25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. I ask: Was national serviceman Mcllroy taken to Army headquarters by an officer and warned that it was against Army regulations to make public statements expressing his opinions on Vietnam? Is a conscripted private citizen debarred from expressing his view when Australia is not at war? Does the Minister agree that such regulations should apply only to matters relating to security? Did this national service conscript have to pay $204 for air fares to see his parents when he was on pre-embarkation leave? If so, will the Minister arrange for a refund? Does he recall telling me that fares would be paid in such cases?
– I did tell the honorable member, in answering an oral inquiry, that national servicemen or members of the Australian Regular Army would have their fares paid when on final leave before embarkation. If in a particular instance this has not occurred, I shall examine the case and advise the honorable member appropriately. I believe that some confusion is apparent in the early part of the question. In recent days, a great number of representatives of the Press, radio and television services have visited the 5th and 6th Battalions and other units posted for service in Vietnam. As a general rule, there has been completely free access to national servicemen. It may be worth noting, for example, that in Eastern Command 13 representatives of the various means of public communication visited the 5th Battalion. Only two public relations officers were available. Obviously, it was impossible for only two of them to oversee all that 13 newsmen were doing or to hear all the questions that they were asking. The story is very much the same in relation to Northern Command and Southern Command. In Northern Command, a party of 10 representatives of newspaper, radio and television services was, again, assisted by only two public relations officers. In Southern Command, where units at Puckapunyal were visited, there was only one public relations officer. So Press, radio and television personnel in Australia have had free access to national servicemen.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Yesterday, he directed the attention of the Parliament to the significant change made by the 1965 Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party in the Party’s defence platform. He then pointed out the sentence reading - Labour-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that question time is not to be used for propaganda purposes and that all questions directed to Ministers should relate to the administration of their departments.
– Order! The honorable member for Wakefield has a right to obtain from the Prime Minister information on any subject matter. He would transgress if he were too long winded or if his question did not relate to a matter within the Prime Minister’s responsibility. I uphold the question as being in order, but I suggest that the honorable member be brief.
– He then pointed out that the sentence reading “ Labour will honour and support Australia’s treaties and defence alliances “ was amended to read “ Australia must periodically review its defence treaties and alliances to meet new circumstances as they arise.”
– I again rise to order, Mr. Speaker. This has to do with the personal affairs of the Australian Labour Party and with nothing else.
– Order! The honorable member will ask his question.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether any public statement was made by the Leader of the Opposition, or any spokesman for the Australian Labour Party, at the time of this change, explaining its significance or the reasons why the former undertaking to honour and support
Australia’s treaties and defence alliances has been so substantially watered down?
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the past you have ruled that a Minister is answerable to the House for matters that come within his dominion, if one may use that term. The Labour Party, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition do not come in any way within the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister, and therefore the question is out of order.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member has the right to direct a question to the Prime Minister seeking information about a matter for which the right honorable gentleman is responsible or about a statement that he has made.
– Quite clearly what the alternative Government to the present Government has to say on the subject of defence - than which no other subject has a higher degree of importance for this Parliament - is a matter of significance and interest to ali sections of the Parliament, and I submit that your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is entirely in order.
– I must object, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister has no right to canvass your ruling. He has no right either to compliment you or to criticise you.
– I do not think the matter need be debated.
– But I have raised a point of order. This is not a dictatorship.
– I find it very difficult to forgo the right to accept flattery. 1 think the Prime Minister is in order.
– What I have been asked by the honorable member for Wakefield is whether it is within my knowledge that at the time the Australian Labour Party made this significant change in its official platform any statement was made, either by the Leader of the Opposition or any official spokesman for the Party, explaining the significance of the change to the public.
– How does the Prime Minister know whether we did or noi?
– The Leader of the Opposition has put a very proper question. He asks me how I know whether they made a statement or not, and I must confess that I do not know whether the honorable gentleman made any public statement along these lines or not. So far as I am aware, no such public statement was made. I now invite the honorable gentleman to say whether he or any spokesman for his Party, at the time when this change was made, let the public know that the change had been made.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. Do the new guided missile destroyers of the Royal Australian Navy and the F111A fighter-bombers contain incredibly complex weapons control systems? Are the maintenance and servicing of these systems governed by contracts which provide that weapons for the defence of Australia can be cared for only by an overseas company which made them, or its duly appointed agents? Is it the position now that the Australian defence Services can no longer, in relation to such weapons, decide whether they or private enterprise shall carry out the necessary servicing, or even where it will be carried out? Will the Minister table such contracts for the information of the House?
– As a former Minister for Supply and as Minister for Defence, I have had the responsibility for looking very carefully into the ability of the armed Services to service their modern equipment. It is true that the new ships and aircraft of all classes, including the Mirage and FI IIA aircraft, use a good deal of quite complex electronic and other equipment. Having looked carefully into this matter, I am satisfied as to the capacity of Australian industry, together with the Services - it will be a matter predominantly for the Services - to service completely this equipment. As regards some missiles, as the honorable gentleman may remember, an announcement was made that we were setting up a service centre for guided missiles. Information about the equipment for some missiles is held closely by the manufacturing contractor. Nevertheless, the whole of the information necessary to service this equipment is made available to the Australian Government. At present, the Department of Supply holds all of this information, so it is not true to say that we need outside help to service our defence equipment. I do not propose to table the contracts.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether Australia has been invited to send a representative to the South East Asian conference be held in Tokyo on 6th and 7th April?
– Australia will not attend this conference. It has not received an invitation. Of course, there are other opportunities for Australia to meet representatives of South East Asian countries. There are, for example, the Colombo Plan discussions, the conferences of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East and other conferences.
– Has anybody told the Prime Minister that the 1965 Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party, which transferred a plank from one part of its platform to another, was held in the presence of the Press and television cameras and of radio people - something that never happens in the Liberal Party? Does the right honorable gentleman know that at that Conference all the reasons given for the changes that were made were publicly expressed and, if not publicly reported, were public property? Was a meeting of the Liberal Party organisation held in Canberra in the last fortnight? Did those who attended the meeting come in stealth and debate in stealth the issue of an early Federal election, and did they squib it? Did they fold their tents like the Arabs and as silently steal away?
– Dealing first with the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question I should say that, as usual, he is quite inaccurate in his assumptions. When this Government decides - it will be a decision of the Government - that the time is appropriate to go to a general election, it will say so. I stress that the decision will be taken by the. Government.
– It can be as soon as the Prime Minister likes. We want the election as soon as possible.
– I know that the honorable gentleman is in rather an excitable mood. I gather that he has had a difficult morning.
– A very successful one.
– The subject of elections is apparently very much in his mind. What the honorable gentleman should perhaps make clear to members of the public who will have been listening to his question is that there is a fundamental difference between the way policy decisions are taken by members on this side of the House and the way they are taken by honorable members opposite. Members on this side of the House have the full responsibility, the full authority and the privilege, as representatives of the Australian people democratically elected from representative electorates, to determine what policy they shall adopt. Honorable gentlemen opposite unhappily, and in my view running quite contrary to British democratic tradition, enjoy no such freedom. Their policies are decided for them by outside personalities described by some as “ faceless men “ and by others as “ witless men”, and who are, at least, people who have no direct responsibility to the Australian electorate.
In the earlier part of his question the honorable member pointed out that the discussion on this change of policy was conducted in public and that the reasons for it were given at the time. Since the Press apparently did not find it expedient to give any report of this particular aspect of Labour’s change of policy, will the honorable gentleman make up for that deficiency by himself stating in this place the significance of the change by which an undertaking to honour and support treaties and alliances into which Australia has entered was altered to a statement that from time to time there would be a review of the treaties?
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Is the report correct that the member countries of the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade have given approval to the Australian intention to accord preferences to less developed countries in respect of their exports of certain manufactured goods to Australia - such intention being designed to help in the development of these countries?
– Yes. The honorable member and the House will recall that, upon the proposal of the Government, the House passed legislation a year or so ago authorising the establishment in the Australian tariff schedule of a column to accord preferences to certain manufactured goods exported from certain underdeveloped countries, This was done to give underdeveloped countries an opportunity to earn more exchange and to go ahead with their industrialisation and to give them a more equal opportunity for competition in our market with the goods of the old established and sophisticated industrial countries. The Parliament unanimously approved the proposal, which was widely approved also by the underdeveloped countries. It was a proposal acknowledgedly in breach of the traditional G.A.T.T. procedures and so we had, as I informed the Parliament, to seek approval - technically known as a waiver - to permit it to be implemented. This has taken some time, but I am glad to advise the House that the G.A.T.T. countries have now voted 50 to 1 in favour of the Australian initiative. Votes from eight countries have not been recorded yet. The voting will have the effect of enabling us, as soon as we can go through the procedural arrangements, to establish this new opportunity in the Australian market for goods from underdeveloped countries to compete with goods of other countries. It will not be directed at undermining Australian industry. The very great opportunity that this opens up will not be in the Australian market, where it will be sizeable but not decisive, but in other industrial countries which will be invited to accord to the developing countries the same opportunity that Australia has now accorded to them. When and if this is done - and I believe it will be done - the most dramatic action will have been taken to enable the developing countries to escape from their dependence on their own peasant agriculture or on the aid of other countries and to turn to a new phase of trade.
– Put on another record.
– 1 should have thought the honorable member would have had the patience to hear this through because it is so important; great credit for it is attached to the Australian nation in other countries.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the recent statement by Marshal Chen, the Chinese Foreign Minister, that China is assisting North Vietnam in its war effort by sending to that country grain, textiles and weapons of war, he will reconsider the advisability of Australia continuing to sell to China wheat, wool and metals which undoubtedly will assist the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong in their fight against Australian servicemen in the Vietnam war.
– I take it from the honorable gentleman’s question that the Australian Labour Party is opposed to the sale of wheat and wool to Communist China.
– It will not say where it stands on this.
– We say where we stand. We are in favour of trading with everybody but we are not in favour of sending conscripts to die in jungle warfare.
– That interlude was out of order.
– 1 think the clear implication of the question is that the Labour Party is opposed-
– I rise to order. Is the right honorable gentleman in order in imputing a motive to the questioner? There was a straight request for information. I ask for your ruling, Sir. Is the Prime Minister in order in imputing motives to the honorable member for Kingston?
– Order! I did not detect that, and the honorable member for Kingston did not rise. I hope the right honorable gentleman did not make an utterance that escaped my notice.
– I do not mind the Government having a unity ticket with Marshal Chen.
– Honorable members opposite should be used to unity tickets by now. The only unity they lack is unity inside their own ranks. We have made itclear that we have considered this matter fully. We have come to the conclusion that, as these commodities are in free supply on world markets and could be secured by Communist China from those markets, Australia, which has its own economic problems in providing for its defence and its development, on a balance of national advantage, is able to go forward with this policy. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot have funds from the sale of these commodities to use for our national advantage and at the same time avoid finding markets for the commodities. If honorable members opposite are opposed- to Australia selling wheat, and wool to Communist China, they should say so quite clearly and unequivocally.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport give the House the latest information as to the number of young people under the age of 21 years who die in road accidents in Australia over a period of one year? How does that number compare with the number of Australians who were killed while defending liberty and their country in Vietnam in the last year?
– It is regrettable that, during the year ended 30th June 1965, 382 youths between the ages of 17 and 21 years met their deaths in road accidents. The figures for the last full year - that is for the period between January and December 1965 - have not yet been finally verified, but it is estimated that during that period 400 youths between the ages of 17 and 21 years met their deaths on roads in Australia. My colleague, the Minister for the Army, has informed me that since Australian troops have been in Vietnam the death has occurred of four members of our forces under the age of 21.
– I ask a question of the Attorney-General or the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that there is doubt as to whether it is legally correct to send Australian servicemen overseas without their consent and, if this is so. is it also a fact that servicemen who havebeen conscripted are being asked or required to sign a form giving their consent before they go overseas?
– Mr. Speaker, I know of no legal doubt on this question. The first time I have heard it raised is by the question now asked by the honorable member for Yarra. Because of the significance of the question, I will examine it very closely and I will undertake to give an opinion on it.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Has the Commonwealth Electoral Act been amended to allow printed posters such as the one that I am holding in my hand now - I admit, Mr. Speaker, that it is a bit shop worn but that could not be helped - to be displayed in public places during an election campaign without an authorisation notice or even a printer’s imprint.
– What is it? Give us a look at it.
– This poster reads: “ What Labour stands for.” Therefore, it is a political poster. If the Act has not been so amended, why was no action taken against the holder-uppers of these posters at the Kew meeting in the Kooyong electorate on Monday night last, thereby enabling the Australian Labour Party to deny responsibility for the publicity activities of its supporters?
– From what I can remember, the Commonwealth Electoral Act has not been amended in any way whatsoever in this regard. Political posters do not require an authorisation notice; nor is a printer’s imprint required. However, this authorisation is required for other matter such as advertisements, posters and dodgers.
– Does not the honorable member for Chisholm have a poster?
– It is more of a poster or, should I say, a hand bill, if my friend wants a more precise definition of it. A poster that is greater than 1,200 square inches is illegal. I think one must appreciate the difficulties of trying to police this law at a meeting such as one in Kooyong because if the matter were brought to the attention of the electoral officer he would be required then to call the police to remove the posters. There is one final comment I should make. Most Australians will appreciate the fact that we have the right in our country to demonstrate in a lawful manner without causing harm or interference to anyone. But I think what a lot of these foolish people who are demonstrating do not realise is that acceptance of the policies that they are advocating, by using such posters, could jeopardise their right of freedom to demonstrate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that he and the Queensland Minister for Transport have deferred an application by Trans-Australia Airlines to run services into Bundaberg and Gladstone, and an application by Ansett-A.N.A. to run a service from Townsville to Mount Isa? If this is correct, can the Minister give an explanation as to the reason for this deferment as the applications have been before the Department of Civil Aviation for some considerable time?
– Recently a committee was set up by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of Queensland to investigate a number of proposals relating to air services in Queensland and a number of recommendations were made. I received the report about 10 days ago. I consulted the Minister for Transport in Queensland and we accepted all of the recommendations contained in that report. We released a statement yesterday relating to the additional services that will be provided. However, in respect of the two services a decision has been deferred, as recommended by the committee, because there is at present a case before the Rationalisation Committee which concerns the two major airlines. As soon as that case is resolved a decision will bc made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. As the Minister will be aware the Commonwealth Government has, since 1951, been making grants through the various State
Governments to encourage and assist the establishment and maintenance of emergency housekeeper services. Having regard to the equally splendid work being done for elderly people by some organistions, in particular by “ Meals on Wheels “ will the Minister consider the provision of Commonwealth assistance to these organisations along the same lines as Federal emergency housekeeper grants?
– The Federal housekeeper grants were instituted by this Government to encourage State Governments t o enter this particular field of welfare. A tremendous amount has been achieved in the two most populous Stales, New South Wales and Victoria, and some of the other States also have done quite notable work in this field. However, this is an area within which the State Governments themselves exercise primary responsibility. I will look into the honorable member’s suggestion and, during the deliberations on the Budget, if it is thought fit, perhaps consider the matter further.
– Will the Prime Minister, in the absence abroad of the Minister for External Affairs, ascertain from the Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, His Excellency Mr. Hugh Roberton, whether relations between northern and southern Ireland have improved in recent years? In particular, will he ascertain whether it is still the practice for armed northern Ireland policemen stationed on the border to search travellers coming from the south of Ireland?
– The honorable gentleman’s interest in the situation in these adjacent countries is well known, and I can assure him that from such reports that have reached me there seems to be a definite mellowing of feeling between one and the other, with a much warmer regard being evident than has been the case earlier n Irish history. Whether or not there has been any change in border arrangements I Jo not know, but I shall endeavour to oh’ aim the information for the honorable gentleman.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. If a young man in the relevant age group is not selected in the ballot conducted to select national service trainees will he nevertheless be accepted as a national serviceman if he volunteers?
– There is provision in the relevant act for young men within the appropriate age group to volunteer, and the period over which volunteers are accepted into the Service for training under precisely the same conditions as relate to national servicemen falls within reasonably wide limits. From the agc of 18 years and 9 months to approximately 6 months after the ballot for his particular age group a young man would be able to volunteer. I say “ approximately “ six months after the ballot for his particular age group because he must volunteer in time to go into camp with one of the two intakes for which that particular ballot is held, and this is about six months after the ballot. So there is this provision to allow such people to volunteer.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I have received a statement from the Western Australian Division of the Australian Pensioners League intimating that the percentage of the basic wage represented by a married couple’s combined pension has dropped from 70.29 on 30th October 1961 to 67.97 on 1st January 1966. Will the right honorable gentleman tell the 725,000 age and invalid pensioners of Australia how much further the Government intends to let the percentage fall before granting them the relief to which they are justly entitled?
– It is the practice of the Government, when considering the Budget, to make a thorough review of all social welfare policies in force at that time.
– The same old cliche.
– lt happens to be a statement of fact about the growing expenditure on behalf of the people of Australia by this Parliament for social welfare purposes. I think 1 am correct in saying that in the last year of office of honorable gentlemen opposite the provision was £90 million or SI 80 million-
– Answer Yes or No.
– The Government has increased not merely the level of payment but the range of payment for an ever-increasing body of social welfare provisions throughout the period that it has held office, with the result that in the last Budget a provision of $940 million was made for social welfare purposes generally. The group to which the honorable gentleman refers will be included in the review that will be undertaken when the Budge! is being considered later this year.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that many Vietnam demonstrations are organised across the world simultaneously and are subject to the central control of people whose objectives are inimical to the interests of freedom. Without trammelling the right to demonstrate, can the Prime Minister, consistent with security requirements, say whether any of the demonstrators at his Kew meeting on the 28th of this month were linked with the international conspiracy on the Vietnam issue?
– I have no information at this time that would enable me to answer the question. I shall consider the question and see whether information can usefully be made available.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Did he say in Sydney last Monday that a powerful fifth column was active in Australia? Does he regard the opponents of conscription and of the Government’s Vietnam policy as fifth columnists? Is the Government contemplating suppression of its political opponents by designating them as fifth columnists?
– I did use words to this effect and I meant them completely. The honorable gentleman and his colleagues do not seem to understand that this is a political war, this is an ideological war. Up to this time, it seems to me that there is no greater casualty to the political fifth column than in the honorable gentleman’s own Party.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by saying that he will be aware that the Australian Group of the 1 Inter-Parliamentary Union extended an invitation to the Council of the InterParliamentary Union to meet in this chamber a fortnight hence, that the invitation has been accepted by 46 countries and that it is expected that 300 delegates from different countries will be here. This will be the first time that the Council of the InterParliamentary Union has met outside Europe since 1889 and it will be the largest meeting ever held by the Council. In view of these facts, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the relevance of the discussions that will uke place to Australia’s position in the world and also the general interest of members of this Parliament in the discussions? Will he arrange for a complete report of the proceedings to be printed, so far as the rules of the Council will permit that to be done, and circulated to members of Parliament?
– I am sure that it is a great honour for Australia to have been chosen as the venue for the first meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Council to be held outside Europe since 1889. The fact that a record number of delegates will be attending the meeting is an indication not only of the Union’s growth in significance internationally but also of the growing international interest in Australia and what is occurring in this country. I have been very glad to respond to an invitation to speak at the opening ceremony. 1 shall examine the detail of the honorable gentleman’s question to see to what extent we can comply with this request that official reporting of the procedings be carried out and other action taken to ensure that the widest possible dissemination of information is given to the proceedings of this significant gathering.
– Does the Prime Minister know that according to the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 a person aged between 18 and 21 years must get consent from a parent or authorised person in order to marry? As the Government forces boys aged between 18 and 21 years to go to war in Vietnam, in spite of the opposition of a parent or guardian, does the Government consider marriage more hazardous than war? Does it believe also that it is more difficult on a honeymoon than on a battlefield?
– The only part of the honorable gentleman’s question that I feel capable of commenting on with any authority at the moment is that aspect of it in which he talked about the Government forcing young men at a certain age to serve in the military forces of this country. I point out that the action that the Government is taking is taken under legislation which has been passed by this National Parliament.
– But should not have been passed.
– The honorable gentleman who leads the Opposition has made widely known his own opposition to this measure and to this action. His attitude has been consistent with the line that he has taken from about the First World War onwards. It is certainly consistent with the attitude that he took in relation to his own leader in the course of the last war. But this Parliament - the Government’s action follows the decision of the Parliament, which represents the democratic will of the Australian democracy - has given the necessary powers under legislation for the Government to act to provide an adequate military support for the defence and security policies of this country. We, in an earnest exercise of that responsibility, are pursuing in relation to national servicemen the policy which has been previously announced and discussed in this House in considerable detail. I shall study the question and. if there is any matter raised in it which calls for a specific answer, I shall see whether the answer can be supplied.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Did he see the “ Four Corners “ programme that was shown in Victoria last Saturday? If not, will he call for the script so that he may see the blatant whitewashing by Marrickville Margarine Pty. Ltd. of its flouting of the requirements of the quota system applied to this indigestible product? In view of the deliberate breaking of the law by this company, will the Minister take steps to reduce its quota for the current year by an amount equivalent to the overproduction that it has admitted for the previous year?
– I happened to see this “ Four Corners “ programme when it was shown again on Sunday afternoon last and I noted the representations made during the programme by the representative of the company mentioned. Quotas applicable to the manufacture of margarine have been imposed by the six State Governments. When the Australian Labour Party was in office in New South Wales, the State Government initiated court action against this company for overproducing and the court later ruled that the company had infringed the relevant State act. I do not know whether any further action is to be taken. I note that the honorable member’s attitude to margarine and its digestibility is the same as mine.
- Mr. Speaker, I have been misrepresented and ] wish to make a personal explanation. Yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) a question about the use of a V.I.P. aircraft by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) and myself, if seats were available, to enable us to return to our electorates without a long delay. This morning the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, under the heading “V.I.P. Aircraft ‘booked out ‘ “, published the following report -
The Prime Minister, Mr. Holt, said today V.I.P. aircraft were reserved for the Governor-General, senior members of the government and other ministers when on official business.
He was replying in the House of Representatives to Mr. C. E. Griffiths . . . who asked why he and Mr. C. K. Jones (Lab., N.S.W.), were unable to travel on a V.I.P. Viscount to a defence display at Williamtown air base last week.
I just want to state, Sir, that I did not wish to travel to any air display and I did not seek a seat on a V.I.P. aircraft for such a purpose. I sought an opportunity, if seats were available, for the honorable member for Newcastle and I to return to our elec torates on a V.I.P. aircraft to avoid our having to wait in Sydney for up to six hours for a connecting service to Williamtown.
Debate resumed from 24th March (vide page 614), on motion by Mr. Howson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this measure, the purpose of which is to extend the bounty payable to producers of sulphate of ammonia for a period sufficient to enable the Tariff Board to present a report on the Australian chemical industry. That report will, of course, deal with sulphate of ammonia.
.- Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not oppose the passing of this measure. However, I want to make one point clear. The purpose of this Bill is to extend the payment of the bounty on sulphate of ammonia for a maximum of six months. I want it to be clear to everyone that this is a bounty paid not to farmers but to manufacturers of sulphate of ammonia. The Government, instead of imposing a duty to protect the local manufacturers of this commodity, has rightly adopted the method of paying a bounty. It is thought in some quarters that this bounty is similar to that paid on superphosphate, but it is not. The bounty on sulphate of ammonia is paid only to bring the cost of the locally produced commodity into line with that of the imported product, and this should be made clear. This is a bounty paid not to farmers but to manufacturers.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish merely to ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) several questions. When can we expect to receive the Tariff Board’s report? Will he ensure that all honorable members, and especially those who are particularly interested in this subject, have copies of the report well in advance of the expiry of the period for which the payment of the bounty on sulphate of ammonia will be extended by this measure?
– in reply - Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) has quite rightly asked when we may expect to receive the Tariff Board’s report. The report will not be confined only to sulphate of ammonia. It will deal with the whole chemical industry. I understand that it is considered that the extending of the payment of bounty for six months will allow plenty of time for the report to be presented and examined.
– The important thing is that we receive copies well before the period expires.
– I shall convey the honorable member’s remarks to the Minister concerned and shall see that they are given such consideration as is possible. It is correct, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) has said, that the bounty on sulphate of ammonia is a bounty paid to the producers of this material. One effect of the bounty, however, has been to increase the use of this commodity by farmers. Consequently the farmers’ knowledge of the benefits of nitrogenous fertilisers generally has been expanded. I believe that it is eminently desirable that we do anything that can be done at present to increase the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in this country. We hope that when the report of the Tariff Board on the chemical industry as a whole is available action can be taken in other ways to increase the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in Australia.
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. Howson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 360), on motion by Mr. Snedden - That the Bill be now read a second time.
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill are complementary measures. It would no doubt suit the convenience of honorable members if the House were to have a general second reading debate covering both Bills. The second one is in reality a companion bill to the first. At the conclusion of the debate separate questions would then, of course, be put on each of the Bills. I suggest that this course be adopted.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
.- The Judiciary Act is the Commonwealth’s principal means for procuring reforms in laws of procedure and evidence in Australian courts, reforms in systems of legal aid and reforms in judicial systems. The Judiciary Bill is limited, as its long title specifies, to legal practitioners and the application of the Act in the Territories of the Commonwealth. By the Bill the Commonwealth can assist in bringing about reforms in the legal profession in Australian courts.
It is a handicap in our Federal system that the professions in general are conducted in State compartments and sometimes, in addition, in Territorial compartments. There is little, under our Federal system, that the Commonwealth can do directly to bring about Australia-wide professions. The most it can do in regard to the legal profession is to see that the courts which are created by our Constitution or by this Parliament, or in the Territories, are open to legal practitioners on as wide a basis as possible. The Judiciary Bill specifies that practitioners in the Territories will have the same statutory right to appear before Federal courts - the High Court, the Bankruptcy Court and the Commonwealth Industrial Court - as do practitioners admitted to practice in the States. Hitherto practitioners in the Territories have been able to do this only by grace of the courts themselves. The amendment is clearly a desirable one.
The Bill also permits the creation in each Territory of an individual register of practitioners and all that goes with it, in the same way as each State has an individual register of practitioners. There are many features of such an innovation which are necessary. For instance, there are no fidelity funds for solicitors in the Australian Territories. Solicitors in the Territories are no more immune to temptation than are solicitors in the States. Ever since the depression, however, the clients of solicitors in the States have been protected by fidelity funds. Clearly any step which makes it possible for such a system to be introduced for the protection of those in the Territories should be supported.
There are, however, some misgivings concerning some features of the individual legal systems in the States. There can be, under these companion Bills, some misgivings concerning the creation of individual legal systems in the Territories, and in particular in the Australian Capital Territory. I do not suggest it is likely that in the Australian Capital Territory the legal profession could secure or even seek a closed shop, as the legal profession in Queensland has done. As is notorious, barristers may practise before the courts of Queensland only if they reside in that State. Litigants before those courts thus have to restrict themselves to Queensland practitioners. In the Australian Capital Territory it is usual for barristers from New South Wales to appear before the Supreme Court and it is quite common for barristers from Victoria to appear before that Court. We on this side of the House urge that litigants before any Australian court should be able to secure the services of any barrister who practices in Australia. To put it colloquially, a litigant should be able to hail any cab on any rank in Australia. In order to express our point of view in this regard I move -
That all words after “ That be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ this House is of I he opinion that no ordinance should deny the right to practise as a barrister in a Territory to a person who has been admitted so to practise in any State “.
This would ensure that no ordinance was made in respect of any Territory under the Judiciary Bill, and none under the cognate Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill, which would prevent a person who practises as a barrister in any State from being admitted to practise as a barrister in the Australian Capital Territory. One would hope also that any ordinance in the Austraiian Capital Territory would facilitate reciprocal admissions of Australian Capital Territory barristers in the State jurisdictions.
At the present stage, however, I suppose it is more necessary to ensure that litigants before the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court should be able to secure the services of State barristers than it is that litigants before the State Supreme Courts should be able to secure the services of barristers from the Australian Capital Territory.
The objective is that there will be an Australia-wide profession. I anticipate that any ordinance which is made in respect of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court will do nothing to hinder the attainment of this objective. It is important, we believe, in view of the fact that a closed shop already exists in the third largest State jurisdiction in Australia, that of Queensland, to ensure that a closed shop system cannot be introduced by delegated legislation in respect of the Australian Capital Territory.
The motion that I have moved in no way detracts from the advantages which will accrue from the two Bills. At present a person cannot be admitted directly to practise in any of the Territories. A person can be admitted to practise in the Territories at the moment only if he has first been admitted to practise by a Supreme Court of one of the States and then registers with the High Court. He is thereupon entitled to practise in any of the Federal courts, among which are the supreme courts of the Territories. There are some unexpected consequences of this indirect way of admission to practise in the Territory supreme courts. A New South Wales barrister, who is statutorily precluded from practising as a solicitor in his own State, may apparently practise in the Australian Capital Territory as both barrister and solicitor. I believe there is one such case at the moment.
An important situation can arise with respect to graduates of the Law School of the Australian National University. The Australian National University Law School is already larger than the law schools of the universities of Western Australia and Tasmania, lt is already comparable to the law schools of the universities of Adelaide and Queensland, lt is clear from any acquaintance with the Law School of the Australian National University, its publications and calendar, that it is likely to develop some particular fields of study which will attract experts to it, both undergraduate and post-graduate. This would apply particularly to features of Federal law, administrative law and international law. One can certainly expect that one development in Canberra will be that it will become a large centre of legal education. At the moment, the Bachelor of Laws degree from the Australian National University is recognised as an academic qualification for admission by the supreme courts of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. One would hope that it will soon be accepted as an academic qualification for admission by the other supreme courts. One would expect that the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court would similarly accept as an academic qualification Bachelor of Laws degrees from all of the law schools in Australia.
There has been in recent years a proposal by the solicitors in the Australian Capital Territory that a graduate of the Australian National University Law School should not be eligible for admission in the Australian Capital Territory until he has served two years’ articles. A graduate of the law school has to serve only one year’s articles before he is admitted to practise in Victoria. Accordingly one finds this anomaly between the proposal by the profession in the Australian Capital Territory and the present practice. A graduate from the Australian National University Law School may be admitted in Victoria after one year’s articles in Victoria and then be registered with the High Court and practise before the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, since he may practise in it as in all Federal courts. If the local proposal succeeded, a graduate who stayed in the Australian Capital Territory would have to do two years’ articles before being admitted to practise here. I emphasise that this was merely a proposal. There is as yet no legislative machinery for such a proposal to be enacted in the Australian Capital Territory, although there will be when these Bills are passed. I detail these matters to show how important it is that the Commonwealth should, wherever possible, take the initiative in unifying and co-ordinating all matters concerning the legal profession, as with legal matters in general. The Commonwealth would, I believe, be ill advised to accept the Australian Capital Territory proposal, which would cast, as it were, an aspersion on the Australian National University degree which is not cast upon it by the Supreme Court of Victoria.
I have mentioned that the Australian Capital Territory is likely to become a large centre of legal education. I am also certain that it will become a large centre of legal practice. Canberra will be as significant to the bar in our Federal system as Washington has become in the United States federal system. It is possible under the Judiciary Act and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act for Canberra to be proclaimed the principal registry of both the High Court and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, although in answer to a question on notice the Attorney-General was unable to say when such a proposal was last considered. But already the High Court has sat in Canberra in its original jurisdiction. When the High Court normally or solely sits in Canberra and when the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission sits here regularly, one can certainly expect a great increase in the number of barristers and solicitors residing and practising principally in Canberra. There is already statutory provision for a Trade Practices Tribunal. There is constitutional provision for an Inter-State Commission, although it expired 46 years ago. A Labour government will re-establish the Inter-State Commission. Again, it is inevitable that a great number of Federal regulatory agencies will arise in Australia to deal with the increasing number of economic matters which can be properly planned or implemented only on a national basis. One would expect that these bodies would principally or solely sit in Canberra.
As the profession moves from the guaranteed forms of litigation arising from industrial and highway accidents into the more challenging and fascinating fields of economic inquiry and regulation, so Canberra will grow greatly as a centre of legal practice. When this comes about, the necessity for having reciprocal admission guaranteed or arranged - under the Constitution it could be done only by arrangement with the States - will become quite urgent. If or when the States pass reciprocal legislation on trade practices or any of the other matters that are envisaged, barristers who practise principally in this field in Canberra may well be in demand before the
Stale courts. This position has not yet arisen. We wish to guard at this stage against a barrister who is entitled to practise in any part of Australia being denied admission to practise in a Territory supreme court, in particular the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. The amendment would secure this objective.” We would support the general intentions of the legislation. Anything that makes it possible to have more modern laws - more unified laws throughout Australia on matters of procedure and evidence, law reform, judicial systems and legal practice - is to be commended.
– ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and support it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has covered fully the various aspects referred to specifically in his amendment. I propose to deal with another and more general aspect regarding the administration of justice, and it is applicable to every court in this land whether it be a court of a Territory, a State court or the High Court itself. I refer to the fact that in a genera] sense the requirements of modern life have had less impact on the administration of justice than on any other profession or on any other form of public activity. We in this nation lag badly behind in a general sense most of the other member nations of the British Commonwealth. In certain respects our courts, their atmosphere and the approach of the legal profession are redolent more of the days of Dickens than of this year of grace 1966. I feel that there is a strong case for the modernisation of the system of pleading, the general assessment of evidence and the defining of issues. The system of law vacations that is indulged in is utterly inconsonant with the tempo of modern life. 1 would be the last to attack the dignity or the accuracy of our courts. I share the pride of members of the legal profession in the wonderful standards of the British traditions of the administration of justice. But today we are in a new era. We are in the jet age, the age of technology- and the age of motor vehicles in particular. I note with considerable concern the way in which court lists are cluttered up with the hearing of motor car accident cases. Courts are being used in the main for the assessment of the measure of damages that will be awarded to a person whose rights are acknowledged. I think, too, that there is a strong case to be made out for legal assistance to be given to the lower income groups in our society. I have in mind particularly the system of the Public Solicitor as operating under statute in New South Wales. This is capable of application to the courts of the Australian Capital Territory and to the High Court also. Legal assistance is not given indiscriminately, but a qualified solicitor is available and his services are free. He appears before the appropriate court as an officer of the court on behalf of people whose income or whose assets are below a certain fixed figure. The means test that is applied in New South Wales is of the order of £19 for the income of the particular applicant and £3 a week for each of his dependants.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the Bill.
– 1 atn doing so most specifically, Sir, because this is intimately associated with the general practice of the legal profession. The question is: What measure of justice is available to the man with the shallow purse or with no assets at all and who as a citizen has a definite right to assert his freedom of person and who can suffer just as much as anybody in the community? Let us take, for instance, the question of the interference with a man’s normal right to the use of his home. The noise nuisance of jet aircraft is a matter that no-one has really litigated in this country. Some poor unfortunate whose home has been affected may not be prepared to be involved in complex and costly litigation. He is placed in an impossible position. The working man notoriously believes that he ventures into litigation at his peril and that he is entering into a jungle from which he might emerge but in which he will probably be badly battered. It must be recognised that up to date the laws of the Commonwealth have failed to give appropriate relief to such persons. The matter should be seriously considered by the Government.
– I am quite surprised at the amendment which has been moved by my honorable and learned friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) because it does not do what he wants it to do. I think what he wants to do is to provide a vehicle to discuss the question as to whether or not a future ordinance relating to the admission of practitioners within the Territory could, in terms of that ordinance, preclude certain people from the right to admission to practice pursuant to the form set up under that ordinance. His amendment negatives the Bill. It is a direct negative to the Bill. It says -
This House is of the opinion that no ordinance should deny the right to practise as a barrister in a Territory to a person who has been admitted so to practise in any State.
That is the exact situation under the Judiciary Act now and which is sought to be changed by the Bill.
I do not take this as a mean debating point or anything of that kind, but I point out to the honorable gentleman that to pass the amendment would be to negative the Bill. It is for this reason that the right to practise as a barrister in the Territory is now assured by section 49 of the Judiciary Act which is about to be repealed. What the honorable gentleman might have better said in his amendment - and I say this with respect - was -
This House is of the opinion that no ordinance made pursuant to the power given by this Act should deny the right to admission to practise as a barrister -
The amendment has been confined to “ a barrister” whereas it ought properly to extend to the less flamboyant but more solid section of the profession, the solicitor.
– This was deliberate, because we did want it to ensure that there were fidelity funds for solicitors who were admitted here and practised only here.
– I see. Am I to understand from the comment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that what he really wants is a provision in the Bill that an ordinance made pursuant to the Act will not contain a provision whereby a person who is an admitted practitioner in a State is denied the right to admission to practice in the Territory?
– The amendment does not express that, because it seeks to take away the automatic right to practise at some time in the future - and not the distant future either - which, I think, could best be described for this purpose as a right to audience. It seeks to take away the automatic right to audience and substitutes for it a provision whereby the Territory can itself erect an admission system so that if a State practitioner wanted to practise in the Territory he would first have to be admitted as a practitioner of the Territory before he had his right to audience.
– For those reasons, I suggest to the honorable gentleman that we regard this as a vehicle for discussion of the point, but, with respect, I suggest to him that he do not press the amendment to a vote because, were it to be successful, it would, for the reasons I have outlined, defeat his own purpose.
– I like the words the Attorney-General suggested at the beginning.
– Let me deal with the matter as though the words were “ shall not deny the right to admission as a barrister “. That raises a difficult problem. The honorable gentleman has himself pointed to the future that lies ahead of this Territory for the evolution of its legal practitioners and their association, whether they be barristers or solicitors, and to the growing importance of the Territory within the general framework of the Federal system.
– Order! I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he can obtain leave to amend his proposed amendment.
– I ask for leave to substitute “ admission “ for “ practise “.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not know whether I should have made the suggestion. I still feel that it would be a mistake to pass this amendment, even in its amended form. We have set out, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition recognises, to create a situation in the Territory where the Territory has, among its legal practitioners, a correct courtpractitioner relationship. The only way in which a correct court-practitioner relationship can be established is by a law - in the case of the Territory, an ordinance - that establishes the right to admission and specifies the qualifications that must be possessed, before admission as a practitioner can be granted. I do not think we are in dispute on that question. I think it is unarguable.
The next point is that we have in the Australian Capital Territory an undergraduate school within the Australian National University. That University has a faculty of law which has a high and growing reputation and a great number of students. It is my hope, and I am sure that of the honorable gentleman, that people who pursue their law courses at the Australian National University will be able to continue on within the Territory, there to do their articles, to be admitted to practise and, upon admission to practise, to have the right to go to a State, if they so choose, and there be admitted to practise on the basis of their admission to practise in the Territory.
This involves reciprocity of recognition between the States and the Territory. If the legislation contained a provision such as is included in the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, it would deprive the Territory of any capacity to seek reciprocity. The legislation would then say that a practitioner from a State must be able to practise in the Territory, but it is beyond the constitutional competence of this Parliament to require that a practitioner admitted in the Territory shall have the right to be admitted to practise in a State. The matter therefore depends upon negotiation, and I am sure the honorable gentleman will concede that it would be wrong to deprive one of the negotiators - who is, of course, at the outset in the weaker position of the two in any event - of the very thing about which they are negotiating - reciprocity of the right of admission, based upon the fact of admission in a State or Territory, whichever the case may be. For those reasons, I think that the proposed amendment should fail.
Another reason why I think it should fail is that, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, it is specifically con fined to a barrister. 1 think this point is best expressed by the words that the honorable gentleman himself used. He said that a litigant should be able to get the best cab off the rank. What is the situation in Victoria? If a litigant in Victoria wanted the best barrister available, he would have available to him in the State courts only practitioners who were admitted within Victoria pursuant to the Victorian law. My honorable friend comes from New South Wales. I do not know whether he has been admitted in Victoria, but a great number of his colleagues from the New South Wales Bar have been admitted in Victoria and have the right of audience pursuant to that admission to practise. The Victorian litigant has available to him only the range of practitioners who are admitted in Victoria. The same position applies in every State. A person who is a litigant can choose only from counsel who have been admitted to practise in that particular State. Why should it be that, in the Territory, when the Territory is exercising its wholly domestic jurisdiction, such as one would find in the Supreme Courts of the States or in petty sessions for that matter, litigants should be in a better position or even a different position, or, more importantly, that the profession in the Territory should be in a different and disadvantageous position? For that reason, I do not accept the proposal.
The solicitors constitute a very important branch of the legal profession. A solicitor is just as vital to the proper conduct of litigation as is counsel who appears in a court. For that reason, I believe it is wrong that the law should be expressed in terms of confining it to a barrister. Might I make another suggestion to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition? I think that what he is really concerned about is not that there should be a provision that a person admitted to practise in a State ought to have the right also to practise in a Territory, but that there should be no closed shop. That is what the honorable gentleman has in mind, I believe.
– Let me put this to the House: I think it goes without saying that all honorable members would want the law of the Territory to establish the right admission and would desire the right adshould cover the whole procedure. I think also that every member of this House would not want that law, when passed, to have built into it a provision whereby interested persons within the Territory could themselves apply a closed shop. In point of fact the honorable gentleman is fighting the battle before it begins. The time at which to fight the battle of the closed shop is at the time of the ordinance. I am unable to give a statement of opinion on behalf of anybody who succeeds me in the office J now hold, but I can make abundantly clear my own view of the matter. It is that no ordinance passed pursuant to this law should contain any provision whereby persons serving their own local interests, one might even say selfish interests, shall be able to create a closed shop. I ask the House to support me in this matter. This Act, for these purposes, stands like a constitution behind the law making authority, that is, the ordinance. I would not like to see in that constitution type of legislation a provision restrictive as it is in the terms expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition which would deprive the Territory of the right or the capacity to approach a State to negotiate reciprocity. At the present time, there is no reciprocity. This is what the Territory wants. This is what the law school of the Australian National University wants.
– Hear, bear!
– I think that, for that reason, we should not deprive the Territory of the opportunity to negotiate that reciprocity. For all the reasons I have given, I very strongly oppose the amendment, although having ultimately identified the vehicle of the amendment I can say that the thoughts that it seeks to express are ones which I personally find rather close to my own thoughts. But 1 do oppose the amendment as expressed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Snedden) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17th March (vide page 360), on motion by Mr. Snedden -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Snedden) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23rd March (vide page 504), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is the last Bill which the Parliament will debate under the present housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which was made five years ago and which will expire at the end of next June. In order to express the view of the Opposition concerning what should be included in the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, I move -
That all words after “That” beomitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “whilst not in any way opposing the passage of this Bill, the House is of opinion that the existing Housing Agreement has not fully met the housing requirements of the Australian people and that before a new Agreement (to which part of the money to be provided by this Bill may be applied) is entered into, an allParty Committee should be appointed to investigate all its aspects with particular regard to -
housing for pensioners,
land development, and
The main objective of the Loan (Housing) Bill 1966 is to carry out the intentions of the Government as announced by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) on 16th March 1966 and which were put more briefly by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) who, in this House, represents the Minister for Housing (Senator
Dame Annabelle Rankin) and who, himself, was the first Minister for Housing since 1954. This Bill provides for an additional allocation to the States which it has been necessary to make because to an increasing extent and over the whole of this financial year generally there has been a decline in home building. I do not propose to quote statistics extensively on this matter. Most people realise that it is possible to select housing statistics to establish any proposition. At a time when housing finance is restricted, those who wish to give a rosy picture of the situation quote the figures relating to housing completions. They know that when money is not coming forward for the erection of new home buildings the rate of completing dwellings is accelerated. The whole of the building work force is engaged in finishing the jobs in hand. When housing finance is coming forward in increased supply, a person who wishes to give a dark picture of the housing situation will quote the same figures in relation to completions because those figures decline as the work force turns more to the commencement of new buildings.
The general building picture can be adequately assessed only by realising the difference between those forms of construction that depend on investment, such as commercial building, very large apartments, home units, &c, on the one hand, and those forms of construction which depend on government advances or government regulation, on the other hand. Government regulation is responsible under our Constitution for the advances made by savings banks and insurance companies. This Bill covers the direct field of Government advance which is responsible for all the construction by State housing commissions, building trusts, housing departments and for over half the construction under the auspices of building societies.
– That does not apply to all State constructions now.
– Well, virtually all.
– There is a bit outside now.
– It is true that funds do come to some of the housing commissions and that these funds are spent on new construction. These funds are derived from poker machines in New South Wales, resales of land in estates which have been acquired or from the sale, more prompt than expected, of houses. Nevertheless it is true to say, I think the Minister will concede, that nearly all the building activities by the State housing commissions are financed from funds allocated by this Bill and bills of the same title which have preceded it. Furthermore, approximately half the finance for housing construction under the auspices of the building societies - that is of terminating building societies as distinct from permanent building societies - comes from money allocated to those bodies by the Commonwealth via the States.
Accordingly, when one looks at the construction industry in general, one sees that most of the individual houses in Australia are built with finance allocated under this type of legislation, provided by the Commonwealth Government under the war service homes legislation, or provided by the savings banks and, to a lesser extent, by the insurance companies under powers which the Commonwealth has to a greater or lesser extent exercised under the Constitution. Therefore, where there are fluctuations in housing construction they are fluctuations for which the Commonwealth is primarily responsible. There has been in the Treasury, and there apparently still is, the attitude that the level of house building should be determined by short term economic considerations rather than the continuing social considerations. The additional $15 million which is being allocated for the present financial quarter for government and building society housing under this Bill is being allocated because it is necessary to stimulate the home construction industry. The demand for housing has been quite steady. The difference in circumstance is that some sources of finance have dried up.
The demand for housing, and in particular the demand for housing supplied by housing commissions and building societies under this legislation, has always been greater than this Bill admits. It is going to continue to be much greater than the Government acknowledges in the Bill or has acknowledged in the similar Bills that have preceded this one. There has been some recovery in the last month in the construction of private houses and flats. For the three months ended February last the total number of houses and flats approved was below the level for the same quarter of the two previous years. The number was 22,293 for the three months ended February of this year. It was 25,681 for the corresponding period a year before, and 24,144 for the earlier corresponding period. Accordingly, during that period unquestionably there was a decline in the number of approvals. Most people arrange finance before seeking approval, so it is clear therefore that in the quarter ended February of this year the amount of finance available for houses and flats was less than it had been in the corresponding periods one year and two years before.
The value of other new buildings - that is, new buildings apart from houses and flats - was very well down in the same three months ended February last compared with the same periods one and two years before. For the three months ended February this year the value of other new buildings approved was $129 million. For the three months ended February last year it was $202 million. Accordingly, Sir, it has been claimed that for some months past it has been necessary to restore the level of construction in general by increasing the amount of finance available for domestic building to compensate for the decline in the finance apparently available, or being used, for building outside the domestic field.
The fluctuations which have occurred in home building have been most marked at times of what we call “ horror Budgets “. Home building is the principal form of investment - apart from those industries which depend on imports - where governments can achieve a quick change in expenditure and investment. With few exceptions the only people who really do not need to borrow money to build or buy houses are those who have sold houses they have already occupied. They do not directly depend on the availability of finance but they indirectly depend upon it. Accordingly, when insurance, bank or government funds decline for home building then, undoubtedly, the whole of this industry declines. This has an evil social effect, as we all know, but it also has an evil industrial or economic effect. This is seen in particular in the fact that a great number of small builders go to the wall on these occasions, a great number of sub-contractors go to the wall and a great number of skilled artisans lose their employment. The construction industry in Australia, and in particular the domestic building industry in Australia, would be very much more efficient if the flow of funds for home building were consistent.
The Minister for Housing stated only last week in another place, in a debate on the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) on Government policy, that there is certainly negligible unemployment in home building and in other sectors of the building industry. This statement conflicts with that made only a fortnight before by the Premier of South Australia, who presided at the meeting of housing Ministers which was held in Adelaide, in his State, at the beginning of the month. He stated on behalf of housing Ministers, State and Commonwealth, that with the exception of Tasmania unemployment existed in the building industry. Accordingly, for economic reasons it has been necessary to restore continuing employment in the home building field.
The amendment that I have moved will deal with two of the matters on which housing Ministers agreed at their meeting in Adelaide at the beginning of the month. The State Ministers unanimously asked, first, for more attention to be given to the housing needs of pensioners and other aged persons and, secondly, that assistance be given for slum clearance. The Ministers were making their proposals to the Commonwealth Minister for Housing and discussing with her proposals for the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which will come into force on 1st July this year for five years, or maybe ten years. The Ministers urged in particular that they needed, as I have said in my amendment, funds for slum clearance and housing for pensioners. The States do not spend the money for purposes other than those set out in the Housing Agreement, as it is called. The Housing Agreement, of course, is really a proposal, lt sets out the conditions which the Commonwealth attaches to the grants it makes to the States for housing under section 96 of the Constitution. It is not an agreement in the ordinary sense at all. It is a set of conditions which the Commonwealth makes and which the States can take or leave. There is not under the present Housing Agreement - the one that came into force in 1961 and virtually continued the Agreement made in 1956 - provision for housing for pensioners or provision for slum clearance. The State Housing Commissions have done a remarkably successful job in providing housing at the lowest possible cost. They have done so, however, within the terms laid down by the Commonwealth. Those are, first, that the persons who undertake to rent or buy those houses shall be able to pay enough to pay back the Commonwealth’s advance as well as to meet interest and maintenance charges, and secondly, that the maximum number of houses shall be provided. 1 shall deal with the first condition. It is impossible now to build houses such as the Housing Commissions build and sell or rent them to pensioners. Because the rental rebate system was cancelled in 1956, it is not now economically possible for pensioners or for most retired persons to buy or rent houses built by the Housing Commissions and made available for occupation for the first time since 1st July 1956. On the second point, it has been impossible for the States to provide the maximum number of houses with the moneys provided for them by the Commonwealth under the Housing Agreement except by going into new suburbs where land is cheap. By contrast, in the United States, under Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, the Federal Administration has made money available especially to assist persons who otherwise could not afford to occupy new houses - that is, pensioners and other retired persons. The United States Federal Administration has also made money available for slum clearance or urban renewal, to use the euphemism. lt i$ understood in every industrial community in the world that housing is always conducted without any of the principles of depreciation in mind. We never write off the value of a house. Accordingly, when a house has to be rebuilt, those who want to resume it often have to pay more money than the house originally cost to build. So in every industrial society the national government now makes money available for slum clearance or urban renewal. This applies in all unitary systems of Western Europe. It applies in the federal system of West Germany; it applies in the federal system of the United States. If we want to renew the most convenient and often the most beautiful parts of the cities of Australia, topographically, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, this can be achieved only if the National Government makes available money for renewal of the industrial centres in the same way as other countries on each side of the North Atlantic already make money available on a national level. The State Governments in the United States, as well as in Australia, usually carry out resumption. The Federal Government provides the funds or guarantees the advances made by insurance companies or banks for redevelopment.
Earlier this month the Ministers for Housing, at the last meeting they had under the Agreement that will expire at the end of June and the first discussion they had with the new Commonwealth Minister for Housing, stressed once again, as they have in fact’ stressed at their annual meetings for some years past, that the Commonwealth should make money available for the housing of retired persons, particularly those on pensions or with restricted means. They also said that the Commonwealth should follow the lead of all other national governments in respect of their industrial centres by making moneys specifically available for slum clearance. The Commonwealth Minister has not acceded to these suggestions. I notice from the “ Hansard “ of the 15th of this month for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly that the New South Wales Minister for Housing said -
The Commonwealth put forward two minor amendments that will be dealt with when the necessary legislation comes before this House.
Two minor amendments are the only differences from the 1961 and 1956 Housing Agreements that are proposed for the 1966 Housing Agreement. Accordingly, the amendment I move refers specifically to the desirability for an all Party committee to discuss slum clearance and housing for pensioners.
My amendment also suggests that the all Party committee should investigate rental rebates. Rental rebates were provided in the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945. The Commonwealth refused to continue the system of rebates in the Agreement of 1956. The only Housing Commission houses for which the Commonwealth now shares the cost of making rental rebates are those that were occupied on or before 30th June 1956. It is true that some of the States have continued a system of rental rebates, for which they pay completely out of their own resources. It is also true that some States never collaborated with the Commonwealth in the system of rental rebates that applied to all houses up to the end of June 1956 and did not collaborate wilh the Commonwealth in sharing the cost of rental rebates on houses occupied before that dale. Nevertheless, it is necessary now, socially, to have a system of rental rebates in respect of tenanted properties. The position has been masked to a certain extent in respect of controlled premises under the Landlord and Tenant Acts in many of the States. The position, however, is only masked. Obviously, the system of landlord and tenant rent control applies only to houses that’ have been in existence for many years now. I am not suggesting that this is the total answer to the problem which is faced by people who retire, those who are bereaved or those who are incapacitated. Many of the people who are bereaved or incapacitated are paying off their houses and there is no provision in this country to assist them with subsidies. At a time when more and more people are occupying houses which they are paying off, as distinct from houses which they are renting, it is necessary to have some system of subsidy as well as a system of rental rebates.
My amendment suggests the restoration in the new agreement of the rebates which applied in respect of houses which were erected in the first half of the period in which the Commonwealth made money available to the States for housing construction. My amendment then mentions two other subjects for investigation by an allparty committee - land development and town planning. These are necessary, particularly because of the spread of our cities. In order to get the greatest number of houses with the money which the Commonwealth provides, the States have been going out into the suburbs. Our cities have not only a suburban population but also an exurban population now. It takes longer on average for people to get to work now than it ever did before in this country’s history.
– We should take the industries to the homes.
– This is certainly one of the remedies for it and this is included in the second of the matters that I mention - town planning. As the honorable gentleman knows from his electorate, and as I know from my electorate, there is considerable hardship and family disruption.
– And transport difficulties.
– And transport expense because people have to go so far to work. Also they have to travel far to all the facilities which one expects to be provided such as schools, shopping centres, churches and swimming pools. The cities in Australia are more dispersed than any cities in Europe or any cities in the United States of America, except Los Angeles. We are taking longer and longer to get to work. Furthermore, a great number of the people who are going to new suburbs, and particularly those going to suburbs created by housing commissions, find that the civic amenities are distant or inadequate.
It is not sufficient to build a great number of housing units and separate cottages if they are so distant from work, recreation and civic life in general. There ought to be more town planning in respect of these amenities. This means the encouragement of industries, employment and all the facilities which people use as communities and which they cannot provide out of their own family or individual resources. If we were to renew the heart of our cities we would find employment was close at band, all the reticulation of water, sewerage, telephones and electricity was available, and all the sporting facilities and cultural facilities were at hand. I have dealt with the need to recreate the heart of our cities. But it is also necessary, insofar as we go to new suburbs and create new and distant estates and settlements, to see that the facilities which families need are made available in those communities. We must build housing environments as well as houses.
This leaves one matter in my amendment - land development. Increasingly in this century, and particularly since the last war, government has regulated the sources of housing finance. People who have money to invest do not, as they used to do between the wars, very largely, and as they did mostly before the first war, invest their money in housing. There is very little private investment in housing now. We have become an industrial society. Thus, people who have money to invest put their money into shares. Consequently, housing has become more and more a government responsibility in the provision or regulation of the funds. We have now got out of tandem, however, with the development of land. We still say that the development of land is the prerogative of private enterprise, as we used to say before the war that the provision of housing was the prerogative of private enterprise. I am certain that it is necessary, not only in the renewal of the heart of our cities but also in the economic or convenient development of new outer suburbs, for governments to share in the development of new housing land and new community environments. 1 do not say that this should be a government monopoly, but I do say that it should no longer be a private monopoly. Governments should accept an increasing responsibility lor the acquisition and the development of land which can then be used in building government or private houses.
If we leave the development of land entirely in the hands of private developers, the people who build houses from either government or private funds will pay much more for their houses than would otherwise be the case. Governments can not only do this at cost and more efficiently; they can also apply standards of community environment such as we are not getting in Australia. If there is to be any capital appreciation in land, it should accrue to the community rather than to private land speculators. The idea that governments should play some part in developing land upon which houses are constructed and environments created is now accepted in every country with which we compare ourselves. In particular, it is accepted on both sides of the North Atlantic and in Japan.
– We have done that in Lalor Park, Seven Hills and Mount Druitt.
– But it has to be done much more, I believe. Undoubtedly there is some provision in the centres mentioned by the honorable gentleman - and I refer to Green Valley and other centres in my own electorate - where the Housing Commission has made land available for sale to enterprises. The first, and in many ways the most successful of such instances, was in Elizabeth in South Australia. However, I think it has to be done much more than this. We are getting a string of suburbs, it must be admitted, at the lowest possible cost to governments, but at the same time we are burdening all the people who are going to live in those suburbs with transport, recreation and civic costs. They are paying more to live in those areas than they would pay if proper town planning and land development were undertaken by governments. The Commonwealth provides virtually all the funds which the State housing authorities spend. It should be consulted and should insist that it be consulted much more than has been the case under past Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements in the planning and provision of civic amenities in housing estates which it finances.
I believe that we as parliamentarians should support the proposal that an all party committee be appointed to consider the new Agreement which will come into force on 1st July next. More and more within Australia, activities will be carried out by the States with funds provided by the Commonwealth. More and more internationally, the Australian Government will be making arrangements with foreign governments. Nowadays, any arrangements made between the Federal Government and the State Governments or between the Australian Government and foreign governments come before the respective Parliaments in a cut and dried form. The Parliaments concerned cannot amend the agreements entered into. Those agreements are put before the Parliaments to be either taken or left. One of the significant diminutions in the role of Parliaments is that they can have no meaningful debate about Federal compacts or international conventions. We ought to have public discussion by representative persons about matters relating to Commonwealth and State financial arrangements.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has never been investigated by any Committee of this Parliament. I think I am right in saying also that it has never been investigated by any committee of any State Parliament. The last commission to consider the matter was appointed by the Commonwealth Government and reported to it in 1944. It was the genesis of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945. Two years ago, the party to which I belong proposed the appointment of a committee to investigate these problems after the lapse of 20 years. It would be appropriate to have a committee of both the Government parties and the Opposition party in both Houses of this Parliament to consider the proposals which have already been made and those which bid fair to be rejected under the new Agreement which is to come into force on 1st July of this year. Otherwise, we shall find that all we in this Parliament can do is to accept the Agreement made by Ministers or reject it, and that all that any of the State Parliaments can do is to accept or reject it.
Parliamentarians should urge that there be public discussion and report on the matters which come before them. In a Federal system and, furthermore, in a world in which more and more international agreements are being made, parliamentarians should aim at having some meaningful debate before agreements or treaties are ratified. The appointment of an all party committee to consider the new Housing Agreement would be one way in which we in this Parliament could give effect to this aim. The new Agreement will come into force on 1st July next and there will be good time over the next three months for a committee to inquire into all the matters involved. The fact that the matters which I have mentioned are relevant surely is acknowledged by everybody. In every other country with which we compare ourselves, the national government already allocates and channels funds to these purposes in relation to housing - rental rebates, slum clearance, housing for pensioners, land development and town planning.
– I second the amendment.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has just treated us for nearly three-quarters of an hour to a discourse on the provisions of the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement that will come into force later this year. I believe that his contribution was not really pertinent to the clear purpose of this very short measure, which was intro duced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) on 23rd March. It arises as a consequence of a policy decision which was announced by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) in a ministerial statement on 16th March. The Treasurer on that occasion spent about five minutes making clear the purpose of the additional allocation of funds for which this Bill provides. He made it clear that the purpose is to provide a short term stimulant of the economy, and it is evident that this should be clearly understood to be the purpose of this measure. In his statement, the Treasurer said -
The view we reached was that it would be timely to make a certain further amount of finance available, and it appeared to us thar the earliest and most certain effects would be achieved if this were done through the State Governments under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
That explains the purpose of this measure. The sum involved is $15 million, which will be spent on housing over three months. This represents a considerable and effective short term stimulant of an economy that has gone through a tremendous and most debilitating drought. The Treasurer, in his statement, went on -
We therefore decided to make an offer to the States. We told them we would agree to support an increase of $15 million in the borrowing programmes for this financial year on condition that the share of each State in the additional amount was used wholly for housing purposes.
As is quite evident from the honorable gentleman’s statement, these funds are to be used to provide additional support for housing in the public sector. When one looks at the movements in activity in the public and the private sectors, one sees that it is appropriate that support be given in this way. So this is an economic measure designed to give affect to the policy enunciated by the Treasurer. As such, it is an important social measure.
In the light of the considerations that I have just outlined, it was, I suggest, a little fatuous for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to state that he was not concerned about statistics showing the number of commencements, the number of completions or the number of approvals of houses because he would take into account economic and social considerations, and then to neglect completely the background against which this Bill was introduced. That attitude was fatuous because this measure is designed to provide a short term stimulant of the economy for very important social reasons. It is intended to stimulate business activity and employment. The stimulation of employment particularly is important to a lot of large country towns and provincial centres. This Bill will help to stimulate employment and eliminate a certain amount of underemployment. The economy is at present just recovering from the severe effects of the drought. So this is above all a social measure, and the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in which he set out the five grounds that the Committee should consider, was a little inappropriate and might have been more appropriate if he had waited until next September or October to deliver it.
There are many questions we could ask ourselves concerning this Bill, but one that readily comes to mind is this: What, in real terms, has been the decline in housing? One of the most useful kinds of data that we can assemble is that concerning housing approvals. How can approvals, which lead housing commencements and which in determining trends are more important than housing completions - which suffer a decline only when everything else has gone down - have moved differently in the various States? It is against the differing movements in housing approvals that we have to consider the allocation of the money as between the various States. But before we even consider the actual movements between the States it might be worth while to have a look at the loan programme - and the consequent support for housing - which was decided on earlier in the year.
It will be recalled that for 1965-66 the States elected to nominate as their allocations for housing under the Agreement a total amount of $102 million. For 1964-65 the allocation was a little higher, $102.7 million. It is clear that there was an overall reduction in the 1965-66 allocation for housing. There is a table here which shows clearly that the reduction is attributable almost wholly to South Australia, in which State there was a marked decrease. I will read out the allocations under the Agreement with respect to the various States for the two financial years. In New South Wales in 1964- 65 the amount was $35 million and in 1965- 66 it was $35.3 million. This showed a minimal increase. For Victoria the amount was $27 million for the first year and $27.3 million for the second year. Queensland had allocations for $6.6 million for both years. The only State in which there was a decline was South Australia, where the figure fell from $20.5 million to $19 million.
These were the allocations for housing from the loan programmes. As far as this programme was concerned the rate of housing in succeeding years was not to be increased above that for the present year - and that was certainly a correct judgment at the time when it was arrived at.
– But the States were not happy about it.
– If the honorable member will look at the other data he will find that the resources for building have been pretty fully employed even when we have suffered a slight downturn in the economy. The honorable member should face the facts. Last year I think approvals were running at the rate of about 117,000 a year, which is a very high figure. If he then looks at the amount of overtime worked in the building industry, which is a measure of the industry’s capacity and its unused resources, he will see that the figure has remained high even in the time during which there has been a slight downturn. So if he is going to criticise the level of housing activity I suggest that he should not look at just one year, but rather at a number of years.
A lot of records have been set by this Government in this field. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition might even explain to the honorable member that sometimes the graph shows a rise which is a little too steep, and it is not good that this should be so. This is exactly what has happened in recent times. When the rate of housing rises too steeply the people who are hurt most are those least able to afford housing. That is one reason why this extra boost is to be given principally in the public sector of housing, to help those people who need assistance a little more than others do
The details of the allocation of the $15 million as between the States are worth considering. Nearly $5 million goes to New South Wales, £3.8 million to Victoria, $1.9 million to Queensland, a little over $2 million to South Australia, approximately $1.5 million to Western Australia and a little over $1 million to Tasmania. Why should the distribution be made in this way? This is an important qualitative question because it has a bearing on the only means by which the problem is to be solved. What has been the change in the rate of building approvals in the States? Surely an important determinant of the stimulus to be provided through housing construction to general economic activity and general social conditions would be given from a study of the changes in rates of building approvals in the various States. As between February 1965 and February 1966, the last month for which one can obtain any data, the largest decline has been in New South Wales. There was a decline of approvals for new houses and flats of something like 23 per cent. So we find that a large proportion of the extra $15 million is to go to New South Wales. This is the correct thing to do. In Victoria the decline has been quite small. Between February 1965 and February 1966 there was a decline of only 5 per cent. The figures for Queensland actually showed an improvement. Approvals for new houses and flat’s increased in that State by 10 or 11 per cent. In South Australia there was a similar improvement. In Western Australia there was a decline of 1 1 per cent., while in Tasmania there also was a decline.
It is perfectly clear and logical, therefore, that New South Wales should obtain such a large proportion of the $15 million, nearly a third of it. It is also reasonable that Western Australia should obtain SI .5 million. It is clear that it is in those States that support is most needed to stimulate the building industry, and this fact has been recognised. If we look at the figures for building approvals for Australia as a whole, without breaking it up into States, we see that the decline has occurred in the public sector, the Government sector, and this is another reason why it is completely logical for the support to be given to that sector. Over the same period, from February 1965 to February 1966, the decline in the private sector in Australia was only 5 or 6 per cent. The decline in approvals in the public or government sector was about 40 per cent. So a short term strong stimulus had to be applied to the govern ment’ sector, and this is what is being clone. The recent monetary measures introduced through the savings banks will assist the other sector.
This measure has been described as a short term stimulus to the Australian economy for social reasons in order to preserve full employment and ensure that people can progress in the community. One or two matters touching on some of the comments made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) are worth considering. He spoke of ‘town planning. He wants a committee appointed to consider town planning. This could be done if you want to remove all authority from local government bodies and other people who are now responsible for town planning. In Brisbane the City Council has tremendous authority in respect of the provision of roads, sewerage and services to the suburbs. It is responsible for town planning, but it is town planning of such a nature that the suburbs will have to bear the cost of it. It was claimed that if the heart of the city were renewed, services would become cheaper. In Brisbane there is a local authority. It is controlled by people of the same political faith as honorable members opposite. It is building a town square. The building of the town square is in my opinion a most inappropriate use of the people’s money at a time when services in the suburbs are lacking. The square will cost several million dollars. It will put out of action a large part of the centre of the city. Its construction will channel money away from the provision of sewerage, transport and other services in the suburbs. I am unable to see any economic benefit flowing from this refurbishing of the centre of the city of Brisbane. This is an example of town planning gone wrong. It is the kind of town planning which one would hesitate to allow some people to do. First things first. I submit that services come before non-essentials. But in this case in the northern capital services have come a long way last.
This measure may be considered from the aspect of the stimulation it will provide to the building of houses in provincial towns. If the young people of the provincial towns leave their areas to seek work before marrying, there will not be the demand for housing in those towns or cities which could quickly refurbish me local economy. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) knows, if 30 or 40 per cent, of the young people of the town leave to find work the demand for housing, which can be a useful stimulus to a local economy, is reduced. This situation applies in many Queensland provincial towns. Without a high marriage rate and a strong demand for workers, there is not room to manoeuvre in order to stimulate housing and local business conditions. I know that this subject is tied up with the problem of decentralisation but what I have said highlights the fact that the use of housing as a stimulus does not apply equally in all areas of Australia.
Let me give an example. We know that owing to the recent drought there was a downturn in the economy. This began in the latter months of last year. In Queensland it began a couple of months earlier. We know that the downturn coincided with a downturn in the number of houses commenced. 1 am not now talking about houses completed. In Queensland the downturn in the economy occurred notwithstanding a constant improvement in the rate of approvals for houses and in the number of houses commenced. Applying remedial measures to housing without being aware of the need for housing in precise areas can over stimulate certain areas and under stimulate others. The manner in which the $15 million provided in this Bill will be distributed indicates that assistance will be given to those areas where it is most needed.
This Bill follows other proposals that have been announced recently to stimulate the economy. I refer to certain monetary proposals, including the release of money from the statutory reserve deposit. I refer to the new lending arrangements for housing adopted by the savings banks. I refer to the money provided for drought relief in certain areas. The net result of all of these proposals is that Australia is climbing up more quickly than ever before from the downturn in the economy brought about by a tremendous drought. This is important. Since the effects of the drought were first felt, unemployment has risen only minimally and is currently declining. Overtime, which had declined, is again rising. Various other economic indicators are rising.
This measure, which must be considered in conjunction with other proposals adopted by the Government, should be appreciated. lt and the other measures represent the most sensitive and the quickest response to a decline in economic conditions that we have ever witnessed. The Government’s proposals in general, which should be considered from the point of view of their social impact, deserve the highest approval. The Government is conscious of the need to maintain employment at a high level, lt has ensured that employment will be maintained at a high level in the building industry notwithstanding a decline in building activity. This Bill is a most valuable contribution towards the maintenance of a high level of employment in the building industry.
.- 1 support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). It outlines clearly the problems besetting the housing industry in Australia today. I cannot see how anybody could really oppose the amendment. Would any honorable member opposite, for example, take the view that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has fully met the housing requirements of the Australian people? By our amendment we submit that it has not and that because of this failure some innovations should be introduced. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed that there should be an all party committee to look at the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement before it is renewed in the middle of this year. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) seems to discount the advisability of such a course of action. He says that this is a small Bill and that it is inappropriate to move such an amendment; that it might be more appropriately moved when the next Loan (Housing) Bill is before the Parliament. Of course, that would be a fait accompli. The terms of the new Agreement would have been negotiated between the Commonwealth and the States and once again the Commonwealth Parliament, which is responsible for making these funds available, would have been denied a say.
The former Minister for Housing, now the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury), on 17th August 1965 when discussing the Loan (Housing) Bill of that year said -
I expect before the end of this year - to consider a new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to extend or replace the existing Agreement. . . .
No doubt his successor, a lady senator in another place, has given consideration to the terms of the new Agreement, but one would have thought that in introducing the last measure to come up under the terms of the existing Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement some intimation might have been given to the Parliament about the new terms, if any, to be included in the Agreement. It seems to me as though the Parliament is being treated almost with contempt when such a cursory speech is made on such a vital issue.
I am not at all impressed with the honorable member for Lilley who says in effect: “ This is a quick response to a crisis. There has been evidence of a housing shortage. Housing is one of the most remarkable reactors - the finest measure of sensitivity almost.” The decline in the housing situation should never have been allowed to happen. During the course of- my several remarks in this debate I want to emphasise that the Opposition warned that a decline in housing would happen. In fact, the then Minister for Housing himself said that there was to be a deterioration in the housing situation. It is not good enough to try to placate anybody with the notion that there has been a sensitive response and that the Government should be commended for remedying a problem that it breathed life into itself.
This Bill pertains particularly to the State housing authorities, and they are very important. In answer to a question, which I believe was asked by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), it was stated that for the year 1963 the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provided funds for 30.9 per cent, of all Government financed housing and that the State housing authorities accounted for 14.9 per cent, of all commencements while 6 per cent, were represented by homebuilders’ accounts - in other words, a total of 20.9 per cent, of commencements came under the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. We are dealing with a matter of great consequence. This Bill is but further evidence of the Governments considerable incompetence in the housing field. The extent to which the Bill attempts to prop up the flagging rate of home construction is but a measure of the Government’s past misdemeanours in this field. Here is a panic measure - a $15 million shot in the arm for State housing authorities and, through them, in some minor degree for the building societies. The Bill authorises the raising of $15 million loan moneys which will be advanced to the States and which will be repayable over 53 years, bearing interest at 1 per cent, below the ruling long term bond rate. I think it is important-
– It is a smokescreen.
– Yes, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith says that it is a smokescreen. It is an aspect of the housing problem; not much more than that. It is that part of the problem pertaining to the low income section of the community for which the State housing authorities have been established. We have not yet during this parliamentary session had the opportunity to debate the housing problem at large. It is important to recall, for the sake of anyone who takes the trouble to read “ Hansard “, that this is a loan to the States. Many people are under the impression that the Commonwealth gives the States money for housing. Of course this has never been the case. In fact, the Commonwealth has always been reasonably paid for the assistance that it gives.
On 21st October 1965 I had the privilege of moving an amendment to the Estimates in relation to the housing problem that the Opposition believed was pending at that time. I then moved -
That the proposed expenditure for the Department of Housing be reduced by £1.
In so moving I said -
I do so as a mark of concern at the Government’s failure to ensure an adequate flow of finance for housing.
Then, in the supporting argument which I advanced - and which a number of my colleagues advanced also- I mentioned that there was a decline in approvals from 10,128 in the September quarter of 1963 to 8,286 in the June quarter of 1965. I indicated that loan money had fallen from a peak of £31.5 million in the September quarter of 1963 to £26.9 million in the June quarter of 1965. 1 stated that approvals were running at the rate of £140 million in 1965 as against £155 million in 1963-64. The Opposition moved, using the traditional forms of the House, that the departmental estimates be reduced by £1, for the express and specific purpose of alerting this Government to the tragedy which was befalling Australian housing construction. What we put forward was not even hotly contested by the Minister for Housing of the day. He concurred with what we said and, indeed, he had even preceded what we had said with warnings of his own. Yet the honorable member for Lilley has the audacity to stand here today and commend the Government for its sensitive response to a problem that it stood by and watched develop. He seems to think of this in terms of bare economics. On one occasion someone was referred to in the House as an elongated academic egghead. I would not cali anyone names like that, but it seems to be a matter of great regret that there is not a greater inclination on the part of the honorable member for Lilley and those who sit with him to think about the human aspect’ of this problem, not just the economic graph that he referred to when speaking of the situation averaging out over a period and so forth.
The clear fact of the matter is that every bird has its nest but every Australian does not have his home. This is 1966, when nations are talking of sending men to the moon. We are one of the most affluent nations by virtue of our capacities and great resources, but we are incapable of providing the young people of our community and, indeed, the old people of our community, and many in between, with a fundamental of life - decent homes. Now we come to the panacea - this Bill to provide $15 million for State housing authorities. Sums expressed in dollars seem to be larger than equivalent sums expressed in terms of the old currency. This $15 million or £7,500,000 is an infinitesimal sum when compared with the total Commonwealth budget. Let us assume that $10,000 or £5,000 is the cost of a home, including land. No-one can say that that is an unreasonable assumption. If a person can buy a decent home for $10,000, he is doing fairly well. In the suburbs of Sydney - I suppose this applies also to Melbourne and other capital cities - land costs up to £2,000 a block. That is the sort of price that has to be paid even as far out as 17 miles from the hub of the city. If there were effective planning authorities, the exploitation which is taking place at present would be avoided. If the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement made provision for the forward acquisition of land in association with industrial development, young people would not be held to ransom. They would not have to pay between £2,000 and £3,000 for a block of land on which to build a home.
Taking the cost of a home at $10,000, the $15 million mentioned in this Bill would build only 1,500 homes throughout the six States of Australia. As there is a lapse of between two and three months from time of approval to time of commencement, we can see that there will be a continuing housing problem for some considerable time to come. However, it is important to note that only $10.5 million or £5.25 million will be used by the State housing authorities. The balance is to go to the building societies. At £5,000 or $10,000 a house, this means that only 1,050 homes can be provided by the State housing authorities for low income earners throughout Australia - the people who are not able to raise large deposits, the people who have to rent houses, the people who can buy only on the smallest of deposits, the people who, since 1945, have had to look to the State housing authorities to provide them with homes because nobody else would measure up to their circumstances. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin), who has been interjecting, knows something about banking. He knows just what kind of finance can be obtained from the banks for housing, and he would be the first to concede that for the thousands of low income earners there is no alternative to the State housing authorities of this country.
Our first complaint is that the Bill should not be necessary - because the Government could easily have taken action to avoid the crisis which it now claims to be facing up to. Why did the Government fail to make sufficient funds available to the State housing authorities in its Budget for the year 1965-66? The sum provided under the Loan (Housing) Bill 1965 was £350,000 less than was provided under a similar Bill the previous year. How could this lower provision be justified in the face of rising costs, a soaring number of applications and an expanding waiting period?
One thing that causes me and many other people interested in housing a great deal of concern is the tendency on the part of this Government to use housing to regulate the economy. Why is the tap being turned on now after the flow has been stemmed for so long? Housing has become an economic weapon in the hands of the former Treasurer and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). I suppose that one of the hazards of having a spear fisherman as Treasurer is that he may have a tendency to have a stab at things now and again, and the stab often is not an accurate one. I am not alone in arguing this way. As recently as 11th March 1966, Mr. A. M. Gall, President of the Master Builders Association of New South Wales, had this to say -
The building industry is being used as a tool to regulate the economy.
This is probably the academic approach, but it is an inhuman approach, lt ignores the hopes and aspirations of thousands of people who are desperately in need of homes. It ignores the hopes and aspirations of young couples, of parents with growing families and of aged persons.
Even the former Minister for Housing, the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) predicted this calamity in his speech on the Budget on 2nd September 1965. On that occasion he said -
Savings bank lending for housing has fallen progressively in the past IS months and a further decline seems likely.
He went on to predict that housing loans would decline because of a slowing down in the rate of increase in savings bank deposits. But apparently even the Minister’s warning was disregarded by the former Treasurer. The Opposition’s warning certainly was disregarded. It moved an amendment to the Estimates for the specific purpose of drawing attention to this very crisis, and the amendment was rejected. The sequel is the present disaster.
On 17th March 1966, the present Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) said -
The home building rate dropped back from nearly 117,000 commencements in 1964-63, but in the last December quarter they were still at a rate of 100,000 a year.
Commencements had dropped back from 117,000 a year, but the Treasurer drew consolation from the fact that they stood at 100,000 a year. If ever there were guilty men in this matter, they are honorable members sitting on the Government side.
If we examine the latest official figures - the contemporary statistics, those supplied to the Parliamentary Library today by the Commonwealth Statistician - we see that, whatever measurement we apply, there has been a very serious decline in the housing position. For example, I point out that the number of new houses and flats approved in the three months ended in February 1966 was only 22,293, compared with 25,681 in the corresponding period last year. In terms of expenditure in dollars, the total value of new houses and flats approved for the three months ended on February 1966 was only $168 million, compared with $185 million for the corresponding period last year. There has been a decline to $339 million in the total value of all buildings approved in the three months ended in February 1966 - a decline from a total of $432 million for the corresponding period last year.
The figures relating to buildings other than homes and flats - ‘that is, commercial buildings - disclose an expenditure of only $129 million for the three months ended in February 1966, compared with $202 million for the three months ended February 1965. Pages and pages of official statistics indict this Government for its actions. The Government was warned that this crisis would occur. The fact that a crisis is upon us and is being felt by the homeless is manifesting itself in a million unhappy ways such as people crowding in with their in-laws and families living in rooms, shanties and temporary dwellings. Building tradesmen lost work for a short period and entrepreneurs found that their capital could not be used for building, with the result that instead of the usual lucrative return on their capital they received only 3i per cent, or whatever interest rate one receives for money left in the bank. There are many who feel unhappy about this matter. That they are unhappy about the attitude of the Government will be indicated at the first opportunity the people have to express their views at the ballot box about these matters.
Headlines and news items in our Press in relation to housing have been confronting us day after day and week after week over a long period. I go back to 3rd September 1965, when the “Sydney Morning Herald “ reported -
Savings bank Iendings would probably drop and home seekers would have to obtain finance from other quarters. . .
The headline in the “ Australian “ on 5th October 1964 read: “ Home loans fall by £lm. over 3 months.” The article began -
Lack of money has caused a sharp fall in New South Wales house-building in the last three months.
The article went on to refer to the dilemma of building societies and stated -
Funds available to terminating building societies have fallen by £1 million in this period.
The “Sydney Morning Herald” of 9th October 1965 published an item under the headline “ Home fund fall more noticeable.” The article read in part -
The two-month decline in housing finance had become more noticeable in the last two weeks. . . .
This statement was made by the President of the Master Builders’ Association of New South Wales. The “Australian” of 25th February 1966 under the headline “Housing lowest for 3 years,” reported -
The number of house and flat approvals in Australia in January were the lowest for three years.
The “ Sun “ on 24th February 1966, published an item under the headline - “$4m. loss in N.S.W. Big slump in home building.” It stated -
There was a dramatic slump in Australian home building in the three months ended January this year.
On 6th March 1966 under the heading, “January home-building approvals down 20 per cent.” the “ Sydney Morning Herald” reported that building approvals for houses and flats in January were 20 per cent, below the figure for January 1965. So this sad and sorry story goes on.
I come to the 28th March 1966 when it was reported in a New South Wales newspaper T
Fewer bornes have been built in N.S.W.
N.S.W. councils have approved 3,374 fewer homes this year than for the corresponding eight months of the last financial year.
If anyone wishes to draw any pride, solace or consolation from that barrage of. news paper cuttings, which represent only a handful of the number on housing that can be gathered in a matter of minutes in the Parliamentary Library, then he can do so for what it is worth.
Honorable members do not have to take the word of the journalists in this regard. They can look at what the authorities in the home building industry have to say. The Housing Industry Association in a letter addressed to me on 7th March 1966 said -
As the largest National Organisation representing the Housing and allied Industries, we feel it our duly to emphasise the seriousness of the present situation. The most vital factor influencing the situation is the lack of finance for home purchasers, and this factor is the prime reason that Building Permits for new home construction for New South Wales are down by more than 20 per cent, over the past six months, as compared with the same period for 1963.
The Association went on to say -
We would stress that the falling off in production is in no way due to the diminished demands for housing. In fact, many thousands of home seekers, including Migrants, have tentatively agreed to purchase cottages or Home Units, but are unable to complete the transaction owing to shortage of suitable finance.
I come now to the magazine which is published as the official journal of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies of New South Wales Ltd. It is “ Your Home Magazine “. Mr. Carl Weekes, the President of this Association said in that magazine -
The Building Society Movement is alarmed at the present shortage of money for home building. It has, for nearly thirty years, fought for the maintenance of a home-building industry at peak efficiency - it sees no need for a boomanddepression economy in this essential industry.
Mr. Weekes went on at great length. He said in part -
Over the last 13 years the rise and fail in funds to Building Societies has been extreme.
He mentioned the figures and then continued -
We maintain that this fluctuation is reprehensible and shows a lack of awareness of a National duty to the small income-earner by some Banks and Insurance Companies.
I add that this fluctuation shows a lack of awareness on the part of this Government in that it has allowed such a fluctuation to take place and such uncertainty to prevail.
The clear fact of the matter is that building societies at the present time are getting a raw deal. The Australian Labour Party has provided in its policy for a completely different arrangement. The Federal platform of the Australian Labour Party provides that we will -
Ensure adequate finance to Building Societies by requiring banks and assurance companies to divert a prescribed proportion of securities to a central Building Society pool for allocation by a high council of Society representatives to individual Societies.
The clear fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been mutilated and much of these funds has been diverted to building societies. In four years, £68 million has been diverted from the State housing authorities to building societies. Previously, funds of building societies had come substantially from insurance companies.
– What is wrong with that?
– This is what is wrong with it. This Government has allowed insurance companies to substantially withdraw from the field of housing. Those companies have not shown the sense of responsibility that they previously demonstrated. This denial of responsibility has been acquiesced in by this Government which has allowed the insurance companies to do this. In diverting money from State housing authorities to building societies we do not make additional funds available. We simply substitute funds for the moneys previously made available by the insurance companies. There is a sense of irresponsibility on the part of honorable members opposite who fail to realise that the insurance companies have as large an obligation in the handling of the money of their clients as banks have in handling the money of their clients. This obligation is to use the deposits for the purpose of advancing the wellbeing of the Australian people. As far as honorable members opposite are concerned, insurance companies can be as free as the breeze to invest their money in sheep stations, hire purchase businesses, or anything of that sort which can exploit the Australian people. Honorable members opposite have not one skerrick of interest in ensuring that the money held by insurance companies, which has come from members of the people, is used for purposes which will advance their welfare.
We express concern about that matter. We express concern also about the haphazard nature of the flow of money for building societies especially. As indicated in the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we are concerned that this Government has not indicated as yet that it is prepared at this appropriate time when a new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is being drawn up to provide for slum clearance, and the restoration of the rental rebate scheme which, after all, is designed to help the little bloke, the underdog. Indeed, the Government has failed to recognise the peculiar and tremendously urgent housing needs of the aged people in our community. For these reasons, we are not satisfied with the paltry assistance that this Bill provides for the lagging home construction industry throughout Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Irwin) adjourned.
– I move -
Mr. Deputy Speaker, The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966. The amendments will operate from tomorrow morning. The tariff alterations in Proposals No. 4 incorporate changes consequent on the adoption by the Government of the report by the Tariff Board on bonded fibre fabrics. The Board has found that since its last inquiry into bonded fibre fabrics in 1961, the industry has considerably increased its range of production and also its share of the market. In the Board’s opinion, the industry has progressed to the point where it now needs less protection against imports than is provided by the present duties. On its recommendation, therefore, the duties on bonded fibre fabrics are being reduced by 5 per cent, ad valorem to 15 per cent, ad valorem, irrespective of the country of origin. The same level of protection is being applied to articles of bonded fibre fabrics.
The balance of the amendments in Proposals No. 4 are necessary to improve the translation from the Customs Tariff 1933- 1965 to the new tariff based on the Brussels
Nomenclature which operated from 1st July, 1965. These changes ensure a continuation of the duty position existing prior to 1st July, 1965 and are in accordance with the undertaking given when the new tariff was introduced last May. Details of the tariff changes are contained in the summaries of tariff changes being circulated to honorable members. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Reports on Items.
. -I present the report by the Tariff Board on the following item -
Bonded fibre fabrics.
I also present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject -
Pins. which does not call for any legislative action..
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Debate resumed (vide page 754).
.- I desire to reply to a statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in relation to town planning. Town planning as it has applied in New South Wales has been responsible for a tremendous increase in the price of building allotments. Prior to the advent of the Cumberland County’ Council, which later became the State Planning Authority, building blocks in areas such as the city of Parramatta could be purchased for £400. When the Cumberland County Council who established it coloured the map of the metropolitan area of Sydney with various colours which denoted certain zones, what happened? We found that the home seeker, who should be one of the most assisted persons in the community, had, within two years, to pay £1,000 for an allotment he could have bought in 1950 for £400. Before this zoning scheme came into being people who owned farm lands would have been happy to sell land to any developer for £200 an acre, but immediaately the Cumberland County Council designated their land as either residential or industrial a black market was created.
Naturally the people who owned this land wanted the highest price they could get. The action of the Cumberland County Council sent the price of land in parts of Blacktown and St. Marys up to £1,500 a block. But for the action of this authority allotments in those areas could have been purchased for no more than £700 each.
Socialistic legislation always acts against the small man. We have in New South Wales many men of great ability who could start out in an engineering business of their own if it were not for the terrible price of industrial land. In Artarmon an acre of industrial land costs £35,000 and industrial land in the Blacktown area - land, at present being used as farm land - cannot be purchased for less than £5,000 an acre. This has happened in a free country simply because this octopus, the Cumberland County Council, later the State Planning Authority, decreed that there should be a zoning plan. Local authorities have ordinances which set down their requirements. Provided people who want to develop an area by commencing an industrial establishment comply with those ordinances why should they be prohibited from doing so? Why should they be forced to set up their businesses in areas prescribed by the State Planning Authority? The present situation is against all ideas of justice. It is against freedom under our British heritage and is a living disgrace to the people who allow such things to occur.
As I said, in the case of all socialistic legislation it is the small man who gets hurt. Many men with great engineering ability could establish themselves if it were not for these requirements. I well remember as a bank manager starting a young man off in business who had but £200. Last year the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. took over his works when he was employing 1,000 men. There are many men of that calibre with similar ability. They have the ambition but they have not the capital. With the present set-up in Sydney they have no possible opportunity of starting a business because, as I have said, land for industrial purposes would cost them from £5,000 an acre. We want to get back to free private enterprise. These men should be given a chance. At present they have to continue to work for a boss, whereas but for these regulations they could obtain patents and develop the ideas that they possess.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoKe about investment in housing. No reasonable man can be expected to build a house in New South Wales for letting purposes under the present State Landlord and Tenant Act. After all, an investor is entitled to a reasonable return, but under the New South Wales Landlord and Tenant Act that return is denied. Mention has been made of the great housing commissions. Immediately after the war these commissions had an up to 80 per cent, call on all building materials, leaving other building authorities only 20 per cent, of the available materials. What did we find? We found wholesale inflation. - Naturally, once a black market is created costs increase and there is inflation. I think it would have been much better if these housing commissions had not been created. People would have obtained their homes at a lesser cost than they have had to pay during the intervening years. I have an extensive knowledge of this subject, because I had the unique experience and considerable pleasure of assisting 1,500 battlers to get their homes. Most of them did not have £200. Any bank manager can arrange for a home to be built if the borrower has a block of land and £500, but I built 1,500 homes under the sub-contract method. They cost £600 less than the selling price of homes built by Mala Homes Pty. Ltd. Mala Homes Pty. Ltd. was financed by the Rural Bank of New South Wales. “Mala” is “ Alam “ spelt backwards and Alam was a member of the Legislative Council. He received preferential treatment from the Rural Bank of New South Wales. I can prove, from the specifications, that the homes I arranged to have built, using the same methods as those used by Mala Homes Pty. Ltd., cost £600 less than that company was charging for its houses. The houses were identical. These are facts and should be known to people on the sidelines who want to see the young married couples get a home at reasonable prices and on reasonable terms.
The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) said that insurance companies were not now providing finance for home building. That is not a fact. Most insurance companies will lend money to a person who is willing to take out an insurance policy for the full amount of the loan. As a bank manager, I was not prepared to recommend to my bank thai i. should lend money to building societies so that they in turn could finance home builders. 1 told my bank that I could lend all the money it had available in Blacktown, keep it under my supervision and ensure that the borrowers obtained a better type of home at a lower cost. My attitude was that once I lent money, whether it was for a home, a farm or a business, I wanted to become the borrower’s best friend and have his respect for the rest of his life. Unless this attitude is adopted by those who lend money, they are false to themselves and to the institution for which they work. Unfortunately, many people who lend money do not approach the task in that way. I have known people who have agreed to buy a home for £400, £500 or £600 more than the home was really worth. I have pointed this out to them. If they have insisted on purchasing the home, I have refused to lend them the money because, if I had lent it to them, I would not have been their best friend. However, they could go to other institutions that did not care what the purchase price was so long as their equity in the home was adequate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before proceeding to discuss the Bill, I should like to reply further to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Hughes who spoke about slum clearance. I suggest that’ they would have been bettor occupied if they had used their influence within the Australian Labour Party to put first things first. Had £24 million been made available for slum clearance instead of for the colossus which we call the Opera House, great benefit would have accrued to the nation. The theatres in Sydney will be adequate for some time to cope with the number of people who are likely to want to see an opera. I am not against culture but I put first things first. The Opera House could have waited for many years until our population was sufficient to warrant such a vast expenditure.
– Where would the honorable member and I be then?
– I do not know where the honorable member for Scullin would be, but I would like to be in heaven. The purpose of the Loan (Housing) Bill is to authorise the raising of $15 million. This amount will be advanced under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to the States during the remainder of this financial year. The amount of $15 million is additional to the $102 million already allocated under the Housing Agreement to the States for housing for 1965-66. The $15 million to be provided under this Bill will give a further stimulus to house building. Housing commencements reached an all time peak in the September quarter of 1965 but have shown a decline since then. Other building activity continued to rise throughout 1965, but recent monthly figures of approvals could indicate some decline in . this section also. Employment in the building industry as a whole has increased by 20 per cent, in the last three years and is still high. The demand for building materials has also been strong because of the unprecedentedly high level of other building activity.
From the June quarter of 1964 to the September quarter of 1965 dwelling commencements were never below 28,000 in any quarter. However, in the December quarter of 1965, commencements dropped to 24,850 and approximately this number of dwellings is expected to be commenced in the March quarter of this year. Despite the additional amount of finance, estimated at $24 million, that is being provided by the savings banks during the second half of 1965-66, the rate of recovery of housing activity is proving sluggish. This has induced the Government to apply a further stimulus in the form of the loan allocation of $15 million. It is clear that the general level of economic activity is high and is tending to rise, even if not quite so fast as six or eight months ago. The demand for labour is strong and unemployment is quite low for this time of the year. This seems to hold good for the building and construction industries almost as much as for any other part of the economy. But the Government does not regard housing as a residual factor which can reasonably be allowed to fluctuate as the play of economic forces would dictate; it recognises that whilst some degree of fluctuation is inevitable, the housing of the people is a social function and should be so treated in determining Government action.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Lilley has already expressed that view. The level of housing should rise at a steady rate as needs increase. At the same time, pressures on resources which would have the effect of raising housing costs must be avoided. If costs go up rapidly, this will defeat the objective of a supply of good dwellings at moderate prices. This Bill is a reflection of that attitude. It is designed to give an appropriate stimulus to housing construction. The amount of $15 million tq be provided under this Bill and the additional savings bank lending add up to nearly $40 million of additional money. The Government believes that this amount will provide what is needed to get the industry, moving upwards again.
The main effects oi the $24 million additional savings bank lending will be seen in activity during the June quarter and the effects of the additional $15 million of loan money should also soon be felt. The $.15 .million is being put. out through the Housing Agreement because the Government believes that this is the quickest and most certain way to achieve the necessary stimulus. It seems likely that the States will exercise their rights under the Housing Agreement to allocate the major portion of the $15 million to their housing authorities as the surest and speediest way of increasing housing commencements where the need is greatest. These authorities are in a position to call tenders and get the construction of dwellings under way more quickly than private lending institutions. Moreover, the demands of young families and migrants on the housing authorities for moderately priced rental accommodation and homes that may be purchased on relatively favourable terms and conditions are increasing, whilst the number of dwellings being commenced by the housing authorities has been decreasing.
The $15 million will be allocated between the States on the basis of the allocation of the initial overall Australian Loan Council borrowing programmes for works and housing in 1965-66. In conformity with the provisions of the Housing Agreement, the additional advances of $15 million will be repayable by the States over a period of 53 years and will bear interest at 1 per cent, below the long term Commonwealth bond rate, which at present is 5i per cent. The
Housing Agreement requires each State to allocate to its Home Builders’ Account not less than 30 per cent, of the advances made to the State under the Agreement, excluding the supplementary advances made for Service housing. The amounts so allocated to the Home Builders’ Account are for lending to persons seeking to buy or build their own homes through building societies and through other lending institutions approved by the Minister for Housing. Home Builders’ Account funds result in more dwellings being provided, dollar for dollar, than are constructed with the funds allocated to the State housing authorities. Loans made by building societies and other approved institutions from Home Builders’ Account funds involve larger deposits from individual home seekers than when houses are bought from the State housing authorities, and the repayment period may not exceed 31 years. The repayment period of Commonwealth-State advances to the Home Builders’ Account is 53 years and as instalments are repaid into the Account by institutions the surplus over what is needed to amortise the Commonwealth loan can be re-lent to other institutions. An actuarial computation shows that moneys advanced to the Account will be employed about twice over the 53 year amortisation period of the Commonwealth-State loans. The combined effects of the revolving fund operation of the Home Builders’ Account and the provision of larger deposits on loans by building societies over the nine year term of the Agreement from 1956 to 30th June 1965 is illustrated in the following table -
Thus, on the average, one house was provided for each $6,092 advanced to State housing authorities for civilian housing whereas one house was financed for each $5,134 advanced to the Home Builders’ Account. To make the comparison in another way, each $10 million advanced to the Home Builders’ Account provided 307, or 19 per cent., more houses than the same sum advanced to State housing authorities. The advantages of the Home Builders’ Account arrangement will become even greater in later years as the repayments to the Account increase. Mr. Speaker, I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
.- Mr. Speaker, this Bill, which will make available for housing an additional $15 million, constitutes one of the greatest possible indications of support for the proposition advanced by the Opposition last October during the consideration of the estimates for the Department of Housing. On that occasion, the Opposition, to show its disapproval of the limitation of the funds to be allocated for housing in the traditional manner proposed -
That the proposed expenditure for the Department of Housing be reduced by £1.
We did this to mark our concern at the Government’s failure to ensure an adequate flow of finance for housing. In the debate on that occasion the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury), who was then Minister for Honing, mentioned the shortage of funds available for home building. I give him full credit for the work that he did in administering the difficult Housing portfolio.
I do not agree with all lh.it was said by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin). He has come into this House with a reputation as a man who has always been keen to have a flutter and who has always been a keen supporter of the arts. I cannot for the life of me see what he has against the conducting of lotteries to provide funds for the construction of the Sydney Opera House. By supporting lotteries for that purpose, he would help himself both ways. He might even come out a substantial winner in both respect’s. J was surprised at the charges of graft, corruption and black marketing that he made in the early part of his address. Nobody would know better than he does, since he has been a bank manager, how avaricious some people are. The avariciousness of some in the community has been displayed quite recently in the grab for extra profits and the increasing of prices in conjunction with the change to decimal currency. This isthe sort of thing that can be prevented only by government action. But this Government is not prepared to act.
Though the Opposition supports the measure now before the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has on its behalf proposed as an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ whilst not in any way opposing the passage of this Bill, the House is of the opinion that the existing Housing Agreement has not fully met the housing requirements of the Australian people and that before a new Agreement (to which part of the money to be provided by this Bill may be applied) is entered into, an allParty Committee should be appointed to investigate all its aspects with particular regard to-
housing for pensioners,
land development, and (d) town planning”.
All the points listed in that amendment are worthy of consideration in the drawing up of a new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to operate for the next five years. The first Agreement was entered into in 1945. One of its principal purposes was to provide low rental homes for people on low incomes, many of whom would not have an opportunity to own their own home. Believe you me, Mr. Speaker, there are still in the community many people who can look forward only to a life in which they will not own their own home.
I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Mitchell describe the perfect bank manager as one who never knocked back an applicant except when he thought that the applicant was being touched by somebody else. The honorable member said that the bank manager who adopted this approach remained a friend of his bank’s clients throughout his life. I am sure that this must be said of the honorable member himself if one can judge by the vote that he received at the last election, though I do not know whether he will continue to receive so much support. The kind of bank manager described by him is quite contrary to the general conception of bank managers. Honorable members may have heard of the bank manager who retired from a bank to take over the running of a petrol station.
When his first customer asked for six gallons of petrol, the former bank manager asked the customer whether he thought he could get by with four gallons. This is indicative of the general attitude of bank managers, at least in my neck of the woods.
– Surely it was not the attitude of the honorable member for Mitchell.
– I do not know. He gave a very good description of the life of a perfect bank manager. I only wish that I had been able to ask him for a loan. The funds to be provided under the terms of this measure will be allocated to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to stimulate home building. Many who are associated with housing, particularly with respect to finance and the numerous industries and trades associated with home building, such as the furniture industry, the timber industry and the brick making industry, have repeatedly in the newspapers expressed concern at the lack of finance for housing. There is no shortage of applicants for assistance, but there is a considerable shortage of funds for home purchase. For this reason, honorable members on this side of the chamber take a deal of pleasure in supporting this Bill, even though it will provide only $15 million for housing. There is a vast difference between dollars and pounds, as most of us are realising. With the change to decimal currency, someone remarked that his bank account was twice as large. Someone else said that this was good because it doubled his overdraft. Whatever may be said about that, the point is that $15 million is to be provided under the terms of this measure.
In passing, I want to mention that there are two distinct fields of housing administered by the Queensland Housing Commission. One is the workers’ dwelling scheme, under which finance is provided by the State. This scheme, which has been in existence since 1910, was the forerunner of the State Housing Commission. Funds provided by the Commonwealth are made available to the Commission for the construction of homes for rental. However, very few of the homes constructed with these funds are rented, because most are built with a view to immediate sale.
I want to make the point that people who purchase a home through a State
Housing Commission are not eligible for benefits under the homes savings grants scheme, because Commonwealth money is involved in the transaction. On the other hand, those who purchase homes which have been built with State money are entitled to homes savings grants, even though the conditions of sale are practically the same and the repayment periods are usually the same, being 30 or 35 years. I believe this to be an anomaly. It has been argued that people who purchase from a Housing Commission receive more favorable terms than those who purchase from some other vendor, but we heard the honorable member for Mitchell giving his opinion, as a banker, that those people were not, in some cases, getting as good a deal as those who borrowed their money from private sources. I am prepared to accept his verdict that this is so if one looks at the long term position. The point is that when the Chifley Government first negotiated the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement it allowed for persons on low incomes to be granted rental rebates. The rent of a home was not to exceed onefifth of the income of the occupant. This meant that people on low incomes, such as pensioners and others, were able to obtain houses through the State Housing Commissions at reasonable rents.
The amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition also contained a reference to slum clearance. This is a matter that concerns not Sydney alone but other cities as well. In Melbourne slum clearance is a problem. I believe that the views expressed by the Ministers for Housing in New South Wales and Victoria are shared by the Housing Ministers in other States. I believe that they were in complete agreement that Commonwealth money should be made available for the purchase of slum areas so that they can be cleared and made ready for new housing projects. If one goes to the newly developed residential areas on the outskirts of the large cities one finds that in all those areas there are demands for various services - roads, channelling, kerbing, sewerage, water and all the other services that must be provided. The provision of those services places a considerable strain- on local authorities. Demands are constantly made for services to be provided in a hurry. Progress associations and other pressure groups are continually urging councils to undertake these works. In slum areas, on the other hand, all these services are readily available. There is no necessity for new sewer mains to be provided. The water reticulation service and everything else that is necessary is already available, and after the slums have been cleared it is only necessary to provide the housing units and connect them to the existing services. A good example of what can be done in slum areas is the Sir John Northcott housing project in the electorate of the honorable member for Wa’.son (Mr. Cope), where modern accommodation at a reasonable rental charge has been provided in the areas in which the tenants have spent most of their lives, and where they are within walking distance of the city of Sydney. A considerable saving is effected by having the services ‘readily available.
Another matter I wish to speak of is the extension of the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act to local authorities that wish to provide homes for the aged. Many local authorities have land available and would be prepared to provide these homes if they could obtain the Commonwealth financial assistance that is available to charitable bodies for such purposes. These local authorities would be able lo provide accommodation for many aged persons who are unable to maintain their own homes, and those homes would then become available for young couples who are now in such dire need of homes.
Town planning seems to have become an objectionable expression. According to one speaker on the Government side, town planning can lead only to graft and corruption and the stepping up of prices. I served some time on a local authority and 1 saw many complaints that were made by people who had business premises such as panel beating establishments set up alongside their homes in residential areas. This is the kind of thing that happens when a local council does not have the benefit of a town planner who can say to a person wishing to establish an industry: “There is land available for this purpose in a certain area of the municipality and that is the only area in which you can establish your business”. This is the only way to avoid annoyance to people who have in many cases lived all their lives in areas they have always believed to be residential areas. Town planning is essential if large housing estates are to be established. This is the kind of thing that can be done only on a planned basis, with allowance being made for business areas, light industries and so on. A classic example of the benefits of town planning is to be seen in Elizabeth in South Australia, and no doubt there are many other excellent examples in other parts of Australia.
The question that then arises is whether this kind of land development and town planning is a responsibility of the Commonwealth or of the State. I have looked at housing developments in many countries. I can refer to the position in New Zealand and in a number of Scandinavian countries, in which one can see the results of town planning and the landscaping of park areas in housing estates where large numbers of homes have been built by government departments or semi-governmental authorities. All that work is the responsibility of the government of the particular country. lt may be argued that it is asking too much of the Commonwealth to become involved in all this kind of work, but the fact is that we have not had a committee to inquire into our housing needs and requirements. One could go on all night listing the various requests that have been made from time to time in the field of housing. I could refer to the question of the elimination of second mortgages. I know that the Government had high hopes for its housing loans insurance scheme. The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation was set up, but without any money. All it could do was guarantee. I feel it is being restricted because of this. If a bank manager has 12 customers wanting accommodation he is not likely to give six of them 95 per cent, of their requirements and wipe the other six. It is plain economics that if he has only a certain amount of money to spare he will spread it over the lot and have 12 partly satisfied customers. The principle behind the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation may be quite right but the fact is that there is only a certain amount of money to be made available. The Corporation can guarantee as much as it likes, but unless it has its own money available for lending purposes it will be very limited in the scope of its operations.
I asked a question on this matter and I was pleased to receive an answer today from the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. I asked how many loans had been insured by the Corporation in each of the States since its inception and what were the purposes of each loan. There are various purposes for which loans are guaranteed; and those purposes are not confined to the purchase of dwellings. The answer to my question reads -
Although the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is a statutory authority of the Commonwealth, it is also a commercial undertaking operating in a competitive field. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to divulge publicly ;n detail the extent and sources of its business. 1 can assure the honorable member, however, that the Corporation is insuring loans in each State and that the volume of its business in aggregate is currently of the order of SI million a month. Nearly 300 loans to the value of more than $2 million have been insured in all classes of loans prescribed in Statutory Rules 1965, No. 171.
I do not think this is a complete answer. Many questions remain unanswered. When the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is renewed as from 1st July this year the Government will have an opportunity to appoint an all-party committee–
– Hear, hear!
– I see that my colleague interjects from the Government benches. I am pleased to hear an honorable member sitting on the Government side of the chamber agree with me. I support the appointment of an all-party committee to make recommendations regarding the new Housing Agreement. For the reasons I have stated, while not declining support for the Bill, I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Another estate agent?
– Despite that interruption, I will proceed. After listening to the full and fluent speech of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) I feel that very little is left for me to say. Like all other honorable members, I fully support the Bill. I do not intend to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) because it is not my intention to support a falling star. Further, although I have a certain sympathy for a number of the points raised in the amendment, I do not think that this is the appropriate time to bring them forward. The amendment reads -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ whilst not in any way opposing the passage of this Bill, the House is of opinion that the existing Housing Agreement has not fully met the housing requirements of the Austral:an people and that before a new Agreement (to which part of the money to be provided by this Bill may be applied) is entered into, an all-Party Committee should be appointed to investigate all its aspects with particular regard to- -
housing for pensioners,
land development, and
town planning.” 1 think honorable members on both sides will agree that there is a certain relevancy in all of those points and that at some stage they must be considered, but I do not think this is the time to do so. We are now considering a bill to provide an amount of $15 million to assist the States with their housing finance. When details of the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are being thrashed out a number of such matters should be discussed, but I am not prepared to fall at this stage into the trap which the Labour Party invariably sets on occasions such as this, with the object of moving towards unification. The Government parties feel that the States have the major responsibility in the distribution of housing finance. In today’s circumstances the Commonwealth may provide the finance but under Federation the responsibility for the ultimate use of that finance rests with the States.
Perhaps some States do not play the game in accordance with the rules set out in the Agreement, but it would be wrong for us to give effect to the points raised by the Opposition in its amendment. Take, for a start, the reference to town planning. Is it the responsibility of the Federal Government to determine whether a convenience should go at a particular street corner or in some other location where some council or other interested body wants it? The Federal Government has enough on its plate without getting into town planning and the other fields referred to by the Opposition. Should the Federal Government have a responsibility for land development? I would not like to think that the Federal Government, sitting here in Canberra, was responsible for land development programmes in my electorate. These matters are handled mainly by local councils, which are responsible to the people in particular areas who elect them. These councils know the details of future plans for their shires or cities. 1 am sure it would be wrong of anybody to suggest that we in Canberra should be the people to say to the councils: “ No, you cannot have that.” This would be doing nothing more than setting up a bureaucracy, which is something the Opposition would like to do.
Housing for pensioners is a most worthy cause. Through the Department of Social Services and, in particular, under the Aged Persons Homes Act we are endeavouring to do something about housing for pensioners and I am sure that we will do more in the future. Slum clearance is quite an issue, but, again, is it a matter in which the Federal Government should become directly involved? Should the Commonwealth take slum clearance out of the hands of the States and the city councils and say: “ We, stuck here in Canberra in the middle of New South Wales, will be responsible for all slum clearance undertaken in Sydney, Melbourne or elsewhere”? I am sure that deep in their hearts many honorable members opposite agree with me, because many of them were town councillors or shire councillors and were prepared to fight for the rights of their organisations, which act on behalf of the people of the areas for which they are responsible.
The Bill before the House simply provides $15 million from the loan market to encourage home building during the next three months and to provide finance lor people requiring homes during that period. The amount is additional to the money that has already been made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It is additional to the $48 million that has been released through the banking system. These various amounts add up to a considerable sum of money for housing. If the private sector of the economy follows the example set by the public sector. 1 am sure that the effect on housing generally will be substantial.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Bill was inconsequential and that he did not intend to oppose it. Nevertheless, he spoke for 45 minutes about the Bill. I assume that he made some reference to housing from time to time in the course of his speech, but he lost me and, I suspect, most honorable members on this side of the chamber, in the first 10 minutes.
– The honorable member was lost before he started.
– You should not be interjecting because you are not even in your own seat.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) Order! I remind the honorable member for La Trobe that he is addressing his remarks to the Chair, and I am in my correct seat.
– 1 am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was referring to the honorable member who interjected. I think it is fair to say that the Commonwealth is in a rather extraordinary position as far as housing is concerned. Under the Constitution housing is not directly the responsibility of the Federal Government. But under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the Commonwealth, under its social service powers, is taking an interest directly in housing.
– That is wrong.
– Mr. Speaker, through you, I suggest that later the honorable member for East Sydney be given an opportunity to state his views. I suggest that in the economy of a developing country such as ours there is a need for the responsibility in housing to be clarified. For some considerable time T and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have urged that this be done. There is a need to undertake a survey into housing, in cooperation with the States, so that the industry may be stabilised and planning for the future undertaken. I refer to planning for housing - not development and the other matters mentioned in the amendment. Everything necessary must be done to maintain the industry on a stable footing, because it is vital to the Australian community. But under the Constitution the Commonwealth faces a number of problems if it attempts to act in the field of housing. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agree- ment we make money available to the States, on condition that 30 per cent, of it goes to co-operative building societies. I think that this is too little. When the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is discussed I should like to see this figure of 30 per cent, increased because, as has been said by my friend the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin), with co-operative housing we can get more houses for a lesser sum than we do under the Agreement.
Many people do not want to live in Housing Commission homes. There are people who have not the requisite income or capital to allow them in the present instance to buy homes in the areas they would prefer. If, however, they could go to co-operative housing societies and be assisted in purchasing land and in gaining security they would much prefer to build in the areas of their choice. J am against forcing people to live in settlements that I think will, unfortunately, become slums in time. At present the only legislative control the Commonwealth has in respect of finance for housing relates to trading banks, savings banks and insurance companies. The States have control over what is commonly called the fringe banking institutions. We know that money goes into these fringe banking institutions which are building home units - these Own your own flat” schemes - and charging high rates of interest. An incredible number of these units are dotted throughout Melbourne and, I am sure, throughout Sydney and the other capital cities. Because of the drought, and perhaps because of caution in the general public, at present these units are hard to sell. Indeed, if a person is prepared to pay a high rent he can select a flat or apartment from a great many that are available now. This was not the case until recently. One reason why the home unit and apartment section of the building industry has declined is that so many such places have been built by these fringe banking institutions, which have to pay high interest rates on money borrowed and which have to charge high rates, that there is a glut on the market.
I should like now to quote from “ Collected Papers on Finance Etc.” by L. L’Estrange, which was sent to me. A copy is available in the Parliamentary Library. Mr.
L’Estrange is a very distinguished gentleman who has rendered a great service to housing in both Federal and State spheres.
– He must be a Labour man.
– I do not think he is. However, he has performed a good service in undertaking a survey of housing in all its ramifications throughout Australia. I understand he has sent a copy of this document to the Government and to the Opposition. In it he draws atten.ion to anomalies that exist in the housing field. I should like to read what he says about the situation where, under its powers, the Commonwealth expects and demands the trading banks and insurance companies to invest a percentage of their finance in government securities and local government loans and restrict them as to the amount they can lend out. This is having an effect on the private sector and on the amount that could be used for alleviating the housing situation. Mr. L’Estrange writes as follows -
The Report of the Board of Inquiry on a recent finance corporation has, in my view, underlined the need for State legislation defining the principles of money management to be followed by such finance corporations and possibly also by Trustees for Debenture Holders therein.
In my view, such Corporations receive money on deposit from the public (either on current account or fixed term) (and whether or not the same is secured or unsecured). Such moneys are then advanced to the public by way of personal loan, mortgage, hire purchase agreement, or sale of goods and land repayable by instalments, plus interest or other charges on a percentage basis for the term of the loan.
In my view the management of the finances under the control of the Company should be handled the same as with Trading Banks, i.e. a liquidity ratio to be maintained in the form of cash and Government securities (L.G.S. ratio), together with a variable proportion to be held in a Statutory Reserve Deposit account as with the Trading Banks.
While we may try to take action to encourage housing or to restrict inflation I do not think any honorable member would disagree that we have no control over these fringe banking institutions and hire purchase companies, many of which have been set up by the banks themselves and in which the banks are investing money at high interest rates. These companiesarein- fluencing the housing position in Australia. Mr. L’Estrange also said -
As to the ratios so held by Trading Banks, see the Reserve Bank Bulletins and the Federal Banking Act and the Federal Reserve Bank Act.
Federal Reserve Bank directives now apply only to Trading Banks and Savings Banks.
So far as Savings Banks are concerned, approximately 65 per cent, of their depositors’ funds are required to be held in the form of public securities - mainly as a means of. the Federal and State Governments obtaining contributions to Government, semi-government and local government loans.
A ratio of 30 per cent, is also to be so main tained by Life- Insurance Offices.
However, this burden of supporting the loan market is not cast upon other finance corporations, resulting in some distortion of the market arising out of such factor.
The normal minimum liquidity requirement for Trading Banks is about 18 per cent, of depositor’s funds, plus a variable contribution to the Statutory Reserve Deposit Fund, at present about 1 1 per cent.
Without quoting further, I suggest to honorable members that they look at this document prepared by Mr. L’Estrange. The Government should again consider the question of how much money life insurance companies are forced to pay into loans and government securities. The finance corporations, which are taking money from the public sector and investing it at high interest rates, could and should, through the Commonwealth Government and State Governments, be made to conform to banking practices. If State savings banks were permitted to lend more money for housing and were not required to pay so much into semigovernment and government securities they could, as Mr. L’Estrange suggests in his paper, provide mortgages to those persons who secure homes constructed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In this way the Commonwealth would receive money to re-invest, perhaps in slum clearance projects. Housing must be looked at by the Commonwealth Government working in conjunction with the States.
I pay tribute to the former Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) for what he has done and for setting up the Commonwealth Housing Loans Insurance Corporation which I think will be of great benefit. Sufficient time has not yet elapsed to enable us to know whether or not it will be a success. We have a long road ahead of us and we must travel it in company with the States. We must solve the housing problem. We must determine whose - responsibility it is and what will be the most effective means of overcoming it to the benefit of the Australian people, the Australian nation and the building industry. I do not intend to support the amendment at this time. However, I am sure that each section of the amendment regarded in isolation has some merit, and that the Government will take them into account.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). The announcement by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) that an additional $15 million is to be made available to the States for housing purposes will be welcomed by all engaged in the building industry. Housing is one of the prime needs of man. The owning of a home has been shown to bring a high level of responsibility to those who purchase one.
The initial outlay in purchasing a home has always presented a difficulty to the average wage earner. In pre-war days, the answer was found in the availability of moneys for loans secured by first mortgages on properties and made at reasonable rates of interest. My remarks tonight will be confined more or less to that point. Since the war, however, there has been a disturbing fluctuation in the supply of such funds. This fluctuation has been due mainly to the stop and go financial policies of this Government. It is true to say that the vast financial demands made by industry and commerce on the expanding Australian economy have increased to an extraordinary extent the interest rates on loan moneys. It is also true to day that the business and commercial sectors of our community can afford to pay a flat rate of interest of 8 per cent, or even 10 per cent, per annum. Investment houses, with such lucrative returns available on loan money, have to a great extent closed their doors to those seeking finance for home building. As a consequence, the volume of money available for housing finance on mortgage security has dwindled. Such finance has been taken out of the reach of the basic wage earner and the average wage earner, who cannot afford to pay more than a flat rate of 6 per cent, interest - and even the 6 per cent, fiat rate is far too much for their pay envelopes to cope with.
The Vernon Committee’s report has described this state of affairs very clearly. The high cost of land and the high cost of building a home, together with inescapable high interest rates, are preventing thousands of people whose dearest wish is to own a home from ever realising their ambition. A colossal amount of finance has gone into the avenues of hire purchase, trade, office and flat building and commerce. My colleague the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) explained to me a few moments ago how firms such as insurance companies are more prepared to invest in undertakings such as the H. G. Palmer undertaking than to invest in the field of housing, although the latter form of investment would be better for the community in general. I am informed that finance for this branch of the business sector exceeds by far the finance made available for bousing by what is regarded as the greatest source of funds for home finance - the Commonwealth and State savings banks of Australia.
The tendency has been and still is to direct finance to fields other than housing. The result, as I have said before, is that countless people cannot proceed to plan and build homes because of the non-availability of finance. Many others are paying interest at rates far above the economic capacity of their pay envelopes, but, in order to obtain a roof over their heads, they are compelled to do this. This state of affairs has introduced into the financial sources of the home building industry an unsatisfactory force that is good for neither the home seeker nor the nation in general. In fact, the high flat rates of interest charged by investment houses are usury of the most vicious kind. Its victims, the low wage earners and average wage earners have no escape.
An example of this legalised robbery is to be seen in the calculations which I now submit. It is estimated that the amount of interest paid on a loan of £4,000 repayable over 12 years at 6 per cent, simple interest on a sliding scale, with equal weekly repayments over 12 years, would be £1,440. The amount of interest paid on a loan of £4,000 over 12 years at 6 per cent, simple interest, on annua] rent with equal weekly repayments over 12 years, would be £1,620. The amount of interest paid on a loan of £4,000 over 12 years at 6 per cent, flat rate, with equal weekly instalments to discharge the loan,- would be £2,880. These figures show the difference between the interest which was charged in pre-war days and the interest which is charged today.
The dangers to the ordinary working man in home purchase arise from deposit gap second mortgages. The amount secured on the average second mortgage is from £800 to £1,000, and the interest rate is, on an average, 8 per cent, flat, rising to 12 per cent. flat. This represents 16 per cent, true and up to 24 per cent. true. The repayments are spread over periods of eight to 10 years. Whilst repayment on a first mortgage is usually about £5 a week for a £3,500 loan, the repayment on the second mortgage is between £4 and £5 a week. It is the combination of these two payments which causes difficulty to the working man home purchaser. Obviously the answer is for first mortgage loans to be increased to £4,500 or £5,000 to cut out the deposit gap, and to keep the repayments at probably £6 a week, all-in, on the increased first mortgage loan. This would be fair to the working man. He would be able to buy a home costing, say, £5,500 or £6,000, paying a deposit of £1,000 and having a first mortgage loan of £4,500 or £5,000 with repayments at £6 a week and a true interest rate of 5i per cent. I consider that that is within the capacity of the country to bear. Financial arrangements of this nature would put some value back into the pay envelope of the worker and, incidentally, would benefit the community in general.
My greatest concern is that the investment houses will take advantage of the additional finance which the Government is supplying by increasing the prices of houses and land. This is what happened after the Government introduced its £250 home savings grant scheme. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) who said -
The construction of houses in Australia is lagging because the people who most need homes are not in the economic position to fulfil that need.
The Government’s policy in connection with housing matters has been, and still is, one of all care and no responsibility. In spite of repeated appeals by myself and other members of the Opposition for an investigation into the interest rates being charged by certain sections of the com munity on housing loans, the Government has repeatedly refused to do anything. It has repeatedly refused to have a national inquiry into all aspects of the home building industry in Australia. It adopts this attitude in spite of the fact that the price of land in the outer suburbs of Melbourne has jumped by over 12 per cent, in recent months. It would be interesting to know just what has been the increase in the price of land situated in suburbs within a radius of six miles from the Melbourne General Post Office.
The action of the Government in making available an extra $15 million for housing indicates its alarm at the downward trend in the home building industry and the effect this is having on the economy of the country. It can be assumed, therefore, that the extra money being made available for home building will tend only to recover some of the drift or, in other words, save the industry from complete breakdown. The remarks contained in the report of the Housing Commission of Victoria issued in January 1966 concerning aged people are most revealing. That report states -
The care of Elderly Persons in communities has become a world-wide problem, because of two major factors:
The population explosion.
The increased life expectancy of a man and woman today.
In Victoria at the beginning of 1966, an elderly applicant for accommodation might well have to wait several years before becoming installed in a flat or unit.
The waiting list today includes 3,620 lone persons and 403 couples.
The Victorian Minister for Housing goes on to state -
We need (20 million in the next two years to house those at present on the waiting list.
Only then will we be in a position to deal with the future.
As I have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that is the report by the Victorian Minister for Housing. But this report concerns only the aged. From it can be gained a general impression of the housing situation in Australia. The picture is not one of great assurance.
Insofar as the housing situation is concerned, it gives one less hope for any improvement while there are still nearly 11,000 people on the waiting list of the Victorian Housing Commission. Another feature of the housing situation that is alarming is the annual residential mortgage demand for housing finance in Australia. It was estimated as far back as June 1963 that mortgage demands for housing finance were approximately £800 million per annum. Residential mortgage indebtedness was about $8,000 million per annum. This is an alarming state of affairs. It confirms the facts that I have stated previously and which I emphasise again. There is a need - a national need - for an investigation into all aspects of housing finance in Australia.
The greatest need, however, is to scrap flat interest rates and to return to sliding scale simple interest rates. By so doing the low wage earner would be given a chance to get a roof over his head. The matter of housing shortages has persisted for many years in this country and restrictions on finance from time to time do not help matters. In order to emphasise this point I ask honorable members to listen to some of the newspaper headings that I have here. In 1956 the situation was indicated by the heading - “ Housing rackets are rife.” I heard the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) suggest a few moments ago that we should start to get down to a plan with regard to housing. He says that now is the time to talk about all these things. But when will the time come for the Government to accept its responsibility? Another newspaper headline in 1956 was “Families in single rooms “. The accompanying article stated, in part -
Families of children are growing up in single rooms under conditions which in every other country in the world would have meant juvenile delinquency and crime. . . .
A newspaper headline in 1957 was “ Tight rein to be kept on money for housing.” The article quoted the statement made by the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, as he then was -
It was not sufficient to relax bank credit for housing, he said. It must be established that the additional money would not drive up the price of materials and the wages of building employees.
The limitations on housing were in the supplies of manpower and materials. More money would not increase the number of carpenters or tilers.
In 1958, Sir Douglas Copland said that Australia should plan to build immediately 75,000 houses a year, rising to 80,000 within five years. He was reported as saying -
But the Government has never had a plan for housing. It has not a plan now. So the situation will continue. A headline in 1959 read “ 15,568 wait for commission houses “. The accompanying article stated that 15,568 people were waiting for Housing Commission homes in Victoria and that some had been waiting for four years. In 1960, a letter to a newspaper was headed “ Housing shortage real “. Another newspaper in the same year carried the headline “ New housing in Victoria still falling behind demand “. The article said in part -
The report says that the Department of National Development had tried to measure the housing demand and, with some reservations, had predicted that the backlag was within sight of being overcome.
This has led to some statements warning the building industry against gearing its production to a demand that might not be sustained.
However, the report adds, any suggestion that there should be a slowing-down of house production on the basis of the backlag having been nearly met was premature.
A headline in 1961 was “Cost of houses won’t fall, say builders. Claim wrong.” The article stated that many builders were going broke due to the financial policy of the Government.
– They did go broke.
– Yes. I come to 1965 where under the headline “Tax-free return on housing loans proposed “ a newspaper reported that a Mr. Leighton had said -
The Government should concentrate on providing housing finance instead of guaranteeing finance. . . .
This could easily be achieved by adopting the very effective British system based on the principle of tax-free interest on money invested in housing loans.
The investor earns a satisfactory return as s result of the tax advantage. The house buyer can then get finance to the extent of 80 or 90 per cent of the house price at less than 6 per cent.
In Australia, despite election promises, house buyers have not been provided with a clear and adequate means of financing houses.
I come to 1966 where I find an article concerning the high prices charged by way of rent for slums. The article states -
Ten guineas a week for three rooms in a slum; a kitchen floor of bare, chipped bricks; cracked windows held together by bandages. . . . lt does not finish here. Another article written this year has the headline -
The low-income home seeker is getting a raw deal . . .
This article reads -
New houses stand shoulder-to-shoulder in what a few years ago were the placid prairies of Broadmeadows, the rolling hills of Doncaster and Templestowe.
It is all part of a gigantic . race for homeownership.
But what about the casualties? What about the thousands of couples, often with young families, who are victims of a new term in our language(he deposit gap?
There is, for many people, a widening gulf between their cash resources (plus what .they can borrow on a first mortgage) and the cost of building or buying.
Researchers say land prices have risen by 360 per cent, in the Melbourne metropolitan area since 1952, and that the cost of average-priced homes has gone up by 84 per cent, in the same period.
Restricted housing finance has had the tendency also to cause industries allied to the building industry to become cautious. When this state of affairs becomes evident, it soon spreads throughout the trade in general. Unfortunately, Government policy is based on housing requirements and not on housing needs. Indeed, it has been proved that homes purchased on a deposit of £50 is not the answer. The reason for this is simple. The lower the deposit, the higher the weekly repayments.
An indication of the desperate position of the low wage earner can be gained from the fact that prices have risen from 1939 to 1965 from 7 times to 40 times their original figure whereas the basic wage has only increased by a little over three and a half times in that period. Between June 1964 and June 1965, the consumer price index for all components rose from 125.7 points to 1 30-4 points. This represented an increase of 4.7 points. In contrast, the food component rose from 126 points to 133 points, or an increase of 7 points. The housing component of the index rose from 159.6 points to 165 points, or an increase of 5.4 points. In the miscellaneous group, a rise of 6.2 points was recorded when that group rose from 129.9 to 136.1 points.
These figures confirm the contention of the trade union movement that the family depending entirely on the average weekly wage of $54.60, or £27 6s., merely exists.’ It shows something else also. This is that the average weekly wage does not suffice. A man must work overtime or a wife mustgo to work. The latter event often means that the children may have to be neglected. In fact, it is interesting to note a survey that was carried out by the United StatesLabour Department. This survey found that one in every 20 workers in the United States of America finds it necessary to work at two jobs to make a living wage. The survey reported that 3.7 million Americans, mostly married men, work an average of 13 hours a week at a second job. I wonder what a survey of that type! would reveal in Australia.
The value of property has increased from approximately £550 for a three bedroom brick cottage in 1939, to £1,000 in 1948, and to £6,000 in 1965. For this type of cottage, rates have risen fromapproximately £5 in 1939 to approximately £40 in 1965. In 1947, a married man with two children on £6 a week - the then basic wage plus 11 per cent - paid no income tax. Today, a married man with two children on £17 10s. - the current basic wage plus 11 per cent. - pays 15s. 9d. a week in income tax. These figures clearly show that housing costs today are out of the reach of the multitude of low wage earners. The system of indirect taxation has done practically nothing to help in this regard either. Surely therefore it is becoming increasingly obvious that although the Government gives the home building industry injections by providing additional finance from time to time, this help is not finding it’s way into the hands of those who need it most.
I have said before, and I say again, that plenty of money has always been available for housing if a person can afford to buy a house, but unfortunately the man on the basic wage cannot afford to do so. Home ownership must be encouraged on a more liberal scale than is possible under the existing finance schemes. Indeed, it is estimated that only about 25 per cent, of
Australian home buyers can obtain housing finance at interest rates of 5i per cent, or less. The other 75 per cent, pay interest rates well above that figure. Repayments amount for many to more than 40 per cent, of their weekly income. It is necessary therefore to end the disparity between those who can afford to pay the high interest rates and those who cannot. Although the Government claims that Australia has a high ratio of persons who either own or are buying their homes, because of the disorder and inequity in the home finance field many people pay much more for their homes than they should. The system is creating hardship. Indeed, it would be true to say that 75 per cent, of people buying homes have made themselves slaves fo the financial institutions for the rest of their lives the minute they sign their housing contract. The time has long since passed for a national inquiry into housing finance. The need for such an inquiry becomes more urgent every day.
.- I am a little surprised as I thought there would have been another speaker from the Government side. When this House is debating housing problems honorable members opposite do not seem to be interested.
– They have all got two homes.
– Yes, the majority of them probably do have two homes. Again Government supporters are absent when the Parliament is discussing this national problem which is so close to the hearts of a great many people in Australia. I should like to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). In moving it the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is attempting to bring before the Government the housing problems that confront Australia at present.
In October last year, when the Parliament was discussing the Estimates, the Opposition moved ah amendment to reduce the proposed expenditure for the Department of Housing by £1 as a mark of concern over the Government’s failure to ensure an adequate flow of finance for housing. Since the Opposition moved that amendment there has in fact been a serious decline in the building of houses in Australia. In October last year the former Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor), said that Federal Cabinet was considering measures to overcome the shortage of finance for housing loans. Yet we find that since that statement was made home building has declined. I believe that honorable members should be greatly interested in this problem because it is so near to the hearts of the majority of people in Australia.
In supporting the amendment I should like to speak on two aspects of the home building industry. The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), when speaking about some aspects of the amendment that has been moved, referred to town planning and land development. He said he did not think that the National Parliament should take any interest in this matter as it was not something in which the Commonwealth Government should be concerned; it was something that should be dealt with by State Governments. As the honorable member was previously a land developer he knows a fair amount about land development. He realises that if the Government were to take over the responsibility of land development he and his friends would not make the enormous profits that they are making today. That is mainly why they are concerned. The main purpose of the Opposition is to get the Commonwealth Government to take an interest in these matters. Honorable members on this side really desire the Commonwealth Government to make grants towards town planning schemes. Everybody today knows that most local government bodies are crying out that they have insufficient funds to carry out their development plans. All over Australia at present local governments are crying out for more finance, but the Commonwealth Government is not doing anything to help. It will not even assist them by ceasing to impose pay roll tax on them. It is in ways such as that that the Government could do a great deal to help.
I now refer to houses for pensioners. When a Labour government was last in office here specific provision was made in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for money to be made available by the Commonwealth to build homes for pensioners. In 1956 the Liberal-Country Party Government withdrew that provision from the Agreement with the result that the States themselves now have to find the money to build homes for aged persons in the community. Under our social services legislation it should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to look after our senior citizens. It should make sure that homes are available in which they can live. If pensioners could buy homes on reasonable weekly repayments they would be able to maintain a great deal higher standard of living than they can at present on the meagre pension they receive from the Government. We should always strive to look after the people who helped build Australia and make it what it is today.
Reference has been made to slum clearance. It is costing the Government of New South Wales £50,000 an acre for slum clearance projects in the City of Sydney. The State Government has spent more than £5 million in redeveloping and clearing slums and building new homes. It has had to find this money itself as it has received no help from the Commonwealth Government. I understand the same situation applies right throughout the Commonwealth. No State has received any money from the Commonwealth Government for work in this field. The Labour Party believes that the Commonwealth Government, which controls the purse strings, should make money available to the States for slum clearance. Money spent on slum clearance projects virtually goes down the drain as State governments do not attempt to add the cost of clearance on to the rentals of the new homes. A certain amount has to be spent on slum clearance and redevelopment. I believe, therefore, that the Commonwealth Government should take a greater interest in this matter and grant money to the States for this purpose.
I wish to comment now on rental rebates. All honorable members know the high costs of rents. Young people who marry today and want to rent a flat have to pay in the vicinity of 8, 10, 12 and 15 guineas a week. In many instances both husband and wife have to go to work. The wife’s wages are largely swallowed in paying an exorbitant rent. The Labour Party believes that some assistance ought to be given to these people to enable them to save enough money to put a deposit on a home. This assistance could be given by a system of rental rebates. Many people in the low income bracket cannot afford to pay these high rents. They must be helped, and it is only the Commonwealth Government that- can help them. Here again this Government is making no attempt to assist these people. By this amendment the Opposition is trying to wake the Government up, so that it will take more interest in home construction and see that people are able to get a decent home in which to live.
The Bill before the House authorises the States to raise approximately $15 million in loan funds. The money will be used in an attempt to stimulate the home building industry which, as I have said, has shown a serious decline over the past six months. The Government has been conscious of this serious trend because, prior to Christmas, it became alarmed and induced the banks to release approximately $24 million to people who wanted to build homes. However, despite the vast amount of money that has been made available, the decline has continued. The Government has not been able to stabilise the industry. Statistics confirm that there has been a serious decline in recent months. The industry has become like lack and Jill; it is just tumbling down and it will go further down. The Government has now introduced this Bill to try to curtail the trend that has shown itself in the building industry. The Housing Commissions and the building societies probably will be able to build a few more homes or lend a few more pounds for home construction, but the key to the problem is to be found in the fact that, although some money has been made available through the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks, not enough money has been released. As a result, homes have not been built.
I believe that we must go further into the problem. We must find the reasons for the decline in the building industry. The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), in his speech to the House on Wednesday, 16th March, announced that the Government would make the money available through the State Governments. He maintained that in this way the best effect would be achieved. He went on to say that he was taking advice from many people and organisations connected with the industry. It seems to me that he could not have been taking much notice of these people, because most people connected with the building industry, whether they be builders, unions, finance companies or banks, seem to be unanimous that the main fault is that people cannot borrow money at reasonable rates of interest. The rates of interest put the weekly instalments beyond the capacity of most people to pay. The payments become a burden on people who borrow for home construction and this affects their lives. Because of the high weekly instalments they pay they must miss out on some of the necessities of life. This is the position we find under the administration of this Government.
– Tell us about rent control.
– Honorable members opposite should concern themselves to see that the Housing Commissions build homes in rural areas. They interject during debates in the House but they will not get up and speak for the people they represent. Honorable members opposite have supported the Government that has been in power since 1949, but we do not hear them speaking in this House in an effort to get something for people in country areas. They do not have a voice. They are like little puppets. When the strings are pulled, their hands go up to record a vote. That is the type of people we have here representing rural areas. They are hopeless.
The decline in home construction is causing considerable concern for the building industry and for many other industries that depend on the building industry for their existence. But is the Government concerned? More than 100 industries depend on the building industry and many people, who are employed in these industries, will be affected if there is a slump in home construction. If something is not done to improve the situation, we will in the near future have considerable unemployment and many people will be receiving the unemployment benefit from the Government. This is one reason why the Government should act now. The Government has refused to conduct a survey. It has done nothing to find out what is wrong with the building industry or why homes are not being built. This is left to private enterprise. People who have some dealing with a part of the industry are very much concerned and have conducted surveys. A survey was conducted by the Housing Industry Research Committee in Victoria. Its survey showed that the low cost home buyers are being outed. They are being outed for the simple reason that they cannot borrow money at reasonable rates of interest. The Government should be able to obtain information about the situation just as people in the industry can, but it is doing nothing. If people in the industry can conduct a survey, so can the Government. It should go into the facts and discover the reason for the decline in home construction. It should be able to ascertain whether the decline has been caused by high costs, high interest rates or the high cost of land.
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) said this afternoon that planners had forced up the price of land. But many sections, of the community are not affected by town planners and we still do not see any cheap land for sale, in the Blue Mountains, the South Coast, the western districts or anywhere else. No matter where we go today, we cannot find any cheap land, whether the town planners have played a part or not. It is of no use for honorable members to say in the House that the activity of town planners is causing the price of land to rise. This is a ridiculous assertion. We know that Sydney is expanding and naturally people who are looking for land must go to outlying areas. They cannot purchase land near the city because of the high cost. If they buy an old house near the city, the cost of pulling it down would be high. The land would then need to be redeveloped. The only people engaged in this activity now are big developers who buy some of the slum dwellings, pull them down after paying people to get out, and then build home units. But even these people must borrow the money they need for redevelopment at an interest rate of 12 per cent. The developers do not pay this amount; they pass it on to the person who buys the home. This is one of the results of the exorbitant interest rates that are being charged.
The Government should do something to reduce interest rates. It should take much more interest in this problem and make more money available, perhaps through the Commonwealth Bank, at reasonable rates of interest. Why cannot the Government make money available to young people at the rate of interest that is charged by the War Service Homes Division? Many of the people seeking a home today were too young to serve in the last war. They were only boys then, and naturally they could not go to war. But they have grown up to be men and they are now trying to build homes for their families. Many of them are now about 25 years of age. They must pay exorbitant interest rates on the money they borrow. Their fathers may have been in the Services and may have fought in the war. Why cannot we give help to these young people today? The Government should make money available to them at 31 per cent., which is the interest rate charged by the War Service Homes Division’. We should be concerned about the youth of our country. But the only time the Government seems to take an interest in our youth is when it is conscripting them to fight overseas. Probably those youths who fight overseas will be eligible for a loan through the War Service Homes Division. The youths of today must care for the coming generation; they will go on paying their rates and taxes for many years to come, and they deserve to be helped now. If the Commonwealth Government is sincere, it will establish a corporation through the Commonwealth Bank to lend money to these people at reasonable rates of interest. But the Government does not want to do this because if it did it would be working in opposition to the big financiers and others who support it. lt would then find at election time that money would not be made available to it by these people. This is why the Commonwealth B.ink is not encouraged to be more active in the housing field and try to help more people to build homes.
The Commonwealth Bank lends money to its employees at an interest rate of 2 per cent, for the purpose of home construction. The money that is advanced to these employees virtually belongs to the taxpayers. After all, we all have a share in the Commonwealth Bank. It is a Government instrumentality and we are all shareholders in it. If the Bank can advance money to its employees at this rate of interest, why can it not do so for the rest of the community? The Commonwealth Bank must be making some money from the 2 per cent, that it charges its employees. Probably it is charging about 1 per cent, for the book work involved and the other 1 per cent, represents a small cop on the side. If the Commonwealth Bank can provide money at that rate to its employees, why can it not also provide it for the rest of the community? This is why I say that the Government must take a great deal more interest in the housing problem and at least assist people to build their homes.
We know that because of its concern the Government has attempted to persuade the banks to invest more money in home construction, but what has it done about the insurance companies? The insurance companies today are investing a great amount of money to build big blocks of offices. In Sydney at the present time there is considerable redevelopment and the vast majority of the money for this work is coming from the insurance companies. Some buildings in Sydney have been completed for 18 months or two years but the offices they contain have never been occupied because the owners cannot get tenants. This shows that more offices are not needed in the city. Why cannot the Government do something about getting the insurance companies to advance more funds for home construction. Instead of putting money into the building of big blocks of offices they could provide more money for people who need it by making available to them loans for home construction. But again we find that the Government is not concerned to do anything about this.
Honorable members are aware that over the past few years there has been a big boom in the construction of home units. But many of these home units are vacant. Why are they vacant? It is because people just cannot afford to purchase them. Many of the home units range in price from $8,000, which is about the minimum price, to about $14,000. Units at the lower price would assist the majority of the people in the community, but many are vacant because some people just cannot afford to raise a deposit to buy them, and others cannot afford the .weekly repayments because, in addition to those amounts, they have to find at least $3 or $4 each week to pay rates, taxes and maintenance. This is why the majority of the big home units at the present time are empty.
Let me cite the case of a big developer operating in Sydney at the present time. This gentleman advertises home units for sale. A young couple whom I know went to see him and found that he wanted about $1,600 as a deposit with weekly repayments of $16 plus S3 each week for rates and repairs. The repayments were to be made over a period of 25 years. However, he would not sell the home unit to this young couple because the husband was in receipt of a wage less than £27 per week. The developer maintained that the husband had to receive at least £27 each week to be able to afford the weekly repayments. Although the wife was working, he was not prepared to combine both incomes to achieve the £27 per week. The result was that the young couple could not purchase the home unit. This is the sort of thing that home developers are doing. In this instance the husband had to receive an income of £27 per week. How many people in the community receive £27 per Week? Certainly not those in the low income bracket. The result is that many young people cannot purchase a home. I should like to refer to the statement made earlier this year by the Chairman of the New South Wales division of the Australian Finance Conference, Mr. E. J. Upton, who spoke about housing finance. He said -
Home seekers who insist on having only the house of their heart’s desire, cost what it will, may still be able to get it in 1966 - only they will have to pay 121 per cent, interest.
This was the head of the Finance Conference telling the people of New South Wales that if they wanted to borrow money this year for the building of homes they would have to pay about 12) per cent, interest. This is the sort of thing that is going on in the community. How can young people today afford to borrow money at that rate of interest. This is why the Housing Commission lists are growing every day. In New South Wales 38,000 people are waiting for a Housing Commission home. In addition, Australia is getting more than 200,000 migrants each year. This further increases the housing shortage.
– Almost 70,000 people are waiting for Housing Commission homes.
– Yes. I know also that 6,000 pensioners are waiting and that the highest priority for pensioners in New South Wales is for those aged 80 years or more. It is a nice state of affairs in a country like Australia which, according to the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), is such a prosperous nation, when people aged 80 years are waiting for a home.
– They will be waiting that long to get one.
– Possibly they will be waiting a great deal longer. The Housing Industry Association of New South Wales, which is the largest national organisation representing housing and allied industries in Australia, has circularised a great many honorable members pointing out in reference to home construction that building permits for new home construction in New South Wales are down by more than 20 per cent, over the past six months as compared with the same period for 1965. Are we going to be concerned about that? The Association said further that thousands of home seekers, including migrants, have tentatively agreed to purchase cottages or home units but are unable to complete the transaction owing to a shortage of suitable finance. This statement, again, is by a body connected with the industry. Everybody who is connected in some way with the building industry knows that people cannot afford to borrow. We must do something about this.
Last week the Press revealed that this year we have had the lowest building figure for February since 1963. Statistical information shows that in New South Wales the number of new houses and flats approved dropped from 3,916 in August 1965 to 2,285 in January this year. Those figures show a serious decline and we should attempt to do something about the situation. It is the responsibility of the National Government, which controls the purse strings, to make the finance available to enable people to build. Other nations, such as Sweden, America, France, England, Germany and a great many others had housing problems, especially after the war, and it was the national government in each case which made the money available so that homes could be constructed. If the Australian Government does not do something about the situation in the near future I am sure that there will be a great deal of unemployment in the building industry and that a great many people will have no chance whatever of obtaining homes within the next 5 or 6 years. We will have this situation in Australia and it will become worse. The
Government will have to begin pulling up its socks because if it does not do so there will be a big reaction in the near future and people will begin to wake up. I am sure that when the Labour Party puts its housing platform and policy before the people of Australia at the next general election and they understand it and realise that we will use the Commonwealth Bank to assist young people with loans at reasonable rates of interest and moderate repayments to build homes, we will have a very happy community.
.- The Bill which we are debating is a very simple one dealing with a very important facet of Australian national life. By this measure it is proposed to make available to State Housing authorities $15 million to be spent to improve the housing position in Australia. This, pf course, is in addition to the $102 million allocated under the Agreement for the financial year 1965-66. So the introduction of this measure amounts to an admission by the Government of the claims that have been made for a long time by members of the Australian Labour Party who have suggested that the housing position in Australia is deteriorating. I know that the new Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) is aware of this and that she has made some quite stinging statements that no doubt huw; stung the Government into action. The new Minister, being aware of the difficulties of young people in obtaining homes, has made the point that the home is one of the most important aspects of life in the community and that’ everything possible should be done to help solve the problems with which the Australian people are confronted in obtaining homes. I am happy to say that the Government has at last decided to make this additional sum available to the States. This is in addition also to the injection of $24 million into the economy for housing which was provided through bank loans early in the year. By the actions that it has taken, the Government has at long last admitted the claims made on these matters by members of the Australian Labour Party. I may say that when Opposition speakers make these charges we hear nothing but denials by Government supporters. But I am too big a man to quibble about who makes charges and who denies them. The fact is that the need for additional funds for housing has now been admitted by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for Housing.
The amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), if its terms were put into effect, would greatly improve the operation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Since a new Agreement is to operate from 1st July for five years, I would like to see the amendment agreed to and its terms embodied in the new Agreement. We have been told, reliably, I am afraid - I would hope not, but I am afraid that we have been correctly informed - that there is to be no variation in the new Agreement and that it will be merely a continuation of the one that has been operating for the last five years. I hoped that the new Minister for Housing would inject her personality into the new Agreement, but I am led to believe by Press reports that this has not happened. I must admit that Press reports about events in the Government’s ranks are usually reliable. The leakages of information to the Press from the Government caucus rooms are pretty reliable. So I take it that we may accept as correct Press reports about the provisions of the new Housing Agreement.
I want’ to mention some of the statements about the housing situation that have appeared from time to time in the Brisbane newspapers. I am concerned primarily with housing in the Brisbane metropolitan area. First, I should like to quote some statistics relating to building in Queensland, particularly in its capital city, Brisbane. These have been published in a statistical bulletin issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. The most recent figures available are those for the month of January. They show that there has been an alarming decline in the number of approvals for home construction in January 1966 compared to January 1965. The number of houses approved for construction in the Brisbane metropolitan area in January 1965 totalled 298, having a value of $2,392,250. There was a decline to 252 with a total value of $2,202,038 in January 1966. In view of the growth in the population of the city, one would expect an increase in the number of houses built even if no attempt were being made to make up the backlog that has developed over the years during which the present Commonwealth Government and the Menzies Government have been in office. But the figures show that we are slipping steadily further behind. This is an alarming situation for Brisbane. The blame for it falls largely on the government which authorises the grants made to the State housing authorities - in this instance, the Queensland Housing Commission - and which controls banking policy in Australia. That government, of course, is the present Commonwealth Government, which is led by Mr. Harold Holt.
Let me quote a few more figures from this illuminating publication of the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Referring to Queensland it states -
During January 1966, 939 dwelling units were approved for construction in Queensland. A relatively low level of proposed dwelling construction is characteristic of the month of January and this total was 23 per cent, below that for December 1965, but it was 5 per cent, above the number approved during January 1965, and was the highest January total for 13 years.
Of the 939 dwellings approved in January of this year, 673 were houses, of which 626 were to be privately owned and 47 government owned, 29 of these being for the Queensland Housing Commission. This is an alarming state of affairs. Comparing the figures for January 1966 with those for January 1965, this publication of the Commonwealth Statistician goes on -
Although the number of houses approved was less than in the previous January, the total number of dwellings approved was up because of a large number of flats outside- the Metropolitan Area, particularly in Gold Coast
The flats being constructed on the Gold Coast, of course, are not being built for permanent residents of Queensland who are endeavouring to establish themselves in their own homes. Those flats are intended to provide luxury accommodation for visitors who will flock to the Gold Coast from the cold cities of southern Australia seeking the warm, inviting sunshine and the surf of that wonderful resort. I suppose that somebody will receive some consolation and no doubt a great deal of profit from the flats that are being constructed on the Gold Coast. I emphasise that those flats, though included in the total figures, are merely to provide luxury accommodation for visitors and not to provide much needed housing for permanent residents of the State.
The position in respect of costs is just as alarming, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The statistical bulletin states that the average estimated cost per house in Brisbane increased from $8,028 in January 1965 to $8,738 in January 1966 - a rise of $710. This represents a steep increase in the cost of homes over 12 months. So you can see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this extra $15 million which will be distributed between the six States will be absorbed, to a large extent, in the increased costs of home construction.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that at least 30 per cent, of the money made available to State Governments shall be placed at the disposal of building societies. Before this provision was included in the Agreement the money required by building societies was provided by insurance offices. The inclusion of this provision in the Agreement has enabled the insurance offices to reduce their contributions towards the provision of housing. They no longer make large sums available for home construction. Their money is used for building, certainly, but not for building homes. Palatial office blocks are being built by insurance companies in all our capital cities, my own city of Brisbane being no exception. There has been a building boom in the heart of Brisbane, where enormous office blocks are being built by insurance societies with money that should really be available for home construction.
I was amazed and alarmed to see in one of today’s newspapers a statement that the State Government Insurance Office, which is a Queensland Government instrumentality, has received approval for the construction of a $10 million office block in the heart of Brisbane, using money that I should think any Government concerned with the welfare of the people would certainly want to have diverted to home construction instead of being used to build a palatial block of offices which I understand will be rented to members of the general public. I should say that, having in mind the number of office blocks being built by insurance companies in Brisbane, there will eventually be an oversupply of office space in that city. The T. and G.
Mutual Life Assurance Society is proposing to demolish its near-skyscraper building in the heart of Brisbane and put up another one in its stead which will be of about 27 storeys. These facts lend colour to the statement made previously by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L, R. Johnson) that the money that is being used by insurance companies to construct these offices is money which under the old housing agreement would have been made available to building societies for home construction.
One of the difficulties faced by people in buying or building homes is the finding of a sufficient deposit. As a result of the increase in housing costs, about which I have already spoken, the deposit gap has become a real problem. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) told us, of course, how bank managers will come to the aid of people wishing to obtain homes. I must say that my experience has not been the same as that of the honorable member for Mitchell, and I believe that in this connection I am by no means unusual. I find that while bank managers do make money available they do so with some reluctance. A story is told of a young man who asked a bank manager for a loan in order to build a home. The bank manager told him how difficult it was to obtain money and that he did not think he would be able to give him the necessary advance. But he decided to give the young man a sporting chance and said: “ I have one glass eye and one natural eye, and if you can tell me which is the glass eye I will give you the advance.” The young man said: “ The glass eye is your right eye “. The manager asked: “ How did you know that? “ And the young man replied: “ Your right eye has the kindlier expression.” It is a fact, in any case, that it is very difficult to get past a bank manager.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House a statement made by a Minister in the Queensland State Government. He is a very good Liberal who really expresses the policy of the Liberal Party. He is Liberal-minded through and through. I refer to the Minister for Transport, Mr. Knox, who sees great virtue in the difficulty of obtaining finance for home construction. In a recent issue of the “ Courier-Mail “ an article appeared under the heading “ Don’t Growl Over Housing Finance “. The article commenced -
People should not growl if finance for home building is sometimes difficult to find - it is a good sign, according to the Transport Minister (Mr. Knox).
I have no fight with Mr. Knox but I hope that the citizens of Queensland will remember that the Liberal Party believes it is a very good sign when finance for home construction is difficult to obtain.
I mentioned a few minutes ago that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that at least 30 per cent, of the money allocated to State Governments for housing be earmarked for building societies. Queensland will receive $1.8 million of the $15 million extra to be provided for the six States, and the Queensland Government is going to earmark not 30 per cent, of this for building societies but 40 per cent. I understand that this Government bad in mind that increased assistance would be given to those in the lower income brackets who wanted to obtain a home, but it seems that the Queensland Government has let the Commonwealth Government down because it will assist the building societies to an even greater extent than was envisaged. This suggests that the Queensland Government is incapable itself of absorbing the money that the Commonwealth Government is to make available.
We see many different statements made about housing. Various Ministers seem to want to cover up - to duck the question, as it were. For some time past denials have been issued of the charges made by members of my party but, as I have said, the introduction of this measure represents an admission of the charges. Knowing the difficulties that people face in the field of housing, and about which they have frequently told me, I was amazed to read in one of the newspapers a report of a statement made in Adelaide a week ago by the Governor of the Reserve Bank. This is the item that appeared in the newspaper -
The Governor of the Reserve Bank (Dr. H. C. Coombs) suggested ia Adelaide yesterday Australia would have more money than it needed for housing in the next few months.
If that is factual, then the millennium has arrived. I have always had a great deal of respect for statements made by the Governor of the Reserve Bank. I hope that his statement is true, but I am cynical. I am sure that the statement cannot be relied upon, but I will be happy to be proved wrong. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to admit my error in this respect, but, like Mr. Asquith, I shall wait and see.
Included in the terms of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) are some features which he would like to see incorporated in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. One such feature is town planning. Another is land development. I am compelled to cross swords with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns), who made certain grave charges about town planning which were detrimental to the City of Brisbane. He did the Brisbane City Council a grave injustice when he referred to the proposal to build in the heart of the city a square which he claimed would cost millions of dollars and would deprive citizens in the outer areas of urgently needed services, such as sewerage, water, roads and parks. The honorable member knows that this is not true. He knows as well as I do the circumstances surrounding the building of the city square. First, an arrangement has been entered into for the Reserve Bank to acquire the land which the Council wants for the square. Agreement has been reached as to the purchase price of the land. I understand that it is a substantial price. The Council is very happy with the proposal. A parking station will be built under the square. This will be paid for out of moneys received from parking meters. It is estimated that the maximum cost of the project to the City of Brisbane will be about $60,000. All thanks are due for this project to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane - a hard headed businessman who is acting in the interests of the City of Brisbane and its citizens to obtain this much desired improvement to the heart of the city. To describe the proposal as the honorable member for Lilley did or to sow in the minds of citizens the idea that they will be denied services they urgently need is not worthy of even a member of the Liberal Party, and that is really saying something.
The Commonwealth Government has grand opportunities to play its part in slum clearance and generally to improve the standard of housing. Although I do not say that slum clearance is of major importance in the City of Brisbane, where the standard of housing is pretty high and where the percentage of privately owned homes to the total number of houses is the highest of all States, there is a need for forward planning in relation to housing in the city. Some time ago the Queensland Government and the City Council appointed a committee to survey future transport needs in Brisbane. A scheme known as the Wilbur Smith scheme for the future planning of the city and the handling of traffic problems has been submitted. It is estimated that to implement the scheme will cost $400 million. In its early stages, implementation of the scheme will entail the demolition of a large number of houses. The construction of houses for the people who are displaced because their houses have been resumed under the scheme will create a problem for the City of Brisbane. I know that compensation will be paid to persons so displaced, but new homes must be found for them. This will place an added strain on the building industry and it may be difficult to finance the construction of those homes. The only authority which seems to have money available for housing schemes is the Commonwealth. The City Council and the Queensland Government are at present considering putting the scheme into operation, but the hand of the Commonwealth will have to be seen before the scheme can be implemented. I speak in this strain merely in relation to the construction of houses to accommodate people whose houses will be resumed under the scheme.
I hope that the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be carried. It is a far sighted amendment. It is statesmanlike. The ideas embodied in the amendment will be of advantage to the nation. The Parliament will do nothing detrimental to Australia by agreeing to our proposal. Housing constitutes the greatest problem facing Australia today. Many people are not affected by the housing problem because they already have a home, but all young people entering into holy matrimony are faced with this problem. Housing costs are rising rapidly. Inflation has gripped the industry. Young people have great difficulty in obtaining finance even to commence to build a home. The problem of the deposit gap is enormous and is increasing. The banks say that they are helping in housing, but they are doing so reluctantly. There is not much generosity to be had from the banks. They seem to limit their advances and those advances are too low. Young people are desperate. They are being forced to live in flats at high rentals because they cannot obtain the assistance necessary to commence construction of a home, which is the greatest thing they can do in their lifetimes. Building a home is something a man docs perhaps once in a lifetime. Having built his home he stays in it, because it is such a major undertaking. The Government has a great responsibility as far as young Australians commencing married life and wanting to build a home are concerned. There is some generosity in the Bill but it does not go far enough. T hope that soon the Government will realise that it has an even greater responsibility to the young people of Australia than it has so far admitted.
Mr. JAMES (Hunter) fi 0.9]. - T am happy to contribute to the debate on behalf of the Australian Labour Parly. The Parliament is debating a Bill to provide $ I 5 million to the States for home building. 1 support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) which, in part, reads - . . the House :s of opinion that the existing Housing Agreement has not fully met the housing requirements of the Australian people and that before a new Agreement (to which part of the money to be provided by this Bill may be applied) is entered into, an all-Party Committee should be appointed to investigate all its aspects with particular regard to -
During the next few moments I intend to make submissions on each of these itemised subjects. It is true, as was said by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), that one of Australia’s greatest social problems is the lack of housing. He said that every person who contemplates matrimony hopes to own his own home. The honorable member is well qualified to make such a statement. Probably doubts of obtaining a home for himself deterred him, in his early years, from becoming bethrothed. No doubt many have wooed him earlier in his life, and still do even now.
We are fully justified in moving this amendment and in suggesting that the $15 million will be a mere drop in the ocean in meeting Australia’s housing requirements. In answer to a question in this Parliament a responsible Minister stated that there are 62,586 applicants for homes in Australia today, excluding the number awaiting homes in South Australia. It is a shocking disgrace that so many people should be waiting for homes. Recently I secured from the Parliamentary Library a book titled “ Causes of Crime “. The writer referred to English conditions, which are similar to those applying in Australia. He instanced the lack of proper housing as one of the major causes of crime. I suggest that if an honorable member were to conduct a survey of the background of the inmates of our gaols and Borstal institutions he would find that slum housing is a major cause of crime in Australia. Of the 62,586 applicants for homes, 18.96 per cent, are on incomes of less than £12 a week; 13.14 per cent are on incomes of from £12 to £15 a week; 17.97 per cent, on incomes of £15 to £18 a week; 20.54 per cent, on incomes of £18 to £20 a week and 28.24 per cent, on incomes of £20 to £25 a week. How true it is in a capitalist society that when you are down you are down, and no-one wants to lift you up. This applies particularly to the Government, which is not meeting the housing needs of the nation and is not providing for the low income groups. Happy homes lead to happier lives, happier children and a better society.
In the report of the Victorian Housing Commission for the year 1964-65 the following appears -
This financial year is the last year ot the existing Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. It is essential that this Agreement be renewed, and should still provide for a concessional interest rate. Consideration should be given to the reinstatement to the Commission of the 30 per cent, of funds made available under the Agreement presently being diverted to co-operative housing societies. The societies have other sources of funds available,-
Of course they have - from insurance companies, for instance. The report continues - and every effort should be made to expand these sources. Likewise, the diversion of 5 per cent, of the available funds to housing for Defence Force personnel should be reviewed in the light of (he increasing demands of low income applicants.
Has this review been made? Of course not. The report continues -
A provision should be included to make a special contribution to the housing of elderly pensioners. Without some assistance the Commission will bc forced to reduce the rate of construction of these units that has currently been achieved.
The Agreement should provide for a contribution towards the acquisition and clearance of slum areas.
No doubt there are tragic cases arising from the lack of proper housing in your district. Mr. Speaker, just as there are in my electorate of Hunter. I should say there are tragic cases in all electorates. The Hunter electorate is probably not as badly situated as other electorates because in my electorate (here is a spirit of comradeship. People help each other in the proper spirit of Christian brotherhood. They help to relieve each other’s problems. This is traditional in coal mining areas, lt was present in the coal mining areas in Great Britain and it has been transposed to the coal mining areas of Australia, particularly in the Hunter electorate.
– lt is the same in the Kingsford-Smith electorate
– Yes, the same spirit exists to some extent in the electorate of Kingsford-Smith. There are tragic cases associated with the lack of housing for aged people. I recall a visit I made to the electorate represented by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), In Cairns, the local council has built a number of small “ Darby and Joan “ homes. This was a forward step by a local council. I think the average rent charged for these homes is 12s. 6d. or 15s. a week for pensioner couples and 1.0s. a week for single pensioners. That is a quite reasonable rental when one realises that the pension paid by this Government is a miserly £6 a week. I know that if the Government extended the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act to permit the payment of subsidies to local authorities, clubs, certain unions and other worthwhile organisations, such bodies in the Hunter electorate would see to it that sufficient small homes were erected to overcome the shortage of housing for aged people there. The extension of the subsidy payment to such organisations would have a twofold benefit. Elderly couples who have large homes in which they have reared their families and whose families, like fledglings, have left the nest and taken appropriate employment in other parts of Australia, would be induced, because of their inability to meet the cost of repairing and maintaining their large homes, to enter small Darby and Joan homes of the type I saw in Cairns, thus leaving their bigger homes available for young married couples who wanted to perform their duty to the nation by having families.
When the question of Vietnam was raised this afternoon, one honorable member on the Government side drew attention to the fact that the number of young people killed on the roads of Australia far exceeded the number of young Australians killed in Vietnam. I now come to a point which I pre.er to make while the proceedings of this House are not being broadcast. It relates to the number of pregnancies that are terminated in this country. If figures were available, they would shock the nation. One of the greatest contributing factors to the decline in the birth rate and the endangering of the lives of women by termination of pregnancy is lack of housing. I am in a position to know about this matter because of the intimate knowledge I gained in my previous calling. This country is hungry for population but population growth is being frustrated by the Government’s failure to meet the housing needs of our people.
– It is encouraging mulder.
– Lack of housing is not only encouraging murder but also is contributing to mental instability in those unfortunates who, much against their will, engage in the practice that I was reluctant to mention. I think these things should be mentioned in this Parliament. If the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) feels disposed to challenge what I have said, he can obtain some guidance from the public hospitals. I remember that on one occasion a doctor in the Newcastle district told me in confidence that one ward of a certain hospital was almost fully occupied by unfortunate females who were receiving medical treatment to help them overcome the after effects of terminating pregnancy. This is a very serious matter. I estimate that pregnancies are being terminated at the rate of about 3,000 a week throughout Australia, and I am firmly convinced that lack of housing is one of the main causes of this grievous and serious social problem.
I have already mentioned the report of the Housing Commission of Victoria. I should like now to quote from a report by the Director of Housing for Tasmania. I believe this is the most recent of these reports available to members of Parliament. Under the heading “Housing of Elderly Persons “ it states -
The construction of special housing units at subsidised rentals for the accommodation of aged persons is of necessity restricted by availability of capital funds and the annual amounts available from Consolidated Revenue to meet the difference between the economic rentals and the low subsidised rents charged tenants.
State housing authorities have made joint approaches to the Commonwealth Government on several occasions for a non-repayable grant towards the cost of constructing aged persons’ units on Similar lines to the assistance of £2 for £1 provided for under the Commonwealth Aged Persons’ Homes Act. Government housing authorities are excluded from the assistance available to private charitable or philanthropic organisations. It is hoped that the Commonwealth proposals in the forthcoming new Housing Agreement will make provision for Commonwealth assistance to the States for housing the elderly.
The 22 single person flatette units constructed during the year brought the total number to 76 single and 114 double units. During the year, 13 aged couples and 26 aged lone persons were housed.
I should say that those would be as a mere drop in the ocean in meeting the needs of aged people in the electorate of the honorabled member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). He has told me on many occasions that it makes his heart bleed to see the plight of some of the aged persons in his electorate. We hope that, by constantly emphasising the gravity of this social need, we will move the Government to do something to overcome it.
– There is not much hope.
– There is not much hope, but I venture to state that if these aged people were either Liberals or supporters of the Government something would be done quickly to correct the cruel situation in which many of them are not living but merely existing. The position is acute and we believe that the additional moneys provided for in this Bill will not relieve it to any great extent.
There are many submissions that I should like to make to the Parliament. I refer now to the report of the Housing Commission of New South Wales for the year ended 30th June 1963, which emphasises the slum problem of Sydney. It states -
While the slum, or blighted, areas of Sydney may not be comparable in magnitude with those of older cities of other countries, they exist in sufficient number and extent to be a definite reflection on the City and to justify some positive approach on a national level, with a view to all authorities which might be deemed to have aa interest participating in their planned elimination and the redevelopment of the areas concerned in the most suitable manner possible before the problem gets progressively worse.
When is the Government going to do something about these great problems which are affecting our society and which have been brought to its notice forcefully in reports by government departments charged with the responsibility for housing in the various States, and by members of the Opposition? When is the Government going to do something about this situation that grievously affects our society today? 1 urge the Government to do something - not next week, not next year, not the year after, but now. The Government must get on top of this situation and meet its obligations to the community. If it does not, it should resign, get out, and let the Australian Labour Party as the new government correct the situation.
– Mr. Speaker, the notable thing about this debate is the manner in which honorable members opposite have rehashed the same old story. The opportunity will arise very shortly for honorable members to debate all these issues in full; that is, when the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is brought down for the approval of this House. The Opposition has agreed to support the Loan (Housing) Bill 1966, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has moved an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. Therefore, I will pass over much that has been said in the debate because, no doubt, it will be said again in a few weeks time. Instead, I will deal with the amendment.
The amendment says, in part - the House is of opinion that the existing Housing Agreement has not fully met the housing requirements of the Australian people . . . 1 point out that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement at no stage has purported to cover all the housing problems of the people of Australia. No question arises about this fact. In the last financial year approximately £50 million was spent through the agency of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This applies very properly to the needy sector of the community. But to get the matter in perspective I mention that the total expenditure over the year on new housing dwelling units was about £420 million. So, what is being debated here is only a small section of the total housing picture. Even within the sphere of government action, it is not the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement alone which governs all that has happened or will happen in this field. This Agreement is related to something which in itself is quite limited. That is the concessional rate of interest on loan funds drawn up by the States in the normal course of CommonwealthState financial arrangements. It relates to a very limited range of agreements for a certain restricted purpose.
It is suggested in the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that an all-Party committee should be formed to examine five matters. Certain of them are dealt with to some extent by other legislation. For instance, housing for pensioners is closely related to the legislation concerning aged persons homes. Irrespective of the merits of the legislation, I mentioned this fact only to point out that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, per se, is not designed and never has been designed to cover all housing or even all that governments were doing in the sphere of housing.
There is a more curious aspect which reflects the thinking certainly of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. To what extent the rest of the members of the Opposition would in seriousness follow him, I do not know. But the honorable gentleman suggests in his amendment that this all-Party committee should inquire into land development and town planning. -He is not suggesting this exercise for the Australian Capital Territory or other Commonwealth Territories. No doubt, he puts forward a proposition in which we in this House set up a committee to investigate in detail something which specifically and constitutionally is within the sphere of the States and for which the States have established an instrumentality, the activities of which are no doubt frequently debated and discussed in State Parliaments.
– I am suggesting that this should be a condition of our grant under Section 96 of the Constitution to the States under this Act.
– I am coming to this point. After all, these loans are part of the ordinary Commonwealth loan arrangements with the States and relate to the concessional interest rates. I will come to this point mentioned because it is what I wish to deal with. One can hardly resist the conclusion that what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is seeking by this section of his amendment is for this one instrumentality to take over what has always been an essential State function on the grounds that what the States have been doing in this regard he considers inadequate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said - and I am glad that he has repeated it - that this requirement would be a kind of condition which the Commonwealth would impose when providing funds. We may have in our midst a few estate agents who could sit on this all-Party committee. We certainly have no Commonwealth instrumentality that is equipped to go into the town planning problems of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and other cities. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggests that we should become involved in the town planning of those cities and that, in turn, we should impose on the States the kind of conditions to which they must adhere in order to draw money for their purposes. This proposition is something which certainly members on this side of the House who believe in the Federal system could by no means begin to countenance. In fact, the States are responsible for, and in their own ways are doing something towards, town planning.
It may be that there are a number of people who follow these matters closely and who would like to see much more done in this respect especially with regard to more enlightened planning and more informed planning. But town planning can be carried out only with the strong support of public opinion. The people who carry out town planning are the ones susceptible to public opinion in their own States. These people live near the problems. Most obviously and certainly, this matter lies with the State Governments. So, this is not an amendment which the Government could for one moment accept. I repeat that these issues are not ones which I propose to canvass at length tonight because the Bill is a relatively minor measure. It provides a follow up to the money already granted this year to stimulate housing in a sector where more housing is required quite urgently. The whole subject will be canvassed and debated when the revised Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is introduced in the near future.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original 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.
Motion (by Mr. Bury) - by leave - agreed to-
That the following Order of the Day, Government Business, be discharged -
No. 8 - Additional Housing Finance - Ministerial Statement- Motion to take note of paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the House take note of the paper.
Dry Docks in Australia - Unemployment - Housing - National Service Training.
Motion (by Mr. Bury) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring before the House a few nautical matters. Honorable members will have read with distress that some few days ago a Norwegian tanker of some 20,000 tons bound for Melbourne lost her propeller off Lakes Entrance, Victoria, and had to get the assistance of a tug from Melbourne to be towed to Sydney for dry docking purposes. The ship is the “Throms”. I want to bring to the notice of the House the lack of dry docks in Australia and to ask the Government to do something urgently about this lack. If Australia is to enter the bulk carrier trade - which I hope it will - it will be necessary to have the wherewithal to dock visiting ships.
The House is aware that we have just launched in Whyalla a 47,000 ton bulk carrier. That vessel is 742 feet long and has a beam of 104 feet. There is at present only one dock in Australia to which that ship could go for dry docking, apart from the Captain Cook Dock in Sydney, which is generally required for naval purposes. I know that if a ship required urgent work on it the Navy would make that dock available. This was done before when it was necessary for a ship of the P. and O.Orient Line to go into dock. But we cannot depend on this. The only dock to which a ship of the size of the bulk carriers could go is the Cairncross dock in Brisbane. It is 830 feet long, but it is not conveniently placed for a ship engaged, say, carrying iron ore from Yampi Sound or from the north coast of Western Australia to Japan. Such a ship would have to dry dock in Japan or steam all the way round from Western Australia and dry dock in Brisbane. The construction and operation of bulk carriers is moving apace, and I think that the Government should move quickly to put docks around Australia. I suggest that we should have a dry dock in Western Australia and another in Victoria. We are very fortunate in Victoria because at present, right next to the naval dockyard at Williamstown, there is space for the building of a dry dock.
I come back to the unfortunate Norwegian ship, the “ Throms “. It has to be towed an additional 500 miles from Lakes Entrance. The accident occurred 140 miles off Melbourne and the ship must be towed all the way to Sydney to be dry docked. The position in Sydney is this:The Sutherland dock at Cockatoo Island is only 690 feet long. I do not know the length of the ship, but it may be able to get into the Sutherland dock. However, the point I am making is that the ships we are building of 47,000 tons can be docked only at Cairncross or at the naval dock in Sydney. I understand that it is expected that in the future ships will be much bigger than 47,000 tons. A couple of weeks ago, when I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) a question in the House, hesaid that he was quite willing to agree to, say, a Japanese company and an Australian company in partnership building a bulk tanker of between 65,000 and 70,000 tons, but the position is that the only dock in Australia where a ship of that size could dry dock is the Captain Cook naval dock. A ship of that size could not get into the next biggest dock, the Cairncross dock. The position is becoming urgent. I do not wish to have a shot at either the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) or the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney). I know this is very dear to them both. They both come from Western Australia and I hope that they will see that a dock is built in Western Australia and another in Victoria. If we do not build these docks, we will not be able to carry out the job that we hope to do. The time is coming very quickly when not only bulk carriers will increase in size but ships carrying containerisedcargoes will bebigger. These shins must be bigger if they are to take containerised cargoes. Docking space will be necessary for them.
We cannot expect ships to trade with Australia if we do not have the facilities they need when they come here. Everybody expects that when a ship comes to a port it will have a wharf to go alongside.If we want ships to come to Australia we must provide the services they need. We must have tugs and we must have docks. I want to emphasise that when we have ships that are bigger than 47.000 tons, we must have docks to meet their needs. When the ship of 47,000 tons was built at Whyalla the yard was barely big enough to effect the launching. When the ship was finished and ready to be launched, it had to wait for a few days until a suitable time arrived for its launching. The size of shipyards will have to be increased so that larger ships can be built. At present,- a ship of 60,000 or -70,000 tons could not be built, because we do not have a shipyard big enough to do it. I know that my friend, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), is very keen about the shipyard at Newcastle. He has done a lot of work to bring Newcastle before the public notice. But Newcastle shipyard has reached its limit. Unless considerable alterations are made to the shipyard, the tankers on order at Newcastle now are as big as the shipyard there can build. I will leave it at that. I want to bring to the notice of the House that we must have docks big enough to accommodate the ships now being built and we must have them quickly.
– There used to be a quaint old fashioned courtesy in this place that was observed by honorable members. When they intended to raise a matter on the adjournment, they notified the appropriate Minister. By good fortune I happened to be in the House tonight and heard the speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson). The problem he has mentioned is, of course, no new problem; it is a long continuing one. I was interested to hear him say that docking facilities were as necessary as wharves, ports, harbours and all the other services that go with shipping. This is perfectly correct. The Commonwealth, of course, has built a naval dock, because the Commonwealth has direct responsibility for its Navy. But the Commonwealth is not directly responsible for wharves, harbours or any of the other services that go with shipping. Indirectly, of course, it has a continuing interest in these matters; but they are mainly the responsibility of the State Governments and private enterprise. Docking is a commercial activity.
I know that the party to which the honorable member belongs is- a Socialist party and as such it has no regard whatever for the plain economies of these matters. The honorable member suggests that we should put a dry dock on the coast of Western Australia. As a Western Australian, I would be delighted to see one there; but the plain truth is that the concentration of shipping on the Australian coast is mainly on the east coast. Apart from the occasional breakdown of overseas ships, shipping companies prefer to put their ships into dock for maintenance and other attention at places where they can pay off the crew, where they have hired the crew and so on. As I say, the honorable gentleman has raised a matter of very considerable importance. I assure him that we are continuing .to look at this problem, but primarily it is not a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I apologise to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) for not informing him that I intended to raise this matter. It was an oversight.
.- I rise to draw the attention of the House to a matter of considerable concern and urgency within my constituency. Some 10 days ago, I was approached by a deputation comprising representatives of the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia, the Brick, Tile and Pottery Employees Union and the South Coast Labour Council. They told me that there was incipient unemployment and a substantial stockpiling of bricks, both building bricks and refractory bricks, in the brick yards in my constituency. This is a matter of considerable concern to me and to the building industry within the City of Greater Wollongong. In point of fact, some two million building bricks have accumulated at the two main yards, Woonona and Bulli. Those bricks are the equivalent of 80 five-room brick cottages or would provide adeqate bricks associated with the construction of 650 weatherboard homes.
In addition to the problems in relation to building bricks, the situation is worsening for refractory bricks which provide a market of almost equal size within my constituency to the market for building bricks. With a major steel industry with coke ovens and similar furnaces to be lined, refractory bricks are in great demand and provide a substantial amount of the employment in the brick industry. The situation in the steel industry is due to the effects on employment and on production of the imports of Japanese black sheet steel for which this Government has nor yet provided substantial protection by way of an antidumping duty. In the refractory brickworks at Port Kembla, where some three years ago 56 men were employed, there are now 35 men only. At the Bellambi yard owned by Newbold General Refractories Ltd., which produces refractory bricks, 55 men were employed 12 months ago but there are now 35 only. At Thirroul four men have already been discharged and if what is known as the Belgium kiln is closed another 12 men will lose their positions.
I have been informed by representatives of the trade unions that this situation applies with equal force within the metropolitan area of Sydney. We have a substantial brick industry within my constituency with a total production potential of U million bricks per week. That is the equivalent of 60 five-room brick houses per week or 3,000 homes per year. lt is not merely a matter of obtaining a market; there is also the other question of the loss of skilled operatives for this trade because brickmaking is by repute a particularly arduous trade. It is difficult to induce men to enter this trade at an early age so that they can be adequately trained. By repute it is arduous; in point of fact it is not the most attractive of industries. If these men leave the industry they will not be replaced and if in the later dispensation we actually get a trickle of money for the purpose of home construction, when the demand arises for further bricks men will not be there to produce them.
The attitude of the Government to the whole question of housing is of great significance. The ministry of housing ranks twenty-fifth and is the lowest and most menial of all portfolios within the present Holt Ministry. Worse than that, the portfolio is in the Senate, among the representatives of the States; the representatives of the various constituencies who have personal contact with these matters have not the necessary approach and have not the opportunity to direct the questions, make the comments and get the appropriate answers to which we are entitled. Within my constituency at the present time in L Wollongong housing district under the control of the Wollongong office of the Housing Commission of New South Wales we have 2,700 approved applicants awaiting homes. Within my constituency alone we can absorb the whole of the $15 million which has been allocated for the whole of Australia. As for the capacity to absorb that amount, we have 3,000 allotments there which are ready. They have been developed by the Housing Commission which is restricting housing construction within my constituency. Worse than that, where it might have given some relief because people who went into two, three and four-room houses in the suburbs some years ago and who might now, because their children have grown up, want to come back to Wollongong and live in flats or smaller units which can be built at lower cost, the people find that those flats are not being constructed.
There is a very special political significance for the situation. The present State constituency of Wollongong is a borderline seat and the present Stale Government, in the course of its redistribution proposals, intends to make sure that that seat will be retained by the present Liberal representative. Working class tenants in fiats built by the Housing Commission will certainly not be welcome there. My constituency and my constituents will suffer in consequence.
The Housing Commission, under the control of the former State Labour Government did a magnificent job in that area. It built 5,300 homes at a total cost, including land development, of £24 million. One house in every six within my constituency is a Housing Commission home. The former State Labour Government allocated 13 per cent, of such funds as were available for housing construction within my constituency. If it had given its normal quota on a population basis, it would have been 6 per cent. But at least the State Labour Government was prepared to acknowledge the national importance of the area and the special problems associated with the intense migrant intake.
That brings me to my further point. The true remedy is one which this Government cannot and will not provide because over recent years the flow of Housing Commission money and housing money in general has been used as a regulator on the Australian economy. The practice of tieing housing administration to the flexible response formulas of the Treasury has largely negated the true principles of housing policy. One week before this sessional period commenced there was a major deputation of all the main representatives of big business. Included amongst them were representatives of the Master Builders Association. They emphasised precisely the same point that I am raising tonight. That is, the adequacy of the flow of money for housing at low interest rates without a stop-go policy. Unless and until this Government is prepared to alter its ways, unless it is prepared to have a real ministry of housing and unless it is prepared to give to that ministry the control of housing finance and take it away from the Treasury which uses it as a regulator, we will never get a fair and decent go for the people whom this Government is bringing into Australia under its present immigration policy.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the House to the inequity which exists in the application of the National Service Act and which causes youngsters and men in the country who wish to enlist in the Citizen Military Forces to be at a distinct disadvantage as compared with those who live in the cities or who are located elsewhere within handy reach of a C.M.F. unit. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) is empowered to grant deferment to certain classes of persons. The first of these is defined as follows -
Those who elect,, before the ballot relating to the registration of their age group, to serve in the Citizen Forces under specified conditions as an alternative to national service are eligible for indefinite deferment of call-up for national service provided they serve efficiently as members for the specified period.
That is an excellent provision. It is being availed of by those who live in the cities or who are fortunate enough to live elsewhere in proximity to a C.M.F. unit. In the cities, not only can they join a C.M.F. unit, but I understand that they can join the other citizen forces which are associated with the Air Force and the Navy. The inequity to which I refer appears to me to cause great hardship to youngsters in certain cases.
However, I do not wish to elaborate on that particular aspect of the matter.
I want to suggest to the House and to the Government that there are ways in which to correct this situation. It should be possible for the Services to devise a system to permit youths who wish to join the citizen forces to carry out their obligations without having to attend weekly parades or bivouacs or annual camps, as the ordinary C.M.F. personnel have to do at the present time. It should be -possible for the Services to devise a system to enable a youth to serve for an equally long period but for his year’s training to be concentrated into, say, six weeks, two months or perhaps a little longer. In this way, he could fulfil all his obligations, become thoroughly trained and obtain the benefit of exemption from national service training if he so wished. Furthermore, this should not be considered solely in relation to service in the Army. It should be possible for the Air Force and the Navy on this basis to absorb as recruits country boys who are now deprived of the opportunity to attend any kind of military camp and thus are deprived of the opportunity to serve, unless they enlist and consequently serve for six years rather than for the shorter period of two years as national service trainees.
The situation that I have mentioned represents an anomaly. It reveals an inequity that should be corrected. I believe that it should be corrected quickly. As I have said, it should not be the responsibility solely of the Army to do the job. It is a job for the combined Services, which should look at the situation as a whole and determine how they can best handle the intake of country youths who are deprived, by the present administration of the National Service Act, of the opportunity to serve their country in the same way as youths who are more fortunately situated.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a matter that is of importance in any democracy - the right of people to protest. I am prompted to speak on this matter tonight because of statements that have been made by the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), who was formerly Minister for Supply. To enlighten the House on the attitude of this Government to democratic processes, let me quote in full a report that appeared in the Sydney “Daily Mirror” on 29th March under the heading “ The right to protest “. It reads -
Mr. Allen Fairhall was a good Supply Minister and shows signs of being a good Defence Minister.
That is stretching it slightly, but we shall accept it for the moment. The report continues -
But we hope he sticks to his job and keeps his mouth shut on matters he does not understand.
Mr. Fairhall castigates demonstrators against the Vietnam war as being a fifth column. “ Marching in the streets,” he says, “ ultimately turns into civil commotion - into war at the barriers .
We want to put our foot on it.”
Most of us have no time for the demonstrators Sometimes they are a nuisance. They could make their protests better in other ways.
But doesn’t Mr. Fairhall know that the right of active dissent is one of the precious privileges of the citizen in a free country?
Britain has its angry marches, its Trafalgar
Square demonstrations, America brings its protests into the streets. These are the safety valves of democracy.
It is only in countries where repression rules that the banners are replaced with barricades, words with bullets.
There is another thing that Mr. Fairhall should realise. It is that the Vietnam war genuinely worries the people.
As Mr. Alistair Cooke, the distinguished American commentator, writes in today’s Australian: “A rage against the war may still be the monopoly of leftists and Beatniks. But a deep doubt about it is becoming a guilty part of everyone’s character “.
Does this Government, through the Minister for Defence, say that no citizen of this country has the right to demonstrate against those laws that he believes are unjust and repressive? Has no 20 year old voteless conscript youth who is to be dragged from his home by this Government and sent to fight in the jungles of Vietnam and possibly to give his life there a right to march in the street, if he wants to, and to protest against the legislation under the terms of which he is conscripted? How will a boy who has not the right to vote and who may be sent abroad probably to die protest against the legislation that causes that to happen to him? How will the countless thousands of Australians who believe that it is unjust to conscript youths and send them abroad to fight protest against what is being done? Do this Government and the Minister for Defence seek to stifle criticism of the Government’s unpopular and unjust legislation by repressing the people and denying their right to demonstrate against it throughout the country?
What short memories honorable members opposite have. We recall that when the Labour Government introduced legislation to provide for the nationalisation of the banks, from one end of the country to the other paid officials of the private banks and members of the Liberal Party of Australia incited the Australian people to rise against the Australian Labour Party’s proposals. In every hall in which we went to speak there were episodes that made the one with the Prime Minister the other night look like a second rate show. From one end of the country to the other the Country Party and the Liberal Party regimented and incited people to rebel against the legislation of the Labour Government of the day.
Now when it has introduced legislation, in the face of opposition from one end of Australia to the other, which places in jeopardy the lives of young men who are being conscripted, the Government, through its Minister for Defence, says that this is a fifth column and that the people concerned have no right to protest. No doubt many of the people in the Save Our Sons Movement genuinely believe that the lives of their boys are in jeopardy. Have they no right to stand outside the Parliament, hold up a banner and protest? What are we coming to in this country? In the most tyrannical way a senior Minister of the Government says: “ We will stop criticism at all costs “. No doubt the Government shortly will be stopping pensioners marching to Canberra if they want to; no doubt shortly it will be stopping the poor, the aged, the sick and the infirm marching to the Sydney Domain or to some other place. Will the Government say that it is worried only about the Vietnam war or does it intend to stop all forms of protest against any legislation that it feels is justified but which the people resent?
This is suppression of the worst kind. The people object to conscription in peacetime when the country is not at war. Yet the Minister says that the people concerned are a fifth column. I warn the people of Australia that this Government has been too long in office. It has become arrogant; it has become undemocratic, if it ever was democratic. Now a senior Minister has said, with ail the arrogance he could muster: “ Of course they are a fifth column “. Workers everywhere should realise that if they march with a banner from time to time seeking to remedy some industrial injustice, this Government will almost turn the guns on them. The Government condemns the Communist countries because it says the people in them cannot protest; that they have no freedom of action; that they cannot speak and voice any protest. What is the Government introducing in Australia? A police state, nothing more and nothing less. This Government was elected in 1949, so we were told, because it upheld the freedom of the individual, the right of a man to protest and to speak his mind. Today we see the Government repressing in the most undemocratic way people who seek to protest against legislation. 1 do not condone all that is done in demonstrations. Some of it may be over the fence, but just where does the Government draw the line? Will the Minister for Defence tell us why any person in the community has not the right to voice his opposition to any form of legislation? Perhaps those who follow me in this debate will enlighten me on how a 20 year old kid who cannot vote can register a protest against this arrogant Government except by going into the streets. Why, even you, Mr. Speaker, in the high position you occupy in this Parliament, must look with trepidation at what is going on and think of what the Government may try to do if it is unchallenged on this occasion.
I do not often agree with the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ but I was pleased to see its leading article which demands that our democratic rights shall be maintained and that the arrogance of this Government shall be checked. On the pretext of claiming that the people are demonstrating in such a way that they can be regarded as a fifth column, the Government is trying to suppress for all time criticism of legislation which it knows is against the best interests of the people.
Already the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) has announced that he will appear on television and radio because the Government fears the effects of the protest campaign and the reaction of the people to the policy of conscripting boys to fight in Vietnam. Today the Government is seeking, by repressive methods opposed to every principle of democracy, to take away the fundamental right of people to protest.
Tonight, therefore, 1 want to hear members of the Liberal Party who believe in freedom of speech and competition, so long as it does not affect some of their wealthy supporters, rise and defend this repressive legislation. 1 would summarise the position in this way: Honorable members opposite are opposed to anybody protesting about our involvement in Vietnam because they are ashamed of the actions of the Government. They arc ashamed of the fact that the Government is prepared to conscript kids who are too young to sign for a debt, or to open an account without their parents’ permission, and send them to fight in Vietnam. It is for this reason that they try to suppress any criticism of the Government’s actions. We know that every seat of every honorable member opposite is in jeopardy because of this unjust legislation.
I hope the Minister for Defence will elaborate on his statement that people who write or demonstrate against the Government’s policy in this matter are fifth columnists. According to him, evidently the Save Our Sons movement is a fifth column, the Old Age and Invalid Pensioners’ Association is a fifth column, members of the Waterside Workers Federation are fifth columnists and members of other trade unions are fifth columnists. I suppose the branch of the Liberal Party, which, I understand, has protested against this conscription, also comes within the category of a fifth column. Tonight I place on record my disapproval of this infringement of our democratic rights. I feel I have a duty to enlighten the people on the repressive and tyrannical attitude adopted by this Government when people protest against the legislation.
– I want to bring to your notice an outrage, Mr. Speaker. As honorable members know, I am rather fond of reading poetry, and during the recess for dinner I went to the Library, as I am accustomed to do, and I opened up my copy of Keats at the “ Ode on a Grecian Urn”. Interleaved in the book I found this -
Ode on a Canberra Mug.
Thou unacknowledged man of destiny,
Thou foster-child of Caucus and the Left, Pat politician, who can thus deny Facts, with sincerity and slickness deft - What red-fringed legend haunts about thy shape Of Conference or Executive or both, By Trades Hall or the dales of Liverpool? What ramps or votes are these? What members loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What lies and libels? Whom do you hope to fool?
It goes further, Mr. Speaker -
Heard melodies are sweet, but overheard Are sweeter; therefore, Party Room, play on: To Daily Press and T.V. more endeared, Just keep on piping ditties of no tone. Poor boy, in Parliament thou canst not leave Thy spiel, although thou speak to benches bare; Near-leader, ever, ever must thou miss Though winning near the goal - yet do not grieve, He will not go, though thou hast not thy bliss. Forever wilt thou stab, and he be there.
Most of this wonderful ode, Mr. Speaker, followed the scansion of the original Keats, but at the bottom I found this appalling couplet - “ Numbers are strength, strength numbers “ - that is all
That Labour knows, and all it needs to know.
I think you will agree, Sir, that I was right in removing this offending leaf from that beautiful book. One of the very puzzling things about it is that although it is obviously not the kind of thing that should be in the Library I cannot tell to whom it applies. Perhaps there will be members in the House who can enlighten me on this. But I think you will agree, Sir, that I was right to bring this outrage before the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honorable members’ questions -
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer -
Although the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is a statutory authority of the Commonwealth, it is also a commercial undertaking operating in a competitive field. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to divulge publicly in detail the extent and sources of its business. I can assure the honorable member, however, that the Corporation is insuring loans in each State and that the volume of its business in aggregate is currently of the order of $1 million a month. Nearly 300 loans to the value of more than $2 million have been insured in all classes of loans prescribed in Statutory Rules 1965. No. 171.
n. - On 23rd March, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) asked me, without notice, a question relating to increased exports of dairy products to Asian countries. I promised to provide him with additional information. The information is as follows -
b asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The overall increase between 1960-61 (a full year before completion of the standard gauge) and 1964-65 was 76 per cent. Of course, not all of this increase can be attributed to completion of the standard gauge, but no doubt it was a major factor.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 March 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660330_reps_25_hor50/>.