26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Is he aware of an article which appeared in yesterday’s evening Press suggesting that in the course of future events in South East Asia Japan would be our ally, Japan providing the economic aid and Australia taking a more active military role? Will the Minister inform the House of the veracity of these statements? Has Australia been committed in any way along the lines suggested in the report?
– I am not sure whether it is an advantage or a disadvantage, but unfortunately I have not seen the report. As to our relations with Japan, they are very close and very friendly. We are associated with Japan in several internnational’ organisations - the United Nations, the Economic Commision for Asia and the Far East and the Asian and Pacific Council - and have found a very close correspondence of view on many important matters affecting the region and the world generally. In the sphere of commerce we enjoy very close trade relations with Japan. If by the word ‘alliance’ the honourable member has in mind some kind of military commitment, then the word is wrongly used. We are not in any form of military alliance with Japan but in many aspects of foreign affairs we are happy to work in very close and cordial relationship with Japan, serving common objectives.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to Press reports relating to the shooting of an Australian soldier by a sentry at the 7th Battalion’s base camp at Nui Dat? Can the Minister indicate the soldier’s present condition and under what circumstances he came to be shot?
– Yes, my attention has been drawn to these reports. Information I received late yesterday afternoon indicated that the condition of the soldier was satisfactory. He had been shot in the upper right arm. I cannot give the honourable member any information about the circumstances of the incident because when an accident of this kind occurs it is normal procedure to hold a full inquiry into all of the circumstances. This inquiry is at present being held.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. On 22nd August in this House I asked the right honourable gentleman about his discussions with the United States Presidential envoys, General Maxwell Taylor and Mr Clark Clifford. The right honourable gentleman will recall that I asked him about a television interview in which both envoys said they understood that Australia intended to increase its commitment in Vietnam. In reply the Prime Minister said that the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of Cabinet would meet that week to discuss Australia’s commitment to South Vietnam and the significance of the implications of Britain’s withdrawal from east of Suez. The right honourable gentleman went on to say:
Whether we shall be in a position to announce decisions arising from that consideration remains to be seen.
Is he now in a position to elaborate this answer and make a statement to the House on the Cabinet Committee’s meeting?
– I am not yet in a position to make that statement to the House. There have been further meetings. At the time it was contemplated that this review would take some time and would extend over a number of meetings. If I can recall my comment at the time, either to the honourable gentleman or elsewhere publicly, I said that we might even have to be in consultation with other governments. The honourable gentleman will know that early next week the Prime Minister of New Zealand will be in discussion with us, broadly over the range of matters which the Cabinet has been discussing in recent weeks. It may well be that further discussions with other governments will be necessary before I am able to make a statement to the House. Naturally we are anxious to come to our conclusions as speedily as we can. When these have been completed I shall make a statement.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the quite distorted picture being publicly presented of the operation of the VIP flight, will the right honourable gentleman consider having a statement made in this House which will give a balanced picture and on which there can be some suitable discussion in this chamber?
– I have been giving a good deal of thought to this matter over the last few days because it is quite clear that either for their own political or journalistic purposes some people are trying to create a picture, magnified out of all proportion, of the operation of this flight which has been in existence for many years.
– We just want to know. Harold.
– I am not sure that the honourable gentleman just wants to know; I think he wants to make mischief.
– That is unkind.
– Is the Prime Minister going fishing this weekend and using the aircraft?
-Order! The House will come to order. Again I remind honourable members that all interjections are out of order.
– The honourable gentlemen are confirming the point I have made to the House. 1 think it proper that there should be a balanced and comprehensive presentation of the operation of the night and those other matters which have been raised in controversy regarding it. It is my intention to make a statement to the House early next week on which some discussion can occur.
Opposition members - Oh!
– I know that honourable members opposite have been trying to make hay with it for their own purposes in Capricornia. It is quite remarkable that of all the major matters with which the Parliament can concern itself in a critical by-election, honourable members become so rattled about their prospects that they have to turn to this kind of matter. But seeing that the matter has been blown up in this way I shall make a statement. There will be an opportunity for discussion on it. Two Ministers are directly responsible for the conduct of the flight - the Minister for Air and myself - and we shall take part in that discussion. I hope that whereas answers to loaded questions can give only a quite piecemeal picture and not an accurate or fully presented picture, the kind of statement I shall make will enable the House to deal with this matter in a responsible fashion.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science aware that the lowest per capita expenditure on education by any of the States occurs, and has occurred for several years, in Queensland? Does he know that the alarm expressed by the Queensland Teachers’ Union at the very bad and worsening situation in education in Queensland has been publicly confirmed by the Country Party candidate in the Capricornia byelection? Will the Government institute an immediate meeting with the Queensland Government for the purpose of making an urgent allocation of much’ needed finance to that State to rescue its educational system from what are the worst standards in the Commonwealth?
– The determination of priorities for expenditure from the State Budget in Queensland is a matter for the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth does not intrude. It is entirely for the Queensland Government to determine the priority it gives to education and to the other matters that come under its control. [ will pass the honourable member’s question to my colleague in another place, but in these circumstances it is highly unlikely that he will be willing to take the action that the honourable member suggests.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. Can he say whether there is any reason why regulations having the same effect as the war time Post Office security regulations cannot be invoked to prevent the deliberate delaying of parcels addressed to Australian troops overseas?
– The honourable member suggests that parcels addressed to our forces in Vietnam have been delayed. My understanding is that the members of the union concerned intimated quite clearly that they would allow these parcels to be sent on their way unchecked to members of our forces there. This is not to say that, within an accumulation of some 300,000 parcels, a few may not have found their way into the stockpile and in fact not have gone to Vietnam. This would be regretted, but I can only say that if this has happened it would not be the result of the intentional action of members of the union.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Is it correct that Queensland’s intake of migrants is lower than that of any other State? Has any inquiry been made to ascertain the reason why migrants are not going to Queensland? Has the Queensland Minister for Immigration ever discussed with the present Commonwealth Minister or his predecessor the reasons for this trend in an effort to remedy the objections that migrants may have to going to the sunshine State?
– Australia represents to a large number of people in other countries a place to which they can come and make their future lives and in which they can return to this country the benefits that this country gives to them. It is true that migrants find more attractions in some States than in others. The attraction of migrants essentially depends upon an industrial infra structure that has been built up over a long period of years. I think the reality is that in Queensland in the past there was too long a period when this infra structure was not being properly built.
– I direct my question to the Acting Treasurer. On 25th September the Commissioner of Taxation announced that regulations were being gazetted that day prescribing the tax to be deducted from salaries and wages to reflect the increases in concessional allowances for all dependants. Will the Minister consider prescribing tax instalments that take account not merely of concessional tax allowances for dependants but also of contributions made by employees to superannuation funds?
– Pay as you earn tax instalments are related to the tax likely to be paid in the whole of the year and are graduated on a similar basis to that used for the calculation of income tax. Allowance is made in this calculation for the fact that large numbers of employees will have substantial tax deductions for dependants, education, medical expenses and so on. This applies particularly to those with incomes of more than $60 a week. Under the terms of the Income Tax Assessment Act, the Commissioner of Taxation may approve any reduction in the amount of tax deductions from salary to take account of large sums paid in premiums for insurance and contributions for superannuation and for other special purposes, which the taxpayer will eventually be entitled to deduct from his gross income in arriving at his assessable income. To obtain this approval, it is necessary for the taxpayer to make application to the Commissioner of Taxation or a Deputy Commissioner.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. He will remember that a few weeks ago in correspondence he told me that be regretted that the Government was unable to assist financially with the building of an international sports arena at Newcastle. In view of the fact that, during a recent visit to that city, the right honourable gentleman accurately recognised Newcastle as being the sixth largest urban area in Australia and the nation’s greatest industrial city, will he confer with his colleague, the Treasurer, for the purpose of determining whether it is possible for the Government, in the current financial year and the following one, to allow donations of $2 or more for the Newcastle sports arena project as deductible for tax purposes?
– The honourable gentleman rightly records the high opinion that I expressed concerning Newcastle and the remarkable industrial development that has been occurring there and also the high degree of civic responsibility and community spirit that one finds so evident in that city. The subject that he has raised is a matter of policy that I need to examine in the context of the way in which the Government has dealt with other somewhat comparable requests. I shall be glad to undertake this examination and to confer with my colleague, the Treasurer, at an appropriate time after his return.
– I would like to address to the Minister for External Affairs a question relating to the recent confession by Russian master spy, Yuri Loginov, to the South African secret service in which he is reported as having stated that he had been sent to South Africa on a subversive mission. As I understand that the Australian Government has been kept informed on this matter by the South African Government, I ask: Is the Minister in a position to state whether this mission was in any way connected with the resurgence of the guerilla type atrocities at present being directed against Rhodesian and South African security forces?
– I am not able to speak with certainty on matters such as these, because it is in the nature of the work of undercover agents that they are both devious and disguised. According to what is known to us, there is no evidence that Loginov was engaged in the sort of activities to which the second part of the honourable member’s question refers. The evidence available to us is that General H. J. Van den Bergh, the head of the South African Security Police, is reported to have said in South Africa on 10th September that Loginov had been engaged in subversive and illegal currency activities. Genera] Van den Bergh did not specify what the subversive activities were. He went on to say that it was believed that Loginov was in South Africa only in transit to other countries. I regret that I am unable to confirm the suggestion contained in the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question.
– I wish to ask a nonpolitical question which I direct to the Prime Minister. I hope that it will not upset him. Is he aware of the move at the United Nations to again attempt to reach a solution of the Suez crisis in the next few weeks? Will this Government make any contribution to this important subject at the United Nations level? Abo, will the Government’s United Nations representative press for an early clearance of the Suez Canal in order to release the fifteen ships with their important cargoes including 379,000 cases of Aus tralian fruit? Finally, has the United Nations the power by nations acting in unison to take over the control of the Canal, to clear it of the ships and then hand it back later to the Egyptians when the settlement has been agreed upon?
– The Minister for External Affairs will answer the question.
– The whole Middle East situation is already under discussion in the United Nations. In the course of the statement that the Australian delegation will make, reference will, of course, be made to it. We hope for an early settlement of the tension in the Middle East and for the laying of the foundations for better relationships between the United Arab Republic and Israel. However, there are many difficulties, both local and those related to world politics, in bringing about that happy result. So far as the control of the Canal is concerned, this is a matter in which the United Arab Republic has authority and I think it is only likely to be consequent on a settlement of other questions that the United Arab Republic will change its attitude to traffic through the Canal.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I refer to the Government’s present policy regarding the acceptance and wearing of foreign awards by Australian servicemen in Vietnam, whereby our servicemen are unable, in many circumstances, to accept the awards of foreign governments thus causing undoubted embarrassment and disappointment to many of them. Is the Government reviewing its present policy with a view to relaxing or substantially altering the conditions imposed, and if so, what stage has such a review reached?
– Australia has always subscribed to the principle that Australian servicemen are in the service of Her Majesty the Queen and that it is her prerogative to recognise records of service or acts of gallantry in accordance with the standards which have been jealously preserved oyer a long period. Arrangements have been made so that foreign awards can be accepted in the case of an effort to save life and in cases where an Australian serviceman is on loan to a foreign government. With respect to our servicemen in Vietnam, arrangements exist under which acts of gallantry thought worthy of recognition when our troops are under the command of our allies are reported to our own commanders. These are taken into account when our own commanders in turn make their recommendations. I think this is a reasonable arrangement which has, of course, been well known by our Vietnam allies. At the same time, notwithstanding anything I have said, we are reviewing the whole situation at the moment in the light of changed circumstances to see whether there are good grounds for a recommendation to Her Majesty that some other arrangement is reasonable.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for National Development. I understand that he has refused to visit the Capricornia area during the current by-election campaign. Is this because the real issue in the area is national development and his Government’s failure to cany this out would embarrass him? Or has his reluctance developed from the peculiar effect that the tropics seem to have upon senior Cabinet Ministers such as the Treasurer?
– The Government has a magnificent record in national development as has been stated frequently both in this place and in Queensland. I must say that when I visited Queensland a very short time ago I saw some of the magnificent development that is occurring in the brigalow area. I was highly pleased with our record. I can assure the honourable gentleman that I will visit these areas on other occasions. Of course, I was invited to Brisbane for a ‘Meet the Press’ interview on television. This programme was shown both in Brisbane and in the Capricornia area. The reactions that I have received have been very favourable indeed because people now realise that the Government has been assisting in very many avenues of development in which they did not realise that the Government had assisted. I refer particularly to the discovery, assessment and development of resources upon which vast sums of money from Australian taxpayers are being most effectively used.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. As I am concerned at the possible effect on the Australian dried fruits industry of amended tariffs which are the outcome of the Kennedy Round of talks, I ask: Can the Minister say whether these tariffs will affect export sales of Australian dried vine fruits? Do they present a danger to the stability of the industry? Can the Minister say whether Australia took part in talks relating to the marketing of Australian dried vine fruits?
– The importance of the Australian dried vine fruits industry is such that there have been many discussions between me and my opposite numbers in the British Cabinet and in the Cabinets of other countries in which we sell dried vine fruits, and perhaps there have been many more discussions between officials of the respective governments. I have pointed out not only the significance in value of this trade but also the peculiar character of the industry in that entire communities, some of them remote communities, are completely or almost completely dependent upon the industry. I have pointed out that anything of an adverse character that might befall the industry would not have as widespread an effect as would a similar circumstance in some other industries but that lt could be quite devastating to whole communities. This is well understood.
In the Kennedy Round the United Kingdom Government took the attitude that it would offer to reduce its tariffs on imported items, with very few exceptions, by 50% provided other countries offered concessions to the United Kingdom which the Government of that country would regard as compensating for its own offer. This offer encompassed duties on dried vine fruits other than Australian, which entered Britain duty free. The duty on the fruits from other countries represented our level of preference. There were no discussions or negotiations between the Australian Government and the British Government. There was a unilateral offer by the British Government and there was, in similar terms, a unilateral offer by the Canadian Government. Those Governments were satisfied that offers by other countries in respect of other items justified them in reducing their duties, and so the present situation has come about.
There has been no reduction in the duty on currants other than Australian entering the United Kingdom, but the duty imposed on foreign currants is a very modest one of 2s sterling percwt. But on the more important items of sultanas and raisins the previously prevailing foreign duty, which represented our level of preference, of 8s 6d sterling per cwt has been reduced in each case to 4s sterling per cwt, so that our level of preference is now only 4s sterling per cwt or, in terms of a proportion, it has been reduced from about 6% of value to about 3% of value. In the case of Canada our previous level of preference on currants of 4c Canadian per lb, which represented about 25% protection for the Australian industry, has been reduced by half to 2c Canadian per lb. As to sultanas and raisins exported to Canada our level of preference has been reduced from 3c Canadian per lb to1½c Canadian per lb.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Yesterday the right honourable gentleman told me that he had altogether abandoned his proposal for an Australian Development Corporation because in the interim, since last April, as he said, ‘What I had in mind has been so misrepresented to so many people.’ I ask the Minister whether he will specify by whom and in what way the misrepresentation was perpetrated.
– When 1 present a proposal to the Cabinet, I do not regard it as any longer being my property. It is the property of the Cabinet. I presented a proposal. I was asked on two successive occasions to bring further information to the Cabinet. I did not say yesterday that 1 had abandoned it. If the honourable gentleman studies my words he will find that I said that I think it best to abandon it, or used words to that effect. The decision is not mine; the decision is for the Cabinet to make.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration in his capacity as Leader of the House. Since he will have observed that the Leader of the Opposition seldom finds it convenient to be present in the chamber when the subject of the Australian Labor Party’s involvement with Communism is under discussion, will he confer with the Leader of the Opposition to find a time and occasion when this vital political issue can be debated in this chamber and in his presence so that he can answer for the Labor Party and allow the public to know why he condones the existing state of affairs?
– I rise to a point of order. Does the subject matter of the question come under the authority of the Department controlled by the Minister for Immigration?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– There was a debate last week on the motion for the adjournment of the House in which certain matters were raised. Again last night there was a debate in which certain matters were raised. Last week I noted that the Leader of the Opposition was in the chamber, at times, while the debate was proceeding.
– Was the Prime Minister here?
– No, and no Minister spoke on either occasion.
– That is not so.
– Who spoke?
– Order! The House will come to order.
– The names of the Ministers who spoke on that occasion will be revealed by Hansard. The Leader of the Opposition did a great deal of speaking that night, to each of the men ofhis Party on the back bench, persuading them not to speak. It was the only time that I have seen him have success with any effort at leadership. Last night, apparently in the belief that he could no longer exercise this degree of leadership, he arranged for all the members of his Party to be absent from the chamber at the critical point of the debate, except for half a dozen of them. There were a mere half dozen members of the Opposition on the other side of the House.
I would be glad to speak to the honourable gentleman to make an arrangement, but I must say that I do not expect success because he has shown such sensitivity on the subject - I am not surprised that he shows sensitivity - that I would not expect him to be agreeable to debate the matter.
– I ask the Leader of the House: How soon can he arrange for a Minister to make a statement on any of the subjects referred to by the honourable member for Flinders? How soon can he arrange for the Opposition to participate in a debate on such a ministerial statement? I assure him that for our part we will facilitate a debate on any matter for which a Minister is prepared to take responsibility in this chamber.
– The honourable member for Mackellar raised in this House the issue of a petition sent to Hong Kong. The petition was signed, so the honourable member for Mackellar said, by a great number of members of the Australian Labor Party including five members of the Executive of the Victorian Branch of the Party and one member of the Executive of the New South Wales Branch of the Party. The honourable member for Mackellar went on to say that the terms of the prayer of the petition were a direct extract from the terms of a note from the mainland Chinese Government to the British Government which the British Government had declined to receive. The honourable gentleman then asked for leave to table both the documents so that a comparison could be made between the terms of the note and the terms of the prayer of the petition and, because it was a facsimile photographic copy of the original petition, so that the authenticity of the signatures could be checked. Leave was declined. The following day the honourable gentleman asked a question of me and during my reply I said that I would expect the Opposition to agree to the tabling of the document. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who was sitting in the chair at the table when the honourable member for Mackellar asked for leave to table it. declined him leave to table it.
– Did you ask leave to table it?
– No, because it was in the possession of the honourable member for Mackellar.
– You know the arrangements. You ask-
-Order! I would ask the Leader of the Opposition-
– No wonder he got sacked as Attorney-General.
-Order! The honourable member for Kingsford Smith will cease interjecting. I suggest that all remarks be directed through the Chair.
- Mr Speaker, I now say quite definitely and immediately that what has been sought is a debate on this matter, [f the Leader of the Opposition indicates, as he does, that he will speak in it and that other members of his party will speak in it, then certainly the time will be made available under the forms of the House.
– 1 ask the Leader of the House a supplementary question to the question just answered by him. How soon will he arrange for a Minister to take the responsibility to seek leave to table documents and to make a statement upon them so that a debate can take place on that statement and on the documents by responsible persons on either side of the House? I also ask: Why. on this occasion a week ago, did he not follow the procedure recommended by the Standing Orders Committee that when leave is sought by a member of the Government parties to table documents the Leader of the House or the Government Whip asks the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or the Opposition Whip, and when leave is to be sought by a member of the Opposition to table documents the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or the Opposition Whip asks the Leader of the House or the Government Whip, whether leave will be granted? Why was there a departure from the recommended and accepted procedure on that occasion?
– The reason was that the honourable member for Mackellar one evening sought leave to table documents but I had no notification or knowledge that he was going to ask for leave to do so.
– No-one did.
– That is right. He asked for leave during the adjournment debate. The next morning he asked a question of me. When leave was refused on the previous evening I thought that was the end of the matter but the next morning at question time the honourable member asked me how he could get these documents tabled. I then said to him that I was sure that now that the Opposition was aware of it he should renew his request. The only reason for my saying that was to make the Deputy Leader of the Opposition aware of it. In fact, he had become aware of it the night before because of the statement of the honourable member for Mackellar. The honourable member for Mackellar renewed his request and leave was refused him. Let there not be any diversion from the reality of this issue. The reality of this issue has been made clear in this House on a number of occasions. The reality of the question of the Leader of the Opposition is: When? The answer is: Next week.
– I ask a question supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Wills about national development. The Minister for National Development made a statement about the magnificent record of the Government in respect of brigalow lands development. I ask him: What is the extra production in the area of the Fitzroy Basin and the IsaacMackenzie complex? What is the extra population in that area? How much money has the Government spent in that area? Did the Commonwealth Government take the initiative in this area of central Queensland? Did the Government members’ Food and Agriculture Committee, which I lead, go there at the invitation of the Premier of Queensland and the Minister for Lands? Has the Press been hammering away at the great record of the Government up there so that the Opposition will know about it?
– I thank the honourable member for Macarthur for mentioning the brigalow scheme, which, of course, is only one of a large number of development projects occurring in the north, and in this case occurring entirely as a result of finance provided by the Commonwealth Government. Up to 30th June 1968 an amount of $13m will have been spent on developing areas 1 and 2 of the brigalow scheme and already some of area 3 has been acquired.
The Commonwealth is making available to the State long term loans of $23m for the development of this area. In addition about 600 miles of road has been built in the area - much of it with Commonwealth finance - and the increase in productivity already is quite remarkable. I mentioned in a debate earlier this week that for the first time the two meat works at Rockhampton are working full time although admittedly they have their peaks. This is because of the development that is occurring in the area. I might tell the honourable gentleman that I am particularly interested in thic aspect because one of the meat works in Rockhampton - the Lakes Creek meat works - was established by my great grandfather. But there is no doubt whatsoever that the brigalow’ scheme in central Queensland is an enormous development project. It will eventually make available an additional 11.5 million acres for high quality beef production and the number of cattle carried in that area will be increased from 300,000 at the present time to over 1 million when the scheme is completed. This is real development and something for which this Government can take the entire responsibility.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Does Communist China, which is the largest purchaser of Australian wheat, always meet its financial obligations on time? Is this trade beneficial to the Australian economy? Has Cabinet the unanimous support of the Liberal Party backbenchers in trading with Red China?
- Mr Speaker, China has always met her obligations on the due date. In fact, on at least three occasions China prepaid some of its instalments. I suppose that action would save an amount of interest. The last contract that was made between the Australian Wheat Board and China, covering 6 months’ delivery from April to November, was for cash. That was China’s own choice. The Government has repeatedly stated its policy on sales to China. I think that it must be admittted that such an industry as the wheat industry, which is producing and selling 460 million bushels of wheat a year, must be an advantage to our economy.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a plan devised by a research officer of international experience in which it is claimed that a greatly increased amount of water could be made available from the Murray River to existing irrigation areas and to South Australia by diverting water from the Murray River through tributaries and channels, some of which are already m existence? Does he know that it is also claimed that the incidence of salinity would be greatly diminished and that the scheme is estimated to cost much less than the proposed Chowilla Dam? Could these claims, which are supported on a broad basis by others, be investigated in detail at the earliest opportunity?
– ( have heard of the scheme referred to by the honourable member but I ato afraid that I have no detailed knowledge of it. The River Murray Commission will be meeting fairly soon. If the honourable gentleman will let me have a copy of the submissions to which he has referred I will see that they are brought to the attention of the executive engineer of the Commission, from whom I will obtain a report which will be made available to the honourable member.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I seek leave to table-
– Facilities will be afforded by the Opposition to enable a Minister to make a statement on any document which he seeks to table and to resume the debate on any statement which the Minister may make.
– Leave is not granted.
Debate resumed from 15 August (vide page 78), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this measure but it has many criticisms to offer on it and suggestions to make for the facilitating of housing development in Australia. The measure, of course, flows from the Budget and originates from approval of the Australian Loan Council for the sum of $677m to be made available to the States for their works and housing programmes in 1967-68. Of that sum $122,840,000 is to be earmarked for housing. New South Wales will receive an advance for housing of $43,080,000 and Victoria, $33m. Last financial year advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement amounted to $120m. It is noteworthy that the increase in the allocation this year is almost $3m or a little more than 2%. As in former years, 30% of this money is to be allocated for the purpose of private home building through building societies and other approved institutions associated with home building. The balance is for the erection for sale or rental homes for low or moderate income families. The loans are spread over a period of 53 years and are to be at 1% below the long term bond rate. The whole pattern of CommonwealthState financial relations on housing originates from the final report of 25th August 1954 of the Commonwealth Housing Commission which was originated by the Ministry of Post War Reconstruction in the Chifley Administration.
It is noteworthy that the Government has from year to year progressively departed - perhaps deviated would be the better word - from its original recommendations. Today we have a situation where the Commonwealth merely hands perfunctorily to the various States fixed sums of money and abdicates the remainder of its responsibilities in that regard. The original recommendations are worth repeating to the House. I quote paragraph 376 of the 1944 report of the Commission in which it was recommended that the main function of the Commonwealth housing authority, which it was suggested should be set up so that subject to ministerial control and direction it could collaborate with a Commonwealth planning authority, was to implement and coordinate housing throughout the Commonwealth, including social welfare in relation to housing. The second recommendation was to receive through the Commonwealth planning authority the proposed housing programmes of the Commonwealth and the States and to recommend to the Commonwealth planning authority the size of the annual housing programme and, after approval by the Commonwealth planning authority, to allocate such programmes between the States. The third recommendation was to examine proposed housing projects where Commonwealth housing assistance was required to ensure that the plans complied with Commonwealth standards in town planning, community facilities and housing. Fourthly, if necessary, it was to consult the authorities of the Commonwealth or any State in connection with any modification of its housing programme. We have departed a long way from that.
The original agreement in 1946 between the Chifley Government and the five States of Australia, and later the sixth State of Queensland, provided that such moneys should be made available as were necessary, without limit, at 3% interest. Generous rebates were provided and there was no preemption of 30% of such moneys for building societies. It is not that the Opposition attacks building societies and the functions they discharge, but low cost moneys for low income groups should be reserved essentially for them. There is a need for a further inquiry. It is long overdue in view both of the Commonwealth’s drifting from the original recommendations and also because of present and future trends in housing and social development, because of new techniques in housing and because of the accumulated experience of a whole generation. We assert that there is a need for a national housing authority and for a national housing policy, and this Govern ment is unable and unwilling to provide them. We will, during the course of the Senate election campaign, emphasise to the Australian people the Government’s shortcomings in this regard. The Commonwealth Government is the authority with the greatest responsibility for raising and allocating funds for building purposes, but it does not accept a corresponding responsibility for co-ordinating and planning their use. Today the Commonwealth Government could, if it so desired, regulate up to 90% of housing finance in Australia, but it takes no responsibility for the cost of the land to be used or for the cost of the construction of the house itself.
Housing has become an instrument of general economic policy rather than a part of a planned and relatively predictable programme. In the absence of a planned programme, slum reclamation is retarded and the costly, ugly suburban sprawl continues unchecked. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) - this typifies the attitude of the Government - in a letter to the President of the Housing Industry Association in October last, said:
It still remains our firm view that the task of forecasting housing demand and performance over a period of years is not one for the Government to undertake.
In an economy where home building is overwhelmingly the function of private enterprise the Commonwealth, although it may indirectly influence the level of home building, is not in a position to make overall plans and to ensure that they will be carried out.
Let us contrast the situation in Australia with that in the United States of America. In that country, the Federal Government shows greater interest and discharges greater responsibility in housing and urban redevelopment. It makes funds available, supervises their application and actively encourages housing development. Those funds are made available at interest rates far lower than the rates in Australia. In Australia, in the post-war period, the financial relations between the State and the Commonwealth Governments have been revolutionised. The former tax reimbursement formulae and supplementary grants have been replaced by a system of direct grants under section 96 of the Constitution, which as is well known, gives to the Commonwealth power to attach to these grants such terms and conditions as it thinks fit. In this way and through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the Commonwealth Government can lay down a complete pattern of housing development, should it so desire. It can lay down equally a pattern of slum clearance and of urban development and can reduce and control land prices by assisting direct resumption by State, local government or other quasi governmental authorities. Land so acquired can and should be sold and developed at cost. If profit is to be gained, the benefit should accrue to the community through the Government and not to the land speculator. The whole purpose of the present legislation is merely to provide money and to leave the States to their own devices.
Economic planning and long term development are non words - they are even dirty words - to this Government. We need scarcely recall its summary treatment of the Vernon Committee’s recommendations on national planning. Only last year at the meeting of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in Tokyo, the leader of the Australian delegation said that Australia had no formal machinery for national economic planning and had no single administrative body that had responsibility for making operational forecasts and long term proposals. No industry is more important, no issue is more basic and no problem is more pressing in Australia than is housing today. The Minister for National Development (Mr Bury) who represents the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) said: ‘In housing we shall always fall short of the ideal’. That is a sorry admission of - I will not say incompetence but at least indifference to the real needs of a major section of the Australian community.
One of the main causes of the present housing problem is the fantastic increase in land costs. In that regard, I will quote from reports of the War Service Homes Commission. The figures are most interesting and illuminating. Here we have a representative cross section of the range of private home building costs, not perhaps on the approval scale of Housing Commissions or perhaps on the more advanced scale of private housing generally, but something that can be taken to be a mean. In New South Wales the total cost of a house and land averaged $6,740 in 1956-57. In 1966-67, the cost had risen to $8,772 - an increase of 27% in 10 years. In the same period, the land component increased from $824 to $1,962 - an increase of more than 140%. Corresponding figures for Victoria show an increase of approximately 37% in the total cost of dwelling house and land over the 10 years and an increase of a little more than 100% in the land component. In Queensland, the total cost of dwelling and land rose by 39% and the cost of the land by 240%. In South Australia, the total cost of land and house increased by 155% and the cost of the land only by 140%. So, much the same ratio applies throughout the States. In the prewar period, it was generally accepted by lending authorities in assessing applications for loans that the land component would be from 10% to 15% of the total cost of land and dwelling for which the advance was to be made. Today, the land component is as much as 30%. What is the reason for this, Mr Deputy Speaker? It is simple: There has been a complete failure by the respective States to control land costs.
– ls that the honourable member’s cure - control?
– The honourable member will have his opportunity in due course to contribute to the debate. No doubt we shall then hear from him a repetition of the principles on this subject that he has stated before. Control is very necessary. The shining examples of its effectiveness are to be found in Sweden and Holland, which are typical examples of the way in which it can be made to work. Let us control urban sprawl. Let us control ribbon development. Let us redevelop the dying hearts of the various cities of Australia. Let us get down to a scientific basis. If the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir lohn Cramer) found that his car was using too much petrol, he would take it to his garage to have the engine checked by an analyser. If the costs of his business were rising, he would call in consultants. In housing, however, in terms of Federal administration, our approach is purely empirical. Today, as never before, there is a need for urban redevelopment. Today, we have the spectacle of the hearts of our cities dying and of people moving away from the centres of population to outer areas. No one would know better than the honourable member for Bennelong does that this is the situation. He, of all people in this House, should well know the estimated cost, as given by the Cumberland County Council, of providing the public utility services required for an average allotment of land. Well over 8 years ago, the estimated cost was $3,200. A considerable sum can be added to that figure to bring it up to date. I shall give the House details later.
– I can tell the honourable member-
– As I have said, the honourable member will have his opportunity later. To return to my theme, I say definitely that there is need for planned development. The honourable member for Bennelong, as a land speculator, naturally wants to run free, wide and handsome so long as public funds can be disbursed on utilities and he can subdivide land and not only make the profits that he could normally expect but also add to them the additional profits gained from the provision of public utility services financed out of the public purse. He will continue to do this while he can. Naturally, that is the measure of his concern at and his antagonism towards proposals for planned development.
– I am not a land speculator.
– Having dealt with the honourable member, I shall resume my course. There is a great need to control urban sprawl. One of the main characteristics of the last 10 years has been the crashing of land development companies. Need we look beyond the Reid Murray group of companies to see what has been happening. In all instances, this sort of failure has been related to urban fringe development where people have been pushed out and away from the utilities that are available.
– Why did the Reid Murray group crash?
– Because the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to exercise its proper functions.
– What functions - those of control?
– Yes. This is the last country in the world where private enterprise can be free of any form of control. Private enterprise is necessary and desirable, but guide lines must be set. They are set even in the United States of America, which is considered to be the paragon of private enterprise compared to all other countries. For the benefit of the honourable member for Bennelong again, let me point out the problems of Sydney, with its metropolitan population of about 2,600,000 persons, only about 70% of whom live in dwellings connected to the sewerage system of the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, though that system is capable of serving a population of 3,750,000. The simple reason for this paradoxical situation is that development has been allowed to proceed without control. Unrestricted development has allowed a sprawl far beyond the areas that the public utilities are capable of serving, and this has created fresh problems while those in the inner areas have still been largely unsolved. In 1960, nine competent architects made a report to the effect that redevelopment in the inner areas of Sydney would make it possible for them to accommodate, without congestion, another 200,000 people and that in the existing subdivisions in the outer areas suitable development on lots of land served by public utilities providing water, transport, electricity, gas and’ the like, which were readily available, could accommodate yet another 200,000 persons.
The Opposition in this Parliament, of course, pays special attention to the subject of urban development. This is something that the Government, however, would never touch. It believes that we must undertake something known as cost-benefit analysis. While it holds to this view, urban redevelopment by private speculators is taking place. Inner urban redevelopment is the answer to many of the housing problems that this Government is not prepared to acknowledge. It is futile merely to make funds available for State governments to spend as they wish. Funds should be provided on specific conditions and special allocations should be made for urban development. The question is not whether urban redevelopment ought to be undertaken. The real question is whether we can afford to ignore it.
A population movement is taking place in my own city, Greater Wollongong, and also in Newcastle. People are leaving areas where gas, electricity, water, transport, public entertainment and shopping centres are provided and moving out into new areas. This movement is creating new problems. Inflation of land costs has been one of the besetting evils of housing finance. I now turn to the question of building standards. It was mentioned by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who is at the table, some time ago that by co-ordination of all the building regulations throughout’ Australia some $500 could be taken off construction costs. This was a pearl of wisdom. I would like to hear from the Minister what he has done about that and what he proposes to do about it. What steps has he taken to get the various local Government authorities together with the respective State Ministers for Housing to evolve a rational modern building code? In another field, what does the Government intend to do in the way of easing the burden of the low income home purchaser? Would the Government consider reimbursing State Governments that are prepared to forego portion of their stamp duties on transfers? la regard to the low income group, 1 think it would be interesting for the House to hear the recommendations of the Standford University Research Institute which were made in 1963 in a survey of the development of Australia. This is an institution of world-wide renown and is greatly respected. Its comment in this document, which was made available to all honourable members, reads:
One important factor that limits both the capacity and the incentive for many people, particularly young married people, to save is the extraordinarily high cost of housing construction and purchasing. Interest rates running up to 8% on first mortgage and more on second mortgage represent a serious deterrent to home ownership. There is in Australia no institution comparable to the State Advances Corporation in New Zealand, and housing finance is poorly organised. There is constant complaint that State Housing programmes are inadequate. Private construction is expensive and often not safeguarded against inexperienced contractors, lt is difficult to raise the funds necessary to build except by incurring a liability to the building contractor. Those who might become substantial and regular savers through the amortisation of payments on their own home are often discouraged and ted to dissipate their incomes in consumption expenditures.
I would now like to read to the House what another organisation has to say on the question of housing. I quote from a document entitled ‘A Survey of the State of Housing in Australia’ produced by the Economic Research Committee of the Housing Industry Association. It is dated August 1967. It is a most interesting document. On the question of average earnings which is the key to many of our housing problems, this document points out that it is estimated that about 18% of the 99,000 males marrying this year would earn less than $50 a week. It also points out that over half of this percentage would be below the age of 21 and would as adults earn $50 or more. Thi document goes on to state:
On the same pattern, it is estimated that about 30 to 35% of males marrying would receive lest than $60 per week. However, perhaps 25% of this group (representing about 8% of total marriages) would earn a weekly wage of $60 or more when they become of age.
Further on the document states:
On this analysis, less than 10% of those marrying each year would not-
I emphasise the word ‘not’: be able to purchase a home if high-ratio lowInterest loans were available to $9,000.
This is of great significance. The document continues:
Another 20% of those marrying would find some difficulty even if such finance were available, but probably most of these would be helped by supplementary income.
In other words, of the 99,000 men who will marry in Australia in the next 12 months, 30% will experience, in measurable degree, great difficulty, if not impossibility, in obtaining housing finance on their present earnings. On the subject of finding more low interest money, the survey contained this statement:
A larger volume of low interest money to finance the purchase of homes could only come, in practice, from the banks and Government. For this, a lowering of the statutory limit which now requires 65% of new deposits with savings banks to be invested in government securities would be needed, giving the banks greater flexibility in lending.
The ratio of funds investible in Government Securities was changed from 70% some years ago. The Commonwealth, of course, has many other avenues for raising funds.
On the question of the effects of liberalised lending it was stated:
There is considerable idle capacity in the building industry at the moment which could take up the first shock of a substantial increase in the number and volume of new housing loans. The situation would then settle down to a building level probably less than 10% above the present, with a moderate and steady trend to meet rising requirements.
Much of the present confusion and anomalies in housing finance would disappear if it were accepted that those who had saved $730 and had the ability to repay could obtain a loan of $9,000 (up to $10,000 for families) to 95% of valuation. The increased demand for housing funds and housing should not be unmanageable.
What is the Government’s approach at present? What is it prepared to do to control interest rates? The best illustration of this is its complete failure to control the alternative black market banking system which has arisen from the activities of hire purchase companies. Hire purchase can discharge a very important function in the Australian economy. It is true that in many cases hire purchase can stimulate mass production and mass production, in turn, can reduce the cost of goods. However, the Government has not been prepared to bring these people under statutory control. I need not remind honourable members that in 1953 it was due to the curtailment of the discounting of hire purchase paper by the various banks following a directive from the Commonwealth Bank that hire purchase companies decided that they would appeal directly to general investors. They did this and naturally offered higher rates of interest than the trading banks. The situation has escalated until we find that the advances that are made by hire purchase companies are getting close to 60% to 65% of those that are made by overdraft by the general trading banks. In other words, Australia has been distorted into a high interest economy. The trading banks themselves are not free of censure in this regard because they have chosen to follow the old slogan: ‘If you cannot beat them, join them’. As a matter of fact, we find that today the majority of shareholdings in hire purchase companies are held by trading banks. Trading banks look upon the profits from that source as a substantial part of their total profits in every trading year. I now wish to refer to another field in which the Government is prepared to do nothing. Either last year or early this year we had a housing conference which State Ministers for Housing and the Commonwealth Minister attended. It is interesting to note that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), with due respect to the good lady, is carefully buried in the Upper House where she is not subject to the same degree of interrogation as she would be in this chamber. Very low ranking in the Ministry is accorded the Minister for Housing. It is of interest to note the demand that was made that the amount by which the allocation for war service homes was reduced should be made available for housing generally. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) rather uncomfortably announced in his Budget speech that the funds to be made available for war service home loans would be reduced this year by SI 3m. This, of course, is due to the ageing of those eligible for loans. No-one would suggest that ex-servicemen should be deprived of their rights, but the fact is that the Government is prepared to divert to other purposes the money becoming available because of the reduction in the allocation for war service homes, and certainly to take it out of the housing pool.
Life assurance companies are not encouraged or required to lend for housing. One of the largest life assurance companies in Australia disclosed in a balance sheet published recently that only 7% of its total investments was in housing. I think something could be done, apart from the 30-20 ratio that is applied to these companies, to ensure that they provide more money for housing.
– The honourable member would force them.
– The Government forces them to contribute to Commonwealth loans today. It is notorious that over 90% of the subscriptions to Commonwealth loans come from captive contributors, and the honourable member for Bennelong, of all members in this House, should well know it. It is not a matter of forcing them, because the Government is already doing this. Why not extend the principle a little further? The honourable member for Bennelong and his colleagues originated the practice, and they can claim the credit or discredit for it. But the fact is that the loan market is a captive market. This is something that the honourable member well knows and the Minister for Labour and National Service well knows.
I have a very high regard for those in the building industry and I maintain a very close association with them in my constituency. For the protection of home builders there is a very strong case to be made out for the registration of contract builders. I would not interfere with the right of any man to build his own home if he is capable of doing so and complies with local government requirements. But 1 think registration of contract builders is desirable.
Builders have expressed to me on many occasions concern at their inability to recruit enough apprentices to ensure continuity within the industry. This is a matter that must receive government attention, and the Commonwealth Government must give a lead to the State governments. In this connection there is something to be said for a transfer system for apprenticeships. Housing finance is being used as an economic regulator. If the economy is lagging the Government will inject a little more money, through the banking system, into the housing construction pool. If the Government panics and considers that inflation is accelerating beyond its planned rate, the brakes are immediately applied, and in accordance with the Government’s stop-go philosophy the allocation for housing is reduced. This is a matter of bitter complaint in the building industry.
Most builders have been journeymen and skilled tradesmen. They are proud of their crafts and they seek to impart to young Australians their skill and knowledge, but unless and until there is some reasonable continuity of the flow of housing funds on a guaranteed and planned basis it will be impossible for them to do so. As a palliative in the meantime the transferability of apprenticeships on a pool basis might well be worthy of consideration. At the same time, as builders well realise, there is a need to revise the scale of wages paid to apprentices. There is equally a need to review in some cases the periods of apprenticeships. The terms of apprenticeships may be antiquated in an age of mechanisation and of new building techniques.
I want to say something also about immigration and its association with housing. A few days ago we signed a new immigration treaty with Italy but before the signing of that treaty there had been considerable recrimination and protracted negotiations. For some years the contract for immigration which had formerly existed had been in abeyance. Amongst the demands that were made was one that there should be some provision of housing for immigrants. I quite agree with this, but I believe such provision should be pari passu with housing for Australians who have been here all their lives and have made their contributions to the development of Australia over the years. In the future as I see it, with the problems that will arise both of employment and development in the United Kingdom, we will need to transfer to Australia complete industrial groups. New Birminghams and Bradfords will arise in this country, and when we want them here we will need to get them in a hurry. There will need to be really planned development. We will need to plan whole towns and suburbs and bring to Australia complete industries, with all their machinery and technicians and with all their necessary finance. This is the kind of function that an imaginative government should discharge, but this Government will stand flatfooted because it is not prepared to give a lead to Australia.
My time is drawing to a close so I shall summarise. I repeat that there is today as never before a need for national planning. There is a need for a national housing authority and a national housing plan. There is a need for money to be made available for this purpose, and it can and should be made available if the Government is prepared to discharge its proper function. There is above all a need to control and regulate land prices. This can be done by following the well established and democratic patterns that can be seen in so many other countries. Urban sprawl must be controlled. Inner city redevelopment is imperative today throughout Australia. This does not conflict with decentralisation; it can in fact facilitate decentralisation because wherever a new house is built it is always in a fringe area on the perimeter of a major city, and this merely creates a further unnecessary increase of the funds required for the provision of public utilities.
– I think we should be kind to the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor).
– I saw you smile when you stood up.
– Yes, I did. I am glad to be kind to the honourable member for Cunningham because he rather reminds me of the tiger. Having once become a Socialist tiger one never changes one’s stripes. The honourable member has given us a dissertation, the whole tenor of which has been the necessity for controls; controls will solve every problem - planning authorities and controls. Honourable members opposite never think beyond controls and never seem to understand anything but controls. But of course we cannot expect the honourable member for Cunningham to adopt any other attitude. He is a Socialist. He adheres to the Socialist policy of the Labor Party, and I suppose that as long as there is a Labor Party in Australia it will be trying to introduce into this country a completely Socialist system. As I will show in the course of my remarks, the Socialist policy has already very severely damaged Australia. Once we take Socialist action in a particular field it is very difficult to make a readjustment. In other words once the eggs are scrambled it is impossible to unscramble them. This is the kind of thing that has already happened.
I shall not go over all the honourable member’s arguments, although I will no doubt touch upon them in the course of my remarks. We are discussing the Loan (Housing) Bill which provides for an allocation this year of $122,840,000, in addition to which there is a further allocation of $7,074,000, making a total for housing purposes of $129,914,000. These allocations result from the Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States for a period of 5 years ending on 30th June 1971. Of the money that the States receive, as stated by the honourable member for Cunningham, 30% is to be allocated to building societies for the purpose of financing home ownership. I make no apology for the fact that I was the chairman of the committee that brought about that provision. It is the only bright spot that exists in the Agreement.
By and large I disagree with the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I am aware that it has existed since 1946. The particular Agreement which introduced the provision that 30% of the funds should be paid to building societies has existed since 1956. The total of advances to the States since 1956 is $986,822,000. Of this sum the State housing authorities received $678,414,000 and the building societies received $308,407,700, plus an additional $52m approximately which the building societies gained from the re-investment or revolving fund, which is an excellent part of the scheme. The housing commissions with their funds provided 101,814 houses at a cost of $6,391 each. This must not be taken as including the total cost of lan. and buildings. It is the net amount of investment, because there were some sales. The building societies, using the same measuring rod, built 58,928 houses at an individual cost of $5,234. In other words, with the same money the building societies provided 22% more houses than the government housing authorities. This should be some evidence for the honourable member for Cunningham of what can be done by private enterprise as against a government controlled organisation. The figures cannot be denied.
I appreciate that the Commonwealth Government has to continue to operate the Agreement with the States. It is true of course, as stated by the honourable member for Cunningham, that the first Agreement was introduced by a Labor government. That was in 1946 after an investigation was held. The report of the investigation tied up the whole question of housing and recommended, as the honourable member said, that housing be dealt with on a planned basis of social welfare; in other words, the whole scheme was to be socialised. The original Agreement of 1946 tied up the scheme for 10 years. This Government, when the opportunity arose - that was in 1956 - amended the period of operation; since then the agreements have operated for periods of 5 years. The first Agreement under the new system ended in 1961 and the following Agreement ended in 1966. The present Agreement will operate to 1971 and is therefore current. I sincerely hope that in 1971 there will be a major change in the concept of the Agreement. If I am in the House at that time I shall certainly violently oppose its continuation on its present basis. I have no qualms about it. I know that the States have a vested interest in the Agreement now, irrespective of whether they have Liberal or Labor governments, because of the housing authorities they have built up.
The honourable member for Cunningham referred to the original Agreement brought in by Labor in 1945-46 at the end of World War II. The first idea was not to have a housing agreement with each of the six States. I do not think this will be denied, because it was a recommendation of the commission which conducted the inquiry. The Agreement was drawn up to cover the whole of Australia. It was a very arbitrary agreement because its purpose was to control, for all practical purposes, with government money all future housing on a rental basis. Let me emphasise that it was to be on a rental basis. The Agreement contained no provision for, and Labor’s conception of a Commonwealth housing commission did not envisage, the encouragement of home ownership. All honourable members will remember that. Mr Dedman was the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction at that time and was in charge of this scheme. When he was challenged in this chamber in 1945 he made this historic statement: We do not want to build a nation of little capitalists’. That is quite a famous statement and it indicates quite clearly the attitude of the Labor Party to housing. The scheme was found to be unconstitutional and Labor reverted to the idea of getting the States to enter into an agreement to overcome the constitutional difficulty. A Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was entered into because the Constitution did not permit the Commonwealth to have overall control of housing on a rental basis in Australia.
As I remember it, at that time all the States except South Australia had Labor governments. South Australia stood out of the Agreement and has only since become a party to it. I do not think there is any dispute that in 1946, when the Agreement was entered into with the States, there was a basis of subsidised rentals but home ownership was not provided for in the original Agreement produced by the Labor Party. I think that is to its detriment. Honourable members opposite now claim in this chamber that they want home ownership and will encourage it. Yet when they were in power and had the opportunity to lay down the principles it is clear from the history of the Party that it did not want to encourage home ownership and was prepared to encourage the principle that the people of Australia should be provided with housing on a rental basis. That is typical of the Socialist approach to the whole question.
The Agreement ran concurrently with the rent control systems in the States when Labor was in power,- because it established the systems. The control systems, as would the control system advocated today by the honourable member for Cunningham, did more harm to housing and the Australian economy than any other single factor in our history. I can prove those words up to the hilt.
– That is what Cramer and Company said.
– No. It is true that it has done tremendous damage, but people are forgetting it. It is impossible to recover from that damage. This was done in the 5 years of Labor Government from the end of the war in 1945 until 1-949 when the present coalition Government came into power. What the honourable member for Cunningham is now advocating took place then. Labor had land sale controls and rent control in every State in which it could apply such controls. These controls were applied under defence powers during the war and Labor retained those powers as long as it could after the war. It controlled the manufacture and distribution of building materials and retained price controls. In other words, in that period after the war the Commonwealth Labor Government was establishing a completely Socialist state and it had almost succeeded when the people threw it out of office.
Just think of the damage that was done by this process in that period. Because of the action the Labor Party took it destroyed all incentive to investment in real estate or home ownership. Every possible encouragement should have been given the people to invest their savings in the soundest investment of all - in the real estate of their own country. The retention of rent control and the establishment of the housing commission agreement destroyed all incentive to investment in real estate in Australia. We have not recovered from that situation, and probably we will never recover from it. Worse, however, was the fact that the Labor Government drove the private, savings of people into other avenues of investment - into motor cars, electrical appliances and all the other gadgets that started to appear in that period. The people had no other outlets for their savings.
– It is cheaper now to buy a car than to pay rent.
– That is so. As a result of what was done in that time a dreadful thing happened in Australia. We had the establishment and development of what is called ‘fringe banking’ in Australia. Huge cash order organisations were established as were finance companies and great corporations like the Latec and Reid Murray organisations. This is where people’s savings were directed because they had nowhere else to put them. The Labor Government had destroyed the incentive to invest in substantial things like real estate and home ownership. Some people tend to forget these facts. I lived through this period and I know what actually happened. People were virtually skinned alive by the big interest rates that were offered and sometimes paid. Of course, many thousands of people lost their life savings which had been diverted from the secure foundation of a proper economy into the fictitious kind of economy that the Labor Government had built up by its principles and its policies of control. This is something it will never live down. These are facts that cannot be denied. 1 have said in this chamber on a number of occasions, and have been ridiculed for so saying, that there is no housing shortage in Australia and that there has not been a housing shortage for quite a few years. An artificial shortage has been created by a maldistribution caused by systems of control, but there are no actual housing shortages when available accommodation is related to the number of people seeking it. I do not say that in all instances the people can afford to pay for the accommodation, but in every city of Australia there are thousands of vacant homes and other vacant accommodation. In South Australia the Government has bad to ease up on building houses. Even with Government controlled organisations, South Australia has overbuilt to the point where hundreds of homes are vacant and cannot be sold. This is the situation in every city today. The difficulty in obtaining homes persists only in New South Wales where rent controls still exist - in their final death struggle, of course. This is an extraordinary situation. In new South Wales there would be no more than 40,000 to 50,000 homes that are still subject to rent control. Most people who owned houses for investment purposes have got rid of those houses. Others have knocked them down wherever possible and built flats. This process has been continuing and the investing public has been ridding itself of investment in real estate. Now, after 28 years, we have about 40,000 to 50,000 homes subjected to rent control. In New South Wales there are also some shops, the rental of which is controlled. Lord only knows why they should be controlled under provisions going back 28 years. Probably the total number of houses and shops in New South Wales still subject to rent control would not exceed 65,000 to 70,000.
It is in my opinion - and I say this advisedly - diabolical that the owners of these houses should, by the law of the country, be forced to take rent on the basis of 1939 money values. In 1939 money was worth perhaps 300% more than it is worth today. Yet these landlords are pegged to the 1939 rental basis.
– What government is in power in New South Wales today?
– I agree that this has become a political football. I mentioned before the problem of unscrambling the egg. There is a vested interest in this matter, and it is difficult for a government to alter the situation, but I hope it will be altered, because it should be altered in the interests of national justice. This is a dreadful situation. It is true that home building costs are about 300% or perhaps 400% higher than they were in pre-war days. The value of money has changed and incomes have been increased since 1939 by about 300% or more. Land costs are a big problem too. The honourable member for Cunningham mentioned this fact. What is the cause? The honourable member for Cunningham could not say, except that people were greedy and wanted a lot of profit. The only cure he could suggest was arbitrary price control. This cures nothing. A system of controls has never been known to cure any problem unless in a Socialist state or in war time when everything must be controlled. Isolated sections of the economy cannot be controlled for the benefit of the whole.
A reason for the high land costs is the huge increase in government operations, both State and Federal, for housing commission homes, war service homes and government departments throughout Australia. These activities have grown to enormous proportions in recent years. This has meant that the governments themselves, by their own operations, have tied up enormous areas of land and locked it out from private distribution. Another reason for high land costs is that huge corporations and finance organisations have entered into the field and have locked up land everywhere. They have paid fantastic prices for that land and have had no regard to the normal values. These groups are building home units in urban areas and they will pay any price for land for this purpose. They are not in the same position as the private investor who is using his own money; they are dealing with the public’s money. There is no doubt that in this way these groups are increasing the price of land tremendously. I could name these companies for honourable members. Some of the very big real estate operators also are to blame for this locking up of land. This has deterred the small investor.
I do not want to give the impression that I do not agree with rational planning in a proper way but the difficulty is that once planning authorities are established bureaucracy takes over and a commonsense approach is not achieved. Some of these planning authorities are another reason why land costs have increased in various cities. I know that this applies particularly to Sydney at the present time. Because of the development of this strange sort of economy there is no place now for the little man. I do not agree that this should be so. Where is the small investor today? He has only a few avenues left to him. Where is the small builder - the most economic builder in the country? Where is the small business? Small businesses have been giving way to big trusts, corporations and finance magnates. This is not good in an economy of this kind and it is not good for democracy as we know it.
What is our housing problem? As I have said, in every city there are thousands of vacant houses to sell or to let. There are only two problems in housing today. One is the provision of rental homes for people on a very low income. There is a place in this field for a housing commission operation or a government operation because the task should be done on a welfare basis. I agree with that. I believe that housing commissions should be confined to this type of operation and perhaps to slum clearance, which is another activity that requires attention. The other problem we have is that of providing finance at low interest rates for home ownership. This is a problem that I believe can be overcome. This Government has done some splendid things in the field of housing. I briefly mention homes for the aged. The Government has now approved that local government authorities be subsidised for homes built for the aged. This scheme is doing a great job in housing the aged people. The homes savings grant encourages young people to save their own money to buy nouses. What we want for housing is not more and more government money but more private savings. The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is a splendid body. Its main customers are the permanent building societies. As I have said, I believe that when we come to renew the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement we should confine the operations of the housing commissions largely to the production of low income houses for indigent people.
The Government should encourage investment of private capital in housing and I believe that this could be done through taxation concessions. The Government would save money in the long run by such a scheme. I believe that if the Government allowed taxation concessions for people investing their savings in permanent building societies sufficient low interest money would be forthcoming to satisfy building needs. This is something to which the Government should give attention. I am sorry to say that few people in government departments really understand the economics of housing. The permanent building societies understand this business. The Government should look very closely into this question of taxation concessions for investments in permanent building societies because these societies take advantage of the insurance scheme that was set up by the Government. The increased use of savings bank deposits should also be pressed because this is low interest money saved by the people. The whole purpose that the Government should pursue is to encourage utilisation of the savings of the people in housing projects with the objective of reducing the demand for government funds. In this way some good will be done for the economy. The task is simple if only governments will understand how to do it. To bring in Socialist measures as was suggested by the honourable member for Cunningham, would be a tragedy to this country.
– It is never hard to follow the trend of thought of the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) when he speaks on any housing bill, and particularly one relating to the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement as this measure does. It would be true to say that the greatest satisfaction that the honourable member could get in his lifetime would be to see the State housing authorities of this country abolished. He said that there are thousands and thousands of homes available for rental. I guarantee that I could fill the Melbourne Town Hall with people who desire homes. They would be pleased to have the honourable member there to tell them what he has said today. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), who was a bank manager, is interjecting. He should just hold his voice for a minute.
– I have built more homes than any other banker in Australia.
– The honourable member has built more homes, yes, and he has made a lot of profit for his bank out of it. But it is the greatest desire of the honourable member for Bennelong to see the abolition o! the State housing authorities. There is no doubt about that. He mentioned the $500 gift to young couples to purchase a home. The price of land and buildings has increased by $500. Most probably the interests which the honourable member for Bennelong represents got that $500 as a bonus. In afl respects it would be true to say that m the life of a married couple nothing gives them greater concern than getting a roof over their heads. 1 am sure that even the honourable member for Bennelong agrees with that statement. But when Bills of this nature come before the House - for that matter, in any debate on housing - it is customary to hear Government supporters, such as the honourable member for Bennelong, boast about the level of home ownership in Australia. I stress the phrase ‘home ownership in Australia’. I remind the honourable member for Bennelong that a home is not your own until you have finished paying for it. Thousands of people in Australia will be of pensionable age before they have paid for their homes.
I would refer to the present situation as record home buying by compulsion. I see that the honourable member for Bennelong is leaving the chamber; he does not want to hear what we have to say. While the Government claims credit for the state of record home ownership it could also claim that in no other country are fewer private homes available for rental. This fact cannot be disputed. The only homes available for rental are those built by the State housing authorities.
– Who did-
-Order! The honourable member for Mitchell will cease interjecting.
– The dogs are barking. The State housing authorities probably have about 80,000 unsatisfied applicants for homes. In Victoria alone there are about 12,000 unsatisfied applicants for housing commission homes. If all of the demands for housing were taken into consideration this figure could probably be doubled. In Victoria the waiting time for a housing commission home is from 3 to 4 years, according to circumstances. A newly married couple would have no chance of securing a home for rental or purchase through the State housing authorities. Married persons with two children would have a long wait with little chance of ever obtaining a unit from the State housing authorities. People with three children must wait for 3 or 4 years. For these reasons I submit that if all of the circumstances were taken into consideration, the figure relating to the demand for housing authority accommodation in Australia would be more than doubled.
In addition to applying a means test on family size the housing authorities apply an income means test. For instance, in Victoria an income of $60 a week could bar a person from getting a housing commission home. It is truly said that many people living in housing commission homes would prefer to live elsewhere. But even if these people were able to obtain a home for rental - this is almost an impossibility in spite of what the honourable member for Bennelong said - the rental would be so high that they could not afford to pay it. In addition these people do not have the wherewithall to pay a deposit and enter into an agreement to purchase a home. So they say and I say: Thank God that the Australian Labor Party had the wisdom to establish the State housing authorities.
Young married couples desiring a home quickly became appalled at the types of flats offered for rental and at the rental asked and in their extremity find themselves before a home finance company. Their deposit is paid, the documents are signed and everything in the garden is rosy while both of them are working. Then they discover that they are to have a family. With this discovery they also discover the impact of their commitments on the home, the furniture, the car and other household requirements. With this discovery comes the realisation of their great bondage to keep a roof over their heads and a home for their children. As a consequence they live in fear of sickness and unemployment. They live in fear of anything that may cause further strain on their already over-committed financial resources. They are virtual slaves to the banks or the finance companies with whom they have entered into contracts. They are victims of high land prices and the high cost of homes. They are conscripts in the huge army of compulsory home buyers.
The smug, like the honourable member for Bennelong, and the self satisfied, the fortunate and the rich will say: ‘Th’at is ridiculous. It is not compulsory for these people to buy homes.’ To sentiments of that kind let me say: It may not be compulsory in the view of the smug, the self satisfied, the fortunate and the rich, but if dire human necessity is not a form of compulsion, I do not know what the word means. It is dire human necessity that compels these people to enter into contracts to purchase homes - contracts involving them in extortionate interest rates, high deposits and prices for land that are beyond reason. To the smug, the self satisfied and the rich, who say: ‘Well, they do not have to do these things’, looking, as they always do, only at profits and forgetting entirely the human side, I say: Would you have these people live in holes, hovels, sheds and degradation? They can answer for themselves, for it is true to say that by your actions you are judged. Actions speak louder than words. I agree with my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who when speaking on the States Grants Bill (No. 2) last Tuesday said:
The price of land is high and it is getting higher. Unless some stop is put to the process it will get dearer still.
He suggested that a committee of inquiry be set up to investigate these matters. I and my party believe that there should be a comprehensive national inquiry into housing needs and all matters associated with housing, particularly the overproduction of certain types of houses and the shortage of houses for the low income families. There should be a complete examination of the human problems arising from the experience of tenants and housing authorities concerning high density housing projects.
It is a sad commentary that thousands of migrants are returning to their native lands. They are doing this largely because of the trouble they have encountered in securing a home in this country. It is pertinent to ask why a person should wish to leave his or her country when he or she has very little hope, if any, of finding decent accommodation in Australia within a reasonable time. Let me quote from an article headed Slums Headache: 1,000 Worst Acres Should Go at Once’ which appeared in the ‘Age’ on 26th September this year. It reads:
At one extreme the Board of Works in its report ‘The Future Growth of Melbourne’ this year has listed 8,000 acres within the central sector of the city as the ‘redevelopment area.’
But there has never been a comprehensive survey of sub-standard housing in this city.
A ‘quick survey’ of the problem was made in 1960 by Mr Shaw and Mr J. H. Davey, who investigated the 7,600 acres of the city zoned by the Board of Works for higher density housing.
They had ‘no hesitation’ in recommending that at least 1,000 acres of these areas should be tackled at once.
But they also discovered that a further 2,500 acres was occupied by housing nearing the end of its economic life and could degenerate into slums unless action was taken to at least retain its present standard.
If the minimum 1,000 acres were handled by the Commission at the present rate the job would take 50 years.
The potential stums found by Shaw and Davey would take more than twice 83 long to clear.
But the ‘backlog’ already in existence is so enormous that generations may pass before it is beaten … if it ever is.
In the meantime, no accurate figures are available on the rate of annual decadence of existing housing which is of a declining, if currently satisfactory, standard.
This leaves the frightening situation of a ‘slum’ problem getting away from the Housing Coramission at a faster rate than the reclamation and rebuilding operations now provided for.
Yet we are told by the honourable member for Bennelong that the housing problem has been overcome; there is no problem in Australia. The provision of housing is without doubt the most important matter any country has to face. The continuity of the building industry is still without doubt a most important factor in the life of a community. If the building industry fails, most probably hundreds of other secondary industries and commercial enterprises will fail. A most salient point is that a properly conducted building industry is a source of great revenue to any country. A country cannot lose out on housing. It is a national asset.
Today we hear much about national development. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) at a luncheon on Tuesday spoke of the vast open spaces of this country. In direct contrast to that we hear of the necessity to have high density housing in this country of vast open spaces. We talk of and carry out slum reclamation, but then we set out to perpetuate the sins of slums by building high density housing on the sites we have cleared. Decentralisation is another subject that the Government talks about, but action in this regard is noticeable by its absence. I seriously suggest that when making money available to the States for Housing the Federal Government could bring tremendous pressure to bear in the matter of decentralisation. Recently when overseas I was surprised to hear disparaging remarks about high density housing and its disadvantages to the family unit. I agree with those remarks. I cannot bring myself to believe that in this country of vast open spaces we should be, for the sake of saving a few dollars, creating multi-storey housing units of 8, 10 or 12 storeys and expecting people to raise families under these conditions. We bring migrants to Australia to increase the population, yet we build multi-storey housing units to stifle the increase in our population. No amount of argument will convince me that these conditions are good for family life.
High density housing has no future for the children of the family man and woman. 1 do not believe that in the final analysis this type of progress, if it can be called progress, is good for the community in general. I know that the argument will be raised: But what about the suburban sprawl? In answer to that I repeat the old familiar cry which I can remember well: The city is being choked. We must get the people out into the open spaces’. Large subdivisions, which incidentally brought large profits to the subdividers, took place all over the outer fringes of the city of Melbourne and every other capital city in Australia. In Melbourne, due to restrictions on finance to semi-government bodies and local government, it was found that these areas could not be serviced because of lack of funds.
The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, for which I was a Commissioner for many years, found that it had thousands of homes needing sewerage, that it was miles and miles behind in water reticulation and drainage and could not get the finance to cope with the demand. Municipalities were in a like situation so far as private street construction was concerned. With this situation staring all authorities in the face the theme song was: ‘Stop the suburban sprawl. Bring the people back into the city. Make greater use of the existing services’. As a result slum reclamation and high density housing became the order ot the day in this country of vast open spaces. In short, this situation has been brought about by the financial starvation that has been imposed on local government and semi-government institutions. Therefore, the sins of high density housing can rightly be laid on the doorstep of the Government of today.
Whilst we on this side of the house do not oppose this measure, we will at - all times endeavour to point out the shortcomings in the housing needs of our citizens. We demand a national inquiry into housing. In this regard it is interesting to note that the last inquiry was carried out by the Chifley Labor Government. Arising out of that inquiry there came into being the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the State housing authorties. I know that it is a far cry from 1945 to 1967, but suffice it to say that we still have a housing problem in our midst today. John Eddy, the Melbourne ‘Herald’ economist, said on Saturday, 23 rd September:
The building industry is lagging behind in the increasing tempo of the Australian economy.
Housing shortages, and less than full use of labour and materials for housing, have been with us for many years, lt nearly always comes back to a matter of finding enough money.
Rosy pictures have been presented recently about the state of the nation and its glowing prospects - in the Federal Budget, the annual report of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Sir Roland Wilson, by the Bank of New South Wales and Association Chambers of Manufactures.
The motor trade is doing well. Production in many other industries is at or near a new peak. Employment has a few patchy spots but on the whole is good. Stock exchanges are buoyant.
Conspicuous by its absence from the catalogue of good tidings is the building industry.
In short, we have plenty of everything except money and initiative to do the right thing by the people. Home savings grants, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation and other gimmicks have been put up by the Government to encourage the purchase of homes, but despite these gimmicks the construction of additional homes has not been achieved and we are still subjected to articles such as the one written by John Eddy to which I have just referred. I would not be one to suggest that we could ever overcome the housing problem. With the passing of every hour it is practically certain that there is an additional home needed, and while there is man and wife this aspect will continue. However, I think it is timely to say that the housing agreement and the States acting on this agree- ment are not meeting the housing requirements of the present day, particularly the requirements of the low income group. The position will get worse as the needs of the community increase. One wonders if this aspect has been taken into consideration in the new Australian-Italian immigration document which was signed on Tuesday.
Unfortunately in Australia the building industry has always been regarded as a fluctuating industry and not as permanent as some other industries. Lack of finance has always been the disease from which it has suffered. This disease has brought about conditions such as are indicated in the article to which 1 now refer. In the Age’ of 5th September 1967 under a heading ‘Too afraid to report slum landlords’ an article stated:
A survey by the ‘Age’ on Saturday showed that slum landlords in the Fitzroy area were charging $5 a week to pensioners for sub-standard rooms.
Because the Housing Commission had cleared many of the slums where pensioners used to live, competition among pensioners had increased for the remaining sub-standard rooms.
This meant pensioners had to accept rooms on the landlord’s conditions - and were too frightened to do anything about them because they had nowhere else to go.
A -little later the article stated:
The average waiting period for a single woman pensioner for accommodation in the inner urens is from 4 to 5 years.
That is for Housing Commission accommodation. It continued:
No provision at all is made for the men.’
It has been estimated that there are about 250,000 sub-standard homes in Australia occupied by people on low incomes and pensioners. This is a problem that the Government chooses to ignore. Some mention has been made about flat construction. However, I have never regarded a flat as a home in which to raise a family. In the publication ‘A Survey of the State of Housing in Australia’ produced by the Economic Research Committee of the Housing Industry Association, which was referred to by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), the following was stated about flats:
A study of private flat construction in Sydney and Melbourne conducted by the Housing Industry Association in 1966 indicated that about 40% of fists being erected were one-bedroom, or even one-room, units of between 21 and 5 squares. These are hardly family homes.
The study showed also that about two-thirds of the flats being erected were for letting, the balance being own-your-home units. Approximately 40% of the rental units were occupied by newlymarrieds, about 10% by young unmarried adults, and about 30% by migrants, usually with families and chiefly of British and North European origin. Further, about 65% of the own-your-home units were bought for cash, mostly by elderly people who had recently sold a house, while about 20% were bought by adult working women living alone.
It goes on to state:
Many people in flats have the income to repay a substantial housing loan, but they have not yet saved the necessary deposit to buy a dwelling. The newly-marrieds in flats generally take from 2 to 5 years to save the necessary deposit.
This shows that the rate of flat construction has little relevance to family needs. It also says that the flats that are being built are the equivalent of the old apartment houses and tenement accommodation and have little relationship to the housing needs of families. Such was the extent of the overreaching of the requirements for flat construction that we heard in this House the amazing proposition - put, I think, by the honourable member for Bennelong - that empty flats should be resumed by the Government to house migrants coming to our shores. In other words, much ot the money spent on flats could well have been used to construct homes for pensioners or low wage earners.
– They wanted to sell their home units.
– That is right. The excess flat construction stems from the fact that money for this purpose was easy to obtain, and is still easy to obtain, and by allowing these circumstances to persist the Government has penalised the needy such as the basic wage earners. It must be admitted, however, that the use of flats for migrants also emanated from the desire of the Government to escape the scathing criticism that has been levelled at it because of the conditions that it has allowed to exist in migrant hostels. Perhaps the best solace that can be gained from this episode is that it brought into focus the fact that money that could have been used for building homes for the low wage earners, the pensioners and other needy people, has been spent on flat construction.
The building industry is one of the most important industries in our economy. In a country of vast open spaces and in a country that is shouting out for development, the provision of adequate housing for its people is most essential. The very character of the citizens of any country and even their standard of living are largely governed by the quality and availability of housing. If we are to cope with the intake of new citizens to our country, housing must be given a far higher priority than it has had previously. Clearly the effects of the Government’s interference in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in 1956 have never been overcome by the State housing authorities. The honourable member for Bennelong said that 30% of the money is given to co-operatives. I am happy to see that money is given to the co-operatives, but it should never have been taken away from the State housing authorities. The demands for money for slum reclamation are just as urgent today as they were 10 years ago and the Government is just as deaf to them today as it was 10 years ago. The demand for homes is just as great as it was 10 years ago, but still the Government adopts the attitude of all care and no responsibility. Indeed, the position today is little removed from the position 10 years ago. This is shown by a report of the Victorian Minister of Housing in March 1965, in which he said:
A general review of the housing market does indicate that there are ample houses for sale, but that the availability of finance may be a limiting factor.
We have the material and labour, but the one ingredient that is lacking is finance. The Minister continued:
Indeed, the conclusion I have reached is that there is still a shortage of homes of a reasonable standard for people in the lower, income groups. In the first place, there are some thousands of people waiting for Housing Commission accommodation.
Secondly, a personal inspection of a random sample selection of the houses in which these people are residing indicated that only a bulldozer could remedy the defects in most of these houses situated in the inner industrial suburbs. The increased emphasis placed on slum reclamation in recent years … is more than justified.
That is an answer to the claim of the honourable member for Bennelong that thousands of homes are available for rental.
The building of homes for the people is socially desirable, politically desirable and economically essential. It is the right of every citizen to have decent, adequate housing and the opportunity to buy a home. In Australia none should be denied these rights, irrespective of his station in life. This is the challenge that faces the Government, especially in the light of its immigration programme, and it has a long way to go before it can claim to have achieved these objectives.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) has asked me to present this case from Lieutenant-Colonel Paige in relation to totally and permanently incapacitated women who have served this country very well. I think that the best way in which I can explain this matter to the House is to read from her letter to Mr Jess. The letter reads:
It is a matter of great concern to many returned Service women, of whom I am one, that single ex-Servicewomen without dependents are not eligible, under the War Service Homes Act, for a loan to assist in the purchase of a home for their personal use.
Single ex-Servicewomen of the 1914-18 War have been denied this privilege, and now women of the 1939-43 War, many due to retire or already retired from active nursing who seek to purchase a home are not, unless they have a dependent, permitted a loan under the Act, and yet many served overseas for several years.
You will know that the first convoy which-
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable member is getting very wide of the purposes of the Bill. I ask him to confine his remarks to the Bill which is to authorise the raising and expending of moneys for the purposes of housing.
– Yes. At the request of the honourable member for La Trobe I have raised this matter. I do want to stress this point. Not only returned servicewomen without dependants are denied the right of a home under the War Service Homes Act. I would like the Government to consider the advisability of altering the provisions especially in the case that I have mentioned of a woman who has risen to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and who has been denied-
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. My point of order is that the honourable member for Mitchell is flouting your wishes. You suggested that he should get on with the debate on the Bill and-
– Order! The honourable member will state his point of order.
– He is flouting the wishes of the Chair.
– Order! I remind the honourable member for Mitchell that his remarks are extremely wide of the purposes of the Bill. I ask him to come back to the contents of the Bill which is the subject of this debate.
– As a bank manager, he should tell us something about interest.
– Yes, I can do that too. The Loan (Housing) Bill 1967 seeks authority for the Treasurer to borrow $122,840,000 which is to be advanced to the States during the year 1966-67 in accordance with the provisions of the Housing Agreement Act 1966. These advances totalling $122,840,000 together with supplementary grants for the provision of dwellings for members of the Armed Services should permit State housing authorities, building societies and other approved institutions which share in the grants under the Housing Agreement Act 1966 to provide approximately 17,000 dwellings in 1967-68. Distribution between the States of the amount of $122,840,000 in loan funds, plus the estimated supplementary advances to certain States for Service housing, will be as follows: In New South Wales the loan funds will be $43,080,000 while the Service housing fund will be $1.2m. The total advances to New South Wales will be $44,280,000. In Victoria the figures are $33m for loan funds and $627,000, making total advances for that State $33,627,000. In Queensland the amount of loan funds will be $9,060,000 and the amount for Service housing will be $3,902,000, making total advances $12,962,000. In South Australia the amount of $21 m will be provided for loan funds.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, prior to the suspension of the sitting, I had begun to outline the amounts to be allocated to the individual States out of the total of $122,840,000 to be provided under the terms of this measure and the estimated supplementary advances to certain States for Service housing. South Australia will receive in loan funds $21m. Western Australia will receive in loan funds $10m and for Service housing $1,345,000, making a total of $11,345,000. Tasmania will receive in loan funds $6,700,000. The States will receive a total of $122,840,000 in loan funds, together with $7,074,000 for Service housing, making a grand total of $129,914,000. The advances will be made to the States under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement 1956-1966, which consists of the 1956 Agreement as extended and amended in 1961 and again in 1966. The last Agreement entered into was approved by this Parliament in May 1966 when it passed the Housing Agreement Act 1966, which authorised the Commonwealth to enter into an agreement with each State. The new Agreement, which was signed on 21st December 1966, provides for advances to be made to the States for a further 5 years from 1st July 1966.
The Commonwealth Statistician’s preliminary figures indicating the number of houses and flats commenced in Australia in 1966-67 show that during the past year home building activity has been running at a reasonably satisfactory level. Overall, the level of commencements was the second highest ever achieved. The total of 114,804 commencements in 1966-67 was 7% higher than the 1965-66 total, which was 107,204, and only 2% below the record level of 116,709 in 1964-65. In Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, the number of commencements in 1966-67 was a record. The figure for New South Wales was 5% above the 1965-66 figure and 8% below the record level of 1964-65. In South Australia, commencements in 1966-67 were at the lowest level since 1961-62. It seems obvious now that a year or two ago home builders in that State were over-optimistic in estimating the demand for houses and flats. However, it is expected that with the number of unsold dwellings in South Australia gradually falling, there will be an improvement in the rate of home building in that State in the current financial year. A record number of 33,088 flats was commenced in Australia in 1966-67. Indications are that about 40% of all the dwellings commenced in Sydney and Melbourne were flats. There has been continuing stability in the number of dwellings completed. In each of the past 3 years the figure has been close to 112,000.
Let me describe briefly the provisions of the 1966 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which provides for advances to be made to the States for housing up to 30th June 1971. I shall also make some comment on the usual criticisms of the Housing Agreement that are made over the years.
Turning to advances, clause 6 of the Agreement requires the States to divide the advances of loan funds received from the Commonwealth each financial year into two parts. One part is to be used for the erection of dwellings by State housing authorities for rental or sale, primarily to families of low or moderate means. The other part, which shall not be less than 30% of the advances made, is to be used to provide loans for persons wishing to buy or build a home privately through building societies and other approved institutions. For the purpose of these loans, each State is required to maintain a Home Builders Account, the operations of which are dealt with more fully later on.
From 1956 to 30th June 1967 the total amount of loan funds advanced under the Agreement to the States for housing was $986,822,000, of which $308,407,700 was allocated to home builders accounts and $678,414,300 was allocated to the State housing authorities. The total amount lent to building societies, housing societies and other approved institutions from the Home Builders Account was about $360m, because of the revolving nature of the account. From time to time we hear criticism that the Commonwealth allocation for housing is inadequate. The allocation to each State under the Housing Agreement is not decided by the Commonwealth. After a general survey of financial resources each year, the Australian Loan Council fixes an overall limit to the total works and housing borrowing programmes for the ensuing financial year, and each State then nominates the amount it requires for housing. With the approval of the Loan Council, the total of amounts nominated by the States for housing becomes the Commonwealth’s share of governmental loan raising for the year and is made available by the Commonwealth to the States under the Housing Agreement.
The Commonwealth also provides funds for housing by means other than under the Housing Agreement. It makes tax free grants to young couples. Grants made under the Homes Savings Grant Act since mid- 1964 total approximately $38.5m. The Commonwealth subsidises homes for the aged and infirm and provides housing and housing finance in the Territories. It provides loans under the War Service Homes Act, and provides funds for the erection of dwellings for serving members of the Armed Forces. The total funds made available by the Commonwealth from all sources in 1966-67 was approximately $232m.
Another criticism is that the States should not be forced to divert 30% of advances under the Agreement to building societies. The end results of the moneys made available to building societies and other approved institutions through the Home Builders Account compares very favourably with those achieved with moneys used by the State housing authorities. The States are required to repay Commonwealth advances over a 53-year period, whereas building societies are required to repay loans from the Home Builders Account over a considerably shorter period. As a result, the repayments made to the Home Builders Account each financial year exceed the repayments made by the States to the Commonwealth, and the excess is available for relending to building societies. An actuarial computation has shown that advances allocated to the Home Builders Account are used twice during the 53-year period.
Building societies and other approved institutions require larger deposits from purchasers than do the State housing authorities. This means that a given sum of money advanced under the Housing Agreement and allocated to the Home Builders Account will finance the construction of more houses than the State housing authorities can erect with the same capital sum.
The combined results of the revolving nature of the Home Builders Account, and the larger deposits required by building societies for the 11 years during which advances have been made under the 1965-66 agreement are illustrated in the following figures. State housing authorities, excluding expenditure on Service housing, have had Commonwealth advances totalling $650,738,606. The dwellings provided totalled 101,814 and the average cost of a dwelling was $6,391. In the Home Builders Account $308,407,700 was provided by
Commonwealth advances for 58,928 dwellings. The average amount of advance per dwelling was $5,234. Thus, on the average, one house was provided for every $6,391 advanced to State housing authorities for civilian housing whereas one house was financed with every $5,234 advanced to the Home Builders Account. To make a comparison in another way, every $10m advanced to the Home Builders Account provided 346 homes or 22% more houses than the same amount of money advanced to State housing authorities. The advantage of the Home Builders Account arrangement will become even greater in later years as the repayments by borrowers increase.
Clause 16 of the 1965-66 Housing Agreement provides for the operation of Home Builders Accounts to which the States are required to allocate annually at least 30% of loan funds received from the Commonwealth. Moneys available in a State’s Home Builders Account are to be used to provide finance for persons wishing to purchase or build a home of their own. This is done by means of a loan to building societies or housing societies. However, the Commonwealth Minister may approve of loans being made to institutions other than these societies in a particular financial year. The terms and conditions on which the moneys in the Home Builders Account are made available are agreed between the appropriate Commonwealth and State Ministers. Since the 1966 amendment, the agreement now includes special provision to permit a portion of the moneys available in the Home Builders Account to be allocated to approved State Government lending institutions for lending to persons in rural areas where there is no building society and in which it would be difficult to form and administer a society efficiently.
Another criticism often levelled is that the provision of funds to building societies from the Home Builders Account dried up the finance that was being provided by lending institutions to the building societies. If this were correct there would have been a reduction in the private loans to building societies from the time the Home Builders Account arrangements were introduced in 1956-57. On the contrary, however, the finance obtained by co-operative terminating building societies from private sources has increased. The following figures for the early years in New South Wales and Victoria show increases of 26% and 60% respectively between 19SS and 1956 and between 1959 and 1960. Finance obtained by terminating building societies from private sources in New South Wales and Victoria were as follows:
Between 1961 and 1966-67 the level of lending by finance institutions to terminating building societies in all States increased from $28.5m to $39.5 lm, being an increase of 38.6%.
Since 1956 the Commonwealth and State housing agreements have provided for the erection of dwellings by the State Governments to be let to serving members of the defence forces. The Commonwealth may require a State to set aside for Service housing an amount not exceeding 5% of the loan funds allocated to the State housing authority. The Commonwealth must make supplementary advances to the State to match any amount so set aside. If a State agrees, the Commonwealth may advance an additional sum to the States for the erection of more houses than the money available under the matching provisions will provide for. From the commencement of the scheme in 1956-57 until 30th June 1967 the States have provided in their programmes for the erection of 9,828 Service dwellings at an estimated cost of $77m.
Clause 13 of the Agreement provides that the dwellings erected by State housing authorities for servicemen are to remain the property of the State. They are to be erected in localities specified by the Commonwealth but the State shall not be required to erect Service buildings in other than usual residential localities. Prior to 1956 the Housing Agreement provided that the Service dwellings were to be, in size and standard, similar to those usually erected by the State housing authority. Dwellings commenced after 30th June 1966, however, may be of a size and standard that accord with, but do not exceed, the Service scales and standards of accom modation as prescribed by the Department of Defence.
Clause 9 of the Housing Agreement provides that each advance to a State shall bear interest and prescribes the manner of ascertaining the rate of interest. For the 5-year term of the current Agreement the rate is 1% below the long-term bond rate at the date an advance is made. Since 13 April 1965 the long-term bond rate has been 5i% per annum, so that advances since that date have attracted interest at 4i% per annum. It has been argued that the Commonwealth should charge interest at lower rates. Successive housing agreements have consistently envisaged a rate of interest tied to the rate of interest on Commonwealth securities. The 1945 Agreement provided for a rate of interest not exceeding the long-term bond rate. Since the 1956 Agreement all advances have been made at 1% below the long-term bond rate. Over a 53 year period interest at 4£% per annum on a loan of $8,000 would amount to about $3,593 less than if the rate were 5i% per annum.
Another general criticism that has been made of the housing agreements since 1956 is based on the simple proposition that the 1945 Agreement was better. The Chifley Agreement of 1945 placed the emphasis almost entirely on rental housing. In recognition of the fact that many families of moderate means wish to own their own homes, the present Government has entered into agreements that have enabled the States to build dwellings for rental or for sale as they desire and to determine their own terms for sale, such terms, in general, being very liberal. This Government also eased the harsh terms originally applicable to the sale of dwellings built under the 1945 Agreement.
It has also been suggested that the Commonwealth forced the present Agreement on the States on a basis of take it or leave it. The agreements entered into by the present Government were freely negotiated with the States and were the result of negotiations between the housing Ministers and housing officers of the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth’s proposal last year to renew the 1961 Housing Agreement for a further 5 years, with some amendments, met with a generally favourable reaction from State housing Ministers. Practically all amendments to the provisions originally agreed upon in 1956 have been of benefit to the States, and none could be described as detrimental to State interests.
It has been argued that the Commonwealth should finance rental rebates. Under the 1945 Agreement the Commonwealth met 60% of annual cash losses incurred by a State in the administration of rental dwellings erected under that Agreement. A major contributing factor to such losses is the rental rebate granted to families of low incomes, but to obtain the benefit of the Commonwealth’s 60% contribution a State must comply with a number of conditions so stringent that only two States have been able to meet them in recent years. Since 1956 the Agreements have left it to the States to decide for themselves whether the interest concession that the Commonwealth allows on its capital advances should be used to finance rental rebates and other losses. Some States do in fact use the interest concession for this purpose.
The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) spoke of the high cost of land. I can speak only of the position in New South Wales, but I can say that in that State the high cost of home building land has been due primarily to the implementation of Socialist legislation and action taken by the Cumberland County Council and later the State Planning Authority. Land that could have been purchased for $500 a block in Parramatta and the surrounding- districts is now costing $5,000 a block. These high prices have resulted from restrictions on the sale of land. In many parts of the western suburban areas of Sydney thousands of build ing allotments were frozen by the Cumberland County Council in areas zoned as rural or green belt. Despite the fact that formed roads had been made and in many cases water and electricity services provided, these blocks of land could not be built on. Naturally when thousands of residential allotments are frozen in this way the law of supply and demand applies and the price of available land goes up. The freezing of these blocks occurred at a time when we were short of all kinds of building materials -and although, as I say, roads had been built and water and electricity services provided, these allotments were not allowed to be built on. Now the price of land has increased to such an extent that young married couples cannot possibly afford to buy building blocks. This has all been brought about by the application of controls. As everyone knows, once a control authority is established it is necessary to set up half a dozen other controls to control the original control. If one studies Socialist legislation one will find that it invariably reacts against the persons it was originally intended to assist.
I congratulate the Government on this Bill and I trust that the amount allocated for war service homes-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), I was pleased to hear, disagrees with his colleague the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) in the support that he gives to this legislation. He still has reservations about Socialist enterprises and apparently he condemns municipal councils for insisting on green belts of parkland. I think the people of the next generation will bless the councils and the people who have sufficient foresight to ensure that green areas are conserved in and around our cities and towns. I am reminded that someone asked Will Rogers his advice on the best type of investment. He said: ‘Land. They’re not making any more of it.’ If green belts are not provided for by this generation when areas are subdivided the opportunity will be lost for all other generations. I pay a tribute to the people who have preserved such areas in the larger cities. The City of
Adelaide is a shining example of what can be achieved by planning. It is surrounded by green parklands. I am sure that the present citizens of Adelaide are pleased that a previous generation had the foresight to provide parks and sporting facilities within easy access of the city.
I have digressed a little from the Bill. Legislation of this kind is presented annually. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) said in his second reading speech, the Bill provides for advances to the States in accordance with the approval of the Australian Loan Council and in the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The Commonwealth does not accept liability as to how the money shall be spent or even as to the amounts to be advanced to the States, as set out in the Minister’s second reading speech. The Minister has said that the advances are at the request of the States, and this legislation gives authority to the Treasurer to borrow the amount of $122,840,000 for that purpose. It is interesting to note that the amounts to be advanced to all States have increased with the exception of the advances to Queensland and Tasmania. In Tasmania there has been a considerable amount of home building following the disastrous bush fires there. It is quite understandable that the Tasmanian Government would not be in a position to borrow too much money for the provision of housing this year.
I am concerned that the amount to be advanced to Queensland, as requested by the Queensland Government, remains at last year’s figure of $9,060,000, despite the fact that the Queensland Government within the last 12 months has increased the maximum loan available to purchasers from the State Housing Commission from $7,000 to $8,000. On the basis of the new maximum loan 162 fewer houses will be built in Queensland this year than in 1966 with the funds made available by the Commonwealth. Of course, other finance is available for housing in Queensland. I deny categorically the claim made by the honourable member for Bennelong that the Australian Labor Party is opposed to home ownership. That has never been the case. Before the first Housing Agreement with the States was signed in 1946 the State Labor governments introduced housing legislation. In 1916 the
The first Housing Agreement with the States was introduced immediately after World War II, when many servicemen and servicewomen were returning to Australia. Migrants who do not qualify under the war service homes legislation began to come to Australia and these people required housing. Because of the need to use building materials and labour for the war effort there had been a falling off in home construction during the war years. People were making do, as they will when they believe that the nation is threatened, till the time when they would be able to have a home of their own. They were making sacrifices because building materials were not readily available to them. A lot of people did not have the deposit for a home at that stage, and that was particularly true of newly married couples. After the Agreement was drawn up the majority of homes provided were built for rental purposes. I am afraid the position has changed to such an extent that the Queensland Housing Commission is erecting homes for purchase rather than for rental. Although most private builders do not now erect homes for rental, the demand for them still exists in the community.
A survey was conducted in August of this year by the Economic Research Committee of the Housing Industry Association. It shows that there has been an upsurge in private investment in home building for rental purposes. Homes are wanted for rental by people who do not have sufficient money to pay a deposit or who are likely to be transferred from one town to another. People in the first category believe that they have not enough security to build homes of their own and they require homes for rental. Some people after surviving the depression have suffered long periods of unemployment, and now in their twilight years they are in need of decent homes for rental at a low rate. Some people - widows, invalid pensioners and the like - have been struck by misfortune and are unable to pay high rents. The Housing Agreement assists all those people by allowing for a rental rebate.
As other honourable members have stated, 30% of the funds allocated to the States is available for co-operative home building societies. The Australian Labor Party does not deny that the building societies are in need of assistance. The funds available to the societies are not sufficient to meet the demand. Most building societies find that their funds are expended in the first half of the year and their members must wait for another 6 months before they can obtain finance to build homes. An amount not exceeding 5% of the allocation can be used for the provision of homes for serving defence personnel.
Much has been said about the demand for homes. The honourable member for Bennelong questioned whether there is a shortage of homes in Australia. He probably knows his own area better than most of us do, but I believe that the New South Wales Housing Commission has tens of thousands of applicants for homes for rental and purchase purposes. According to ‘A Survey of the State of Housing in Australia’, produced by the Economic Research Committee of the Queensland Housing Industry Association, there is certainly a demand for homes in Australia. It estimates conservatively that in Australia there are between 200,000 and 250,000 sub-standard dwellings and that the demand for homes this year will be about 124,000. The honourable member for Bennelong can say that there are vacant homes, but there are probably good reasons why they should be vacant. It is a shame that they should be unoccupied, but many of them are old homes. Private banks, even savings banks, and other home lending authorities are loath to make loans available for the purchase of homes that have been erected for more than 6 to 10 years. The requirement varies slightly from bank to bank, but it is difficult to obtain finance for a home that is more than 10 years old. For such homes a greater deposit is required. These frequently are old homes in established areas and the deposit required is substantially in excess of the amount that can be raised by a young married couple or a couple with a young family. As I have said, these homes are generally in well established areas where water and sewerage facilities are provided and the roads are already built. Sometimes the homes are in industrial areas and close to places of employment but because money is not available to people wanting to purchase them, they remain vacant. In the survey to which I referred, the following comment appears:
While detailed cross-classifications of income are not available, statistics of income before taxation and of average earnings for various types of wage earners do give a guide to income structure … it is estimated that about 18% of the 99,000 males marrying this year would earn less than $50 a week. However, over half of these 18,000 persons would be below the age of 21 years and would as adults earn $50 or more.
On the same pattern, it is estimated that about 30% to 35% of males marrying would receive less than $60 per week. However, perhaps 25% of this group (representing about 8% of total marriages) would earn a weekly wage of $60 or more when they become of age.
Male earnings would in many cases be increased by a ‘wealth factor’ (gifts and bequests, etc.), income of wives, social service benefits, and so on. On this analysis, less than 10% of those marrying each year would not be able to purchase a home if high-ratio low-interest loans were available to $9,000.
The survey suggests that there should be an increase in the limit of the standard loan to at least $9,000 and, not only this, but an increase in the ratio of advance to valuation of up to 95%. This is one of the objectives that the Minister for Labour and National Service had sought to obtain when, as Minister for Housing, he introduced the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The survey also stated:
Another 20% of those marrying would find some difficulty even if such finance were available, but probably most of these would be helped by supplementary income.
We are living in a two wage structure. Those husbands who are unable to send their wives out to work are at a distinct disadvantage compared to husbands and wives who both earn. Many young couples who get married intend to work until they can save sufficient for a deposit on a home, but unfortunately the best laid plans go astray and often the woman is obliged to stay home to look after children before they have saved sufficient for a deposit on a home. This is one of the reasons why the Australian Labor Party contends that there is a need for a national survey of the housing position throughout Australia. We do not accept the statement of the honourable member for Bennelong that plenty of houses are available. If houses are available, why are they vacant and how can we assist the people who want to occupy them? I do not think that many people are happy if they have to spend an hour to an hour and a half travelling to and from work each day. If they could secure adequate housing closer to their places of employment they would be happy to do so, but finance is not available to enable them to buy such homes.
The Housing Industry Association’s survey indicates that during the current year there will be a demand for 124,000 dwellings, lt is estimated that the demand will come primarily from 99,000 new marriages this year. The demand from this source is expected to increase to 121,000 in 1977. There is also an estimated demand for 15,000 holiday homes and second homes this current year. This is a modern trend, lt is expected that the demand for such accommodation will increase to 31,000 by 1977. It is expected that 18,000 homes will be demolished and will have to be replaced. I agree with what other Opposition members have said about slum clearance. Land should be acquired to enable slums to be cleared. Slum dwellings are often to be found in areas where all the necessary facilities are established and where local authorities are not being asked to provide amenities. With the present urban sprawl, people are obliged to contribute big sums by way of rates towards the cost of roads, kerbs and drainage. 1 believe that a national survey would indicate a great opportunity to make use of available facilities by the clearing of slum areas.
Another factor that must be considered is the increasing number of people who are obliged to obtain second mortgage loans to acquire homes. I have no figures to show how many people there are in Australia who are forced to obtain a second mortgage loan to purchase a house, but I am indebted to the Department of Housing for information concerning applicants for the homes savings grant. With the exception of the Australian Capital Territory, in every State the amount of second mortgage loans has increased over the last 12 months. I notice that the Department of Housing’? estimates of land values indicate that land is cheaper in the Australian Capital Territory. 1 know that land is obtained on a 99-year lease in the Australian Capital
Territory. This idea was adopted also in Queensland by the T. J. Ryan Labor Go:vernment, when it introduced the workers’ dwellings scheme. It made arrangements for the builder of the home to acquire the land on a 99-year lease, or a perpetual lease, with the option of purchase at a later date*
The figures I have indicate that the average cost of a block of land in New South Wales was $2,411. I take it that that would be not only for the metropolitan area but also the suburban and rural areas. Compared with this, the average premium paid for a 99-year lease in the Australian Capital Territory was $954. This means that a person building a home in the Australian Capital Territory had more money available for his initial home deposit because he was not being asked to pay a high price for the purchase of land. Land never becomes cheaper unless it is in a mining area or an area where an industry closes down.
I think I should also reply to the honourable member for Bennelong who criticised the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and said it was introduced by a Socialist government. He said that he did not approve of it when it was introduced and he does not approve of it now. He criticised the way the then Labor Government controlled building costs and said that this produced a housing shortage. I think that it was very important that control should be exercised in those days. I was in the building trade then and I can remember the demand for building materials. One had to write and ask for various building materials because only restricted quantities were available. Inconvenient as this might have been, the Labor Government did see that there was an equitable distribution of materials and that they were not made available only to the person who had the most money to pay for them. If that control had not been exercised we know what the position would have been. Because the demand was far in excess of the supply the prices would have gone up. I know that there were dealings by various people on the black market but this was kept to a minimum and these people were always in fear of being- prosecuted. I do not think that their fellow citizens who knew what was happening thought any more of them for their actions and probably many of them are today paying for their avaricious habits. The point is that while this control was exercised the price of a home was kept to a reasonable amount. Homes were hard to get and a person needed a good reason to obtain a home or building materials. But this control ensured that everyone received a reasonable share of the cake and that those people with the best entitlement - not those with the most money - received first choice. I would never consider it necessary to apologise for what happened in those years when a Labor Government saw fit to impose controls on the cost and supply of building materials and on homes generally.
I would like to see an inquiry held into the housing position in Australia. I would not suggest that such an inquiry should be held by the Housing Industry Association alone because it could be said that this Association was putting forward the industry’s point of view. Those who have been associated with the housing industry know how it is affected by fluctuations in demand and how hard it is to keep a work force operating throughout 12 months of the year. But the Housing Industry Association has endeavoured in some small way to obtain an idea of the trends in building and particularly in home building. While we are very grateful to this Association for what it has put forward, I think its resources are not sufficient to enable it to cover the whole of Australia.
It has been stated that the current intake of migrants will be static at 170,000 each year over the next 10 years. The Housing Industry Association conducted a survey of the housing position in Australia and in an article published in August 1967 it stated:
The migrant demand is predicated on minimum net migration levels, but the objective should be a considerable increase in migrant intake. The success of future drives for migrants is likely to depend more and more on successfully housing the newcomers.
The rationing of housing finance, the long waiting lists for loans, and surveys of rental premises combine to confirmthat not all of Australia’s home-ownership requirements are being met It is important therefore to consider (a) the factors which influence effective demand, (b) the conditions which determine whether prospective home buyers can achieve their ambitions. and (c) how this situation can be improved.
I support the measure, Mr Acting Speaker. Personally I would like to see more done in the way of housing, particularly in the provision of a low rate of interest. We are told that this measure is what the States have asked for but I feel that we would have a better idea of what could be done if there was a national survey of housing requirements, as was carried out prior to 1945.
– The Bill before the House is supported by the Opposition. This indicates that from our point of view there have been quite a number of developments in the housing field in recent years under the present Government of which we approve. It seems to me that the main deficiencies are deficiencies that the Government has to some extent faced. Relying substantially upon normal market forces to solve the problem, it has concerned itself with the rate of interest, the deposit gap and so on. This afternoon I do not intend to have a look at the Australian banking and financial system to note the nature of the flow of funds for housing but I think enough has been revealed to show that there are some serious deficiencies in Australia in this field compared to the situation in a number of other countries which are surprisingly better off.
I am quite sure from my own observations and from reference to statistics that the relatively poorer home purchaser is better off in the United States of America than in Australia. This may well be because of a larger volume of investible funds available at lower rates of return in the United States, but it seems to me that it could also possibly be because of greater competition amongst American suppliers of funds to the market. The Australian banking system is known as a branch banking system in which we have, I think, nine large banks with many branches spread all over the country, following a fairly co-ordinated policy. From a practical point of view I do not think that there is very much real competition in this system. In the United States this kind of branch banking has not developed. There you have literally thousands of banks, with resources drawn from sometimes wide areas, sometimes locally. I am satisfied that the American system is more favourable for the small borrower, whoever he is, than is the Australian system. The point stressed by the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) is one that I would like to emphasise. I firmly believe that we need to take a pretty thorough look at the situation that exists in Australia, not within the normal methods of departmental inquiry but by way of an inquiry that would allow a fair amount of examination to bc made in public. I think that only good could come from this. 1 intend this afternoon to speak about a much smaller segment of the housing problem - one which concerns the Commonwealth more directly. The funds provided by the Commonwealth to the States are spent substantially by the States, through their housing authorities, for the poorer and lower income members of the community. But firstly I want again to criticise, as I have done for almost every year of :he last 10 or 12 years, the statement that I have heard from the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) in each of the 10 or 12 years since 1 have been in this House. I refer to his statement that there is no housing shortage. It is astonishing to me that an honourable member should continue to repeat this fiction. Obviously there is no housing shortage for the honourable member or his friends. On several occasions 1 have had the pleasure of meeting some of the honourable member’s friends when he and I have met in debate in the more salubrious parts of North Sydney and I am quite satisfied that none of his friends is suffering from a housing shortage. I think his sample is rather unrepresentative, lt seems to me that the explanation for his continually making this statement is not derived from his earlier experience in the field of real estate but rather from personal experience since he has been a member of this House and a Minister in the Government, with no responsibility in the field of real estate. I can explain his viewpoint in no other way than as a purely personal one, derived from his own experience, because there are many serious housing deficiencies and shortages in Australia.
I received a letter from the Victorian Housing Commission only last week telling me that the application of a person who had been on the waiting list since 1963 was now being processed or was likely to be processed in the next few months. This does not mean that the applicant will get accommodation, but she has been on the waiting list since 1963 and applications of about that time are now being processed. This person has been waiting for accommodation for more than 4 years. This means that people whose names went on to the waiting list in some cases before 1963 still have not been satisfied and all of those whose names went on to the waiting list since 1963 are not likely to have their applications processed until some time in the indefinite future. For older people to whom that kind of privilege cannot bc made available, and who have to look for accommodation in Victoria to such places as Mount Royal and the Melbourne Home for the Aged, there is a delay of 6 months or 12 months in obtaining admission to those places.
The position for those people is bad. It is not much better for the low income families - the families with incomes of $30 or $40 a week, and there are still plenty of those. They are forced to pay $15 or $20 a week in rent or in repayments on a loan, if they can manage somehow ever to get enough money for a deposit on a home. There are hundreds of thousands of families in this income bracket today whose housing costs, either in rent or repayments on loans, represent 40% or 50% of their incomes. Hardly one of these families in Australia today is not forced to economise on food as well as clothing. This is not because of their neglect or inferior intellect; very often it is because they and those who have gone before them never had the opportunity of a decent education and of getting out of the continuous race of trying to make a few dollars go twice as far as the rest of us have to make them go.
The problem I have just outlined - it could be described more vividly than 1 have been able to - is one which is invariably met by saying that all that the Labor Party has to offer as the solution is controls and so on - Socialism. Personally I do not care what you call it as long as it will help to solve this problem. It is completely wrong, as some honourable members have done, to hark back continually to the immediate post-war period. Perhaps it is legitimate to say that the Labor Government in office in those years maintained some controls for too long, but what is beyond doubt is that there was an enormous task of rehabilitation and reconstruction in the years immediately after World War II that could not have been handled in any other way. With 900,000 men and women coming out of the armed forces and the defence services and with a vast accumulation of savings in the hands of many people, if the economy had not been carefully regulated and controlled in those days we would have had the kind of inflation that followed World War I. We would have had a great deal of disruption and disorder. We would have had the Conservatives, who now blame controls, calling: ‘Communism’. We would have had rebels, riots and confusion and many people would have suffered. I think the Labor Government did a job as good for Australia in the rehabilitation and reconstruction period as it did during the war years themselves.
If anyone wants to make comparisons between the Labor Government and the Opposition of that time one has only to make it by saying that the Opposition of the time proved itself completely incapable of living up to its responsibilities as the government of this country during World War II and because of its own confusion, bitterness and jealousies, it fell in 1941, not to be restored again to office in Australia until it could take advantage of the very position I am describing, where it claimed that controls were being held too long. It appealed to the people to vote for freedom; to elect the Liberals in order to get rid of petrol rationing, controls on building and so forth. Well, the Liberals were elected and in 1951 we had the greatest inflation in Australia’s history - an increase in retail prices of 25%. In 1952 there was a further increase of 15%. I would say that the Australian people suffered far more from that inflation and its effects in those 2 years than they suffered in Australia as a result of the war and during the period of post-war reconstruction. They suffered more in those years as a result of that inflation imposed by the freedom lovers. What was really meant was freedom for those who could do it to make money from the inflation. And so we have the criticisms that have been made in this debate, the implications that if something is to be done for the poorer people in housing we will have to have controls, Socialism and regimentation. If the people are stupid enough to accept this kind of political propaganda, firstly those to whom I have referred will behave without a sense of justice to those who deserve a better deal and, secondly, those who deserve a better deal are not likely to get it.
I believe that much of the problem that I am concerned to talk about briefly today - the problem of the low income receivers in Australia in respect of housing - is involved in what is normally called slum reclamation or urban renewal. Its features are that inadequate funds are available in this field. Most of the funds that are available come as allocations under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The papers issued with the Budget show that there has been an increase in these funds in recent years, but an increase which shows no logic and shows the presence of no anticipation of need. There is need there and it is continuous, and it should be met all the time. But there is no indication in the totals provided under this agreement or in the amounts provided for each State to show any connection between the growth of those amounts and the underlying need. Underlying need is there. It exists and continues at a certain rate. But there is no logic in the change in the figures.
For a number of years there was a trend downwards. In the total from early in the 1950s we see a figure of $74m which went down to $58m, then up to $66m, down to $64m, up to $66m, up to $71m and then up again to $72m and $74m. During these times there were great housing shortages. I know from my own experience that in Victoria there was a great housing shortage. But in that State during those years the amount of money received by the Victorian Government remained at about $20m year after year, with an increasing requirement for the Victorian Government to provide about $6m of that amount for co-operative housing and for services. If one looks at the other States during the time that Victoria’s grant remained stable one sees that they were receiving increased grants. What was wrong with Victoria during those years that she could not get an increase other than in 1 year - I think 1964-65 - when there was an increase of about 13% in the total allocated under the agreement? Why was this? Was 1964-65 a particularly bad year for housing? Why did the grant suddenly jump by 15%? After that year the increase dropped back to about $lm every year for Victoria and New South Wales. Is there something sacred about Sim? It was an increase of less than 3% each year. This inadequate basis shows no logic, no reason and no plan. The increase somehow comes out of the result of the discussions that take place between the States and the Commonwealth.
One regret that I have at being in opposition is that I have never been able to hear the mysteries of these discussions and -the logic that determines these things. Surely there must be some logic. But when one looks at the results it is extremely difficult to find any. I propose now to shift completely into Victoria and to speak about the effect of this inadequate pattern in Victoria. As a result of this inadequate basis of Commonwealth provision, public housing in Victoria has become a matter of high rise concrete boxes which are totally unsuited for family living. They are 10, 12, 14 or 20 storeys high. Little boxes are bad enough when they are spread about the countryside with a bit of grass around them, but they are terrible when the little boxes are placed one above the other up to 10, 1 2, 14 or 20 storeys. High rise flats of this kind have a purpose and they are justified for certain kinds of families - for example, young people first getting married with no children, or older people. These can serve a good purpose where land is costly and where there is a demand for that kind of dwelling. But when we find that people with 3, 4 or 5 children are given three bedrooms - if they are lucky and the bed is not too big they have a floor to stand on when they get out of bed - we find also that the buildings go up to 10, 12, 14 or 20 storeys.
– Cliff dwellers.
– That is right.
– Did the honourable member say ‘clip joints’?
– No, cliff dwellersthe little birds going in through the holes and disappearing. There is just no room for any amenities or playgrounds. In some cases existing playgrounds are taken away. There is no room inside and there is no room outside. Yet people wonder why juvenile delinquency increases. Another effect of this is that most of these schemes are introduced under some kind of arrangement with local governments and the local governments are forced into a negative restricted role. The housing authorities go to the local governments and seek to make arrangements with them because they have not enough money. They want the local governments to borrow money and to give it to them so that they can spend it on housing constructions of this kind. Sometimes the local governments respond when the housing authority says, as the Housing Commission has said in Victoria: ‘We will put five times as many people on. this area as are living there now. Your rates will go up from, say, $1,000 or $1,500 to $10,000 per annum for the area. We will leave you with just as much in rates as you had before, or perhaps a little more. You can keep that. You are no worse off than you were in 1950 or 1962. You keep those rates and you can provide all your services with them, and the difference between that amount of rates and what is going to come out of the redevelopment will be used to pay interest on the money you are borrowing to lend to us so that we can erect these buildings.’
The result is that they have about five times as many people in the area and about five times as many social problems with council services already inadequate because of the shortage of funds. The councils have the same rate of income as they had before but have to serve about five times as many people. The services which had formerly existed almost disappear in a number of cases. Then there is the problem of the schools. In areas which I know personally in my own electorate it is proposed to build these concrete structures and to bring in 600 or 800 children who will be required to go to schools which are full already, where the classes are far too big and where the classrooms are full. It is not the responsibility of the housing authorities to think of that. Some time or other after the children are in the schools the Education Department will come along, see the problem and try to wrestle with it. But the difficulty of the problem in a place like Richmond, Collingwood or Fitzroy - the areas I have been talking about - is that there is no room to extend the school. They are already the kind of concrete jungle that the American film portrayed. In providing this kind of housing, the assumption is that people need only food, sleep and television. But sometimes they cannot get far enough away from the television set to see it properly. That is the kind of life it is assumed these people can live. Will the inner areas of Melbourne be like this in the future? Is this what we plan to have? I say ‘No’ to that. The ‘No’ that I say is the ‘No’ of the Australian Labor Party. We can make that ‘No’ effective because Labor has a majority on most of the councils of the inner suburbs of Melbourne. We will not co-operate in taking this kind of backward step. We will not co-operate in a scheme that tries to sandwich people into concrete boxes. Something better must be done; something better can be done.
The councils in the inner metropolitan area of Melbourne claim that the formula they are being required to follow by the Victorian Housing Commission has not been and cannot be applied consistently to the various councils. There is no consistency of application, but there is a consistency of need and the approach is completely wrong. It is also submitted that a new approach to the financial arrangements of the councils is necessary. This should be based on the responsibilities of the councils in the new housing development area rather than on conditions that existed in the past. This issue, of course, is much wider than housing policy. It relates to the total responsibility accepted in an area by local government authorities in respect of rising standards of living, which we hope the people in the area can have, the rising standard of amenities and services - they do not have these in the present circumstances - and the rising costs, for which no provision is made in any of these plans. Population growth over the next 30 years and increasing densities, which will be four or five times the present densities in the inner areas, must be taken into account.
We are creating enormous problems by what we are doing now in these inner areas. What is needed is for the Commonwealth and the States to come together. The States and the local councils are not big enough individually to cope with the problem. It is only by a combination of the three and by a proper acceptance by the three authorities of their responsibilities that we have any hope of solving the problem. Any new formula, and there must be one, must be constructed with these factors in mind. The reclamation of slum areas or urban renewals should not be allowed to absorb all the finances of local councils, thus preventing other urgent redevelopment of amenities and services that are just as necessary as housing is. Special additional services are essential if the high density estates are not to become slums very quickly. Some of them have become slums already and they are not more than a few years old.
The problem cannot be idly brushed aside as one that the natural forces of the market or the arrangements that will eventually be made between the Commonwealth and the States will solve. One important development in the late 1930s was the recognition that some new vision was necessary in housing, at least for the lower income groups in the community. That new vision was an important vision and it influenced the minds of members of the State Parliaments, although it did not have so strong an influence on members of the Federal Parliament. It resulted in the establishment of State housing authorities, which in those days relied exclusively on State finances. On the basis of that new vision of the 1930s the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements after World War II were possible. We would be much worse off if this vision and this practical plan of the post-World War II period had not been carried into effect. A great deal has been achieved, and a great deal has been achieved also during the term of office of this Government. But today we need a new vision, certainly for the low income earners. We need sufficient sympathy or compassion to be prepared to make special efforts to achieve this.
When we have that, we will have a chance to reach some workable plan. This country can afford to have a plan; it has the resources. We are not in the position we had in the post-World War II period, when there were shortages and when we had regimentation, controls and restrictions of all sorts. That is no longer necessary. The area that needs some direction according to a plan is the overall flow of funds. This, it seems to me, is the most important problem of housing that we face at present. I hope that the Minister and his Department will be conscious of the problems that have arisen in the States. I have been speaking of the State that I know intimately. The problems of the relations between the Victorian Housing Commission and the municipal councils of the inner suburbs will block, unless some better progress can be made, the kind of urban renewal that is most needed in those areas.
– in reply - Although the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) led for the Opposition in this debate, I should like to reply to one or two of the points made by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). He referred at some length to the high rise concrete boxes that arc being built in Victoria. I might say that (heir counterparts, although I think we do things somewhat better in Sydney, were erected by a government of the opposite political colour in the city of Sydney. Of course, this matter is within the realm of the authority of those two States. The honourable member put up some good arguments. He questioned the pattern with which we are dealing in this Bill, and that is the distribution of funds under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Let it be remarked that he referred at length to the immediate post-war period. Of course, everything changes and should be changed if it is not right, but when he criticises the pattern he should remember that it is the very pattern that was initiated, introduced and developed by the Labor Government in the immediate post-war period. This was Labor’s scheme and Labor’s pattern. It is the pattern that has continued. There is nothing mysterious about it. It is part of the general loan programme.
The total funds provided for State works and housing, as the one total programme, have risen steadily over the years. Every State gets its allocation according to the prevailing formula, subject to a little negotiation here and there. But the total having been determined, the proportion of loan funds devoted to housing is determined by each State. The States decide the priorities and determine how much will be given to housing and how much to the other purposes of government. The allocation of resources - do not let us pretend that we can go on allotting resources indefinitely - is essentially a matter of choice for the States. The amount spent on housing depends on the relative importance that each State government gives to housing as distinct from its other activities.
The honourable member at the beginning of his speech compared the position in Australia with the position in the United States of America. I agree with him on some points. My impressions and such knowledge as I have lead me to believe that by and large the Americans are perhaps better off. Above all, they have mobility. There is well developed provision for the purchase of homes on fairly low deposits. Over the years, financial provision to make this possible has been developed. I doubt, however, whether I would agree with the honourable member that the Americans at the other end of the scale are even as well off as we are. My impression is that in the underprivileged section of the community, which he discussed at length, there are in the United States enormous areas where the situation is bad and in fact far worse than anything that one would see in Australia.
I believe that I must answer one or two of the points made by the honourable member for Yarra. Although this is a housing debate, he referred to a government of the same political colour as the present one that was in office in the early stages of the war. The honourable member made some very disparaging remarks about that Government. The answer that one may well give to him - and I do so dispassionately - is that in the early stages of the war a very large proportion of members and supporters of the Australian Labor Party actively sabotaged the war effort. I say frankly that one thing brought about a change in their attitude - the entry of Russia into the war on the same side as ourselves. It then became for them a holy war, and their efforts became completely united in support of those who were considered to be fighting not so much Australia’s war as their war. The two things blended together in their eyes. In fact, the fundamental position of the Labor Party has not changed. Australia is at present involved in hostilities with Communist forces, and a big proportion of members of the Labor Party is opposed to our efforts in those hostilities. I have no doubt that if Russia and China were ever fighting on our side against some enemy from Mars, whether imaginary or real, the Labor Party would throw in its support also. I do not like having to say things like this in a debate of this kind, but one cannot allow the discussion to be one sided when honourable members opposite say the sort of things that we have heard in this debate.
The first speaker for the Opposition was the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). I pay him a tribute. He is always well informed and invariably presents his material well. He said, incidentally, that the administration of the Housing portfolio by the present Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) was not under the same detailed scrutiny as that of her predecessor in office, being a member of this House, had been. This does not accord with my experience while I held the portfolio. I found that on the whole Opposition senators were better informed and more penetrating than their colleagues in this House. The honourble member for Cunningham takes a close interest in housing. Indeed, it is perhaps a pity that more honourable members on both sides of the chamber do not take as much interest as he does. He began by referring to a report issued by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction in August 1944, which sketched an outline of the housing policy that ought to be pursued. The honourable member held this up as a model of sound direction, which, in many ways, it was. 1 remind honourable members that the Labor Party did not pass from office until more than 5 years after that report was issued. Why did it not implement the policy laid down in that report? There are two good reasons why it did not. Its failure to do so was certainty not due to any lack of wish on its part.
There are two fundamental points in this game that have been almost entirely overlooked so far: We have a Constitution and, under that Constitution, powers are allocated in a specific way between the Commonwealth and the States. That division of powers is binding on all the governments concerned. We have not unlimited resources. We have to allocate them according to priorities. For these reasons, it was impossible for the Labor Government of the day to implement the policy set out in the report, and it would be quite impossible for any Commonwealth Government to carry through measures on the scale envisaged. It is very easy to say that we should plan our cities better; that we should allocate our resources more effectively; that we should determine priorities better; that everything should come from the Commonwealth; and that we should force everything into a certain range of patterns to suit the wishes of the town planners. It might be any politician’s dream to have supreme plenary powers and unlimited resources. If the Commonwealth bad them, the kind of argument that we have heard from Opposition members would have been much more realistic.
The honourable member for Cunningham deplored the Sydney sprawl, with its lack of planning and its other features. I am sure that we all would voice similar sentiments and that most of us would agree with him about the Sydney sprawl. The honourable member has raised this problem, apparently overlooking the fact that Sydney just about doubled its size in the quarter century or thereabouts during which a Labor government was in control in New South Wales. The honourable member was for some years a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and an active supporter of that Government. T do him the credit of believing that he probably expressed similar sentiments then. But he was not successful. It is of no use merely to rise in this House and deplore the sprawl of Sydney and its lack of planning. An argument directed at that situation is abortive. It is just not practicable to work a change overnight. The New South Wales Labor Government, throughout its quarter century of office was notable for its lack of effort in housing and its neglect of planning. About the only thing that’ came from its meagre attempts at planning were constant inroads into the green belt. Those honourable members who live in New South Wales will recollect the number of transactions relating to land in the green belt that were publicised in the newspapers from time to time.
The State Labor Government also imposed rent control, and this had a profound effect on dwelling construction. It killed whatever incentive there may have been to build accommodation for letting. Serious problems have arisen as a consequence. Construction of accommodation for letting will revive only very slowly as confidence is gradually restored. I acknowledge, of course, that under wartime conditions there was a very serious shortage of accommodation and of physical and other resources and that in such conditions rent and other controls were essential. But that situation was entirely different from that which existed when the New South Wales Labor Government imposed rent controls. The virtually complete passing over of rights in property from landlords to tenants killed the incentive to provide accommodation for renting. This led to a serious situation that we are still slowly putting right.
The honourable member for Cunningham very properly mentioned the need for a uniform building code as a means of reducing housing costs, and perhaps other building costs also, throughout Australia. He asked what had been done to bring about the introduction of a uniform building code. I did my utmost, when Minister for Housing, and my successor has done her utmost, to promote a uniform building code. A committee was established when I was Minister and for some .time it has been considering this matter. It reports to the Ministers in charge of local government affairs in the States. Currently, the Department of Housing is playing a part in developing what might be described as a national cottage building code. It may take some time for the completed code to emerge. This sort of thing customarily takes a long time. This code will be the work of technical experts. However, even when it is completed and ready to be put into effect, the Commonwealth will not be able merely to put the rule over everybody and require every State to conform. The question will be whether each State sees fit to adopt the uniform code.
In this sort of business, one finds that many fundamental powers do not rest with the Commonwealth Government. Any Commonwealth Government, on taking office, has to conform to the allocation of powers that exists. Admittedly, the Commonwealth has considerable overall influence and it has by no means been idle. Several speakers in this debate have men tioned the purchase of homes on small deposits. The Government has tackled this problem, not without some vigour. The Minister for Housing has explained that these things take time. It takes a lot of time to change the habits and thinking of the financial institutions of a whole country. One of the measures was to launch the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation so that home buyers could borrow fairly reasonably sums up to a high proportion of the total value of a house at fairly low rates of interest. This institution has made a good deal of progress. After all, it is not 2 years since it opened its gates. It is currently insuring new housing loans at the rate of $1,500,000 per week. In the financial year 1966-67 it insured almost 5,000 loans up to the value of $40m. Since the scheme was operative it has insured, up to the end of June, over 5,500 houses to- a value of $44.4m. At the current rate this figure would now be past the $50m mark. So the rate is rising. This is not all that has happened because shortly before the Commonwealth scheme began, private enterprise moved into this field. The Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation started shortly before our scheme and although it is performing the same kind of exercise it is not bound down with the same regulations. I have figures from this organisation which were given to me a few days ago. These figures indicate that, up till now, the organisation has insured 4,500 loans for a total value of over $44m. So, added together, these two institutions have financed over 10,000 loans amounting to about $100m. This has all been done in a relatively short time. The two organisations have made an attack on this field and have set a good foundation. This gives us hope that before long it will be possible to take the next step of establishing a loans mortgage market. If this were done, we would have an opportunity of attracting relatively more funds to the housing field because of shorter term negotiable security. The Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation of Australia has 120 approved lenders. Our own Housing Loans Insurance Corporation has 236 approved lenders. I understand that if the business of the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation increases to some extent it intends to become listed on the Stock Exchange in order to raise additional capital in Australia.
The matter of Interest rates was mentioned by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). If, in fact, we were to divert money into housing at lower interest rates it would be necessary to put the whole capital Sow into a strait jacket. This would require special overall steps which would start a series of distortions in other directions. From a practical point of view - but probably we could not do this for constitutional reasons - the thing to do would be to provide our own institutions to attract more money into housing, particularly from the private sector. The honourable member also mentioned housing for migrants. This, of course, is a very important feature because the success of a migration programme and the provision of housing must go side by side. In my own field - that is in the working of hostels - we have recently appointed housing officers to a number of hostels and other places. These officers have had very great success in finding accommodation for people. They have become expert in this field and they have done a great deal to accelerate the passage of families from hostels to homes.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) has attended more of this debate than anyone else. Housing is a subject very near to his heart as I was well aware in my former job as Minister for Housing. The honourable member pointed out that there is a shortage of homes for rental. This is so, of course, particularly in New South Wales, but this is the legacy of rent control. The purchase of homes would be assisted by a lower deposit because there are many people who could finance houses from their incomes, but who could not summon the necessary deposit without special aid. The honourable member for Gellibrand has shown that he has a very flexible mind on this subject. If I understand him correctly he is now rather deploring the increasing density of housing in the cities and would like to see housing more widely spread. I think most of us would feel the same way about this, if we allowed our sentiments free rein. On 23rd April 1964, although I cannot put my hands on the reference, the honourable member expressed completely conflicting sentiments. He expressed the view that cities were growing up. He said that this was inevitable and that we should treat the matter accordingly.
I must apologise to the honourable member for Gellibrand for not being able to quote his remarks precisely.
– What does the Minister think about it?
– I do my best with what is inevitable and with the facts at the time. We are faced with the future. A very few years ago 5% of new dwellings were flats, apartments or similar accommodation. The proportion of such dwellings in Sydney and Melbourne has increased to about 40%.
– Are you in favour of that instead of building family homes?
– I have already indicated my view on this. However, it is a fact that this figure is 40% and this indicates the choice of the people. I know that nearly all honourable members have a political sentiment in favour of decentralisation and of pushing out into the country. But the desire of humanity as expressed in their choice is to move in the other direction. This raises the point whether we should not do more to convince people to live in the country instead of the cities. Every country has its housing blemishes which stem from the problem of the under privileged.
The 1961 census indicated that there were 3.49 Australians per dwelling. Preliminary calculations on the results of the 1966 census, that is 5 years later, showed that the average number of persons per dwelling had fallen to 3.42. That is a fairly satisfactory figure on anyone’s calculation. Of course, it is an average figure. I know there are some empty houses and some overcrowded ones. But the figure does show that we are making progress. A further indication of progress is that in 1966-67 one new dwelling was completed for every 1.87 additional persons. We are, therefore, moving steadily forward. There is more housing per head in Australia than there was before.
– Does the Minister include telephone boxes in his figures?
– The honourable member for Yarra is being very politely facetious, but I repeat that there has been steady progress. Even in the level of building activity, which has been referred to by several honourable members opposite, although fluctuations still occur there has been a big improvement. Over the last 3 years dwellings have been completed - and this is what ultimately counts - at the steady rate of 112,000 per annum. There have been fluctuations in employment. There are in fact slightly fewer employed now than there were about 2 years ago. Two things are notable from this development. One is that there has clearly been an increase in productivity in the building industry. In other words, fewer people are required to build a given number of houses than were required 2 years ago. The comparison is complicated by the change in the relative numbers of flats as compared with cottages, so that one cannot draw too many conclusions, but currently the rate of construction is tending to rise again. On a seasonally adjusted basis - and I always think one should treat seasonally adjusted figures with the greatest reservation - approvals, which give perhaps the best indication we can get of how we are moving, were in August at the rate of 123,000 units per annum. There is every indication that the rate is on the upgrade. So far as employment is concerned, there are in New South Wales, so far as I can remember, about 500 skilled building tradesmen registered for employment, and there is still a shortage of bricklayers. The overall picture is one of steadily increasing improvement.
The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) made some reference to war service homes. Although the matter he mentioned seemed to be a little outside what is usually covered by the Act, I shall refer to the Minister the point that he raised. So far as relations with the States in this field are concerned, the House cannot be reminded too often, and it should never forget, although it tends to do so, that we have a Constitution and that we do not have unlimited funds and resources.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 27 September (vide page 1414).
Department of Housing
Proposed expenditure, $4,510,000.
– I believe, Mr Chairman, that lack of housing ranks second only to poverty among the gravest social evils in a community. In this country thousands of people from married couples to aged persons and pensioners arc clamouring for proper housing. Severe poverty exists amongst the pensioner section of the community. Because of their stringent financial position many pensioners have practically no opportunity of obtaining proper dwelling places. This is a matter that causes anxiety to all of us. For those directly affected the lack of a suitable place in which to live is a permanent source of anxiety. Some have to live in motor garages, some in sheds, some in single rooms, and some couples with their in-laws. Living with in-laws is most unsatisfactory. I do not make that statement from personal experience, but I have an interviewing office in my electorate and my view in this matter stems from what I have been told by both old people and young people. Living with in-laws just does not work. r think the housing shortage is the cause of many families breaking up. It causes disagreements, squabbles and quarrels which too often end in divorce. I believe it is one of the principal causes of divorces, of which 9,000 are granted in Australia every year - too many. Another cause of family disruption, I believe, is the necessity for wives to go out to work. With better financial arrangements to cover the purchase of homes by families it would not be necessary for wives to go out to work. The tight economic system in which we live makes it almost necessary for wives to work in order to augment family incomes if their families are ever to have homes. I think the Government should do something about this so that wives will be able to stay in their proper place, which is in the home. When a mother is forced to go out to work serious consequences develop. The children return home from school and their mother is not at home to meet them, and this in many cases leads to child delinquency and all the terrible evils that go with it. When husband and wife both go out tot work they tend to grow independent of one another, and this is another reason why we have so many divorces in our community. Yet the Government never looks seriously at this important national problem.
There are two ways in which the Commonwealth Government can assist at least some of the people to obtain homes. There are the grants that are made for war service homes and there are also the grants that are made to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement that we have just been speaking about. The Government has, however, reduced the amounts of these grants. In 1966-67 the Government allocated $5 8m for war service homes, which was $12m less than in 1965- 66. This year the amount is $454 m, which is $ 13m less than the amount for last year. It has not increased to any extent the grants to the Commonwealth and State housing authorities. The net result is that the Commonwealth Government has reduced the amount of money available for home building by $23 m in the last 2 years. In view of the housing shortage it is a quite absurd and unwise action. Housing is one of our greatest national needs. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has said that applications for loans for war service homes are falling off. Why does he not add the sum of $25m not required for war service homes to the grants to the States so that more homes can be built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement? The National President of the Returned Services League disagrees with the Treasurer’s statement. He condemned the Treasurer, and he is in a position to know the correct situation.
The total amount provided for war service homes and State housing authorities under this legislation would build about 8,000 homes. This means that about one-twelfth of our national needs would be met. I am using figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. About 90,000 marriages took place last year in Australia. In addition about 17,000 families - I think that is the figure that somebody gave - are coming here from overseas under the immigration scheme. They have to be provided with housing. Slum clearance works are necessary. When all are added together it is clear that we need to build more than 100,000 houses each year, but we are building only about 80,000. lt is obvious that we are not meeting the mean housing requirements of the nation. There is great need of a financial scheme to provide money at low rates of interest to enable more people to acquire homes. The existing financial arrangements are beyond the financial capacity of the low paid wage and salary earners. I shall cite some figures to show why that is so. Banks, insurance companies, building societies and private finance companies have set up schemes, but their terms are too expensive to come within the reach of anyone below the middle income group. The figures I have obtained illustrate that point.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) pointed out in a recent speech in this chamber that loans for war service homes are limited to a maximum of $7,000. That amount is insufficient to obtain a home within a 20-mile radius of the heart of Sydney. A block of land alone in that area costs about $3,000. The lowest amount for which a home may be built is about $8,500. So to acquire a home in that area would cost about $11,500, whereas the maximum war service homes loan is $7,000. From where are home seekers to obtain the balance of $4,500 to build a home? They must seek second mortgages from hire purchase companies, because that is the only recourse they have. Because of the interest rates payable they would not in a lifetime own their own homes.
I turn now to slum clearance, which is a matter of national importance. Many people are occupying houses that are unfit for human habitation. Many of them have been condemned by local government health inspectors but people are forced to live in them. Experts have stated that effective slum clearance schemes are in operation in other countries. The problem is being tackled in different ways but a common factor is that any slum clearance scheme depends on strong financial aid from a central government. The Commonwealth Government is not acting on slum clearance; some action on its part is necessary. It is the parent body amongst Australian governments and it should show leadership.
Our immigration policy imposes a big burden on the housing needs of the States. The Commonwealth Government should accept greater responsibility in this regard. It brings the families here from overseas and it should provide for their accommodation. At the time of the last election the Labor Party put forward a housing policy. I think it was a good one and I am pleased to repeat it. The programme offered by the Labor Party provided for loans of up to $10,000 at an interest rate of 3i% to build a home. Now the maximum loan has been increased to $12,000. We propose to reduce the amount of the mortgage by $200 for each child born. I believe that policy to be a good one.
The population needs of Australia are well known. We need more Australian born citizens and fewer divorces. A good housing’ scheme would assist in reducing the number of divorces and would make happier a lot more people in Australia. I obtained some interesting figures from the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) in answer to a question. I asked about grants for war service homes and housing authorities. The first Housing Agreement was signed in 1946. Since that time the States have paid back to the Commonwealth $117m of the principal and $33 lm as interest. The Commonwealth does not give the money to the States. The grants have to be repaid plus interest. From the figures I have cited it is obvious that the States have paid more in interest than in reduction of the principal. The war service homes scheme commenced after World War I. Since its inception the Commonwealth Government has made available for war service homes about $l,155m. The current rate of interest is 31%. Since the scheme commenced the Commonwealth Government has been paid $3 12m of the principal advanced for war service homes. The interest payments total about $3 lim. The Commonwealth Government does not give the money away for war service homes or to the State housing authorities. The principal has to be repaid plus interest over a 50-year term. The Commonwealth Government is giving nothing away but is making money because of the interest charges. It is only a book entry for the Commonwealth. As the money is repaid to the Commonwealth each year I believe that the Commonwealth Government should increase the advances to the States so that more homes can be built. The housing needs of the nation would be better met. The Commonwealth does not do very much about a national plan and the money it makes available for Commonwealth-State housing purposes and for war service homes has to be paid back with interest.
– At present we are debating the estimates for the Department of Housing. We have heard very few constructive suggestions in this debate. The only suggestions that we have heard from members opposite were outlined in a previous debate by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) who advocated the establishment of a national housing authority and gave the Socialist recipe for the nationalisation of housing. This Government recognises that the Commonwealth has limited powers over housing, but despite this its housing policy has become more comprehensive. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the war service homes scheme, the homes savings grant scheme, the Housing Loans Insurance Act, the Aged Persons Homes Act and the Sheltered Employment Assistance Act are each contributing to the growing comprehensiveness of Commonwealth housing policy.
There can be no doubt that Australia is one of the best housed countries of the world, and there is probably no country with a higher proportion of home owners than Australia, but there are still many who are in need of that security of accommodation which is available to those home owners who have purchased or are purchasing their own homes on terms which they can reasonably afford. If housing standards are to be improved and if the degree of accommodation security is to be increased, Commonwealth housing policy must be constantly reviewed to take account of changing conditions. It cannot be disputed that Commonwealth housing policy has played a significant role in creating conditions which have brought the aspiration of home ownership within the reach of many families for home ownership otherwise would have remained an aspiration - a dream, and not a reality.
Several aspects of the present housing policy need review and reappraisal. It is to some of these aspects that I wish to direct the attention of the Committee. If the high proportion of owner-occupiers is to be maintained and improved we must continue to grapple with the problem of the deposit gap - a problem which has been described as the deadliest threat to home ownership in Australia. This problem arises because’ the need for housing confronts young married couples often before they have had an opportunity to save a sufficient amount to enable them to purchase homes on terms that they can reasonably afford. To encourage saving by those who will need housing, and to reward them for their efforts, the Government introduced the homes savings grant scheme. During the last financial year, 27,768 families received a grant under the scheme. The average value of homes, including the cost of land, purchased or built by those families was $10,226. That is $3,226 above the maximum loan of $7,000 available from savings banks. Of those receiving the grant, 79% financed the purchase of their homes with the assistance of a first mortgage and 16% gave both a first and second mortgage. The average first mortgage was for $6,894 and the average second mortgage was for $1,692. The average cash deposit from those who gave a first mortgage was $3,332, including $1,332 of savings in respect of which no ad valorem reward was paid. For Chose who gave a second mortgage the average cash deposit was $1,540.
To be eligible for a homes savings grant of $500 a young married couple must have approved savings of $1,500, giving them $2,000 to use as a deposit. If this is the limit of their savings they must, in order to buy the average house, borrow $8,226. This is $1,226 above the amount available on first mortgage from savings banks and like institutions. The young couple must either postpone their home purchase and endeavour to make further savings or borrow the deficiency on a second mortgage. Of the grants made in 1966-67, 84.5% were made to couples who acquired their homes within 5 years of marriage. At current rates of application, approximately 25% of couples marrying in any one year will have purchased or be purchasing a home with the assistance of a grant before or within the first 5 years of marriage.
It may be that many young families wim sufficient approved savings to make them eligible for a grant are prevented from applying because of their inability to bridge the gap between that which they can borrow on first mortgage and the value of the average priced house which they wish to buy. This is a gap which they cannot bridge by savings because of the other demands on family income of a young and growing family. It is a gap which they cannot bridge by second mortgage because weekly repayments would add too great a burden to an already heavily committed family income. However, many do borrow the amount necessary to bridge the gap between the maximum $7,000 low interest loans available from savings banks and the purchase price by obtaining a second mortgage, frequently at high rates of interest, repayable over a relatively short period with high periodic instalments.
It is undesirable that when the demands on family income are probably greatest the proportion of income committed to home loan repayments is highest. Those families who can buy their homes only on these terms would be greatly assisted if savings banks raised the maximum amounts they would be prepared to lend. If they were to do so, the demand for high interest second mortgage money would ease. More money would find its way into institutions providing cheaper housing finance as a consequence of this slackening of the demand by finance companies for such money. The fact that the maximum loan which savings banks will make is less than 70% of the value of the average cost of a home begets a second mortgage market where high rates of interest will be charged. This situation will persist unless the initiative is taken by the Government either to seek an increase in maximum limits on savings bank loans or to create a climate in which a second mortgage market at medium rates of interest is encouraged to develop, or both.
With the purpose of assisting people to obtain as a single loan and at a reasonable rate of interest the money they need and can afford to borrow to buy or build a house the Government established the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. At the time when the legislation was introduced the then
Minister for Housing expressed the hope that: the scheme would progressively remove the present need for many creditworthy borrowers to obtain a second mortgage loan frequently on oppressive terms and conditions.
A second mortgage may, by regulation, be approved as a security which can be insured by the Corporation. Under the regulations at present in force loans made for the purpose of buying a house are insurable only if secured by a legal first mortgage. The 1967 annual report of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation reveals that the average rate of loan to the valuation of properties mortgaged during that year was 83.1% and that the average size of the loan - this is significant -was above $7,000, at $7,931. It would be interesting to know the average rate of interest paid by those borrowing under insured mortgages. I venture to suggest that the interest on many such loans is in the medium range.
Families faced with a deposit gap over and above their available resources at $7,000 must either postpone home purchase or - if family means will permit - obtain a high interest second mortgage or seek an insured mortgage loan. Depending on the interest payable under the insured mortgage, it may be as cheap to borrow on a high interest second mortgage. A $7,000 loan at 5i% interest repayable over 25 years would require weekly repayments of $9.64. On the assumption that the family breadwinner should not commit to home loan repayments more than 25% of regular gross income - excluding overtime and bonus payments - a family that can buy a house and borrow only this amount on these terms could reasonably afford to do so if the family’s regular income exceeded $38 a week. However, if the family required to borrow an additional $2,000 to buy an average house, its weekly commitment would be increased by $2.75 if it could borrow on similar terms; by $3.38 if it could borrow at 71% over a 25-year term; and by $6.90 if that sum was repayable at 8% flat over 10 years. On the criterion that I have mentioned, only families with a regular income of $65 a week could reasonably afford to borrow additional money at 8% flat; those with an income of $52 a week could afford it at 7i% over a 25-year term, and those on an income of $49.60 a week could afford it if the money was available at 5i% over a 25-year term.
I urge the Government, firstly, to examine the possibility of taking such steps as it can to increase the maximum lent on savings bank housing loans and, secondly, to examine the feasibility of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation being authorised to insure second mortgages subject to the rate of interest on both first and second mortgages being below the prescribed limits and subject to such other terms and conditions as may be desirable.
The Manager of the South Australian Housing Trust, Mr Ramsay, has been quoted as saying that there is probably more high-interest bearing housing money in Australia than in any other Western country. I believe that many small investors who now satisfy the demand of finance companies by subscribing for medium to high interest bearing ventures funds which those companies lend at high rates of interest on second mortgages would invest in insured second mortgage loans if they could invest multiples of $500; if such mortgages - at least for a time - imposed an obligation for the payment of interest only, even if payments on the first mortgage were accelerated to reduce the risk of the mortgage insurer at a satisfactory rate; and if they could invest in their own names, subject to a provision in the mortgage that it be managed by an approved lender.
I believe that the Government may find in these suggestions a means of prompting the emergence of a market for insured mortgages which would be of great benefit in attracting more funds for housing finance. If maximum limits on savings banks loans were increased and second mortgages were insurable, the amount of high interest money in housing would be reduced and more families would be able to purchase homes on terms they could afford. The Government has done much in this direction and I hope that with the experience it has gained in the short time since the establishment of the Corporation it will now take steps to take advantage of the situation it has created through the Corporation to develop the housing market so that more cheap money will be available for home purchases.
– In speaking to the estimates of the Department of Housing I wish to spend a little time in discussing the annual reports of the Secretary of the Department on the operation of the Homes Savings Grant Act. The first matter that I wish to refer to is the table setting out the average value of land and dwellings for the States. I notice that whereas in the first and second annual reports the tables were headed ‘average cost’, in the third and last report the term used is ‘average value’. -I also notice that whereas in the first two reports reference was made to the ‘total cost’ of so many homes, in the latest report the term used is ‘total value’. I think that there could be quite a significant difference between the actual cost of a building and the value; but that does not alter the situation that I wish to deal with.
An examination of these tables shows that the average value or cost for this past year rose in all States other than Tasmania. The average increase between 1965-66 and 1966-67 was $378 in New South Wales, $423 in Victoria, $479 in Queensland, $114 in South Australia, and $511 in Western Australia. There was a decrease of $68 in Tasmania and an increase of $66 in the Australian Capital Territory. I do not know whether it is of any significance but it is interesting to note that in the two States controlled by Labor governments we find the best figures or the smallest increase in cost. A comparison of the average cost of homes and land in 1964-65 with the cost in 1966-67 indicates that the increase in cost in four States has more than absorbed the maximum permissible homes savings grant and is well on the road to absorbing it all in the other two States and the Australian Capital Territory. For instance, the increase in cost since 1964-65 has been $824 in Western Australia, $619 in Queensland, $570 in Victoria, $559 in New South Wales, $425 in South Australia - which includes the Northern Territory - $407 in Tasmania and $375 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Unfortunately, there is no break up of land and house costs in this last annual report but we can at least be sure that any assistance that the Homes Savings Grant Act was supposed to provide for young couples in buying their homes has now been absorbed in costs or taken over by land agents, home builders or someone in this line of business. As a result, the young people are no better off and in some States - particularly Western Australia and Queensland - they are worse off than they were previously. This danger was pointed out by speakers on this side of the House when the Act was first debated. The average cost of homes - including land - in Australia increased from $9,640 in 1964-65 to $10,226 in 1966-67, which is an increase of $586. So the maximum grant of only $500 has been well and truly absorbed by the average increase in costs throughout the Commonwealth. I do not suppose that the average home being built today differs greatly from the home that was built in 1964-65. We know the average cost of land in March 1966 and March 1967. If we are justified in taking those figures as a guide it is apparent that the major increase in cost has been on the building side rather than in respect of land. Someone other than the young couples is now reaping any . benefit which may have accrued under the Act in the first few months of its existence.
The next matter I wish to refer to concerns the figures in Table No. 11 of the 1966-67 report of the Secretary of the Department of Housing, which gives the location - that is, metropolitan or nonmetropolitan location - and the value of the homes approved in each State during the year under review. Of a total of 27,768 approvals, in only 4,272 cases was the value or cost of the home no more than $8,000 and in the period from November 1966 to July 1967 only 134 of the homes exceeded the previous maximum value of $14,000. Those figures indicate two things to me. The first is that very few young couples living in high cost areas have been able to qualify for the grant. The second is that in order to qualify for a grant the maximum cost or value of the home should be increased considerably to take account of the big difference in housing costs between the many far away places and the capital cities. I notice also that of the 134 homes which cost more than $14,000 and in respect of which claims were made, only twelve were outside the metropolitan areas. Only one was in Queensland and two were in Western Australia - the two big States with far flung areas. This suggests to me that $13,000 is below the amount required to build a decent home in these high cost areas. I think most people will agree with me that in those areas there is little of interest outside the home. Surely these people, who must contend with heat, tropical rain, isolation, lack of amenities and other disabilities, are entitled to a good home, and good homes in those areas can cost a considerable amount of money.
To give some idea of building costs I refer the Committee to the Loder report. As honourable members will be aware, the Loder Committee was set up to examine transport costs in the north. In the course of its investigations it made an examination of the cost of transporting building materials to a number of places and the effect of that cost on the cost of buildings, both commercial and residential, compared with the cost of similar structures in the capital cities. The Loder Committee reported that in Queensland the cost of building in the north was from 15% to 60% higher than in Brisbane. For instance, building costs were 45% higher in Cunnamulla, 60% higher in Mount Isa and Cloncurry and 30% higher in Cairns than they were in Brisbane. The Committee listed fourteen places in Queensland where building costs were substantially higher than they were in Brisbane. The Committee reported, as far as the Northern Territory was concerned, that building costs in Tennant Creek were 75% higher, and 55% higher in Alice Springs than they were in Adelaide and that costs in Darwin were 50% higher than they were in Perth. The other State in which the Committee examined building costs was Western Australia. Here it reported that costs in some remote areas were from 50% to 100% higher than they were in Perth. Costs at Carnarvon were 50% higher; at Kununurra, where the Ord River township is built, they were 100% higher. Costs at Broome, Derby and Exmouth were 80% higher than in Perth; they were 90% higher at Wyndham and 70% higher at Onslow, Roebourne and Port Hedland.
While those figures do not give a complete picture of the situation in many parts of Australia, they do illustrate very clearly that costs outside the metropolitan areas are much higher than they are in the metropolitan areas. The figures show also that a subsidy of $500 in the metropolitan area would be of greater value and give greater assistance than would the same amount in some of the high cost areas to which I have referred. This being the case - there can be no argument about it - surely to be fair and to do the right thing by everybody, the grant for couples building in remote places should be considerably more than $500. In addition the maximum value of the home built should be allowed to be much higher in the remote areas than it is in the capital cities. If a home built in Perth, for instance, for $15,000 can attract a grant, why should a couple in Kununurra only be permitted to claim on a house onehalf the size of the Perth house or with only 50% of its conveniences?
I took up with the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) the matter of extending the maximum value of the home for people who build in the north. In her reply she said that legislation could not be drawn in such a manner as to provide for different circumstances. The fact is that the homes savings grant scheme was devised by the Government as an election gimmick to attract votes where the greatest number of votes are available - in the metropolitan areas. But even so, this is no reason why the legislation should not be amended to give the people of the north and other outlying areas the same type of assistance as is given to people elsewhere. The Act can be amended and it should be amended. It would not be novel to differentiate between people living in different areas. We already have the income tax zone allowance whereby people living in one area of this country obtain concessions that are not available to people living elsewhere. In the matter of radio licence fees people living more than a certain distance from a station pay less than do people living closer to the station. There is no reason why people living in remote areas should not be paid a higher grant and should not be permitted to build a home of more than the present maximum value. I would not expect different amounts to apply at each place where there is a different cost, but in the case of Western Australia - no doubt the same thing could be done in other States - it would not be difficult to define zones on the same principle that applies to income tax and set out the amounts to be paid within those zones over and above the base amount, having regard to the average cost of building in those zones compared with the cost in Perth. Under the legislation as it now stands people in the north and outback areas, where high costs are the order of the day, enjoy only a percentage of the value of the grant enjoyed by city dwellers.
In this report this year on the homes savings grant scheme, the Secretary of the Department of Housing states that the Act authorises the payment of grants up to $500 to young people to assist them to buy or build their first matrimonial home. He also states that the scheme has two main functions, the first of which is to encourage young people to save purposefully and regularly for their future home by the offer of a financial reward for such saving. In the first place, young couples in high cost areas will not receive the so-called reward as quickly as those in lower cost areas because they will be required to have a greater amount of money before they can contract to build a home and so their savings will not only have to be greater but will also have to be in a bank savings account for longer and therefore may be channelled into avenues for providing finance to other prospective home builders. They thereby assist in solving the housing problem to a greater extent than do those who are able to build at an earlier date. Secondly, the assistance to buy or build does not have the same value in allowing these young people to have a home of their own at a reasonably early stage of their marriage as it does to young couples in capital cities. Thirdly, if the intention of the Act is genuinely to encourage young people to save regularly and purposefully, it must be agreed that if the grant has in one place only 50% of the value it has in another, the encouragement given in one place is nowhere near as great as it is in the area where the grant has greater value. The only way to ensure equal encouragement is to increase the amount of the grant and the maximum home value limitation accordingly.
I do not wish to say any more. There can be no doubt that as the Act is at pre sent a number of young people are placed at a disadvantage and are being treated quite unfairly as compared with others. I agree that we should encourage young people to own their own homes. If this Act can be the means of doing so, well and good, but it should not operate in such a way as to give a much greater advantage in some areas than in others. I know that we could not arrive at a perfect solution. We could not draw boundaries or prescribe zones which would completely solve the problem, but at least we should make every effort to ensure that young people receive treatment as nearly equal as we can possibly make it. I ask the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly), who is now at the table, to pass on these views and this request to the appropriate Minister. I might add that I have received several approaches from people in the northern part of Western Australia in relation to this matter. They have pointed out to me that much as they would like to be able to participate in this grant they are not able to do so because of the maximum that is placed upon them and because of the costs that are involved in building homes in the outer areas.
– I compliment the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) on complimenting the Government for its implementation of the homes savings grant scheme. It is always a great encouragement in this chamber to hear honourable members opposite compliment the Commonwealth Government, especially when it is an a scheme which has been so successful as this one has been. I refer to the housing estimates with particular reference to the homes savings grant scheme and, a little later, to housing for the aged. At the moment I want to deal with the homes savings grant scheme. Since its inception in July 1964 some $39m has been paid out in grants to about 89,000 couples throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. Since then this Bill has been widened considerably to admit widows and widowers under the age of 36 years who have one or more dependent children. From 28th November last year grants could be obtained on a home and land of value up to $15,000 and not $14,000 as was the position until very recently. Contrary to what some honourable members opposite have said, this goes to show that the Commonwealth is not entirely lax in looking after the interests of the younger people in the community.
The scheme has also been liberalised in a number of other ways to make it easier for young people to apply for a grant. All these improvements have come in since the inception of the scheme and 1 am sure they will be welcomed by many who will be concerned. My main reason for speaking on this subject is to draw the attention of the people and the Parliament to the benefits of the scheme. Some honourable members opposite, and even some on this side of the chamber, may be a little surprised at this, but there is good reason for it. I am sure that most people who listen to radio, read newspapers and watch television would be aware that such a scheme is i.n operation. Obviously its initial and later success has proved this. But there are too many people who have been rejected. There are too many young people who should be eligible but are not. Further, there is too much complacency and apathy about the operation of the scheme. Whether this is due to ignorance or failure to comply with the standards which have been laid down I do not know, and T am sure that the Parliament does not know. Obviously a great number of young couples who otherwise would be eligible for some reason are not eligible. In fact this could be summed up by saying that there is no doubt that many eligible young couples are just throwing $500 down the drain. I think it important that we analyse this situation.
The grant of $500 is a tax free gift from the Commonwealth to the applicant. It is not a loan. It is a generous gift and is designed to encourage savings and to promote home ownership. By promoting home ownership it encourages a degree of initiative and a degree of free enterprise, which is of course what this Government stands for. It is important, however, that the qualifications be complied with, but the point and the one thing which concerns me is the reluctance - there can be no other word for it - on the part of some young people to avail themselves of this advantage. I cannot believe that it is the fault of this Government due to lack of publicity. Millions of dollars have been spent on publicity since the inception of the scheme in July 1964. A great deal has been said and even more has been spoken about it. Overall the results have been most satisfying. 1 mentioned earlier that $39m has been paid out in grants to 89,000 couples throughout Australia.
Everything possible has been done to bring the benefits of this scheme to the attention of the public. But still the same question comes up: Not all eligible young couples in Australia are aware of the benefits to be derived, nor are they aware that they may receive a bona fide gift of $500 with no strings attached. I do not believe that the banks are at fault in this. They have co-operated with the Government all the way along the line. Most banks today, if not all of them, have a certain little section set aside specifically with a view to promoting so far as possible the homes savings grant scheme. Naturally they stand to benefit. Consequently, it would be in their interests to encourage the use of the scheme so far as possible. Perhaps it is because of the short time that the scheme has been in operation - just 3 years or so - but this also is doubtful because originally it was a campaign issue under our previous Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and a successful one at that. I notice that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie referred to the homes savings grant scheme as an election gimmick brought up just to get votes. It certainly did achieve that result and I am sure that the 89,000 young couples in Australia who have benefited from the scheme are grateful for it. I am sure that the Opposition would appreciate that point. However, I believe that the answer to this traditional reluctance on the part of some young people in the community today lies in their attitude and is due also to the following reasons. I advance these as suggestions to honourable members for their consideration.
I believe that every young Australian, whether he is single, engaged or about to marry, should avail himself of the advantages of the scheme, provided that he can comply with the conditions. The scheme benefits everybody who takes advantage of it. Firstly, many are not aware that such a scheme is available to them and, until they are told, they have no way of knowing. Young couples come into my office on a number of different issues. I have asked them what they think about the homes savings grant scheme and they have said: “What is that?’ Obviously, to a certain extent - whether it is a majority or a minority I do not know - a number of young people just do not know that such a scheme is in existence.
I believe that a second reason for the reluctance is that even if they are aware of the homes savings grant scheme as such, some confusion may prevail as to whether they are eligible or not and, therefore, they will not be sufficiently moved to go in and inquire. This is a trait characteristic of my age and characteristic also of the age of some other honourable members and some of the ancient honourable members. This, however, is their responsibility alone. The first move in this sort of case is up to the individual couple concerned. Thirdly, rumours and distortions spoken and heard can have an effect. Ignorance on the part of one could well misguide the other. It could also have the effect of putting them off. Young people today have a habit of talking, particularly in some cases, about things about which they know nothing. It could well be that at a number of functions where honourable members find these young people they will be heard to say: ‘I did not qualify for this scheme for such and such a reason. It may well be that you will not qualify either.’ Perhaps as a result of rumours and false statements about the operation of the homes savings grant scheme young people will be put off and consequently feel that they are not eligible to apply for the $500 grant.
Fourthly, I believe there is a failure to understand just what the grant is all about and a failure to realise that it is designed for everyone who is eligible and not just a selected few. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie raised a very good point when he referred to the possible zoning for purposes of the homes savings grant scheme. As a South Australian member I am well aware that conditions in South Australia differ considerably from those in New South Wales and Victoria. A home in South Australia which costs $14,000 today would normally cost $16,000 in Victoria and perhaps $18,000 in New South Wales. Of course with the declining economic standard in South Australia brought about by the current State Labor
Government one could probably purchase a home for less than the $14,000 that I mentioned. The fifth explanation of the reluctance of young people to take advantage of the scheme is perhaps a laziness on their part to designate an account. One of the basic stipulations laid down by a bank or by the Department of Housing when a prospective young couple come in and inquire whether they are eligible is that they have saved for 3 years. They must have an account in continuous operation for not less than 3 years. It could well be that some young people say: ‘We do not want to commit these funds to be spent only in this direction’. Here again they would be wrong, because the funds can be withdrawn at any time. The important point is that the account has been opened with the correct title and has been in operation for 3 years.
The sixth and final point is the failure of the prospective couple to comply with the correct procedure. They do not know what to do and, when they believe they will be eligible, it is too late for them to qualify for the grant. They may open an account but not give it the correct title. They may not take the advice of the bank clerk. They may not have had an account operating for the required period. But nonetheless they hope that because the scheme is in operation they will be able to change the account to meet the requirements of the homes savings grant scheme and be eligible to receive the $500 from the Commonwealth. However, they cannot do this. It will not work this way and it has never been designed to work this way. Perhaps some honourable members will agree that some of the six points I have mentioned are pertinent. Some 89,000 people have received the grant since the scheme commenced and many more young couples should have availed themselves of it.
The position is unfortunate and is to the detriment of a great many young people who deserve and should receive the grant. The scheme has worked well to date and there is no doubt that its benefits are to the great advantage of prospective couples. But I believe that some aspects of the homes savings grant scheme should be brought more forcibly before the public generally and the youth of Australia so that all those who are eligible will make the most of this unique opportunity. The first step is to go to the local bank, the nearest office of the Department of Housing or a post office, seek advice and get a copy of the appropriate booklet which outlines the whole scheme. The booklet, ‘A Grant for Your Home’, even had me confused on a few points. It is valuable, but I do not agree with the way it is presented. It uses too many words and says too little. Although it deals with all aspects of the scheme, it is confusing, to say the least. The Minister may care to pass my comments on to the public relations officers in the Department of Housing. They should have a look at the layout and design of the booklet. If they cut it down to half its present size, it will still have the same effect. The simplest words are often the most effective words.
The second point is that any person applying must be under the age of 36 years. Some people think the age is 26 years, but it is in fact 36 years. The third point is that young people seeking the grant must be prepared to save for at least 3 years to be eligible for it. This is not really too much to ask, surely. The fourth point is that the applicants must be married to receive the grant, although the account - this is most important - under the proper heading can be opened well before marriage when the applicants are single or engaged, either as one account or as a joint account. I speak with some feeling on this point, because I missed out on the grant for this very reason. However, I will not go into that now. The fifth point is that he or she or both must be Australian citizens for the 3 years immediately preceding or have lived here for at least that long. I am sure honourable members are aware of this procedure, but I state it to show how simple and easy to obtain the grant is. 1 compliment the Government on its initiative in widening the scope of the scheme to include widows and widowers with one or more dependent children. I am not sure, however, that those people who are eligible are aware that this benefit is available to them. The Department of Housing is certainly doing all in its power to publicise as widely as possible the homes savings grant scheme, but we cannot escape the fact that there are still young people who cannot, will not or do not want to accept that this grant is a bona fide gift of $500 with no strings attached. It is in their interests to seek and to use the grant just as it was in the interests of the Commonwealth Government to give it. Those who do not avail themselves of this generous gift have only themselves to blame.
– This is the third occasion on which I have followed the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) in a debate in this chamber. On the two previous occasions I am afraid I dealt rather harshly with him. May I on this occasion congratulate him on the moderation of his remarks, and say that in the 10 months that he has been a member of the Parliament he has certainly shown vast improvement. I do not know whether this is because he recently became engaged and that the change is the result of the moderation of his wife to be. If it is, I hope that his marriage is not long delayed. He will certainly moderate even further after the marriage. May I now give the honourable member for Adelaide a little advice. I refer him to the Third Annual Report of the Secretary, Department of Housing. At page 2 of the report there is a paragraph headed ‘A revised explanatory pamphlet to be issued*. It reads in part:
The revised pamphlet, which may be distinguished from earlier issues by its green and white cover, will be available from banks, building societies^ post offices and offices of the Department within the next few weeks.
I join with the honourable member in expressing the hope that it will be a simpler explanation of the homes savings grant scheme than is the explanation in the current booklet. I have found paragraphs in this booklet that contradict other paragraphs. I hope now that the honourable member and I have renewed acquaintance it will continue in the future.
My remarks will be confined now to the War Service Homes Act. I refer firstly to what I believe is the unsympathetic treatment shown to the deserted wives of eligible members of the forces who have been granted loans under the Act. Frequently the loan is taken in the joint names of the husband and wife but only the husband is the eligible person. After a number of years of marriage the husband, for reasons best known to himself, deserts his wife and children. Perhaps he does not even pay them any maintenance. He disappears almost entirely from the face of the earth. The wife is allowed to stay in the home but she has to meet the commitments. She is receiving nothing from her husband and she must battle to keep her children and to meet the payments on the loan from the War Service Homes Division. I had a case touching on this point and I wrote to the Department of Housing about it. I suggested that the ownership of the property should be transferred to the wife who had been deserted for a number of years and who had not received any assistance whatever from her husband. The answer I received reads in part:
For this reason Sections 4a and 35 of the Act contain provisions designed to prevent the transfer of a war service home except with the consent of the Director of War Service Homes. Section 35 also prescribes various conditions to which the* Director must have regard in giving or withholding the consent required under the provisions of these Sections. The Section specifically provides that consent shall not be given where the proposed transferee is not an eligible person unless the Director is satisfied that the transfer is in the interests of the transferor.
You will appreciate that it is impracticable to determine whether a transfer is in the interests of the transferor until the transfer is submitted for consideration and the terms and conditions relating thereto are known. 1 disagree entirely with these provisions. I disagree entirely with the requirement that it must be proved so conclusively that the transfer is in the interests of the transferor before the transfer can be effected. The husband has disappeared. He has not given any maintenance to his wife. The property is kept in the joint names only because of the wife’s efforts. In such a case I think the Director of War Service Homes, after a period of time that is sufficient to convince him that the husband does not intend to return to his wife and children, should automatically change the ownership of the home from the joint names to the wife’s name. I make this point because the husband can come back at any time, perhaps even accompanied by the woman with whom he disappeared, and take up residence in the home that is registered in the joint names. The legal wife would have no way of objecting except by walking out of the home.
If there has been desertion of the wife over a lengthy period, the Director of War Service Homes, I believe, is entitled to interpret the relevant section of the Act differently from the way in which he has been interpreting it so far. If the AttorneyGeneral’s Department says that legally it has to be interpreted as it is being interpreted at present, the Government, with the support of all honourable members opposite, including Ministers, should take action to have the Act amended. I recall a debate in this chamber on the Matrimonial Causes Bill 1959 in which great emphasis was placed on the needs and interests of wives. Yet we have on the statute book an Act that extends no sympathy to a deserted wife and takes no account of the needs of herself and her children. I earnestly ask that the Act be altered. As I have said, I do not stipulate that the period of either 6 months or 12 months be specified. After 5 years separation, there is now an automatic ground for divorce proceedings by either the guilty party or the innocent party. I believe that a husband who leaves his wife and children is the guilty party. After desertion for, say, 2 or 3 years, the house should be transferred to the wife’s name. After all, she has carried on in difficult circumstances without any assistance from the husband.
Another thing that 1 have learned is that when a husband has deserted his wife, if the local council is pressing the wife to have sewerage connected to the home, the Minister for Housing has discretionary power to approve, as has been done by the present Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), that an additional loan be granted to meet the cost of the sewerage connection. Previously, this could not be done, even if the wife was a joint tenant. Not being the eligible person, she could not obtain an additional loan from the War Service Homes Division. I believe that the change has been rightly made. Far more sympathetic treatment than at present ought to be given to deserted wives who are living in war service homes, and especially those who are joint tenants in their homes. Even where the deeds of the property are not registered in the name of the wife, a wife who has been deserted and who can be shown to be reasonably innocent of an offence in the matrimonial sense, particularly if she has children to look after, has a strong claim to the exercise of discretionary power by either the Minister or tha
Director of War Service Homes. A strong case can be made for this discretionary power to be given. I believe that most members of this Parliament agree with this argument.
When I examine the record of this Government in relation to war service homes, I come across many strange things that lead me to believe that the War Service Homes Act has not been administered nearly so sympathetically or so well as it should and could have been administered. The present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) will recall that on one occasion less than 2 years after this Government took office there was a proposal to remove from the Act the section providing for the making of advances to discharge existing mortgages and that there was a revolt in the Government Caucus and the Government changed its mind. In November 1951, the Minister then in charge of war service homes made a decision that no existing mortgages would be taken over, with certain specified exceptions. For confirmation of this, I refer honourable members to page 699 of Hansard of 11th April 1961. The excuse used at the time was lack of finance.
– Is it 1961 or 1951?
– I am referring to the Hansard of 1961, but the decision was made in 1951. In 1956 the conditions on which second advances would be given to eligible ex-service men and women were restricted. Confirmation of that is to be found on the same page of Hansard. Prior to 1962, additional loans could be obtained for many purposes, including the construction of a garage, the provision of additional living accommodation, the installation of hot water services and the like. My experience since 1962 suggests that about the only reason for which an applicant can get an additional loan, even though he did not obtain the maximum advance available when he received his original loan, is to provide urgently needed accommodation for a growing family.
Throughout the years that these restrictions have been imposed, the excuse given by the Government has been that lack of finance has prevented the Minister in charge of War Service Homes from giving applicants these extra fringe benefits. But what happened when the backlag of applications was overtaken? In 1965-66, the Government spent $70,010,631 on war service homes. In 1966-67, the financial year in which the Government began to overtake the lag, there was no waiting time for advances for some purposes, and the total expenditure was reduced to $59,122,823 - a reduction of nearly Slim. In the 1967-68 Budget, the provision for war service homes is about $13,600,000 less than last financial year’s expenditure, being only $45,500,000. The Hansard record of various speeches made by Ministers shows plainly that the Government’s excuse for refusing to take over existing mortgages or to grant additional loans for the provision of extra accommodation and for various other changes in the interpretation of the provisions of the Act has always been lack of finance. However, when the number of outstanding applications for assistance was reduced, the Government, instead of maintaining the annual expenditure at something like $70m, reduced it progressively by a total of more than $24m over the last 2 years. And it still refuses to take over existing mortgages and declines to make additional, loans for urgently needed accommodation.
Many things are wrong with the current interpretations of various provisions of the Act, and these defects ought to be remedies. The Returned Services League of Australia has repeatedly made representations in these matters on behalf of exservice men and women. Honourable members on this side of the chamber have raised the topic time and time again. But all our pleas seem to fall on deaf ears on the Government side of the chamber. You and I know, Mr Deputy Chairman, after what happened in this chamber last night, that a collective insult is now not unparliamentary. When I think about what honourable members opposite, some of whom are ex-servicemen, refuse to do for their fellow ex-servicemen, I call to mind a thousand collective insults which could be hurled at them and which would be just as dirty as or even dirtier than those that are hurled across this chamber by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) and other honourable members opposite. However, I shall refrain from uttering such insults, though the opportunity presents itself, because I believe that to do so is only to lower the dignity of this place. Members on the Government side of the Parliament should have a look ait these matters and ensure that the ex-service men and women of Australia are given a better deal under the terms of the War Service Homes Act than they are getting at present.
On behalf of the Opposition, I say in conclusion: We believe that more funds should be allocated for war service homes. We believe that the maximum limit for advances should be raised from the level of $7,000, which was fixed in 1962, to $10,000. We believe than an applicant should have the right to transfer a loan on an existing dwelling for the purchase of a new house where good reasons can be shown. We believe that applicants should have a right to obtain advances to discharge existing mortgages. We believe also that deserted wives occupying war service homes should be treated far more sympathetically than they are at present.
– I am pleased that the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) decided to maintain throughout his remarks the friendly attitude with which he began. I support what he said about the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). In fact, it is as a result of some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Adelaide that I thought I would like to take part briefly in this debate.
– Do you support what the honourable member for Mackellar said too?
– I do. I would like to deal with one small aspect of this legislation. I refer to the part dealing, as the honourable member for Adelaide did, with the Homes Savings Grant Act and quote briefly from the second reading speech of the Minister who introduced this legislation last April. He said:
The broad effect of all these amendments will be to permit more young people to receive a grant, and to permit others to receive larger grants . . .
Towards the end of his speech the Minister said:
The introduction of this Bill demonstrates the Government’s continuing desire to offer maximum reasonable assistance to young people . . .
The point I want to make is that the intention of the Government in my opinion was extremely laudable. However, as so often happens with this sort of legislation, the intention has not been entirely carried out. This legislation was introduced on 6th April of this year and was gazetted in May. Yet, here we are at the end of September and the pamphlet of which honourable members have spoken has not been printed. I think this is a rather serious reflection on the way in which the Department has functioned since the Bill was introduced. In this regard I would disagree with the honourable member for Adelaide whose speech was excellent on all aspects of this matter. The honourable member said that he thought plenty of publicity had been given. Perhaps plenty of publicity has been given but I believe the money that is spent on publicity is, perhaps to a great extent, wasted. This is because the publicity does not reach the persons to whom it is aimed. The rejection rate tends to confirm this because 8i% of those who have applied for homes have been rejected. I submit that the reason for the rejection of these young people was that they were not fully aware of their rights. I would urge the Minister at the table to suggest to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) in another place that the Department of Housing should attempt to educate the people who educate young people such as ministers of religion and teachers in schools. The way to do this I suggest is to print this pamphlet and circularise it among the schools. The only inquiries that I have received on this particular piece of legislation since I have been a member of Parliament have been in the form of complaints. They have been from young people who have not been aware of all the circumstances of this fairly complicated piece of legislation.
To repeat, I ask that the Minister suggest to the Minister in another place that there is a need to hurry up and have these pamphlets printed so that we and others can make use of them and see that the people whom we wish to benefit from this legislation do benefit.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Interior
Proposed expenditure $46,464,000.
– Ever since I have been a member of the Parliament, during debates on the Estimates, perhaps with one or two exceptions which I cannot remember, I have spoken on the Department of the Interior, mainly concerning the Commonwealth Electoral Act. As honourable members know, the Electoral Act comes under the administration of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony). Therefore, I consider that this particular section of the Estimates is important. I do not want to go into the actual estimates pf the cost of running the Department of the Interior. However, there are points that I regard as being very important indeed to the citizens of Australia. Firstly, I would like to speak regarding polling. As a member of Parliament representing a rural constituency the main thing that concerns me about this aspect is that I have had to fight, each time these Estimates have come up to have the time for polling continued between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Of course, city people consider that the polling time should be between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. At least, they want the poll to finish at 6 o’clock. Over recent years Federal elections have been held chiefly at a time when primary producers have been harvesting. A Senate election will be held later this year. Primary producers are in a quite different position to people who work in the city and who, on Saturday afternoon, perhaps go to some sporting fixture; or they may go to the theatre at night; or they may wish to knock off early to enjoy the late spring climate. However, the fanner who works in the field is in a different position. Perhaps the farmer is harvesting oats. It is important that he should get on with the job because if his crop is ripe and a heavy wind comes along he could lose most of his crop. Therefore, on behalf of the people I represent, I request that the hours of polling should be continued as they are now. We believe that if this is done it will not cause any inconvenience whatsoever to city people because if they want to vote by 6 o’clock they can do so. It may not suit a country man. Someone will say: ‘What about the polling clerks and people of that nature?’ I point out that elections take place, at least for the House of Representatives, once every 3 years. For both Houses there may be an election twice in 3 years. I do not believe that this represents very great hard ship. I consider that the present times of polling should be continued.
The next matter I want to refer to concerns section 19 (1.) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which states:
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall so determine the proposed Divisions that each Division contains a number of electors not exceeding, or falling short of, the quota of electors by more than one-fifth of the quota.
I will talk about this in the context of Victoria because I know that State best. From what I have heard I understand - and I am open to correction - that the quota is 50,006. For the purposes of my argument I will take this figure as 50,000. I have heard people come into this House and talk about decentralisation We hear this time and time again. But the call for decentralisation cannot mean anything unless political representation is decentralised. This is the main thing. Nothing counts in parliaments, whether they be State or Federal, but votes. All the eloquence or advocacy of honourable members in this House is of no account if, when it comes to a vote, members adhere to the party line or some opinion that they hold. Therefore, I say that the margin of 20% should be adhered to as nearly as possible. I realise that we cannot have exactly 20% up or down because if electorates have 20% above or below the accepted quota then a further redistribution can be called for. Therefore, as 1 say, the margin should be as near as practicable to 20%. With a quota of 50,000 - and this is necessarily approximate because I have made no accurate calculations - the number in an electorate, to take an easy figure, could be as high as 60,000 or as low as 40,000. My suggestion is that a city electorate should have 60,000.
– Break it down.
– And the country electorates should have 40,000.
Br 3. F. Cairns - Why not 55,000 and 45,000?
– I am looking at all the members who are interjecting and thinking what a strange coincidence it is that they are all from metropolitan electorates. Is there a trend amongst members from metropolitan electorates to try to keep people within those metropolitan electorates? I have heard these very members speaking about decentralisation but I have never heard them put forward a scheme which was a practical possibility. I am not asking for something new. I am merely asking for the implementation of a section in the Electoral Act, a copy of which I am now holding.
– And it has been in the Act for a long time.
– Yes, it has been there for a long time. I am not asking for anything else but its implementation. As soon as one mentions this subject members of the Opposition become very vocal. It is a wonder some of them have not called out: One vote one value’. I remind the Committee that they never cry out against Tasmania having the same number of senators as New South Wales. I do not object to that. In fact I favour it. I believe that in the Senate the less populous States like Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia, and to a lesser degree Queensland, should have strong representation because then they have a better chance of getting things done. Four square with this argument, I believe, is the proposition that the country districts in a State should have more representation so that they can build up decentralised populations. On a former occasion I spoke on this subject and said that this principle should apply in State Parliaments. The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) was the next to speak in that debate and he said: ‘What is the honourable member for Mallee talking about? Does he think for one moment that because there are more members of the Parliament representing country areas the people will go and live there?’ He said: The fact of the matter is that what is stopping industry from going to the country is that railway freight charges are too high’. That is in Hansard; it is not something I have dreamed up. On that occasion, after all other members who wished to speak had done so I took a second period in order Ito rebut the honourable member’s suggestion. Of course this was one argument that was very easy to rebut, because it is obvious that if there are enough members in a parliament from country areas they will soon have railway freight rates reduced.
We know that after the Senate election is held on 25th November commissioners will be appointed to conduct a redistribution of electorates.
– How does the honourable member know?
– Because the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has said in this Parliament that towards the end of this year these Commissioners will be appointed. I have worked out without any great trouble that the date of the Senate election, 25th November is towards the end of the year. Is that answer satisfactory?
I believe that this is a vital matter for Australia. Some people will say: ‘The honourable member for Mallee represents a rural electorate; no wonder he talks this way’. Of course I do. I represent an electorate that comprises more than one-fifth of the area of the whole State of Victoria. If every electorate in Victoria had the same area as mine there would be only five members of this Parliament from Victoria, whereas there are now thirty-three.
– How many square miles?
– I know that the area is not tremendously large when compared with some other electorates. I know that the electorate of Kalgoorlie is four or six times the area of Victoria. The area of the Mallee electorate is 18,500 square miles. But what we should remember is that in the last proposed redistribution, which was not implemented, although the electorate of Mallee represented one-fifth the area of Victoria, it was to have added to it three subdivisions from the electorate of Murray. These were Cohuna, Mitiamo and Pyramid Hill.
– How many electors are on the roll - I mean people, not cows and horses?
– There are more than 41,000 on the roll. I know that the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) - and I may tell the Committee that I intend to claim a second period to speak after other honourable members have spoken on this subject - represents an electorate with a very large population. For some reason he thought I was referring to him when I said recently that members who are doing two jobs should not ask for more help in their electorates. I was not referring to him. I had not even thought of him in this regard. I was referring to someone else who had spoken earlier in that debate. The honourable member for Mitchell said that he would have liked a redistribution earlier. In the most kindly way I say to him that when the redistribution is made I hope he will have an electorate to his liking. I also hope that the suggestions I have made so far will be accepted and that decentralisation will not be just a catch cry for politicians but will become something practicable. On the notice paper under general business there is a motion by a member - for obvious reasons I will not name him - about various things that should be done in regard to decentralisation, but there is no mention of decentralisation of political representation.
– I had not intended to speak about electoral redistribution, but, having listened to the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) I must express my view that the hours of voting in this country are too long. I believe we could quite well fit our voting in between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
– Are you a city or a country member?
– Both. I know there is a rush at polling booths when they are about to close at 8 p.m., but I am sure that people could do their voting before 6 p.m.
– Order! I suggest that we would get through the debate on the Estimates much more quickly if honourable members allowed the member making the speech to do so by himself and without assistance from either side of the chamber.
– I wanted to speak briefly and in a broad sense on the Department of the Interior. I suppose the problems of Canberra and its development would take up most of the time of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony). In earlier years Canberra was developed almost exclusively by the Government, but now an active partnership of Government and private enterprise is beginning to characterise the development of this city, in which live an increasing number of Australians and which is visited by many thousands of people from within Australia and from overseas countries.
Earlier this year the population of Canberra reached 100,000. It is expected to reach 250,000 by the early 1980s. Canberra is becoming a very important regional centre as well as being the national capital. Already the city is spreading out into the picturesque valleys surrounding it. Its planned development is controlled by the National Capital Development Commission, which is usually referred to by the abbreviation NCDC. In earlier years development was carried out by the Federal Capital Commission, the late C. S. Daley having a good deal to do with that development. After the Commission was disbanded he continued with the Department of the Interior in a similar capacity. During the term of office of the Menzies Government the National Capital Development Commission was formed. Since that date there has been rapid development. The National Planning Committee advises the Commission on planning and development. Members of the Committee come from all corners of Australia. They are highly qualified engineers, architects and artists. Thus many novel ideas are brought together for discussion. The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Overall, is also the top man of the Commission. Last year he went overseas to study trends in buildings and traffic operation and the maintenance of proper standards of design. He visited the major cities of the world. The Committee should not be lacking in know-how to use for the development of the city.
It is interesting to note that between the planning of a new suburb and its occupation there is a time lag of over 3 years. As the new suburbs are planned and prepared for building, private enterprise enters the field to carry out the construction work. So churches, schools, shopping centres and homes are built according to a pre-arranged plan. Allowance is made for individuality by the use of architects from interstate as well as from overseas. The Public Accounts Committee last year reviewed the activities of the Commission and some minor criticism was levelled, particularly at its accounting activities. A recent report of the Commission states that it has taken note of the Committee’s comments. A detailed statement of accounts appears at the back of the Commission’s report, together with the requisite certificate by the Auditor-General. The Commission is estimated to need $1,364,000 for administrative expenses for 1967-68. It is anticipated that it will spend about $45m on capital works.
In earlier years progress was hampered by the great depression which was followed by World War II, but over the last decade we have seen outstanding progress. Not many years ago Lake Burley Griffin was formed. I remember the criticism which appeared in the Press because of the need for money in so many other fields. Indeed, I was critical myself. In the short history of Canberra, Lake Burley Griffin has been one of the most outstanding single achievements. I believe it will become one of the great tourist attractions of the area. A great deal of money has been ploughed into Canberra but the city is now generating its own growth. Anybody who has been to the industrial area at Fyshwick, to the Woden Valley, the new Belconnen area and Civic Centre and has seen the new buildings that have been erected by private enterprise will understand what I am saying. Thousands of dollars of capital are flowing into Canberra from the Riverina and elsewhere. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) keeps us well informed of any difficulties which arise here, but we do not hear very much on the credit side. I think honourable members should have a good look around the city for themselves in order to appreciate how the Government’s money has been spent.
A few mistakes have been made over the years. At the end of World War II some temporary office buildings were constructed which in time to come will not be a credit to the Administration. A few buildings have been placed in wrong positions. I think honourable members will agree that the archives building near the lake is out of place where it stands. I sometimes wonder whether one day one of the big buses will run off the bridge on to its roof. Generally speaking a very fine job has been done and is still being done in Canberra. The Commission is looking well ahead and is trying to anticipate future difficulties. Most of the mistakes were made in earlier years when there was not available the expert staff that is available today. I would like to congratulate the Commission upon its glossy covered annual report. It can be understood by everyone and is very well presented. The photographs it contains; - some of them in colour - add greatly to the appearance of the publication. It was produced by the Government Printer and is a credit to him and to his staff.
Apart from Parliament House, the building best known to visitors from all parts of the world is the Australian War Memorial. Many people of the older generation come to see the names of those who gave their lives in time of war. The names are recorded near the Hall of Memory. All who visit there, including the children, are enthralled with the models and exhibits on display. About $264,000 is being set aside for expenses associated with the Memorial for 1967-68. Over 529,000 persons visited the Memorial during the last 12 months. The cost per person was thus about 48c, which seems quite modest when it is remembered that it is a memorial to our war dead. It also provides a great source of interest to the people of Canberra and the many visitors.
In the early days Canberra was a place where few people desired to settle. Many members of the older generation were loath to move here when the seat of government was transferred from Melbourne. Now the position has been reversed to the extent that the inhabitants enjoy most of the privileges of the larger cities without having to put up with the .roar of traffic and great parking difficulties that are experienced in the larger cities. In fact, there is a striking difference from some areas of the country where conditions are severe. In these places if a swimming pool or hall is needed the people must raise thousands of dollars themselves before construction can begin. Little medical care is available. There is no sewerage, schooling is difficult and some of the homes are of low standard. There is also a great contrast with the inner areas of large cities where there are pocket handkerchief sized back yards. The children must play in the streets. One comes to realise that the people of Canberra are very fortunate. I do not begrudge them these living conditions but I think that their rates, taxes, and charges for services such as water, sewerage and electricity should bear comparison with the amounts paid by people m other cities for similar services.
In as article in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 17th September last, E. H. Cox wrote:
Under the benevolent government dictatorship Canberra already does very -well, very cheaply. No community in Australia is more fully endowed with public amenities and few if any pay less in rates and taxes for what they get
I am inclined to agree with him. Of course, a great deal of pressure has come from the local people for more say in civic affairs. Under the present financial setup it is very difficult to obtain a clear picture of the administration of the city so far as rates and services provided are concerned. A lot of facilities are provided in Canberra because it is the national capital. It would be unfair to ratepayers if they had to meet a lot of the expense involved. I have been quite impressed by the way the parks and gardens people go about their work in Canberra. They appear to be very industrious and interested in their work. They have obtained very good results. It is now blossom time here and I suggest to fellow Australians that they visit Canberra at this time of the year.
I turn now to a more detailed examination of the estimates. I note that my time is nearly gone and I will refer to only some of the larger amounts. An amount of $428,000 has been provided for salaries and allowances as compared with an expenditure of $407,811 last year. This is an administrative expense. It seems reasonable, bearing in mind the recent rise in the basic wage and the nature of the work involved, particularly in the Canberra area. Another large provision is $701,300 for the construction, care and maintenance of war graves. It is a lot of money but it must be remembered that we are fully or partially responsible for over 2,500 war cemeteries throughout the world. These must be maintained as a credit to Australia.
Real estate is big business in the Australian Capital Territory and this year estate management is expected to cost the Department of the Interior $1,053,000. Postage, telephone and telegraph services are estimated to cost $1,220,000. When I saw this amount I wondered how it could be justified. It represents a larger sum than the salaries bill. However, a check in the Auditor-General’s report revealed that this expenditure is attributable mainly to the fact that the Department is responsible for the payment of telephone charges in jointly occupied buildings where the Department is the registered subscriber. Nevertheless I would suggest-
– Order! I would ask honourable members not to carry on audible conversations. I point out that frequently honourable members are closer to the Hansard reporter than is the person who is speaking. This must make it extremely difficult for the Hansard reporter to record what is being said. I ask honourable members to think about this aspect.
– I think I should finish on this note, Mr Chairman. I would suggest that it would be worthwhile for the Department to examine the effects of subscriber trunk dialling on telephone accounts. I do not think that junior officers should have access to this facility. I might mention that the Victorian Government has had cause to look at this problem recently. I note that my time has almost expired so I conclude by saying that I sincerely support the work of the Department of the Interior and I approve the provision of the funds necessary to enable it to continue its work.
– I should like to say how refreshing it was to hear a complimentary speech about Canberra. Honourable members spend too much time criticising each other and the other, party’s policy. Today we have heard a constructive speech from the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) about this wonderful national capital in which we are privileged to meet as a parliament. I was pleased that my double made such an interesting speech on this subject. Canberra is undoubtedly a model capital, and if other countries are intending to build new national capitals they should come here to see the job we have done in Canberra. I have seen this city grow from a population of 14,000 in 1946 to about 103,000 now. Today I celebrate my 21st birthday in this Parliament. I mention this to let honourable members know that I have been around this place for a long time and I have seen Canberra develop from very humble beginnings.
The National Capital Development Commission is to be commended for its forward planning in respect of- this city. New suburbs are being created in the valleys of this plateau and by the year 1980 Canberra’s population is expected to be an incredible 250,000. I cannot see why that population should not be achieved in view of the way the city has developed in the last few years. The people who live here evince a pride in Canberra, although some of them complain a lot. Of course, they should not complain too much. They are living in the prettiest, loveliest and most modern city in Australia.
– It is expensive, too.
– It is costly to live here. Housing is expensive by comparison with Tasmania and other capital cities but after all the incomes of the residents of Canberra, generally speaking, are above average. If they live without being mingy but without being extravagant they should be able to live decently here and provide their children with above average education. What magnificent schools they have for their children.
– We have not schools like this in my electorate.
– True, the honourable member’s electorate was born too early. What magnificent sports grounds they have in Canberra for the young people. Canberra has the youngest population of any city in Australia because it is the youngest city. The residents of Canberra have been well looked after. Private enterprise and public enterprise are spending about $40m a year here. Each section is spending about the same amount. It is a good thing that private enterprise is joining in the development of Canberra. It would be bad for the taxpayers if the development rested on the Government alone. It is up to private enterprise to play its part in developing the facilities of this wonderful city.
Visitors to Canberra are thrilled with the national capital. Each year over 550,000 visit the Parliament, and probably more visit the city. Thousands of school children come here. They are seeing this city in their young days and this must have a lasting impression on them. When friends of honourable members come here for a visit they are thrilled and when they return to their homes they write thanking us for what we did for them in showing them through this magnificent national capital.
– Does the honourable member buy them dinner?
– Certainly, and I hops that the honourable member who interjects does so too. Canberra is a worthy national capital and a worthy location for the National Parliament. When we have the new Parliament House erected - I hope within the next 15 years, on the shores of the lake - it will complete the picture from the parliamentary aspect. The residents of Canberra should be thankful and should count their blessings. This is a wonderful place in which to live and to rear a family. Naturally there are problems in Canberra. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) has often mentioned them in this chamber. I admire him for the way he plugs away in trying to have the mistakes that have been made in Canberra corrected and the injustices that have occurred here remedied. Mistakes and injustices occur in all well organised places. The honourable member is doing a magnificent job in coping with the needs of this tremendous population m Canberra.
– He is responsible for most of the growth.
– That is so. Canberra is getting so big that it should have two members in this chamber. I hope the day will not be too far distant when the Government alters the legislation to enable two senators to be elected for Canberra to help the member of the House of Representatives. An immense amount of work must be involved in handling the problems associated with the rapid development of this city and its suburbs.
About 8 years ago I started a campaign to have a suburb of Canberra named after King O’Malley. It took almost 8 years before I was successful. I make no apologies for having fought so long to have the late King O’Malley recognised in this city. King O’Malley was elected to the Parliament in 1901 and he represented Darwin in Tasmania from 1903 to 1917 when he was defeated on the conscription issue. He was a flamboyant, interesting and unusual man. He and Mr Catts M.P. made history in Melbourne when they sang a duet on one occasion during a session of the Federal
Parliament. King O’Malley was always doing something extraordinary, different or unique. He became Minister for Home Affairs in the second Fisher Government in 1910. He was responsible for the work which culminated in the establishment of the national capital. As honourable members know, survey and investigating parties were sent out all over Australia to find a suitable site and they finally suggested Canberra. King O’Malley did not agree with the proposed site of Canberra in the early days but when he became Minister for Home Affairs he gave it everything he had and largely through his energy Canberra came into being in approximately 1911. In the ensuing years there has been no recognition of him by naming a street or a building after him. In my representations on this matter I said that this man should be recognised in some specific way and I suggested naming a suburb after him. Last year, the National Capital Development Commission, the body responsible for the naming of suburbs, agreed that there should be a new suburb called O’Malley. I thank the Minister for his help in this matter. That suburb is in the new Woden Valley area, together with the suburbs of Hughes, Chifley and Lyons. I am very grateful to the Commission for finally agreeing to name a suburb after King O’Malley so that in the years ahead his work will be honoured and recognised. I do not know whether the people who will live in the suburb of O’Malley will appreciate this name for their suburb. There is already a suburb of O’Connor in the Australian Capital Territory and O’Malley sounds like another good Irish name.
I want to support the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory in his fight to retain government control of the local abattoir. We discussed this matter at a Labour rural meeting here in Canberra and we fully support him. We think that one of the most backward steps that the Government could take in this city would be to hand this abattoir over to private enterprise so that some big meat works can take over and control prices. I am quite sure that the price of meat for the average housewife will rise in Canberra the moment the big meat barons take over. I cannot understand the pig-headedness of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) over this issue He has rejected a report presented on this subject by a responsible committee. At this stage I firmly support the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory in his fight to retain government control of the abattoir. Too many takeovers are occurring in Australia today. This Government is selling government run enterprises all the time. There is hardly a government run enterprise left in Australia. The Canberra abattoir is run by the Government at a profit and it does a magnificent job. I would like to congratulate the men in charge of the abattoir on their excellent management.
Finally, I think I should say a word about the dog box terminal building at the Canberra Airport. There has hardly been one alteration to this dog box during the years that I have been coming to Canberra. World leaders who come to Canberra have to pass through this dog box. On a foggy morning it resembles Alcatraz, the well known former prison in San Francisco Bay in the United States. About 200 people are packed into the building during winter when it is too cold to venture outside. It is really a disgrace to the Government and an eyesore in this wonderful city of Canberra. It is an architectural monstrosity in this beautiful national capital. Look at the staff of Trans-Australia Airlines and AnsettANA trying to handle the outgoing and incoming passengers at the airport; look at the rooms in which they have to work and then compare those working conditions with the set-up in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Launceston, Adelaide and Perth. It is completely wrong that they should be forced to work in appallingly cramped conditions to get their passengers away each flight.
I do not know why the Government continues to delay a decision or the official announcement of a decision on this matter. We have heard that the Government wants to build a new airport about 16 miles away near Lake George. Why do we not hear something practical about it? Is the Government going on with this project or not? Have plans been prepared? Let us get down to the job and build a new terminal building for this city. The terminal building at Canberra is the worst I have seen, and I have visited fifteen countries. I have also visited every Australian capital city and there is not one airport to compare with that in Canberra for backwardness. Dog fanciers would not keep their dogs in a place like it. Their kennels are better, more airy and not so cramped. Overseas visitors must be shocked when they land at Canberra Airport.
I pass on these thoughts to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) who is at the table deputising for his colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony). I thank the Minister for the Interior for the co-operation he has exhibited in the administration of his portfolio.
– I believe that each and every person sees something unsavoury in the world in which he lives which impels him to make a private vow that if he ever is in a position to correct the situation he will do his best in that endeavour. I have now found myself in the position to make a contribution to my electors in the Brisbane electorate of Griffith, to the electors of Queensland, to the electors of Australia and to the cause of democracy by directing the attention of the Committee to a situation which I believe needs a complete overhaul. I wish to speak on the subject of postal voting in Australia and, with the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a table I have prepared with the assistance of the Parliamentary Statistical Service. I believe that this table will facilitate future reference.
I stand on safe ground when I claim that a really detailed assessment or study of this matter has never been made publicly, and when we consider that postal votes represented 2.4% of the total votes cast in the last Federal election, coupled with a number of exposures I will be making in the course of the IS minutes allotted to me, we must all agree that it is high time this matter was reviewed.
Basically, postal votes are made available to persons unable to get to a polling booth on the day of the election by virtue of infirmity, sickness, distance from a voting centre or their being interstate, even though certain provisions are made in the last case. I do not quibble with the concept of this provision - it is both necessary and humane - but I express my contempt for those who use the system to manipulate the end result.
The usual manner in which a fit person obtains a postal vote is to go to the local electoral office, obtain an application form, make a declaration of his requirement and then hand the form back in return for the postal vote. I make no claims of tampering in this instance, as obviously it is a normal voter-returning officer relationship. When rolls are issued they carry a mark showing the names of all persons who had postal votes in the previous election. This has led to party officials in some electoral divisions setting up machinery whereby a personal call is made on a person who had a postal vote previously to ascertain whether he wants another postal vote for the forthcoming election. I do not suggest that that in itself is wrong, but it is the beginning of the rot setting in.
The party organiser then sets about assisting the person to fill in his application form. After many such calls by a number of persons working in this capacity the application forms are submitted to the returning officer by a party worker for processing. The usual number to submit to the returning officer for maximum efficiency of organisation is SO to 100 forms. This must be done early in the morning to ensure that the returning officer has time to process them and post out the ballot papers that night. In metropolitan electorates a party can clinch the deal by ensuring that a representative arrives at the person’s home at about the same time as the postman delivers the vote, thus enabling the representative to see that the person does the right thing. Of course, this would not be a practical course in country areas.
Candidates are not allowed to call upon a person to witness the signature on the front of the envelope in which a postal vote is placed, so in this instance I cannot speak from personal experience. But I propose to relate stories told to me by many people whom I trust implicitly. They have told me of people handing over their ballot paper to be filled in. No wonder this business is so well organised. I am pleased to hear honourable members on both sides expressing their disgust at this practice. In my electorate postal votes represent 5.9% or 2,294 of the votes cast at the last election. In the electorate of Brisbane postal votes represented 5.4% of total votes cast and in the electorate of Ryan, 4.4%. Percentages of this magnitude can hold the key to political survival or political annihilation for some. They can even represent ‘the difference between a win or a defeat for a party in a closely contested election.
This practice goes on not only in the Federal sphere in Queensland but also in State and local elections. I have knowledge of elderly people being told not to touch their ballot papers until someone returns. This is an example of flagrant political intimidation in a country which we profess is devoid of ballot box irregularities. I know of a case where a party worker was run off the road on two occasions during the 1966 campaign in the course of the preliminary door knock. Yes, this happens in Queensland, very close to home. I know of a case where a postal vote application form was ripped from the hands of another worker by a person who felt that he was justified in resorting to near violence because in the mind of this would-be hoodlum it was thought that postal vote application forms could not be issued until such time as the writ had been issued, whereas in fact there is a 10-day period of grace prior to the issuing of the writ.
I do not intend to make political capital of this matter, nor do I intend to name anybody. I merely cite examples to give strength to my plea for a review of the present system. A study of the facts reveals that in the last election postal votes bore the following relationship to total votes cast: New South Wales 1.7%; South Australia 2.2%; Western Australia 2.3%; Victoria 2.5%; Tasmania 3.0%; and Queensland 3.7%. I predict that unless the system is tightened up there will be an escalation of postal voting in New South Wales. The present low figure in that State is explained by the fact that in the past the Labor Government in that State did not make proper provision for elderly people to vote by post. Hence there was no organisation between Federal campaigns. The New South Wales figure of 1.7% is in all probability closer to what the Australian average should be than one would realise at first glance. The amount of unnecessary work done by the Department’s officers must toe tremendous when we consider that so many people who use this facility are as fit and as well as I am. The present unpoliced system allows a party to win favour by fixing up Mrs X’s vote and saving her the task of going to the polling booth. This does go on.
If you are getting the impression, Mr Chairman, that I think this business is on the nose, you are correct. The worst feature of the present, system is that it is so difficult to police and correct. In recent years, an alderman of the Brisbane City Council was prosecuted for interfering with votes in a Federal election. But I would not dare to estimate how many people get away with it. I have tried to keep politics out of this matter, but it is quite obvious from the bites that I am getting from some honourable members on the other side of the Committee that what I am saying is hurting.
Further figures for consideration are that 1.01% of the total informal votes were informal postal votes, and informal postal votes were only 1.29% of the total postal votes. When we consider the people who, on the average, receive postal votes, the informal rate should be a lot higher. But this is not the case. This strengthens my suggestion that the filling in of postal votes is not always the work of the applicant.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of my analysis, Mr Chairman, is that I have been able to discount almost completely the claim often made that when a person representing a particular party is not successful in the bid to fill in the voting ticket, and has every reason to believe the voter has voted against his party, he fails to witness the signature on the envelope, thus rendering the vote informal. But this is small consolation.
– The honourable member would not know.
– I do not believe that the honourable member for Wide Bay would do that. If I found out, however, that he had, the opinion that I hold of him would decline very quickly. Close examination of the schedule that I have incorporated in Hansard shows that while Queensland is well above the average, there are seats in every State where postal voting is a high percentage of the total figure. Members are forced to pay attention to canvassing whether they like it or not. One cannot jump to conclusions because a sitting member receives a high percentage of the postal votes cast. There is little need for me to qualify these statements by going into the list of advantages a sitting member has, by virtue of his incumbency, over an aspiring member.
I am of the firm opinion that the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) should have done much better than 20.4% of the total postal votes cast in 1966, and while I was not present to observe whether his opposition’s organisation bordered on corruption, I am of the opinion that he was fighting against odds occasioned by the present system. I do not wish to make it difficult for the genuine postal voter, Mr Chairman, but I hope that I can make it impossible for those who tamper with democracy to do so. To begin with, I would suggest-
– What about the electoral boundaries?
– If the honourable member will listen to me, he will hear some suggestions. To begin with, I would suggest that Commonwealth doctors be used at election times to make random calls upon those who have made an application for a postal vote. This would eliminate those who create unnecessary work for the returning officers because only bona fide people would apply. It would eliminate the political vultures who unscrupulously entice people to avail themselves of the service and falsely sign their names because they would be liable to a fine, and even worse - for some of those in public office who indulge in this practice - exposure.
Further, Sir, I would suggest the elimination of the witness signature on the envelope containing the postal vote because the Electoral Office has already a copy of the person’s signature on the application form, with which a check can be made. This, I believe, would largely eliminate a convenient reason for returning to the applicant’s home and the practice of intimidation. I advocate a much simpler application form because many of the elderly become confused upon the sight of the present format. Finally, Sir, I enter a plea that the present stipulation that a person must almost be dead to qualify for an excuse not to vote be relaxed, because there are so many of the 143,129 people who availed themselves of the service so sick that to vote is a major worry to them and they are in no condition to give the matter any thought at all.
I trust that members of the Opposition will appreciate my sincere desire to present an objective and sincere case, devoid of accusations of a political nature. I hope that honourable members opposite will refrain from the temptation to turn this matter into a mud slinging match, just as I have refrained from doing so. We are sincere in our endeavours to preserve democracy in Vietnam. I hope that we can look at this matter in Australia in the same way because it is undermining our democratic ideals.
– In speaking to these estimates I shall direct my remarks to the facilities afforded to members of Parliament, or perhaps I should say the deficiencies in the facilities which are afforded. My first point of criticism relates to relief secretarial assistance when a member’s secretary is away on leave or for long periods of illness. This matter is most pressing and is accentuated where the member’s office is within his electorate and not in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in the capital cities. In the Parliament Offices some work can be farmed out by arrangement with the member’s colleagues to their secretaries, which helps to some extent, and there is a switchboard where incoming telephone calls can be recorded and relayed. But when a member has his office in his electorate these facilities are not available to him and he is faced with a number of alternatives. Perhaps he would say to his wife: ‘Listen, my dear, come in and hold the fort for a while.’ Most wives would not mind doing this, if I may judge them by the way my wife helps. Although she is tied up with kindergartens, benevolent societies, meals on wheels and 101 other matters of a charitable nature in the electorate and has very little time in her busy programme to come in and sit for hours in my office, on occasions it has been necessary for her to do so.
An alternative is to employ at our own expense somebody from a secretarial agency. A third alternative is to close the office. In the last few weeks while the House has been sitting my secretary has been away and my office was closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for 2 weeks, that is, it was closed for 6 out of 10 working days. This is too long for a member’s office to be closed as it completely upsets the business with which the member has to deal in his electorate. On some occasions well meaning friends or acquaintances may offer to help, but’ this is not conducive to the security of confiidential matters with which most honourable members have to deal. I feel that this situation could be alleviated by the creation of a secretarial pool at the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in the capital cities so that members who work at offices in their electorate can apply for a relief secretary when his own secretary is on annual leave or is away because of illness. I recommend this most strongly to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony).
My second criticism concerns the increasing burden of constituency work upon most members of Parliament. The increasing amount of work in the constituency certainly deprives him of an opportunity to undertake research and to carry out his parliamentary duties in respect of legislation. Since the referendum to break the nexus between this House and the Senate was rejected by the people I believe that any increase in the numbers in this House will be only minimal in the foreseeable future. Despite any redistribution - I do not care how many redistributions there are - we will still find that the population of each electorate will continue to grow until such time as the size of this House can be increased by 20 or 30 members, at which time the number of senators will have to be increased so that the Senate remains as nearly as practicable half the size of this House, as laid down in the Constitution. As electorates grow this will impose a much greater burden on members of Parliament. For a number of reasons the constituency work varies greatly from one member to another. Firstly, there is the number of people to be serviced within the electorate. Some electorates have fewer than 30,000 electors and others have up to 120,000. Secondly, there is the geographical size of the electorate. Thirdly, there is the nature of the electorate; it might be an industrial or an agricultural electorate. The incidence of migrant population within the elecorate has its effect. Fourthly, there is the political climate within the electorate; it might be a marginal seat or a blue ribbon seat. All these matters affect the amount of constituent work that a member has in his electorate.
The point I make is that some members are subjected to far greater demands in servicing their constituents than are other members. In the United States of America a congressman, because of the larger quota of electors that he has to service, is financed in order to maintain office staff. I understand that the size of these staffs varies between six and fourteen persons. Members of the Senate have larger staffs. With the chairman of committees the sky is the limit. I suggest that, as the size of electorates will inevitably increase in the future, thought should be given at this point of time to ascertaining whether a particular member is in difficulty in servicing the constituent work in his electorate. Thought should be given to whether additional assistance should be made available to him now.
Perhaps he could receive the assistance of someone who has studied and has had experience in specific stubjects. For instance, social services and repatriation run fairly closely together. Then there is the subject of immigration. Somebody who has had experience in two or three subjects could be made available in the member’s office and could take a great deal of burden off the member. I suggest that we could make a great deal of use of the valuable services of retired Commonwealth public servants who are receiving superannuation. They would not have to be paid a great deal in addition to their superannuation. They would be valuable in a member’s office. People who retire today at 65 usually are physically and mentally alert. They have the experience and they could do a great deal to relieve the burden of members of Parliament. With such assistance a member would have more time to devote to his research programme and legislative duties and, if nothing else, perhaps the standard of debate in this place would improve materially.
I come now to the last matter that I wish to raise. It concerns the accommodation that is afforded to members of Parliament. This is my third point of criticism. The standard of accommodation for members of Parliament which has been laid down by the Minister for the Interior is a minimal standard and it has been set for many years. It was set back in the horse and buggy days. Gradually minor changes have been made, but there has been no great change of any significance. If I may weary the Committee for a moment I shall give an idea of the present accommodation standard. A member is allowed on office table, one office chair, one typist table, two visitors’ chairs, one hall stand with mirror or a hat and coat stand, one bookcase, one wall cupboard, one stationery cabinet, one four-drawer steel cabinet, with an option of two if required, and one typewriter. The typewriter is not of top class; it is an ordinary typewriter. We should have an electric typewriter so that we can send our correspondence in a decent way. A member is also allowed two wastepaper baskets, a radiator on request, an electric fan on request, one telephone table if required, Venetian blinds or alternatively holland blinds with curtains. Wall to wall carpets have been supplied more recently. At one time a member was allowed to have only one office. Our secretaries had to stay in our office. When people came to speak confidentially to us, the girl was present in the office. I have had many constituents come to my office and tell me about family and personal matters, such as accidents of birth. This was most embarrassing to the girl who had to sit there. Now we are allowed an outer office for the secretary and the member’s office is private.
– How many rooms does the honourable member have?
– Two. Previously the secretary’s office could not be carpeted. She had lino on the floor and a rug for her feet. This has recently ‘been changed and now we can put carpet on the floor in the secretary’s office. A limitation was placed on the rent that could be paid on offices away from the Commonwealth Parliament Offices. I do not know what the limit is now, but at one time it was about £8 a week. These are matters that we should consider now. Another deficiency is the lack of a safe in the mem ber’s office. We certainly do not have any cabinet with a proper lock, such as a filing cabinet with a combination lock. My office has been broken into on three occasions and confidential documents strewn all over the room because I have not had anywhere that I could lock them away.
One piece of equipment that we need desperately when our office is away from the Commonwealth Parliament Offices is a copying machine. I frequently receive submissions from people on taxation matters, union matters or matters related to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. The submission often is supported by thirty or forty pages of documentary evidence. My girl must copy that in duplicate so that’ I can make a submission to the appropriate Minister. This is a complete waste of time. A copying machine should be available to members who work away from the Commonwealth Parliament Offices. Now I come to the matter of two visitors’ chairs. This is stupid. I sometimes have deputations of twenty or thirty people and I have had to bring chairs from my home for them and from anywhere else I could get them. If I did not do this, the people would have to sit on the floor. It is very undignified for a member to receive a deputation in these circumstances.
I spoke about the poor quality of the typewriter. These days electric typewriters are available and we should have a machine that is capable of turning out a decently typed document. The proper equipment should be made available to honourable members. There is too much of a pinch penny attitude towards honourable members. We are supplied with poor quality typewriter ribbons and poor quality carbon paper. The quality of notepaper also is poor. Thanks to the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin), we now have new letterheads and it is very nice. But we do not have any airmail paper with appropriate letterhead. I write frequently to people overseas and the cost of postage is increased considerably because we are not supplied with headed airmail paper.
I would like to conclude by dealing with a matter that perhaps does not come within the ambit of these estimates, but it does have an effect on the type of furniture we have. Let us consider the matter of bookcases. Every honourable member receives a bound copy of Hansard for the House of Representatives and for the Senate. Most honourable members of this chamber do not refer to Hansard for the Senate. If we want to refer to the Senate debates, Hansard for that House is available in the Library or in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices. Every honourable member should be asked whether he wants to receive a copy of Hansard for the Senate and every honourable senator should be asked whether he wants to receive a copy of Hansard for the House of Representatives. This would effect a considerable saving in the cost of printing these volumes. The possibility of printing the speeches made and questions asked by an honourable member over a period of 3 years or the life, of a Parliament should be examined. This could replace the volumes of Hansard that are not needed and would be much more useful to an honourable member than are the volumes of Hansard of the other place that swamp us now and are not of much value to us. I commend the matters I have raised to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), who is now at the table. I am sorry the proceedings are not being broadcast, but I did want to make those points and I hope that something will be done about them, and particularly about relief for our secretarial assistants. I hope that the Government will also look at the desirability of employing retired public servants from certain departments to assist members so that they may be free to carry out their other duties.
– I wish to concentrate on two aspects of the estimates for the Electoral Branch. The first relates to the conditions of the rolls and the second to the redistribution of electoral boundaries. I think the condition of the rolls is giving all members a considerable amount of concern. I find it impossible to reconcile the attitudes and decisions of the Electoral Branch to this question. Every time one asks the electoral officers questions about this matter one is told that they make constant surveys of the electorates and that those surveys are as effective as they can possibly be. By ‘constant’ they mean two or three times a year.
I do not believe that the rolls today are in the superior condition in which they were some years ago when an entirely different system prevailed. In the days about which I am speaking it was the responsibility of postmen to check the rolls. They were paid a certain remuneration for their work which included putting people’s names on the rolls and taking names off. A dispute arose between the Branch and the postmen over the remuneration which the postmen were asking for doing the work. Following that dispute, the present system was adopted under which the Branch periodically makes surveys to check the state of the rolls in the various electorates. Notwithstanding the emphatic replies that one receives from the Electoral Branch I am far from satisfied that the figures released by the electoral officers are a complete and accurate reflection of the condition of the various electorates.
I know that conditions today are completely different from what they were years ago. We have so many more people going to work than did years ago and this, of course, adds to the difficulties of those who are trying to compile the rolls; but, notwithstanding all these problems, I still maintain that the method which the Electoral Branch employs is not satisfactory. I should like to see some other method adopted with a view to obtaining a more accurate reflection of the actual condition of the electorates.
The other matter to which I wish to refer relates to the redistribution of electoral boundaries. I want to concentrate particularly on the personnel of the body which makes the redistribution. Under the Act, it is laid down that certain people shall be the Distribution Commissioners in the respective States. I question whether ft is right for this group to be comprised solely of public servants. We should have on it some people who have a far greater degree of freedom than public servants have. I cast no reflections upon anybody; I am merely making a statement of fact. I do not think it should be the responsibility of any public servant to determine what will be the condition of the electorates that go to make up this Parliament. I think it is unfair to public servants to ask them to shoulder that responsibility. However, all the Distribution Commissioners in the respective States, I understand, are public servants. I believe that it would be better to have as Chairman of the Distribution Commissioners in each State a man with greater freedom and security than the ordinary public servant normally has. I realise that it is important to have some public servants acting as Distribution Commissioners, but I do not think that the entire responsibility should be imposed on public servants. In some States the Chairman of the Commissioners appointed to undertake redistributions of the boundaries of State electorates is a judge. With due respect for public servants, I suggest that a judge has greater freedom of action in these matters than an ordinary public servant has._____
I have been contending with redistributions of electoral boundaries for the past 21 years. It is said that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but I can assure the Committee that that does not apply to electoral redistributions. I have been affected in one way or another by every redistribution of the boundaries of Federal divisions that has been made since I became a member of Parliament. However I am not concerned about that. I want to emphasise that the responsibility for redistributing electoral boundaries - an important task of great significance that involves much difficult work - should not be imposed entirely on public servants. It is true that the House of Representatives, and the Senate, for that matter, have a right to reject a report presented by Distribution Commissioners. We may not amend any report presented by them, but we may either accept or reject it as presented.
– Who are the Distribution Commissioners now?
– At present, there are three Distribution Commissioners in each State, and all are public servants. Their official Public Service capacities vary from State to State. Usually, one is a surveyor in the Public Service and the other two are generally made available by the Commonwealth Electoral Office. My main point is that the Chairman of the Distribution Commissioners in each State should be somebody other than a public servant. I believe that if he were not a public servant I could feel more satisfied with and more confident of the work that is done by Distribution Commissioners. I emphasise again that it is most unfair to expect public servants to shoulder the entire responsibility. I believe that the Government should be doing what it can to relieve them of some of the responsibility. In view of the problems and responsibilities involved, many public servants who might be called on to act as Distribution Commissioners, would, I am sure, prefer not to have thrust on them the responsibility that is now forced on them under the terms of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. A redistribution of boundaries will be made in the very near future, and it may be a little late in the day now to make any changes before it takes place. However, I trust that the Government will look into the matter and try to come up with proposals that will be far more satisfactory than the present arrangements which pose a number of problems.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 pan.
– For many years past the New England New State Movement has campaigned to obtain support for the principle of the establishment of more self-governing areas in Australia as a means of countering the centralisation of our population and industry. Regrettably, the ‘efforts of the movement have not been successful outside the actual New England region. In fact, these attempts to obtain support from the general public have met with a wall of apathy and indifference. More than that, the trend these days politically is also towards centralisation. We hear every other day in this chamber an honourable member speaking of one vote one value meaning that there should be a stronger representation than there is at present of metropolitan interests and a weaker representation of the remainder of this continent. The same process is going on in varied degrees in the State Parliaments. We know that this is regrettable from the point of view of the imbalance of Australia’s population and industry because wherever there is political influence money and people will follow. The stronger the influence of the metropolitan areas the stronger will be the claims for the settlement of people in those metropolitan areas. This is an axiom. It is a selfevident fact. Yet, we have done nothing about countering it positively in this Parliament. The tragic truth of the matter is that Australia, despite its size, is the most urbanised country in the world.
I propose, because of our situation now and because we have not taken up to date any positive steps to correct this situation, to forward a proposal for consideration by the Government. In section 7 of the Constitution, as members will be aware, there is provision for the election of senators on a different basis from the way in which they are elected at present. At present, each State is regarded as one electoral division for the purposes of electing senators. It is provided in the Constitution that senators may be elected by divisions within the States and those divisions may be allotted by this Parliament. So that by a mere Act of this Parliament, without putting it to the people by way of referendum, we can change the present method of electing senators. I suggest that the Government should give consideration, in view of the remarks I have made about our imbalance of population and industry, to the establishment of two divisions within each State for the purposes of electing senators. One division should embrace metropolitan areas in each State and the other division should encompass the remainder of each State. If that were done we would have new interest and new political force entering into politics in this parliamentary system.
The reason why this particular provision of the Constitution has never been availed of is that in the past senators have been regarded as representing whole States. The Senate has been called a ‘States House’. However, as the Constitutional Review Committee pointed out a few years ago this is not true. In fact, State issues are of very minor concern to the Senate. The legislation which comes before the Senate for consideration is generally of a national character and it is determined on national grounds rather than on State grounds. The Upper House is a house of review. However, principally its function is one of simply delaying legislation and preventing the over-hasty passage of Bills through this parliamentary institution. So the division of each State into two in the way I have suggested would not conflict with any of the functions at present performed by the Senate.
In fact, I claim that such an arrangement would augment the powers, abilities and performances of the Senate in a very healthy and definite way. The Senate could be improved if this proposal were adopted because as we know, the issues which come before it are determined now on party lines. If we were to divide the States in the way that I have suggested, we would introduce a new line of demarcation between groups of senators so that we would have two sets or groups cutting right across party lines. One would contrast metropolitan interests with extra-metropolitan interests and the other would be divided simply on party lines. I believe that this would add purpose and interest to the debates of the Upper House. Such an arrangement would also attract more attention to the balanced development of Australia; to the better use of our natural resources; to the attraction of population away from our overcrowded metropolitan areas; to the strengthening of our federation generally and of our parliamentary system; and ultimately to the objective that the New England New State Movement so ardently seeks - more selfgoverning areas in the Commonwealth.
Mr KING (Wimmera) (8.8]- I did not intend to speak on this particular appropriation until I heard some remarks from a number of members. I would now like to support my colleague, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) who referred to the 20% variation in numbers in relation to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. This debate has been a rather interesting one. It has ranged from private secretaries to voting strengths. However, the main point I wish to raise is that of redistribution. We know that electorates throughout the Commonwealth are many and varied. They range from something like 3 square miles to literally thousands of square miles. I think it was the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) who said that his electorate is a mile wide and 3 miles long.
– Too far.
– The honourable member says that it is too far. I wonder what the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) thinks about this because his electorate comprises an area of about fourfifths of Western Australia. I would like to refer to section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I have spoken to a member of the Opposition front bench about this and, with the consent of honourable members, I shall have a copy of the section incorporated in Hansard.
– (1.) In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall so determine the proposed Divisions that each Division contains a number of electors not exceeding, or falling short of, the quota of electors by more than one-fifth of the quota. (2.) For the purposes of the last preceding subsection, the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration, in relation to each proposed Division, to -
Over the years we have heard much of the principle of one vote one value, but I am sure that not all members on the Opposition benches agree with it. I am sure the Tasmanians do not because Tasmania at present is represented by ten senators and five members of the House of Representatives. The enrolment in the five Tasmanian electorates averages 40,516. New South Wales, on the other hand, while having the same number of senators has forty-five members of this House, and the average enrolment in New South Wales electorates is 52,000. Victoria has thirty-three members with an average enrolment of 51,000. 1 challenge some of the advocates of the one vote one value principle to declare where they stand on this issue. I also challenge them to say whether they believe that constituents in the larger electorates are just as entitled to meet their members and discuss problems with them as are those in the more closely settled areas. The electorate of Wimmera which I happen to represent is some 250 miles long. Compare that with the electorate represented by my colleague, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, which is some 3 miles long.
Earlier this afternoon the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) referred to anomalies in the postal voting system and suggested that there was a possibility of foul play. I was surprised to hear him make this statement because I believe the system of postal voting is very fair and quite honest. It certainly is in the electorate of Wimmera. I have never heard any suggestion of malpractice in relation to postal voting. Since the honourable member raised the question this afternoon I have taken the opportunity to look at some of the figures of postal votes recorded in various electorates, particularly in Victoria. An interesting feature is the huge proportion of postal votes cast in metropolitan electorates as compared with rural electorates. I have taken out the following figures which I am sure will be of interest to honourable members:
lt is interesting to note the large variations in numbers of postal votes. I believe that one of the reasons why there are so few in rural areas is that country people do not have the opportunities to cast postal votes that are available to people in the metropolitan area. In the Wimmera electorate, for example, all applications for postal votes must go to the returning officer at Maryborough. This is a long way from places at the other end of the electorate, such as Kaniva, and mail can take up to 2 days to go from one of those places to the other. Obviously any person in the Kaniva area or in some other outlying area who wishes to cast a postal vote must apply for it not later than perhaps the Wednesday before the polling day. If he applies any later he will probably not get his ballot paper back in time to cast his postal vote. This is not good enough. In the metropolitan area it is simply a matter of posting a letter or even making application in person and receiving the ballot paper on the spot. We have very responsible deputy returning officers in all electorates. There are the State returning officers, for example, who greatly outnumber the Commonwealth returning officers and who are situated in different places throughout the various electorates. Where large distances are involved I believe the Commonwealth electoral officers should be empowered to appoint some deputy returning officers for the purpose of handling applications for postal votes.
I wish now to analyse some figures showing the difference in the number of voters in electorates in the various States. I give these figures only as of general interest and I make no suggestion whatsoever as to altering the principles that are followed at present. I again urge the distribution commissioners when making their redistribution to consider fully those paragraphs of subsection (2.) of section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act dealing with community of interests, natural barriers and so on, because people living in rural areas are just as entitled to contact their members and discuss their problems with them as are the people living in the more centralised areas.
It may be of interest to honourable members to know just what the enrolment figures are at the present time. The figures I have were taken out on 28th July 1967. They will not necessarily be those used when the redistribution is made, because the distribution commissioners will have to use as their basis the numbers of electors at the time the redistribution is being made. In Victoria, where we hope to see 34 divisions made, the average enrolment in an electorate at 28th July was 51,225. Apply the possible variation of up to 20% either way, we then calculate that the maximum number of voters in an electorate would be 61,470 and the minimum 40,980. In New South Wales, with 45 divisions, the average number of electors is 52,160 and with the greatest permissible variation the maximum number would be 62,592 and the minimum 41,728. For Western Australia, with 9 divisions, the average number of electors is 49,435, the maximum number would be 59,322 and the minimum 39,548. Tasmania, where, as I said before, there is a pronounced variation from the principle of one vote one value, the average number of electors in the 5 divisions is 40,516, and with permissible variations the maximum would be 48,619 and the minimum 32,413. That figure is about as low as the number of electors in the smallest electorates in Victoria at the present time. For Queensland, with 18 divisions, the enrolment figure is 50,706, the maximum would be 60,847 and the minimum 40,565. For South Australia, with 12 divisions, the average enrolment is 49,926, the maximum would be 59,911 and the minimum 39,941.
I place these submissions before the Committee and I trust that the distribution commissioners, when making a redistribution and creating new electorates, will consider the matters mentioned by me and also by my colleague, the honourable member for Mallee. If democracy is to be made to work as it should work, the people who live in the outer electorates should be able to contact their parliamentary representative when they so desire. It is more important for the people in those areas to be able to contact their parliamentary representative, because they do not have the privileges that are enjoyed in the metropolitan areas and some of the large country cities. One example is that an office of the Department of Social Services is not easily contacted in the country areas. In the absence of an office to advise on social service benefits, the local people look to their member for advice. That is only one point. There are many other problems on which from time to time constituents wish to contact their members. In the metropolitan areas it is a simple matter for the people to board a tram and travel a short distance to an office to obtain all the information they require. I hope that the Commissioners will take into consideration all the points I have raised.
– Is Canberra really an Australian city? When the Italian President visited Canberra, did he not expect to see an Australian city, representative of the real Australia? If we went to Rome would we not expect to see an Italian city steeped in the traditions and culture of Italy? If we went to Paris we would expect to see a French city. If we went to Djakarta we would expect to see an Indonesian city. If we went to Manila we would expect to see a city of the Philippines. Do honourable members really believe that the Italian President saw an Australian city here? How did Canberra come about? Why is it located here? Who designed it? Of course, Sydney was jealous of Melbourne’s being the national capital, so in this tiny corner of the continent the tug-of-war finished with the national capital being located on this plateau roughly half way between Sydney and Melbourne? How was Canberra designed? Competitions were held, in a somewhat similar way to those conducted for the Sydney Opera House, and with just about the same result. Walter Burley Griffin, an American, won the competition after a great number of designs were considered. A renegade American was the Minister.
– He was not a renegade. He left America and came to Australia.
– King O’Malley came here. There are all sorts of stories about how he got out of America and Tasmania. Anyway, he came here and really tried to do a job for Australia. Canberra was designed by an American architect with an American renegade as Minister for Home Affairs, in charge of the administration of the Federal Capital Territory. How did Walter Burley Griffin get his ideas? From Washington of course. Washington was built out of nostalgia for Europe. It was based on the traditions, ideas and cultures of Europe. A brilliant draftsman drew the plans for Canberra.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honourable member in order in describing migrants to this country as renegades?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– One would expect that a jolt to the traditional and the formal would produce the kind of bleat that we have had from the honourable member for Scullin. Let me go on with the story of Canberra and the question as to whether it is really destined to be Australia’s national capital. What did II Presidente Saragat think about this place when he saw the lines of European flowering shrubs, everything laid out in line in a formal pattern, and the flowers arranged in neat borders? It is impossible to get from the Parliamentary Library or I suppose from any library in Canberra a book about the work of Capability Brown, an English kitchen garden boy who redesigned the ducal gardens of England. He tore out all the formal lines of shrubs and flowers and put in - what do you think? Rough pasture and groups of trees to make the area look like English woodland.
In the first place, Canberra is located in the wrong situation, because this is only a corner of Australia. I am aware that President Johnson came here and saw what he said looked like a Texan rainbow and the rolling hills of his State. That was not so, because this is high country with a much higher rainfall than Texas. Canberra does not have the tempestuous reds, purples and ochres of the real Australia and the real qualities that we know Australia has. When you get out of this corner of Australia you can see the great mass of Australia - thousands of square miles of the kind of territory that is the real Australia. At Canberra we are tied to the design of an American who was tied to Washington which was tied to Europe. Here we are trying to establish a nation of our own with our own traditions, colours, designs and Aboriginal folklore. What do we have here? We have this place with its circular roads and lines of trees. It does not matter where you look. Even the gum trees - the most gorgeous trees in the world in their own setting - are planted in line, the same distance apart. They stretch out in line as straight as a die. Even when viewed from a different direction they are still in line. Everyhing is in an orderly form. Does that truly represent this rugged country, this new nation which is now starting out on its own? Should not the planners of Canberra and the designers of the gardens have a look at the work of the real men in the real nation who utilise the natural colours of the country?
Honourable members come to Canberra and spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday here. They then get just about the only decent sleep they ever get because when they are in their electorates they are running from daylight to dark. When they come here they like Canberra because it makes a change from the treadmill in their own electorates. But the Western Australians and South Australians and the members from northern Queensland-
– And the Northern Territory.
– And Sam Calder. They are the men who know the real Australia. Perhaps it makes a nice change for them to see Canberra with green lawns and all the beautiful flowers here, including tulips. Fancy planting tulips in the National Capital. Tulips come from the lowlands of Holland. Why are not Australian flowers grown here? Why is it not rugged Australian country here? The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) is interjecting. If we read the newspaper correctly, the poor honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory is feeling the pressure. He has lost his freshness. He finds it is not as attractive as it ought to be and that he cannot get to the garden he loves, so he has to pay a gardener $1.50 an hour. Canberra does not do much for the member for the Australian Capital Territory or for his dreadful tiredness. We should do something to help him in this situation.
Surely here is an opportunity for Australia, through the planners of the National Capital Development Commission, to show that it is not tied to other countries. Of course we welcome Europeans, with their cultures, to Australia. Of course we want to retain our alliance with Great Britain, even though we are a new country in the Pacific. Surely among members opposite who are so intensely nationalistic I can strike a responsive chord for my argument that this is what should be done in the national capital of Australia. Canberra should be designed so that here one could see the rugged Australian countryside. At the moment if one travels by road to Yass or other nearby country towns one sees country that is typical of a rare part of Australia, the Southern Tablelands with their top dressed pastures and vivid greens, so intensely different from the rich colours to be seen in the remaining 96% of Australia. Almost 90% of Australia’s population is concentrated in 4% of the area.
We are traditionalists. For many years we had a Prime Minister who was a traditionalist, but now we are emerging from that period. Surely this is the time when Australia should expect the planners, with the huge sums of money that are being made available, to provide in the national capital something that is purely nationalistic and Australian - something quite different and something that could be shown to the Italian President, at the same time telling him: ‘This is Australia’. But what happened when he was here? Somebody gave him a wallaby. The animal frightened him. Of course it did, because he did not see any kangaroos or emus or other really Australian animals. He did not see a koala bear, and koalas are so famous in Queensland.
– We have koalas in Gippsland.
– Even the lush pastures of Gippsland have koalas. Why cannot there be some koalas in Canberra for visitors to see? Why cannot there be something intensely Australian here? All that we have here are transplanted gum trees. They are glorious and they represent something really Australian on which people can feast their eyes. If we are fated to be a nation in our own right, we must be truly Australian. We are becoming a new people, a hybrid people. The second largest group of immigrants in Australia are Italians and they are merging in and becoming splendid Australian colonists. Other Europeans and some Asians are coming to Australia and merging with the old British stock and making one people out of this conglomerate group. There have been no more gallant people than Australians in the history of the world, whether in war, sport, medicine, culture or anything else. We have nothing to be ashamed of, ‘but everything to be proud of, so let us have a capital which is truly Australian and let us try to break the bonds of traditionalism that have made this place like it is.
When we go outside in the daylight hours we see something that is different from the rest of Australia - something strange to Australians. The people who come here might like it for a change, but do they think Canberra really represents Australia? I ask them to search their minds to see whether they believe that Canberra is being developed properly or whether the National Capital Development Commission should not start immediately to plan something truly Australian. The Commission should get a copy of a book on Capability Brown. He changed the formal gardens of England to something that depicted the sylvan woodland setting of that country. He took away the Italian gardens and the formal continental gardens. Surely something like this could be done in our national capital.
– Initially, on behalf of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony), I apologise for his absence during the debate. However, the points raised by the respective honourable members will be referred to him and no doubt he will look into them in due course. Accordingly, I do not intend to pursue in detail matters that have been raised, but there are a few to which I should like to refer. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) has told us something of his aspirations for a truly Australian Canberra. Of course, there are many problems in having anything truly Australian. Australia is developing into a mixture of races. It is a hybrid country and it is difficult to get anything truly depictive of a hybrid people. Indeed, it is extremely difficult for any representative of Australia, when asked to appear in national dress, to determine just what is the Australian national dress.
– A fig leaf.
– We have a considerable range of dress, as the honourable member for Mitchell would know, ranging from one extreme to the other. This is part of the problem of establishing a national identity. However, the honourable member for Macarthur may be aware that only today botanic gardens were opened on Black Mountain. I understand that over the years much planning has been proceeding to make available in those gardens a tremendous range of native Australian plants and shrubs. A lot of work is being done in Canberra to preserve something of the Australian flora and fauna. Out of this in the future something might well develop as the honourable member suggested.
There are one or two other matters I should mention. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) referred to the Canberra air terminal. After he spoke he kindly obtained for me estimates relating to the Department of Civil Aviation. This year there has been allocated in those esti mates an amount of $472,000 for the erection of a terminal building and associated car park in Canberra. No doubt during the debate on the estimates of that Department more will be told and learned of the progress of this development. The honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor) was concerned with the identity of the Distribution Commissioners. Perhaps I might explain to the honourable member that the Commonwealth Electoral Act requires the appointment of three Distribution Commissioners from each State. The 1962 committee will be revoked. At this stage no new Commissioners have been appointed, but’ under the Act the three persons who are to be Commissioners shall be an electoral officer, who is normally a public servant; the Surveyor-General of the State, also a public servant; and a third person in respect of whom the Act is silent. However, in practice, it has been customary for the Chief Electoral Officer to be the third Distribution Commissioner.
I will refer the other matters that have been raised by honourable members during this debate to the Minister who, no doubt, will consider them in due course. Accordingly, I commend these estimates to the Committee.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
– I suggest that the order for consideration of the proposed expenditures agreed to by the Committee on 7th September be varied by postponing consideration of proposed expenditure for the Department of Immigration until after consideration of proposed expenditure for the Department of National Development.
– Is the suggestion of the Minister agreed to? There being no objection, this course will be followed.
Department of Labour and National Service
Proposed expenditure, $9,584,000.
– If ever a government has shown its prejudice against the workers this Government did so through its counsel in the recent wage hearing when, in effect, it supported the submissions of the employers for a total wage. The Australian Council of Trades Union has registered its strong objection to the partisan submissions of the Commonwealth
Government, directed to denying workers a justifiable increase in wages. Counsel for the Commonwealth asserted that he was appearing in the public interest whereas he in fact was supporting the claims of the employers.
What the Government has been successful in doing is to shift the responsibility for economic control and for unpopular measures from itself to that Commission. Controlling the economy is surely the function of the Government and not that of the Commission. The primary role of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is to settle industrial disputes and not to manage the economy. The Government has shirked its responsibility of controlling the economy. The Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959 advocated a widening of the economic powers of the Commonwealth. Here again the Government failed to act and consequently it still lacks essential powers in the economic sphere. It continues to shirk its responsibility.
The Commission’s decision to abolish the basic wage and margins and to introduce in their place a total wage was a great shock to the trade union movement, lt showed that no reliance could be placed upon the Commission’s words. In the judgment of the Commission in the 1966 national wage case the unions were specifically told that nothing would be done about the implementation of a total wage until after the inquiry by Commissioner Winter into the metal trades award had been concluded. The union’s submissions, backed by detailed exhibits, showed that under a total wage system, with individual commissioners dealing with the whole of the award wage, the protection available to the worker because of the existence of a basic wage would disappear. The value of a separate basic wage was clearly stated by the New South Wales Industrial Commission in March 1967 when it said:
It remains a sheet anchor for the lower paid employee which, we believe, he values. It is the one industrial prescription with which almost everybody is familiar. Although legally it relates only to awards, its moral influence controls a substantial amount of work outside awards. It has a specially protective value in remote areas where work is either not covered by awards or the awards cannot be properly supervised. It has reduced wage cutting in many circumstances where the employee would otherwise be too weak to drive a> decent bargain.
In an article in the Australian Law Journal 1951, volume 25 at page 366, Mr Justice Wright and Mr Justice Dunphy are reported as having said of the basic wage: . . in spite of strong and intermittent criticism over the years (mostly from vested interests) it clearly has national approval and no national Government has ever attempted to legislate against it either on an eliminative or restrictive basis.
The 1967 judgment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission awarded an increase of $1 a week. The unions had claimed an increase of $7.30 a week in the basic wage to give that wage the purchasing power that it had in 1953-54 when the quarterly cost of living adjustments were abolished. The unions also sought the restoration of the quarterly cost of living adjustments. Prior to the abolition of the cost of living adjustments the worker knew that the amount in his pay packet would buy the same quantity of goods that quarter as it had in the previous quarter and as it would the next quarter. It is a fallacy to think that the abolition of quarterly cost of living increases prevents price rises. Recently the Western Australian Government - which is the same type of government as the Government of the Commonwealth - amended its arbitration legislation to prevent its Industrial Commission granting quarterly cost of living adjustments. It claimed that this would keep prices down but of course it did not. All it did was to reduce the real value of all wages and salaries. Prices increased despite the pegging of that basic wage.
In 1961 an application was before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to restore quarterly adjustments. The claim was not granted but the Commission did provide for adjustments to the basic wage in line with changes in the consumer price index. The basic wage was increased by 12s and the Commission provided something in addition. The principles laid down by the Commission in 1961 meant that if the economy produced more goods and services the workers who produced them would get more in their pay packet. Both the 1961 and the 1964 decisions of the Commission provided that real wages should be increased from time to time to allow the worker to purchase the results of the increased productivity that could be shown to have occurred. Those decisions also reflected the view that to make a correct calculation of what the basic wage should be the wage must first be adjusted for price changes since the last fixation, and that productivity gains should then be added to the result.
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in a majority decision in 1965 failed to stand up to the 1961 and 1964 decisions. It did not increase the basic wage at all but gave an increase of li% on the combined margin and basic wage. In 1966 the President of the Commission presided for the first time and he decided that the basic wage should be adjusted in accordance with changes in prices. The basic wage was then increased by $2 a week to $32.80 a week. The 1967 decision of the Commission provided for the elimination of the basic wage and margins and the establishment of a total wage. It also provided for an increase of $1 a week in what is known as the total wage.
The facts are that no worker is getting in his pay packet the equivalent purchasing power that a worker doing similar work received in 1953-54. Surely a worker is entitled to receive in 1967 as much value in his wage as a worker doing similar work received 13 or 14 years ago. How one-sided it all is. The Government believes that the price of labour should be controlled and all the forces of legal machinery are used for that purpose. On the other hand, employers and the Government refuse to exert any control over prices. The important point is that wage increases of themselves do not and cannot increase prices. Prices rise only when employers and commercial interests - and that includes governmental undertakings as well - make firm decisions to increase prices without any restriction or without having to justify such increases. These decisions are arrived at in the privacy of a board room without any evidence being taken at all. There is no question of the public interest being represented. Management does not have to justify in any way, by argument or evidence before a public tribunal, its decision to increase the price of what it has to sell. Management decisions are based on the fundamental rule that if costs increase then prices, which in the simplest terms determine an employer’s income, must be allowed to rise by at least as much. But that right is denied to unions and it is denied to the workers. Until 1953 automatic adjustments of the basic wage protected the worker against an increase in prices. This protection was removed by the court at the request of the employers. The unions must prove their claim for an increase in wages but when such an increase is granted, the employers and management use this as a means again to increase the price of their products and to increase their profits. Colossal profits continue to be made. These all come from the same source - the national income. While wage and salary earners must prove their claims, other persons take from the national income huge sums by way of profit and interest charges without having to justify their actions to anybody.
Counsel for the Commonwealth said that any attempt to compensate wage earners for loss of purchasing power in their wages would result in only a prices-wages spiral. The Arbitration Commission emphasised in its 1964 judgment that there was no control over incomes other than those of workers covered by awards. The Commission said that there was no overall authoritative control of prices whereas there was a tight control of wages. In his reasons for judgment Mr Justice Moore pointed out that the previous statement of the Commission that increases in prices are determined by those who fix prices is a truth that cannot be sufficiently emphasised. The time lag in arriving at decisions is further responsible for reducing the purchasing power of the wages of the workers and maintaining the profits of others. Justice delayed is justice denied.
In 1961 the basic wage was increased by $1.20 to restore the purchasing power of the basic wage of June 1960. Until 1964, when the basic wage was increased by $2, it remained pegged at its June 1960 and June 1961 level of purchasing power despite increases in the cost of living. The basic wage remained at the 1964 level until 1966, when it was increased by $2. This was a time lag of 2 years. The time lag still continues, except for the increase of $1 in the total wage. Is it any wonder that the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress emphasised the complete unacceptability of the 1967 judgment and protested strongly at the Arbitration Commission’s intimation that it would not hear any application for a general wage increase before August 1968, thus creating a wages freeze that must adversely affect the living standards of workers?
I pass quickly to another matter. The Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government have thrown overboard some very important principles in allowing the employment of Japanese labour at Port Hedland in Western Australia. The Japanese were imported to work on the dredge ‘Kokui Maru’. This is in fact indentured labour. These workers are tied under contract to the Utah Construction and Mining Co. The company did not try seriously to get local labour. It wanted a captive labour force. It was more concerned with pleasing its Japanese partner, which owns the dredge. The Trades and Labour Council of Western Australia has been most patient in the matter. It wrote to the Department of Labour and National Service on 18th August, saying that there was no evidence to indicate that the company or the Department had made any serious attempt to recruit Australian labour. In its letter the Council said:
We are very critical of the action of your Department and the company for collaborating in bringing this indentured labour into the country at the expense of workers already domiciled in Australia without prior consultation with the unions concerned.
The Council’s approach was very reasonable. As a result of writing that letter talks were held ultimately and an assurance given, according to my information, that the ACTU would be consulted before permission would be given by the Commonwealth to bring foreign labour into Australia. Some time ago I asked a question in the House on this matter. The then Minister for Labour and National Service said that consultations could take place with the ACTU.
The attitude of the ACTU in this matter is that unions should be consulted before contract labour is brought into the country, but this has not been done. These workers were originally brought to this country to man the dredge ‘Kokui Maru’. The dispute now concerns another dredge, the ‘Almeda’. Workers stopped work on this dredge on 23rd September in support of the Merchant Service Guild, which is in dispute with the construction company because it wanted to employ Japanese on the ‘Almeda’. The fifty-eight workers involved were sacked when they did not report for work. They were evicted from their camp. The electricity was cut off from caravans in which workers were living near the camp. All this happened because of a lack of understanding in the Department of Labour and National Service. This dispute would never have existed if the Department had done its job properly.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As we might have expected, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) has followed his customary technique of trotting out a few ancient and decrepit hobby horses from his stable and giving them a run around the track. Perhaps to describe it as a run is not correct; they are too old and decrepit to run. Let us say he walked them around the track.
We have heard the traditional Labor plea for prices control. We have heard a squeal about the arbitration system because the Arbitration Commission, uninfluenced by any submissions from the Commonwealth, decided to introduce a total wage. The inference to be drawn from the honourable member’s speech is that the villain responsible for the introduction of the total wage is the Commonwealth Government. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Commonwealth’s submissions at the last basic wage hearing, as the honourable member well knows, did not touch upon the matter of the total wage. In this matter the Commonwealth remained strictly neutral. Is it really seemly in political terms for the honourable member to make such a bitter complaint against the Commission in a debate on the estimates of the Department of Labour and National Service? Such remarks seem to me to have nothing to do with the estimates for that Department.
It is part of our heritage that we should have a viable arbitration system. It is essential to the working of any arbitration system that the parties to it respect the judge’s ruling. The honourable member did no credit to the Australian Labor Party tonight by squealing as he did. He complained that the introduction of a total wage will lead to some injury or real prospect of injury to low-wage earners. He stated this to be a fact but in truth it is not. If there were any element of truth in the claim I would regard it as a most serious matter, but the honourable member is about as far from the truth as anyone can be when he bandies that allegation about. One has only to think of the problem for a moment to realise that what the honourable member says is quite wrong.
One particular advantage of the total wage, it seems to me, is that it gives to the arbitration machinery an element of flexibility in wage fixing which is absent when you work under the system hitherto subsisting of basic wage and margins. Let us take one example. If the Commission at any given point of time takes the view that the interests of the low-wage earner are not being sufficiently looked after, with a total wage it can add to the total wage a sum expressed in money terms - $1 a week or $2 a week - and in so doing give a differential advantage to the low-wage earner compared with the man who is in receipt of a big margin for skill. If, on the other hand, the Commission takes the view that the need lies in another direction and that the amount of margin should be increased, that he is losing in the wage race, it is a simple matter for the wage fixing tribunal, in this case the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, to add a percentage increase to the total wage. We have under a total wage a distinctive element of flexibility that was not to be found in the basic wage and margins system.
One other matter that I want to mention briefly in reply to the honourable member for Stirling is that one advantage of a total wage system seems to me to be that we can eliminate costly separate hearings of basic wage and margins claims. But, of course, what really underlines the remarks of the honourable member for Stirling, one suspects, is his fear that the switchover to a total wage in some way deprives the powerful organisations representing labour - I do not complain of their power - of a means of exerting pressure on employers by first of all presenting a basic wage claim and then following it up very quickly with a margins claim. Perhaps that type of pressure is no longer available to the employee interests. But I do not think it should be assumed on that account alone that the changeover to a total wage is against the interests of the community at large. I emphasise, because I think this should be emphasised in a debate of this kind, that the Commonwealth bears no measure of responsibility for the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as suggested by the honourable member who preceded me in the debate. The submissions made by the Commonwealth did not touch by way of advocacy on the question of the total wage, as my honourable friend will agree. So it is rather hollow for the honourable member for Stirling to take up the cudgels against the Government on this score.
I want to say a few words in the time that remains available to me about relatively recent developments in the stevedoring industry. We now face in the fairly immediate future a changeover to a permanent system of employment on the waterfront in the major ports and, as well as permanency of employment, we are about to witness the introduction of a scheme which will provide for pensions for waterside workers and a much needed provision for redundancy. All this has stemmed out of the national stevedoring industry conference. I propose to refer the Committee briefly to the item in the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service which relates particularly to the stevedoring industry conference. In the coming year 1967-68 the proposed expenditure for the stevedoring industry conference is the modest sum of $24,000. The total expenditure to date - this takes in the two preceding financial years - for the national Stevedoring Industry Inquiry was $44,692. So by adding together the expenditure for the past 2 financial years and the proposed expenditure for this year it will be seen that this inquiry, which in my belief has achieved so much, has cost the taxpayer no more than $68,692. It has been a very wise as well as a very cheap investment.
I think that all interests involved, including those who represent the public interest, would be as one with me in wishing to pay a very sincere tribute to the Chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Inquiry, Mr A. E. Woodward, Q.C. Whether or not one agrees with all the conclusions of the conference, he has demonstrated remarkable skill as a mediator and as what I might describe as an industrial diplomat. Having regard to the way things looked in 1965 when this conference started, nobody could have faced a more daunting task. He had parties who were at loggerheads, and seemingly irreversibly at loggerheads, but out of this mess has come a broad measure of agreement on vital matters affecting the stevedoring industry, an industry which has got into a mess over the years not only because of the militancy of employee interests but very much also because of the incredible inefficiency of the employer interests. One cannot seek, and I never have sought, to place all the blame for the ills of the waterfront on labour to the exclusion of employers. It is idle and certainly not profitable to try to apportion the responsibility. I believe that no-one in this Parliament, whichever side he may belong to, should be one-eyed about this matter.
We now at long last face the prospect, which I believe is a thoroughly good prospect, of the establishment in this difficult industry of a proper permanent relationship between employer and employee over a wide area. There are some who have been dis.posd to criticise the decision of the Government which was announced first, I think, in July by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) in according provisional approval to the agreements reached at the conference. I believe that the Government had no option but to give its approval, carefully hedged as it necessarily must be, to the introduction of the scheme proposed by the conference for a trial period. The chief criticism made by those who are not convinced that the scheme is going to work to the long-term benefit of the industry is on the ground of cost. There is a disposition by some people to say it is all very well to talk about introducing permanency of employment so that each watersider who is permanently employed - these are the people in the major ports - will receive a base wage of $49.50 per week, but who has worked out what it will cost the industry?
I agree that at the moment the question of cost is largely an imponderable one, but I am firmly of the view that the Government was correct in deciding to take this leap into a somewhat darkened area, an area which must remain darkened until the full impact on costs of the introduction of the scheme is seen to be worked out in practice. But I believe that much more important than any doubt about costs is the fact that over a large area of the industry which has been torn by strife and dissension in the past we are going to have a system of employment which is likely to lead to improved industrial relations and likely to lead to efficient handling of the sophisticated equipment which is becoming increasingly in use on the waterfront. It seems to me to be quite a contradiction of practicability to expect casual labour which may be on one wharf one day and on another the next day to be able to handle the expensive, sophisticated equipment that is now being introduced on the waterfront. Permanency will in the long run lead to a reduction in unit handling costs. I believe it is a practical reality and I applaud the Government for giving its approval to the scheme.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In dealing with the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service, I want to refer to one or two specific matters of a rather local nature. They affect the electorate that I represent. The electorate of Corio, which is mainly the provincial area of Geelong and its environs, has most of the employment problems that are basic to provincial areas. Young girls find it extremely difficult to get employment in Geelong. I understand that a similar situation obtains in Wollongong in New South Wales, which is in almost exactly the same situation relative to Sydney as Geelong is to Melbourne. The major industries seem to find it convenient to place their offices and ancillary services in the metropolitan area and their industrial complexes in a provincial city. I am not aware of the reasons for this arrangement. I presume it is because communications are much better in the metropolitan areas.
However, the arrangement creates a serious and continuing problem in the provincial areas, and this warrants a survey by the Department of Labour and National Service to determine what can be done to provide employment for the girls in the area. If they cannot find employment in the areas where they live with their parents, they will go to the capital cities. In all probability they will not come back to the provincial city. They will marry in the capital city and add to its sprawl instead of adding to the population strength of the provincial cities. This is happening in all the provincial cities of Australia and is an extremely serious trend. When I was in Rockhampton several weeks ago I was told that a similar situation exists there. This is probably why Rockhampton has the slowest rate of growth for a major city in Australia.
Recently I asked the Minister a question about arbitration inspectors. I requested that a permanent inspector be located at Geelong. The Minister replied that he did not consider that it was the province of the inspectors to inspect factories continually and that a service on one day a week was sufficient for this area. In a reply that he forwarded to the Secretary of the Trades Hall in Geelong, he said that his Department has based its assessment of the Geelong area on the percentage of the Victorian work force that is located in the area. It arrived at a figure of 4%. The Minister said that a relatively small number of factories in the area would be covered by Federal awards. I do not think that the prime object of an arbitration inspector is to inspect factories. I believe that his proper function is to police Federal awards and to provide a service for those persons who complain that employers have committed breaches of awards. If arbitration inspectors are not readily available and if employees are not aware that the services of inspectors can be made available, quite obviously they will not seek to have inspectors deal with their problems. What happens now and has, I believe, always happened is that employees go to union officials with complaints that they should properly take to the inspectors, and union officials are acting as unpaid officers of the Department. The Department has only twenty-five inspectors in Victoria and they cannot provide an adequate service no matter how hard and how devotedly they work. Whenever I have had contact with the inspectors, I have found them to be dedicated to their jobs. They do everything possible to help those who are fortunate enough to be able to see them.
Recently the Department added to the mobility of the inspectors by allowing them to. use a departmental motor car in Geelong. Before this, the inspectors had to use public transport to make their inspections. By the time they arrived at a factory, returned to the city and caught their train to Melbourne, they had virtually used up the whole day. I understand that the officers concerned were taken to task for travelling around in union cars so that they could perform the functions for which they were paid. The situation is serious. The Department of Labour and National Service is unable to provide me with statistics and’ I have not been able to obtain from any other source statistics that show the number of factories in Geelong. The best figure I have been able to obtain is that there are 760 factories in the Geelong area. If half of them have employees who work under Federal awards, an inspector could inspect the factories only once a year and would still have to leave some until the following year.
I do not intend to dwell on that subject. 1 turn now to the number of people employed and unemployed in various regions. Provincial cities are placed in rather tight groupings. For instance, the Geelong area covers Geelong and its environs, the Bellarine Peninsula and those areas within 10 or 12 miles of Geelong. People live in these areas and work in Geelong. Each winter there is evidence of a considerable rise in unemployment in the area. The number registered usually reaches one-third or one-quarter of the State total during the months of July and August and sometimes September, depending on the economic circumstances at the time. Each year bodies in Geelong try to alleviate this seasonal unemployment, which has become, unfortunately, a regular feature of the life of Geelong. But one difficulty arises from the inability of these people to obtain accurate figures of the number of unemployed in particular areas. The Geelong district extends well down into the western district. The Department so far has not been willing to disclose the figures that relate specifically to the Geelong area. The figures are not dissected and it is not possible to identify the persons who are seeking employment in Geelong. The answer that is given when we ask for these figures is that people may be unemployed in Colas and not Geelong. They may be unemployed in Birregurra, Winchelsea or some other place.
It should be possible to give a little closer attention to the areas of unemployment. A full study of the circumstances in areas where there is regular unemployment every year would benefit everyone concerned. The prime function of this section of the Department should be to ensure that every person obtains a job and not to ensure that those who do not have a job receive a pension. The payment of a pension is the last resort, and not the first. Every person who can work should be able to find work, if it is at all possible. The Department should conduct investigations and should study the situation that has now become a regular feature of this area. The same pattern has been evident in Geelong for at least the last 6 years and I should think it has had a much longer history than that. Perhaps it was not quite so evident prior to 1961, but the situation has now developed in such a way that a study of it should be made in an effort to find the solution to the problem. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) referred to the total wage decision. I hope, as he has said, that this decision will not disadvantage wage earners in any way. I sincerely hope that the decision proves to be in the best interests of the community, as he said it will. Those who work for wages already suffer too many disadvantages.
Finally, Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to pay a tribute to those officers who represent the Department of Labour and National Service in my electorate, where there is a district office of the Department. They are most co-operative. They do everything possible to place in jobs persons who are unfortunate enough to be unemployed. I do not think that they ever leave undone anything that could be done. However, 1 suggest that the Department ought to give closer attention to the making of surveys of areas where a regular pattern of alternating employment and unemployment develops. Such surveys would help us to solve this kind of problem.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I had not intended taking part in this debate until I heard the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) attempting to demolish the arguments that had been advanced by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), who opened the discussion on the estimates for the Department of Labour and
National Service. The honourable member for Parkes suggested that the basic wage and associated matters were perhaps not relevant to the estimates for this Department. He went on to attempt to write down the plea that the honourable member for Stirling had made on behalf of the trade union movement of this country in relation to the decision by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to adopt the total wage concept and remove the basic wage concept from the wage structure in Australia. I am opposed to the views expressed by the honourable member for Parkes. I am glad to see that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) is present, because the Cabinet has to consider these matters at some time. I suggest to him that if conciliation and arbitration are to succeed, the first essential is faith in the wage fixing authority. The introduction of the single wage concept has completely destroyed any faith that anybody could have in the Commission, because it demonstrates how quickly and how often the Commission changes its views.
I now want to mention something that the honourable member for Stirling touched on briefly, along with other matters. In 1961, the Aribtration Commission, with all its faculties about it, laid down principles that steadied the movement of price levels throughout the country for 3 solid years. This was done in a simple way. I have the decision in the basic wage and standard hours inquiry of 1961 before me. In handing down that decision, the Commission stated:
For the specific reasons set out in the judgment we consider that in February next the only issue in regard to the basic wage should be why the money wages fixed as a result of our decision should not be adjusted in accordance with any change in the consumer price index. . . .
This index was introduced in the face of some slight opposition by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, but it was finally accepted by all concerned as a fair basis for determining movements in the cost of living in Australia. There was then only one real issue between the Commission and the trade union movement, and that was whether wage adjustments should be made quarterly. In 1961, the Commission very firmly adopted the basis of annual adjustments based on the new consumer price index. It had taken 7 years, from 1953 to 1960, to adopt this index, which was introduced just in time for the Commission to examine it prior to the 1961 decision so that it could know what the index indicated and assess wage standards relative to the cost of living, which had changed violently since the war. The trade union movement was happy about the Commission’s decision, but the employers and the Government - I emphasise this - were not happy when, for the first time in Australia’s history, wage levels were really tied to the price structure.
What happened? By its decision in 1961, the Arbitration Commission added $1.2 to the basic wage to restore, so it said, the purchasing power of 1960. Everybody in this country has been accustomed to seeing a wage increase of, say, $1 a week followed immediately by price increases all round. But, as a result of the change of policy when the Commission put firmly on those who increased prices the onus of substantiating their actions at the next review that would automatically follow in 12 months time, the cost of living increased by only 20c a week between 1961 and 1964. This fact stands out like a beacon when one considers the history of wage assessment in this country. The 3 years from 1961 to 1964 are talked about a great deal by this Government, which points to an increase in productivity of at least 5% a year over that period. After making no wage adjustment in 1962 and 1963, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1964, applying the same principles, decided to increase the basic wage by 20c and, because of increased productivity, added to wages an additional $1.80 a week.
Things really began to move then. The Commission was reconstituted. Here, I remind honourable members that, as I indicated at the outset, if the workers are to be expected to accept stability of wages, they must have faith in the stability of those who are to determine the size of their weekly pay cheques. It is almost unbelievable that early in 1965, the Commission, so soon after its reconstitution, could have given a decision such as it gave, completely reversing its former views. The two new members appointed to it, together with one of the existing members, brought down a majority decision overriding two other members who had had experience over many years in this field. This majority decision completely reversed the principles that had been adopted. In part it was expressed as follows:
How can the workers of this country or the trade union movement have faith in a wage fixing authority that in 4 short years completely reverses its policy? That is the background to the current situation in wage fixing in this country.
At this stage, I pay a tribute to the former Prime Minister, who has now passed from this Parliament. He at least had the courage to say where he stood. He had had experience in arbitration work as far back as 1934. When the employers put their case for a total wage, he was one of the first to express the strongest possible opposition to it as Prime Minister of this country. That is on record. My friend, the honourable member for Parkes, says that the Government did not have any finger in the pie with respect to the 1967 decision. Let me read him part of that decision, which was the shortest judgment on record in a basic wage case. Usually these decisions run into seventy or eighty pages of reasons, but this one is a short eight-page- document. I would like to read to the House the relevant part of the decision because the honourable member for Stirling was on the ball when he was dealing with the subject matter. I quote:
There will therefore be no reference to the basic wages in our awards. Although opposition to the total wage was expressed by unions representing Commonwealth public servants, the Commonwealth expressed no difficulties about the introduction of total wage. No serious problems should arise in applying total wages in the Commonwealth Public Service.
The Commonwealth by its silence on this occasion supported what the employers wanted. Do not make any mistake about this. This was the same Commonwealth Government that went into the 1965 case and argued that any rise in workers’ pay would be dangerous to the economy. It is the same Government that is concerned only with one thing.
Let us look at the picture for the future. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) has had enough training to know better than to say the things he has said here tonight about this kind of matter. At the finish of this very short decision this is what the President said on behalf of the Commission:
I therefore anticipate applications from one party or the other which will enable me to list the hearing of the next annual economic review for Tuesday, 6th August 1968. . . .
In simple terms, the Commission pegged the wage structure in Australia with this decision until August 1968. Yet members of the Government Parties ask for industrial harmony in this country. A lot of honourable members sitting behind the Minister and members of the Government who want the American system of wage fixation in this country should be honest enough to get up and say so. Trust in the arbitration system has been destroyed in this country. We have had only a sample of the industrial unrest that is coming to this country because the worker will consider that this decision will put him in a position of getting only what he fights for.
Recently, we have had industrial unrest of a type that has never been seen in this country in years. It has involved white and blue collar workers all over the country. This is because the workers have lost faith in the conciliation and arbitration machinery of this country. Yet the Government is idly standing by, watching this position become worse. What is going to happen? What does an economic review mean? The honourable member for Parkes would perhaps be as well equipped as any member in this chamber to express a point of view as to what an economic review means. I would love to know what he thinks about this. The Commission refers to an economic review without any regard for prices at all. How could such a review be used to determine what will go into the worker’s pay envelope? In relation to an economic review, what does ‘work value’ mean?
The Commission expressed the hope that this matter might settle down. I say to the Government and the honourable member for Parkes that the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) who led for this Party tonight in this debate tried to alert the Government to its responsibilities and urge it to rise and accept the responsibility of giving leadership. Leadership has been denied to the trade union movement at this point of time by the Commission. The responsibility is on the Minister and the Government to give a lead to the workers and this country. The Government should have a look at the unanimous decision of the ACTU congress. This decision was agreed upon covering all sections of workers from the poorer to the richer. If the Government thinks it possible to arrange an economic wage which would be pegged for 18 months and ignore the relationship between that wage and tradesmen’s rates it is pretty clever at industrial arbitration. The situation we have at the moment is the greatest try-on that has been put upon the trade union movement this century. I say to the Government that the whole trust of the trade union movement that had been built up in 1961 was destroyed in 1966-67. The industrial unrest that we have had is an indication of what is coming unless this Government takes action in August next to lend its Weight to the trade union movement in this country to restore a sensible balance of what is necessary in a wage structure that proved successful from 1904 to 1967.
– I want to address myself to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who is responsible for the most iniquitous and immoral operation that this country has perpetrated in the last 60 or 70 years. As we sit here tonight and as young Liberals outside go to their meetings throughout the country conscious and confident that they are doing their duty to the country, they are using willing young men who are called up by the Minister for Labour and National Service to satisfy their consciences. I hope that the people of Australia will take a look at the system. The young Liberals who sit in this House, if they were dinkum and conscious of what they call ‘other people’s duty’ would join the Services themselves. I believe that the calling up of young men is the most contemptible action that any government in this country has carried out in the 66 years since Federation. It is my belief that we are sacrificing a young group of men in Australia for a strategic concept that cannot be supported by any sort of moral or ethical judgment whatsoever. The cause, I believe, is not worth one drop of Australian blood.
What I want is some demonstration by the young Liberals, that they are dinkum and mean what they say. If the country is in danger and sacrifices should be made, they themselves should go forth and do something about it. I want to make it quite clear that the Labor Party is not an antidefence party. It is significant that four planks of the first Labor Party platform in 1900 were the maintenance of an immigration policy; the introduction of an old age pension; trade and tariffs; and a citizen military force. It was the Labor Government in 1911 that first introduced what was called a ‘planned system’ for the defence of this country. This was based upon the concept that everyone would serve when the country needed, them. It included an effective national service system which involved the whole community. It was abolished in 1929 by the Labor Government at the beginning of the depression. The year 1936 saw an expansion of the Australian military system and the introduction of a more effective system of recruiting. The introduction of compulsory service in Australia is an indication that the present Government has done something to the country to damage its national morale. When there has been a duty to be done in times of danger Australians by hundreds and thousands have answered the call. Now when only a handful of men is required for what the Government says are strategic concepts to fulfil commitments with which the Labor Party strongly disagrees, no-one has answer the call. Noone believes that the position is as represented by the Government. No-one has examined the question in such a detailed way that they are able to answer the questions asked by the Opposition. The Government has not placed before the people of Australia a proper strategic concept in such a way that a commonsense and mature nation such as this has been able to evaluate it. There is ample evidence from history that when the people of Australia have seen the need for service they have served. In 1938, for instance, the Citizen Military Forces were expanded to total 70,000 men. It took only 4 months from November 1938 to March 1939 to lift the enlistments of this body from 35,000 to nearly 80,000 men. These were all volunteers who were committed to a foreign policy that everyone understood. The problem that the young people of military age face is that no one can tell them what foreign involvement they will be trapped into if they follow the foreign policy of this Government. There was a call-up during the war and there are many misconceptions about this. It is said that the Labor Government introduced conscription during the last war. It did not. In 1939 the universal trainees were called up under Part 4 of the Defence Act. This was continually expanded during the war. There was a special commitment obligation to expand to serve to the equator and various degrees of longitude which covered the south west Pacific area. So, there was a gradual expansion during the War of what one might call ‘conscription’ as our needs expanded. The significant point was that during that period threequarters of a million Australians volunteered. This was more than 1 in 10. In the First World War there was the same significant proportion; .400,000 out of a population of something like 5 million volunteered to serve overseas. As I said before, in 1938 some 70,000 to 80,000 volunteered for the citizen forces. Yet now we have to introduce an immoral ballot system, a lottery in which by chance we pick some and send them off to be sacrificed while we leave the rest at home. And we do this in order to get 17,000 young men into the Australian Services.
What have we done? I believe we have been tinkering too long with the general principles of the defence of this country. I believe the Government is selling these young men, or giving them away or sacrificing them because it will not face its own proper responsibilities, either in defence or anything else. I believe these young men are being sacrificed as a premium for an insurance policy against the hope that some day the Americans will come and help the people of this country so that they can get on with spear fishing as usual.
The supporters of this Government are trapped in their own cliches. In 1950 we introduced national service. We called up thousands of young men and put them into camp. We spent $300m on the scheme but
It brought hardly one single advantage militarily speaking. That scheme was abandoned in about I960, and then in 1964 it was reintroduced, lt was sneaked upon the people of Australia. There was no indication in 1964 when the reintroduction was first announced that some of these young men were going to be sent overseas. The people were trapped in the atmospherics of the Australian political and military system. They were trapped in the cliches of which honourable members opposite are so proud.
I say to the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) who is trying to interject, that if he wants to do his duty towards the defence of Australia he should get some of his young friends on that side of the House to go and join the colours, instead of calling up other people. What is being indulged in at the present time is an exercise in immorality. Every member of the Liberal Party and of the Country Party is guilty in this context. While they sit here tonight and bark at people like me young men are shedding their blood to clear the consciences of those who sit opposite. I challenge them right now. There are young men among them, one of whom is 22 years of age and another 26. They are all quite estimable young fellows in many ways but they tramp around the country saying ‘We must conscript the young men of Australia to fight for us and do our duty in Vietnam*. They say: ‘We must do this. We must do that.’ In other words: ‘You must, but I will get on with business as usual’.
The Government has conducted a lottery of quite conscienceless proportions. What has it done? Since this system was introduced 229,207 young men have been registered and 78,347 have been ballotted in. Some have been exempted because they are theological students, some because of conscientious objection. Some have had their service deferred - 6,088 because they were married, 7,081 because they were in the Citizen Military Forces, 17,289 because they were students, and 2,254 for various physical and other reasons. And so 17,364 have been called up and enlisted - 7,375 this year. To clear the consciences of honourable members opposite, to guarantee that the Young Liberal branches can meet in comfort and safety every night with their consciences clear in the belief that they have done their duty to democracy 17,364 young men have been called up.
What has been done with them? There are 80,000 people in the regular forces of Australia - about 16,000 in the Navy, 41,000 in the Army and 20,000 in the Royal Australian Air Force. We have sent 6,300 of them to Vietnam to clear the consciences of the Young Liberals and of the young Country Party members and others who stay at home. According to the last figures I obtained a few months ago, 5,200 of those are in the Army and 25% of them, or some 1,200, are national servicemen. These figures change from month to month as all honourable members know but according to the last figures I obtained some 2 or 3 months ago, of the 68 who have been killed, 33 were national servicemen and 35 were regulars. Of the 6,300 servicemen in Vietnam, 1,200, or less than one-fifth, are national servicemen. But when the chips are down and the battles are being fought it is the national servicemen who are out in front. Thirty-three of them have been killed. They have suffered half of the battle deaths. This is not because they are not so well trained as the regulars. The Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave the reason not so many months ago. He said it is uneconomic to have the men who have been trained to continue their service take these risks. This is in Hansard. Honourable members opposite could find it if they had the will and the wit and the conscience to go and look for it and then to examine their own consciences.
The Government has taken the young men born in 1945, 1946 and 1947 and it is sacrificing them in this conscienceless way. ‘Well, it is only a handful’, say honourable members opposite as they go on with business as usual. What do they care? I believe that this is a reflection upon the whole Australian morality. I cannot understand what has come over the country. This was a country in which it was a case of one in all in. When the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison) and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) speak here as trade unionists they speak as men belonging to an Australian system in which everybody stood together, if we mean business in Vietnam let us get on with it; let us call them all up and finish it. Of course we on this side do not believe in the war; we think that the strategic concept is wrong. I would at least give the supporters of the Government some credit for morality if they got stuck into it in a proper national spirit. But they do not do this because their whole approach is based on misconceptions. Look at the cliches with which they cover all their leaflets. How did we get to this stage? Because the Government has talked the people into some kind of cliche-struck concept of strategy. It says: ‘Better to fight there than here’.
– Fight whom?
– Yes, fight whom and where and for what? And then, of course, people say: ‘We should call the young men up; it is good for them.’ But the Government does not look at the facts. In the United Kingdom there is no compulsory military service. Canada does not have a compulsory system. New Zealand does not have one for overseas service. The neighbours of these dreadful Chinese - the Cambodians, the Japanese, the Malaysians, the Burmese and the Ceylonese - do not have compulsory service systems. But of course the Government considers that this is the most economical way of doing its job because we can get on with business as usual. There are honourable members here - I will not name them but a perusal of ‘Who’s Who’ will disclose them - between the ages of 22 and 35 who, if they meant business, if they had the Australian spirit, if they had the conscience they say they have, and if the freedom they talk about meant to them what they say it should mean to others, would be actively trying to get this job finished instead of going around the country vilifying every Labor man who stands up and speaks his mind. These are the people who smear good Labor men as trade unionists because they stand up for what they believe.
In many ways we in Australia are beset by misconceptions of our own history. People just will not look at the existing situation in a straight fashion. They remember the 1942 invasion by the Japanese and they think that something similar will happen here next week. We have built up a picture of the Asians as a great marauding horde. We are the descendents of Europeans who for 3 or 4 centuries knocked these Asians about, exploited them, persecuted them and massacred them from one end of this planet to the other. Over the last 5 or 6 centuries it is the Europeans who have been the aggressors throughout the world. But let us forget that for the moment.
What do we need at the present moment? Our neighbours are all weak. None of them has the kind of organisation that would allow them to invade any country. We need between 120,000 and 150,000 people in the Services. 1 have spoken on many occasions here of the way in which we on this side of the House think our defence services should be organised. So we have to find these 120,000 to 150,000 young Australians. Why can we not induce them to come forward voluntarily? What have we done to the national spirit? By voluntary enrolment the British can fill their Services up to establishment, in the same ratio to total population as we would need here. The Canadians can do likewise. Right up to the end of the Second World War we were able to do the same. Here we have all this talk of calling up the young men because it is good for them and because everybody should serve. I place before honourable members the. view that a national service system of the kind we have in this country is uneconomic. First of all, it does not produce the long-term answers that we need. 1 think it is fair to suggest that there is not much possibility of an assault upon Australia within the foreseeable future - say within the next 15 to 25 years. Suppose we call up all the young men. Let us concede for a moment this gracious concept that each year 120,000 young men should be called into camps and given boots and trained. In 4 or 5 years we would have half a million. And what for? We must change the tactical and strategic concept which guides our thoughts on this question. As far as I am concerned every Liberal is rated pretty low while he is prepared to sacrifice our young Australians in order to clear his conscience and get on with business is usual.
[9.501 - The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), who led for the Opposition in this part of the debate, dealt at some length with the recent decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to
Introduce a total wage system into Australia. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) followed him and answered very effectively what was said. The attitude of the Government to a total wage is quite clear. Previously we had pointed out that a total wage involved some difficulties but at the hearing this year the attitude of the Government was neutral. We put up a number of propositions in the course of making an inherently complex case, but on the issue of a total wage we were neutral. The total wage decision should not come as a surprise to anyone who follows carefully the procedures of the Commission. The case for a total wage has been subject to argument, sifting and calculation by the parties involved for some years and everyone concerned was familiar with it. I suggest that a lot of the people who now complain about a total wage will, once it has become familiar, eventually take a very different view of it. To my mind no effective case has been made in support of the assertion that it will detract from the incomes or the material progress of the working community of this country. Far from it. A sound case against it has not been made. I suggest that the outbursts that were made were emotional rather than realistic. A great deal of what has been said has been emotional because the details involved have not been thought through thoroughly.
Other important issues were also involved in the last decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is not for me to debate the decisions of the Commission. It is a qualified and certainly the most suitable authoritative body we can jook to to pronounce on these matters. We accept its judgments. The details of all that has been said tonight have reached me, but I think it should be pointed out that the last decision of the Commission involved an important change, apart from revising the wage system. It opened the way to some movement in the wages of women as compared with those of men. Every sensible man knows that if extensive radical changes in this direction were made overnight, such a huge sum would be introduced into the income stream that inflation would almost immediately follow. There must also be relatively in material terms a reduction in real male wages. A process like this can be accomplished only over some years. It introduces a new note of reform. Since so much hypocritical nonsense is talked in so many quarters about women’s wages relative to men’s wages, surely this, is a change which everyone with a reforming turn of mind should regard as being highly significant.
The honourable member for Stirling referred at length to the arrangements made for the Japanese dredges working at Port Hedland. My Department has been in the picture throughout. It has been in the middle of the negotiations. Throughout we have taken the standpoint that where Australian labour is available that is satisfactory, competent and willing to stay a reasonable length of time so that rapid turnover does not involve great problems, that Australian labour should be employed wherever practicable. This policy is always followed by my Department, irrespective of who are the newcomers or from wherever they come. If people come to settle permanently in Australia they are to be regarded as on all fours with Australians. Where they come to do certain jobs for a limited period our set policy is to ensure that as far as possible Australians are employed, and particularly that Australians have an opportunity to acquire new techniques and new skills as a result.
We conducted extensive discussions with the trade unions in Perth and with the employers concerned. We made what seemed to us, and I am sure to any fair minded man, extremely satisfactory arrangements to ensure that our policy was carried out. Unfortunately there are other elements which are anxious to sabotage as far as possible the whole scheme. The dredging at Port Hedland should be done quickly and efficiently so that our resources will be developed and to ensure that there will be an effective outlet for our new, rich resources of iron ore. The people interested in this result want to see the job carried through. Other elements do not. In the course of negotiations a lot of red herrings have been drawn across the trail and a lot of trouble has arisen through misrepresentation. The Government’s policy is clear. These resources should be developed efficiently and as soon as possible so that the whole of the Australian community may gain material benefits from the result In carrying out the operation Australians should be employed to the greatest practicable extent and in particular should acquire any new techniques that can be learnt from the operation.
The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) mentioned a number of problems that have arisen in his own district of Geelong. He referred to a problem which is widespread in Australia. It raises difficulties in the electorate of the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), although they are of a somewhat different character. The employment of girls in the country who come on to the labour market is in many cases difficult. It is one of the most complex problems that my Department has to deal with. We have carried out lengthy studies and we do what we can to provide openings elsewhere if none is available in the towns concerned. But neither my Department nor the Commonwealth Government at large has plenary powers over the distribution of the kind of industry which would provide large scale openings for these girls. If we had those powers, in many cases it would not make sense from a national point of view to switch industry around and relocate it just to meet this particular problem. We are continually working on it. Its incidence varies considerably. For instance, in Wollongong it is necessary as far as possible to persuade industry and the trade unions to employ young women in all the jobs for which they are suited. There are many jobs in Wollongong for which they could be used but from which prejudice and archaic types of thought currently exclude them.
– Would they be paid the male wages they are entitled to?
– If they all were paid male wages that would not help in this particular problem. It may be justified from other angles but it would not solve the problem which is with us now. Certainly it is one to work on. The honourable member for Corio seeks a lot of statistics, particularly about Geelong. These would introduce a new factor in the workings of my Department. Considerable effort would be involved to extract them. One asks, since considerable expense and effort is involved, whether the effort would justify the results. My Department has a very detailed knowledge of the seasonal patterns of employment in the Geelong area. It has studied and worked on them. It has endeavoured to place all those people who have difficulty in finding employment. What more could statistics do? If certain situations and certain opportunities are notified to my Department, of course that information could be of considerable assistance. As to the employment of girls in this rather seasonal pattern in some industries at Geelong, we cope with the problem as best we can. I very much doubt whether other bodies, if they came on to the scene, could solve the problems involved or could do any better than the officers of my Department.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. J. Harrison) - understandably perhaps - criticised from his angle the recent series of decisions issuing forth from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I have heard both sides. A case is heard and the verdict is given and, of course, inevitably there are dissatisfied people on both sides, but I deplore the tendency to criticise everything that goes against one side and the suggestion that as a result there is something crook about the system. The honourable member mentioned the American system. What our conciliation and arbitration system does - and this is pretty basic to the Australian way of life - is, in effect, to distribute the gains from productivity. It distributes the excess income gained by the sectors of industry which are advancing in the community and which could, within themselves, pay higher wages. It distributes the excess income throughout the whole working community, including those industries and occupations that have no opportunity of increasing their productivity. Public servants, persons who work in shops and in the transport services are, by the very nature of their occupations, precluded from making spectacular increases in productivity, but what our system does is to lift their wages and, in some instances, to restrain the wages of the advancing sectors so distributing the excess income more fairly. If we pursued to the utmost in every single industry the ultimate fruits of increased productivity, the rewards would all go to the people who worked in those industries and the rest of the community would fall relatively behind. However, I have outlined the basic Australian approach and whether we are right or wrong we believe it is a superior system to any other.
The honourable member for Blaxland laid great stress on consumer prices as the ultimate guide line for wages. What we did at the last hearing was to submit that fundamentally the most basic cause in most instances was that of productivity, because if wage rates generally are advanced faster than productivity justifies, there will inevitably be inflation with increased prices and general dislocation of the economy. We did not say, and we never have said, that there is any one yardstick. This may, in many instances in conditions of relative stability, be the main guide line but if on the other hand there is a huge increase in Australia’s external income, or a fall in its external income, this must have profound effects on our general material welfare. In these circumstances this has to be taken into account. We have never said that there is any one golden rule. Consumer prices, other prices or any one thing cannot be regarded as a watertight yardstick in determining these matters. What we do say is that ultimately it is a matter for sound, experienced judgment, taking into account all of the factors involved and giving appropriate weight to each. I have not yet heard from any intellectual point of view a convincing knocking down of this case.
The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) switched the subject from industrial trends to national service and defence policy. In reply to him I would say that if I were a sailing man and my boat got into the doldrums I would like to have him with me. Regarding the general question about the strategy pursued by the Government in respect of national service training and the way our armed forces should be deployed - what is moral or immoral - I do not have to answer it. The honourable member for Wills has expressed his views many times, as did his Party before the last general election, and the people of Australia pronounced a decisive verdict.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, $33,549,000.
– I think that most Australians agreed with the formation of the Department of National Development. They have an appreciation of the work that is done by officers of the Department but they would like to see much more done than has been done so far by the Department. The Department has done a wonderful job since its formation, particularly in respect of softwood forest plantings. I hope it will give greater encouragement to stepping up such plantings so that Australia may become self-reliant in respect of this very necessary building material. Softwoods, of course, are the base material of paper manufacture. Softwood plantings should be accelerated.
Most Australians are looking forward to the implementation of the promised grant of $50m over a 5-year period for water conservation projects. We wonder when something will be done in this field and several members have asked questions, including myself. I am interested in one Queensland project, the Kolan-Burnett scheme, not because it is in my electorate - it is in the electorate of Dawson - but because of its effect on Bundaberg where there are some five sugar mills. As a result of two periods of drought, what was recognised as a stable and profitable industry has been seriously affected and the people connected with it have been reduced almost to the breadline. They have to depend on the vagaries of season. They believe that if they are under compulsion by the Government to plant and produce a certain quantity of sugar and they do not do so, someone else will do it. The sugar growers want to work profitably and economically, and not on the basis that in a good season they can gain a 50% increase in production. In 1962 when the sugar peak for the six mills in the district was 189,000 tons actual production was 285,000 tons. In 1962, following an expansion of the sugar peak for the mills to 271,000 tons, actual production was only 213,000 tons. Some people said: ‘You will not get two bad years like that running,’ but the growers did and as a result many were forced out of the industry. Some had to seek drought relief work. Even now some are still undertaking such work, and in some instances even the wives are working with their husbands in an effort to rehabilitate themselves.
I suppose the final decision concerning which water conservation project is proceeded with first will rest with the Queensland Government. It may be that the Nogoa scheme will be proceeded with. The Minister for National Development (Mr
Fairbairn) paid a visit to that area. Some people have a macabre sense of humour. One of the local newspapers suggested that we would have a better chance of netting the Kolan-Burnett scheme proceeded with if there were to be a by-election in Wide Bay or Dawson. Heaven forbid that this should happen. I suppose that after the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) had spoken at Rockhampton they felt that the Nogoa scheme would get the blessing. A number of questions have been asked about this matter not only by members of my Party but also one or two members of the Country Party, and particularly the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan). We have been put off on a number of occasions. On 2nd March the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) asked a question and on 6th April the then honourable member for Capricornia asked the Minister for National Development what amounts the Commonwealth Government had granted towards water conservation projects in Queensland over the last 10 years. Of course the answer was nil. Yet there has been a total of over $900m spent in other States on this very necessary work.
What is the holdup? The Minister said that some of the States have not prepared their request. I find this hard to believe in the case of Queensland. I know that the Queensland Government has been looking for Commonwealth assistance for various projects ever since the 1961 election. Perhaps I can be pardoned for being a little bit cynical but I find that when the Government has a narrow majority it is much more active. Seven Government supporters in Queensland were defeated in 1961. Following that debacle funds were poured into Queensland for various projects, the most important of which was the relief of unemployment. In the 1963 election the Government won four seats back. It began to become a bit more complacent and the amount of money spent in Queensland was reduced. In the 1966 election the Government received an even bigger majority - so big that the Liberal Party was tempted to believe that it could run the Government without the support of the Country Party. So the Government became even more complacent.
What has been proposed? What are the interests of the people in Queensland? What is the reason for the delay? The ‘Courier
Mail’ of 9th April 1963 published an article headed: ‘Nicklin has “ build north “ plan for three Governments’. The article stated:
The Queensland Government will ask Western Australia to join in a joint approach to the Federal Government for development of Northern Australia.
The Premier (Mr Nicklin) said yesterday that State Cabinet envisaged the creating of a national authority representing the three Governments.
The Premier briefly outlined some of the projects that he thought could be undertaken. This was nearly 4i years ago. I knew that the wheels of democracy, authority and bureaucracy moved very slowly but I did not think that they moved as slowly as that. The Snowy Mountains Authority will shortly be disbanded. This year there was a reduction of $7m in the allocation for the Authority. What is to be the fate of the people of this Authority who have been built up as a team to do specific jobs? Will they be spread around the country? Will they be retained merely as a consultative body? I know that there may be some jealousy where State Departments can do work similar to that undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Authority. In May of this year the retired head of the Snowy Mountains Authority, Sir William Hudson, pleaded that the Authority be kept for development projects, including some very attractive ones in Queensland. There was a development symposium last year at Ingham and a number of people spoke on development. These included Mr Haigh, the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commissioner, who pointed out that most of the cheaper water conservation projects in the south were being completed. He said that those remaining to be considered would have a higher cost structure than many projects in Queensland. He is a man who is acquainted with all the projects which have been considered over many years and on which many reports have been made. Sir William Hudson pointed out that there were streams and rivers all the way from Brisbane to Cairns and that water was flowing out to the sea instead of being used in the best interests of the people. He pleaded for the retention of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
Other people do not seem to be so worried about the Snowy Mountains Authority. I understand that at the opening of the Murray I power station the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) suggested that the workmen on the Snowy Mountains Authority could be used on the proposed Sydney eastern suburbs railway. They would probably do that job very well but which job is the more important? I have outlined one project which would stabilise an existing industry and provide an income for the people engaged in it, so enabling them to make their contribution towards the economy of the country not only by the goods that they produce but by the items that they use, such as fertilisers, machinery, oil and petroleum products. The eastern suburbs railway seems a very desirable project from many angles. Apparently it is something that has been discussed for many years. But I respectively submit that the engineers of the Snowy Mountains Authority would be used more profitably for the nation and indeed for the Treasury on water conservation schemes in Queensland than on the eastern suburbs railway.
The Minister for National Development has had a look at some of the schemes that I have mentioned. Unfortunately he was unable to look at the Kolan-Burnett scheme but he did have a look at the Nogoa scheme. I am quite sure that he is aware of how the people in the area feel about this scheme. I am not expressing these views just because there is a byelection in the electorate of Capricornia. This scheme is important to the city of Rockhampton which is the main centre of the cattle industry in Australia. I think Frank Rudd would agree with me. He would also agree that one of the dire needs of this area is cheap electricity. Councillor Hartwigs, the Chairman of the Monto Shire Council, was very disappointed that the Minister was unable to see him. Councillor Hartwigs made a special visit to Rockhampton with the Secretary of the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board. These two people were most disappointed that the Minister could not spare even 5 minutes of his time so that they could put the case for the development of the region. They are not in the Capricornia electorate so what they do or think is unlikely to have any effect on the by-election. But there are electors of Capricornia who are customers of the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board and they are vitally interested. If we are to have progress in this area the Minister should look at these matters. I know that they come within the province of the State to a certain extent but if the
Commonwealth can enter into this field in other States it can do something in Queensland.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Fox) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The whole concept of the development and economic growth of Australia has been changed in the last 10 years by discoveries of vast mineral deposits in northern Australia. Most of these deposits will have to be transported by sea. I refer to the 15,000,000,000 tons of iron ore in the north west of Western Australia and the 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 tons of iron ore being exploited in the Northern Territory. I refer also to the 2,000,000,000 tons of bauxite at Weipa on Cape York Peninsula, the 100,000,000 to 300,000,000 tons of bauxite at Gove and the possible 100,000,000 to 300,000,000 tons of bauxite in the western Kimberleys in the Admiralty Gulf area. I refer also to the vast deposits of copper and base metals in the Mc Arthur River area of the Northern Territory, and the recent exciting discoveries of phosphate in the Duchess area, where there are 40,000,000,000 or more tons of phosphate which may be transported by rail to the Gulf for shipment. I refer also to the deposits of manganese that have been exploited by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at Groote Eylandt, the deposits of silica which will come from Cape Flatery north of Cooktown and the very exciting possible discovery of oil in the Bonaparte Gulf area which looks as promising at this stage as did the Bass Strait fields at a similar stage.
These minerals, which will mean so much to the development of Australia, will have to be moved by ship if we are to use them. They will either have to be exported from Australia or brought around the seaboard to be processed in the east, the west or the south of this country. If they are to be exported to Japan or the United States, then at the moment if the deposits are situated west of Darwin they will go through the Lombok Strait, the Sunda Strait or the Moluccas and the Celebes, which are Indonesian territory, or alternatively through Torres Strait. In the case of minerals which are to be transported for processing within Australia, the BHP company, for instance, will be bringing ore from Mount Newman around to the west coast because it is shorter than the route through Torres Strait. But if the deposits are east of Darwin, as with the bauxite fields at Weipa, they will go to Gladstone through the Torres Strait. So the Torres Strait becomes a vital link in the seaways of Australia. lt is also a stricture - a limiting factor - because, as Notice to Mariners No. 476, dated 25th November 1966, states, Gannet Passage, which is the shallow section, is the controlling area for traversing the Torres Strait and the whole Barrier Reef. The latest survey of August 1966 shows an available depth of 5 fathoms 3 feet in a passage 2 cables in width and 6 cables in length. The largest vessel that can go through the Torres Strait at the moment is the ‘Darling River’ which is of approximately 50,000 tons deadweight. There are also restrictions in traversing parts of the northern section of the Barrier Reef.
There is at present a plan to look into the feasibility of deepening Gannet Passage from its present 33 feet to 41 feet. 1 wonder whether this is not the time to examine the feasibility of deepening it to 50 feet or 55 feet because of the development of giant bulk carriers of the 100,000 to 200,000 ton class. For instance, now or in the very near future the first shipment of 100,000 tons of iron ore in one load will be going from the north of Western Australia. In developing our markets for iron ore in Japan and the United States, these large bulk carriers will have to go through waters which are regarded as Indonesian territorial waters. We are friendly with the Indonesians at present, but I am indebted to my colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar, for supplying me with a copy of information supplied to him by the BHP company. That information states:
Of possible interest to the Mt Newman operation is what occurs if sales of ore were made to the USA. In this case a route through Torres Strait would be slightly shorter than the route to the west and north of New Guinea.
When we consider the operation of large ore carriers this becomes an important matter. From the point of view of exports - I am looking possibly a generation or more into the future - we need seaways under our control which we can use as alternative routes for the export of our minerals. As far as the internal use of these minerals is concerned, I have spoken to executives of the Comalco organisation who have based their operations on the restrictions caused by the depth of Gannet Passage. They are interested in having the Passage deepened because if this were done it would provide future economies for them, provided the matter of ports on the eastern seaboard is also looked at. When one considers the possibilities of expanding our operations in phosphate, bauxite and oil, this becomes an important matter. Australia has great advantages with the minerals that we have in the north, but our position is not unique. We must compete with other countries. We must be able to use large bulk carriers if their use becomes necessary in order to meet competition. So 1 wonder whether new channels can be found in the Torres Strait area or whether existing channels can be deepened.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp), officers of the Royal Australian Navy, and in particular to officers of the research section of the Parliamentary Library, for the information which they have given to me on this subject. I refer to Admiralty charts Nos 2321, 3781, 3782 and 3783 which relate to this particular area. The charts indicate that in Gannet Passage and Prince of Wales Strait, which are on the present recommended route, some 30 miles would need to be deepened if we were looking for a passage for ships of 100,000 or 200,000 tons with a depth of 50 ft to 55 ft. This would be a big project but this route would have some advantages in that it would be a straight run. The route through Endeavour Strait, which is between Cape York and Prince of Wales Island and which was surveyed in 1921 by a Commander Maxwell, R.N., and in 1924 by a Commander Harvey, would need to have perhaps less than 6 miles deepened to a depth of 55 ft and a similar distance deepened to not quite the same extent, but a channel in this Strait may twist and turn and be awkward for large ships to navigate.
But if also one were looking for the inner route off the Barrier Reef, four other areas would need to be examined. I refer to the area off Cape Sidmouth, from
Hannah Island to Burkitt Island, off Cape Melville and through the Howick Group. Also there would need to be an examination of the ports where these minerals will be taken for processing. Similarly, with exports through to the United States of America, the north-east passage out through the Barrier Reef has shallow sections near Bet Island and the Vigilant Channel, whereas 1 believe that if the area due east of Thursday Island were surveyed - it has never been surveyed - a route may be found through there without any great difficulty or without any great dredging being required to be done. Although this has not been looked at, it may be necessary to blow a hole in the Barrier Reef to create an entrance. However, this area has not been surveyed.
As I have said, the value of these minerals and their exploitation is of immense importance to the development of Australia. We are not unique. We will have to compete if we are going to sell these products on the world markets. In my view we cannot afford not to have control over an alternative waterway or seaway for exports carried by ships of all sizes. We have today the techniques to dredge and the world has the knowledge, if blasting were required, to shift rock in large quantities with nuclear devices. This project is far smaller than the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal. Consequently I ask the Government whether it will give consideration to the recharting of Endeavour Strait and the area east of Thursday Island to the Barrier Reef. I ask it to conduct a feasibility study of the whole of this area to establish the need to examine the effect on the sea bed, on currents and tides of dredging or blasting, and also to examine the costs, not only for the Torres Strait area but also for the inner route of the Barrier Reef which I have mentioned.
As part of this feasibility study I ask it to examine also the situation in ports such as Gladstone, Newcastle, Botany Bay, Wollongong and Western Port in Victoria. If this can be done I would suggest to the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), who is now at the table, that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority through its hydrology section could make this study. That section has built up a great reputation for the work it has done on the movement of water and its effect in river systems and of siltation where clams have been built. I suggest that this is a project which covers all States and is national in concept, that it is one in which we will need experts, not only for channels such as 1 have mentioned but also for harbours and work in harbours throughout Australia for a generation or more. If, after this feasibility study, which 1 ask the Government to conduct, it were found that the scheme were not possible, I believe we should conduct research into the development of large bulk carriers of a wide beam and shallow draft so that we could still use the waterway in the Torres Strait area, if it cannot be deepened or if it is uneconomic to do this. Alternatively, we would have to consider using tugs towing large ore-carrying barges. I believe that within a generatoin the Torres Strait area is going to be of considerable importance to Australia. These minerals to which I have referred will have a tremendous effect upon our future development as a country. I do not believe that we can afford to have restrictions upon the waterways of Australia or around Australia which will hamper the transport of goods for export or for processing within Australia. I ask the Government to examine this matter as one of urgency.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) 110.35]- I dare say that if one searches long enough and diligently through the labyrinthine corridors of the Department of National Development one will find tucked away in some little cul-de-sac, difficult of access and exit, the Division of Northern Development. Perhaps it is because of this difficulty of access and exit, or in spite of it, that so very little seems to escape to the outside community in terms of concept or an interlocked balanced plan for the development of the north of Australia. I, of course, have a particular interest in this subject because I am a Queensland member. As a Queenslander I am well aware of the advantages which that State has in the way of natural resources. I am also keenly conscious of the fact that those natural resources are not being developed in the way in which they should be to exploit to the maximum extent the capacity of that State to create better primary industrial output, a greater secondary industrial complex and more prosperity per head of population. In fact, I am concerned about the gloomy outlook of the professional morticians in the Government ranks on this subject of the development of the north, and more specifically the development of Queensland.
I am reminded of an address delivered by Mr Haigh, the head of the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission of Queensland, in a symposium on development when he pointed out that on the basis of natural resources that existed in my home State, the potential carrying capacity of Queensland was six times that of Victoria. Offhand, I would expect that the population of Victoria is probably two or three times greater than that of Queensland. The fact that development has taken place in the south eastern corner of Australia in such a lopsided, heavy fashion is due not to the natural resources or natural advantages in Victoria and New South Wales but rather to the accident of prior discovery.
I wanted to speak at this stage also of the failure of the Government to move in with some practical plans for using these resources in Queensland to see that this discrimination which has developed over the years is rectified and a more balanced approach to development established. The fact that something like 60% of the total population of Australia is settled in the conurbation which swings from Newcastle through Sydney, Wollongong, Geelong and Melbourne is not something that is to the advantage of this country. But, of course, while the Government sits down and does little about artificially stimulating the concentrated development of population in other sections of Australia, in the north in particular, more population is going to be attracted to this clogged conurbation in the south eastern corner of Australia than will be attracted to other sections of the Commonwealth.
The simple reason for that is that the markets are already there, the population is there and it is more desirable at this stage, with the situation that exists today, for the population to continue to go there. Although this, on the face of things, is very good for private enterprise, from the point of view of Federal and State governments, as well as local authorities, the external diseconomies which develop when these large metropolises exceed the optimum of about 1 million people must give rise to some concern.
Of course, this must throw a responsibility on governments, and most essentially upon the central government with the financial resources it has compared with the limited resources available to State Governments and the more limited funds available to local governments, to improve their economic planning policies to achieve a more balanced development of the Commonwealth.
I come back to the fact that I am a Queenslander and I am interested in Queensland. I am aware of its resources and its capacity - largely untapped. We had the experience recently of a number of top spokesmen from the Government ranks visiting our State, thus giving themselves the opportunity to enunciate some sort of policy for development. Not one of them handled the subject. We had the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), the man who gives the authorisation for financing development works, the man whose word is life or death to the progress of national development, especially in north Australia, coming to central Queensland a few weeks ago and not saying one word about northern development. Certainly he did, to use the argot of this place, tip a bucket over the ALP candidate, but that is about all that he did achieve. I might observe in passing that the back bench members seem to lack the ability to do this, or perhaps they are too gentle or decent to stoop to these depths. The Treasurer did not speak about northern development and he did not help himself, his Government or his candidate.
Then we had a visit from the farmers’ friend, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony), who is the champion of rural interests. He came to central Queensland to speak about the Government’s policy for that area. What did he say? The central issue at stake was northern development. The people in the area are concerned about water. I represent what could be called a rural electorate in Queensland. Of the 4,000 square miles in my electorate, probably 3,800 are devoted to farming. I know the concern of farmers and indeed the suffering they have experienced in recent years through drought. The drought in central Queensland was particularly nasty. So the people in the area are concerned about water and water conservation and about the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority. What did the Minister for the Interior say to these people? Let us remember that he is also Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party. As I said before, he is the friend of the country man.
– So he is.
– He is. He said of the Snowy Mountains Authority that it was of no great importance’. He wrote the Authority off in a few words. He had no intention of wasting time on it. He did not come to centra] Queensland to speak about what could be done to help the people to develop the area. I can only say: Thank goodness the Premier of the State disagrees with him. The Premier of Queensland said:
The Authority could be used for investigation and planning of development in these areas, and this would keep it together.
He also said it would be wrong to let the vast, expert machinery of the Snowy organisation be dispersed. He was capably supported by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro), who said he had great faith in the Snowy Mountains Authority. That is, of course, a precis of the honourable member’s statement. Perhaps this is a further indication of the dissension that is now riddling the ranks of the Government. However, that does not matter.
Then the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) came to the area. He arrived in a VIP aircraft and he stayed for 24 hours in the electorate. One newspaper put it that he was glad handing in the old style. Some of the more cynical and less generous people called it a corny performance. I would not suggest that for one moment. He spent 24 hours in the electorate and then went away for 3 days to a tropic island fishing, and well away from the electorate. Where is the sense of priority here? The Prime Minister is the head of the Executive. He is the chief man of decision in the Government. He spent 24 hours in the electorate and 3 days fishing from a tropic island well removed from the problems of the area. He did not deal with northern development at all. Of course, he likes the north; but only for fishing.
Finally, while I am speaking about these great men of power and decision who came to our area, let me refer to the most important of all when we discuss northern development and that is the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). He kept away. He has proved that he is the wisest of all Ministers and he will stay in wraps until the by-election is over. In the meantime, the State of Queensland is not receiving the assistance it needs, and it does need this assistance from the Federal Government. The State governments today are not able to undertake massive developmental projects. They do not have available to them the expert advice of economists, engineers and the various research workers such as soil specialists and irrigationists They do not have the staff, the army of people, needed to do this work. They do not have the financial resources and they will not get the finance they need while we have in power a government that more and more filches the authority of the States, that more and more filches the financial independence of the States.
Let us look at the issues on a per capita basis. In 1950 the per capita indebtedness of the Commonwealth was $456.18. By 1967 it had been reduced to $278.75. The Commonwealth’s indebtedness had gone down. But in the same period what had the Commonwealth forced on the States? The per capita indebtedness of the States increased from $290.78 to $683.57. The Government reduced its indebtedness by something like 50%. At the same time it increased the indebtedness of the States by something like 300%. This is the disparity that exists. Recently the Australian Loan Council met and the Premiers Conference was held. The States received a meagre handout. It was not enough to cover the increased cost of living plus the increased demands of the States generated by the population increase. What was the outcome of these meetings? The Premier of Queensland came away from them and said:
We will have to revise our thinking on tha State’s expansion.
Earlier, of course, he acknowledged that development was needed in Queensland when he said:
We feel that what is being done is a trifling tilt at a stupendous task which . the nation must set about shouldering in a realistic .way.
But how is the nation setting about shouldering this task in a realistic way?
Certainly, we are getting no assistance or encouragement from the Government. We have ridiculous anomalies. For instance, we have bauxite reserves of something like 200 million tons, I think, at Weipa and an alumina refinery at Gladstone. The bauxite has to be shipped to Gladstone. The Australian National Line, a government instrumentality, is not allowed to ship the bauxite to Gladstone because of the requirement it must ship interstate and not intrastate. The Commonwealth Government, effectively applying this restriction, allowed the Ludwig organisation, an American company, to charter an ANL ship to cart the bauxite around the coast to Gladstone. The Australian National Line could not do this itself. Then there is the ridiculous situation of the Federal Government refusing to assist in any way the development of a power complex to serve the Gladstone area where the alumina project was established and the possibility of establishing an aluminium smelter was lost to Newcastle.
This sort of situation is repeated too often. Queensland has the potential for development but is not getting much assistance from the Federal Government. I mentioned this a few seconds ago but it bears repetition. Let us look at the situation from 1950 to 1961. In that period the only grant by the Federal Government for development purposes in Queensland was $493,000 for the Callide-Gladstone road.
– Peanuts is correct, as my friend, the honourable member for Watson, points out. It is certainly peanuts when the Government can spend something like $40m or $50m on a VIP aircraft fleet. It is certainly peanuts when it can spend something like $80m on an artificial lake outside this Parliament House. It is certainly peanuts in a society that spends somethink like $ 1,300m a year, as we did last year, on alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes, or $400m or $500m a year on advertising. There is something wrong with our sense of priorities.
In fact, Queensland did not get any contribution from the Commonwealth Government until 1961 when the Government got a jolt, a savage jolt, because the election in that year followed the credit squeeze. Since then Queensland has received the following things: Beef roads in 1961, briga low land development in 1962, the Gladstone coal loading works in 1962, the Mount Isa railway in 1961, and the Weipa harbour works in 1965. But all those things were lumped together in a short period following the jolt that the Government received. Perhaps it is appropriate to say that the Government will receive another jolt on Saturday when the Capricornia by-election is held. But even the contributions I have mentioned are not as generous as they may seem on the face of things because the Government is not giving anything away. Admittedly it is providing a nonrepayable grant of SI 6m for various developmental works; but it is also providing $54. 8m by way of interest bearing loans for development works and the interest repayments will amount to $35. 3m and the capital repayment to $55.8m - a total of $91m. I suggest to the Government that the repayment it is requiring from the Queensland Government could be ploughed back as a direct grant for the development of that State.
I am concerned about the lack of development of water resources. I am concerned to have some sort of co-ordinated planning for the development of that State. I want to conclude - my time is not nearly long enough - by referring to a statement by Professor Kiyoshi Kojima, Professor of International Economics at the Tokyo University. It is paradoxical that a man from Japan should tell us how we ought to be developing the country. The Japanese seem to be doing very well from creating massive dust bowls as the heritage- of future generations of Australians. The professor suggested that so far as our minerals and industrial development are concerned, we should be concentrating on the expansion of our own industrial capacity so that, say, 50% of our mineral production could be consumed domestically and the rest exported. But the Government will not act in that way. We have this uncoordinated, slipshod method of development taking place, largely by chance and more often than not, so far as government decisions are concerned, as a result of political pressure with the dividends calculated in terms of votes which might be picked up at an election. This is not good enough.
Mr. NIXON (Gippsland) [10.50)- Mr Chairman, the speeches made by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) are always typified by two things, first, the number of sheer inaccuracies evident in them and, secondly, the number of clichés that he uses in putting them together. Typical of the inaccuracies in the speech that he has just made was the charge that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), when in Rockhampton, did not mention development at all. This allegation is so inaccurate that it does not even matter. I have a transcript of the Minister’s speech, which occupies seventeen pages, twelve of which are devoted to development, particularly of Queensland, with special reference to central Queensland. This is in contrast to the performance of the honourable member for Oxley who, I understand, when in Rockhampton, began to talk about northern development. Somebody promptly told him that he was in central Queensland, not the north, and put him right back in his box. Another mistake that the honourable member made this evening was his reference to the dispute at Collinsville. He claims that he wants Queensland to be developed. I understand that he also supports the Collinsville strikers. Yet the Collinsville strike is retarding the development of Queensland probably more than any other single factor is.
I do not want to waste my time this evening on the honourable member for Oxley. I propose to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the consideration of the estimates for the Department of National Development to discuss the Ord River scheme. I recently visited the Ord River area for the third time in a few years. Anyone who visits the region and looks at the scheme cannot help but be impressed by the enthusiasm of those who are engaged in it, including the farmers, research workers and officers of the Department of Agriculture and the North West Department in Western Australia. Invariably, those who are involved in the scheme speak with great enthusiasm of the area.
There is no doubt in my mind that the farmers in particular are doing all they can to demonstrate that the region merits development. They are making the best possible use of the information coming from research work done by the research station conducted locally by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organi sation and the State Department of Agriculture. The farmers have doubled productivity on their cotton farms as a result of this research associated with proper use of extension services. They are now applying themselves to the problem of reducing costs by making cotton growing more efficient and, therefore, more profitable. In particular, they are studying the proper use of water resources so as to make the best possible use over the widest possible area of the water available from the small dam that has already been constructed. The farmers are also trying to reduce the number of sprays necessary in the growing of cotton. They are taking care to spray only when necessary at certain periods rather than spraying indiscriminately to keep insect pests down all through the year. A very heavy research programme into this aspect of the cotton industry on the Ord River has been undertaken in an endeavour to reduce costs. The major problem in cotton production there is the high cost structure, which is due mainly to high freight costs due to the great distance from the capital cities where all machinery, spare parts and the like have to be obtained. Each year when I visit the Ord River, I am more and more impressed with the rising cotton yields that the farmers have been able to achieve. They have improved yields partly by selecting better varieties.
One of the principal problems ot the cotton industry is the total production of cotton in Australia compared to the size of the home market and the world cotton supply situation. Returns to the Australian farmers are supported by a subsidy paid to them by this Government at the rate of 13.4375c a lb for 1-inch middling cotton, to a limit of $4m. Once the production exceeds 60,000 bales the subsidy is automatically reduced. The latest estimate of production for this year shows that 86,991 bales will be produced, compared with 91,323 bales last year.
– That is because ot the drought in the Namoi River area.
– The reduction no doubt is caused by the drought in the Namoi River area, as the honourable member for Gwydir has said. On the estimate of 86,991 bales the bounty will be worth about 8.4 cents per lb to the grower. The normal price for cotton, as I understand it, is arranged on the basis of the price at Liverpool. With corrections for freight differential and the like the price usually works out at 22c or 23c per lb. The total price that the Australian growers receive for their cotton is therefore approximately 31.4c per lb. lt seems to me that there is little difference in production between the Namoi River area and the Ord River area. Individual yields are somewhat higher in the Namoi River area. In fact the average yields are somewhat higher in that area than they are in the Ord River area. Nevertheless the cotton growers in the Ord River area have increased their yields magnificently; in fact they have more than doubled their yields since production started, and they started way behind the growers in the Namoi River area in this respect. Yet they are nearly matching the production by growers in the Namoi River area. The research work must be more thorough. Perhaps there is more research work going on in the Ord River area than in the Namoi River area, and that is the reason for this.
One of the criticisms made of the Ord River scheme is that there is no capital charge made to water users in the area for the construction of the dam. The question is often asked: If the Government has to pay $70m for a dam in the Ord River area will the farmers pay for this capital cost? As I understand it, there is no irrigation area in Australia where the farmers are expected to pay in their water charges for the capital cost of the dam. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) might be able to correct me if I am wrong on that, but that is how I understand it; no capital charges are passed on to farmers. The farmers pay only for the reticulation cost of the water.
One advantage that the Ord River area does have over the Namoi River area is that it has a much more reliable weather situation; the growers are far more sure of their production because the weather is predictable and they know what they need to do because they know what the weather will do. This is something that the Namoi River area growers are not able to control, as is shown particularly in this year of production.
The question arising out of the construction of the main dam, at an expected cost of $70m, is; What will be done with the extra 300 farms that come into production? Bringing an extra 300 farms of approximately 600 acres each into production certainly would bring about a situation of over-production of cotton in Australia. The bounty would be reduced to about 2c or 3c per lb, thus reducing the total return to growers to about 24c or 25c per lb. The question comes to mind: Can cotton growers in Australia produce cotton economically at this figure? One has to look at the world supply. The simple question is whether growers can sell cotton at this price on the world market.
After some investigation it seems to me that the world cotton situation in the short term is firming. There has been a planned reduction in America’s acreage. There has been trouble in the Arab countries due to some unsettlement as a result of the war. This may be the reason for the present situation regarding cotton. Certainly that is the position in the short term. One does not know what could happen in the long term. America could increase its acreage at any time it wanted to, and certainly on a very large scale. The Australian cotton grower, taking the simple criterion of productivity - and I do not accept this as being the only criterion - has the highest yield in the world. On that simple basis he is certainly efficient. Markets are available in the world for other varieties of cotton not presently grown in Australia to any great extent. I speak of Acala cotton for a start. Australia is presently buying 12,000 bales of this cotton from Peru. A world premium amounting to about 8c or 9c a lb. is paid for this long staple cotton. This type of cotton has to be grown in dry country and has to be harvested in dry weather. Farmers in the Ord River area could turn their attention to the growing of long staple Acala cotton, gain the benefit of the premium paid for it, and sell it fairly successfully to Japan.
I think that in terms of just plain cotton growing the Ord River scheme could be a success. However, the big criticism levelled against the Ord River scheme is the fact that it is a monoculture scheme. In other words, only one crop is grown there. There has been nothing else to turn to. Certainly, everything has been tried there. I have seen the growing of safflower, mustard, sugar and so on tried. I think the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) was one of the people who recommended that sugar should be grown on the Ord River. We do not hear so much about this from him now. We should remember that he now represents the electorate of Dawson. I think this puts him in perspective. It shows how unrealistic a man he is. I was very impressed with the prospect of the development of sorghum on the Ord River. There is a big market in Japan for this product. I understand that Japan would be likely to take between one million and two million tons of sorghum a year. Over the next few years Japan will increase its livestock industry. The raising of poultry and pigs has been increased tenfold over the last 10 years. Sorghum could be sold at $56 a ton. I believe that on the Ord River farmers could grow up to about 3 tons of sorghum per acre.
The Ord area is only 60 miles from the port of Wyndham. No storage would be required for sorghum grown on the Ord River because of the low moisture content there. On this basis I believe that the growing of this crop would be successful. If farmers could get a piece of dry country and run cattle of some sort, with a bit of good management the yield or return from cattle in the area could be uplifted a great deal. The cattle industry could be fortified with sorghum. I understand that Townsville lucerne can be grown in Cockatoo Sand country. The farmer could diversify his production a great deal by growing sorghum; that would take the gamble out of the whole operation. It may be necessary for the Government to give close consideration to obtaining a long term arrangement to sell Acala cotton to Japan as part of the Japanese Trade Agreement. I am quite sure that sorghum, as one of the main crops in the area, could take the pressure off dependence upon cotton.
With the possibility of growing Acala cotton on the Ord and the possible development of the beef industry the time has come when the Government must make a firm decision to go on with the Ord project. There are other reasons why this should be done. The whole of the north-west of Western Australia is being developed. I refer to such areas as the Pilbara region where there is an iron ore project. We are now getting to a situation where people living in such areas have problems. These include the education of children and lack of dentists and doctors. Until there is a bigger population in these places and these sorts of amenities we will not attract people to them. I am quite certain that the Ord scheme will prove to be an economic proposition. 1 now ask the Government to take another look at the project and to consider early implementation of the next stage.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
, was very interesting. But the one prior to that, which was made by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), was very disturbing. It was disturbing to hear a member of the Opposition being so petty when discussing such a wide subject as national development. It seemed to me that he was prepared to be misleading, as the honourable member for Gippsland said. He spoke of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) not saying anything about national development at Rockhampton. That was absurd, as the honour.ourable member for Gippsland said. The Treasurer paid great attention to national development. Indeed, the greater part of his speech was devoted to northern development.
We will not develop the country by discussing these matters in a critical way, in a petty way or on the basis of political motives. That is not the way to deal with them. Great work has been done by this Government in the field of national development. I do not think anybody can refute that statement. It is perhaps the field in which the Government can take the greatest pride. In the pre-war days, until 1939, very little was done in the field of national development. When the Second World War ended in 1.945 the Labor Party, which was then in power, established the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. In the 5 years until the present Government came to office the Labor Party was preoccupied trying to socialise industry, the banks and so on. It was thrown out of office. Only in 1950, when this Government came to power, was any real thought given to bringing about proper national development.
Let us be fair about this matter. I give the Labor Party credit where credit is due. The Labor Government turned the first sod in the Snowy Mountains scheme, which turned out to be a wonderful thing for Australia. But it did that without doing any research at all and without making any site survey in any shape or form. I do not think it knew what it was trying to do. It said: This scheme has national appeal. We will turn a sod and get some publicity from it and then everything will be all right’. I give the Labor Government that credit. It did turn the first sod. It did start the Snowy Mountains scheme. But it was left to this Government, when it came to power in 1950, to get the scheme going. This scheme is one of Australia’s greatest success stories.
Although no-one will dispute that it is a magnificent scheme for Australia, I say advisedly that nobody really knows whether it took its right priority in the order of priorities of expenditure, because nobody has looked at it from that point of view. I am not prepared to argue or debate that point, but nobody ever investigated it. This is a wonderful scheme. But it has cost an enormous amount of money. I understand that the amount of money spent on it up to date exceeds $600m. I think the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) will confirm that.
– Apart from that scheme, the Department of National Development has some great achievements to its credit. It is not necessary to enumerate them at this late hour. As one honourable member pointed out tonight, the discovery and development of mineral deposits will mean much to the standard of living and development of Australia. Uranium was discovered by this Government. I was interested to read that contracts have been completed - that is to say, the sale documents have been signed and are in hand - for the sale of iron ore worth more than $3,000m. That is big business in anybody’s language. This Government pioneered the development of bauxite, copper, lead, zinc and silver deposits. Of course the discovery of oil was made possible only by the encouragement given by this Government, and that encourage ment knows no limit when the national development of this country is at stake. Huge oil refineries have already been built and are in operation. Now we have discovered deposits of natural gas and no-one can foretell the impact that this may have on our economy and the immense impetus it will give to the development of Australia.
Another development that has not been mentioned in this debate has been the establishment of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. This was set up in 1964 to deal with the very matters that have been the subject of criticism by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). I do not need to give a detailed list of the great work that has’ been done. The Minister himself stated it only recently. There are the brigalow land clearance scheme, the beef roads scheme and other such projects. One of the important ones in my view is the resources survey and the mapping programmes that have been carried out and which are so necessary in order to ascertain what ought to be done in the way of northern development. All these things are of great importance.
I should also mention the establishment by this Government of the Atomic Energy Commission. This was established in 1953 for the dual purpose of the discovery and the production of uranium and the important work of training scientists and skilled workers in this field. We cannot develop this country unless we have these scientists and skilled workers.
But all that is by the way. I wanted to make a plea tonight to this national Parliament from a rather different point of view. We must realise that we are building a great new nation in this part of the world. We are only now laying the foundations of that great new nation. It will be great; there is no doubt about that. It is inevitable because although geographically situated in the East we have all the benefits of the tradition that we bring from the West. We are the responsible people. Our greatness will be limited only by what we do now in laying the foundations and in ensuring adequate population. We have the reserves and we have the know-how. The time has come, I believe, for everyone in Australia to adopt an overall national outlook which can disregard State boundaries. This is the need at the present time.
We all know the difficulties of our Federal system. We know that each State is jealous of its own boundaries, and rightly so from certain points of view. The respective States are doing great work in their own development. Each has its own pet schemes to wheel up, and each of these schemes is important from a State point of view and also, I believe, from the point of view of total national development. I believe that the six States individually and collectively can do more for national development than the Commonwealth can do on its own. This is very true, but unfortunately Australia is growing rather like Topsy. There are great schemes being propounded in each of the States, and they all need Commonwealth assistance, particularly financial assistance. We cannot carry out all these schemes at once, and the important question is: Which comes first? We have no organisation in this country that can decide after a proper assessment which project should take priority over which. This is the first question that we must answer if we are to develop our nation properly. We must decide the order of priorities as a nation and not as a number of individual States.
I hope the Minister will take a good deal of notice of what I am saying because of the stage we have now reached and the great discoveries that are being made of oil, gas and many other things. There is a great and urgent need at present for orderly development of Australia as a nation. I appeal to the people of the States to look at the question from a national point of view. We need economic development of resources, related to our designed and projected growth. We must design our projected growth as we think it should be in the best interests of the nation. We cannot do this unless we have State co-operation on overall national growth. I know that people will say that we cannot get this, but I refuse to believe that the people in the States will not face up to looking at this matter from a national point of view.
There are, I know, many of us in this chamber who are very interested in something being done to set up some kind of organisation for this purpose as a matter of urgency. I am not being arbitrary about it; nobody can be. The matter needs close study. Call the organisation what you will. For the purposes of my argument tonight 1 call it the Commonwealth-States National
Resources and Development Council. Its purpose would be to achieve the closest possible co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth for the orderly growth that I suggest is necessary at the present time. This is the only way in which we will get the most efficient use of our resources.
We have already - much discussion has taken place about it - the nucleus of a worthwhile body in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, which includes scientists, research officers and others with immense ability. No doubt it could be built up as an ancillary body to the organisation for consultation that I have suggested. This organisation could be easily developed to perform the work of research and assessment, to examine what was needed, the cost, and the effects upon orderly national growth. It could have in addition, as it has now, control of construction. It could play a very valuable role in advising the States on their development.
My plea is for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States on an orderly basis of development. There is no intention to interfere with the independence or rights of the States. All that I want to do is to make a plea in this national Parliament for the States and the Commonwealth to get together to promote proper and orderly growth in the best interests of this great country.
– In 2 days’ time the achievements of this Government in the field of national development will be put to the test in the electorate of Capricornia. Already the spokesmen of every one of the major parties there have agreed that national development is the only issue to be decided in that election. Appropriately a statement by the endorsed Labor candidate for Capricornia is reported in the Brisbane ‘Courier Mail’ of this morning in these terms:
Dr Everingham yesterday challenged the National Development Minister (Mr Fairbairn) to visit Capricornia, and debate Central Queensland development. He said all political parties except the DLP had agreed that Central Queensland development was the main issue of the by-election. The most remarkable aspect of the campaign has been the total absence of Mr Fairbairn’, he said.
These are the candidate’s comments, not mine:
Mr Fairbairn only last week found sufficient time to call at Brisbane for a television appearance … I say now, with this campaign in its final stages, that this Minister has a duty to come to Capricornia and tell the people just what plans his department has for the area.
It is most remarkable, Sir, that in this particular drama being played out in Capricornia we are playing out ‘Hamlet’ without the ‘Prince of Denmark’. Some people have been uncharitable enough to suggest in Rockhampton that quite deliberately the presence of the Minister is not required there by the organisers of the Liberal Party, not because of any reflection on his personal ability or integrity but because of the awkwardness of the questions that would be addressed to him and the difficulty of his giving satisfactory answers. There would indeed be a flutter in the dovecote in the Capricornia electorate if the Minister were to go there. In this, ise discretion is certainly the better part of political valour.
The Capricornia electorate has been honoured with the presence of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) and the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), but not the Minister for National Development. Right up until now all parties have agreed that national development is the major issue, particularly regional development, in that area. Rockhampton is, of course, in terms of direct national assistance, Cinderella city in the Cinderella region of the Cinderella State. Recently the Government’s campaign was officially opened there by the Prime Minister himself. In the cattle capital of Australia, with 21 million cattle, one-third of Queensland’s cattle, within 100 miles of that city, not one word in the honourable gentleman’s speech dealt with beef cattle development. It was quite a remarkable omission.
Why does the Minister not go to the Capricornia Division? Or should I say, why is he being prevented from going there? The reasons are obvious. Firstly, electricity costs and power generation are major issues in that area. In Queensland as a whole electricity costs are the highest in Australia and in that particular district they are the highest of all. When a representative deputation sought to meet the honourable gentleman, he refused. Of course, he had an adequate and valid reason. Nevertheless, as a matter of courtesy he might have met them. Normally, the Minister is not discourteous, but, again, discretion was the better part of political valour. There is the little matter of the $50m promise of money to be directly allocated for water conservation throughout Australia. This is just a little matter of a policy promise made in November last which the Government for very obvious reasons associated with the purchasing overseas of defence equipment is not able to honour.
There is also the little matter of the scuttling of the Snowy Mountains scheme. I do not accuse the Minister of it personally, but he accepts the responsibility, unfortunately for him. In that regard may I remind the House of a report in a morning daily newspaper, the Rockhampton ‘Morning Bulletin’. It contains high praise indeed in an editorial in its issue of 11th August last. It is headed ‘ALP Policy on the North’. This particular journal has declared its support for the Liberal candidate, Mr Rudd, who lays the greatest possible emphasis on regional development. The editorial states:
Only the politically purblind in central Queensland can fail to see the sense in the newly announced Australian Labor Party policy on northern development, for it contains much that all political interests throughout the region have been seeking for many years. The proposed programme was announced by the member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and is clearly his brainchild. For his work and his advocacy he deserves the fullest praise.
The basis of the ALP policy is the retention of the Snowy Mountains Authority for investigation, design and construction of power and water projects. This has been sought from the Federal Government, with increasing urgency, by Queensland’s State Government. It has not got very far and the authority’s disbandment, as a construction group, has already been foreshadowed.
ALP policy envisages the use of the Snowy Authority in the development of the river systems in the Fitzroy, Burnett, Pioneer and Herbert systems, and for the steady development of other water resources . . .
It is bound to spur the Government into going at least part of the way towards matching it, for such a clear-cut northern development policy cannot be ignored. To do so would be to court disaster in the region.
The ALP now has a proper policy; the first one put out by any party in nearly 70 years since federation. Is it asking too much for the Government to see that such a policy is needed, and to do something about formulating one?
That precisely is the situation today. This region is one of the treasure houses of Australia. Queensland possesses 40% of the water resources of Australia and not one penny piece of direct aid has been given by way of Federal grant to the State of Queensland for water conservation since this Government came to office. Let the Minister deny that if he can. Figures will be quoted. We will hear about thousands of millions of dollars being spent in the area. The greater proportion of that is private capital - most welcome of course - but as for direct Government aid, there is none.
Let us see where the Government stands, particularly in relation to the Snowy Mountains Authority. I have here nothing less than a copy of a report of the Government Members National Development Committee dated 21st September. It bears the printed signature of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong) and states that in the Committee opinion was divided as to whether the States should be represented on a new body set up to discharge the functions of the Snowy Mountains Authority. It is highly nattering to the State governments to know that one section of members of the Committee was stated to be completely opposed to State representation. It was said that the body would be completely ineffective if the States were represented on it. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) in opening the campaign for the Country Party candidate took precisely the opposite view. He said that State instrumentalities were best fitted to discharge the future functions of the Snowy Mountains Authority. Let any honourable member on the Government side deny that if he can. A recommendation was made for a new organisation known as the Commonwealth of Australia National Development Committee - CANDO - to be set up. The report particularly emphasises the need for the continuation of the Snowy Mountains Authority and goes on:
We do believe that future circumstances could arise in which Cabinet might wish to see the organisation in a construction role.
In the time remaining to me I should like to direct attention to another matter. I read, without comment, the following extract from an article which appeared in today’s ‘Canberra Times’ under the heading ‘Mrs Holt Holds the Stage’:
Talking forty to the dozen, Mrs Harold Holt managed in 20 word-packed minutes yesterday to give an engrossing travel talk, describe the technical wonders of Woomera and Exmouth, justify foreign investment in Australia, thump the political drum a couple of times and give amusing glimpses of life as the wife of the Prime Minister.
The good lady, of course, as a free and democratic Australian is exercising her undoubted right to participate in politics. In doing so she is departing from the practice adopted by the wife of the former incumbent. Her words have political significance as reported in today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’, the paper you can trust, the paper which has always been a perfervid supporter of the Government. I am not in any way being unchivalrous to the lady, but 1 do note the particular concern of the Prime Minister with the immediate apologia that occurred. It is most significant’ that the Daily Telegraph’, of all papers, did not have the addenda which the Prime Minister announced in tonight’s Melbourne ‘Herald’. Dr Rex Patterson, of course, is the man who
– Who is he?
– He is a man who should be well known to the Minister, of all people. He is the man whose principles were so high that because of his definite dissatisfaction with the record of this Government he chose to resign from the highest office the Minister could appoint him to and put his whole career at stake. He is the man who secured support in what was a traditional Country Party seat and he repeated the miracle at the recent Federal election. I think that is sufficient indication of Dr Patterson’s credentials.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member should refer to the honourable member for Dawson as such.
– I am sorry, Sir. The honourable member for Dawson has in season and out of season advocated the need for northern development. He has stated in clarion voice throughout the length and breadth of Queensland the shortcomings of this Government - and they are manifest shortcomings. This Government is not prepared to deny his assertions. At best all it can do is attempt to drag in side issues that are beneath contempt and which the people of Capricornia will treat with equal contempt.
Can any member of the Government deny that the second stage of the aluminium refinery was lost to Gladstone because of the limitations of power generation within the area? What precisely does the Government propose to do about it? Let the Government answer these charges if it can. If it does not do so the people of Capricornia will give a proper and resounding answer on Saturday next.
– Firstly let me say that I did not hear all that the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) said, but everything I did hear him say was completely incorrect. The committee df which I have the honour to be the acting chairman has been deliberating for some time and it will come forward with some very positive proposals, none of which is finally determined at this juncture. So if the honourable member wants to listen in in future he should get his bugging system tuned up a bit better.
– I suggest that the honourable member should not leave reports lying about in committee rooms.
– There is nothing secret about this committee, which is trying to work in complete co-operation with, and in an advisory capacity to, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) with whom it has most happy relations. I express my appreciation to the Minister for the courteous and prompt action he has taken in relation to a matter I put forward in a question this morning. May I elaborate on this slightly. A plan has been devised by a scientist named Simon Pels, a Master of Science of the University of Melbourne, who came here from Holland 22 years ago and who was granted a Churchill scholarship to study drainage, salination and that type of thing in relation to our irrigation works. He went overseas this year and extended his studies, particularly in the United States of America. He also visited the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Pakistan, and his own homeland. On the basts of a lot of data that he had before he went overseas and a lot that he gained when he was overseas, he has put forward a plan which envisages the use of subsidiary streams and subsidiary channels in relation to a main stream. He believes - his belief is substantiated by other opinion - that his plan could be revolutionary in the Murray Valley. It would enable better control of salination. It would make a great deal more water available for irrigation. It would help drainage to a great extent. The economic feasibility of the scheme has to be worked out although, on a broad base, as I said this morning in my question, the implementation of this scheme would amount in total to very much less than the estimated cost of the construction of the Chowilla Dam and its ultimate result would have a greater beneficial effect than that project.
It would almost seem as if this debate might better have taken place on some street corner in Rockhampton or Gladstone rather than here. So it might be appropriate if I said something about northern development. What has happened in northern Queensland in the last 20 years, but particularly over the last 10 years - and I have known northern Queensland since I was a small boy - needs to be seen to be fully realised. A spectacular expansion has taken place in the development of north Queensland. The population of Cairns between 1947 and 1965 has increased by 62i%. The population of Mackay in the same period has increased by 50%. The population of the Atherton Tableland has doubled in that time. Certainly, as has been so often pointed out by my three colleagues the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), these remarks apply more forcibly to the coastal areas than to the inland areas. Nevertheless, a great many advantages are enjoyed by the northern areas.
What the Opposition does not seem to be able to comprehend is that every bit of advancement and every bit of development are not things that have been built by the Government in bricks and mortar. This Government has created the economic climate that has encouraged private enterprise to take risks with capital. That is the important point about this matter. Let me name a few of these developments. I instance the Tully River station development by the King Ranch interests. This is an area of 50,000 acres of tropical forests and rain forests which was made available by the Queensland Government to Australians to take up either as a whole or in limited areas. The offer was never availed of. The area was inspected by two different companies. One was an Australian company; the other was a British company with a lot of Australian interest in it. Both companies turned the enterprise down.
King Ranch took up the area and commenced operations on it in 1963. In January of this year it had cleared 30,000 acres of this heavily timbered area, sown it down, fenced it and put buildings up on it. Water is not a great problem there. At the end of January and early February of this year, when the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) and myself were there, King Ranch had 9,000 grown cattle on this property. I believe that a few months ago it had 16,000 grown cattle on it. I am guessing when I estimate the amount that this development must have cost. I would hazard an intelligent guess that this development would not have cost less than $2m. lt is only by having confidence in a government that an overseas organisation will carry out this sort of development in the real sense of the word. Even if this project were a failure we would know what not to do. This is just one instance of what has happened there. I should add that this land is not freehold land. This land will revert to the Queensland Government. It is reasonable that this company should ask for some continuity in its tenure of the land. Nearly all the areas of development in Queensland and in the Northern Territory - except limited areas - are leasehold land that will return to the Government in 30, 40 or 50 years. It is unreasonable to expect people to invest vast sums of money in development and not to have some reasonable return for their capital.
The Queensland Government has conducted more basic surveying and exploratory work for its irrigation enterprises than other State governments. It has profited by the errors that have been made in other places. Anybody who took the trouble to discuss this matter with the State authorities, particularly the Chairman of the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, would find out about the work being done on a State basis which, in my opinion, will result in the elimination of a lot of errors that have occurred in other places. It is incorrect to say. that Queensland is not doing anything about its irrigation enterprises and that northern development has been neglected. One of the things that have had a very large effect on all development, not only on northern development, is the fact that this Government has applied a policy whereby 40% of aid roads grants to State governments must be carmarked for rural roads. The first basis of all development is better roads; everything else follows. The formula by which aid roads grants are distributed favours Western Australia and Queensland because it is a formula which takes into account the density of population as well as the number of motor vehicles and total population. And so it should. But 1 do not think the north is helped by people who present slanted views and say they are being neglected.
I have quoted this illustration before but it is worth repeating There ;ire properties in central and northern Queensland that I know quite well as I have been very closely associated with their management for some 30 years. In 1959 the surplus cattle on these properties were sold to one of four or five meat works. The buyers took bullocks of a fairly mature age, at their own price and lifting them when they wanted to lift them and in the numbers they wanted. Today cattle in any numbers can be sent to a weekly market. Certainly other factors have changed those markets, but the fact remains that if these roads were not there it would not be possible to do this. I have served on local government bodies for 16 years and I know what Commonwealth aid roads assistance means to these bodies. I can answer the honourable member for Cunningham in a few words by saying that I endorse everything the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) said about the establishment of an organisation to consider development on a national basis.
In relation to the development of mining in the north and in other areas 1 want to say that the profits paid to overseas investors are far outstripped by the profits gained by Australia. Added production, employment, exports and a higher standard of living are some of the advantages tha: we gain. A good standard of living is something which we regard as our birthright.
It is interesting to note that the state of mining enterprises throughout Australia shows that there is not one in which the management is not Australian. The suggestion that overseas capital tends to dissipate the assets of the country is not borne out by fact. It is true to say that in certain cases overseas investors have exceeded some of our companies in their concern for the economic welfare of our country. What Mount Isa Mines Ltd has done for Mount Isa is of very great credit to it. I shall refer to three other companies. In 1913 the capital of North Broken Hill Ltd was 34% Australian owned. Today it is 84% Australian owned. In 1911 the capital of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd was 26% Australian owned, but today it is 85% Australian owned. In the 1890s the capital in the Western Mining Corporation Ltd was entirely overseas owned, but today it is 90% Australian owned. This indicates that we as a nation are not very enthusiastic about risking our capital in something until it is proved. When it is proved and we have an opportunty of buying back into it, we do so. This is exactly what is happening.
To appreciate development in the north one has only to see what has happened at Mount Tom Price in the last 2 years. Country that was just a bare mountain ls now a going mining concern. A great railway has been constructed.
– Over a distance of 189 miles.
– Yes, and a port and other facilities have been constructed, together with the township of Mount Tom Price. This has happened because this Government has encouraged private enterprise. In my considered opinion, the balanced development that is taking place all round Australia is something for which this Government can take very great credit.
– I have received a message from the Senate agreeing to the resolution of the House in connection with the appointment of a Joint Select Committee to consider certain matters relating to a New and Permanent Parliament House.
Motion (by Mr Fairbairn) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 2.30 p.m., or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair.
House adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions uponnotice were circulated:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Maritime Conventions (Question No. 398)
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What progress has been made, since his answer to me on 11th October 1966 (Hansard, page 1594), in applying:
The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1960
The Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of the Owners of Sea-going Ships, 1957
The Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1960
The Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to the Carriage of Passengers by Sea, 1961, and
The Amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1962 to:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Convention on Load Lines (Question No. 399)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Recommendations sent to the State governments and Department of Territories, and what were the dates and nature of their replies?
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
It is not usual for information of the type requested by the honourable member to be made public, unless it is mutually agreed between the Commonwealth and the State Government concerned to do so. No such agreement has been made in this case and the information therefore cannot be made available. 2. (i) In the Commonwealth’s sphere the Go vernment has approved the acceptance by Australia of the Convention. The necessary amendments of the Navigation Act and the Navigation (Load Lines) Regulations are being prepared in order to apply the new provisions to ships on international and interstate voyages. It is hoped to have this legislation ready in time for the provisions of the new Convention to be applied in Australia when they come into force internationally on 21st July 1968.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Such accommodation is essentially transitory and bridges the gap between arrival and the acquisition of permanent accommodation.
There is one Commonwealth Migrant Hostel in Western Australia, situated at Graylands. Tha maximum period of residence permitted at this and all other Commonwealth hostels is 2 years.
The State Government of Western Australia also operates a migrant reception centre at Point Waller and is building a new one at Bull Creek. The Commonwealth contributes half the capital cost of State reception centres. The conditions of residence are determined by the State Government.
Migrants in Commonwealth hostels are encouraged to move to private accommodation as soon as possible and the average stay in hostels is now 29 weeks.
An Accommodation Advisory Service has been established to assist residents in hostels to obtain suitable private accommodation. Since August 1966, this Service has helped 2,333 families involving 10,742 persons to find accommodation outside hostels.
Self-contained flats as initial transitory accommodation for migrants are to be introduced experimentally in Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. Occupancy is to bo limited to 6 months. - 2. Final figures are not yet available for tha year ended 30th June 1967.
During the financial year 1965-66, 14,020 persons named Western Australia as their State of intended residence.
Arrivals in Western Australia during the period July 1966-March 1967 numbered 13,485. In the same period in 1965-66 the figure was 10,244.
This year, through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, Western Australia’s allocation will reach $1Om which is $830,000 more than last year.
In conditions where immigration has shown such a satisfying upward trend some degree of pressure on resources cannot be avoided. It is, therefore, gratifying to see that the number of houses and flats approved in Western Australia in the June quarter was 3,388 which was some 650 more than the previous quarter, and nearly one-third more than the June quarter of last year.
asked the Minister represent the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Holders of science degrees are not differentiated in the published statistics of the qualifications of teachers in Victorian State secondary schools.
It will be seen that, except for New South Wales, the figures quoted are of numbers of science degrees held and not numbers of teachers, but the double counting resulting from this tactor would be small.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Social Services (Question No. 574)
asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
As this question relates to assistance given by the States it would be more appropriate for the honourable member to seek the information directly from the States.
The honourable member will recall that the right honourable the Treasurer stated in the Budget Speech:
We intend to open discussions with the States with the object of working out mutually acceptable arrangements for the assistance of deserted wives and wives of prisoners. At present these women are, subject to a means test and other conditions, eligible for a widow’s pension if they have been deserted, or if the husband has been in prison, for not less than 6 months. Meanwhile, they can approach the State authorities in most States for assistance, with assistance varying considerably from State to State. If the States can reach agreement on the principles to be followed, we will offer to meet half the cost of State assistance where the wives concerned have children.’
The right honourable the Prime Minister in currently in correspondence with the State Premiere in order to make arrangements for the proposed discussions.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670928_reps_26_hor56/>.