnel in private industry. We cannot afford to have top trained per sonnel established behind desks in the various housing authorities of the sue States. The work that these authorities do should be done by private enterprise.
Although the research group in Victorian organisation has not been in operation for very long, I have received from it at least five very informative newsletters dealing with the problems of young couples wishing to buy houses. I have also mentioned the surveys made by this group. Just after last Christmas this group surveyed 476 homes and discovered that 44 per cent, of the people buying those 476 homes experienced no deposit gap problem. The other 56 per cent., however, had some problems. Some of them, of course, obtained the money from their parents or relatives, but others had to go to the fringe lending institutions and pay high interest rates for the money they had to find for deposits. It is true that since the Government brought down the homes savings grant legislation some of the problems posed by the deposit gap has been overcome. The problem will be progressively overcome as the legislation has wider application. The 56 per cent, of the people who had to obtain secondary finance found that the average amount they had to obtain was £440. Now such people will have to find an average amount of only £190 from secondary sources if they are under 36 years of age and qualify for a grant.
– They do not get the grant at that stage. They get it after they enter into a contract to buy or build a home.
– The honorable member says they do not get it at that stage, but once they have signed a contract to buy or build a home they will be able to obtain the grant provided they qualify in other respects. As I have said, the survey group of which I have spoken is quite a small group, but it has been sponsored by the Building and Allied Trades Association, consisting of 19 bodies connected with the building and associated industries. Men and women are in the field the whole time gathering information. I believe that the Government should be undertaking such surveys to ensure that it will at all times have an understanding of the problems involved in purchasing land and homes. This group has proved to me that until 1960 the cost of land had increased out of all proportion to its value. The actual figure is 139 per cent. Since 1959 the average cost of a block of land has increased considerably. Whereas between 1959 and 1960 the average increase in the price of a block of land was 30 per cent., it was not more than seven per cent, per annum between 1960 and 1964. In other words, the increase has been reduced, percentagewise, quite considerably. But unless the Government and the lending authorities take all these facts into account young people will have real problems in financing the building or purchase of their homes. It is all very well for us to talk about young people being able to save tremendous amounts of money. Young people today are well paid and I believe that many could save a good deal more money towards their deposits than they have done. At the same time, the calls on the money available to young people are very great, and they try to buy their cars, their transistors and all the other things that they should have in any event. The Government, therefore, has done a tremendous amount, by way of the homes savings grant scheme, to encourage these young couples, even with what might be called a gimmick to save over a comparatively short period of three or four years in order to qualify for the grant of £250.
As I said, I had no intention of talking on this Bill, but I must say that I believe that the legislation authorising the allocation of this amount of £51.35 million should be supported by all honorable members on both the Government and on the Opposition sides. I have no hesitation in saying that for the time being at least it is a good thing for the Australian building industry. However, I would like to see the amount gradually reduced as private enterprise takes over the job that it should do. I support the Bill.
.- The purpose of this Loan (Housing) Bill is to facilitate the raising of loan money amounting to £51.35 million, which will be diverted to the States under the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, principally for the purpose of financing Housing Commission homes, but also to support building societies. It is true that the allocation for this year is £1.5 million more than the allocation for last year, but it is fair to contend that this extra amount does little more than provide for the increase in costs that has taken place, not only of housing but also of a tremendous amount of commodities available to the Australian people.
The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) said in his second reading speech that the States agreed to this amount of £51.35 million for housing, but it would be unfortuate if the impression were given that the States believed this amount of money sufficient to overcome their housing problems or to meet the needs of the various Housing Commissions. It is true that they agreed to this amount as representing the proportion of total loan funds that should be devoted to housing. They have the prerogative of determining how the total loan allocations that they receive will be carved up. After all, they can increase the amount for housing only at the expense of allocations for such . essential services as conservation, education, transport, hospitals and public works. Right from the outset we on this side of the House contend that the amount made available for Housing Commission homes is still insufficient.
I have before me a newspaper cutting of something which was widely published on the occasion of the accession to office of the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1 949. It bears a photograph of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) looking benign and dignified, and he is reported as saying -
We give this firm promise to young couples. The Liberal Party, when returned to office, will regard as its permanent and most vital responsibility the speeding up of the housing programme . . .
Yet 15 years later the promise remains unfulfilled. Let me take a summary look at the housing crisis that is in evidence around the countryside. Nineteen years after the war we find that outstanding applications for war service home loans total 11,806. At least, that was the number of applications on hand at the end of June last year. Many of those applicants are being required to wait 17 months for their loans, and in the mea time they are forced to find temporary finance at interest rates as high as 10 per cent. Tremendous profits have been made out of war service homes since the inception of the scheme. I think the total amount has been more than £40 million, after allowing for the costs of providing the service, administrative costs and so on. It is difficult to imagine why some of those profits could not be ploughed back so that the waiting period for loans could be reduced. The backlog obviously should be reduced. There are many ways of doing this. The Government should show some initiative, even if it is not prepared to make more money available on its own account, by requiring the Commonwealth Bank to underwrite the needs of those who have had applications for war service loans accepted but who have not yet received those loans.
What is the position with Housing Commissions? No fewer than 62,000 people were waiting for Housing Commission homes in the six States at the end of June last. In some States applicants wait for as long as four and a half years for homes. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) today provided me with the answer to a question about the number of migrants in hostels in Australia. There are no fewer than 15,632 of them. These people are required to live in inadequate accommodation, in settlements closely resembling the refugee camps from which some of them came. These people stay there for an average of 34.5 weeks and pay a very considerable sum of money for this accommodation. No serious attempt is being made to overcome this problem and lift the dignity of new Australians who have been enticed in many cases to come from other countries to Australia. Why cannot we start to think in terms of a home for transient migrant people - people who are going to move, presumably, to another State and settle permanently in a community? Such a home should have its own cooking facilities, its own dining facilities, and its own toilet facilities instead of the primitive communal arrangement that has been in evidence for about 15 years since this Government has been in office.
We look at the availability of funds for housing and we know, as far as bank loans are concerned, that they are restricted to persons with an income of £25 a week, and those persons need to have had a good account. They have to have had a buoyant account for some considerable time before making application or they will not receive accommodation. Even then, the amount of money made available to these comparatively affluent people is limited. The advance is limited to £3,500 with the best of banks and in many cases it is limited to 60 per cent, of the cost of a house and land. This of course makes second mortgages necessary and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn), who preceded me, has made reference to the extent of the second mortgages indulged in by so many home builders today. The honorable member was referring to the inquiry which was conducted in Victoria. It has been established that 56 per cent, of the people - I think that was the number mentioned by the honorable member - have not only to raise a deposit of £750 but in fact they also have to raise a secondary loan of £670 on second mortgage. So those people have to raise a total of £1,420 and a large amount of it is subject to a high rate of interest. The usual minimum interest rate is 61 per cent, and it ranges as high as 10 per cent. flat. We are told that 78 per cent, of such people included in this survey, which covered 476 homes in Victoria in the last six months of 1963, were subject to an interest rate in excess of 8 per cent. That, Sir, is certainly dear money. But, as I have said, the best loan that can be raised from a bank is £3,500 and how far would that sum go towards meeting the cost of a home? According to the last annual report of the War Service Homes Division these are the average prices of homes in Australia today: In New South Wales the price is £5,053; in Victoria £5,099; in Queensland £4,692; in South Australia £5,376; in Western Australia it is £4,925; in Tasmania it is £4,411 and in the Northern Territory it is £5,011. The figure for Canberra is not available. No wonder it is not available with the fantastic price that land is selling for in this community at the present time. Honorable members can readily see that £3,500 is totally inadequate as an advance to meet that type of cost which has been established as an average by the War Service Homes Division.
I want to mention the inadequacy of provisions made in respect of homes for aged people. My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), mentioned the Community Facilities Administration in the United States of America and the special regard which this particular authority has for the needs of elderly people in the American community.
As many honorable members know there are concepts operating in the United States which have never ever been considered by the Government of this country. There are such concepts as providing advances to public authorities and private concerns which are intent on establishing homes for elderly people. These homes are often established on a happiness concept - a village concept, which includes the provision of such things as a dance hall and a restaurant, even small trains and other means of communication to take elderly people from one part of the village to another. They provide swimming pools also. In general, an attitude is prevailing in the United States at the present time that when one retires it is not necessary to retire into a considerable degree of misery - that retirement does not have to represent purgatory. There is a great deal that can be done to emulate the example of the United States of America to which I have referred.
The age.d persons’ homes scheme does leave a lot to be desired in Australia. We have had considerable evidence in recent times of non-returnable deposits being an essential pre-requisite to obtaining accommodation in a home provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act. That is to say, if the unit costs a total of £4,500 then £1,500 has to be raised to attract the Commonwealth subsidy of £2 for £1. These days, the practice has developed whereby only those people who have the amount of money to attract the subsidy receive accommodation. So many people with £1,500 can be accommodated but the person who needs accommodation most of all, the person who has not a home to sell, the person who lives in a boarding house or who lives in a room in the under-privileged part of one of the larger cities, is denied accommodation under the Aged Persons Homes scheme.
– Are there many people in your district who come under this category?
– I think the vast predominance of loans made available under the provisions of the Aged Persons’ Homes Act are made available on this basis. Only yesterday or the day before, Dame Pattie Menzies opened a very large establishment in Sydney on behalf of one of the churches. I venture to say, without going into details, that here again the successful applicants to enter the home will need to pay a deposit - a non-returnable deposit - so that if they die next week their estate will not benefit in any way as a result of the contribtuion they have made. But I have been referring to this problem of accommodating aged persons just in passing. Let me make another reference which has some very real relationship to the measure before the House and which concerns aged persons. It is unfortunate that local government authorities are not given the opportunity to particpate in the aged persons’ homes scheme so that they could also benefit by this subsidy.
– That is the policy of the Australian Labour Party.
– Of course it is Labour’s policy, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh points out. That is precisely why I am contrasting Labour’s policy with that of the Government at the present time. All over Australia at the present time there are local government areas with isolated pockets of land which are the residue of sub-divisions and various development schemes. These pockets of land would be highly suitable for the construction of aged persons’ homes. If local government authorities were brought into this scheme we would be able to provide the means of accommodating more of these elderly folk. People who have grown up in a particular community have no desire to leave that community and live in some place where they are not known by the indigenes. If my proposal were adopted, this movement would no longer be necessary.
– There is also a strong case for bringing State housing authorities into the scheme.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh is very helpful with the several suggestions he has made but I have enough thoughts in my head to keep me going in the time available to me.
– If the honorable member for Hughes will address the Chair he will also be helpful.
– I recommend this matter to the Minister for Housing who is at the table. He is not an unreasonable man and I think he would be prepared to consider this matter so that these small pockets of land could be used and that local government authorities could be subsidised.
– They are not in his jurisdiction.
– Is the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who is interjecting, opposed to the idea that local government councils should be given the subsidy of £2 for £1 if they provide homes for aged people? Knowing his area as well as I do know, I can tell the honorable member that there would be many people who would benefit as a consequence and I am surprised to see that he is not prepared to be more co-operative about this particular matter. We are making progress in regard to housing in Australia. The last general election netted a considerable amount of progress. It was as a consequence of Labour’s policy that this Government, 15 years after first taking office, was required to see the need to bridge the deposit gap. Shortly, but belatedly, the Government will introduce its mortgage guarantee scheme. I doubt whether that scheme will be anywhere near as comprehensive as the scheme which Labour proposed; but at least it is coming along. It would never have come along if the Prime Minister had not been forced to pull some white rabbits out of the hat in the form of fairly impetuous promises. Ever since those promises were made, the Government has been wondering exactly what they are all about. Having made the promises, the Government has been trying desperately to develop a way of giving effect to them.
Another innovation about which we are very happy is the initiation, 14 or 15 years after the Government took office, of the Ministry of Housing. For a long time Labour had been promising to appoint a Minister of Housing. The housing grant scheme was also a by-product of the last election. It was a fairly desperate measure - an election gimmick. It is a conglomeration. One almost needs to be a lawyer to sort out how to establish eligibility for this grant. Nevertheless, the scheme has been introduced. It was forced on the Government by the pressure of the election campaign.
I ask the Minister for Housing, who is at the table, when the Government will have a good look at the housing needs of the Australian community by conducting a comprehensive survey of housing costs and requirements. Can the Minister give an unqualified assurance that the great tidal wave of young people who were born shortly after the Second World War, who soon will be getting married or who are already married and who, in increasing numbers, will need houses over the next few years, will be able to obtain the necessary funds? Are economic provisions being made for them? Do we know what demands there will be for housing in the future, so that adequate builders, bricklayers, carpenters and tilers will be available? I know that honorable members opposite contend that we cannot do any more about housing because all the building force is engaged at the present time. If that is true - I do not concede that it is - it is a reflection on the Government for not having more foresight earlier in the piece and ensuring that sufficient building tradesmen were enticed into the industry.
– The credit squeeze deterred them.
– The credit squeeze not only deterred tradesmen in the building industry but also was responsible for the shortage of tradesmen in many other fields. The failure to maintain margins for tradesmen is also a paramount consideration.
In New South Wales the housing shortage has been overcome to a considerable degree by the co-operative building society movement, which is conducted by inspired and devoted people. The movement does a magnificent job in that State, as I understand it does in a number of the other States, too. Terminating building societies have become very popular. A total of £240 million has been expended by these societies since 1936. But it is an unfortunate fact that the Government has not required the banks to make a sufficient contribution to the building societies. The vast bulk of the contribution being made by the banks is being made by the Commonwealth Bank. Some of the trading banks are not bearing their share of the burden.
Worse than that is the failure of the insurance companies to assist the building society movement, especially in New South Wales. I am told that three insurance companies in particular have given good assistance. They are the Queensland Insurance Co. Ltd., Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Ltd., and the South British Insurance Co. Ltd. The building societies of New South Wales- 1,900 of them in all - have received only £2.4 million from insurance companies in the last three years. That is an infinitesimal sum compared with the total that the societies have used in that period. More than half of that £2.4 million has come from the three insurance companies that I have mentioned.
Over the last 10 years building societies have had £110 million of loan money at their disposal. Only £6 million of that amount has come from 24 insurance companies; yet those same 24 insurance companies have engaged in £77 million worth of insurance business associated with homes financed by building societies. In 10 years, 59 insurance companies made no loans at all to the building society movement; yet those same 59 insurance companies handled £33 million worth of repeating insurance business. The figure was £33 million in the initial year and, being in connection with houses, the business is repeated year after year.
The unfortunate fact is that today insurance companies are far more intent on pouring the money received from their clients’ premiums into cattle stations and other investments than on lending money to building societies. Recently it was announced that one insurance company had invested in H. G. Palmer Pty. Ltd., the big electrical retailer. Sometimes insurance companies are interested in making housing loans to their clients. They are interested in doing that only if a very lucrative life assurance policy is attached to the loan. This is the extent to which the insurance companies have failed to give the building society movement the assistance that is needed. At the same time they are deriving a tremendous amount of benefit from the activities of the building societies. I hope that the Government will do something to ensure that in the future insurance companies weigh is to a faT greater extent than they have done hitherto.
What is the position of the State housing authorities and the total number of people who want homes from them? As I said, at the end of June 1963 no fewer than 62,393 people were waiting for assistance from the various State housing authorities. The position is not improving to any marked extent. There may have been a change in the subsequent period, but these are the latest figures that one can ascertain from a study of the annual reports. The position is unfortunate because the people who are hit hardest when State housing authority funds are not available are the people in the low income bracket. I know from an earlier report - admittedly, it is the report for 1961, but no later figures on this point are available - that 66 per cent, of the people accommodated by the New South Wales Housing Commission had incomes less than £20 a week; that 18.36 per cent, of such people had incomes less than £12 a week; and that only 9 per cent, of such people had incomes in excess of £25 a week. So it is apparent that the State housing authorities provide homes for people in respect of whom no other lending authorities will come to the party.
In New South Wales the position is not satisfactory, despite the magnificent job that is being done by the Housing Commission in that State. No fewer than 37,797 applications were outstanding at the end of June 1963. Homes are not being built fast enough. Only 4,342 homes were completed in 1962-63. That figure was much lower than the figures in many previous years. In the previous year there were 4,722 completions. But back in 1954-55 5,254 homes were completed. In the year before that 5,177 homes were completed. The output is down because this Government is allowing costs to get out of hand and the price of land is soaring. The honorable member for Balaclava, who preceded me in this debate, said that the increase in the price of land in Victoria has been £80 per annum in each of the last five years. That is true. The rate of increase in the price of land has slowed down. That is only because people are reluctant to take’ the fringe land. Apparently there is a need to plan satellite cities. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, this is being done in the A.C.T.
In Queensland the position is not good. As I have said, the output of homes for 1962-63 by the Queensland housing authority was exceeded in the six years preceding 1962-63. In Western Australia the position is equally bad. In that State 6,623 applications were outstanding in 1962-63, and in many preceding years that State had exceeded its output for 1962-63. In Victoria no fewer than 13,000 people were waiting for Housing Commission homes at the end of June 1963. There has been no decrease in the number on the waiting list in that State, nor has there been any decrease in the waiting period, which is 2i years. In the annual report of the Housing Commission of Victoria attention was drawn to the fact that slum clearance was not proceeding at a desirable pace. Each year 12 acres of slums are cleared, and with more than 800 acres ready for development it will take 60 to 70 years to complete the slum clearance task already on hand. Despite the request made by the State Minister of Housing for additional funds for slum clearance, funds have not been made available for this purpose.
The Victorian Housing Commission also has drawn attention to the need for special consideration for the aged. In its report it said -
Repeated approaches have been made to the Commonwealth for assistance in the housing of elderly persons which is felt to be a social service and should rightly be supported by the Commonwealth.
It goes on to say that every Darby and Joan flat, as the housing units for elderly people are called in Victoria, is subsidised by the Victorian housing authority to the extent of £100 in rent rebates each year. I know that a similar position exists in New South Wales. I refer now to the annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust which states -
During the financial year 1963 the South Australian Housing Trust completed 2,882 dwellings. It is a matter of some concern to the Trust that this completion rate hows a decrease on previous years.
Yet the number of applications is increasing. In the year ended June 1963, 9,829 applications were received. This figure was greater than the figures for the previous year and for the year before that. In the year ended June 1963, 2,882 homes were completed by the South Australian Housing Trust. The Minister for Housing should be concerned to know that this was the smallest output of housing authority homes in
South Australia for the last 13 years - right back to 1950-51 - according to the annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust.
Tasmania is in a similar predicament. The annual report for the housing authority in Tasmania for the year ended June 1963 said -
It is disappointing to note that for the year ended 30th June 1963 completions were less than 2 per cent, in excess of those for the previous year and are still less than for any period since 1954-53.
The report goes on to advocate the use of greater proportions of bank depositors’ funds for housing. It attributes the reduced output of homes to the shortage of finance and calls for a narrowing of the gap between the loan and the cost of a home. It predicts that the full impact on the housing demand of the high number of marriages during the war and in the immediate post-war years has still to be felt.
This is the note upon which I conclude my remarks: There are some difficult times ahead in regard to housing for the young people of this country. I believe that there needs to be a greater concern on the part of the Government at the situation which has been shown to exist, and a greater degree of action so that funds can be made available. The wealth of every young couple is represented by their two pairs of working hands and their capacity to work in the future. I believe that it should be the birthright of every young Australian to borrow against his future for the purchase of a home.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) spent about a third of his allotted time in making references to the Aged Persons Homes Act. He told the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) that he should take notice of and do something about the housing of elderly people. I endeavoured to remind the honorable member that the Aged Persons Homes Act is not within the jurisdiction of the Minister, but he answered me with the usual tirade that we heard throughout the whole of his speech - a tirade against the Government about it providing too little too late. I shall deal with that aspect later.
– The same old record.
– The same old record, as my friend from Mallee reminds me, and the same old record takes on the same old note that we hear from those in opposition to us. If the Government does anything they say that originally it was Labour’s policy. They say that the Government has done it, but it is too late, and that if Labour had been in office it would have been done years ago. If the Government acts within a reasonable time honorable members opposite say that its move is an election gimmick. The record of the honorable gentleman on those matters is loud and clear. However, he did say something on two matters that I would like to answer.
He spoke about the number of migrants in hostels. He said that an average of 15,000, I think, are quartered in migrant hostels. This number represents about 15 per cent, of Australia’s annual migrant intake. I remind the honorable member that this percentage, in the light of the housing difficulties experienced by America in her immigration programme, is very minor indeed. The other matter about which he spoke was the lack of craftsmen to build houses. I remind him that the Opposition squealed when we had unemployment, and building craftsmen were available. Now we have full employment. The honorable member said that the Government should ha-e taken heed of the shortage of craftsmen and should have brought in artisans from other countries, or should have got them somehow. Yet when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) on behalf of the Government proposed a scheme whereby unskilled and semi-skilled people in the industry could be trained under an apprenticeship scheme to provide them with the skills to perform this work, what happened? The Opposition opposed the scheme bitterly. I have mentioned these things in passing because I believe that the record needs to be put straight.
While on the subject I shall refer also to something said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who accused the Commonwealth of moving out of the rental field. I do not know exactly what he meant by this, but I would have him remember that the funds which are made available to the States are spent as they choose by the respective State Governments. They can use those funds to build houses either for rental or for sale. It is a matter of fact, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition undoubtedly knows, that the Governments in at least three States - Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales - have endeavoured to vacate the rental housing field. They try to sell their houses. Indeed, they have sold many on nominal deposits - in some cases on no deposit - and have permitted them to be paid off on rental terms so that they can get out of the uneconomical business of providing rental properties. Of course the State Governments, including the Government of the State from which the honorable member for Werriwa comes, New South Wales, have endeavoured to vacate the rental field. The policy of the Commonwealth Government is to see that every Australian who so desires can buy his home. As this trend increases and the Government’s policy develops we will see that the rental property sector will diminish very greatly.
Another matter mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was war service homes. I was amazed to hear him say that some Government supporters were inclined to knock the war service homes scheme because it was a socialist scheme. Undoubtedly, he completely lost sight of the fact that the war service homes scheme provides a repatriation benefit for servicemen who served in a theatre of war. This scheme provides some compensation to a serviceman on his return from service in a theatre of war if he so desires. A war service home is definitely a repatriation benefit. The honorable gentleman proceeded to suggest that we should turn this scheme into a Socialist scheme. He said that it should be widened to include serving members of the forces. If they are to be included, I ask: What about member of the forces who did not serve in a theatre of war in previous wars? The honorable member also said that the war service homes scheme was a Commonwealth scheme, and he asked why it could not be extended to Commonwealth public servants. He did add that, of course, some of the money in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund could be lent to the Government for the purpose. I agree that some of the money in that Fund could
Commonwealth public servants if they so desire, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition completely lost sight of the initial concept of the war service homes scheme as a scheme providing a repatriation benefit. He himself, in terms of his own recommendations, proceeded to try to turn it into nothing else but a Socialist scheme.
Let me now return to the Bill, Sir. It provides for loans not exceeding a total of £51,350,000 to be raised this financial year for assistance to the States for housing purposes. This total will be broken up into such amounts as are required by the various States. Honorable members should appreciate that the States themselves, not the Commonwealth, decide what proportion of the total loan funds shall be devoted to housing. In effect, the amount asked for this financial year is £1.5 million greater than that provided last financial year. These loan advances are repayable over a period of 53 years at an interest rate of 1 per cent, below the current long term bond rate, which makes the rate of interest at present 4 per cent., I think. The average has not exceeded this. Over the period since the commencement of the Housing Agreement Act 1961, the rate has been as low as 34th per cent, and 31 ths per cent.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that 30 per cent, of the sum advanced to a State by way of loan funds for housing must be allocated to the Home Builders Fund - in other words, to building societies or other approved institutions from which individuals may obtain loans for housing purposes at a reasonable rate of interest. In addition, the Commonwealth requires each State housing authority to set aside for the construction of dwellings for serving members of the forces up to 5 per cent., or a greater sum by agreement, if so requested by the Commonwealth. Under the Agreement, the Commonwealth must make available to the States for this purpose a sum at least equal to that allocated by the States. During the past three years, the Commonwealth has provided additional amounts totalling £4.8 million to match such funds allocated by the States. The Government has recently decided to advance an additional £9.4 million over the next three years to accelerate the construction of houses for serving personnel in the forces. Most of this sum is expected to be outlaid on housing in the current financial year, and this should make a great impact on housing generally.
I wish to comment on one other point that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made concerning the conversion of old buildings. I see great merit in this, because there are many solidly built old buildings that are capable of suitable conversion. However, one factor militates against this. Under State legislation, providing for uniform building regulations, various municipalities insist on a minimum area for a block of land on which a dwelling is constructed. This is normally about 5,000 square feet. In various municipalities, minimum frontages are as low as 40 ft. and 45 ft. On many blocks with frontages as small as 33 ft., there are attractive cottages, sometimes semi-detached, sometimes detached. Cottages on such blocks are often of weatherboard construction. If the existing dwelling is pulled down, under present regulations another cannot be constructed on a block with so small a frontage, and it is necessary to obtain land from the block on one side or the other, that block usually being occupied by a similar old weatherboard house and having a similar frontage. This situation means that many municipalities in capital cities are dotted with vacant blocks of land. I believe that these could be used to advantage if it were recognised that a block of land with, say, a frontage of 33 feet and a depth of 150 feet provided reasonable air space compared with the air space available per unit in many huge blocks of flats and apartments. In many instances, these provide much less air space per unit.
The honorable member for Hughes and other Opposition speakers have levelled at the Government the charges that the funds provided by it under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are inadequate. Over the last three years, the percentage of loan funds allocated for housing has diminished. I remind the House that the States set the amounts that they require, and they have progressively reduced their demands for housing from 24.4 per cent, of total loan funds in 1961-62 to 17.7 per cent, in the current financial year. In 1964-65, the total borrowing programme for works and housing is £290 million, compared with £247.5 million in 1961-62.
The Government has also been criticised on the ground that the 30 per cent, of housing funds to be allocated to building societies should not be taken out of the grant to the State. The Commonwealth’s advances are repayable over a term of 53 years, as I have mentioned. A building society receives its advance over a term of 53 years at 4 per cent., but normally it does not lend to individuals for a term longer than 31 years. So the funds can almost be used twice within the period of the original loan to the society. This enables building societies to finance almost twice as many houses as would be possible if these funds were allocated to State housing authorities. Furthermore, each member of a society who wants to borrow from that society has to put up a reasonable deposit. This means that private funds also are brought into use and loans are smaller than would otherwise have been the case. So much greater value, in terms of the number of dwellings constructed, is obtained from loan funds channelled through building societies and similar institutions in this way.
The honorable member for Hughes made a great song and dance about the huge waiting lists of people seeking accommodation from the State housing authorities. He said that over all the States some 70,000 people were on these waiting lists. I was interested to note that there were 37,000 applications in his own State of New South Wales. As I have said, the level of State housing construction, which is financed by the Commonwealth, is decided by the States themselves at the Australian Loan Council. The States can provide houses at lower rentals, because they have the assistance of this cheap Commonwealth money, and they can sell on most favorable repayment terms. They can let houses on much better rental terms than a private individual can. As a result, we have a greater number of applications for houses at the lower rental or for houses that can be bought on a nominal deposit or sometimes no deposit over a period of years, with an insurance policy that if the wage earner dies the property passes to his widow and family free of debt. Naturally, people enrol for this scheme. The terms are much easier than could be obtained from private sources.
The annual reports of the New South Wales and Victorian Housing Commissions for 1962-63 show that a total of 25,198 new applications were received during that year but of these 13,822, or more than half, were withdrawn from the waiting lists because applicants failed to attend appointments or to answer correspondence, or because they found they were ineligible or for other reasons. These are the waiting lists about which Opposition members speak. Of 25,198 applications in New South Wales and Victoria, 13,822 were withdrawn when the authorities dealt with them.
– In all probability the applicants found other accommodation.
– That is so, but these people seek the easy housing first. The waiting lists cannot be taken as a criterion of the housing shortage at present, as Opposition members are very wont to do. The figures I have given show that the waiting lists overstate the position, perhaps by as much as 50 per cent. The waiting lists give a false figure on which to base a judgment. Outstanding applications increased over the year in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania and decreased in Western Australia. In Queensland, applications for purchase are met without much delay. There were only 125 applications for purchase in a total waiting list of 4,699. Of the balance, which were applications for rental, over 50 per cent, of the applicants have no priority or are ineligible. In other words, in the view of the housing authorities their present housing situation is such that they do not qualify for assistance in the present circumstances. The State Governments decide that these people already have adequate accommodation and are ineligible for accommodation provided by State housing authorities. The State Governments apply this rule and the waiting lists are reduced by at least 50 per cent, for this reason. This is another reason why the Opposition should not attach such importance to the waiting lists of State housing authorities.
A question has been asked about the number of houses that should be built. In October 1961, Dr. Hall of the Australian National University prepared a paper in which he gave estimates of the trend of the housing demand. He subsequently amended his estimates in the light of increased immigration and other factors. In his revised estimates he said that in 1962-63 97,000 to 102,000 houses would be required.
Sirring suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension I was pointing out to the Opposition members who preceded me that to base his argument of a housing shortage in Australia on the lists of outstanding applications with the various State Housing authorities was completely false, and that these lists could not be accepted as a criterion. I referred to the outstanding applications in New South Wales and Victoria and indicated that over 50 per cent, of the lists of applications in the one year in New South Wales and Victoria were whittled away. In Queensland where the number of applicants for rental properties totalled 4,574 during the year, the Queensland State housing authority disclosed that more than 50 per cent, were allocated a nil priority or were described as ineligible. So more than half of the list of applicants for rented premises in Queensland was whittled away. It is not good enough for any Opposition speaker to use the fact that there are about 70,000 outstanding applications for housing as a base on which to build an argument against the Government. I think 1 have proved conclusively that it is not a yardstick which can be accepted.
Earlier I referred to a paper produced by Dr. Hall of the Australian National University in which he estimated the housing demands for 1963-64 as from 100,000 to 105,000; for 1964-65 as from 101,000 to 106,000; for 1965-66 as from 105,000 to 111,000 and for 1966-67 as from 109,000 to 115,000. The number of houses completed in Australia in the 12 months ended September 1963 was 98,163, but in the year ended September 1964 a total of 121,346 houses were completed. This latter figure exceeds by more than 6,000 the top figure that Dr. Hall - a noted expert in this field - estimated for the year 1966-67. I think this illustrates that the Government, which is assisting to meet the housing requirements of the country, is aware of the requirements. I repeat, the number of houses and flats completed is well ahead of the demands as estimated by Dr. Hall.
People, particularly my opponents opposite, have said that the Government is not doing enough. Mention has been made of the £35 million annually for the war service homes scheme. It is interesting to note that during the j 5 years administration of this Government more houses have been built under this scheme than during the entire previous administration of the Act, from its commencement in 1919. In 1963 the Commonwealth Government took steps to provide the savings banks with more scope to lend money for housing. The Government then altered the provision that 30 per cent, of depositors’ funds held by the banks had to be channelled into the bousing field. It increased the percentage to 35 per cent., which made additional money available for housing.
These factors have played an important part in assisting to meet the demand for housing. Then, of course, we have the homes savings grant scheme promised by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. This will enable people of limited means to attract a grant of £1 for every £3 of their savings up to a maximum grant of £250. This legislation is designed to bridge the deposit gap. This, in conjunction with the scheme which is shortly to be introduced for mortgage guarantee insurance, under which an applicant in certain circumstances will be able to borrow well above the normal margin of borrowing - even up to 95 per cent, provided he has the ability to repay the loan over a period of 20-odd years - ‘will assist persons in the lower income bracket who at the moment want houses but have not the ability to obtain them. Any person who wants a house and who has £1,000 can get one without any trouble, but the people in the low income bracket need assistance, and the homes savings grant scheme plus the mortgage guarantee insurance scheme will ensure that they will have the ability to buy homes. Then we will find that the only rental homes will be apartments close to the city which will house the transient population - people who do not want to put down grass roots in any one place because of their occupations or for other reasons.
Approval for the raising of this £51,350,000 will undoubtedly give impetus to the State authorities to continue their housing plans. However, I believe that in any new agreement we will have to examine for what purpose the moneys are to be used by the State housing authorities. I consider the use of the money should be restricted to slum reclamation work. Other funds available should be used for providing public utilities for some of the outer suburban areas. I should like to see money made available more readily through State Governments for sewerage construction. The lack of sewerage is one of the blots on the development of Australia. We have a great risk to health in many areas. To the north of my electorate hepatitis, typhoid and other diseases exist as a result of lack of sewerage. This is one factor the Government could well examine when the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is being introduced. I commend the Bill to the House.
.- First, in reference to some of the remarks made by the previous speaker I want to say that I do not think he believed them himself. I do not think he meant, when he referred to the 72,000 unsatisfied applicants for State Housing Commission accommodation in Australia, that the figure was fictitious. If that is what he meant he is saying virtually that the reports from the various State Ministers for Housing were false.
– I did not say they were fictitious.
– The honorable member said they were wrong and that he could not base facts on the figures given by the Premiers.
–That is correct.
– That is what the honorable member said; but it is not correct. The figures refer to unsatisfied applicants. It is true that there is considerable pruning of the demands for housing commission accommodation, but it is also true that a couple without children would find it impossible to get a housing commission home. For a number of other reasons people seeking housing commission accommodation are unable to obtain it. The fact remains that these people must seek other accommodation.
– They still want houses.
– That is so, and they are compelled to go elsewhere for their accommodation. There is no doubt that these people would accept housing commission accommodation if they could get it. I refute the honorable member’s claim that the figures presented by the State Ministers for Housing are false.
Honorable members opposite who have participated in this debate have sought to derive some comfort from the fact that at meetings of the Australian Loan Council the Premiers make certain demands on the Commonwealth for finance for housing. This is true, but it is also true that many calls are made on the States for financial assistance; and when they come to Canberra the Premiers must frame their demands on the Commonwealth accordingly. Many of the purposes for which the States seek financial aid from the Commonwealth arise directly from our immigration policy, which we all support. The influx of migrants has brought with it many problems. This is particularly true in Victoria. We welcome these migrants but let us not for a moment think that the Premiers would not take more money if it was offered to them. I challenge the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) and his colleagues to offer the Premiers more money for housing and see whether they will take it.
In introducing the Bill on 1 1 th August last the Minister said -
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the raising of loan moneys not exceeding £51,350,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing.
AH honorable members support the measure but we of the Opposition believe that the appropriation provided by this Bill will not meet the growing demand for homes in this country. In his speech the Minister said -
The trend in housing construction is one of decreasing reliance on governmental activity and increasing private construction. This is a very healthy trend and one that I hope will continue.
We all hope that the trend will continue but we do not welcome any decrease in governmental activity. It is not my desire to read into the Minister’s remarks something sinister when he stated -
The trend … is one of decreasing reliance on governmental activity.
However, I feel compelled to ask the Minister whether that statement is a warning to the State housing authorities that the Government is considering curtailing its activities in the future. I think it is timely to ask that question because we have heard Government supporters express opposition to the State housing authorities and almost advocate their abolition. Contrary to the opinion expressed by the Minister, I say there is an increasing demand for housing commission accommodation. Contrary to what the honorable member for Maribyrnong thinks, the figures tell their own story of the demand for housing. Today in Australia there are about 72,000 unsatisfied applicants to rent or buy a housing commission home.
– That is not true.
– It is true. In family terms that number would represent about 250,000 people. In Victoria the demand for housing commission homes runs at the rate of about 10,000 applicants a year, in addition to the 11,000 unsatisfied applicants already on the books.
Apart from building family units, housing commissions are engaged in other activities, and I think it is timely to refer to some of them. For instance, since 1956 the Victorian Housing Commission has been involved in a programme of providing housing for pensioner couples and lone females. To 30th June this year 1,829 units had been built at a cost of £3,195,000. Applications for these types of accommodation remain at the high level of 2,300 flats for single persons and 440 flats for couples. Confronted with this demand the Victorian Housing Commission has accelerated its programme, and over the next four years it will build six blocks of flats. Each block will consist of 204 flats. Construction of the first block has been commenced. But even this development leaves a lag of 1,584 applicants without taking into account the additional applications that will be forthcoming. In addition the commission will continue to build each year three-storey blocks of flats at the rate of 200 flats for single persons and 100 flats for couples. This programme will be financed from funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, on which interest and redemption must be paid. Based on capital cost the economic rental for these units should be £2 6s. 6d. a week in the case of single persons and £3 4s. 6d. a week in the case of couples. However, the rentals charged, based on the rebate formula contained in the Agreement and on the reduced pensions payable, are, in the case of single persons, 17s. a week and, in the case of couples, 30s. 6d. a week. These rentals result in a loss of 29s. 6d. a week in the case of single persons and 34s. a week in the case of couples. This loss has to be met by the commission.
For 1963-64 losses on pensioner housing totalled £172,700 and it is estimated that by the end of the four year programme the annual loss will be about £344,000 which is double the present level. This loss is being financed from the rental account. In other words, the loss is being met by housing commission tenants as a group. It is inconceivable that this group in the community - the group least able to afford it - should be called upon to finance pensioner housing when it reaches present proportions. This group comprises the low wage earners - the people on £18 or £20 a week - the invisible poor. The Government should contribute more towards the housing of pensioners, either in the form of capital grants, in the form of subsidies for schemes such as the homes for the aged scheme, or by making good to some extent the annual rental loss. However, despite incessant demands, the Government has refused to make any contribution in any form.
I turn now to another activity of housing commissions - slum reclamation. In Victoria alone to 30th June 1964 the Housing Commission had expended £5,093,717 on the acquisition and clearance of slum areas in the inner areas of Melbourne. These funds have been provided partly by an annual grant of £500,000 from the State Government, partly by contributions from the municipalities and partly by the sale of land to private developers - in other words, proceeds from the sale of land acquired by the Commission. Although some progress has been made - and this is becoming apparent around Melbourne - I say that the development rate of about 20 acres a year is too slow. Surveys have disclosed that about 1,000 acres of run-down housing are in need of immediate re-development. I understand that for the next three years the State Government’s grant will be increased to £650,000 a year and that, with additional funds from other sources, the rate of clearance will be increased slightly, but not to a realistic level. Therefore, in spite of what the Minister may say about decreasing reliance on Government activity, I say there in a clear case for the Commonwealth Government to increase its activity and to help with slum clearance by contributing £2 for every £1 contributed by the States to enable the rate of clearance to be increased-. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) supports me to some extent in that he has pointed out the sewerage deficiencies. I well know the sewerage deficiencies, but if the rate of clearance were stepped up to a realistic level it would be found that existing services could be utilised. In the United States of America the Federal Government contributes on a two for one basis. In Great Britain, the central Government makes a substantial contribution by way of annual subsidies for reclamation work. In fact, in almost every European country substantial contributions arc made to the local authorities by the. central governments to enable this type of reclamation work to be carried out.
Let us examine the way the funds are to be allocated under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. That agreement provides that 70 per cent. shall be allocated to the housing commissions and 30 per cent. to the co-operative building societies. At 30th June 1964, the Victorian Housing Commission held 10,718 unsatisfied live applications. New applications received for the year numbered 8,422 and were about the same as those for the previous year. These figures show that there is a continual strong demand for housing from the lower income groups who cannot finance their own homes on the conditions offered by cooperative building societies, savings banks and other lending institutions. I say, therefore, that either the funds available to the housing commissions should be increased outright or the 30 per cent. now diverted to the co-operative building societies should be returned to those commissions and the funds for co-operative building societies should be supplied by other means.
In addition to these responsibilities, the housing commissions must make homes available for migrants. It is well known that, along with the unsatisfied applicants to whom I have just referred, the migrants must take their places on the waiting list and live in temporary hostel accommodation until their turn on that list comes round. This is a lengthy period in the metropolitan area, ranging up to three or three and one half years. This leads me to say that the Commonwealth Government should consider making special finance available for the building of permanent homes for migrants - especially for migrants with large families - in preference to spending additional funds on hostel accommodation. This would take away from the State housing authorities the responsibility for housing migrants.
Migrant families are generally large working class families. Their need is to rent a home or purchase one on reasonable terms and, in view of the type of accommodation provided by the hostels, within a reasonable period. It can be said with every degree of truth that under present conditions migrants coming to their new country start well behind scratch in their search for a home. The great majority of these people would not have much capital even if they had sold their household goods or homes before coming to Australia. Now, many of them have no hope of saving to purchase a home because the hostel tariff takes about 70 per cent. of their weekly incomes. Thus the plight of these occupants of hostels is a serious one which reflects little credit on the Government. This state of affairs is not the sort of thing that will attract skilled migrants to our shores. In fact, I am very reliably informed that there could be brought to this country from England any number of skilled workers for the building industry and for other industries provided we could guarantee good housing or good housing finance. These people are aware of the hostel accommodation that the Government provides and they arc not prepared to accept it. I believe, therefore, that the Federal Government should consider making special finance available to build permanent homes for migrants. If we could guarantee to provide sufficient housing in Australia I am confident that our skilled migrant intake could be increased considerably and that this could be done without any dislocation of labour or resources.
It is considered that there will be 98,000 homes built in Australia this year; but this will still leave us 8,000 short of the 1964 demand, and this figure does not take into account the pent up demand. It does not take into account the fact that this Government was not able, until 1961, to better the 1951 home building figure, and even then it only bettered that figure by about 3,000 homes. Indeed, it took the Government ten years to realise that there was a housing problem in Australia.
In addition to this lag of ten years, the 1960 credit squeeze cost this country about 14,000 homes - that is a very conservative estimate - and this loss has never been made up. These figures indicate that the emphasis must be on increased activity, and on increased reliance on Government activity in the State housing field and in the private home building industry. Indeed, as recently as last Tuesday, this article appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “.
An annual output of 125,000 new homes in Australia, for the next 10 years, has been set as the goal of the Housing Industry Association.
Delegates from the State divisions of the association, at a meeting in Melbourne earlier this week, decided on this national objective.
Mr. Thomson, the national president of the Association, said that delegates were unanimous that housing finance remained the industry’s major problem. The article contains much that relates to housing finance. I do not want to weary the House by reading it, so with the concurrence of honorable members I will incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
An annual output of 125,000 new homes in Australia, for the next 10 years, has been set as the goal of the Housing Industry Association.
Delegates from the State divisions of the association, at a meeting in Melbourne earlier this week, decided on this national objective.
The national president (Mr. David J. Thomson) said yesterday that this output was attainable considering the requirements of a rapidly increasing population, and the pressing need to expand the rate of replacement and rehabilitation of substandard housing.
The meeting had also decided on the following national policies and objectives: -
Ninety-five per cent. loans where the value of the house and land does not exceed £4,000, with a reduction of one per cent. in this percentage for every £100 by which the value of the house and land exceeds £4,000.
A uniform period for repayments of loans of 35 years, with duration of loan not less than 25 years.
Maximum loan limits to be geared to a suitable house price and land price index, ensuring that loan limits are adjusted automatically to keep pace with altering housing costs.
An increased overall availability of finance for housing loans, and action by the Federal Housing Ministry to bring about suitable Treasury policies to facilitate an increased and stable flow generally.
Mr. Thomson said delegates were uanimous that housing finance remained the industry’s major problem.
If the credit flow were cut off, or reduced sub- stantially, the effects were felt all the way from the builder to the buyer.
Stable housing finance, enabling the industry to plan its work programme ahead, was the life-blood of the housing industry.
Mr. Thomson said the association also suggested that the Treasury should not impose restraints on the economy without consulting and notifying the bousing industry.
The meeting also proposed that the Federal Government should introduce a scheme for an open market for mortgages similar to that in the U.S.A., or a Mortgage Bank, to encourage freer private investment in housing.
The association also thought that lending institutions should pay greater attention to the financing of existing homes.
Mr. Thomson said the association would support legislation for the re-development and rehabilitation of decaying areas of cities, and would co-operate in any moves, public or private, in this direction.
Concern had been expressed, he added, with the lack of uniformity in building codes.
Substantial savings in costs could be achieved if the differing requirements for construction of homes and streets were eliminated.
As the Housing Industry Association has stated that 125,000 homes a year will be needed for the next 10 years, it will be appreciated that my estimates have been very conservative. I would say that the approach of the Housing Industry Association to our great national housing problem is a realistic one. It confirms the statements I have made in this House on many occasions - even as recently as during the debate in this House on the estimates for the Department of Housing about a fortnight ago. On that and other occasions, I drew attention to the fact that half the population of this country is under 30 years of age, and to the fact that in the next 10 years the 15 to 19 year age group will increase by about 52 per cent., the 20 to 24 year age group will increase by 66 per cent., and the 25 to 29 year age group by 64 per Cent. All these people will need homes and, to aggravate the problem that this Australian post-war baby boom group poses, we have an intake of about 80,000 migrants each year. Therefore, there can be no complacency about our housing problem. The question is most crucial to the economic development of Australia. The housing industry is the hub upon which the economy of this country revolves. If we create credit squeezes and make things difficult for this industry, then we invite chaos in all industries.
In the year 1960-61 the number of completed dwellings was 94,465. It is estimated that in 1963-64 there will be 96,608 completed dwellings. This figure shows an increase of 2,143 over the figure for 1960-61. The available figures show that the level of home building has fallen by about 13,000 units in the last three years. If we exclude flats in considering these figures, the backlog of homes required for the people is even more startling.
Obviously it is imperative that the construction of homes by the Government authorities should be stepped up considerably. The Housing Commissions are the only authorities catering for the low income group. Dear money and the frustration caused by the deposit gap place the majority of people in the low income group outside the field of the private builder. A survey has revealed that 60 per cent, of low wage earners could not obtain finance from banks which require a borrower to be in a position to cover necessary repayments with no greater proportion of his weekly wage than one quarter. It also showed that few could benefit from the £250 homes savings grant scheme.
Low deposits cannot help home seekers unless high interest money is eliminated from the field of home finance and also from the field of land purchase. The lower the deposit the higher, naturally, are the weekly repayments, to the extent that they become an impost that the low wage earner cannot meet. While the present system of housing finance prevails, therefore, the man earning £18 or £20 a week is unable to purchase a home and consequently must look to the Housing Commissions to provide him with rented accommodation. We have the spectacle of 72,000 families in Australia living in appalling conditions, paying high rents, hoping and praying for Housing Commission homes. The accuracy of this statement is borne opt by the booklet of high rents and low incomes published by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. When one realises that there are more than one million people in this country whose incomes do not exceed £1 ,000 a year, one can safely say that the figure of 72,000 I have just cited would increase substantially if all those income earners had their names down on Housing Commission- lists.
I am informed from very reliable sources that statements implying that home building is overstraining resources are far from accurate. It is said, to the contrary, that there are no real shortages of labour and materials. The only shortage holding back the industry is a shortage of low interest finance, a shortage of money available at interest rates within the scope of the pay envelopes of low wage earners. We need housing finance of a kind that will enable young couples to buy homes at prices they can afford and, at the same time, to rear their families with some degree of comfort and decency.
The Government is repaid for Housing Commission loans, as other honorable members have said, at interest rates of 1 per cent, below the long term bond rate. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the Government is making money out of the Housing Commissions, as it is from war service homes and the Government homes that are being built in Canberra. The money being repaid is finding its way into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Having this in mind, one can say that the Commonwealth Government is the largest home finance company in Australia. I do not seek to decry the Government for this, but I do say that the interest earned could be used for aged persons’ homes, co-operative building societies or for homes for immigrants. The time has come for the Government to realise its responsibility to the low wage earner and its responsibility to house the people that it induces to come to this country as immigrants. Above all, it must realise its responsibility to our aged citizens. These are great national and human responsibilities, and the Housing Commissions can play a big part in helping to relieve the tragic plight of the people to whom I have referred. Let it never be said that there should be decreasing Government activity in this field. On the contrary, Government activity must be increased. If it is not increased, how can we meet the needs of these unfortunate people?
The State housing authorities are the only bodies building homes for rent. Their resources arc considerably overtaxed. People needing homes must therefore seek them through private sources, and under the prevailing financial arrangements, from the moment they sign agreements to purchase homes they virtually make themselves slaves to the financial institutions for the rest of their lives. This leads me to say, finally. Mr. Speaker, that the whole framework of housing finance should be thoroughly investigated from top to bottom. There is a vital national need for this to be done. I say again that if this Government adopted the methods of West Germany in providing housing finance the majority of our problems would disappear. We would also see a very beneficial increase in our population. The country that lost the war but won the peace can give a marriage loan of £450, which is redeemed on the arrival of the third child. The first 60 per cent, of the loan is free of interest, the remainder attracting interest at 3 per cent. For good measure, if the person gaining the loan builds his kitchen to a standard size the Government will furnish it free. I invite the Minister to reflect on these matters, for in them lies the solution to our housing problems. By adopting such methods we could provide incentives for our people to populate the country. The value of this to Australia could not be estimated.
.- This Bill authorises the raising of loan money not exceeding £51.35 million for financial assistance to the States for housing. The rate of home building is generally accepted as a barometer of the national economy. In times of credit restriction and uncertainty of continuity of employment the rate of home building falls. Because of successive credit restrictions over the past 12 years the rate of home building has never reached a level at which it could even start to cope with the demand for homes.
A number of trades and industries are dependent upon home building. I refer, for instance, to the furnishing trade, the sawmilling industry, brickworks and cement works. All these enjoy reasonable prosperity while building, particularly of homes, flourishes. I have said that home building reflects the general condition of the country. In Australia even those with the necessary money to lodge deposits are wary of entering into contracts to build, because they are never too sure of the actual position of the economy and whether and in what way the value of their money will change in ensuing months. There is always hesitancy on the part even of people who have the money to build, and there is much greater hesitancy among those who have no security of employment and do not know how long their present jobs will last. The building industry itself gives a typical example of this insecurity of employment. Those employed in the building trades have for years been able to demand, and have been paid, the rate for casual employment. They have received in their weekly envelopes a loading to cover their sick and holiday pay. This is an indication of the insecurity of their employment. I have before me the thirty-fourth annual report on bankruptcy by the Attorney-General, dated 30th June 1962. The eighth schedule lists the occupations of bankrupts, and there is a preponderance of persons associated with the building industries. These people have been divided into categories of brick, tile, cement and lime manufacturers and merchants, bricklayers, plasterers and masons, builders, builders’ merchants, carpenters and joiners, and contractors. When you total them all, even divided as they are in these categories, you see there is a predominance of people associated with the building trade amongst those people who were faced with bankruptcy in the year 1962 following the credit squeeze in 1960 and 1961. Whilst it could be said in some instances that bad business practices are responsible for the plight of these people, I myself believe that the shortage of finance during the credit squeeze certainly had its effect on them. The purchase of a home in most cases represents the greatest financial undertaking of a person within his lifetime and he spends the greater part of that lifetime paying off or completing the purchase of that home. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) drew attention to the fact that because of the shortage of finance, particularly for the purchase of an older home - a home which would be more suitable to a young couple with a family because in most cases these are larger homes - these people are forced to build or purchase a new home because the deposit is lower. They are forced to do this because there is a shortage of finance and because the deposit required for these older and larger homes is larger and the term of the loan is shorter. These people would be quite happy, if finance were available, to purchase a second hand home which would meet their requirements and which they could, over a period of time, alter to suit their own arrangements. These remarks apply to people who are receiving finance through a co-operative housing society. They are unable to obtain finance from a bank except on very short term. Consequently, the accent has been on the purchase of new homes rather than the purchase and repair of the older type of home which is larger and more suitable to the family requirements of these people.
In the last 12 months a number of cooperative housing societies have been formed for the purpose of financing the purchase of older homes of eight years of age onward to enable them to be sold. Whilst there is a housing shortage we find that in a number of centres these older homes have been unoccupied, are listed on the market - and have been for quite some time - and the agents have not been able to sell them. Quite a number of these agents got together with people who were prepared to support them and joined in a co-operative housing society in an effort to arrange finance for the sale of these homes. Whilst the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) has stated that £1.5 million more than the amount allocated last year will be allocated to the States, we have to take into account the fact that this year we are expecting a record intake of migrants. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) mentioned that over half the population is in the younger age group. So whilst the number of homes being built is increasing, the demand for these homes is increasing to a far greater extent. Most migrants, on arriving in Australia, have some form of temporary accommodation arranged but one of their first thoughts is to move into a home of their own. This is the thought of every young Australian couple. Once they are married they want to move into a place of their own, whether it be rented or purchased. In most cases they do not have the wherewithal to purchase a place of their own so they look around for a home to rent. We find that although some 70 per cent, of the money made available by the Commonwealth goes to State housing authorities for the building of homes, in Queensland, at any rate, there is a growing tendency by the State Housing Commission to make homes available for rental only if they cannot be sold outright. When the homes are being built, if a purchaser comes along and is prepared to buy it that person is given priority over a person looking for a home for rental. We have to be a bit factual about this. Not everybody can afford to purchase a home. Because of the apathy of Slats housing authorities in providing homes for rental, we find it falls on the private sector of the community to make these homes available and that rentals charged are growing out of all proportion. In the electorate of Wide Bay we find that, with the demand for tradesmen, some of the larger industries are taking up options on homes for rental, are offering much higher prices for the rental of homes and are subsidising their employees. Then we find that the ordinary individual is not able to meet this rental.
It is interesting to note that whilst the consumer price index only makes an allowance of 10.7 per cent, to meet the cost of housing, whether it be by payment of rent or repayment of a loan, in many cases families are paying up to 25 per cent, of their income in home rental. There is no opportunity whatsoever for a person paying a quarter of his wage in rent to save sufficient money for a deposit on a home. This fact was brought out recently in a survey of housing by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, particularly among the lower income group. So we find that with homes for rent being in the hands of the private sector of the community it is becoming increasingly difficult for persons paying high rent to save for a deposit on a home. The Brotherhood of St. Laurence went into this matter quite extensively and cited instances where the wife had to go out to work in order to save enough money for a deposit on a home.
There are a number of questions raised as to the costs of housing. A visiting American authority on housing who was in Australia a few weeks ago stated that con. tractors in the United States of America worked on a much lower margin of profit than our local builders. This might or might not be so but I think the people he was referring to are those who build a standard type of home. I am not suggesting that we should have a row or a block of homes of the same type. Nothing looks worse than a street in which a builder has built a row of homes of the one type with the one set of plans. Quite a number of different homes can be built in groups with only slight alterations of the basic plan. The people of Australia are quite happy to accept a standard type of motor car. If every person insisted upon having a custom built motor car to suit his own purposes - some honorable members, particularly those who represent country electorates, probably spend more time in their motor cars than in their homes - the cost could be enormous. People would not dream of ordering a custom built motor car; they take the standard or de luxe types that ordinarily are on the market. So the motor car manufacturers are able to produce a certain type of car and sell it at a reasonable price. If they were to offer each person an individual model to suit his own purposes, we can imagine what the cost of those cars would be. That also applies to housing. If we accepted certain basic types of houses, built with slight alterations - I am not suggesting actual standard designs - homes could be built much more cheaply.
That has been proved in the building of pre-cut homes. The township of Mary Kathleen was built entirely of pre-cut homes. In western Queensland pre-cut homes are becoming the order of the day. The people have to reduce costs such as freight, so houses are pre-cut in areas along the coast where there is a plentiful supply of timber, and then railed out to western districts and built there. Firms such as Hyne and Son Pty. Ltd. of Maryborough and Petersen Bros. Pty. Ltd. of Bundaberg are playing a big part in the design and erection of pre-cut homes on station properties and in towns in western Queensland, such as Mary Kathleen. This American also expressed the view that we employ too many architects in designing our homes, and that that adds much more to the cost of each home. He pointed out that Americans employ fewer architects and more draftsmen. He said that in Australia we could employ at least 10 draftsmen to one architect and so reduce considerably the cost of building.
One of the things that adds to the cost of homes is the increase in land prices. This is hard to stop. The State housing authorities are in the enviable position of being able to take up large tracts of land. They are not at the mercy of the land developers who, having sub-divided an area of land, put the allotments up for sale at fixed prices. The State housing authorities are able to purchase land in large blocks and are not subject to excessive prices. Excessive land prices have played a major part in the increase in the cost of housing in Australia.
It is interesting to note that the cost of homes has increased since the Commonwealth Government decided to provide the homes savings grants. There is no doubt that some land developers, builders and agents are receiving at least portion of the homes savings grants. It is quite possible that there has been a heavy demand on the new Department of Housing for grants because people believe that the credit position will tighten up in the new year. The officers of the Department of Housing do a particularly good job, just as the officers who handled war service homes matters have done a particularly good job in the past. I am sure that in a number of marginal cases their discretion has been taxed to the utmost in deciding whether or not people qualified for the homes savings grant.
The Minister for Housing, in his secondreading speech, said that the trend in housing construction is one of decreasing reliance on governmental activity. I do not quite agree with him on that point. I believe that there has been and will be for quite some time an increasing dependence on governmental activity, whether it be under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, a Commonwealth authority such as the Commonwealth Savings Bank, other government lending authorities, or the cooperative housing societies which depend to a large extent on Commonwealth Government loans. I believe that the Commonwealth Government will be called upon to a far greater extent in the future than it is at present. That must be so if the present lag in the provision of homes is ever to be overtaken.
.- The Bill before the House authorises the raising of loan moneys not exceeding £51,350,000 for the building of homes. As honorable members know, the States decide the volume of loan moneys that will be devoted to housing. The States, in their Budgets, can allocate only a certain proportion of their moneys for homes because of their commitments in other fields. There is still a growing demand for homes in Australia. The populous States appear to be unable to overcome the housing lag because they just cannot afford to borrow more money for home construction. If the housing shortage in Australia is to be overcome, a crash programme should be implemented by the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth should take a more active part by making allocations specifically for the building of homes.
Interest rates are crippling the State Governments in their housing developments. In the last financial year the States paid to the Commonwealth Government £17 million interest on their housing loans. Of that amount New South Wales paid £6 million; Victoria £5 million; Queensland £1,700,000; South Australia £2,100,000; Western Australia £1,500,000; and Tasmania £654,000. If these interest payments could be reduced, I am sure that much of the money saved could be put into housing development. That would greatly assist to overcome the housing lag. But this Government appears to be following its policy of indirect taxation by charging the States interest. That is having a very adverse effect on the efforts to overcome the housing lag.
The State housing authorities are still the main builders of homes for people in the low income bracket. Family men with an income of less than £20 a week are the people who find great difficulty in saving enough money to put down a deposit on a block of land or on a home. One of the great problems facing any young couple in trying to save for a home today is the high cost of living. Another is the high rentals that they have to pay for either flats or homes. Under these circumstances it is virtually impossible for them to save, although the wife is working. Some of these young couples are paying up to 1 2 guineas a week rent; some are paying 8 guineas a week, which would be the minimum rent. They are paying between 8 and 12 guineas a week. What opportunity have these young couples to save about £2,000 for a deposit on a home? These are the people who require assistance and who should be getting it from the Government. In New South Wales at present the Housing Commission has a waiting list of 38,000 applicants, many of whom will have to wait as long as four or five years before being provided with a home.
One of the main reasons for the waiting list of applicants for a Housing Commission home is the rise in costs of construction. The average price of a block of land in the metropolitan area of Sydney is £1,400. It has been said that that is the average price, but any young couple going along to buy a block of land will find that it will cost nearer £2,000. Consequently, it takes young people many years to save even the deposit for the land, and it takes a great many more years to pay the purchase price in full. Then they need a house. Today even a moderate house costs in the vicinity of £4,000, so the young couple have to find £6,000 before they buy even a stick of furniture, pay upkeep or find the money for insurance. Many young people are unable to save the deposit required for a house, which is why so many apply to the Housing Commissions for a home.
Although homes can be bought from the Housing Commission of New South Wales on a deposit of £50, only 35 per cent, of the people occupying housing commission homes have purchased them. Since the war the Housing Commission of New South Wales has built approximately 68,000 permanent dwellings. The Commission expects that in the year 1964-65 it will complete another 4,500 houses for rental or purchase. The New South Wales Housing Commission has a list of 19,600 applicants waiting to rent homes and a list of 15,352 applicants waiting to purchase homes. In addition, 3,000 applications have not been classified. Consequently, it will take a long time to overcome the housing lag and to provide homes for the 38,000 on the waiting list. On one occasion I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) what specific amounts the Federal Government had provided to the States for special housing purposes. The Treasurer’s reply was that this Government had not, since 1957, made any special grant to the States to help them overcome the housing lag. The last time any money was given by the Commonwealth Government specifically for housing was in 1957 when it granted amounts to the States to subsidise the importation of prefabricated houses. Since then, most of our houses have been built in Australia, but the Government has made no attempt to assist the States to provide them.
The States which are most affected are New South Wales and Victoria, which have the greatest populations and, consequently, have the greatest numbers of people waiting for homes. I feel that a great deal of money has been spent unwisely by the Commonwealth Government, and this is a pity. The
Federal Government should consider my suggestion that interest paid by the States to the Commonwealth should be returned to them to provide housing. If this money were put back into the industry it would create a lot of work. When there is a boom in the building industry there is a boom in all other industries, because so many industries depend upon building. If we can keep the building trades fully occupied other industries will be kept going and will provide a great amount of employment.
It will be many years before the Housing Commissions will be able to catch up the lag of housing and reduce their waiting lists. At the rate at which they are building and the way in which they are financed it will be impossible for them to catch up on the lag. Our population is increasing through immigration. This adversely affects the housing position in the States, because the migrants are brought to Australia by the Federal Government, which pays the fares to bring them here and which puts them into hostels, where many stay for as long as 34 weeks, and then look for homes, it is the Housing Commissions of the States that have to find homes for them. As the Commonwealth Government brings migrants to Australia it should take a more active interest in seeing that they are properly housed. It should see that they have homes for themselves and their families. They should not have to live in hostels where they have to share facilities. They should have decent places in which to live. But the Commonwealth is doing nothing to see that they have decent homes in which to live. Many immigrants are returning to their former countries because they have become disgruntled with their accommodation here. There is employment in Australia for the migrants but, like everyone else, they like a decent home in which to live. At present they cannot get good homes.
In my electorate, and in many other city electorates where there are numerous migrants, two or three families are living in the one house. Many migrants have been brought to Australia by the Government or have been sponsored by their families, but they cannot find suitable accommodation. Overcrowding and lack of suitable accommodation are bringing down the health standards of the cities. Anybody who has been about the inner suburbs of Sydney has seen the conditions in which these people live.
The Federal Government could help by making special grants to the States to provide housing for immigrants.
The New South Wales Government has spent £8 million on slum clearance and redevelopment, and it has plans involving an additional £5 million. The last census revealed that 170,000 persons in Australia are living in substandard homes or in tin sheds. This is not something that we can be proud of, because for a number of years we have been hearing the Government say that there is prosperity in Australia and that there is full employment. Yet we still have not overcome the housing lag and we have not decent homes or accommodation for our people. Many substandard dwellings are in the capital cities. Although the State Governments try to do something about them they are receiving no support from the Federal Government. It is about time that the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) considered these aspects to see what can be done to assist the States in redevelopment and slum clearance.
A matter that has been plugged for many years, and which we will continue to plug, is the absence in such bills of any provision for a rental rebate to subsidise the rent of Housing Commission homes for people who cannot afford high rents. I refer in particular to age and invalid pensioners. These unfortunate people are compelled to pay high rents and are expected to exist on what is left of their pension. Some pensioners are paying up to £4 a week for a room and shared conveniencies. I see instances of this in my electorate every day. When I am out interviewing my constituents these unfortunate people come to me and tell me of their plight and describe the conditions in which they are living. They say to me: “ Can you do anything, Mr. Devine, about getting me a home? “ I have to tell them that my hands are tied, but that the New South Wales Government is doing its utmost to help pensioners with housing. About 6,000 people in these circumstances are at present waiting for decent homes in which to live. I do not think it is asking too much of the Federal Government to ask it to subsidise State Governments to build homes for these people.
Homes for age and invalid pensioners were removed from the provisions of the Housing Agreement Act in 1956 and, as a consequence, the States have had to find extra money to build homes for people in this category. I may say that the whole of the proceeds of the tax on poker machines levied by the New South Wales Government is put into the building of homes for aged persons. This is a fact that ought to be mentioned in this House. 1 should like to point out also that rental rebates allowed by the Housing Commission of New South Wales are at present costing it approximately £3 million a year. The Commission has had to find the money to allow it to give these rebates, because it cannot charge pensioners too much in rental. The average rental for a Darby and Joan unit provided by the Housing Commission is approximately £1 a week for a single pensioner, rising to £1 10s. a week for a married couple. These are fair rentals, because many pensioners receive only the pension of £6 a week for a single pensioner or £5 10s. a week each for a married couple. With the cost of living as high as it is today, many pensioners are only just eking out an existence. I suggest that it is about time the Federal Government did something drastic to assist people in this situation to obtain decent homes. After all, these elderly people are some of those who helped to build up Australia. Today, we live in better conditions than numbers of them enjoyed throughout a great part of their lives. Many of them went through the depression and could not save enough money to buy a home for their old age. Consequently, they are now forced to live in rooms. Many of the rooms in which they manage to find accommodation are not very suitable and their living conditions generally are not good.
This Government pays a subsidy of £2 for every £1 provided by charitable organisations for the provision of homes for the aged. This is of some assistance, but I do not believe that we should have to depend on charitable organisations and community minded people who are aware of the needs of pensioners and who have joined together for just one cause - the building of homes for the aged. An organisation of this kind has been established in the eastern suburbs of Sydney to build what is to be known as the Eastern Suburbs Senior Citizens Welfare Centre at a cost of £160,000. The cost of a single unit will be approximately £1,800 for com plete construction and equipping, and it will cost about £2,500 for a double unit. Many other charitable organisations all over Australia are doing similar work. They are doing much to relieve the situation, but the task should not be left to them. The Government should do more to attack the problem, because it is responsible for the welfare of the senior citizens of Australia.
I notice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, at the last Premiers’ Conference, which was held in Canberra on 2nd and 3rd July, certain procedural matters were dealt with and then the meeting was suspended to permit a meeting of the Australian Loan Council. The Conference was then resumed and the first item on the agenda was “ Commonwealth Assistance to States Towards Capital Cost of Providing Housing for Elderly People”. The item was submitted by Mr. Reece, the Premier of Tasmania, who stated -
He said that units for single pensioners in that State cost about £1,600 and units for married couples approximately £2,100. Those costs are considerably cheaper than the costs of similar units in New South Wales. The report of the proceedings of the Conference shows that Mr. Reece was supported by the representatives who spoke for all the other States, including Mr. Hills, from New South Wales, Sir Thomas Playford from South Australia, Mr. Nicklin from Queensland and Mr. Rylah from Victoria. All asked the Federal Government to assist by paying the States a subsidy of £2 for every £1 expended on the provision of homes for aged persons. I realise that this is a matter that comes under the administration of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). At the Premiers’ Conference that I have mentioned, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), who was at the time Acting Prime Minister, having heard the proposal supported by the representative of every State, said -
So I say, “ No “, to the direct proposal. But I say also that my colleague is studying the matter as a general problem. I cannot commit him, but we hope that he can come up with a proposal that will touch on the personal problems of elderly people and meet their needs. He may or may not be able to do so, but we hope he can.
I do not consider that that was a very good answer to the proposition put by the States, because, ever since 1956, the Opposition in this Parliament has been bringing to the notice of the Government at every possible opportunity the housing needs of the elderly people of Australia. The Government, however, has turned a deaf ear to our pleas. Although, as I have said, this is not a matter that is directly related to the Bill now before us, I think I may be permitted to say that it is about time the Federal Government agreed to pay a subsidy of £2 for £1 to the State Governments to assist them to build homes for aged persons, and also to pay a similar subsidy to local government authorities. At present, if a local government organisation wishes to help in the provision of a home for aged persons, it cannot obtain a subsidy of £2 for every £1 that it spends. The Government has now had more than seven years to look into the matter, and I think it is about time something was done.
– It is about time the honorable member finished.
– The housing problem does not worry members of the Australian Country Party, because they see little of housing problems in their electorates. They know nothing of the real problems of the people and of the poverty that exists in some sections of the community. Honorable members who belong to that party know that there is an air of plenty in country electorates, and that is all they are concerned about. They are not concerned about the situation of the people in the cities whose purchases of primary products enable the people on the land to enjoy prosperity and keep their properties going. The interjection that we have just heard is typical of people who talk through their hats.
Next, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to mention a few anomalies that are cropping up in the homes savings grant scheme. I know that quite a few anomalies have already been brought to the notice of the Minister for Housing and I am sure that he will deal with them. There is one matter in particular which we should give some thought. At present, there is nothing in the Homes Savings Grant Act about the way in which a couple who have saved £750 for a house and who have qualified for the grant of £250 may spend the grant. If they wish, they can go to the Melbourne Cup race meeting or to any other race meeting and put it all on the horses. I believe that we should require the £250 to be spent on a home in some way. I am aware that this anomaly probably has already been brought to the Minister’s notice. I ask him also to consider another one. On one occasion, I had brought to my notice a case in which a person had purchased a block of land prior to his 36th birthday. I realise that similar cases have probably arisen. The purchaser did not build on the block until after his 36th birthday, and therefore he was not entitled to homes savings grant, because the Act specifically states that the foundations must be laid before the £250 can be obtained. I urge the Minister to look into these matters that I raise.
There is another matter relating to the homes savings grant scheme that has caused a lot of dissension, especially within the trade union movement in New South Wales. This is the exclusion of credit unions from the scheme. Up to the end of the current year, people who have deposited money with credit unions will be able to use the money to qualify for the homes savings grant. After the end of this year unless the money is deposited in a specific savings account for the purpose of acquiring a house, the savings will not attract the grant. I suggest that the Minister ought to consider more carefully the fact that many credit unions are lending money to their members for the renovation or rebuilding of homes or for the enlargement of the home when there is an addition to the family. For this reason, the credit unions ought to be assisted. The credit union movement is growing and will continue to grow. I am sure that in the future it will be one of the leading lenders in this field, and probably will lend money for the initial construction of houses. Credit unions have been established in New South Wales for the past 10 years. Membership has grown to 6,532 in the current year and last year credit unions approved loans to their members totalling £811,628. We can see that they are growing and undoubtedly will become very active in lending money for the construction of homes. The Government will then have to give them some consideration.
While I am speaking about credit unions, I would point out that the Commonwealth Government has been a little harsh towards them. The Government charges credit unions 7s. 6d. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of profits and 8s. 6d. in the £1 on the balance. In the United States of America, where there are some 21,000 credit unions with 14 million members, and in Canada, where there are more than 4,600 credit unions with 3 million members, credit union profits are not subject to taxation. The Government should assist credit unions in Australia by not imposing taxation on them. After all, we have been told in the House of the large sums of money that some companies have been able to keep instead of paying them to the Government in taxation. Credit unions have been helped by the New South Wales Government, which has waived stamp duty on their activities. Although the New South Wales Government is helping these bodies, for some unknown reason the Commonwealth Government always seems to oppose them. It opposes all activities of the trade union movement.
It is time that the Commonwealth Government had another look at the housing problem in Australia, lt should take some drastic action to overcome the present housing shortage, even to the extent of adopting a crash programme.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Bury) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11th August (vide page 85), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The House is debating the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill, which provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to £4,500,000 for war service land settlement in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania during this financial year. Of this amount, Western Australia is to receive £2,302,000, South Australia £1,085,000 and Tasmania £1,113,000. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said that work was still proceeding on holdings on King and Flinders Islands and at Togari. He went on to say -
Provision is also made in the amount to be made available to Tasmania this financial year for the cost of credits to be given to settlers on these projects for work they have done towards bringing their farms to the desired standard of development.
I want to deal first with the question of the application, or, as we look upon it, the misapplication of credits. This is one of several factors that have led to a feeling of uneasiness, of financial insecurity and instability amongst settlers on King Island and to a lesser extent in other settlement areas on the mainland of Tasmania. This unrest is far worse at this time than it was when I first came into the Parliament about six years ago. The settlers were having a bad time then. Regrowth was a very big problem. This caused a depletion of pastures and, of course, a consequent reduction in farm incomes. Added to this was the very high cost of machinery breakdowns and depreciation of plant, mainly caused by the way in which the surface of the blocks originally developed had been left. These factors soon began to show up in settlers’ budgets, which revealed the great economic difficulties with which they were confronted. Inability to meet commitments, other economic worries and fear of the future prompted the settlers to petition the Government. I formally presented the petition on behalf of residents and settlers of King Island in 1959. This requested a committee of all political parties to inquire into all aspects of war service land settlement. The Minister refused to appoint such a committee, but agreed to set up a committee of investigation of Commonwealth and State officers. This committee met in Hobart from 9th to 14th April 1959 and agreed on certain concessions to settlers. It is to these concessions that the Minister referred in his second reading speech on this bill. The concessions were discussed with the King Island Settlers Association on 1st June 1959. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a statement of the concessions that were agreed to by the Commonwealth and State officers at the meeting at Hobart in April.
If a permanent lease bad commenced at an earlier stage of development, adjustments are to be made on the basis of the lease being regarded as having commenced from the time the farm is considered to have attained the above standard.
Description of farm. 30 acres good pasture, haying proposition 120 acres good pasture - good average carrying. 15 acres fair pasture. 15 acres fallow. 20 acres bush shelter, yards, building, etc.
Average acreage 200. 180 arable.
Pithrush and titree regrowth requiring attention on up to 10% of the arable area.
Major drainage adequate, some minor work required by settler.
Basic Developmental programme.
Sown with 3 lbs. per. rye grass,1½ lbs. white clover, 3 lbs. sub. clover, 3 cwt. Cu Co Super and, where required, lime and/or lime treated seed subsequently topdressed by Settlement Authority with 4 cwt. of plain superphosphate.
Settlers farm programme.
Topdress yearly at rate of 186 lbs. of super., Cu & Co required at least every five years.
Re-sow up to 10% of arable area annually.
Slash regrowth on 10% arable area three times per year.
Conserve hay and/or silage based on 15 cwt. hay per cow plus fodder for other stock.
Cost of conservation based on either syndicate purchase of machinery, or Contract, whichever is available.
Property should be capable of carrying 45 dairy cows and replacements, 42 of which should be in production. Two bulls will be required, sufficient heifer calves should be reared to replace wastage and increase herd size.
Would require 13 to 15 to be reared to mating age.
Culling to be done on results of herd recording.
Pig fattening and yards financed by advance up to £750. 5 sows producing 40 reared pigs, 28 baconers, 12 porkers.
Supplements will be required for pig production for a period from 80 to 100 days, requiring the expenditure of £70.
Fat Lamb Farm- King Island
End of Assistance Year
Description of Farm. 40 acres good pasture, hayable surface. 235 acres good pasture, not mowable. 70 acres fair pasture, improving. 35 acres poor to fair pasture. 100 acres bush shelter, etc.
Average acreage 480 acres- 380 arable.
Pithrush and titree regrowth requiring attention on up to 10% of arable area.
Basic developmental programme.
Sown with 3 lbs, per. rye grass,1½ lbs. white clover, 3 lbs. sub. clover, 3 cwt. Cu Co Super and, where required, lime and/or lime treated seed subsequently topdressed by Settlement Authority with 4 cwt. of plain superphosphate.
Settlers farm programme.
Top-dressed yearly at rate of 186 lbs. super per acre. Cu & Co required at least every five years.
Resow up to 30 acres annually.
Slash regrowth on 40 acres three times per year.
Conserve hay based on 1 cwt. per ewe and 15 cwt. per breeding cow.
Cost of conservation based on either syndicate purchase of machinery, in contract, whichever is available.
Live Stock Policy
Property should be capable of carrying 900 ewes and 20 beef breeding cows, 20-25 rams.
Retain sufficient ewe lambs to replace culls and build up flock.
Loss 3% annually.
I want now to deal with one of these concessions. It is numbered 6 (c) and relates to the regrowth concession given to settlers on King Island. The concessions looked all right on paper, but it did not take us long to realise that these ad hoc measures, as the Minister described them last year during the debate on a similar bill, were of little value in solving the problems on King Island. In a debate on a measure similar to this three years ago I drew the attention of the Minister to the feeling aroused among the settlers because the redevelopment work, like the reports, was taking far too long. I pointed out then, as I did again last year, that the carrying capacity of the farms was being reduced because redevelopment was taking place. When carrying capacity is reduced farm income falls and settlers are unable to meet their commitments. Because of this I asked that all settlers revert to temporary lease, for repayment purposes only, for a period of 18 months after completion of the redevelopment of pastures.
For a long time the authorities would do nothing about this, so the arrears of settlers gradually mounted. In June 1958 these arrears amounted to £91,291. In 1959 they had increased to £166,890; in 1960, to £203,961; in 1961, to £325,085; in 1962, to £355,562; in 1963, to £413,949; and at June 30th this year the arrears totalled £472,623.I point out that this is an increase of 422 per cent. in arrears since the credits and concessions have been in force. In his 1963 report the Tasmanian Auditor-General again refers to this fact and points out that this build up of arrears is due to one of two factors, including -
The temporary drop in income resulting from the consequent redevelopment work being undertaken.
The report goes on -
Both the Commonwealth and the Closer Settlement Board are concerned at the position and for some time have had under consideration the finances of lessees on the more recently developed properties and their inability to meet commitments, particularly on King Island.
For three years we have been pressing this point. The only answer to this particular problem is to put the settler on a temporary lease for at least 18 months after the redevelopment is completed. Still this Government has the matter under consideration, and the arrears continue to increase. Is it any wonder that these families are facing financial insecurity? If honorable members doubt this statement let them refer to a report prepared by the King Island Council and other interested organisations and presented to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) recently. The report relates to conditions on the island, and in it the following statement appears -
The Federal Government has put large sums of money into the King Island War Service Land Settlement Scheme, the total cost of the scheme to date being approximately £4i million. In this scheme there are 164 farms of which 100 are dairy farms and about 64 sheep farms.
The report goes on to state that the majority of the settlers on permanent leases are in a serious financial condition and unable to meet their commitments. It states that about 60 soldier settlers have left their farms, most of them for financial reasons, and that at present 10 farms are vacant. Other soldier settlers have engaged in outside business activities or have taken part time positions in an endeavour to make ends meet.
This report was prepared by the King Island Council and other interested bodies on the island and was presented to the Government earlier this year. The report states that 60 families have left their farms. The King Island Settlers Association placed the figure at 85. It advised me that at the end of August, 15 farms were vacant. The association’s analysis of the position is much more recent than the report submitted to the Government. The plain fact is that the economy of King Island cannot afford this tremendous wastage of population. Everyone is affected by the serious decline in the fortunes of soldier settlers.
As an example, take the position of the Dairy Products Co-operative Society
Limited, which installed factory plant in anticipation of production being 1,500 tons of butter a year. The production figures for the last season just failed to reach 1,000 tons. This is the interesting point that I want to bring out: The number of suppliers to the factory in the five ‘years of the credits and concessions has fallen from 192 to 162 - a decrease of 30 suppliers.
Another aspect of this position is that the continued worry of mounting arrears has resulted in a breakdown of health in some instances. This is causing the Returned Servicemen’s League on King Island and people like ourselves a great deal of concern. I want now to quote a few examples of the increasing arrears to which I have referred. Take the case of a farmer who in 1958-59 produced 8,307 lb. of butterfat and whose arrears then amounted to £2,430. Last year, in 1963-64, the same farm increased its production by about 2,000 lb. of butterfat to 10,430 lb., but the arrears have continued increasing and now stand at £2,997.
As an example of increasing arrears which are causing tremendous concern not only to the Tasmanian Auditor-General but also to the people on the King Island settlement, I refer to a man who in 1958-59 produced 9,300 lb. of butterfat and whose arrears were then £554. Last year, 1963-64, although his production of butterfat had increased by over 500 lb. to 9,880 lb. his arrears had increased by almost £2,000, and now he owes the Government £2,300.
Quite a number of settlers are still on full commitments and have not reached the standard of production laid down. Many of these expected that payment for regrowth control would go a long way towards meeting the arrears, but here the Commonwealth and the Minister for Primary Production (Mr. Adermann) have repudiated the agreement reached by all parties concerning regrowth control.
– I will point out how true it is, in these remarks. I refer to section 6 (c) of the concessions. The Minister no doubt has a copy of the concessions. This is why I asked that they be incorporated in “ Hansard “. The concessions were agreed to by everyone in 1959, and section 6 (c) reads as follows -
Settler’s account to be credited where he has been required to control regrowth in excess of 10 per cent, of the established pasture area of his holding.
When these concessions were discussed with the King Island Settlers Association on 1st June 1959 this question of regrowth control was discussed at some length and the settlers were assured that this concession would be adhered to. They were told that they would be credited with the assessed cost of regrowth control in excess of 10 per cent, of the established pasture area. On this understanding they submitted their claims for credits in the hopes of wiping off their arrears only to find that the Government has gone back on its word. The Minister’s officers are now inspecting, and paying only on areas that were earmarked for redevelopment. In many cases the payment to settlers for their work will be almost negligible.
I have had referred to me the case of one settler who after consultations with and inspection of his property by officers signed a voucher for about £900 last year. He had worked hard and had submitted his claim only after consultation with land settlement officials. Honorable members can well imagine bis disappointment when the voucher was returned to him this year and he was told to claim for £70 - quite a difference from the £900 he had submitted a claim for after discussion with land settlement officials on both a State and Commonwealth basis. This is not an isolated case. The letter that he received advised faim, notwithstanding the agreement reached in 1959 -
Credits are applicable only to those areas which the Commonwealth recommended for redevelopment or further slashing or mowing.
Is it any wonder that the settlers are seething with indignation at the repudiation of the agreement about slashing? Officials in Tasmania have told the Settlers’ Association that they look upon the original agreements of 1959 as their bible in the assessment of claims, but the Commonwealth authorities have backed out. They say that the concessions are not a binding agreement. They refer to them as a bulletin only and they tell the settlers that they are for information only. When the agreements were signed in 1959 they were binding, but now the Commonwealth has backed out of the whole affair. What a scandalous state of affairs. Is this the way to instil confidence - by offering to help with one hand and by withdrawing that help with the other?
I hope that the Minister will be prepared to step in now and rectify this sorry mess so far as resolution 6 (c) of the concessions is concerned. The King Island branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League is very disturbed about the whole set-up and the State Congress of the R.S.L. held recently in Queenstown, Tasmania, unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a royal commission to inquire into the matter. Officers of the R.S.L. are now busily engaged in collecting evidence and information to place before the State and the national executive of the League. On 17th June last the “ King Island News “ carried the headline “ R.S.L. Backs Move for War Service Land Settlement Royal Commission”. An article in another newspaper under the headline “War Service Land Settlement “ read -
War Service Land Settlement will be investigated by the State Executive of the R.S.L.
A motion to this effect was carried by the 49th State Congress held recently at Queenstown. The investigation will have particular reference to King and Flinders Islands with a view to instigating a Royal Commission into all aspects of War Service Land Settlement in this State.
The sub-branch will set up a special committee ‘ whose objectives will be preparation of a case for submission; supporting evidence to be submitted in writing by settlers and others wishing to give evidence.
The measure of unrest and dissatisfaction in war service land settlement areas is indicated by the fact that the State Congress of the R.S.L., held at Queenstown, unanimously agreed that a royal commission should be set up to inquire into all aspects of war service land settlement. Many settlers claim they have been unfairly treated by the investigation committee in the assessment of credits for their work. In several cases the no-hoper - the chap who will never make a fanner and who has done very little work on his property - has been given greater credits than others who have applied themselves and who put all their profits back into their farms.
I have received from one of these settlers a letter which sums up the feelings of the settlers in relation to the treatment that they have received at the hands of the Government. It reads -
My main grievance about the concessions is that the man who has worked extra hard for years, seven days a week, an average of nine to ten hours a day throughout the year, plus his wife’s and children’s work, which is considerable, and thereby improved his property by continually cutting regrowth and spending extra money on superphosphate, which has led eventually to a very high carrying capacity, is the man the “ experts “ have decided is doing O.K. - no need to help him on his farm; let him do all the ground work. I was given an average financial credit, which was probably not enough for the size of the farm and the commitments, but I am not complaining on that score. The worst feature was that I was not given one acre of redevelopment, yet all officials will agree that the ground surface of my farm is just as rough as all my neighbours, who have had from onethird to one-half of their farms reworked, and the regrowth problem - rushes, not ti-tree - on this farm is as serious as any and worse than many others. The only difference is that I have continually cut mine at great expense and uncomfortable work over the rough areas, while others who let theirs grow have had them reworked.
It is four years since I was inspected for concessions and two years since 1 received them. Since then I have been endeavouring to get some work done to make things easier. The Commonwealth Director visited my farm over 12 months ago to decide if I could get any work done, but I have heard nothing yet from that visit. I was banking on a good credit for regrowth cutting payments, which would have evened things a little, but that now appears to have evaporated, like a lot of other promises. I consider this is the wrong way to treat people who really have a go and intend to stay on King Island all their lives, and it certainly takes the edge off your enthusiasm.
That is as much of the letter as I would like to read. I have read the part that deals with the matter of concessions and the repudiation by the Government of resolution 6(c) relating to regrowth control. The worst thing about this matter is that the settler has to grin and bear it, because the authorities say that the amounts given are purely a concession and that the settlers have no right of appeal.
Let me tell honorable members what happens. The committee of investigation inspects the farm and makes a recommendation, which goes to the Closer Settlement Board in Hobart. The Board considers the recommendation and submits it to the Commonwealth for approval. We are led to believe that the recommendation is pruned when it reaches the Commonwealth. The pruning knife is put through the recommendations and the credits are more or less evened out. So the person who should get credit for the work he has done often does not get as much credit as the no-hoper. This leads to dissatisfaction between the two groups of settlers. I would like the Minister to tell us when the pruning is done. How is the pruning done? Undoubtedly when the committee of investigation inspects the farms it is able to tell the difference between the no-hoper and the chap who has ploughed money back into his property - the fellow who is entitled to a go. But what happens when the recommendations reach the Commonwealth? When is use made of the pruning knife, which causes a feeling of instability and unrest because of the different treatment given by the Commonwealth authorities? If these people feel that they have been treated unjustly they should be able to lodge an appeal and state their case. The chap who felt he had been justly treated would not want to lodge an appeal but many settlers on King Island would appeal if an appeal board were set up. A great deal of money has been granted since 1959 by way of concessions and it is a pity that many settlers should feel strongly that this money has been unfairly distributed. Until June last year a total of £224,076 had been credited to settlers’ accounts, and expenditure for redevelopment amounted to £683,982. So almost £1 million has been expended by the Government. In view of this large expenditure it is a pity that there should be a feeling in the minds of the people that they have been treated unfairly and unjustly.
There is another matter which I would like the Minister to clarify. When I pressed for the option of purchase price for some settlers in the past he advised me to wait until after the redevelopment was done. I understood him to say that this cost would not be a cost to the settler if he waited. However, it would appear from the last report submitted by the Tasmanian AuditorGeneral that any improvements so effected would be taken into account when the final valuation is being made and that, of the excess cost only, two-fifths would be borne by the State and three-fifths by the Commonwealth. The total cost of the Tasmanian scheme to date has been approximately £20 million and so far 525 farms have been allotted. Interest accruing to the Commonwealth on this money was estimated to bc £3,180,000 in June of this year. The total contribution from the State of Tasmania to the writing off of excess costs, excluding payment of interest, at the completion of the scheme is now estimated at £4,300,000. The total debt of the State for war service land settlement is almost £7,500,000 to date, and I point out that Tasmania has an annual budget only £30,000,000. I understand from all reports that I have been able to obtain that this write off could be even greater. We all hope that redevelopment will be speeded up and soon completed and that during this time all the settlers will be placed on temporary leases. I should think that the properties should then be valued at market rates as units and that from this figure should be taken an amount for the settler’s equity in order to compensate him for his work in bringing the property up to its present state. I should like to emphasise to the Minister that everything should be done to arrive at this final figure as soon as possible because, after many years of frustration - some of these men have been there for 11 or 12 years - the settlers want to know what will be the final valuation of their blocks and what their commitments will be.
In arriving at this final figure, we can only hope that the authorities will take into account other disabilities suffered by the island people. For instance, there have been two freight rises this year, bringing the general freight rate to £6 8s. a ton. Two years ago, the King Island Sheep Breeders Association, which is comprised mainly of soldier settlers, made a cost of production survey and found that the average cost of producing a fat Iamb was £1 19s. Id. It costs just over £1 to ship a lamb to the Melbourne market, and this represents 56 per cent, of the production costs. High sea freights must be taken into account when assessing these properties and the ability of settlers to make a reasonable living off them. In order to get our livestock to Newmarket, we have to pay three and a half times the amount of freight that is paid by a primary producer at Kerang, which is a similar distance from Melbourne - about 180 miles. I only hope that the Federal Cabinet will take heed of the plight of the island people when considering whether or not the Australian National Line is to take over the island shipping service. If this is not considered possible by the present Government, than at least a substantial subsidy is required and should be made available as soon as possible.
While dealing with settlement problems, I should like to raise another matter which is causing great concern at Preolenna. Last year, two administrative officers told the group of eight settlers there that after they had been put on permanent lease they would enjoy the normal first year free of commitments and then would be responsible for one-third of the commitments in the next year, two-thirds in the following year and after that they would be required to accept responsibility for full commitments. One of these men was a State officer and the other was a Commonwealth officer. The settlers naturally accepted the word of these officers and framed their budgets accordingly, they entered into various financial commitments which they could have met if the Commonwealth had kept its word. Honorable members can well imagine their dismay and the trouble in which they find themselves now that a directive has been issued for the payment of full commitments immediately after the normal free year. I repeat that they were told verbally on the settlement that in the first year after being put on permanent lease they would be free of commitments; that for the next year they would be responsible for onethird; that the following year they would be responsible for two-thirds, and that after that they would have to meet full commitments. I emphasise, too, that they drew up their own budgets, entering into financial commitments in connection with their homes, their work on the farms, the purchase of plant and machinery, and so on. But now a directive has been issued requiring them to meet full commitments one year after being put on permanent lease. I would like the Minister to inquire into the reasons why, after this undertaking was given verbally last year, as a result of which they entered into certain personal commitments, they are now expected to meet full commitments. To make the position even worse, I understand from reliable sources that the State authorities were prepared to honour their word in this matter and that the fault lies with the Commonwealth Government. The whole blame for this sorry mess and for the repudiation of the undertaking lies with the Commonwealth. I only hope that the Minister will have a full inquiry made into this matter because injustices such as this are not in the best interests of the soldier settlement scheme and certainly do not lead to harmony among the settlers.
I have dealt at some length with the question of concession to settlers. I should like the Minister to give consideration to extending this policy to cover all soldier settlers, especially those on the smaller estates. I have in mind, for example, Calder in Tasmania, a small estate on which there are two settlers in occupation. The Minister may think it strange, after my criticism of the concessions, that I should ask him to extend them to all settlers, but I want to point out that there are some very good features in the scheme. My criticism of the concessions is based on three grounds. Firstly, the settler has no right of appeal against any injustice which he feels he has suffered. The second is that provision is made only in some cases for assisting settlers over the redevelopment period. We are asking that all settlers go on to house rent and agistment for 18 months after redevelopment so that the farms can be brought to full carrying capacity, enabling the settlers to meet their commitments and then carry on under the original terms. My third criticism is that the Commonwealth has repudiated the concession of re-growth control. But, despite those criticisms, there are some good features in the concessions and I ask that they be extended to cover all settlement areas. I do this because, in his report for the year ended 30th June 1964, the Tasmanian Auditor-General said - * it is* pointed out that at present only the settlers on the major projects and a few smaller estates are apparently intended to benefit from the scheme.
He speaks of this under the heading “ Advances to Settlers “. I fail to see why there should be any discrimination. Any benefits that are given out to one section should be available to all and I hope the committee of investigation will be directed to inquire into the affairs of all settlers so that any benefits to be granted as a result of that inquiry may be shared by all groups of settlers. That is only a fair proposition. 1 have been prompted to make these submissions by representation made to me by people on the mainland. I submit that the case T put is strengthened by the fact that the Tasmanian Auditor-General is also of the opinion that only certain people are to benefit. We say there should be no discrimination. We submit that the affairs of all settlers should be inquired into. What is good for one section should be equally good for the other.
In his second reading speech the Minister referred to the fact that work was still proceeding on holdings on Flinders Island and also at Togari. Flinders Island is in the electorate of my colleague the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I am sorry that he is ill and unable to attend the Parliament, because I know that he would want to speak tonight on soldier settlement matters affecting Flinders Island. The honorable member for Bass and settlers in the area have told me that generally conditions are satisfactory. The settlers have profited from experience gained from earlier mistakes made on King Island.
I want to pass on quickly to the position at Togari which was mentioned by the Minister. Togari is in my electorate, between Smithton and Marrawah. Last year’s report showed that 30 dairy farms have been completed at a cost of about £2.5 million. Sixteen more will be available for allotment, bringing the total for the project to 46. Although new drains have been constructed and maintenance work carried out on about 100 miles of existing drains, these were unable to cope with the exceptionally heavy rainfall during the last winter, which was the worst experienced in Tasmania for more than 30 years. Although, as I say, a good deal of maintenance work was done on the drains, many of the farms were waterlogged.
Mr. K. Jacobson, Secretary of the Settlers Association at Togari, has written to me and asked me to seek additional land for a winter run for stock. The State authorities have taken this matter up with the Commonwealth. Both State and Commonwealth officers have discussed the matter fully and have inspected the area, and have placed the blame for pugging of the farms on overstocking by the settlers. This could be so. I must remind the House that many of these farmers have children of school age. Many of the children are attending high schools. Some even go away from the area to attend achool. The cost of the farmers are, therefore, increasing all the time. The average size of farm is 120 acres. These farms are too small for the settlers. They do not provide a living area for the farmer and his family. Perhaps the eldest son of a farmer could be provided with a job on one of these farms, but they are too small to provide a living for any more. In these circumstances the farmers may tend to overstock. However, I see no reason why some of the unused area there cannot be set aside for a winter run so that farms can be spelled in winter. Originally the Minister set a target of 120 farms in this area. Then the target was cut back to 46. I think that about 10,000 acres are still available, and this area would make an ideal winter run.
In conclusion, I want to refer again to certain criticisms that I have to make of the scheme. I refer again to the repudiation of the undertaking given to settlers at Preolenna that after they had been put on permanent lease their commitments would be on a sliding scale. Will the Minister have an inquiry conducted to see who was responsible for giving them this information, and whether the officers who gave the information had the backing of the Commonwealth authorities? We have reliable information that the State authorities were prepared to back up the undertaking, but the Commonwealth has now repudiated it and the settlers are in economic difficulties because they have undertaken various financial commitments, and now they have received directions to pay the full commitments on their leases instead of meeting them on a sliding scale.
I have also a criticism of the repudiation of the concession on regrowth controls. After consultation with the Commonwealth and State officers one of the settlers submitted an account for £900 and had it cut back to £70. Someone is at fault in this case. This set of concessions which was agreed to has been incorporated in “Hansard “ and is looked upon by the officers of the agent State authority as their bible, but the Commonwealth authorities now say that what was published was only a bulletin for departmental information. This is an important matter and is causing a great deal of concern on the island. I ask the Minister, as I have done previously, to consider establishing an appeal authority. I think this is the only way in which a settler who believes he has a grievance and is being unjustly treated in regard to these concessions can have his grievance redressed.
The Minister may say to me in reply that the committee of three that inspected the farms would serve as an appeal committee, but I do not think this is so. Somewhere along the line the pruning knife was used, and it was not used to the best advantage. We realise that there is only a certain amount of money to go around, but in the pruning process someone has received unjust treatment. We would like to know where the fault lies, and the only thing that would satisfy these people is the establishment of an appeal board before which they could appear and have their grievances redressed.
I have asked before, and I ask again very sincerely, for some assistance for settlers to help them over the redevelopment period. This is very important. When an area of 50 acres or 80 acres is taken away from’ a farm for redevelopment, the carrying capacity of the farm is naturally reduced, and the farm income is reduced. Unfortunately, some of these peoples are still required to meet their full commitments even though they have not their full acreage avilable to them. On behalf of the Settlers Association I ask the Minister to consider putting these people on a house rent and agistment basis, not only while redevelopment is going on but for 18 months afterwards. As a farmer, the Minister knows that after an area is redeveloped it takes at least 18 months for the paddocks to reach a stage at which it is right to put the stock back on them. You cannot make use of the redeveloped area straight away. Some time must elapse before you can do so. It takes a while, particularly on King Island, for the paddocks to become available again. So we ask that these chaps be placed on a temporary lease basis, on a basis of house rent and agistment, for at least 18 months after the redevelopment has been completed.
I appeal to the Minister to consider the various matters I have raised, which exercise the minds of settlers not only on King Island but also at Preolenna and other places. I believe these complaints to be justifiable. The Minister himself has been to some of the settlers’ meetings on King Island and on the mainland. He knows that the members of the Settlers Associations are sensible men who ask for these things not just for themselves but for the good of the scheme and in the interests of the economy of King Island. Having in mind that more than 80 settlers have already gone, it is most important to do everything to bring stability to the soldier settlement scheme on King Island and also in other areas.
.- I rise to support the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1964. Before getting on to my main theme may I point out that there is a good deal of what the honorable member for Braddon has said to which I subscribe. I also have a healthy respect, having milked cows for many years, for the troubles, trials and tribulations that can beset a person when he is trying to get together an economic herd of cattle. I have some feelings for people who live on islands such as the honorable member has mentioned. I do not know King Island, but I know Kangaroo Island, and I know of the high costs of production in such places, particularly the high transport costs. However, I would like to point out tonight that although the member for Braddon has made a case for people facing these deficiencies, nevertheless they have a return that has not noticeably decreased.
The case I intend to put tonight, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) involves an area of ex-servicemen’s farms that have suffered a great drop in the price received for their commodity - one might almost say a complete catastrophe as regards a drop in price level. As this drop in prices hits many of them just as they were getting out of their assistance stage, it has made life extremely difficult for them. Roughly speaking, there are 2,60C000 acres of land in Australia under irrigation and of this 54,260 acres is in South Australia. This Bill deals with quite a high proportion of the newer irrigation areas in South Australia which are based on Loxton. In so far as about £1 million is set aside for drainage in the Loxton area, I would be incorrect if 1 did not at this stage point out the gratitude that I think many of the settlers in the area feel towards the Commonwealth Government for making this sum of money available for this purpose. I hope that in the next few minutes I will be able to point out that not only is this expenditure of loan funds extremely desirable but that it will be necessary to continue these grants to many of these settlers for a year or two yet.
I might refer back to the passing of the original Act of 1945, the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act. I think that anyone who reads the speeches of the day will be impressed with the fact that all honorable members with some knowledge of agriculture and of ex-servicemen’s activities stressed the fact that the spirit of the Act was what they were interested in. In fact, I would very briefly point out that my idea of the inference behind the Act at that time was that the settler should not be debarred through lack of capital from successfully applying. It was also that he should be assured of working expenses and a reasonable standard of living on the one hand, and that, on the other hand, the Commonwealth could expect, over the years, a repayment of the valuation debt and other amounts to the Crown.
The picture today in the Loxton area is that a high proportion of the original settlers, some of whom are, frankly, middle aged and getting past that in some cases, still have very little equity in their blocks. My own estimation of the position in this area is that approximately 25 per cent, of the settlers have no saleable equity in their blocks at all in spite of many years of hard work. The reasons for this fact are many. Possibly, as I have mentioned before, the fact that they were taken out of the assistance category early in the life of the block in terms of its bearing capacity is one factor. Bad stock has been suggested as one cause; environmental factors such as spring frost pockets which hit just at the vital flowering stage and prevented the formation of fruit subsequently are another; poor returns are another, particularly in the case of citrus, which has been proved to give a very bad return. All these things have added to the financial burden on the properties. Many other factors have affected them, such as poor horticultural advice. But possibly one factor that has had more effect on their returns over the years is one that was not generally appreciated very early in the life of these blocks, and that is that there were seepage and drainage problems.
For some years some hundreds of trees were dying out in some areas and it took time to work out that seepage problems were responsible. It is very easy to put water on an irrigation block. It is quite a simple engineering feat to pump it and apply it. But it is very much harder to run it off efficiently and keep the water table low enough for the health of trees. In these areas sprinkler irrigation is commonly used and was used from the very earliest days of the development of the blocks. In some ways it has proved detrimental to the area. The main reason I have in mind for saying this, is that it takes some years through sprinkler application of water irrigation before some of the underground cavities below the subsoil fill and seepage becomes apparent, whereas this is not so if furrow irrigation methods are adopted. At this time there is a big move in the area for better management - .for better control of water - and I believe that the attitude of the Government in helping the settlers in draining their soil will indeed prove very beneficial to them. I mention these newer techniques of efficient drainage because there seems to be a great deal of proof today that heavier irrigation methods will have to be adopted. To produce fruit in anything approaching maximum production it is essential, in the sands of Loxton - which are available in depth - to keep the water table, and thus the salinity, at least 4 ft. below the surface and thus out of proximity of the root structure.
The valuation of the average block in the area is probably just over £10,000 and in some instances the cost of drainage to put a block into full production is, I believe, as high as £4,000. This, of course, is out of all proportion to the value of the particular block. Commitments on the average block in this area are, 1 believe, about £500 a year plus the water rates. This sum is composed purely of interest and capital repayment. Not infrequently, current accounts are over £2,000. Indeed, in some instances they are higher. So settlers arriving at middle age, shall we say, to be kind, and having little equity in their blocks, are facing a very dire state of affairs indeed. There is in general very limited equity and, as I mentioned earlier, my assessment is that possibly 25 per cent, of them, or up to that total, have no equity at all. There appears to be a growing need for investment, in this case in drainage, from some source, properly to bring many of these marginal blocks into economic bearing.
This is the case in many of these small trouble spots. I stress the word “ small “ because, by and large, the war service land settlement scheme has been a very inspiring success in Australia. But I do not think we want to blind ourselves unnecessarily to the fact that there are, and will be, problem areas that must attract the attention of some honorable members of this House. But, referring back to the faults, I believe that the Commonwealth Government has erred in one or two instances in regard to the Loxton area. For instance, I believe a case was put to the Commonwealth Government some years ago on the grounds of seepage and draining in that area. I do feel that possibly the Government of the day could have acted a little more quickly on this matter, but I am not quibbling about it. The point is that the funds are available now and, personally, I am very pleased, that they are available for this particular purpose.
– The Government acted immediately it got the report from the South Australia Government.
– What the Minister says is very probably correct. In this instance I would be the very last person to wish to offend him in any way. Perhaps I have not checked my facts completely, or there may have been a breakdown between the settlers’ association and the State Government. I cannot comment on that point with any degree of authenticity.
I suggest that the State Government is also culpable in respect of some of these conditions. I believe that some settlers were allowed to get deeper and deeper into the mire when they should never have been allowed to remain on their blocks. On the other hand, I assure the House that the present Minister of Lands in South Australia is a very dynamic man. The new Director of Lands is full of zeal, too. I believe that they are putting the house in order very rapidly and very efficiently. In respect of State Government activity, I suggest that over the years horticultural advice may not have been as good as it should have been. But I point out that in South Australia today there are moves to more than double the horticultural advice. At the field days that I have attended it is very apparent that in the area there are men who have new techniques, who are teaching new scientific methods, and who are altering the old methods, telling the settlers about the new methods and spread ing extension in the way in which it should be spread. In the area there are big interest and settlers who are more than prepared to learn.
Thirdly, there is no doubt that some of the settlers themselves are or have been at fault. 1 point out that in any area where ex-servicemen are on war service land settlement blocks there will always be good settlers with a high degree of managerial ability making a good go of good quality blocks and mediocre blocks; and there will also be settlers with a lower degree of managerial ability in difficult circumstances on mediocre and poor blocks. But my feeling is that injustice occurs when good managers and hard workers slip further and further behind in their commitments on mediocre or poor blocks. That is not the fault of the Federal Government at all. I merely point it out as something which I believe to be true in respect of this area.
In case honorable members think that, coming into this House with some humility, as I do, I might be caught up with exservicemen’s organisations as a new chum to this problem, I point out that that is not quite so. In past years, in the sphere of State Government, I have had a nodding acquaintance with trouble spots such as Kangaroo Island - although not as good an acquaintance as has the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes), in whose electorate Kangaroo Island is - and zone 5 in the south east of South Australia. Both of those areas have had problems. But I am quite sincere when I say that some of the settlers in the Loxton area are experiencing a degree of hardship quite out of relation to the problems of the two areas that I have just mentioned. Their gross income today is so low that it is almost impossible for them to meet the most reasonable of commitments. That applies particularly to those with a high citrus component in their crops. The subject of citrus interests me quite a bit. I could elaborate on it to some extent, but 1 have no intention of doing that tonight.
Basically, I believe that further grants for the purpose of drainage are very necessary in order to bring all, or as many as possible, of the blocks in the Loxton area to a productive stage. I assure the House, as I have done in the remarks that I have made tonight, that the officers of the South Australia Department of Lands and the agricultural advice available in the area now are of a quality that ensures that such funds will be spent properly. For instance, once upon a time when drainage was put into the area the back filling above the drains was originally taken out of the trench itself, and when the seepage got to the surface it was virtually impossible for the water to get away. Now proper permeability tests are carried out on soil types and, if any doubt at all exists, course sands are put around the drains as filling. That is just one example of the reason why I believe that the type of work for which the Government is providing funds is being carried out intelligently today.
My experience of the Minister for Primary Industry in respect of these problem areas has always been extraordinarily good. If the position in regard to crop returns fails to improve over the years, I hope that he will give particular attention to this area because it is in a bad way today. I am thankful for the fact that the Government has seen fit to give the settlers some help in respect of drainage at this stage. I support the Bill.
.- It is very pleasing to note that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) agrees with the comments that were made in this House more than 12 months ago by the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies). Speaking of Kangaroo Island, the honorable member for Braddon then said -
The holdings are of approximately 800 acres each. … Of the number settled, 130 or 90 per cent, have gone bankrupt. On an average they owe between £5,000 and £8,000 in arrears of rental and advances for working capital, stock and plant and for fixed improvements.
– I certainly could not agree with that.
– The honorable member partially agrees with that statement, at any rate. However, the point is that tonight contributions are being made from both sides of the House, showing that numerous soldier settlers have not made a success of their farms.
It would be terrible if it were thought that the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments decided to inaugurate land settlement schemes after the Second World War, thinking that there were already sufficient or too many farms to meet the requirements of the Australian people. The
Commonwealth and State Governments certainly did not think that. They did not think that the farms that existed in Australia in 1947 were adequate to meet the requirements of the people of this country and to contribute to the export trade and to the feeding of a hungry world. So land settlement schemes were inaugurated in all the States of the Commonwealth.
Even prior to the inauguration of those schemes, while the war was still in progress, the Labour Government appointed a commission to inquire into the rural needs of Australia and what would be the requirements of ex-service personnel in regard to rural production and land settlement after the war was over. The commission came to the conclusion that after the cessation of hostilities at least 50,000 ex-service personnel should be settled on the land. When the war ended the various State Governments called for applications, and applications were received from more than 60,000 ex-servicemen. The applications were sifted and screened by the various State authorities who came to the conclusion that 40,000 of those who had applied were eligible and suitable to take up land’.
Recently I asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) these questions -
The Minister for Primary Industry replied -
He then pointed out in regard to 1956 and 1963 that 4,784 additional holdings in New South Wales were not included in the statistics for the years from 1956 onwards, and he added that they were not newly created farms. He continued -
Allowance must be made for these in comparing totals before and after 1956.
That means that in 1947 there were 246,895 farms, plus 4,784 additional hold ings, which makes a total for that year of 251,679 farms.
In reply to the second question the Minister said -
The number of holdings allotted to ex-service personnel under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme between the end of 1947 and 30th June 1964 was as follows: -
If we add that 8,430 to the 251,679 farms in 1947, we find on the Minister’s figures that in 1947 there were about 260,000 farms, but in reality there were only 251,945. The obvious answer is, of course, that for every farmer who goes on to the land somebody comes off the land. But the position is worse than that, because the Minister’s answer went on to say -
That was in reply to my question -
How many other persons have settled on the land since 1947?
So the position obviously is that we have almost 10,000 fewer farms today than we had in 1947. Is that an achievement of which this Government can be proud? Perhaps somebody will say, as in the past: “ We have enough farms anyhow. We are producing enough primary products in this community. We should not have any more farms.” But if we should not have any more farms, this Government should have known that before it settled 8,430 ex-servicemen upon the land at immense expense. But have we sufficient farms in Australia?
I have in my hand a document “ Primary Industries”, relating to the value of rural and non-rural production in Australia. It shows that in 1950-51 the total value of rural production per head of population was £124 7s. It shows also that in 1961-62 the total value of rural production per head of population was £95 6s. So we are to compare £124 in 1950-51 with £95 per head of population today. The value of the £1 today is half what it was in 1950-51. £1 bought twice as much in those days as it does today, which means that by today’s values the £124 of 1950-51 would be the equivalent of £248. So we have to compare £248 as the value of rural production per head of population in 1950-51 with a value of £95 today. The Minister for Primary Production, and in fact every member of the Country Party, has said that the backbone of this community is the primary producer. They have said that the whole of the secondary industry of this country depends on the primary producer.
– Even the clothing factories in Brunswick.
– Yes, even the clothing factories, the things you eat and the houses you build - they all depend on the primary producer. All those things that are essential to this community - the standard of living that we enjoy, the social services that we have, our educational system, the hospital facilities, the defence in our hour of need, the security of this nation - can only be measured in terms of the production of Australia. Members of the Country Party have said that the basis of our total production is rural production, but rural production has diminished since 1950-51 from £248 per bead of population to £95 per head of population in terms of today’s currency.
– What are you talking about? We have an increase of more than 50 per cent, in quantity of production and in value.
– I am quoting from the document that I have in may hand. However, if the honorable gentleman wants further proof, I asked him only the other day -
What was the value of rural production per head of population in each of the financial years 19S0-S 1 and 1963-64?
The Minister said in his reply that the value per head of population was £.142 in 1950. That was gross production - not net production - and the information was supplied by the Bureal of Census and Statistics.
– The population has nearly doubled in that time.
– The Minister said that the value of rural production per head of population was £142.92 in 1950-51 and £153.23 in 1963-64. He also said that the diminution in the value of the £1 was as I have stated - that £1 is half as valuable today as it was in 1950-51. On his own figures the value of rural production has declined by £90 per head of population or, for a family of four, by £360. But the honorable gentleman says that the population has increased. Of course it has increased. If there is one chop and one person to eat it, he gets a whole chop. But, if there is only one chop to feed two people, they do not get a chop each. They get only half a chop each. It is the volume of production per head of population that counts, not the overall volume of production.
– Everybody in Australia has a pretty good chop on the table.
– The Minister points out that Australians have good food.
– They have food of a pretty good standard.
– Of course they have, because goods are pouring in from overseas. That is what we are paying for. The people of Australia today are not living on the production of this country. They are liivng largely on the production of others.
– What about the value of our exports?
– The volume of production per head has to provide our exports as well as the goods that are consumed within Australia, and our balance of payments is becoming less favorable. Every year, we import more than £100 million worth of goods in excess of what we pay for overseas. As a result, we are putting ourselves more and more into the hands of overseas investors. If my production -s halved, I can still live as well as before if I find someone to lend me the equivalent of the value of half my previous production. That is what is happening to Australia under the administration of the present Government.
The Government should be aware of the conditions that exist today. There are now four million more people in Australia than there were in 1950. Therefore there should be more farms, not fewer. There should be more rural workers, not fewer. More farms and more rural workers are needed if the rural production of this country is to meet the requirements of the people and enable them to live by what the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in days gone by, described as the good old British rule of living within one’s means. We are not living within our means today because the Government has not tackled the problems of expanding primary production and increasing the number of farms as it should have done.
The problems of primary production are becoming increasingly difficult. Many soldier settlers who have been put on the land by this Government are leaving it because they cannot meet their commitments. To make a success of farming, one should not need to be a genius or to have the outstanding capacity for rural production that distinguishes the Minister for Primary Industry and some other honorable members who belong to the Australian Country Party and who forsake their farms to come here and advise others how to govern the country. An average person should be able to make a success of a farm, and he would be able to do so if the prices of farms were anything like they should be. Before 1948, by legislation, a ceiling was imposed on the values of farm land. Prior to that year, a number of ex-servicemen had been settled on the land. Prior to 1948, in Victoria, the cost of a soldier settlement farm averaged about £11,000. After 1948, it averaged about £19,000 or £20,000. A similar situation existed in every other State. In little Tasmania, it costs about £30,000 to put a soldier settler on the land, and about £18,000 in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. These high costs resulted from an exorbitant increase in land prices because the ceiling that had been imposed by the Chifley Government was lifted. As a result of these high costs, people who could have made a success of their farms at land prices half as great as those prevailing after 1948 were unable to establish themselves on the land successfully.
It is up to this Government, even at this late stage, to settle more farmers on the land and to stabilise land prices so that those who in future obtain properties shall be able to make a success of farming. We need more farmers. We need them not merely to feed the Australian people, and to enable us to maintain the standards that we enjoyed in days gone by. We need more farms to provide a greater volume of primary products for processing by secondary industries that employ vast numbers of people who have come here from overseas and increased our population. Increased population is essential to our security. We need more people and we need more primary products for processing so that the additional people may be employed. So expansion of rural production is necessary if we are to play our proper part in a hungry world. We must be able to sell, at prices that are at least reasonable, to those in over-populated and thickly populated countries who need the commodities that we produce. This is the problem that the present Government has neglected in the past and apparently will continue to neglect in the future.
.– Mr. Speaker, this Bill evokes many memories for me. I suppose that I am the only member of this Parliament who is a survivor of the soldier settlement scheme that followed World War I. My family is still interested in the property that I obtained under that scheme. That was indeed a Socialist scheme, Sir. But because it was implemented by a conservative government, so arduous were the administrative conditions that, in Victoria alone, only 4,000 of the original 13,000 settlers ultimately survived. A similar situation obtained in every other State. During World War If, when peace was in the offing, the Chifley Labour Government took full advantage of the experience of the disastrous World War I soldier settlement scheme. It was aided by the fact that, within the Commonwealth and State Public Services, it had available men of the calibre of the Hon. Frank Wise, who had been Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia, Mr. C. R. Lambert, who was at the time Commonwealth Director of Regional Development, and the late Sir Frank Murphy. With the aid of men such as these, the Chifley Government evolved a soldier settlement scheme infinitely better than that which followed the 1914-18 war.
The Chifley Labour Government in 1945 enacted legislation providing for soldier settlement. The scheme was based on an agreement between all the States and the Commonwealth. The major point in it was that no man should be placed on the land unless he was assured that the ultimate value of his holding would enable him to meet his commitments and to enjoy the
Australian standard of living. It so happened that three of the States were very strong financially. They were Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Conversely, three States, because of their vast areas and limited populations, were relatively weak financially. In order to meet this situation, the Commonwealth and the States decided to divide the soldier settlement scheme into two separate compartments. On the one hand, the financially strong States, which had sovereign powers over land, as had the weak States, said that they were happy to carry out their own soldier settlement schemes, with the financial assistance of the Commonwealth. Conversely, the relatively weak States - Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania - said that they wanted the Commonwealth to accept full financial responsibility whilst they, the States, would carry out all the administrative functions.
The three financially strong States have now completed their soldier settlement schemes. On the other hand, the financially weak States, acting as agents for the Commonwealth, are still struggling to carry out their schemes. The only conclusion we can reach is that the Commonwealth, under the administration of the present Government, which has administered the scheme as principal since 1949, has failed lamentably to meet its obligations and to place the agent States in a sufficiently strong financial position to enable them to finalise their soldier settlement schemes as the three financially strong States have. As a result, we now have before us, as we have had on occasions over the years, a bill to enable the Commonwealth to raise the essential capital required by the three agent States. I point out that the Commonwealth is the principal and the States are the administering agents. The second inference is quite clear, particularly after hearing the speeches of the honorable members for Braddon (Mr. Davies) and Angas (Mr. Giles) and reading again the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). The Minister said that the Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to £4,500,000 to assist the agent States of Western Australia to the extent of £2,302,000, of South Australia to the extent of £1 ,085,000 and of Tasmania to the extent of £1,113,000. “ In effect, the prime responsibility for the present situation rests with the Common- wealth Government. If the agent States have fallen down on the job, the Commonwealth Government should have gingered them into the activity that long ago would have meant the completion of the scheme. The honorable member for Braddon has told us of the difficulties on King Island, the Minister has told us of the difficulties on Kangaroo Island and the honorable member for Angas has told us, very efficiently, effectively and moderately, of the difficulties in the irrigation settlements of South Australia. In reality, the Bill shows the utter incapacity of the Menzies Government in the 15 years from 1949 to 1964, as a principal in the scheme, to meet the difficulties that have arisen in the three agent States. Is it suggested that problems similar to those that arose in the three agent States did not arise in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland? Of course they did, but those States solved their problems and concluded the scheme.
That is not all. Everybody knows that the scheme was designed to provide settlement in the Commonwealth for a vast number of ex-servicemen. What do we find? We have 60,000 unsatisfied applicants and a total of 8,000 to 9,000 soldier settlers. Why has there been this decline? The Commonwealth, of course, has always been the mastermind in the scheme and has controlled the purse. But why has it been unable to accommodate all the disappointed applicants, or, to be fair, at least 75 per cent, of them? If we look back over the financial and economic history of the Commonwealth, we find that there is only one answer. The 1945 agreement between the Commonwealth and the States provided that no land for soldier settlement should be purchased at a price in excess of 1945 valuations. This provision was maintained until 1949. Until the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) became the Minister for the Interior and controlled soldier settlement for the Commonwealth Government, the soldier settlement scheme proceeded apace and without any embarrassments. The honorable member for Chisholm, as Minister for the Interior, presented an ultimatum to the respective States. He said that the Commonwealth would not give financial support to the States unless the States observed what he considered were the requirements of the Commonwealth Constitution in regard to a so-called just price. From that moment the cost of soldier settlement increased incredibly till the situation was reached where no State - Liberal, Labour, no matter of what political colour - was able to acquire land at a price that gave any soldier settler, or potential settler, in Australia, a dog’s chance of earning an adequate living. These are the facts.
I know that the Minister for Primary Industry will say that the people who were in possession of vast estates were entitled, under the Commonwealth Constitution, to a just price for their land; but the fact remains that under their sovereign rights the so-called principal States could acquire land at any price they considered satisfactory. Any landholder who was dissatisfied with the acquisition price had the right under the constitutions of the respective States to appeal to appropriate authorities against the price fixed by the State Government. From the time of the honorable member for Chisholm’s ultimatum onwards the prospects of 40,000 or 50,000 Australian returned soldiers who wanted land were ended. The net result is that 8,500 returned soldiers have been settled on the land instead of about 60,000. I know that the Minister for Primary Industry is most meticulous on this question. I remember his speech in 1951.
– I think everybody should get a fair price.
– Of course they should. What the Minister does not face up to is that the respective State Governments have sovereign powers over land. If any person whose land is acquired by a State Government considers that he is not getting a fair price he can have recourse to an appeals authority for justice. No member of this Parliament wants to oppose this measure. It is essential. The problems that have arisen on King Island, Kangaroo Island, at Loxton and in other settlements require urgent attention. The Minister is quite correct when he refers to the problem. He has pointed out that in Western Australia only minor development work has still to be completed. Do not forget that this is 19 years after the original legislation was passed by this Parliament - legislation embracing an agreement with all State
Governments. Would that not rock anybody? Here, 19 years later, we are still dealing with the provision of loan requirements’ for the agent States. The Minister said -
In Western Australia only minor development work has still to be completed and nearly all the money provided will be required for making advances to settlers for working capital, including replacement stock and plant. It is a basic principle of the scheme that lack of capital by an applicant is not a bar to participation in the scheme. In fact, most settlers have borrowed their full financial requirements, any private capital they had being required to meet costs associated with the move to and the furnishing of their new home.
Fair enough. He continued -
As security for the advances made to settlers, a mortgage over the lease is taken with collateral bills of sale, &c, over stock and plant.
This is interesting. He continued -
Consequently, the settlers usually have no acceptable security to offer to those institutions normally operating in the field of rural credit. While the Commonwealth has no desire to compete with these institutions-
Just fancy, a Commonwealth Government, acting on behalf of soldier settlers, has no desire the compete with institutions which normally provide finance for farmers and for soldier settlers. Why not?
– The settlers would not get enough from them, anyhow.
– The Minister knows full well that under the provisions of the Act settlers get interest accommodation on their loan requirements at cost price so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. The so-called normal accommodation from outside financial institutions will cost the soldier settlers infinitely more. Of course; this Commonwealth Government does not want to interfere with the normal requirements and profiteering arrangements of stock firms, financial institutions and lending organisations of all sorts.
– On the contrary we want to give settlers cheaper money, as the honorable member ought to appreciate.
– And at a later stage cut off their access to Commonwealth assistance and throw them into the lap and on the tender mercies of the outside institutions which finance farmers, settlers and rural producers at a substantially higher interest rate than the Commonwealth charges. In his second reading speech the Minister said -
In South Australia there is still some development work to be completed on holdings on Kangaroo Island.
He referred specificaly to the western end df the island. Let us examine the situation on Kangaroo Island, about which I have heard something. Nineteen years after the legislation was enacted some work still has to be completed on Kangaroo Island. The Minister cannot blame the South Australian Government, which is the agent of the Commonwealth for the scheme on Kangaroo Island. The Commonwealth Government is the principal, the boss, yet it has not yet been able to put the Kangaroo Island settlers on a firm enough basis to enable them to stand on their own feet. The Minister also said -
It is also estimated about £100,000 will be spent in respect of farms in the Loxton Irrigation Area.
The honorable member for Angas, who made a fine and temperate contribution to this debate tonight, knows that the soldier settlers at Loxton are on an area which is subject to drainage problems and a wide range of other problems. Is it reasonable that the Commonwealth Government, 19 years from the date of the commencement of the scheme - and even if Loxton was not settled for 10 years, then for nine years - should not have coped with the drainage problem? What a shocking state of ineptitude, neglect and carelessness.
– lt was at least seven years before the seepage problem became apparent at Loxton.
– The honorable member is well informed on this and he confesses that it is seven years since this problem was discovered.
– He did not say that.
– A similar problem has existed at Mildura, Griffith and Leeton since as far back as 1949. Is the honorable member for Angas going to tell me that the competent authorities were not in a position to know that a similar state of affairs might not arise at Loxton? That just will not wash. It is an indication of sheer negli gence and ineptitude by this Government. The Minister also said -
The bulk of the provision of £1,085,000 for South Australia will be required for advances to the settlers, although the average per capita demand will not be as high.
Then he made this interesting comment -
Co-operative societies, packing houses, &c. are meeting some settlers’ requirements for working expenses in the irrigation areas and many settlers have chosen to obtain part of their financial requirements from stock firms.
I have had some dealings with stock firms. I have had some dealings as a soldier settler with the State Government of Victoria. As far as dealings with the authorities are concerned, I know that the interest rate charged by the Victorian Government is much lower than that charged by the stock firms. The honorable gentleman does not mind the soldier settlers being thrown to the tender mercies of the stock firms. I do not speak of those firms in terms of contempt. They fill a need at a price, but they are not in the race when it comes to socialistic finance. In his second reading speech the Minister said -
In Tasmania work is still proceeding on holdings on King and Flinders Islands and at Togari - previously known as Montagu Swamp. Provision is also made in the amount to be made available to Tasmania this financial year for the cost of credits to be given to settlers on these projects for work they have done towards bringing their farms to the desired standard of development.
While an end is now in sight for work of developmental nature, it will be necessary for the Commonwealth! to provide annually for moneys required to make credit facilities available to settlers for some years to come.
The Minister commended the Bill to the Parliament. The Opposition will very readily support the Bill. What else can we do? All I do is point out that this soldier settlement scheme is an example of shocking neglect on the part of the Commonwealth. Possibly some neglect is the fault of State authorities but primarily the responsibility rests with the Commonwealth. It is obvious that in the three principal States, as distinct from the agent States, that undertook the responsibility of soldier settlement work the scheme was completed long ago, yet in each of the last five or six years this legislation has come before the Parliament seeking, to render financial assistance to the settlement projects for which the Commonwealth is primarily responsible and for which they utilise the administration of the respective State Governments. All you can do is blame the boss. You cannot blame the employee - the respective State Governments. Even the Minister appreciates, that observation.
The Opposition, which was responsible in this Commonwealth for everything of an efficient character when it was in government, is not responsible in this matter. We gave the States the conditions they required. The present Government, which inherited the basis of a splendid scheme, bears the sole responsibility for the present state of affairs. Might I point out to honorable gentlemen in the corner of the chamber - the representatives, as they believe, of the farming community - that the scheme introduced in 1945 by a Labour Government - has been, generally speaking, eminently successful compared with the Tory scheme introduced after the First World War and in which I was a participant. Today you can drive through the rural areas of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland and see beautiful homes and surroundings and adequate shed accommodation - hay sheds, implement sheds and the like. These are examples of a paradise of rural settlement, with finance provided on socialistic lines by the financial institutions at the disposal of the Commonwealth.
As far as insurance under the scheme is concerned, while you are under mortgage to the Commonwealth or a State you are insured by that State or by the Commonwealth and your insurance dues are minute compared with the charges made by private insurance companies. But as soon as you pay off your mortgage and become the sole proprietor of your property, the Commonwealth shoves you over to the private insurance companies and up go your premiums. The Country Party has never uttered a word of protest against this practice. When I paid off my mortgage liabilities to Victoria many years ago I wrote to the authorities handling the scheme and sought to obtain insurance through them but they told me that as my mortgage had been liquidated I could not now be insured by the State. I had to insure with a private insurance company, and up went my premiums. If ever there was an example of the advantage of socialism over private enterprise, that was it. The same state of affairs exists today. I do not want to delay the Parliament. The Opposition enthusiastically supports the measure but regrets the need for it owing to the dilatoriness and ineptitude of this Government. We hope that the Government will act swiftly now to stick a pin in the respective State Governments as agent States and hasten the provision of financial accommodation to the people of King Island and Kangaroo Island and Loxton to enable them to stand on their own feet before the necessity arises in the next Parliament to introduce another Bill of this kind.
– In reply - I wish to say a few words about the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I thank him for reading anew my second reading speech and re-emphasising the points I made. The honorable member contradicted himself when he spoke on the one hand about the dilatoriness and ineptitude of the Commonwealth and on the other hand about the excellent properties that have resulted from the scheme. He commended the scheme; and he also condemned it. This Bill is necessary because of the altered system of accountancy. Each year a measure of this kind is required in order to continue the credits to the settlers under the war service land settlement scheme.
The honorable member for Lalor referred to the principal States, as they are called - New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Honorable members may recall that the Commonwealth had to pep up even the principal States by giving £2 million for £1 million in order to hasten land settlement in those States. Then the States did not want to spend the money that had been given to them as grants. Queensland, under a Labour Government, fell down completely on the job. The Queensland Government was cutting in half and offering for settlement blocks that were regarded as living areas under the First World War land settlement scheme. The Queensland Government offered to pay 1942 values for this land in 19S0. That was wrong and of course the Commonwealth fought it Eventually Queensland gave the scheme away altogether and said: “Hang the soldiers”. That was the attitude of the Queensland Labour Government. It fell down on the job completely.
The views expressed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) about Loxton are correct as to the facts of the case, except that the advice given by the engineers or those who planned the survey of the settlement
– Do not blame them; blame Tom Playford.
– I am not blaming Tom Playford. I am blaming those who designed some of the drainage, which failed to meet needs. I had just become Minister for Primary Industry when the South Australian Government investigated the matter and advised me that the land was saturated because of insufficient drainage. In company with Sir Cecil Hincks I inspected some of the land. I immediately approved of the expenditure of £1,300,000 on draining the settlement properly, for I could see that if it was not drained Loxton would be lost. There was no undue delay on the part of the Commonwealth at all. The only delay that did occur was the necessary delay involved in the calling of tenders and the carrying out of the work. I hope we have saved the whole of the Loxton settlement by that action. Fortunately the tenders received were such that we will be able to complete the scheme for less than £1,300,000; indeed, I think the cost will be something less than £1 million. But the Commonwealth Government has provided that money at no cost whatever to the settlers. The Commonwealth bore the whole cost. Therefore, no charge of any kind can be laid against this Government with regard to Loxton. We acted immediately we received the report of the committee that was set up by the South Australian Government, and I hope that our action has been taken in time to save that settlement.
The honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) mentioned certain settlers on King Island. He will admit that I cannot be expected to be conversant with the details relating to all properties, but I shall read his speech and follow the matter through. I remind the honorable member, however, that the original trouble at King Island was caused because the settlers wanted to go on to the blocks before the development was complete and before the Commonwealth and State Governments wanted settlement to begin. We urged them to wait, as we did at one settlement in South Australia where the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia wanted to see the men settled. I was not a Minister at that time, but the Government advised against early settlement.
When I went down to King Island and saw that some of the blocks were not properly developed, I authorised the expenditure of enough money to bring all blocks on the island to the required stage of development. The honorable member mentioned a figure of almost £1 million. I do not have the exact figure but the expenditure I approved would be almost that, and the work is being carried out now.
– We think the Minister is a trier.
– I believe in playing the game, and if the Commonwealth makes a promise, it keeps it.
– But the Government is a bit slow.
– We are not slow. We have developed that settlement as quickly as it has been possible to develop it. The development is being carried out in stages in order to reduce the effect on production to a minimum. The honorable member for Braddon mentioned that point. Where production is below certain levels the commitments of the settler are adjusted accordingly. The whole question of the commitments which settlers can afford to meet is now being reviewed by me. There is joint Commonwealth and State consideration of a report submitted by the committee that was appointed by the State Minister for Agriculture. It is quite likely that before any final decisions are made I shall have to confer with the State Minister.
The honorable member for Braddon referred at length to the 1964 report of the State Auditor-General; but he omitted to mention that the Auditor-General commented adversely on the collection policy adopted by the Tasmanian Closer Settlement Board. The Auditor-General stated that the position down there had deteriorated so far that the settlers were now not even bothering to reply to letters sent to them’ by the Board. I feel sure that I shall have to take this matter up with the State Minister because the Closer Settlement Board is responsible for the collection of these funds. Irrespective of the ability of settlers to meet their commitments, they appear to be falling into the habit of paying nothing. As the State Auditor-General has said they are not even answering letters from the Board. It will be seen, therefore, that there is more than one cause for complaint in connection with some of these things.
The honorable member for Braddon also said that the R.S.L. Congress had recommended the appointment of a royal commission. I remind him that the Federal Executive of the R.S.L. is at present meeting in Hobart. I have had the opportunity of seeing the agenda for the conference and I can tell the honorable member that no notice of any motion criticising war service land settlement is even listed for consideration.
The honorable member also spoke of the repudiation of concessions relating to regrowth control. If he examines the position a little more closely he will find that the settlers have misunderstood the letter which was forwarded to them, not by me but by the Closer Settlement Board, which is a State instrumentality. I cannot go into all the details of that matter in a debate of this kind, but I do emphasise that there was no repudiation on the part of the Commonwealth. What the settlers are expecting is that the Commonwealth Government should commit itself to cutting their regrowth for all time. We would never commit ourselves to doing that, and we should not be expected to do so.
The honorable member will remember that when I went down to inspect some of the development work I saw one beautiful block which had been cleared of scrub and roots and then ploughed. It really looked a picture and was ready for grassing. Alongside it there was a block on which the undergrowth was several feet high. The settler said to me: “ A short while ago this block was like the one that had just been cleared and ploughed “. I said: “ Why is it not like that now?” and he replied: “The undergrowth has taken over”. I said: “ What do you do between breakfast and tea time? “ I knew that all he had to do was look after a few sheep and keep clean the ground which we had already ploughed and sown.
– That is not a typical case.
– I know it is not a typical case.
– You have those in every community.
– That man was deserving of censure, but I know that his was not a typical case. Most of these men are good settlers. But we are developing progressively. I remind honorable members that we cannot carry out development costing £1 million or £750,000 in only a month or so; it takes years to complete this kind of work. That is what the Government has committed itself to do and is doing. I will not accept at any time the honorable member’s suggestion that we have repudiated something. We have not done that. If the Closer Settlement Board has written to the settlers and the settlers have misunderstood, this is certainly not the Commonwealth’s responsibility because we did not give any such undertaking.
I come now to the question of the option price. The honorable member would seem to believe that the State Government pays only two-fifths of the difference between the cost and the leasehold valuation. Any loss arising from the option price being less than the leasehold valuation is borne by the
Commonwealth alone. Redevelopment work will be taken into account in adjusting the option price, but at the value, not at the cost. The honorable member knows that the Commonwealth accepts responsibility for the difference between the high cost of development and the real value of the property. We have always accepted that responsibility. I emphasise again that the Commonwealth is out to give a fair deal.
The honorable member spoke of freights. Freights are outside the jurisdiction of the war service land settlement administration. The honorable member will be aware, however, that a deputation did approach the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), and, at the request of the Prime Minister, officers of the Department are now looking at the question of freight charges for King Island. My sympathies go out to those islanders in their isolation, and we have tried to assist them on several occasions. But the State Government has a responsibility in connection with transport and freight charges. If it measures up to its responsibilities, then I am sure the Commonwealth will help.
At this stage, I do not think I need say any more than that this Bill is necessary in order to enable the Commonwealth to meet its commitments in the final stages of development down there and to enable us to continue issuing credits to the various settlers until the values are assessed and until they are able to meet full commitments with respect to their blocks. The Government has done a good job in war service land settlement. It has honoured its pledges and it will continue to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. The Government has a wellestablished policy on protection. The policy is to protect economic and efficient industries. In the application of this policy the Government first seeks the advice of the Tariff Board which, at a public inquiry, conducts a full examination of all the circumstances and makes its recommendation to the Government.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When does he expect to (a) receive and(b) announce the recommendations of the Public Service Board on the representations by staff associations to raise the limits imposed by section 68 of the Public Service Act on the amount of recreation leave which can be granted to officers of the Commonwealth Service?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Public Service Board’s investigation of representations made by staff associations on this matter is still proceeding.
d asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. Details of imports by individual companies are confidential. However, statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician show imports of manganese ore (other than battery grade) from South Africa as follows -
Tariff Board Annual Report. (Question No. 652.)
m asked the Minister for
Trade and Industry: -
Did the Tariff Board forward him its report for 1963-64 on the 28th August?
Did he table the report on the 24th September?
Did the debate on the proposed expenditure for his Department commence on the24th September?
Why did he fail to make the report available to honorable members in ample time for the debate?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1.. Yes.
National Materials Handling Bureau. (Question No. 654.)
m asked the Minister for
National Development, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Immediately following the Government’s decision of August 1963, steps were taken by my Department to set up the National Material Handling Bureau.
The Bureau took over the small number of staff and facilities of the then existing Materials Handling Branch.
Additional staff positions for the Bureau were approved by the Public Service Board in July 1964, and every effort is being made to obtain staff. Mr. D. L. Beattie, an officer with over 20 years experience in materials handling, has been appointed Director of the Bureau.
The Federal Advisory Committee on Materials Handling has been established and held its first meeting last July. It consists of eight members from industry and three from government and is under the chairmanship of N. D. Pixley, Chairman of P. & O. Orient Lings of Australia Pty. Ltd. The purpose of the Committee is to advise the Minister for National Development and the National Materials Handling Bureau on materials handling projects which should be undertaken.
The Bureau is carrying out work previously performed by the Materials Handling Branch and is preparing to extend its research, advisory and education services.
Its principal task at present is a technical study of the handling of bales of wool from brokers’ stores to stowage into ship. The study will embrace all wool centres in Australia.
The Bureau has given technical advice to government departments and industry on the handling and movement of goods and munitions; tested pallets for the handling of ammunition; and been engaged actively in the development of standards for packaging and for freight containers.
In regard to uniform practices and standardisation the Director has recently been overseas where, as Chairman of the Working Group on Standards for the Dimensions of Freight Containers of the International Organisation for Standardisation he has been able to ensure that Australia’s interests in. freight containers and their dimensions are not overlooked.
While overseas the Director visited goods transhipment and wool ports in Western Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan.
son asked the Minister for Labour and National Service upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
These rates may be reduced for families to provide a maximum charge for dependants of £4 7s. Od. per week plus V- for every 5/- by which the nominal wage of the breadwinner exceeds £10 10s. Od. per week provided that the breadwinner will have left out of his nominal weekly wage, after paying for board and lodging for himself and his dependants, a minimum amount calculated as follows -
Where the sole breadwinner is the mother the above scale may be applied in accordance with the number of dependent children.
The nominal weekly wage for this purpose is the breadwinner’s regular wage: in addition he may receive overtime, bonus or incentive payments, special allowances or penalty rates which are not counted as part of the nominal wage. Child endowment payments are also excluded for tariff calculation purposes.
Allowances are made for a normal amount of electricity used for lighting in migrants’ quarters and for heating during the winter period. Migrants are required to pay for electricity consumed in excess of these allowances.
son asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The Chairman of Burns Philp and Co. Ltd! (Mr. James Burns), in his address to the annual meeting, did mention that at a later date the company expected to dispose of the “ Malaita “ and “ Bulolo “. However a replacement for “ Malaita “ is under construction at the New South Wales State Dockyard, and is expected to be completed in May 1965. As 1 understand it, there is no immediate intention of selling cither vessel, and in fact the company has expanded its service to New Guinea by switching the “ Braeside “ from the service to Singapore onto that to New Guinea.
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following answers -
Action is also proceeding on the following -
A project to assist in the preservation of stored grains. This involves -
The galvanised iron and the silos will be shipped within a few days by a vessel specially chartered for this purpose.
Other proposals for additional aid arising from the report of the expert team are under consideration by the Government and a decision is expected shortly.
The Philippines (two medical teams and a civil action team including experts in rural development); Thailand (cement and iron sheets); New Zealand (army engineers, a team of surgeons and assistance in constructing a university science faculty); Britain (continued assistance through the. British Aid Mission in counterinsurgency, administration and police training, supply of motors for fishing boats and of road construction equipment); Canada (technical assistance and supply of certain commodities); Malaysia (increased assistance in the field of police training); India (assistance in the social field); Republic of Korea (provision of a 130- member assistance group including staff for a mobile army surgical hospital and instructors in unarmed combat); Iran (oil products and equipment for livestock); Republic of China (enlargement of existing agricultural technical missions from 29 to 86 members, provisions of goods including ploughs, prefabricated houses, fertiliser, seed, tools, generators and books, and provision of a power sub-station); Federal Republic of Germany (continued economic aid and a possible medical detachment); Japan (provision of a medical team and medical equipment, ambulances and radio receivers); Israel (medicines and medical equipment); Tunisia (drugs and medical equipment); Turkey (drugs); and the Netherlands (offer of fellowships and experts). Other countries are responding favorably in various ways but have not made any official announcements. A number of countries have indicated an interest in assisting through Red Cross channels and are taking action accordingly.
n asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What is the average individual income from telephone subscribers for (a) private telephone connections in cities throughout Australia and (b) private telephone connections in country areas throughout Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19641027_reps_25_hor44/>.