22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMuliin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether he can give the figures relating to the consumption of beer throughout Australia since the excise duty was increased. Is the consumption of beer in Western Australia decreasing?
– I have received figures relating to beer consumption for the periods from July to December, 19SS, and from July to December, 1956. Those for the latter period show that the consumption of beer throughout Australia has decreased by approximately 7,000,000 gallons. The figures for the two periods are as follows: July to December, 1955, 114,29.1,332 gallons and from July to December, 1956, 107,133,174 gallons. In the month of January, 1957, the figures took an upward turn and consumption throughout Australia increased by approximately 1,250,000 gallons. For Western Australia, the figures for January, 1957, compared with January, 1956, show a decrease of approximately 42,000 gallons. In all other States there has been an increase.
– By way of brief preface to a question directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, I should like to say that recently a four-engined passenger aircraft landing on the only sealed strip at Launceston airport burst all four tyres. This happened at about 10 a.m. That strip was closed until 6 p.m., because the aircraft could not be moved until sufficient tyres and equipment had been flown from Melbourne and fitted to it. All other aircraft at this busy airport had to use the grass runway. During many months of the year, the grass runway could not be used by modern heavy aircraft now using the Launceston airport. This would mean that the airport would be closed. In the winter, this would be a great disadvantage because the Launceston airport is also the alternative airport when southern and north-western aerodromes are closed. I, therefore, ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will make inquiries to see if it would be practicable for sufficient spare tyres and equipment to be available at Launceston airport in order to enable an aircraft with burst tyres to be moved from the runway quickly.
– 1 shall certainly make inquiries to ascertain if it is a fact that spare tyres were not available at the airport mentioned. If that was so, I shall make inquiries to ascertain why they were not there and why spares cannot be held there.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the enthusiastic statement made by the Minister for External Affairs in 1955 that Australia would welcome Russian research work in the Australian Antarctic sector during the Geophysical Year, and in view of the recent statement of apprehension made by the American Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles, will the Minister have a statement prepared giving the precise terms of the invitation to Russia to establish her stations in Australian territory and stating whether the Russians accepted a time limit for their occupation, as well as the apprehensions in the mind of Mr. Dulles who said that he, to use his own words, “ shares Australia’s apprehensions “? Why did not the Minister seize the opportunity to include something about this matter in his milk and water ghost story, published in last Saturday’s Melbourne “ Age “?
– As is usuaL Senator Hendrickson^ question is based on completely erroneous facts.
– The Minister has not denied it.
– No invitation was extended to Russia; but permission was granted to Russia, in the context referred to by the honorable senator. However, I shall obtain full details from my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, and correct the misapprehension under which Senator Hendrickson is labouring, a misapprehension which, if propagated by him, could be calculated only to do this country a great deal of harm.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport had an opportunity to discuss with the Premier of South Australia the question of the construction of oil tankers in that State? Can he statewhether it is possible for the Commonwealth to lend aid to this worthy project in the contemplation of the South Australian Government?
– I have had some preliminary discussions with the Premier of South Australia in connexion with the matter mentioned by Senator Laught. Those discussions will be resumed at the appropriate time. At the moment, I am not in a position to say anything further.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By way of preface, I point out that greater demands are being made on the services of doctors throughout this country as a result of the increase in our population brought about by immigration together with the operation of the pensioner medical scheme. In view of the critical position that has arisen because of the inability of the Melbourne University to follow its normal practice of taking medical students from the University of Tasmania because it cannot even admit 106 applicants from Victoria, will the Prime Minister give urgent consideration to a plan to assist Tasmania to build its own medical school, which, I understand, would cost £250,000 but would relieve the present pressure on other Australian universities which are forced to refuse admission to potential doctors?
– I am not aware of the details referred to by the honorable senator, but I do know that at present the Commonwealth Government is assisting the State Universities to the extent of something like £2,000,000 a year. However, the circumstances that have been outlined by the honorable senator are certainly very serious, particularly to Tasmania. I suggest that he place his question on the notice paper, and I shall obtain further information for him.
– Did the Minister for National Development recently inform the press that £500,000 which was available to the Queensland Government for housing had not been drawn upon? Put so baldly, was not this a most misleading statement? Was not the Minister aware that this sum had been taken into account when the Queensland Housing Minister made his public statement that an amount of £278,000 was needed in order to avoid dismissing 450 building workers?
– I would not know what facts the Queensland Housing Minister took into account when he made his statement. T think that that statement was a thoroughly dishonorable one.
– I repeat, that 1 think that it was a dishonorable statement, because the facts are-
– It is grossly disorderly to cast a reflection on a Minister of a State Parliament.
– The facts of the matter are, that this year the Queensland Government appropriated £2,750,000 for housing, compared with £3,000,000 last year. The Queensland Government reduced its housing appropriation this year by £250,000 for its own good reasons. That government has known since last June that 20 per cent, of its housing moneys would go to building societies. Therefore, it has curtailed the building activities of the Queensland Housing Commission to that extent. The Queensland Government got less money this year than last year because of its own policy. It knew that 20 per cent, of its housing moneys had to go to the building societies, and it knew that it would have a reduced programme of workers’ dwellings this year. In those circumstances, the Queensland Government knew that it would have to effect a substantial reduction in the staff of its Housing Commission, and it knew that it could do so safely because the number of houses being built in Queensland this year is greater than the number that was constructed last year. Knowing all those facts, the Queensland Government, instead of handling the matter in an orderly way by reducing the staff of the Queensland
Housing Commission over a period of time, suddenly announced - in my opinion most dishonestly - that the whole fault lay at the door of the Commonwealth Government and that, unless the Commonwealth Goverment sent it a cheque for £278,000, 450 men would be thrown out of employment. I emphasize, that the Queensland Government has known since last June that it would have to reduce the staff of its Housing Commission. It hopelessly and incompetently bungled its administration and then, most dishonestly, endeavoured to lay the blame on this government.
– ls the Minister for National Development aware that, on 4th August, 1954, the Tariff Board reported as follows: -
There has been no abatement of the government’s desire to reduce Australia’s dependence on imported .brimstone and its request to sulphuric acid manufacturers to convert portion of their plants to the use of pyrites and other local sulphur-bearing materials still stands. The target suggested by the Government was that manufacturers should aim at producing 65 per cent, of Australia’s requirements of sulphuric acid from indigenous Australian materials by 19S6. The need for increased production of sulphuric acid from local materials arose as a result of the uncertainty of obtaining supplies of imported brimstone and the serious effect of any subsequent shortage of sulphur on the production of superphosphate, demand for which was steadily increasing each year.
Does the Minister recollect that in 1956, when this target was to have been achieved, the late Senator McLeay, in reply to a question that I directed to him relating to the importation of sulphur from Japan for use in this country, said that during 1954 it was expected that approximately 13,000 tons would be imported and that 16,997 tons was imported during 1953? The late Senator McLeay further said -
There is no agreement, but Government policy is that 65 per cent, conversion should be achieved by 1956. In an endeavour to overcome the problem of bringing pyritic acid production costs in Une with those of brimstone acid costs, the Government recently referred this matter to the Tariff Board for examination.
I now ask the Minister whether he is aware that mining companies in Western Australia which are producing pyrites are not finding that the Government has improved the position markedly, if at all, and that pyrites are still not being used to the extent of 65 per cent, as promised. Further, will he make available to the Senate the report, if any, that has been completed or is in the process of being completed by the Tariff Board, as promised by the late Senator McLeay about a year ago?
– This particular matter is under the control of my colleague, the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale). I shall deal with the question at this stage, because under the control of my department is the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which has a good deal to do with the matter. However, it is so far-reaching and so complicated that I hesitate to give a detailed reply without notice. The position was recently reviewed by the Government, but it has not altered its overall policy in any way. It is still aiming at reaching the conversion target so that pyrites may be used and the local product obtained to the extent suggested. Substantial progress has been made towards achieving that result, but there have been bad patches in the programme. Certain mines have not been able to quit their pyrites. I am sorry to say that 1 did not know Western Australia was in that category; the mines I had in mind were in Queensland. Having said that by way of a general outline, if the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper 1 am sure that the Minister for Defence Production will be willing to furnish him with a detailed reply.
– Order! It is fairly obvious that it is impossible for any Minister to answer long and involved questions. They take up a considerable amount of time during the question period, and in reply Ministers frequently ask that they be placed on the notice-paper. So, once again, I direct the attention of honorable senators tothe need to place long and involved questions on the notice-paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. In 1952, the Department of National. Development published a survey on “ The Structure and Capacity of Australian Manufacturing Industry”. Will the Minister arrange to have this publication brought upto date?
– That publication was produced by the Division of Industrial Development which, as a result of the recent Cabinet shuffle, was transferred from the control of the Department, of National Development to the control of the Department of Trade. It is now under the care and custody of the Minister for Trade. The publication to which the honorable senator refers was, of course, a major work. Its preparation was a very big operation. The job took many, many months to complete, and in those circumstances I could not say offhand that it will be brought up to date. All I can say is that I will ensure that ‘the honorable senator’s request is brought to the attention of the Minister for Trade.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform the Senate of the progress that has been made in the construction of blocks of wards for neurotic patients at the Dawes-road Military Hospital in South Australia? Can he give us any information additional to the last statement by the Director of Works in Adelaide and the Minister himself fifteen months ago, namely that the money had been allocated, and that plans were to be drawn? Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate how far the matter has progressed? I trust that he still realizes its grave urgency in the interests of exservicemen.
– I was rather expecting such a question from the honorable senator. I appreciate the great interest that he has taken in the building of a psychiatric ward in South Australia. I can assure him that I had been very, very careful to ensure that something was done, and that I have followed through the progress reports. Up to the present, to be quite frank with the honorable senator, there has been no progress, except in relation to the preparation of plans and so forth. Actually, no building has taken place. There are reasons for that. The Commonwealth works plan was limited, and the limit could not be exceeded. The Department of Works has stuck to its’ plans within the limits of the finance allocated to it last: year and for the year 1956-57. The proposed construction which the honorable: senator has mentioned is one project with which we have not been able to proceed. It has not been overlooked, and I again give him a definite assurance that the ward will be provided. The construction will depend upon the allocation of priorities for works. I assure the honorable senator that I shall not lose sight of the matter, and that the construction will proceed as soon as possible.
Senaor SEWARD. - I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Western Australian Government made any representations to the Commonwealth Government for the construction of a broad gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle in order to reduce unemployment or for any other reason? If so, what is. the result of such representations?
– I have received no definite or specific representations from the Western Australian Government in connexion with the matter raised by the honorable senator. I have explained in answer to previous questions that some years ago there were exchanges of opinions, but I assume that the honorable senator’s question refers to the immediate position;.
– I have to inform the Senate that I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate nominating Senators Laught,. Seward, Wood and Wright, and from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate nominating Senators Arnold, Byrne and Willesee to be members of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Motion (by Senator O’SuIlivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That a Standing Committee’ ofRegulations and Ordinances be appointed, to consist of Senators’ Arnold, Byrne, Laught, Seward, Willesee, Wood and Wright, such senators having been duly nominated in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order 36A.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to:-
That leave be given to bring in. a bill for an act to amend the Lighthouses Act1911-1955.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Since the Lighthouses Act was proclaimed to come into operation in 1915, it has come up for revision on a few occasions only. Small amending acts were passed in 1919, 1942 and 1949, and a minor amendment was made in 1955, when the reference in the act to the Lands Acquisition Act 1919 was varied by the Lands Acquisition Act 1955.
In 1919, two small sections were inserted providing for notice to be given of damage to any lighthouse or marine mark, and for recovery by the Commonwealth of the cost of repairing or replacing any lighthouse or marine mark damaged or destroyed by any person or ship.
In 1942, the section relating to powers of inspection of lighthouses or marine marks was extended to provide that any officer authorized by the Minister may transport, or cause to be transported, through public or private property, any goods required to be conveyed through such property for any purpose in connexion with the maintenance of a Commonwealth lighthouse or marine mark. Provision was also inserted in the act to enable conditions for the remission or refund of light dues and the exemption of ships from payment of light dues to be prescribed by the regulations.
In 1949, the act was amended to extend its application to the Territories of Papua and New Guinea and the main purpose of the present bill is to extend the act to the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. By this extension the responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of existing aids to marine navigation and the provision of any additional aids required in the latter Territory will be transferred to the Department of Shipping and Transport.
The opportunity is also being taken to amend certain provisions of the act so that they will express more clearly the original intentions. In certain sections of the act where references are made to lighthouses or marine marks it is indicated clearly that the references are to Commonwealth property. In other sections, e.g., sections 7, 19 and 19 A, it is not stated in every case that the respective provisions refer only to Commonwealth lighthouses or marine marks, although this is the obvious intention. The amendments provided in the bill will remedy these defects. The act at present provides for notice to be given of damage to a lighthouse or marine mark in a State or in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. With the extension of the act to the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, it is necessary to make similar provision in respect of that Territory and the bill provides accordingly. At present there is no’ provision for notice to be given of damage to a lighthouse or marine mark in the Northern Territory or the Jervis Bay Territory. The amendment now proposed will rectify this omission. The amendments proposed will, I feel sure, be acceptable to all honorable senators and I look forward to their assisting in the speedy passage of the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Henry) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Beer Excise Act 1901-195 1.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I am introducing this bill for the purpose of effecting several changes in the administrative controls exercised over beer by the Department of Customs and Excise. One of the proposals of the bill is to dispense with the necessity for brewers to prepare and affix to vessels or documents printed “ permit “ forms when beer is transferred from one brewery to another prior to subsequent payment of duty. The department will rely, as in other cases, on prescribed cart-notes as documentary evidence of these transactions, thus eliminating unnecessary paper work for both the department and brewers without losing effective control over such transfers.
Another aspect is that the Beer Excise Act requires licensed publicans to cut duty stamps on vessels immediately before or after they are opened. However, the act further provides that, where a publican sells vessels of beer to persons not licensed to sell by retail, the publican may cut the stamp before such sale or when the vessel is opened. This optional clause has caused the department practical and legal difficulties when stamps have been found uncut in these circumstances. It is proposed by this bill, therefore, to make it mandatory for publicans to cut the stamp at the time of sale.
The bill also introduces certain legislation along similar lines to that already incorporated, or to be incorporated, in the distillation and excise acts. First, it is proposed to give collectors of customs the legal means of claiming the duty due on beer which is not satisfactorily brought to account by the person entrusted with its control or custody. Secondly, when a brewery ceases to operate, or a brewer’s licence is cancelled, collectors will be given the power to deal, if necessary, with any beer on which duty is due remaining on brewery premises. The disposal of such beer, however, by collectors will be subject to the conditions specified in the bill.
The opportunity is also being taken under this bill to remove certain references to amounts of licence fees, and securities as the relevant amounts are now prescribed in regulations. The bill also contains several drafting amendments.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act 10 amend the Excise Act 1901-1952.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I am introducing this bill to amend the Excise Act for two main purposes, namely, to effect an administrative change in the act and to provide for an exemption from excise duties on stores used on certain aircraft operating overseas. The amendment concerning the administrative change is along the lines of certain proposals set out in the Distillation Bill 1956, which was passed through this House by honorable senators during the last session. Whereas the Distillation Act 1956 gave collectors of customs certain powers over the disposal of spirits when distillery licences were cancelled or expired, this bill is designed to confer on collectors similar authority in circumstances where excisable goods, on which duty has not been paid, remain on factory premises no longer licensed.
In practice, it has been found that licensees who cease manufacture either pay the duty on goods left in stock or sell them to other licensed manufacturers. However, it is within the province of the Minister to cancel a manufacturer’s licence in certain circumstances and in such cases the department would be, and has been on at least one occasion, embarrassed by the lack of authority to deal with excisable goods remaining on the premises. This bill is designed, therefore, to ensure that legal means are available to protect the revenue in such circumstances.1
The amendment proposed by this bill in regard to aircraft’s stores will bring excise law into line with the present customs law so far as tax concessions on such stores are concerned. It is proposed to grant duty exemption on excisable goods which are used within Australia as stores on Australian aircraft engaged on an international air service or aircraft of foreign countries giving reciprocal tax concessions on stores used on Australian aircraft in those countries. In relation to foreign aircraft the granting of reciprocal concessions is bound by air transport agreements between the countries concerned.
I am also taking the opportunity afforded by this bill to amend the act so that securities may be taken by the department in forms other than those at present prescribed. This amendment is in line with a proposed amendment of the Customs Act. Further, references to the amounts of manufacturers’ licence-fees and securities are omitted, as these amounts have since been prescribed in the regulations. I present the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a joint committee to review certain aspects of the working of the Commonwealth Constitution, in the following terms: -
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 14 be suspended to permit, before the Address-in-Reply is adopted, the appointment of the joint committee.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a joint committee on the Australian Capital Territory in the following terms: -
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 14 be suspended to permit, before the Address-in-Reply is adopted, the appointment of the joint committee.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by message No. 2 of the House of Representatives with reference to the appointment of a joint committee to examine and report on certain matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory.
That the provisions of that resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in the following terms: -
That a joint committee be appointed to’ consider foreign affairs generally and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That thirteen members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such . committee.
That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the persons appointed for the tin: c being to serve on the committee shall constitute the committee notwithstanding any failure by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appoint the full number of senators or members referred to in these resolutions;
the committee shall have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament;
the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera .and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs;
(i) one-third of the number of members appointed to the committee for the time being constitute a quorum of the committee, save that where the number of members is not divisible by three without remainder the quorum shall be the number next higher than one-third of the number of members for the time being; (if) three members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee;
the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported; except that in the case of matters not referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent. Provided the Opposition is represented on the committee, copies of the committee’s reports to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives for his confidential information;
subject to the Minister for External Affairs being informed, the committee shall have power to invite persons to give evidence before it;
subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall have power to call for official papers or records;
subject to paragraph 4 (d), all evidence submitted to the committee, both written and oral, shall be regarded as confidential to the committee; (j)theSenatebeaskedtoappointsevenof its members to serve on such committee.
That the committee have power to consider the minutes of evidence and records of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs appointed in the previous session relating to any matter on which that committee had not completed its inquiry.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 14 be suspended to permit, before the Address-in-Reply is adopted, the appointment of the joint committee.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by message No. 3 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That Senators Cole, Gorton, Matter, Pearson, Robertson, Vincent and Wordsworth be members of such joint committee.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 60), on motion by Senator Hannan -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
That the following paragraphs be added to the Address-in-Reply, viz.: - “2. The Government is censured for the statement of housing policy announced by the Prime Minister on 7th March last and for the acute social ills caused by its continued failure to establish, in conjunction with the States, a national housing plan.
This failure has been largely caused by the provision of inadequate finance for home building for-
war service homes;
co-operative building societies; and
Australians seeking to build their own homes.
The national plan should have regard to -
immediate reduction of migrant intake:
employment of the maximum work force in the home building industry; and
the availability of materials.
It should provide for -
priority to home-building over less essential private investment; and
provision of sufficient finance to promote home ownership at low rates of interest”.
– When the debate was interrupted last night, I was speaking about security arrangements at the Australian Aluminium Commission’s project at Bell Bay. I stated that during the construction of the project, when some 800 employees were engaged, three security men were employed. Since the Government has taken over complete responsibility for Bell Bay, the security staff has been increased to eight, and they have four dogs there. Those dogs are rather ferocious. In view of the fact that when 800 men were employed there by a private contractor only three security men were engaged, there does not seem to me to be any need, now that the project has been taken over entirely by the Government, to increase the number of security men to eight. It would seem to me that a saving could be effected in that respect.
– Does the honorable senator want to sack the men or the dogs?
– The Minister can please himself. It does not worry me.
– Do they bark when the honorable senator goes there?
– If Senator Scott went there, they would certainly worry him.
– They seem to worry Senator Poke a bit.
– They do not worry me., A saving could be effected in this connexion, and the amount saved could be applied in the building of homes for the workers.
Yesterday, I mentioned that many timber workers in Tasmania had lost their jobs. They could be transferred to the Bell Bay project and gainfully employed there, if housing were available for them. At present, however, there is a serious shortage of houses in the adjoining town of George Town. 1 also directed attention yesterday to the extent of unemployment on the Hobart waterfront. Over the period of time to which 1 related my remarks, £34,872 was paid in attendance money to waterside workers. 1 realize, of course, that it is not always practicable to keep the watersiders fully employed, because occasionally there are no ships in the “port, and consequently no cargo to be handled. However, I think that it is logical to assume that, had the employment position on the Hobart waterfront been satisfactory, about two-thirds of the amount paid in attendance money could have been saved. Had that amount, £23,248, been made available for housing, about eight or nine workers’ homes could have been constructed.
I have referred to the acute shortage of housing in Hobart. I have personal knowledge of about 40 families, some of which have been waiting for homes for up to four years. One of these families is at present living in a three-roomed, first-floor flat. Unfortunately, the husband was involved in an industrial accident during his early working life, and one of his legs was amputated above the knee. Consequently, he has great difficulty in negotiating the stairs when proceeding to and from the flat. One of the rooms of the flat is really a draughty verandah sleep-out, and the family doctor has prohibited the children from sleeping in it. This family has been waiting about three and a half years for a home.
I should also like to mention the case of a married couple who refrained from commencing a family for many years because they did not have a home. Eventually, they got a flat, and they then commenced a family. Because they committed the sin of commencing a family, the landlord has requested them to vacate the premises; in fact, he has threatened to take eviction proceedings against them if they do not move out voluntarily.
I come now to the matter of import restrictions. I think that a most ridiculous position has been reached as a result of the restriction on the import of various commodities that has been imposed by this Government over a lengthy period of time. 1 believe that, as many industries are unable to obtain all their requirements of certain commodities, the restriction of imports has caused unemployment. There has been considerable vacillation by the Government in this connexion. This Government has imposed import restrictions, lifted them, and reimposed them. If the matter were placed on a proper basis, industry could settle down to a balanced programme. One might liken the import restrictions to a rough rider at a rodeo show - on one minute, off the next, and then on again.
Yesterday, Senator Pearson voiced certain regrets about the outcome of the recent biennial conference of the Australian Labour party that was held at Brisbane. 1 cannot see why the honorable senator should entertain any apprehension on behalf of the party that he opposes. We of the Opposition have no doubt about the results that will flow from the decisions that were taken at that conference. Apparently, certain supporters of the Government are upset because the left-wing element of the trade union movement has gained control of the Australian Labour party. If that element had gained control of the party years ago, I am convinced that the Australian Labour party would now be more virile than it is. We would have got rid of the groupers long ago.
– Your party is getting rid of a lot of its friends.
– Not friends, but groupers who endeavoured to white-ant the party. Some of them have gone over to the anti-Labour parties.
– Name them!
– I could name them, if I wished to do so. It is evident that my remarks have found their mark, because some honorable senators opposite have paid me the compliment of trying to interrupt me. I shall say no more about this matter at present.
– In rising to associate myself most sincerely with the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty the Queen, I shall ask the indulgence of the Senate to enable me to deal with matters other than horses and dogs, which seem to be worrying Senator Poke. I consider that the matters he has raised could be dealt with more appropriately by a State parliament.
First, we have before us a motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and consequently we have as a commencing point the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. Then there is this extraordinary amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), to which we are supposed to be speaking, but to which no honorable senator opposite has yet addressed himself. We have not yet heard the Opposition’s case in this respect. Certainly, it has not come from the private senators who have already spoken. 1 repeat that 1 have not heard a case advanced in favour of the amendment and I cannot think of one myself, so 1 shall have to ignore it and speak to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. 1 understand, though, that Senator McKenna will speak a little later. I believe the amendment was introduced only to try to cover-up the disunity in the Australian Labour party that was admitted by Senator Poke.
– J did not admit any disunity.
– We all know the Labour party admits that it is engaged on a long, dark march into the political wilderness. We have all read about the publication, “ Labour in Transition “. It was once thought by a writer for the Labour party that the light would glow brighter. The way the party is going. 1 think the next best-seller will be entitled. “ The Night Grows Darker “, although some think that it should be “ The Light Grows Redder”.
I feel that it is my duty and privilege to tell the Senate about some aspects of my recent visit as a representative of this chamber to America and the United Nations organization. I understand that there will be a debate on foreign affairs later in the session, so I intend to leave my remarks about the United Nations and Australia’s policy till then. But let me say now that, in my honest and unbiased opinion, we can be proud of our permanent officials who represent us at the United Nations and of the work of our trade commissioners in San Francisco, New York and Washington. I wish to say a little also about the News and Information Bureau, which is doing good work. It was a privilege to be an Australian at the United Nations organization and to see how our departmental officials work and how highly Mr. Casey and, later. Sir -Percy Spender, were regarded by the representatives of other nations. It was an exciting time, a time of international tension. While I was at the United Nations, I tried to ascertain what Americans thought about Australia, what they did not know, what they should know, and what I thought we could do to improve the information that was available to them.
The Australian Trade” Commissioners Service is doing a good job in the United States. Our officials receive many inquiries and furnish a lot of information to business people who are in search of it. The News and Information Bureau also is doing a good job. It distributes a lot of Australian literature and, for a quarter of an hour each week, conducts a weekly radio session entitled, “ A Glance at Australia “, which is broadcast over 100 commercial stations. It is interesting to note that the American Broadcasting Company, over whose network the session is broadcast, provides the time at no cost to Australia; it is made available as a service to the public. I had the privilege of participating in one of those sessions, and I tried to do as much as I could for the island State of Tasmania.
I feel, however, that the News and Information Bureau could improve its work in America. 1. takes too long for State publications to go via Canberra to the bureau’s outposts abroad. I believe that it does not know about some of the later publications and tourist books which are available. I suggest to the department that it should authorize its centres abroad to communicate direct with the State governments for information about their States, that it should tell the State governments that it is active abroad and that, with the kindly consent of Canberra, they should be able to deal direct with News and Information Bureau centres abroad. The value of that lies in the fact that we could look to America for more tourists. Unfortunately, Americans do not know a lot about us or about our resources. The first two people I met on my arrival in San Francisco asked me where I came from. I said that I came from Tasmania, and I was disappointed when their reply was that they knew quite a number of New Zealanders. The people of America know more about New Zealand than about the details of Australia, and more American tourists visit New Zealand than visit this great land of ours.
Statistics prove that we are falling down on the job in both the Federal and State spheres in attracting tourists to Australia. Recent figures published, which I have no reason to doubt, show that a total of £1,100,000,000 was spent by overseas tourists last year. The sum spent in Australia was £6,000,000. lt will be noted that we are not getting our fair share of the tourist trade. Both Federal and State governments could do a lot to help the News and Information Bureau to tell Americans about our country in detail. I was able to leave on the west coast of America and in New York films that had been taken by the Tasmanian Government films unit. I understand that, when the Premier heard about how they had been received and got a request from the News and Information Bureau for more, he agreed to send them. The other States and the Commonwealth could do that and thus help the News and Information Bureau centres in America to publicize Australia. The centres could then do the job that they are there to do but in which they are now somewhat handicapped because of the lack of adequate material. Publicity gained through broadcast and television channels helps a bit. I was pleased one night in New York to see in my hotel room a television film on the main sports of Australia. Unfortunately, it must have been taken on the Sydney Cricket Ground, and people must have thought that Australia was a very small place.
I might find myself in disagreement with honorable senators opposite and even with some of my colleagues on this side of the chamber when I say that it is my opinion that money is available, particularly on the west coast of America, for investment in. Australia. We should go all out for it. One of our greatest difficulties in Australia to-day is the lack of money for capital expenditure. I believe it is available in America. America has not done a bad job for us in the automobile industry, in the search for oil, and in other activities in which it is engaged, and I believe that if we “ sold “ our potential and our ability to America, we could get American capital. We of Australia are held in high regard in America, due first, to the fact that our people were good to American servicemen in their homes during World War II. Secondly, the reputation gained by our own servicemen in American homes and cities during the war did a lot to establish the friendship and admiration for Australia which I am sure still exists. Moreover, our national leaders, during a large number of years, have done a lot to put Australia in the forefront and to show that we are able to take a place in world politics and affairs. Our tennis players, our John Landys, our Baileys, and our Leans have done a lot to publicize Australia and to lead the American people to take an interest in us. The culminating factor was the amazing publicity given to the Olympic Games in America. Unfortunately, I could not attend the Olympic Games, but I am just as happy that I was privileged to be in America at that time. In that country there was never a word of criticism or dissatisfaction; it was all praise for, and wonder at, the ability of Australia to conduct such an amazing Olympiad. That is why I make a plea to the Department of the Interior, which controls the News and Information Bureau, to the Department of Trade, to State governments, and to individuals, to cash in now at this culminating point in a period when American and Australian relations are so good, when the ordinary man in the street in the United States of America - not John Foster Dulles or the President - knows us. Let us carry on the good work with good publicity and make ourselves even better known. Let us attract the American people, at any rate as tourists, and, if the nation agrees, let us attract American capital to develop the resources which are not now being developed as quickly as they might because of our known shortage of money for investment.
We have every cause to be proud of our Australian overseas airline, Qantas Empire Airways Limited. World travellers, Americans, Canadians and others, all agree that Qantas provides an amazing service. It has a wonderful reputation, but I think it is handicapped by its very name. It would benefit by the inclusion of the name “ Australia “ in its title. In other countries we find Air France, Air Scandinavia, Air India, Pan-American Airways, and the British Overseas Air Corporation, but Australia has Qantas. If “ Australia “ were included in the leading title of this company, it would fare much better in drawing passengers from the United States of America to Australia, because its service is so popular. Admittedly, the company is advertised as “ Qantas “, with the words “ Australia’s Overseas Airline “ appearing underneath in smaller print. I do not think that enough is made of the fact that this company is Australian-owned and Australian-operated. I do praise the company for its great efficiency and for the service rendered by its staff.
Turning from the United States of America, 1 ask honorable senators to directheir minds to local government. In the four years that I have been privileged to be here I have never heard local government properly debated in the Senate. 1 do not think that we have given it even a passing thought, but local government is a great responsibility of the National Parliament. Those of us who believe in the federal system must agree on the necessity of an efficient and happy local government in a strong federal system. Some honorable senators may ask, “ How can the federal Parliament help local government? “. Like all other forms of government, local government suffers from a shortage of revenue and money for capital expenditure. I advocate the abolition of pay-roll tax so far as it affects local government. One small but very progressive municipal council in the suburbs of Hobart where much building is proceeding, pays £1,460 a year in pay-roll tax. That is a lot of money which the council could spend on necessary works. The council does need money, and that amount represents one penny in the £1 in rates from the pockets of the ratepayers. Local authorities are severely handicapped in the raising of loan funds. They receive authority, mostly but not always, to raise the funds they want, but they have to go to private trading banks, and they are handicapped in relation to the rate of interest that they can pay. As we raise loans for the States, instead of telling them to go ahead and raise so much, we should consider doing the same for local government bodies. There should be one central governmental organization for raising the loan funds that are authorized in this country. If we had such a body, we would do much to help members of local governments; and let us not forget that they work in an honorary capacity, and many of them do an amazingly efficient job.
Federal governments particularly must take note of the fact that councils find it absolutely necessary to remit municipal rates to age pensioners who own their own homes and who cannot, on the present scale of pensions, afford to pay rates. So, we have a position where one government pays pensions and another organization, namely local government, needing revenue, has to remit rates to allow pensioners to live in comparative comfort. One council, which I happened to visit at its own request £ fortnight ago, remits £1,700 a year in rates, which is equal to lid. in each £1 of its revenue. I do not just draw this council out of the hat; 1 was asked to go there. That amount which is remitted would be a large sum to spend on necessary works within the municipality. It is not beyond the bounds of practicability for the Commonwealth Government to formulate a means test and incorporate it in an easily understood regulation which would authorize councils to remit rates in needy cases to age pensioners and then recover the amount from the Commonwealth. We subsidize the building of old people’s homes. All praise to us, for that was one of the most enlightened and beneficial pieces of legislation introduced in this country during the last ten years. If we can subsidize homes for old people, why can we not subsidize their private homes, by reimbursing councils which remit rates in accordance with a regulation formulated by this Parliament? I know that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is not unaware of the problems. He has received deputations on the matter, and he queries the constitutional right of the National Parliament to take action along some of the lines that have been suggested to him. We have, quite rightly, re-appointed the Constitution Review Committee, and I hope that my colleagues, Senator Wright and Senator McKenna, two good Tasmanians, will ensure that the committee thoroughly examines the rights of local government in order to determine whether or not the National Parliament is meeting its responsibilities to local government.
There are only two other subjects with which I want to deal briefly. The first is the aluminium industry in Tasmania, which is proving successful and of great value to Australia economically and for defence industrial purposes. When a town is built around an industry, certain economic troubles in relation to employment arise. 1 believe that a serious problem will soon develop in Georgetown unless action is taken to develop further the area and provide other avenues of employment for the children of the present employees as those children grow up. If we have an industry producing aluminium ingots, it is not unreasonable to go thoroughly into the matter of determining whether another industry could use this material for other purposes on the spot. 1 know that representations have been made to the Government in respect of the establishment of a rolling and extruding mill at Georgetown. 1 am liberal and open enough to say that if the Government cannot do it - and 1 do not like socialized industry - the aluminium industry in Tasmania could be sold to private enterprise on condition that it continues to develop the industry along agreed-upon lines, so that the industry which we have fathered at great cost shall continue to expand and the State in which it operates shall continue to develop. A small State does not always benefit from the expenditure of large sums of Commonwealth money. Tasmania derives no benefits from the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, nor will it benefit from expenditure on the standardization of railway gauges. In all fairness, the Government should look after the needs of the smaller States, and assist them to maintain their economic structure. I ask that attention should be given to the welfare* of the township of George Town, which is bound up with the development of Bell Bay.
I was pleased to read in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech a short paragraph about shipping which gave me hope for the future of the service to Tasmania. His Excellency said -
My Government continues to assist the development of an efficient coastal shipping service. The recently established Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is now functioning. My Government has recognized the need for further assistance to the important domestic ship-building industry by increasing the subsidy of ships built in Australia. It has taken special note of the importance of an adequate shipping service to Tasmania for placing an order for the construction in Australia of a special passenger vehicle ferry for the Bass Strait service.
That is all to the good. The people of Tasmania appreciate fully the work of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Sena tor Paltridge) and his predecessor. I remind the Government, however, that Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, is not connected by a shipping passenger service with any other port in the world. Passenger services have operated there successfully in the past. In particular, I direct attention to the need for a service between Hobart and Sydney, not only for tourists, but also for the quick transport of fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs. Ali those products are needed by the hungry and lucrative market in Sydney, and Tasmania needs the trade. I ask the Government not to shelve proposals for a shipping service between Hobart and Sydney. First, it should try through its own organization, and then through private enterprise, to re-establish the service between Sydney and Hobart, f support the motion for the Address-in-Reply and, in advance, oppose the amendment.
– I took the first opportunity of putting before the Senate the terms of the amendment that the Opposition had in mind. I did that so that any honorable senator, including Senator Marriott, might have an opportunity of addressing himself to it if he wished. The reason that I did not support the motion at the time is well understood and is generally appreciated. 1 followed a practice that has been traditionally honoured between the Government and the Opposition. I remind Senator Marriott that one little word from him, if he had wished to utter it. would have denied me the opportunity to defer my remarks. The honorable senator had only to say “ No “ had he been eager to hear me at that time. However. I thank him and all honorable senators for their indulgence, which saved me some personal embarrassment.
The Opposition, of course, subscribes warmly and heartily to the terms of the motion for the Address-in-Reply affirming loyalty to the Queen and thanking the Governor-General for his part in the opening ceremony, but we have directed attention to the housing problem which is particularly acute. Year after year, the Opposition in this Parliament, in both chambers, has moved an adjournment motion on housing, or has discussed it as a matter of urgency, lt has been keenly appreciative of the great human problems involved.
I shall not develop that point to-day, because I do not propose to discuss the matter on an emotional plane. We have moved an amendment to direct attention to the fact that there is a vast and grave social problem still unsolved twelve years after the end of World War II. Twelve long and weary years after the end of that conflict, we still have a very substantia] backlag in the housing field.
The Australian nation was startled by the Government’s outlook on this matter as announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 7th March. Until last night, nothing further had been said by the Prime Minister on this subject. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who is the Minister responsible for housing, has been exceedingly busy in the meantime trying to explain away and tone down what the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister is reported to have made three main points. T emphasize the word “ reported “, because I have no other source available to me for the words that he used. I approached the Prime Minister’s Department through my secretary for a copy of the right honorable gentlemans’ exact words at the press conference held on 7th March. Strangely, and contrary to usual procedure, no document is available. Officers of the Prime Minister’s Department invariably take a shorthand note of all that transpires at press conferences, but a copy of this interview is not available, and I have no source of information outside the newspapers. I know, however, that the Prime Minister has never repudiated the press reports of his remarks, nor did he do so last night when he had the best opportunity if he wished to use it.
In the course of the press conference on 7th March, the right honorable gentleman made three points. The first was that the factor limiting home-building was not money but labour and materials. His second point was that the injection of further money into the housing field would lead to inflation. The third point was that the Commonwealth Constitution was a limiting factor in Commonwealth activity in relation to housing.
The Minister for National Development went even further than the Prime Minister when he indicated, in a recent statement. that the constitutional power of the Commonwealth in relation to housing was very restricted. Those were his exact words. I join issue with the Prime Minister ami Senator Spooner on that point. I claim that there is an amplitude of power for the Commonwealth in the field of housing. First, section 96 enables the Commonwealth to make grants to the States for any purpose, and upon any terms or conditions, and with or without conditions. Pursuant to that section, the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been signed, and I say that there is no constitutional limit to the amount of money that may be injected into housing operations through the States under section 96. There is unlimited power, and that power is exclusive to the Commonwealth Parliament.
The second point is that the Commonwealth has complete power in its own Territories. I invite honorable senators to consider the housing situation in this small community of Canberra. Certainly there are problems here in that the population has doubled in nine years, but there are 3,000 persons in a population of just over 30,000 waiting longer than two years for homes. There is no greater example of ineptitude in regard to housing than the Australian Capital Territory where the Commonwealth alone, with all the resources of the nation at its disposal, is in charge. Men have been waiting for two to three years for a home. If the Prime Minister were to interest himself in the staff of this Parliament - his own establishment - and were to talk with them, he would find men who have been waiting two years for a house, and have been told that they will get one perhaps within a year. Even that provision will be quick, and is based upon the fact that they have children of only one sex. I would say, at once, that the Commonwealth Government has nothing to be proud of and has set no example to the nation or the States by reason of its performance in the Australian Capital Territory. The other interesting thing in Canberra is that the Government here has a system of rental rebates and it will not co-operate with the States upon that basis in the far wider Australian sphere. It has left it to the States to please themselves, the Commonwealth no longer co-operating since the 1945 agreement lapsed.
The Commonwealth has complete power to provide homes for its own employees in their tens of thousands throughout the Commonwealth no matter whether they are in a territory or in the States. That is certainly a power that the Commonwealth shares concurrently with the States. It has complete power over immigration, and that power does not cease when an immigrant comes to our shores; it extend? into all matters that are incidental to immigration. An immigrant does not cease to be an immigrant when he arrives, he continues to be one until he is assimilated, in law into our community. Of course, it is incidental to the promotion of an immigration programme that there should be housing for the immigrant. The Commonwealth acknowledges the fact itself at the moment in that it is building Commonwealth hostels. Where in constitutional principle is there a distinction between the Commonwealth building a hostel for them en masse and building homes for them individually? There, the Commonwealth has a vast opportunity; and again that is a concurrent power the Commonwealth shares with the States. Nobody will deny the completeness of the Commonwealth’s power in relation to ex-service personnel and their housing problem. Everybody is familiar with the scope of the war service homes scheme; and that is a power the Commonwealth in no way shares with the States; it has equal power in that matter.
Finally, under this head I refer to the defence power. I am quite certain that in this atomic age the defence power can be invoked to some extent - I am not prepared to define it - to ensure the decentralization of population and industry in the interests of the survival of this nation. There must be power to be invoked there, because, as everybody knows, an atomic bomb let loose on the main cities of Australia would practically destroy the Australian population. And in that dispersal of population, necessarily involving housing, I suggest that the Commonwealth has a great duty, as well as a great reservoir of power.
In addition to these matters the Commonwealth has obviously got the dominant income as between governments in Australia. It has the dominant taxing power and it has the executive power in the Australian Loan Council. It has power over bank credit and bank interest rates, and, as I have already indicated, it has power over immigration. In short, there is most complete power for this Government to get into this field. If it were to exercise only its powers over its own employees, over immigration and over ex-service personnel, and did nothing else, it could make a most notable contribution to the housing difficulties in Australia in its own constitutional right; and it cannot seek an alibi on the basis of an absence of constitutional power. The Leader of the Opposition in another place put that position last night - not as fully as I have done to-day, but he put it and the Prime Minister, with the opportunity to reply, and justify what he had said on 7th March last, made no answer whatever.
– He has not got an answer.
– He has no answer, of course. So, the point of lack of constitutional power is proved to be completely false and a mere dash for an alibi. I will be very happy to hear what the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in due course, has to say on this particular point. I have elaborated the case to some degree to give the Minister the fullest opportunity to reply on that matter.
– The honorable senator surely would not bring in the defence power?
– I have already said I would; and I am prepared to go one stage farther and say to the Government that if it can indicate where there is any need in the matter of housing for further Commonwealth power, I give it the assurance on behalf of the Australian Labour party that we will join the Government in going to the people and asking for the necessary power. I say that without any qualification at all. That has been our position for the seven and a half years this Government has been in office. If the Government can find that a small area of power is lacking to it, we undertake to join with the Government in seeking that power from the people; and I have not the slightest doubt that it would be granted.
– Even though the State governments opposed it?
– What about the State governments of the same political colour as the Opposition?
– I am speaking on behalf of the Australian Labour party and what 1 have said binds every member of the Australian Labour party whether he is a member of a State government or not. The proposition I have affirmed, I affirm on behalf of every member of the Labour party in Australia. We will support the Government if it can find one point of power that it needs to develop a housing plan in Australia. So, it has no alibi in relation to that particular matter.
I now come to the second proposition of the Prime Minister, which is to the effect that it is not money but man-power and materials which are the factors limiting home-building in Australia. That proposition has been rejected by every responsible body and person in Australia since it was uttered. I suggest that even Senator Spooner does not support it, because in his long- controversy through the press with the State of New South Wales over the housing problem, he himself has suggested to that State that it get the further money it requires from private sources. When he puts up that argument he obviously does not subscribe to the view-point expressed by the Prime Minister.
I come now to my next point which is a most significant one in my view. I was surprised to-day to hear a question addressed to the Minister for National Development asking that the survey of manufacturing activity in Australia be brought up to date; but I was astounded when I heard the Minister’s reply and learnt from it that he was not aware that it had been brought up to date and published in December last in most extensive form. His lack of knowledge of that betrays and exposes the reason why the Government is ignorant of the realities in this matter and why it has expressed the views that it has expressed recently. If the Prime Minister, or the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), had the faintest knowledge of this document which records the facts to the end of October, and was published in December, I am certain that the Prime Minister would never have said what he did, and that the Minister for National Development would be very concerned about admitting in this place that he was not aware of its existence. When members of the Opposition were in Government, at every Cabinet meeting we had presented to us graphs in relation to key materials in Australia, particularly building materials. Week after week we examined those graphs. I do not know what this Cabinet does, but if it had had the facts before it, it could never have justified the statement made by the Prime Minister on 7th March.
I should like to read a few sentences from the very first page of this report. I can understand that the Prime Minister could not have read it in detail. It should have been summarized for him, and for the Minister for National Development. If either of them had glanced at it, he would have read, on the first page, the sixth paragraph, which states-
Building materials have been’ freely available.
This is a report from the Department of Trade, the Government’s own department! It continues -
Materials such as cement that are used in commercial building have continued in firm demand, but demand for materials used in the construction1 of homes has been dull. The decline in house building, and cautious buying on the part of the public, have affected sales of domestic fittings, furniture and electrical appliances.
In the eleventh paragraph this appears -
There have been virtually no physical limitations to production over the past six months. Plenty of unskilled labour can now be secured and skilled labour is generally easier to obtain. Turnover of labour is less and labour effort is greater.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension, my attention was directed, from my side of the House, to the fact that a question asked this morning related to a document which was not the one from which I was quoting. It does refer to an aspect of manufacturing industry. Senator Kennelly asked for a survey on the structure and capacity of Australian manufacturing industry. I regret that I misheard his question and that, in fact, what I am quoting from is a different document, which is also a survey of manufacturing activity in Australia. I was confirmed in my mistaken .belief that he was referring to this document because I spoke to him immediately after the question, was- asked and said there was no need for it. 1 showed him this document and he replied, “ L have been misled into asking the question “. That confirmed me in my belief that we were misleading each other, and 1 say to the Minister (Senator Spooner) that I very much regret the misconception, and withdraw the remarks that 1 based upon that misconception. I thought that I should put that matter right first, in justice to the Minister.
Now 1 say that 1 have no knowledge as to whether the Minister knows or does not know of this particular document, but I am quite certain that his Prime Minister could not have known of it or he would have never taken the stand that he did. I wish to quote ;i little further from it.
– Which document is the honorable senator quoting from?
– A survey of manufacturing activity in Australia, giving figures to the end of October and published in December of last year.
– - Who sponsored it?
– The Department df Trade.
– This is the usual halfyearly survey.
– That is so.
– It is six months old.
– Yes, it is.
– It is the very latest piece of information available-
– lt was available to the Prime Minister at the time he made his speech, and 1 assert, further, that if there has been a change it is to accentuate the features that are highlighted in this document.
– If it is six months’ old, it makes the position infinitely worse.
– I think that Senator Ashley is right in that observation. 1 now wish to refer to some specific portions of this report. On page 22, a section of the report deals with building bricks, and under the sub-heading of “ Demand “, the following appears: -
In other States-
And in the context that means all States except South Australia - there is generally no delay in supplying orders and brickworks are able to quote immediate delivery for both face and common bricks, with the exception of selected face bricks in Queensland and cream and salmon bricks in Western Australia. The decline in demand is attributed mostly to ihe shortage of funds, particularly for house building. In general, the industry has been maintained at its present level by the continuation of fairly strong demand for bricks for industrial buildings.
Under the heading of “ General Comment “, on page 23, again, we get references to finance. The report states -
The major problem in the industry is that of ti nance for home building, which is the major source of demand for bricks. Although there has been an increase in industrial and commercial building activity, this has not offset the decline in demand from the home building field. lt continues -
The brick industry generally is in a very uncertain position as it cannot carry big stocks, and if there is no early improvement in demand it is probable that there will be further cuts in production.
There have been further cuts. In the interim, in confirmation of what I said ;i moment ago, brick kilns have closed down for periods in quite a number of places. Some have opened again after an interval. But I put to the Minister again that whatever this survey shows, the highlights and features of it have been accentuated in the months that have intervened from the time it was published.
– Have building costs fallen?
– I am not in a position to comment upon that in one sentence. Frankly. I do not know, and I shall not say what I expect to find. It is a matter of interest, but 1 put this to the Minister: the report issued by his own officers indicates that there has been a falling off in housing demand in smaller States where the total deficiency is supposed to be less because higher costs have killed the demand, though the need remains. In other words, people are putting up with sub-standard huts and sheds, thereby reducing the housing demand, but not the housing need. The Minister’s own report, circulated in the middle of February, indicates that high costs and economic factors are responsible for it, so that my answer to him is from the report of his own department. That justifies what I embarked upon saying a moment ago, that my expectation would be that building costs have risen rather than fallen.
– 1 thought that the honorable senator and his party were sudden death on high profits.
– The Minister will find a reference to that at page 24 of his own report. So much for bricks. We pass over the reference to timber, and come to the comments on terra cotta tiles. At page 25 this appears -
There are stocks of tiles on hand at most works, but the accumulation generally represents a few weeks’ production only and is not causing the industry any immediate concern.
There is a similar story about cement tiles. The reference to this, on page 27, in general comment, is -
The cement tile industry is now facing much more competitive trading conditions. Terra cotta tiles are freely available and although higher priced, are preferred in many quarters to cement tiles.
The report, at page 29, comments as follows upon the adequacy of timber supplies in Australia: -
There are indications of an overall decline in the demand for timber, mainly because of the reduction in rate of housing construction.
There is a state of affairs which 1 indicate has worsened in the intervening period. Home-building activity has further decreased during that time, and it is an example of the most colossal ignorance on the part of the head of the Government, speaking on behalf of his Government, to make the statement that he did, on 7th March, that materials and labour were in short supply, and that finance was no: the difficulty. That has been repudiated by the Department of Trade in a considered opinion. I should like to know whether the Prime Minister had this report before him when he made that comment. If he did, the people of Australia are certainly entitled to know why he sets aside these considered and complete and detailed findings by the Department of Trade, in favour of his own opinion. _
That is not the only matter. Every phase of the building industry - the employers, the employees, the unions and many people concerned in the industry - have expressed their views on the Prime Minister’s statement. Mr. Stewart Fraser, on 10th March last, flatly contradicted the Prime Minister. He said that there was no possible danger of inflation from making available more money in a situation where men and materials were waiting to be absorbed. He said that building supplies were available over the counter. That is up-to-date information for Senator Spooner. He said, further, that the great need was finance for housing. Those are the statements of a Liberal member of the New South Wales Parliament, one well disposed to the Prime Minister, and who would not embark lightly upon a public contradiction of him.
– He would not have any axe to grind.
– He is interested in the building industry. He is the director of the employers’ organization. But that does not make him mendacious. He is supported by another colleague, a Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Willis, who said that Mr. Fraser was 100 per cent, right and Mr. Menzies 100 per cent, wrong; and that statement would not be embarked upon very lightly, either.
I pass now to very responsible State leaders who addressed themselves to the Prime Minister’s statement. Mr. Bolte, the Liberal Premier of Victoria, said instantly that he denied that more finance would cause inflation. Mr. Petty, his Minister for Housing, said the trouble was lack of money for home finance, that the builders were there in his State to do the work. I repeat that those two men are members of the Liberal party. They are noted and public supporters of the present Government. In the last few days, all State Housing Ministers, Liberal and Labour alike, have come together and combined in asserting that in the building industry the great need is more money. It is not more materials, not more labour - they are both available; the real need is money to bring them together and put them into operation. Mr. Landa, in New South Wales–
– Another impartial witness.
– Up to date, I have quoted only partial witnesses. Surely, T can quote one from the other side?
– And he is a responsible Minister.
– He is a responsible Minister, and this is what appears in the “ Daily Telegraph “ of 9th March -
Mr. Landa, New South Wales Housing Minister, yesterday produced this evidence of decline in the State’s building industry:
About 70 sawmills had closed.
Huge stacks of sawn limber were lying in their yards. .
Brickyards had limited production because of accumulated stocks.
They could step-up output overnight.
Manufacture of baths, stoves and sinks was down 20 per cent.
The fibrous plaster industry had cut production by 10 per cent.
The home building slow-down had hit the furniture trade.
Fewer new homes meant fewer furniture and fittings buyers.
Mr. Landa goes publicly to the press to state the position; and here is an opportunity for the Minister to reply publicly to that statement of facts. Mr. Landa goes straight to the public.
I, come now to the union side. I quote union leaders, one’ after the other. Mr. Greaves, the Newcastle secretary of the Building Workers’ Industrial Union, said publicly in the press that there were 100 Newcastle carpenters, in heavy industry, out of their industry altogether, because they could not get work. He said also that another 50 were employed only intermittently. Mr. Souter, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the controlling body of the trades union movement of Australians, said publicly that the number of men working on new buildings had dropped by 5,500 in Melbourne since September.
I now quote Mr. O’sullivan, State president of the Building Workers Industrial Union, who said publicly, thus leaving himself open to criticism and examination, that 10 per cent, of the total labour force of 22,500 in the building industry was out of work at intervals. I emphasize the 10 per cent., and the fact that this was a public statement by Mr. O’sullivan. I should like to refer to some detailed evidence that he gave to a Labour committee in Sydney, evidence which I have had the opportunity of reading. I shall quote some brief extracts from it. He said, among other things, that the Fairview Drive-in Theatre advertised for two builders’ labourers some two or three weeks ago and that there were 1 97 applicants in the one day. He also said that there were 40 applicants in response to an advertisement for two bricklayers at the Trinity College job. He stated further that Coles, of George Street, advertised for two carpenters and that there were 78 applicants in the course of the morning. These are dramatic figures, and I mention them so that they can be examined. Mr. O’sullivan stated further that in response to an advertisement for a job at Ryde an executive of his union arrived at 6.45 a.m. to find eighteen ahead of him and that, in all, 32 applied for that one job. The same man went to another job at Denistone and on arrival there at 6.30 found eighteen ahead of him. Those are facts. I put them at issue. I have named the place and I have named the men who made the statements. They present a particularly sorry picture as to the state of the building industry, and they are, of course, a complete contradiction of the Prime Minister.
What was the attitude of the press which is not interested in any particular phase of the industry, but is interested only generally? There we find an almost universal reaction of hostility to the Prime Minister’s statement. The “ Daily Mirror “ instantly published an article under the heading “ Nothing to Sneer at. The Prime Minister must face up to Housing “. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “, a great supporter of the Prime Minister, used the heading “ Mr. Menzies Reads a Lecture “. In its editorial of that day - 9th March - it used exceedingly strong language and said that Mr. Menzies, in the presentation of his case, was simply dishonest. The use of that statement and that very strong language in a leading article amazed me, but it is indicative of the strength of the feeling on this matter of which the Government seems to be unconscious. The “ Sun-Herald “ said, “ Buck Passing on Home Building “. The “ Sunday Telegraph “ said, “ Mr. Menzies, the People Want Houses Now “. That is also the heading it gives to its leading article to-day. One cannot claim that these comments in those newspapers come from Labour sources, nor do they come from bodies concerned in the timber industry itself.
Now, take Mr. McKerihan, the Director of the Rural Bank. His comments are featured under the caption “ Banker’s Housing Challenge “. He said that more money for housing would not be inflationary, that workers are leaving the industry and that ample materials are available. I think everybody has knowledge of what has happened in the timber industry. When speaking in this chamber yesterday, Senator Poke indicated that twenty mills had closed down in Tasmania and that 600 timber workers were out of work; and I acknowledge more factors than the slackening of home-building have contributed to that. The question of the importation of foreign timber and other matters have operated in that field.
Let us look now at the broad unemployment position. According to the figures circulated by the Department of Labour and National Service only this week, it appears that there are 49,449 unemployed persons registered with the department. How many more there may be - and it is certain there would be many more - nobody knows.
– By how much is that up on last month?
– It is down a few thousand on the previous period, but I am looking at the figure as at this week, and I point out that it is a grave and serious position, particularly under a government that professes to be concerned about full employment.
Let me for a moment cease pressing my attack upon the Government because I want to make a plea to the Minister following upon his reference to the Queensland position to-day. I put this on a completely personal, a completely human basis. This morning, the Minister spoke in very strong terms of the Queensland Government. He and that Government are having wordy warfare in the press. I was in Queensland last week, and I followed the conflict with very real interest. But the footballs in this game are human beings. There are 454 men under threat of dismissal to-morrow. I am told that 300 of them are married and that 900 children are involved. I am told also that most of these men are buying homes on long terms, that many of them are committed to hire-purchase arrangements and all the rest of it, and there is no possibility of their being absorbed into the building industry in Queensland. I suggest to the Minister that this is a factor that has to be looked at now, first. The housing position may be considered second, if he wishes; but those individuals ought to be the first consideration. It is a terrific tragedy to them, and I assure the Minister that I have not had one word with the Queensland Government, or any one associated with it, in connexion with this matter. At this moment, I am not concerned with the merits of the dispute in the slightest degree. I am putting to the Minister that the problem to which I should like him to address himself now is the completely human one of these people who number some 1,600 souls. I say to the Minister that there is plenty of time to argue the rights and wrongs of the proposition as between his Government and the Queensland Government, but there is no time to be lost if the jobs of these men are to be saved. Saving them will make a contribution to housing activity in Queensland. That would be a good result. And I put this to the Minister: Could the Federal Government not make available, pending settlement of the argument, the amount that is sought, that is, £278,000. I suggest that that could be done on the basis that it could be deducted from next year’s allocation. I make this suggestion in the interests of the people involved; the argument could be resolved later.
– Who would decide who was right?
– We know the difficulties of resolving that matter. Let the argument run, if people are enjoying it, but do not disrupt the lives of 1,600 people in the process and do not halt the building of further houses in Queensland as a result of it. I know that the Minister has great influence with his Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and with his Cabinet, and I am making a. very personal appeal to him to-day to use his influence with his Government in order to secure the result I suggest.
– Has the Leader of the Opposition made that suggestion to the Queensland Government?
– No, I have not spoken to the Queensland Government, as I have indicated, but I am perfectly ready to do so forthwith. Quite frankly, I would address this suggestion as strongly to the Queensland Government as I have addressed it to the Minister. After all is said and done, I think he would agree with me that the real factor in the situation is the men and their jobs. They are the football in this political game. Cannot we get them out of the field, and turn it into a contest between the Ministers? I am making to the Minister what I believe to be a perfectly reasonable proposal, to implement which would impose no undue strain on the Commonwealth’s finances. Give the money on the understanding, if necessary, that it is to come out of next year’s allocation. I put that to the Minister as strongly and as personally as I can. I hope that he will be able to indicate that he will at least give consideration to that suggestion, and give some element of hope to the 1,600 people who are living in fear of the future at this minute. Let the argument, and its merits, be debated at leisure. But this situation cannot wait; these men are under threat of dismissal to-morrow.
Now let me refer to Mr. Menzies’s third point: It was that the injection of further money into the stream would cause inflation. I put this proposal to the Senate as an economic one: Money spent to pick up a lag in materials and labour can, in no circumstances, cause inflation. You can even inject central bank credit, if you like, to that extent without stirring an inflationary tendency in the community. Both Mr. McKerihan and the Liberal Premier of Victoria have said the same thing. It is amazing to me - I do not think that J have ever seen such a universal blast of disapproval against a government and a Prime Minister as there has been on this occasion because of the Prime Minister’s statement of 7th March. It has come, not from only one State, but from all over Australia.
It is clear now that the Government’s policy is based upon a lack of appreciation of the realities of the situation, and it ought to be reversed. After all, the Government made a solemn pledge in this matter. The people were reminded by one section of the press, quite recently, of a promise that was made by the Prime Minister some time ago. This statement was contained in an advertisement that appeared in the press as long ago as 1949 -
Wo give this firm promise to young couples: the Liberal party, when returned to office, will regard as its permanent and most vital responsibility, the speeding up of the housing programme. We’ will not allow any other public works, other than those of the most extreme urgency, to be given priority over home building.
I should like the Minister, when he joins in this debate, to say what single Commonwealth project has been deferred, down all the years, to housing. We had the spectacle only in the last financial year of the Government promising a £10,000,000 cut in its own capital works programme. It proudly announced that it had already cut £4,000,000 off the total. But what was the result at the end of the year? Instead of £10,000,000, or £4,000,000 coming off, only £2,000,000 came off. I am reminding the Minister of this solemn pledge, upon which his Government was elected to office, and I am demanding that effect be given to it. What is the position in relation to capital works? Every pennyworth of capital works has been paid for out of general revenue - out of taxation. I say that the Government parties were right when they made that promise; they are wrong when they do not honour it.
– What was Labour’s housing record?
– If we look at it from the point of view of the number of houses built, this Government’s record is better than Labour’s record. But anybody seeking to make such a comparison ought to be fair. He should recognize and acknowledge that the war ended in 1945, and that the whole of industry was disorganized. In that respect, we had a flatfooted start. Our major problem was the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. We did not overlook housing needs, and so far as organization was concerned were not caught flat-footed, because in 1945, the very year that the war ended, we concluded an excellent ten-years housing agreement with the States that operated until the other day. We foresaw t.ho need and we provided for it, but we could not turn over all the wheels of industry in the first few years, because life was complicated by the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. But let me put this to honorable senators: The momentum had to mount. The present Government gained the benefit of it. Therefore, I suggest that there is no virtue at all in those comparisons, any more than I take the faintest notice of the result obtained by comparing what we have done in Australia with what has been done in other countries. We have different standards and traditions, and we want to live according to the Australian way of life. We are not a bit concerned with what anybody else wants in the matter. So i give no marks to anybody on the other side who says, “ We have built more houses than the Labour Government built “. It would have been a crime against the country if this Government had not done so, with the growing momentum of business activity and the bountiful seasons that have been enjoyed throughout the whole period. i should like the Minister to consider this aspect of the matter: information that I have obtained from the bankruptcy authorities and which will be, I understand, published within the next few days, reveals an amazing position regarding the bankruptcy of master builders in Australia. One would expect that they would be the last class to be out of business, but 60 of them were declared bankrupt between 1st August, 1955, and 30th June, 1956. There were 29 declared bankrupt in New South Wales and 15 in Victoria. Another revision of the figures shows that from 1st January, 1956, to date, 41 master builders were declared bankrupt in New South Wales and 28 in Victoria. The record also shows that many carpenters, plumbers, and others who may be wholly or partly concerned with the home-building industry have also gone bankrupt - about 1,000 or so in a year. I do noi profess to know the reason for each of i he bankruptcies, but it strikes me as a very significant factor that they should take place at a time when the backlag is being picked up and when, in fact, there is a falling off in house-building activities. It is a rather extraordinary aspect. I think the Minister should make perfectly clear whether he affirms or rejects the principles enunciated by the Prime Minister and reported in the press. We get no consolation from reading the Governor-General’s Speech. There is a mild reference to the fact that there are some arrears in home-building and that the Government will approach it with a sympathetic and active mind. That leaves me depressed, because I do not believe that the Government yet realizes the magnitude of its housing problem and what it means in terms of human tragedy to hundreds of thousands of people. I invite the Government to stir itself from what I believe to he its apathy and lack of understanding of this particular matter.
The Minister and his department have been of great service to the community: they have had prepared a survey of the housing situation, which has not been done before. The Minister, in his foreword, said -
Hitherto, however, no soundly based assessment has been made of the extent of the shortage or as to the adequacy or otherwise of- the rate of construction of dwellings in recent years.
Surely, if one is to address oneself to a problem, one must have facts. What a sad commentary it is upon this Government’s outlook that a survey, the very basis of action, has not been made until after the lapse of seven years! If this is the first soundly based assessment, what has the Government been working on in the intervening years? It has been working on something less sound, necessarily. My first criticism of the Government is that this was not the first step in another approach to the housing problem. Research, assessment, and vital statistics were available. The 1947 census figures were available, and there should have been an appreciation of the housing situation right from the moment this Government took office; but it has been left for seven years. That is a betrayal of the Government’s competence and vigour in approaching the housing problem.
I admire the department’s report; I think it is an objective document. It is an honest, document in that it warns against acceptance of its figures too readily. It points out that they are based upon arbitrary concepts, and the officials have laid down how they arrived at their concepts. Anybody may criticize; anybody may improve. 1 think it is most valuable. Sub-standard dwellings have been discarded in assessing efficiencies. They admit that they do not approach the problem of slum clearance, that they cannot say how many houses need replacement; and I point out to the Minister that is a problem which must be faced. There are approximately 2,485,000 houses in Australia, according to the record. Let us eliminate 750,000 as having been built since the war, and we still have approximately 1,750,000 houses that may have stood for many years. What percentage of those need replacing owing to the lapse of time nobody knows. I point out to the Minister that, if it is one in ten, there is a housing problem to the extent of 178.500 houses. if it is one in fifty, the number of houses that need replacing is of the magnitude of 35,700, and if the proportion is one in a hundred, the figure is 17,850 - a major addition to the backlag.
– Is the honorable senator referring to slums?
– No. I am talking, about obsolescence, and I am showing what the figures could be. No one knows exactly what the figure is, as the report frankly admits; but everybody knows that there is a problem associated with obsolescence and that it must be added, whatever its extent, to the backlag that the officials have stated to be 115,350 houses. Even accepting the officials’ estimate of a backlag of 115,350 houses as being correct, it is a national disgrace that twelve years after the end of World War II. there should be a backlag of that magnitude. It is a reflection upon everybody in the field. It shows an absence of dynamic approach, or real vigour, and of real imagination. The backlag has been reduced from 250,000 houses merely to 115,000! The tragedy is that it proves the complete absence of any national planning in the matter.
– Oh, no!
– It proves that quite plainly. The Minister’s own report, at page 7, indicates, too, that shortages of building materials have been eliminated. Paragraph 21 of his statement, made on 18th February, which was three weeks before the Prime Minister spoke, reads -
The production of building materials has risen steadily since 1945. By 30 June 19S6 shortages of building materials had virtually been eliminated.
That is up-to-date information; it does not rest as at 31st October. It is the finding of the Minister’s own officers. In the light of that, the Government must completely recast its thinking in this matter. I noticed a report in the press that the Minister had been invited to the meeting of State Housing Ministers being held in Melbourne this week. It is a great pity he is not there, although I realize that the moving of certain motions in this chamber and elsewhere have placed a responsibility upon him to be here.
– Would the honorable senator like me out of the way?
– Very much! I am not doubting for one moment the Minister’s courage to face the State Housing Ministers, nor would any one else who knows him; but it is vastly important that he should be there, because this problem will never be solved until the States and the Commonwealth get together and forget everything but how they can beat it in the minimum of time. I noticed a renewal of the invitation in the press to-day. I noted, too, the statement that this was the first meeting of State Ministers in charge of housing which had not been graced by the presence of the Federal Minister.
– It is the first meeting to which he has ever been invited.
– I read the press report differently. The Minister might be right
– I have not seen the press report, but that is the fact.
– I am stating what appeared in the press, and I hope that circumstances will permit the Minister to go with the thought uppermost in his mind that between us we must solve this problem and overtake the backlag. Figures which came to my notice today reveal, unfortunately, that there has been a falling off of the number of dwellings .commenced and the number completed during the past year. The tendency is downward and not upward. Those figures to which I have referred were released within the last day or so by the Commonwealth Statistician. I point out that not only is there no national plan, but also there is no arrangement for priority at any level despite a promise made by this Government and upon which it was elected.
Let me refer the Minister again to the very valuable report of his department, at page 11 of which a very interesting paragraph appears. That paragraph, number 34, reads -
The majority of home seekers in most States to-day would, from their experiences, challenge any claim that the “ housing problem “ is well on the way to being solved or that the “housing shortage” is fast being eliminated. They are still confronted with difficulties in obtaining finance for house building or purchase.
That comes from the Minister’s own department, as recently as 18th February. As I have said, it is a perfectly objective picture.
I should say, instantly, that all I have said to-day very plainly justifies paragraph 1 of the amendment I have moved, which reads -
The Government is censured for the statement of housing policy announced by the Prime Minister on the 7th March last and for the acute social ills caused by its continued failure to establish, in conjunction with the States, a national housing plan.
Let me now pass to paragraph 2, which reads -
This failure has been largely caused by the provision of inadequate finance for home building for-
war service homes;
co-operative building societies; and
Australians seeking to build their own homes.
Dealing with the first point, I mention that every State in Australia is complaining. The Minister’s own report shows that there has been a collapse in the number of houses available for rental, yet the amount available to the States has been reduced. The report states that there should be a surplus of such houses to permit mobility of population, and there are 12,000 fewer now than there were some time ago, as his own report indicates. There is an argument between the Minister and the New South Wales Government. When he addresses himself to that matter and points out that New South Wales has the greatest deficiency, I think he should have three considerations in mind. First, New South Wales had the greatest problem. Secondly, I refer him to page 24 of the report of his own officers, in which they say that there has been a decided improvement in New South Wales. I think that the Minister might get very much further with the authorities of New South Wales if he would join with his department in commending that achievement rather than find points of difference between the Commonwealth and the State.
In relation to war service homes, only one thing is holding up a further extension for the tens of thousands of ex-servicemen who are awaiting cottages, and that, plainly, is finance, and nothing else. There is a waiting period of eighteen months, the applicants being at the mercy of the financial sharks who are extracting up to 16 per cent interest. The Minister gives figures showing that at least 33 per cent of those in the field were over the waiting period and were paying 10 per cent and more; 10 per cent might be the figure - it is bad enough if it is only 10 per cent.
I refer to moneys for co-operative building societies. Money has been earmarked now under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for co-operative building societies, but it has been taken off -the amounts available to States for homes for rental in particular. That is not a good thing. Out of that statement I leave Queensland. Queensland has not been able to use the whole of the money available for co-operative societies, for the simple reason that the movement is not developed there, but every other State could use more money even for co-operative housing. A vital report from the Federation of Co-operative Societies in Victoria has been circulated in the Parliament in the last few days. In a letter to every member of the Parliament the federation stresses the point that more finance is its need and that labour and materials are available. That is highlighted and emphasized in the letter.
For the ordinary Australian seeking a home, there are great difficulties. Bank finance is not available to him. The Prime Minister says that that is by decision of the banks and not by decision of the Government. I say at once that there should be a decision by the Government to make sure that bank finance is available for home building in the ordinary way. Do not leave it to the banks. The Prime Minister has the power to direct, and the central bank has the power to direct. The only way in which we can get life into the housing programme is to inject into the machinery more of the grease that consists of money. Of course, we have problems, with which the Minister is quite familiar. Men are thrown out of work upon the coal-fields of Australia. There is no work in their vicinity and they have to move. They either break up their homes or go to areas where homes are not available. It is an acute position. There are many Australians like that to-day who are in very, very great distress indeed.
We think that the immigration intake should be reduced in these circumstances. We think that it is unfair to immigrants to bring them here without adequate housing facilities for them, and while our own people are lacking adequate facilities. We insist upon the maximum use of the industrial work forces for building. The availability of materials referred to in the amendment has been adequately canvassed by me. We demand that the Government honour its promise to give priority to housing over all public works. We think that bank finance should be available at low rales of interest. It is completely true that interest is the major factor in the cost of homes, lt is the factor that prolongs the repayment period and is in the end easily the greatest cost factor in the whole structure.
There are other aspects upon which I should like to touch, but I conclude with a suggestion to the Senate that we could and should drop party differences in the matter of housing as we did in relation to immigration. What is demanded is a national plan. Let us have research and let us establish the facts. When we know the facts, the facts will formulate the policy. We should invoke into this matter everybody concerned in the building industry. We will support any application to the people for more power if, mistakenly, it is thought that such application is necessary. There must be adequate finance.
I conclude by a reference to a statement made by the Prime Minister last night, when he indicated that housing “ will be a perpetual problem until it is solved one day “. It is a rather rare slip for the Prime Minister to conceive simultaneously of something that is perpetual and, anyway, comes to an end, but I am not directing attention to that. It is the hopelessness that is implicit in the reference to perpetuity, and that is what permeates the Government’s whole outlook in the matter of housing. I say to the Minister: Forget about the housing backlag running into perpetuity. Forget about letting it run for five or seven years. Let us get rid of it infinitely faster than that, and the Opposition will give complete support to its achievement.
13.2]. - It is to me a privilege and an honour to join in this debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, first by joining with every honorable senator who has already spoken and every honorable senator who will speak in this debate, in the expressions of loyalty to the Crown. However far and wide the debate may range, however harsh may be the views that we express, however violently we may criticize each other from the opposite sides of this Senate chamber, the one thing above all others that unites us in all sets of circumstances and makes us good Australians is this loyalty to our Sovereign that we share.
Having said that, 1 turn - in truth, 1 think, on a very much lower plane indeed - to the censure motion before the Senate. I paid to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) the respect that is due to his contribution to the debate and proceeded to make notes of the points to which I thought it was necessary to reply, but I discarded the notes because I think that with one exception, on one major matter that I overlooked, the speech that I have prepared catches up and takes into account almost every major point of criticism that the Leader of the Opposition made during the course of the debate. That being so, I propose to proceed at my own speed and in my own way with my own speech, which I think will give an infinitely better result than if I flitted from pillar to post taking out of their order the points as the Leader of the Opposition made them.
The major point that I overlooked was the fact that the Leader of the Opposition took the Prime Minister and the Government to task for the statement that housing and all its problems lay without the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Government. Perhaps I overlooked it because 1 am not trained in the law, but it is a point of material importance, and one to which I must reply in order to maintain the completeness of the argument. The answer that I, as a layman, shall make to the Leader of the Opposition is one that is, I believe, correct at law in general terms. I say with due respect to the Leader of the Opposition that, in expressing this opinion, I am drawing upon my recollections of past discussions with my former colleague, now Mr. Justice Spicer, who was then AttorneyGeneral.
In brief, as I understand it, the Constitution gives certain specific powers to the Commonwealth Government. Powers that are not given to the Commonwealth in -definite and specific terms remain with the States and are not enjoyed by the Commonwealth. There are no words in the Con.stitution which could be construed even remotely to cover housing so that there is no power with the Commonwealth on that matter. The power to deal with housing rests with the State governments.
The various proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that housing might be placed in the charge of the Commonwealth Government and administered under its defence, immigration or banking powers all amount, in effect, to proposed devices for defeating or evading the terms of the Constitution. The Constitution is administered by the High Court of Australia, and the High Court would look, not at the words of the Constitution or at the device, but at the actual form and result of the transaction. If we attempted to carry out a housing scheme on the ground that it was for this or that purpose, the High Court would look at the actual transaction and decide whether or not it came under defence, immigration or banking. The court would then put it into its appropriate place.
That general proposition can be whittled down to the extent that the Commonwealth Government has specific powers for Territories, for defence, in the case of war service homes, and in the terms of section 96 of the Constitution, under which the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement operates. Nevertheless, the general proposition stands good to the effect that constitutional powers covering housing remain with the State governments. That is the legal position.
– The Government did not say that in 1949. Tt was going to get the joh done then.
– The job has been done since 1949. as I hope to convince the Senate. That is the legal position, but the practical position goes much deeper than that. The Commonwealth Government would face an impossible task if it embarked upon a full-scale housing scheme because all matters relating to landlords and tenants, rent controls. local government authorities, water, sewerage and power are vested very properly in the State governments.
I am sorry the Opposition has brought down this censure motion. 1 take great pride in the report that has been prepared by the department under my administration. It is unfair for the Leader of the Opposition to say that the report is late. It was based upon statistics obtained in the 1954 census, which contained information that was not available from any previous census. ii was not possible to evolve what I believe to be a completely new approach in the computation of housing needs until that information was available. The report represents a contribution to original thought in research programmes on housing.
As I have said, J am sorry the Opposition brought forward a censure motion on this matter, but we live in a world of practical politics. The truth is that in New South Wales, the newspapers have criticized the Federal Government strongly on housing. The Opposition, of course, jumped on the political band-wagon and launched this censure motion. We should not be under any misunderstanding on this matter or discuss it in any other atmosphere. 1 believe that the newspaper criticism exaggerated the housing position, and 1 endeavoured to reply to the newspaper campaign as best I could. I do not find it easy to reply to a press that is completely hostile, but I have tried. I wish to make it plain that I take no objection to the newspaper . campaign. I am sorry that the censure motion has been launched, but I welcome the debate because it gives me and my colleagues an opportunity to reply to the criticism and to do so over the air.
Honorable senators must remember also that many vested interests are involved in the housing problem. The great virtue of that report - and I am glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition admit it - is its impartiality, lt makes an objective approach to the problem. It was not prepared by vested interests. I do not use the term “ vested “ in a sinister sense, but I do noi know of a better way to describe it. It was not prepared by some one who has a vested interest in the matter. I say with respect to my friend, Stewart Fraser, that we have to take with a grain of salt all he says about building and the great problems that face the building industry. He is the public relations officer of the building trade employers, and it is his object to attract as much work as he can to the industry.
Do not let us overlook one factor in this housing problem. One of the responsibilities of an impartial government, aiming to do the best it can for all sections of the community, is to ensure that master builders shall receive only reasonable profits on their transactions. Anybody in the world in which we live who does not think that master builders have had a whale of a time in recent years is sadly unrealistic. When my friend, Stewart Fraser, criticizes the Prime Minister, I give him that response in no uncertain terms. I say that the builders, estate agents and even trade unionists have a vested interest in the matter. The latter have the vested interest of maintaining employment in their union, and in that vested interest I am on their side.
It is a great pity that we have become engaged in a debate which, judging from the tone of the interjections, is going to become more difficult as I go along, because the points I have yet to make will be more unpleasant to honorable senators opposite than those I have already made. It is a great pity, because housing, and all that word implies, is one of the really great matters to which the governments of Australia should give attention. To Australians, a home-loving people, buying a home is not only a tremendously important financial transaction but also the greatest single investment that most of us make throughout the whole of our lives; and upon the success or failure of that investment depends the financial burden and standing of the average Australian family. It is not only of such tremendous importance financially but also involves whether we buy the right home, whether we buy in the right place with a garden and ground and all that goes with it. It can create or destroy the deepest sense of satisfaction that in my opinion rests with the average Australian citizen.
I would have preferred, therefore, not to have seen this censure motion moved, because it creates in the best of circumstances a rather bitter sort of atmosphere in that it censures the Government for carrying out to the best of its ability such an important responsibility. Do not let us forget, when we are talking in terms of the importance of this problem, that the building industry employs over 120,000 tradesmen and workers. The investment in the building industry last year was no less than £372,000,000. Further, the 120,000 employees and the investment of £372,000,000 relates only to the building industry proper and not to all those ancillary industries and trades that go to support it - those industries that deal with baths, sinks, stoves, furniture, and things like that. In that industry, employing 120,000 employees, the Prime Minister last night, if my memory serves me correctly, stated that those unemployed totalled less than 700 and that there were 700 vacancies. When I quote those official figures, at the same time I see that in this censure motion is the phrase “ employment of the maximum work force in the home building industry “. I believe the figures I have cited are a complete justification for saying that there is no substance in the allegation the censure motion contains.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the recent conference of State Housing Ministers and said that that conference was the first one at which a Commonwealth Minister was not present. I desire to speak only for myself. I did not see the press statement to which the Leader of the Opposition referred and I speak with a little hesitation because other Commonwealth Ministers may be involved. As I am concerned, I was very pleased indeed to receive an invitation some weeks ago from Mr. Petty, the Victorian Minister of Housing, because it was the first invitation that had ever been issued to me from the State Ministers in charge of housing to attend their conference. I wrote to Mr. Petty and thanked him very much for his invitation. I appreciated his action and told him that from memory it was the first time I had been invited to such a conference; and I pointed out that I was awfully sorry he had called the conference for the day on which the Parliament was to be opened and, therefore, I would probably be not able to attend. I remember last year’s housing Ministers’ conference which was held in Brisbane. By chance, I happened to be in Brisbane on the day on which the conference was held, and although the State housing Ministers were sitting in conference, they did not pay me the courtesy of inviting me to attend their deliberations.
It is a great pity that the conference of State ministers in charge of housing has degenerated to a stage where its main business has been to pass a resolution calling upon the Commonwealth Government to provide funds. That is not the function of housing ministers. Such ministers are not responsible for the allocation of financial resources, lt is the responsibility of a housing minister to make the best use of the finances that are allocated to him by his government. If he has not got enough money he should go to his Premier,, or Treasurer, and say, “ Out of the total pool you have not allocated enough for housing. Give me more “. When one sees a group of housing ministers meeting and the first thing they do is to call on the Commonwealth Government to provide more money, one is legitimately entitled to say that they are prostituting their function as housing Ministers and converting their conferences into a political gathering. There are great problems ahead of the housing Ministers. I should have liked to see them approach and consider various matters and produce measures to deal with one of the greatest problems connected with the provision of adequate homes for the people of Australia - that is, use of the existing stock of houses to the best advantage. There are many houses with a comparatively small number of people living in them. They are underpopulated. That may not be the best possible term, but it describes the situation very well. Conditions vary from State to State, but there is not the slightest doubt that that situation has been created by the landlord and tenant legislation in the various States. A suitable variation to that legislation would probably make a bigger contribution than any other towards the solution of the housing problem.
Another task confronting the housing Ministers is the organizing of a united attack on building costs. The Commonwealth Government has established a research building station, and the results of that station’s work are available to the housing Ministers. They could apply their minds also to the attraction of more private investment in the home-building industry. I am sure that I may be pardoned for feeling some resentment at this censure motion, and also at the failure of my colleagues, the State housing Ministers, to use to advantage the opportunities that are available to them when they come together. Above all else, surely I can be pardoned for showing no confidence at all in the report of the fact-finding committee from which the Leader of the Opposition quoted. That committee was appointed by the Labour party, and was composed entirely of Labour members sitting in the City of Sydney. It is impossible to imagine that that body, composed entirely of Labour members of Parliament, could have any objective other than that of producing facts, figures and information which would be to the discredit of its political opponents, the present Commonwealth Government.
I turn to that part of the motion that deals with the lack of a national housing plan. Fresh in my mind are the memories of the battles I had in 1955 and 1956 when hammering out the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was approved by this House and the Parliament in 1956. I am proud to see how that scheme is working in practice. There is not the slightest doubt that the new housing agreement, with the provision of funds for building societies, has brought the benefits of home ownership to many people to whom those benefits would otherwise have been denied. Yet we have this censure motion criticizing the Government for failing to establish a national housing plan. That plan is in operation, and becomes more successful as each month goes by. Am I unkind if I pause to contrast the approach of the Opposition to this matter with that of the Government. When the Government came into office, it inherited perhaps the worst housing scheme that could possibly be imagined. It offended every principle for which we, as a Government, stood. But because we believe in the sanctity of government contracts, because we believe that a government should not undo a contract into which a previous government had entered, we suffered that agreement, and carried it out for some years until it expired. We did our part and put our scheme into operation, and from the time that it began to operate we have had trouble such as this censure motion. However, the situation has been reached to-day in which building societies throughout Australia are taking up the moneys that are being made available to them, and using them to build a great many more houses than the housing . commissions could do.
The demand for home-building loans from building societies is increasing, and running side by side with that, proposals are coming to us from the State governments to amend their original housing agreements with the Commonwealth. I ask honorable senators to recall the agreement i hat was framed so as not to encourage little capitalists, and that would create the socialist condition in which governments owned the great majority of rented houses. I say again that with the growth of the building societies, State governments are coming to us and saying, “We are in a mess with these rented houses. Will you alter your agreement with us to enable us 10 sell these houses? We do not want to be landlords any more. We have had it. Give us the right to sell the houses so that we may operate to better national advantage “. What they do not say, of course, is: “ What a mistake we have made. How right you were as a Government in your approach to this problem. Please do not hit us too hard when we abandon our ideas and come in and adopt the principles that you put into operation in a practical way “.
I turn now to the Queensland incident. It is, of course, a sorry story that 400 men are being put out of employment, but it is unfair for the Leader of the Opposition to make a personal plea and say, “ Do something for these men “. It is not often that I become angry, and I try my best not to do so, but the circumstances of this case justify any one who speaks for the Commonwealth in becoming as angry as he can be. There is no doubt at all that incompetent bungling on the part of the Queensland Government resulted in these men being suddenly faced with the threat of unemployment. There is no doubt in my mind also, that the Queensland Government, realizing the mess that it has made of the matter, then most dishonestly said that the Commonwealth Government was entirely responsible for the situation, because it would not give Queensland £278,000.
– I rise to order. I think this is the second occasion to-day on which the Minister, in referring to the Queensland Government, has used the term “dishonestly”, and he has used other words of a similar character. Without having the standing -order immediately before me, I think that the honorable senator is precluded from casting reflections or aspersions on a State government or any member thereof. In those circumstances, I ask that the honorable senator be required: to withdraw the word “ dishonestly “.
– Under which standing order is the honorable senator raising, his objection?
– Standing Order 418.
– The Minister’s remarks are out of order, and, under Standing Order 418, I ask him to withdraw them.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. President, I withdraw them; but let me recapitulate the fact that the Queensland Government itself decides, the amount of money it will appropriate for housing. That Government this yeardecided to take £2,750,000 instead of £3,000,000. That decision had nothing, whatever to do with the Commonwealth Government. The Queensland Government knew that at that time 20 per cent, of itsmoneys “were obligated to building societies. So, for the whole of this year, the Queensland Government has known that its total’, funds were reduced by £250,000 and that 20 per cent, of those total funds would not be spent by the Queensland Housing Commission, but would be spent by building societies. I speak with some knowledge of this question, because I have had the experience in the .coal-mining industry of transferring thousands of men. I know it can be done gradually. That is the only decent, humane way of going about a big transfer of labour like that; but instead of doing that, the Queensland Government said* it was the Commonwealth Government’sresponsibility, that these men had to be dismissed unless the Commonwealth Government provided £278,000. Mr. President, I refuse to put a description to that attitude because, if I did, you would only ask me to withdraw my remark.
Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have a common interest in transactions such as this. Look at what appearedin the press the morning before last. There we read that a meeting of transport Ministers, held in Sydney, blithely passed a resolution adopting a roads scheme- which was estimated to cost a huge amount. I forget exactly what the estimate was, but I do not think I should be far wrong in saying that it was about £1,500,000,000. Those State transport Ministers adopted the scheme, but said that it depended on the Commonwealth Government for the money. In the same newspaper we also read of a resolution passed by the transport Ministers of New South Wales and Victoria who had decided to standardize the rail gauge between Wodonga and Melbourne at a cost of £10,000,000; but the basis of that resolution was that the Commonwealth Government would find the £10,000,000. If calling that type of approach to a national problem dishonest is out of order, 1 immediately withdraw; but I should like some one to suggest a more appropriate description.
– Do not overlook the £500,000 which the Queensland Government has not claimed from the Treasurer.
– And we must not overlook the fact that the secretary of the Queensland Master Builders Association, Mr. Woodward, said the only people affected by a drop in house-building were some speculative builders. He said that some 7,000 houses were being built in Queensland and that there was enough work available in the industry.
The question is merely one of rearrangement and transference of workers to other employment. I believe that our English stock is revealing itself in our approach to these problems and that our old English forebears would be proud of us for the way in which we have adopted the English practice of grossly understating our capacities. We read much in the press about how good the Americans are and what they can do. I point out that in America approximately half the houses are owned by the people who live in them whilst in Australia 65 per cent, of the homes are -owned by the people who live in them.
– Seventy-four per cent, in Queensland.
– Then, good luck to Queensland. I ask honorable senators not to misunderstand me. I have not yet reached the stage at which I will deny that some good comes out of Queensland.
Take the next step in our approach to this matter: Since the end of the war, the Commonwealth Government, under two housing agreements, and through the War Service Homes Division, has invested, as a Commonwealth Government, over £500,000,000 in - housing. Over £500,000,000 has been found by the taxpayers, by the people of Australia, and invested in housing!
– Over what years?
– In the post-war years; I should say since 1945. Those are tremendous figures. In the face of such figures, we are apt to forget that governments provide only 30 per cent, of the moneys required for home construction.
– That is the point.
– The remainder comes from banks, insurance companies, private individuals, John Citizen and building societies. Those sources have provided the finance for the construction of over 700,000 homes in Australia in the post-war years.
I have just come through a press controversy, the first big one I have had.
– It seems to have rocked the honorable senator.
– J did not like it much. The Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ was the leader in it. I remind that newspaper that as a people we have put £500,000,000 into housing in Australia since the end of the war, and I emphasize that despite the magnitude of the figure governments provide only 30 per cent, of the money that is needed for housing. In those circumstances I ask the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ whether it really realizes the size of the tiger that it wants the Commonweatlth to grasp by the tail. Does anybody hold any view other than that, if the Commonwealth Government moved further into housing, the same result would occur as happened when the Commonwealth Government moved into airlines, shipping, coal-mining and other activities - that is, that private investment would move out? What sort of a task are we going to commit ourselves to, unless we approach this in a reasonable way - the way we have been doing it over the years? If we are going to go into this and drive out private investment, then what the “ Daily Telegraph “ is doing is asking some government in Australia to provide, through taxation, something of the order of £250,000,000 each year to do the job that at present is being done in a first-class way by private investment. Of course, there is criticism of the Government, particularly with a matter so close to the heart of every decent sort of Australian. We cannot be 100 per cent, perfect.
This Government has been criticized in relation to the provision of war service homes, and this in a country which, during the last ten years, has increased its population by more than 2,000,000 people. Does any one fail to get a thrill of pride from figures like this? For the sake of its political argument, the Australian Labour party has gone on record as saying that the immigrant intake should be reduced. Is housing the only factor that should influence the immigration programme? Labour has rushed in and made a decision on a comparatively minor point in an effort to win this particular argument. Do not let me be construed as expressing an opinion on the level of the immigration programme. Get me quite clearly on the point. I think that Labour does itself very little justice when it expresses an opinion on the level of the immigration programme in the atmosphere that goes with a censure motion against the Government, a motion that is based on a press campaign.
I referred a moment ago to the criticism of the war service homes programme. Just listen to these figures: If any one does not get a little thrill of pride out of them, there is something the matter with him. As a Government, in the last seven years, we have provided no less than £189,756,333 for 90,776 war service homes. Of course, we should have liked to have done better, but are we wrong, against the background of figures like those, in claiming that we have done well? I should have thought that honorable senators on the other side of the chamber would have .felt a little bit of pride in that achievement by an Australian Government, even though it was of a different political persuasion.
– We can only decide whether the Government has done well by comparing what it has done with what it might have done.
– Let us have a look at this criticism of the Prime Minister. What he said last night - I am in a somewhat better position than honorable senators opposite, because I have seen the record of the press conference - was that the limitation on a housing programme in Australia was the limitation of man-power and materials.
– Does the Minister say that the right honorable gentleman was misquoted by the press?
– I was repeating what the Prime Minister said. He went on to say that anybody who was so naive as to believe that new man-power and new material could be created by increasing the supply of money was merely adding to inflation. Does any one seriously challenge the validity of that statement? Is it not the usual kind of horse-sense that we expect and always get from the Prime Minister? What a hullabaloo the Opposition is raising in trying to put words into his mouth! I remember the morning that the bushfire broke out, when some one was nettled because the Prime Minister gave him a straight answer to a straight question. I made a press statement on the matter. It is not often that one is proud of his press statements as time goes on; he generally thinks that he might have done better. My press statement was as follows: -
It is wrong to construe what the Prime Minister said about housing to mean that he is not vitally concerned to see that sufficient houses are built. He has always supported a full-blooded housing programme. That is illustrated by the fact that £63,000,000 has been provided this year.
My Department issued a report which, for the first time, showed the progress that had been made in providing houses in recent years, and the extent and location of the shortage that now exists. The report showed that the housing trouble was located very largely in New South Wales.
The New South Wales Government then endeavoured to prove that the fact that the trouble was located in New South Wales was not due to its own incompetence but because the cruel Commonwealth Government kept it short of funds.
I put the contrary point of view. The Prime Minister, at his press conference, put the position impartially. He pointed out that if inflation was to be avoided, the level of funds provided needed to be related to material resources. I do not know of anyone who disputes that proposition. He also took some justifiable pride in the progress we had made. He then indicated that the matter would receive further consideration.
– There is an implication that a limitation applies.
– Senator Byrne is introducing a refinement which the circumstances do not justify.
– An honest refinement.
– I do not accuse the honorable senator of introducing a dishonest refinement. I believe that the Prime
Minister stated the position carefully and objectively in the interests of home seekers. As he expressed the position in a commonsense manner, surely, above all things, his statement commends itself to the Labour party.
When this Government assumed office, it took over a building programme that had been inaugurated by the Labour government. It was not scientifically based, and there had not been proper foundational work to enable us to get materials and men. In 1950-51, 84,840 dwellings were commenced, but only 62,927 were completed, because a situation had been reached in which we could not obtain men and materials to achieve the housing target. What we have done has been to restore order out of chaos against a background that has been overlooked. Of course, the background is generally overlooked by critics. They have overlooked, too, the extent to which commercial building has increased over the years. This report made a valuable contribution to the information that was available on housing. With all the reservations that the Leader of the Opposition has mentioned and which would be expected in a carefully prepared report, it showed a shortage of 115,000 houses as at June, 1956, of which 80 per cent, were in New South Wales and Victoria. Of course, there was a wail of anguish from the Housing Ministers of those two States. Their sins had found them out! When it became apparent that of those 115,000 houses no fewer than 60 per cent, were in New South Wales, we had repeated wails of anguish from the New South Wales Minister for Housing. The truth of the situation is that that report, which contains information that has been made available for the first time, has not raised a ripple outside New South Wales, except in Victoria. There is not much of a housing problem in the other States.
We must admit that the number of houses constructed has fallen. Several factors, including weather conditions and the slow coming into operation of the new agreement, have operated. One very important factor is that the demand for houses has fallen because in certain States it has been satisfied.
– The Minister said, first, that 80 per cent, of the shortage existed in two States, and now, in order to build up a case, he says that the fall in the rate of construction is the result of the demand for fewer houses in the small States.
– I am talking about the current figures.
– The Minister cannot have it both ways.
– The honorable senator is just as much at sea in his interpretation of these statistics as he was in directing his leader’s attention to the report earlier in the day. I do not think that in Western Australia the level of home building will go much higher than 5,000 or 6,000 houses a year, although a few years ago it rose to more than 9,000. I know of no better way in which to conclude my speech than to quote the words uttered by the Prime Minister last night. He said -
He further said -
They are words of wisdom, to which I direct the attention of the Opposition. It would be much better if honorable senators opposite went about this great task in the progressive way in which the Government has gone about it, making the progress that the Government has made, and doing so in the interests of those who I believe are the most worthy of Australian citizens - the people who want to buy and own their own homes.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has concluded his speech by quoting the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Following the Minister’s extraordinary speech, I think 1 should commence by bringing the debate back to where it started and by quoting another statement made by the Prime Minister. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “, of 8th March, reports him as having said that the factor that is limiting building is not money bur man-power and materials. I assume that the Minister does not deny that that is what the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister having said that, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has advanced a case which has not even been touched upon by the Minister in his reply. Senator McKenna’s case was that there was a need for housing. Does the Minister deny that there is a need for houses? Does he believe that the people of Australia are adequately housed? I submit that he has admitted that there is a need for houses. My leader pointed out, secondly, that the Commonwealth had constitutional power to tackle the problem. The Minister’s only reply to that was that the Commonwealth did not have the power in the same way that the States had power over such matters as sewerage, water and local government. A little later, however, he admitted that the Commonwealth was able to build more than 70,000 war service homes, and apparently there was no legal impediment there. Senator McKenna also directed attention to the reserve powers which resided in the Commonwealth. The Minister has not shown that either of these classes of power is unconstitutional.
The third matter to which I direct attention is the Prime Minister’s statement that materials and man-power are not available. The Leader of the Opposition has demonstrated clearly that there are idle materials all over the country, that approximately 80,000,000 super, feet of timber is lying at grass, that the brickyards are closing down because they cannot obtain orders, that furniture manufacturers have had to shorten time, that all the materials required for the building of houses are in full supply, and that indeed production is being curtailed. Again, the Minister has not proved that argument to be untrue. The Leader of the Opposition also pointed out that there was idle man-power in the building industry, and he referred to occasions when as many as 80 men reported for one job. He has told us about thousands of unemployed persons in various sections of the building industry, and has clearly demonstrated that man-power is available. But the Minister has not tackled that side of the problem. The Government has not been able to’ deny the argument advanced by the Opposition that, first, there is a need for houses; secondly, that the Commonwealth has the constitutional pow.to deal with the problem; thirdly, that materials are available; and, fourthly, that man-power is available to construct more houses.
So the Opposition puts to the people of Australia that the Government is denying the full use of the nation’s resources for building homes by failing to supply the necessary finance. I felt that the Minister might have made a much more adequate reply to the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. Instead of that, he went off on to all kinds of sidetracks. He spoke about the millions of pounds that have been spent. He said that the Government had done a good job. He accused the States of not trying to grapple with this problem. ‘ But the one thing he was not able to do was to defend the statement of his own Prime Minister that the limiting factor in home-building was not money but man-power and materials. I submit that we have clearly shown that that statement is not true. We have shown that man-power and materials are available but their use is being denied because of lack of finance. On that aspect of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, the Government deserves censure. It is true that when Government supporters were before the people of Australia in 1949 they made a great number of promises. Very few of those promises, of course, have been fulfilled. One of them, in most glowing terms, was that the Government would tackle this problem of housing in Australia and that all young people would be given homes. I think it has been demonstrated to-day that no real attempt has ben made to solve this problem. Even if man-power and materials were fully utilized, surely an energetic government would try to develop more materials and use the immigration programme to funnel more and more labour into the building industry.
After World War II. the problem confronting the Labour government was to begin to find the materials and man-power to start a housing programme. If in those days we had taken the view that all the material and man-power were being used and that we could do nothing about it, we would never have had homes in Australia at all. But, realizing that the problem had to be tackled, we diverted man-power and materials to the building of homes and gradually built the work force and the supply of materials up to the stage where a worthwhile housing programme was instituted. Had that policy been continued by this Government with the same vigour, determination, and desire, 1 submit that not only would the supply of materials and man-power have been maintained, but they would also have been developed steadily, and to-day we would have been in a position to build all the homes that the Australian people require. It is all very well for the Minister to say that he agrees that the people ought to be properly housed, that every Australian is entitled to a home, and so on. He mouthed all kinds of platitudes. The fact is that we just are not getting the homes built, and that until this Government assists the States to build homes or builds them itself, we cannot hope to catch up with the lag.
It is very easy for those honorable senators who have comfortable houses to say, “ You might bring about inflation if you attempt to build any more houses “, to say that houses ought to be owned by private individuals rather than the Government, and to find all kinds of excuses. All of those, things might be desirable if there were enough houses for the people to live in. The first problem to be tackled is: How can we find houses for the Australian people? To-day, when the Opposition puts to the Government a plan by which more and more houses might be built for the Australian people, we are accused of using the position to obtain some political advantage. I suggest that a great number of political advantages could be taken, with some vigour, but the Australian Labour party has demonstrated, over the last few months, how this problem has become so serious that every effort should be made to tackle it. Only a week ago, a number of us formed ourselves into a committee in Sydney in order to ascertain the facts about the building industry. We were prepared to give up our time to hear what the people had to say about the availability of man-power and material, the need for homes, and what ought to be done to overcome the problem. Having set ourselves out to inform our minds in that way, we are accused by the Minister of trying to use that effort for political advantage. I say to honorable senators that if more and more committees are established to examine the problems facing Australia, a great service will be done to the people, even if some party political advantage is obtained. 1 want to say a few words on other matters and I leave this subject with the firm belief that the Australian Labour party, through its leader, has put a worthy proposition to the Government. We have demonstrated that the Prime Minister’s statement, as reported in our responsible press, that the only problem is one of material and man-power, is not correct. We have shown that that is not the problem at all, and that man-power and materials are available. The need is there, the constitutional power is there, and all that is required is money. That has not been denied by the Minister, and I suggest that something must flow from the protest that the Australian Labour party has made on this occasion.
I want to address myself now to the Speech delivered by the Governor-General. We have had presented to us on this occasion one of the most uninspiring addresses that it has been my unfortunate responsibility to examine. We have had many uninspiring reports from the Government in recent years, but this one reaches an all-time low. It sets out some apparent achievements for which the Government takes credit. These are so minor that the Government must have been scratching round to find something to include in the document. I could have suggested that the Government examine all the promises that it has made to the Australian people over the last seven or eight years and then explain why it has not been able to do the things it said it would do. Of course, there was the famous promise to put value back into the £1. One feels diffident these days about mentioning the value of the £1, because responsible political parties which make such a promise to the people and then allow the value of the £1 to diminish to its present level ought to be ashamed of themselves and resign from responsible government. But we have become so callous as to accept such a failure. We accept the fact that, provided that one has behind him the power of the press and control of the radio stations, he can make the wildest promises to the people of Australia and, when returned to power, promptly forget about the promises.
I want only to remind the Government that it promised to put value into the £1, to reduce taxation, to impose an excess profits tax, and to ease or abolish the means test. I could repeat many other promises that have been made by this Government, but have not been fulfilled. The people can be deluded for a while, but despite the power of propaganda the day will come when the people will tire of empty promises.
– All that happened in 1949.
– Is that any reason why the Government should fail to act upon its promises?
– We put the Labour government out of office in 1949.
– That was done with a tirade of promises.
– We promise now to keep the Opposition out of office much longer.
– I know the Government would hope to keep that promise, but it has done nothing about all the others. A responsible political party should not make wild promises. What it promises it should do. Often we hear talk about the people losing faith in their political leaders. The quickest way to make them lose faith is to promise to do what you do not intend to do. That has been the record of this Government, and it is doing a disservice to democracy.
I am glad that the Governor-General’s Speech has shown that the Government has at last set up a committee to review the Constitution. That was done after a long delay, and I look forward to the committee’s first report. I believe’ that this Parliament should have greater powers. I am sure that the Constitutional Committee will approach its task impartially, and that it will recommend that we ask the people for more power for the Parliament. I hope that there will be a change of heart among Government supporters in that connexion. The need for more power has been evident for the past fifteen years, but any attempts to get more power have been opposed by supporters of the present Government.
I agree with Senator Wade that we must not think as Victorians, South Australians, or Tasmanians, but must remember that we are Australians. Australia must be developed as a nation, and I have advocated for many years a national committee to plan the development of Australia. Public works, the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and other similar developmental projects should be planned on a national basis and that can be done only if this Parliament has adequate powers.
I should like to see the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) give more attention to the coal industry. In recent years, Australia has become more and more dependent on overseas fuel. Our dependence on oil terrifies me, because the wheels of industry in Australia could be stopped within a few weeks in the event of another war. The railways are turning to diesel oil. Fortunately, in the past week or so, announcements have been made in South Australia and Victoria that there will be a partial reversion to coal for the railways, but the tendency has been to rely more heavily on imported fuel. When the crisis arose in the Middle East, we began to fear the rationing of petrol. Practically all road transport and most of our rail transport is dependent on oil. Probably half the gas consumed in New South Wales is produced with oil.
More men are being thrown out of work on the coal-fields. We have one of the richest coal-fields in the world, but we are tending to leave our coal in the ground. How can we be sure that we will continue to get all the oil we want at a reasonable price? Oil. supplies are in the hands of a monopoly and the tankers are controlled by very few organizations. The oil companies have been able to tell Queensland, a sovereign State, that it will be denied the use of petrol if the consumers are not prepared to pay the price demanded. Australia is in a dangerous position in this connexion. It could be brought to its knees in a short time.
– It should be nationalized.
– 1 agree.
– What should be nationalized?
– I have been speaking about coal.
– I thought the honorable senator was talking about oil.
– I am sorry if I confused Senator Wright.
– The idea of nationalizing the oil industry struck me as incongruous. That is why I asked the question.
– I believe there are great possibilities for the development of the coal industry in Australia, but we must engage in research. In particular, we should ascertain whether it is economically possible to extract oil from coal. That is done in South Africa but the wage problem is not so acute there. Instead of allowing Australia to drift into a dangerous position in connexion with fuel supplies, wc should make every effort to use the natural resources of Australia. I believe that, through research, we could provide Australia with a fuel that would enable us to maintain the national economy. The northern coal-fields also are gradually losing more and more men. As men go out of the industry the towns diminish in these areas and tend to become ghost towns. On the northern coal-fields there are many towns which depend completely on the coal-mining industry. Some of these towns have already gone out. Minmi, which was once a thriving township, is now only a mass of rusted huts. Where people had built schools and churches, to-day only the rabbits and a few other animals roam around the area. That same sort of thing confronts a large number of towns on the northern coal-fields.
At the commencement of the war something like 28,000 men were engaged in the industry. Towards the end of the war that force had been increased by some thousands. To-day only 18,000 are left in the industry and month by month more and more men are going out and leaving these areas. Considering all the public money that has been spent on these towns and in the development of the areas, it is essential that the Government try to maintain at least a certain amount of development on the northern coal-fields. It may mean more research or, as the Minister for National Development said yesterday, it may mean that something like £100,000.000 is necessary to develop the by-products from coal. I suggest the position has been reached where the Minister should tackle the problem as quickly as possible before we reach the stage where, as men go out of the industry, these rnining towns will go out of existence. 1 make that appeal because I feel, first of all, it is dangerous to rely on outside sources of fuel to keep our transport moving and to provide power for our industries. Secondly, I believe we have a -tremendous potential, if properly developed, on the coal-fields of Australia for the use of coal and its by-products. Thirdly, I mention the social problem of the people who have settled in these areas. Their homes, the public buildings and all these things are at stake. Because of these things I ask the Minister and the Government to do all that can be done to promote the use of coal.
– 1 am very proud to be associated in this Address-in-Reply debate with the expressions of loyalty that have been offered. And I cannot help thinking, sir, of another occasion not so long ago when the throne behind your chair was occupied by Her Majesty herself. In thinking to-day of what we used to call the British Empire, we should remember that it is now the British Commonwealth, and as, I think. Senator Vincent pointed out there has recently come into it a new dominion in Africa. Because I think that that free association of free peoples is the greatest hope of the world to-day, I join with great pride and pleasure in these expressions of loyalty.
I commend the whole of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech; I support every word of it. I believe, however, there are a few “ fs “ to be crossed and a few “ i’s “ to be dotted, and I hope to mention, before time’s winged chariot pulls me down, some of the things that need to be elaborated, and possibly one or two things which were not mentioned at all, but perhaps should have been. Before I do that, I turn with considerable displeasure to the amendment moved by the Opposition. I do not object to the Opposition’s trying to prod the Executive into more energetic action. One of the great defects of this Parliament has been that the Opposition has been so divided, and so futilely ineffective, that it has fallen upon honorable senators, regularly called by the press “ back benchers “, to prod the Ministers into action. You will observe, sir, I am not a backbencher. I sit on the front bench, and I mean no reflection on the Ministers who sit alongside me. I certainly exclude the Minister immediately on my left, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), from any charge of lack of imagination or any charge that may be derived from any part of my speech. I think too, that the Minister who defended the Government against the attack of the Opposition, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), cannot be charged with lack of action. When we come to this subject of housing there is no public man in Australia whom I know who has done more for housing than has the Minister for National Development who is responsible for it. 1 desire to approach this subject of housing as 1 think it should be approached in the Senate. I want to examine the way in which the Australian community, which is distinct from the Australian Government, should approach it. It is quite true, as members of the Opposition have reminded us that the Commonwealth Government has a duty in this matter; but it has not the duty of providing everybody with a house. Leaving aside constitutional limitations, it is not in accordance with the free tradition of the British peoples that any government should be regarded as the sole housing authority. The duty of providing housing is partly the duty of the Commonwealth Government, but more especially of the State governments, and it is the duty also of individuals themselves and of private institutions including our financial organizations.
An attempt has been made through this amendment to attack the whole credit policy’ of the Commonwealth Government. I say emphatically that that policy is sound, and is a policy that would be followed if we had a Labour government such as was led by the late Mr. Chifley, because no one was more firm on certain sound aspects of modern financial theory than was Mr. Chifley. He understood it. I leave aside, of course, the question of the nationalization of banking, which, 1 think, was his one blind spot.
The old practice of financial houses was that when everything was going well and when there was a boom, they expanded credits but when there was a depression, they reduced them. That is now regarded as being completely wrong. That was the great defect of all governments throughout the world during the great depression of the ‘thirties. Under the Keynesian theory which, in the main, is accepted, when there is a boom and a prospect of investment and spending getting out of hand, with a resultant crash, the policy should be to dampen down credits. In those circumstances, the central banking policy is not to extend credit too far. 1 make the point that, for a good deal of our housing, that is necessary. For most of the people whom we represent and for all the people who can be described as comfortably off, housing cannot be distinguished from the ordinary financing of everything else. It is a business, and people must pay business rates, and the whole burden of housing should not be put on one section of the community. But when one comes to the poorer income groups, I not only admit, but also enthusiastically support, anything that has been said from either side of this chamber about helping the man on the basic wage or on a low income who needs something more than an ordinary business contract in order to build a house. The proper policy for this is what is known, from its origin in France, as the credit foncier policy, or as its English equivalent, a mortgage policy; that is, the obtaining of finance from mortgage banks. Money is lent on a long-term mortgage on the security of the land, and the property on the land. It is a perfectly sound policy, and for people below a certain income level there should be loans at a low rate of interest - not lower than an economic rate of interest, but lower than the rate of interest that applies to business operations. We must remember that we are, in effect, subsidizing people. On pure business lines, that is not a sound thing to do, but we are subsidizing people for a social reason, because we believe that to have the mass of the people properly housed and living with their families is the right thing for them and for the nation.
What are the proper organizations to finance housing? Here,’ I am giving a point of view which may not be accepted. I am not sure that all my colleagues on this side of the House accept it. It is not original. I have discussed it with other people. I believe that the special function of the savings bank should be to provide homes at a low rate of interest. The deposits in savings banks throughout the world come from people on moderate incomes. I know that they are much more extensive in Australia, possibly, than in other countries. J know that we no longer look on a savings bank as an organization that poor people use - if there are any poor people as a class in Australia. I started a savings bank account when I was a child, and I still have it to-day. I think it contains the sum of £480. I believe that the savings bank should be used for financing home purchase.
I hope that my next remark will be the last that I make on this matter. I know that it will not be accepted by honorable senators opposite, but I believe it to be profoundly true. The main body responsible for the bad housing position in New South Wales is the Government of New South Wales. I will offer two pieces of evidence to support that contention. First, that Government passed the Landlord and Tenant Act. I know that that was necessary and justifiable during the war. At that time it was necessary to get rid of the ordinary rights of landlords; but that act should have been altered, modified and amended piece by piece, and finally it should have vanished.
Senator Spooner mentioned certain cases of people who were occupying houses which they would not occupy if they had to pay an economic rent; that is, if the Landlord and Tenant Act were modified in favour of particular landlords. I could mention a flat, or a group of flats, not far from where r live. I shall not be too particular, but I could give the address and could even show honorable senators portion of the premises. Without being more particular than that, I can say that this group of flats is owned by an elderly widow who lives in a small flatette at the back, and is dependent for her livelihood on the income from the other three flats in the building. Of those three flats, two could comfortably house a man, wife and two children and the other a man, wife and one child. In the top flat one person is in residence, in the middle flat, one person, and in the lower flat, two persons. Those three flats could provide excellent accommodation for ten persons, but they are occupied by only four. That is the direct result of an unjust provision of the Landlord and Tenant Act, which denies that elderly widow a fair living from her savings. She is not a usurious landlady. That is one act for which the present Labour Government of New South Wales, led by Mr. Cahill, is responsible. Without throwing the whole field open, it could amend the act sufficiently to get rid of that injustice, and so provide accommodation for people under existing conditions.
My second point is more important. 1 said that the savings bank was the proper basis for a credit foncier policy, under which money would be lent on mortgage for home building. Why has New South Wales lost its savings bank? The reason goes back to the Labour Government that was in office in that State from 1929 to 1931, and the responsibility rests on the head of the Labour Government at that time. Victoria and South Australia both have their savings banks, and there should be a powerful savings bank in New South Wales. If that were the case, that State would not be dependent to the extent that it is on the Federal Government. A savings bank could alone provide the basis for a home-building policy.
I do not believe that this motion carries any weight at all. I am opposed to it, and T will vote against it. I believe that the attack on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been sufficiently answered by Senator Spooner. This Federal Government has played its full part as a home-building government. The rest of the responsibility must lie with the States, and with other organizations that finance people in a legitimate way.
I now wish to speak about other and, to my mind, more interesting matters. I support the immigration policy. 1 do not. say that we should set a figure, and obstinately say that we will bring in that number of immigrants whatever the cost. I believe that there is something in the criticism that has been heard in the country and from members of both Houses about the immigration policy, but I believe that it must be continued. I object to the genera] criticism of immigrants on the ground of their character or anything else. I am satisfied that the great majority of migrants from Europe are very worthy people. Some of them have the highest culture, and all whom I have met have been people of very high character. With regard to their impact on the home-building policy, we should not forget that although it is true that they demand more homes and more services, they also provide the means of satisfying those demands. I do not wish to give statistics, because 1 hate quoting figures. lt is said that figures cannot lie, but liars can figure and figures can be used to prove anything. I believe it is true that immigrants have built more homes than they occupy, and therefore we cannot point to the immigration policy as a major cause of our present home shortage. I believe that the great John Curtin School of Medicine, which has just been completed, which I have seen in all its stages of building and which is now really working, was built almost entirely by immigrant labour. The contractor was an immigrant with a wonderful capacity for getting all types of people to work. When I was there in the early stages I saw notices in six or seven languages. If we examine the subject of immigration closely we shall find that immigrants have helped our housing programme more than they have hindered it.
The great problem to-day is the development of this continent, and we must be prepared to take a little strain and stress and a little personal inconvenience, even though we should prefer to do without it, in order to complete that great task. Linked with it is the matter of defence. None of us who are amateurs - although some of us have had a little professional service at times which qualifies us to be somewhat more than amateurs in this matter - should lay down dogmatically what should be done in regard to defence. We should address our minds to the great problems it brings before us. To think that we can banish war by simply referring everything to the United Nations organization- and to ignore the fact that mighty armed powers still exist is foolish. That in some way or other we must be ready for aggressive action against this continent, is beyond dispute. I rather pity the professional service officer who has to face these problems. I believe that one of the great needs - and one that is very hard to meet - is to have a staff training college that will produce officers at a high level who are not merely soldiers or sailors or airmen, but all three. By that means we shall get men who will understand the problems of all three services without having any prejudice in favour of any one of them. Such men are extremely hard to find. It has to be remembered that human error does not always spring from malice or stupidity; it often springs from our attachment to the tort of thing we know, and with which we have grown up, and, to my mind, that is the greatest problem confronting the) services. For that reason, I have endeavoured to see what the services are doing. With the help of the relevant Ministers, 1 have visited army, navy and air manoeuvres and tried to put myself in the places of those men who have to consider these problems so that when any of these matters come before us I shall not be in the position of simply saying, “ Yes “ or “ No “ to a cut and dried plan, but will be able to make some kind of evaluation of the proposal.
Recently, a group of senators from both sides of the chamber attended a civil defence school in Victoria, where we enjoyed ourselves immensely. I did not know Victoria had such a fine place as Mount Macedon. But we worked very hard and grasped something at least of the terrible problem before us. I believe that one of the things we have to do in facing the future is to give general training to our people so that in the event of a crisis they will not be panicstricken, but will be able to control and help themselves and others. I do not know yet whether the defence proposals will be, although I have an inkling of some of them. My first reaction to some of them was one of hostility; but when, they come before the Senate, I hope they will be considered free from party or any other bias.
It is my belief that the role of the land forces in any kind of war, whether it be little or big, but particularly if it is big, is changing. I was an enthusiastic supporter of the general principle of compulsory training. I still believe that we must give the youth of this country some general training, but that such training must be modified. Possibly the main part of it must be not fighting but helping others. We must see to it that everybody knows first aid, that everybody knows how to fit in with a group and do team work in the event of a great emergency. The sort of preparation required to meet enemy attack is in many ways similar to that one would make in the event of a bush fire or some other great convulsion such as an earthquake from which, fortunately, we are free, although one gloomy prophet at the school we were attending prophesied a great earthquake in one part of Australia within the next few years. I shall not name the place he mentioned because it might prejudice those people who ure selling land in that locality.
Another of our problems is transport. As honorable senators know, committees were considering this question during the recess. 1 was a member of a committee of Government members of which Mr. Wentworth, from another place, was the inspiring director. There was also a Labour party committee at work at the same time, and I believe both committees came to substantially the same conclusions. 1 want to say here that I and every other member of the committee with which I was associated give full credit and praise to Mr. Wentworth for the dynamic energy with which he drove us and with which he worked himself. A magnificent report was written entirely by him, but only after he had consulted with us and knew the opinions of each one of us. Senator Maher, Senator Hannaford and I, looked at railway yards at various places in Western Australia and South Australia, and we came to our own conclusions; and the report to which I have referred represents the unanimous opinion of every member of that committee.
Our main recommendation was the construction of three railway links to give us a uniform gauge line between Brisbane and Fremantle. In my opinion, the link to which first priority perhaps might be given is the one from Broken Hill to Port Pirie near Adelaide. The second, in order of preference in my view, is the link from Sydney to Albury; and the third is that from Kalgoorlie to Perth. Actually, they are all so important that considerations such as that should not come into the matter. The main consideration should be which can be put into practice easiest and quickest.
As to who should pay for it, such work should be looked upon as a national undertaking and the responsibility of at least finding the loan money - I think it should be done with loan money - rests to some extent with the Commonwealth Government, or the Australian Loan Council. Whether that should be taken into consideration - I think it should be - when allotting funds to those States which will not benefit directly, is another matter; but the whole proposal should not fall down because of bargaining between the States and the Commonwealth or because of attempts on the part of one or the other to obtain a major advantage.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the development of Canberra. At last, the report which was presented in typed form to this Senate has been printed and circulated. I hope all honorable senators will read it and study in particular the maps and diagrams which, I believe, were the main cause of the great delay in its being printed. In my opinion, the development of Canberra fits into the other problems to which we have been referring to-day. It certainly fits into the housing problem. All honorable senators know that there is a housing problem in Canberra, and I think that problem should be solved speedily. In fact, that is the only point made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) with which I feel inclined to agree. The Government can and should solve it speedily. It must be admitted, however, that the figures disclose that the housing problem has been solved completely in the Northern Territory. There, we have not only overtaken the lag in housing but have actually more houses than are required. In the table which I have just perused, the deficiency in the Northern Territory is represented by a minus figure.
In my view, the main essentials for the development of Canberra are these: First, all departments should be located here. By that I mean, for instance, that the Department of Works, one of the most important of all government departments, should come to Canberra. Its location in Melbourne has been a grievous hindrance to Canberra’s development. I believe also that the Service departments should have their heads here and that sufficient schooling and other amenities should be provided for all public servants. Whilst I cannot say that I am completely satisfied with what this or any other government has done for the development of Canberra, I feel that I can say that during the last two years at any rate, there has been some attempt to speed up the plans which were rather vaguely drawn some time ago. We shall be doing a very great service to Australia if we continue with that policy.
It was deplorable that a week before the Parliament was opened we were under the necessity of housing delegates to an important conference in this building. That had to be done because there was no other accommodation available. When I received a letter from the President of the Senate asking if I would make my room available,
I replied that I would, but I did not think that it was a thing that should happen in a highly developed country. 1 believe that in this city there should be sufficient accommodation for all such conferences. Fortunately, this was one of those cases in which the economic forces which work on their own account are helping us. The time has gone forever when people can sneer at Canberra as an out-of-the-way place or an unnecessary capital. The decision may have been wrong. It may be that the National Capital should have been established in another place, but it is in Canberra, and here it will remain. I am confident that we shall develop an abiding city of which all will be proud.
The greatest deficiency of life in Australia is the lack of thriving cities and towns outside the great capitals. Of course, I could mention a number of country towns that are most desirable places in which to live, where there is plenty of active, energetic life, and where there live men and women of education. I believe that all our country towns are improving. But my desire to live in the National Capital has been very strong throughout my lifetime. I believe that we have a duty to make this National Capital a model to be emulated by other cities, towns and even villages in Australia, although there are very few villages in this country in the English, or in the continental sense of the term. We should make Canberra a model city, even if it is costly to do so, and even if it evokes envy in some quarters. .In the long run, it will benefit everybody because, unfortunately, our great cities have not adhered to sound standards. I cannot look back to the Sydney of my boyhood without a feeling of sorrow. Undoubtedly, the harbour, as created by nature, was beautiful, but we have spoilt most of it. When I think of the traffic snarls that I have encountered in driving to and from my home in Sydney, I hope that such conditions will not be allowed to develop in Canberra. I hope that every member of this chamber will resist any tendency to cheapen Canberra and make it a shoddy city. By making it a great city we shall begin an era of great cities in Australia. In conclusion, I commend His Excellency’s Speech to the Senate. I believe that it indicates a very sound policy. I do not criticize it except to say that the rather general statements contained in it need to be put into more definite and more concrete terms. 1 hope that it presages a policy of vigour on the part of the Government which, I trust, will continue to occupy the treasury bench for many years to come.
– I should like to say, at the outset, that 1 wholeheartedly support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to His Excellency’s Speech. Until Senator Pearson referred to the present crisis in the Suez Canal area, I had no intention of addressing myself to that subject. If the United Nations Organization had enjoyed the full support of certain nations, peace could have been maintained in that area. The small nations have an equal right with the larger nations to use the Suez Canal. After months of wrangling and struggling, it now appears that Israel, as well as other relatively small nations, will be deprived of the privilege of using the canal. I believe that it is the duty of the United Nations to ensure that the ships of small nations shall be permitted to use the Suez Canal.
I come now to the recent conference of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization that was held in Canberra. The Labour party has no objection to any country, or group of countries, organizing themselves in the interest of peace. However, we take exception to nations deciding amongst themselves on means of forcing their views on other nations of the world. So secret were the proceedings of the conference kept that Senator Pearson said that he would not like to know what transpired. I believe that the policies of other governments, as outlined by their Foreign Ministers to the conference, should be made known to the people of the world. If those policies were framed in the interests of peace, there would be nothing to fear. On the other hand, if they were framed in the interests of private enterprise or private trading, things that have caused so many upheavals in the world over the years, they should be kept secret.
The Governor-General’s Speech provides further evidence of the contention that the present Government is a government of promises and inaction. In 1949, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) promised the people, without any reservation on constitutional grounds, that the Government would provide more homes for the people and restore value to the £1. But what has happened? Further controls have been imposed. The right honorable gentleman promised to reduce the cost of living, but living costs have continued to rise. Shipping freights also have risen sharply. The real value of wages has declined since this Government has been in office, and the position of the workers deteriorates further each day that the Government remains in power.
Since 1949, when the Prime Minister made the promises that I have mentioned, there have been several elections, but the right honorable gentleman has refrained on each occasion from furnishing the people with a resume of his administration. Some bogy has always been raised in order to detract the minds of the electors from the real issue. Following the double dissolution of 1951, the Government won the general election on the banking issue. The banks of this country spent a lot of money to defeat the Chifley Government’s banking legislation.
– How much?
– I have been informed from a reliable source that the banks spent £500,000 in Victoria alone.
– What about capital levies?
– Senator Pearson raised the matter of capital levies yesterday. He need have no fear of Labour’s policy in that regard. He may hide his thousands wherever he likes and we shall not interfere with them. I was referring a moment ago to the bogies that have been raised at successive general elections. In the general election of 1953, the Petrov bogy was raised. In the following election, the Molotov letters bogy was raised. The promise of the Prime Minister to give to the people of Australia a reasonable measure of economic security has never been honoured. Whenever any Minister is asked a question about those promises not being honoured, he is told that the “ Corns “ are to blame. Apparently, supporters of the Government are so afraid of communism that they ignore the possibility of fascism sneaking in through the back door. In my opinion, there is no difference between the policy of this Government and that of the Fascists of Germany and Italy and the
Communist set-up in Russia. They all believe in a military dictatorship. I repeat that there is no difference between the policy of this Government and that of Hitler and Mussolini.
– The honorable senator might think that, but I say there is no difference. The people of Australia must be careful lest the Government, while using communism as a bogy, slips over them the dreadful thing that we saw in Germany and Italy prior to the outbreak of World War II. Those of us who care to remember the propaganda that was used in Germany in 1932 and 1933 will know that it was similar to the propaganda of this Government. What happened in Germany? They set up a Fascist dictatorship.
The Governor-General referred to air defence. I remind the Senate that the Australian Labour party has always believed, and has always preached in this chamber, that one of the greatest forms of defence was air defence. We have told the people of Australia and this Parliament on numerous occasions that the Government has been wasting the people’s money on national service training, and now the Government admits it. It has spent millions of pounds on that scheme when it could have been building houses for the people. It has admitted that it has flagrantly wasted that money, that the scheme will not be continued, and that it will concentrate on air defence. But what has it done? It has closed down the aircraft production industry and has sold out again to private enterprise. We read in the press yesterday and to-day that the Government is contracting to buy millions of pounds worth of aircraft from America.
Who are we to judge whether America will be an ally of the British Commonwealth of Nations if another war should occur, or whether we shall not be placed in the position we occupied in 1939 and once again have to build our own aircraft for defence? Who are we to say that we shall not be faced with the situation that confronted our boys when ‘ the Japanese declared war on Australia in 1941 and when they were asked to defend this country with Saturday afternoon pleasure kites against the great Japanese Zeros? It will be remembered that Japan was one of the Allies in World War I., and who can say that America will always be our ally? Yet this Government has sold out once again to the private monopolies in America and we are now forced to make dollars available for the purchase of aircraft, thus pawning Australia to the multi-millionaires or the wealthy people of America. The Prime Minister did not say during any election campaign that the Government would close down the aircraft production industry, but he will have to answer for it when he next goes to the people.
His Excellency also referred to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity scheme. . Lo and behold, the Government is now taking the credit for that scheme! I recall that the present Prime Minister and other Government supporters who are now members of his Cabinet boycotted the opening ceremony. Yet they are now publicizing all over the world the value of the scheme to Australia in the production of power and water for irrigation. The Labour party knew it would be a great project; but we still believe that a government cannot continue with great national projects and neglect the incidentals in the various States. I remind the Senate that a Labour government initiated the scheme. The credit for it, instead of being taken by this Government, should be given to those great planners of the war and post-war years - Ben Chifley and John Curtin.
– The main point is who carries it on.
– This Government is carrying it out, admittedly, but when it was commenced, so critical was the then Opposition of the administration of .the Chifley Government that it used it politically, put. into the minds of the people the thought that it would be a waste of money, and boycotted it. The present Prime Minister boycotted it.
– That is not true.
– I defy the honorable senator to prove it is not true. The present Prime Minister boycotted the opening of the project.
– He did not.
– He did. I make that assertion, and let the Prime Minister, or Sir Eric Harrison, contradict it.
– If he admits his mistake and goes on with it, he is being big.
– He has never admitted his mistake. He has taken the credit himself instead of giving it to the Labour party.
– No one is taking the credit from the Labour party for starting it.
– The Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity scheme is a great monument to the two great Labour leaders, Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley, who planned it when we were faced with the problem of development after the last war. They planned this and other projects which I shall mention. Senator Pearson was very perturbed about the recent federal Labour party conference that was held in Brisbane.
– So is the honorable senator.
– I am not.
Senator Pearson has every reason to be afraid of it, because the people of Australia will accept its decisions.
– That is a bit of wishful thinking.
– Does the honorable senator reckon he will fit under the umbrella?
– Irrespective of the sneers and smears of the capitalist press, of Government supporters, and over the air, as sure as night follows day the people of Australia will be only too glad to welcome back the great Australian Labour party to the treasury bench in Canberra in the very near future. Labour will be bound to implement the resolutions carried at the recent conference in Brisbane.
– Will Dr. Burton be a member of the team?
– Let me tell my interjecting friend, the magpie on the other side of the chamber, Senator Vincent, about the men who attend such conferences. They are not a coterie of people who select themselves and go down to Collins House or into some other hiding place as did the delegates to the Seato conference.
– Is a secret ballot held?
– No. There is nothing secret about the great Australian Labour party. When we hold a conference the press is admitted. The conference was a conference of delegates, six from each State, more than one-sixth of them being ex-servicemen of either World War I. or World War II. So, no one can say that they are disloyal. The delegates are elected by the rank-and-file members of the Australian Labour party at their annual State conferences. The federal conference discusses the policy of the party openly, with the press present to publicize it. We want it to be publicized. 1 venture to say that the only fear Senator Pearson should have is that in the future he will not be supporting an anti-people’s government, but will be forced, if he is fortunate enough to be reelected, to accept decisions conforming to the platform of the great Australian Labour party, which was laid down more than 60 years ago.
Senator Scott interjecting,
– Senator Scott would not know what he was talking about. All he knows is that he does what “ Bob “ says. “ Bob “ says “ lolly “ and he says “ lick The great founders of the Labour party laid down its platform, and during the years we have not had any necessity to alter it. That programme provided for the socialization of the means of life. We still support it and we always will.
– Is it democratic socialism?
– For the honorable senator’s information it is socialization of the means of life.
– What is your definition of democratic socialism?
– I do nol know, but the honorable senator who interjects is such a learned man that he could give his version to the Senate, which would probably accept it. I do not know whether he is a lawyer, but whatever he is he would have no views on this matter at all. His whole time in the chamber is taken up with making interjections or trying to look after some people who do not need his care. Now, in the limited time at my disposal
– You are getting ofl the subject of democratic socialism very quickly.
– No, I am not.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Byrne). - Order! Honorable senators will observe the forms of the Senate and allow Senator Hendrickson to make his speech in his own way.
– For Seria-: tor Vincent’s information, I shall be going, to Victoria to-morrow, where I have three” meetings arranged for next week, at Beechworth, Nagambie and Nathalia. If he’ cares to come to the meetings I shall explain to him the meaning of our party’s platform. I am sure that I could convince him, even though he has a thick head.
– The honorable senator almost tempts me to go.
– On what days next week are these appointments?
– The honorable senator should not be so inquisitive. He always wants to know something of a subject about which he knows nothing and cares even less. If it is excusable for Ministers to go overseas and to waste public money when the Parliament is sitting, it is just as excusable for me, when organizing in the interests of my party, to be in those places when my services are not required here. I now want to come to the position of age pensioners.
– Yes* thoughts of them never enter the head of the honorable senator who interjects. He does not live with them. He lives on his squatter’s land in the south of Western Australia. He should go to the congested areas on the mining fields where pensioners really exist. If the Government had any heart at all it would have included in the Governor-General’s Speech a statement that it intended to do something to assist the age pensioners of the Commonwealth. In the past, we have been told each year by the Government that our representations in the interests of age pensioners have been made too late, that the budget has been prepared and that further consideration will be given to the subject in the following year. The next year has never come. I say to all honorable senators, irrespective of the party to which they belong, that the plight of the pensioners is appalling. When I read in the press about the Government’s great big heart in providing hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring Hungarians here, I think, of the pensioners. I am sorry for the Hungarians in their plight, but they did not get into that plight by building this Commonwealth of Australia or by fighting for democracy. The pensioners are suffering because they did those things. If money to this amount is lo be made available for a charitable purpose, surely the Government could adopt the old theme and let charity begin at home. The Government should have included in the Governor-General’s Speech some indication that it intended to do something more for the people who are too old to care for themselves.
Next, I want to refer to the case stated by my leader to-day. This case is unanswerable.
– No, it was skittled.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) rose and all that he did was abuse everybody - Liberal Premiers, Liberal Ministers for Housing, Labour Premiers, Labour Ministers for Housing, the president of the Queensland Master Builders Association, and everybody else.
– Even Mr. Fraser.
– Yes. He said, “ Do they not realize that Spooner is right? Spooner can do no wrong. How dare they criticize him! It is ridiculous to criticize him “. I criticize him for these reasons. 1 have in my hand a copy of a pledge made in regard to housing by Mr. Menzies before he became Prime Minister in 1949. In it he said nothing about the Constitution of the Commonwealth. He did not have any reason to say anything about it. because its provisions do not in any way restrict the Commonwealth in connexion with the building of homes for the people. This is what he said in November, 1949 -
The Liberal Party, when returned to office, will regard as its most permanent and vital responsibility the speeding up of the housing programme.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator should not rush in where angels fear to tread. These are the words of his own leader; surely he will allow me to read them to honorable senators -
We will not allow any other public works, other than those of the most extreme urgency, to be given priority oyer home building.
What about the luxury hotels, £1,000,000 here, £1,000,000 there, £4,000,000 in Victoria? They can all go ahead. Still, that was Bob’s promise. Let us- go on - ?
The Liberal party gives a firm undertaking to the many thousands of young engaged couples in Australia who are forced to postpone marriage and possibly throw away the happiest years of their lives, because they cannot get a home of their own. and to couples already married who are suffering the same penally.
He did not go on to say, after that, “ But I cannot do it because of the Constitution “. He did not say, “ It is a State government responsibility “. He said nothing about that at all. He told the people what he would do, and flagrantly he has broken his promise. He continued -
You are penalized lo-day by the Chifley Government, which gives priority to extravagent building plans for government departments, . . . 1 want to refer to that matter too. When we were in office, we were told that we were run by the bureaucrats, and that the number of persons employed in the Public Service exceeded all reason. The number then employed, I think, was, in round figures. 100,000; to-day it is 250,000.
– That is not correct.
– I said. “T think “.
– You are wrong.
– The honorable senator may correct my figures. I challenge Senator Scott to give to the Senate, when he addresses it during this debate, the number of Government servants employed by the Commonwealth in 1949 and the number employed to-day, and then we shall see who is right.
In 1949, Mr. Menzies said -
You are penalized to-day by the Chifley Government, which gives priority to extravagant building plans for government departments, which fails to check restrictive, go-slow tactics in the building industry or to increase production of many essential building materials. In other words, the very Government which claims to be the champion of the average man and woman is the Government that is depriving you of a home, and. by starving State governments of funds, preventing even your State government” from helping you. We will not allow any public works. except those of extreme urgency, to be given priority over home building.
In 1957, after the Government has been eight and a half years in office, the Minister for National Development, who is in charge of home-building in the Commonwealth, has the audacity to tell this Parliament that home-building is the responsibility not of the Federal Government but of the State governments. That is his answer to the case made out by my leader this afternoon. I say that the responsibility for homebuilding rests on the Federal Government in that when Mr. Menzies made that promise in 1949 he knew that he could carry it out if the powers that put him here in 1949 allowed him to do so. But those banking and monopolistic interests are all keeping him down to the policy to which they subscribe, which is not a policy of giving the Australian people homes to live in. What is he doing for those persons who were, as he said, denied by the Chifley Government the privilege of being married in 1949? Nothing! The Minister tells the Australian people that this is not the Commonwealth’s responsibility. It was the Commonwealth’s responsibility in 1949 and is still its responsibility to-day. The Minister compared the figures for home-building in 1949 with the figures for home-building to-day. Such a comparison is absolutely ridiculous. As my leader pointed out, home-building between 1945 and 1949 was a different proposition from home-building between 1949 and 1957. On the comparative figures, taking into consideration the conditions prevailing in both periods, the Chifley Government excelled the performance of any Government in the history of the Commonwealth in the field of home-building.
Let us consider war service homes. If there are any constitutional difficulties in the way of building homes for the Australian people, there can certainly be no obstacle in the way of building homes for exservicemen. In evidence before a royal commission in Victoria last year, the chairman of the State Housing Commission stated that 61 per cent, of applicants for homes in Victoria were ex-servicemen. The Government is helping ex-servicemen to buy homes to a limited extent, but what happens in many cases? An ex-serviceman selects a home which is approved by the War Service Homes Division. The ex-serviceman is told that a loan for the purchase of the house has been approved but that the money will not he available for eighteen or nineteen months.
That situation gives the lie direct to the statement of the Minister for National Development that the supply of houses is being delayed by lack of materials and man power. Lack of money is the real cause of the delay. The ex-servicemen fought for this country, and that is more than we cun say for the Minister for National Development or for the Prime Minister. The ex-servicemen have earned the right to live in their own homes. Now, after the Government officials have approved the purchase of a home by the ex-servicemen, the buyer is forced to find the difference between the deposit and the amount that the Commonwealth Government will allow him. The ex-servicemen are sent to the Government’s friends - the money lenders - and are forced to pay between 12 per cent, and 20 per cent, interest for the loan until the War Service Homes Division makes the money available. Can Senator Scott deny that?
The onus is on the Government, lt should make money available for exservicemen so that homes can be purchased when they are approved. The ex-servicemen who want to buy homes in 1957 should enjoy the same privileges as those who bought homes in 1949 when the Chifley Government was in office. That Government ensured that money was available as soon as the purchase was approved. That was the policy of the Chifley Labour Government and it was put into effect. This Government should face its responsibilities in that connexion.
I direct my attention now to immigration. The Australian Labour party does not oppose immigration, and it has never done so. We believe in immigration, but it must be properly planned. We do not believe in the present system under which this Government brings thousands of immigrants into Australia and then turns them over to the States without jobs or homes. We should have a home ready for every immigrant before he comes to these shores.
– Would the honorable senator keep the Hungarians out of Australia?
– If Senator Vincent is so interested in the Hungarians, why does he not do something about the aborigines? The Government has treated them worse than the Hungarians have been treated. They have been pushed out of their own territory. What has the Government done for them? It has used a political stunt to put fascist legislation into effect in Australia. Senator Vincent should not talk to me about Hungarians. I am sorry for the people of Hungary but I am more sorry for those who are closer to home. If Senator Vincent is sympathetic towards those in want, he should have a look at the conditions under which Hungarians are living in Melbourne. There are 40 of them to a house. Those who work at night use the beds that have been occupied by those who work in the daytime. They are living ten to a room.
I shall close by saying that the Government has not been able to answer the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. We ask only that the people should be given an opportunity to test the bona fides of the amendment. If they are given that chance, it will not be long before there will be another government on the treasury bench.
.-I have pleasure in supporting the motion for the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The Speech delivered by His Excellency indicated what the Government proposes to do, and it also showed quite clearly the progress that has been made since this Government was elected to office. I do not want to enter into the argument that has been proceeding to-day, because I have some suggestions that I hope will be constructive.
I have listened intently to the argument on housing, and I can say that the housing position in Queensland is better now than it has been for a long time. It has been said that if the laws governing landlords and tenants were amended, many more houses could be used for rental purposes. The owners will not let them because they cannot evict undesirable tenants. I remember that when the former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, was in Mackay, he told me that if a depression took place there would be a surplus of houses. At that time the housing situation was more serious than it is now. The fact that so many people can buy houses now is indicative of the prosperity that Australia is enjoying. In many ways, this Government is encountering difficulties because of its fine economic record resulting in very fast development since it was elected in 1949.
In the debate on the Address-in-Reply, we have an opportunity to be constructive, and we should keep the national economy uppermostin our minds. One economic factor which concerns me deeply is the amount of money we earn overseas to provide us with external credits. A nation is like an individual. When an individual spends more than he earns, he gets into trouble. That is often the case with Australia in relation to its overseas earnings and spending. We have passed into a more buoyant state recently, but it can be said truthfully that this Government has faced difficulty over external credits when the prices paid for primary products fell. That was the case with wool, which is the greatest of our income-earners overseas. Because of the high price of wool, we have emerged now from the serious position into which we were heading a few months ago. The Government should tackle this problem, not as a passing matter, but with a view to avoiding the trouble that arises through fluctuations in the prices for primary products. We should try to develop our overseas trade on a permanent basis. We must realize also that we cannot always rely upon good seasons. Therefore, this matter is urgent.
Honorable senators may remember that I spoke on external credits in November, 1955, and emphasized three points. First, I suggested that we should try to develop the film industry, which offered great scope for earning external credits. My second suggestion was that secondary industry should shoulder its share of the export trade by sending some of our manufactured goods overseas and short-selling the local market. I mentioned as an example the Holden motor car. I suggest that if the secondary industries adopted that practice, they would be earning money for Australia so that the Government could bring into Australia goods that are required for manufacturing. I am glad that the makers of the Holden car have adopted that practice. My third suggestion was that the tourist industry should be developed on an international basis.
I intend to repeat those points in a constructive way so that the Government will realize their importance. Therefore,I think it offers us a wonderful opportunity to build up the external credits of this country. This island continent of ours is bordered with a sea of dollars, but it requires a little bit of energy and determination on our part to dip into it with the ladle and share in the wealth of tourist dollars, and also the credits of other countries, by bringing their nationals to this country to enjoy its beauty. To do this requires the spending of money in the right direction.
The amount we are spending at the moment in bringing tourists to this country is just a drop in the ocean. It is almost like a drop of rain in a desert which no sooner falls than it dries up. Publicity takes a lot of money these days and, therefore, we have to be practical and approach things in a realistic fashion. Years ago, the Australian National Travel Association was granted £15,000 a year, but over the years, due to inflation and the loss of value of money, that £15,000 lost its value, with the result that the Australian National Travel Association had to close its offices at many centres in the United States. Last year the Government saw fit to increase that £15,000 to £50,000, but that sum, in my opinion, is of no more value than the £15,000 was when it was first given. We must look at the tourist industry in a different light to-day, and to do the job properly, nothing less than £500,000 should be spent. To bring these things before the peoples’ mind one has to punch them in in a very strong manner. Publicity is not a matter of mentioning a place once or twice but of mentioning it time after time. To me publicity is like hammering a nail; it cannot be driven in with one punch, but requires a sucession of punches. Continuity of publicity is needed to get a place into the minds of the people, and I believe that is the way to do it.
A very striking illustration was given to us by Senator Marriott, who has just returned from the United States of America. He, with Senator Benn, went to that country to attend the United Nations Assembly. He told us this morning that while in the United States of America he never saw one advertisement about Australia. That is because the amount of money we spend in publicizing this country is so small. One very good point he mentioned was that at the present time Australians are “tops” over there. Why on earth cannot we cash in on our popularity and bring American people here to spend their dollars and so help this country.
I believe only one instrumentalitycan subscribe the necessary money, and that is the Commonwealth Government. It is no use asking the States to do it. Senator Marriott also said that when somebody in the United States asked him from where he came he replied, “ Tasmania “. Of course, the right answer would have been “ Australia “. I stress that point because it is no use the Tasmanian State Government, the Queensland or Victorian governments spending money in overseas countries publicizing their individual States. We have to publicize ourselves as a country, and Australia is the country that people are most likely to know. When we bring tourists here, then through the activities of the various States, and through the work of their travel agencies, the tourists will go to the States and see the attractions they have to offer. I am not in any way decrying Tasmania because I think that State has lovely attractions. In case any Tasmanians did not see it, I mention that a recent issue of that great journal, the “ National Geographic Magazine “, contained one of the finest series of articles on that State, illustrated in colour, I have ever seen. That is the type of publicity that can do a great deal for a country. When we go overseas we must keep in mind the fact that we are Australians, and when we think of granting money for publicizing Australia it is the Commonwealth Government which should do so because the money must be spent by an Australian instrumentality. It is necessary to hammer home the point that it is a case of Australia all the time.
The spending of £500,000 might seem breathtaking to honorable senators who have not had much to do with publicity, but it would be a very good investment. If we spent £500,000 a year in advertising this country overseas, in a very short while the Government would be earning handsome dividends. Let us see what some other countries have done. Hawaii, through its legislature, spends 375,000 dollars a year but it gets an extra 12,500,000 dollars in revenue from increased taxes on tobacco, cigarettes, liquor and so on. So, for an expenditure of 375,000 dollars a year it receives a very handsome dividend. I am sure that if any of us could invest money in that way we would reckon wo obtained a handsome return. This country should follow the example of others, and Hawaii gives us a very striking illustration. Mr. Cogswell, the director of the Hawaii Business Bureau, when he was here recently lor the Pacific Air Travel Association conference, told me that the bureau is now asking the legislature to give it double t! amount I have mentioned because the tourist trade is such a wonderful earner for the country. 1 know there are people who will say, “ Let private enterprise do it “. But I take the view that we have to look at this as a national affair. 1 believe that the greatest benefit will be received by the Commonwealth Government, and as everybody pays taxes that is the easiest and. best way to raise the money for publicity purposes overseas. It is an industry that can be easily and quickly extended. Then, take the case of Haiti, a little country on the other side of the Pacific. It set out some years ago with determination to build up its tourist traffic. In no time its income from the tourist trade amounted to one-sixth of its total budget. Imagine what our tourist trade would be worth if it represented one-sixth of our total budget! We could pay for our defence programme out of it. What a wonderful thing it would be to give £190,000,000 relief from taxation to the people or to give them other benefits such as the expansion of our roads system, housing or whatever is required. I have indicated what can be done when such a small country as Haiti earns one-sixth of its budget revenue through its tourist trade.
Then, we have Cuba, a country which is very similar to my own State of Queensland where sugar is a dominant industry. We know that a little while ago the price of sugar on the international market began to fall. Cuba did not wait’ for the tragedy to happen. It set out to build up its tourist trade with the result that to-day its tourist trade has shifted into second place in importance in that country. Now, Cuba’s first industry is sugar, and its second is the tourist industry- Canada also provides a very striking illustration. It earns 600,000.000 dollars a year from tourists.
– How much does Australia earn?
– I shall give the honorable senator that figure in a minute. Canada earns 600,000,000 dollars a year and spends 450,000.000 dollars, giving it a net gain of 150.000.000 dollars. I recognize that that Canada is in a fortunate position. lt borders on the United States, and
Americans can go to Canada more easily than they can go to any other country. Canada has that distinct advantage, but the point is that Canada is prepared to pay out that huge appropriation on advertising. However, Canada is on the receiving end as far as the tourist industry is concerned. Hawaii receives 130,000 tourists a year, a tourist being defined as one who stays for two or more days in the country. That country is earning 65,000,000 dollars a year and that amount is increasing. Because of its wonderful tourist trade, Hawaii has a marvellous range of hotels which it is expanding year by year.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting 1 was putting forward a plea for a national tourist industry for Australia. I mentioned several countries and what they had done in this matter - Haiti. Cuba, Canada and Hawaii. Hawaii is an important tourist centre, and it is interesting to recall that because of the publicity and drive that its people have put into the tourist industry, each year 135,000 tourists go to their islands. They count a tourist as one who stays at least two days or more. The expenditure of tourist dollars in Hawaii is 65,000,000 a year, and thai is increasing considerably each year. Those figures do not include transportation costs, such ns air or ship fares, to and from Hawaii, lt is easy to see that if these were added the total would be considerably above the figure I have mentioned.
A little more than 25 years ago, Great Britain, the country with which we have such a strong tie, set out to reach a target of 1,000,000 tourists and £100,000,000 a year. I well recall that in my early days in the tourist industry I thought that., that was an objective that would probably never be reached. With all my enthusiasm for tourist traffic I thought that it was rather big. It is interesting to note that Great Britain reached its target of 1,000,000 tourists a year in 1955, and its earnings from tourists that year amounted to £156,000,000. The year 1955 showed an increase of 15 per cent, over the previous year, and the figures illustrate how rapidly the tourist industry in Great Britain has grown. By 1960, the British expect to have 2,000,000 tourists a year visiting their country, and they expect that the dollar earnings from American tourists will reach 250,000,000. In 1955, Americans spent 1 35,000,000 dollars in Britain. Once again, the tourist industry proved to bei he greatest dollar-earning industry that Great Britain has. That is a significant feature because nothing is so valuable to this country from an external credit point of view as the dollar. In 1955, tourist revenue in Great Britain was almost equal in value to the iron and steel exports which that country sent to all parts of the world. The British Travel Association estimates that it is within the realms of possibility that tourism could be Britain’s biggest income earner. To encourage the tourist trade, Britain spends about £900,000 a year. Approximately 250,000 American tourists visit the country each year. What is very important to the British Government from the investment point of view is that an extra £5,000,000 a year is received in revenue from the sale of cigarettes, tobacco, drinks and so on. Consequently, the spending of £900,000 a year brings the Government of Great Britain a five-to-one return. What an investment! In addition. Britain receives £156,000,000 a year to help its overseas balances.
In Australia, we have just as great an opportunity. We must spend more money on publicity. The £50,000 grant that the Government is giving now, and probably thinks is a handsome subsidy, is really far too small. Australia has a wonderful opportunity. Tt is said that this country is remote, but it is not. It is at the end of a series of stepping stones consisting of delightful tourist resorts between the United States of America and Australia - Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti and New Zealand. lt is the end of a tourist line, and, being the terminal of it, has a great advantage. Australia is not so remote, and it should not be considered by tourists that they come to Australia as part of a round tour.
Australia has an appeal to tourists and we must not have the negative approach that many Australians seem to allow. Too many of our people, some of them highly placed in the Parliament of this nation, are of the opinion that Australia has nothing to offer tourists. What rot! Australia is a unique country, and it has many things to offer. The basis of travel is that people go to different places and see different people and different things. We have much of interest to offer the tourist. What is more, we do not need an expert to be brought to this country - as, I understand, a committee investigating for the Government may suggest - in order to tell us whether we have things here to attract tourists. We, in Australia, should have enough gumption to know what tourists want.
To mention some, the first that comes to my mind is the Barrier Reef. That is possibly our greatest international attraction. The Whitsunday Islands are one of nature’s most beautiful playgrounds, not excelled anywhere. We have also’ the amazing and colorful centre of Australia, with its striking coloured rock formations, which are unique. We have the magnificent eucalypt forests and the tropical and rain forests in various sections of this great land. The aboriginal as an individual is a person of great interest to people from other countries. Tasmania is a grand little tourist area. It is a beautiful island with a touch of the old world that appeals to people in many ways. Other widespread attractions are the Australian fauna, our rural industries, our cities and towns. We have sunshine also, which is the very commodity that people from the United States of America are looking for. Our summer is in the months of the American winter, and it is a deep winter. Senator Benn told me that* he was walking about New York in the winter time wearing two overcoats, and he still felt that he was not dressed, lt is easy to imagine how welcome our sunshine would be to people from such a cold climate.
– Western Australia has a perfect climate.
– Western Australia has an ideal climate, particularly at this time of the year. Perhaps one of the greatest attractions to visitors is that Australians are a friendly people-. Australia- is different in so many ways from other countries, and that is the chief reason for travel - to go to places that are different. Another great advantage is that Australia is near to the western coast of the United States of America. Workers in that part of that great country have higher average earnings 0 than in any other part of the United States of America.
At present, the tourist industry is a liability to Australia. We get £6,000.000 a year from tourists, , but Australian people spend £22,000,000 a year overseas. That represents a deficit of £16,000,000, which is a drain on our overseas earnings. I ask honorable senators to think of the benefits that would accrue if we reversed the position. Australia’s financial position would be bettered’ by about £32,000,000, and our overseas credits would be helped enormously.
I ask honorable senators to look at the pool of funds on which we can draw if we want to increase this trade. In 1954, the international tourist industry of the free countries of the world was worth 2,400,000,000 dollars. That did not include air and sea fares, but if these were added, the figure would be increased by another 1, 100,000,000 dollars thus making a total of 3,500,000,000 dollars. Australia should seek a greater share of that trade. It is illuminating to compare the wheat industry of the world with the tourist industry. The international tourist trade of the free countries of the world is actually greater than the great wheat industry of the world - and I emphasize the words “ of the world “.
As a result of advertising, the Pacific area is receiving a greater proportion of world tourist trade. Although it is still only minute, it has developed and is developing through the activities of the Pacific Area Travel Association. Australia, however, receives a minute fraction of that minute section enjoyed by the Pacific area. The tourist industry is so valuable that 11 per cent of America’s total exports is paid for by importing countries with dollars they earn from American tourists. That, to my mind, is an amazing illustration of how valuable this industry can be. Tourists spend money in a country. While the conference of the Pacific Area Travel Association was being held, an officer of Qantas Empire Airways Limited told me of an American who had asked him where he could buy an opal. When asked how much he wanted to spend, the American said, “Seven hundred dollars “. The officer of Qantas Empire Airways Limited told him where he could buy one and that man paid 700 dollars for an opal. That is the type of spending that takes place in small and big amounts by tourists. That is how tourists leave money in a country.
I am sorry that I have not the time to elaborate these points further, but I believe- that we should develop a national theme. First of all, we must give assistance and encouragement to the building of hotels. This was emphasized by Mr. H. H. Kelly, Director of the International Travel Division, United States Department of Commerce, at the sixth annual conference of the Pacific Area Travel Association, who said -
The International Union of Official Travel Organisations and the Inter-American Travel Congresses, at meetings in 1956, gave full recognition to this need. The measures recommended ‘for governmental action include the following: -
Designation of the hotel industry as an essential industry from the standpoint of the national interest.
National hotel credit to provide long-term loans at low rates of interest.
Government guarantee of exchange for repayment of principal, payment of interest, and transfer of profits.
Customs exemptions and other measures that may be necessary to facilitate the importation of materials and equipment.
Granting of subsidies.
Tax reductions and accelerated depreciation for tax purposes.
Admission (with work permits, if necessary) of experts or specialists from other countries for reasonable periods.
Suitable hotel accommodation is very important, and I offer those suggestions for consideration. The second suggestion I make is that we should embark upon an expansive publicity campaign. I have already mentioned £500,000, but I believe that if we develop an overall scheme for spending £1,000,000 a year - and this would not be beyond our capabilities - such expenditure would return to this Government far more than £1,000,000 by way of extra revenue. It would lead to an increase in our external credits. As one who has some knowledge of the tourist industry and- its possibilities, I feel that after spending £1,000,000 annually for ten or fifteen years, this country would enjoy up to £50,000,000 a year by way of extra revenue.
Next, I suggest that the Government should make a survey of areas in Australia which have natural attractions of merit sufficient to satisfy the wants of international tourists and that such places should be declared international tourist areas. The Government should then help State governments and municipalities - by way of special assistance for the building of roads and the provision of amenities in these areas so that when tourists do come here they will be able to visit not one but many places. In this way, we could throw open the door to that tourist traffic which is there merely for the taking.
Many people might ask why we should help hotels or why we should help this one or the other one. To such people I point out that the tourist industry helps everybody. I would say that the sugar, dairying, meat and other primary industries, if asked, would probably refuse to subscribe to a publicity campaign by the tourist industry. However, when a tourist eats a slice of bread and butter he at once becomes a customer of the dairying industry and of the wheat-grower. When he eats beef or mutton he becomes a customer of the grazier, just as, when he eats fish, the fisherman on the coast benefits. Again, when he eats fruit, whether it be canned or fresh, he helps the fruit-grower. When he drinks wine, he is helping the vine-growing industry of South Australia, and when he puts a spoon of sugar in his tea or eats dessert or confectionery, the sugar industry is the gainer. Every time he switches on the electric light in his room, he is consuming electricity and in that way benefits the coal-mining industry and the coalminers, for coal is used in the generation of electricity.
– When he drinks beer he helps the Government with taxes.
– As Senator Kendall reminds me, when he takes his glass of beer or has a smoke, he helps the Government by the payment of taxes. It has to be remembered also that when we speak of overseas credit the dollar becomes extremely important. It is true that in round figures the dollar is worth in Australia to the American more than twice as much as it is worth to him in his own country, which enables him to have a cheap holiday in Australia. Mention of dollars reminds me of the statement by the late Mr. Chifley, a former Prime Miniser of Australia, who said, “ I believe that the tourist industry could be the greatest dollar earner that this country has “. I hope the Government will give serious consideration to those constructive suggestions. I conclude by supporting the motion before the Senate and joining with other honorable senators in expressing my loyalty to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen.
– I desire to associate myself with the expression in the Address-in-Reply of loyalty to the Throne so ably moved by Senator Hannan and seconded by Senator Wade. It is with regret that I find Her Majesty’s Government in Australia is unable to cope with the political and social evils which are becoming more apparent every day. I further regret that Her Majesty’s Opposition is an opposition in numbers only whose policy, if ever put into effect, could only result in disaster for the Australian people. Neither the Government nor the Opposition can deal effectively with Australia’s problems. A new, dynamic force with a true Australian outlook is needed.
To-night, I should like to place before the Senate the ideals and policies of a party which, in the not far distant future, will help to mould Australia’s well-being. My party will enable the people to develop in this continent a great nation of free men and women in the full recognition that the State exists not to control the person but for the good of the individual. We intend to maintain the basic civil rights embodied in British law, custom and tradition, with their recognition of the equality of all men before the law and of the essential liberties of conscience, expression, assembly and association whilst allowing constitutional opposition to established authority. We intend, to maintain the right to defend those principles from attack by any form of tyranny, particularly the tyrannies of communism and fascism, whether they come from external aggression or internal subversion. We intend to accept our responsibilities and to develop the physical resources of this continent to the fullest possible extent. This continent of ours must be developed, and, later, in my speech I hope to show how that development can take place. We desire to establish the social, as well as the political foundations of personal freedom by applying maximum decentralization to the ownership of the means of production, and to industry, land, government and administration. We desire to assert the right of governments to effective supervision of the national economy and the protection of all ‘less privileged social groups which require that assistance of the public authority, and to ensure a just reward for their industry to all producers and workers, whether by hand or brain.
We wish to maintain our allegiance to the Crown and our association with the British Commonwealth of Nations, and to endeavour to build in that Commonwealth an economic and moral authority which will work for the peace of the world and justice among nations. We wish to make a just contribution to the welfare of the people of other nations, particularly those whose natural wealth is less than our own, and we hope to assist the people of other nations to maintain their liberties, and to encourage and assist the extension of those rights and liberties throughout the world.
Those, Mr. President, are the objectives of the party that I represent in the Senate, There is nothing among our objectives resembling the socialization objective that has been bandied about this country during the last few days. We believe in the rights of the individual, and we believe also that family life is the basis of our nation. We also have certain policies that we think are essential in order to bring about those objectives.
The first policy that I desire to speak about to-night is, I believe, one that is most important as far as Australia is concerned at the present time. I refer to defence, and our foreign policy, which is essential to the future of our well-being. We are convinced that there is a crisis in South-East Asia - that area of the world on which our future depends. I must say here that the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) that it is heartening to compare the situation at present existing in SouthEast Asia with that which existed in 1954, is quite out of accord with the facts; it indicates a dangerous complacency and ignorance as far as the attitude of the present Government is concerned.
We recognize that the only effective defence organization on which Australia can rely is the South-East Asia Treaty Organization; any attempts to undermine it are nothing more than acts of national sabotage. We recognize that Seato is essentially a defence organization. That is the reason why it met in Canberra recently. But we also recognize that it can exercise very little influence over countries outside the organization. For that reason, we ask the Government to set up permanent administrations within all those non-Communist Asian countries to assist in their economic, social and national development, to treat this organization as a major instrument of defence, and to devote to it a quite considerable portion of our defence vote for this purpose.
We appreciate the threat of communism that is facing the peoples of Malaya and Singapore. We also appreciate the fact that Singapore is the only British base between Australia and Communist China. The maintenance of garrison troops, including Australians, in these territories is absolutely essential, especially as they have been requested by the local governments. Remembering the contempt of international authority shown by the Communist States which are members of the United Nations, especially Russian suppression of the Hungarian people, we are of the opinion that the Peking Communists, having already shown- their contempt for international authority by taking up arms against it, are not yet ready, under international law, to take their place in the United Nations. It is our duty to ask the Government to continue to refuse recognition of the Peking regime.
We are also of the opinion that the Australian Government should refuse recognition of, and the re-establishment of, diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. In our opinion, the Soviet Union’s attitude towards Hungary is similar to the Peking Communists’ attitude towards Korea. Apart from this, if recognition were given to red China, that country would become the leader in Asiatic affairs. As the stated objective of the Chinese Communists is the destruction of democracy in Australia, it is essential that no such recognition be given to that country.
I also ask the Government why it does not show realistic recognition of the Government of Taiwan. We should have a representative in close contact with the government in Formosa, because it is really holding back for us in Australia the red hordes of China. It is containing the red armies in China, otherwise they would be deployed in strength further south. This small nation, with a population of the same size as that of Australia, is doing all this for our benefit, yet this Government has not sent a representative to Taipeh. It is time the Government recognized what I have said and sent a representative there, lt is a place where we could continually sound the feeling in Asia, because it is so close and the authorities know what is happening across the straits. We have a Formosan representative in Canberra, so let us return the compliment.
We believe that the survival of our national and social traditions is inseparable from the survival of the British Commonwealth of Nations. But the British Commonwealth cannot survive just as a loose confederation in which Great Britain treats us as an appendage; we need a permanent administrative body, with adequate authority, representing all members. If that body were established, we would know what was about to happen in other parts of the world instead of having to wait until we heard it in news broadcasts.
We recognize and support the rights of the Israeli people to exist as a free nation. In the absence of a strong and effective guarantee from the United Nations with respect to the Gaza strip and the Gulf of Aqaba. Israel should not have been forced to withdraw from the strategic areas that were occupied by her forces. We insist that the United Nations must honour its clear obligations and establish effective forces in those areas. We say that the United Nations should keep those straits and the Sharm el Sheikh area clear, and that the Suez Canal should become an international waterway which all nations may use. That, of course, includes Israel.
Defence, of course, is tied up with our foreign policy. We realize that the young men of Australia must share with the young men of our allies the obligation to devote part of their lives to the service of their country. We advocate the retention of compulsory military training but recommend more effective training in the usages of modern warfare. I have seen a press report to the effect that the national service training scheme is to be reduced but that it will be more effective. It is important that defence projects such as the Woomera rocket range and the Maralinga testing ground should be retained and expanded. There has been quite a lot of criticism about bomb explosions at Maralinga. They have not done any harm to anybody but have been used for the special purpose of testing civil defence precautions against atomic blasts.
Going hand in hand with the defence and foreign policy is the important question of immigration. Australia must continue its immigration programme with unabated energy. Immigration is essential for our security and national development. Vast areas and a lack of population present problems which can be solved only by a courageous and planned immigration programme, and demands for the restriction of immigration must be rejected. We advocate the giving of maximum encouragement to the immigration of family groups. We also advocate that the present policy of special assistance for immigrants from the United Kingdom be continued; that the programme of European immigration be continued without regard to criticism based on racial or political antagonisms; that there be a better balance between the sexes, that particular efforts be made to obtain immigrants with special and technical skills; that the Government campaign vigorously to obtain all necessary sponsorships for immigrants; that immigration be linked as far as possible with land settlement and the expansion of secondary industries; that the high moral, physical and mental standard of immigrants be ensured by efficient medical examination and screening; and that immigration on a community basis of complete industrial undertakings from the United Kingdom be encouraged. The existing immigration policy should be expanded in accordance with the principles that I have advocated, because our country needs immigrants.
I now come to a matter that is nearer home, namely, the social services policy of my party. We advocate, as we have done during several sessions of the Parliament, the establishment of an independent tribunal to determine just rates for social services’ payments, including pensions and unemployment benefits, thus taking these matters out of the field of politics. When just rates are determined, they should be related to fluctuations in the cost of living index figures. That is a very important aspect, because those persons who cannot help themselves must be helped by others. We do not want Australia to become such a welfare state that able-bodied persons in the best of health live by hand-outs, but there must be hand- outs to those persons who can no longer help themselves. Senator Annabelle Rankin’s speech yesterday showed the great need for improved social service benefits for pensioners.
There seems to be no possible way for the family man to be paid a wage that is commensurate with his obligations. We be*lieve that the only way of meeting his requirements is by increasing child endowment payments and so making his income equal to a family wage. I could not imagine unions allowing the payment of one wage for a married man and another for a single man. We support the policy of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which provides that child endowment for the second, third and fourth children shall be increased from 10s. to 20s.; for the fifth to 22s. 6d.; for the sixth to 25s.; for the seventh to 27s. 6d., and so on to a maximum of 40s.
– What would be the cost of implementing that programme?
– I have not those figures now, but I did give them to the Senate when f raised this matter, I believe, in the last session. A family with six children would receive in child endowment for the first child, 5s.; for the second, third and fourth children, £1 each; for the fifth child, £1 2s. 6d., and for the sixth child £1 5s., making a total of £5 12s. 6d., whereas at present such a family receives only £2 15s. We are insistent on increased child endowment because, as I said in the early stages of my speech, we believe in family life. Such increased help to the family man will pay dividends.
I should like to deal now with education. In this matter, the Commonwealth Government has some responsibility. We are told that education is the responsibility of the States. I suppose it is, but the Commonwealth Government could do more in the field’ of tertiary education. Universities are starved for lack of funds. Students from Tasmania have very little chance of studying to be doctors. In the University of Tasmania there is no faculty of medicine. Tasmanian students are not allowed by the authorities to enter the Melbourne University. I think that only one university in Australia accepts Tasmanian students, not because the students have not the necessary ability but because the universities just have not the accommodation. It is important in this modern age, when science means so much, that we extend our facilities for education. It has been noted that Communist Russia is leaving us behind in scientific discovery. This is natural, because it is training students in scientific activities. Even from a defence point of view, it is essential that the Australian Government should help with tertiary education. We recognize that education is primarily the responsibility of the States, but we advocate the establishment of sub-committees to investigate the extension of the Federal Government’s responsibility to provide adequate finance for education, whether primary, secondary or tertiary.
I did intend to deal with legislation in relation to union ballots, but I merely state that we believe in court-conducted ballots. That subject will be dealt with, I believe, very fully by my colleague, Senator McManus. Senator McKenna has moved an amendment in relation to housing. We agree with what he has said to a great extent, but his proposed amendment does not meet with our requirements in one respect. At this stage I wish to move an amendment to the amendment that has been moved by Senator McKenna. I move -
That paragraph 4 of the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ (a) immediate reduction of migrant intake; “ and inserting in lieu thereof the following words: - “ (a) the establishment of a Commonwealth-State Housing Authority to coordinate its activities with the various State housing bodies; “.
Although we agree that the Government has failed to provide sufficient money for housing, we are not prepared to blame immigration for the shortage of homes. By taking that stand towards immigration, the Opposition has endeavoured insidious!)’ to introduce certain policies that were adopted at the federal conference of the Australian Labour party in Brisbane. In my amendment, I have suggested the establishment of a Commonwealth-State housing authority to co-ordinate its activities with various State housing bodies.
I have already given the Senate the policy of the Anti-Communist Labour party on immigration. We insist that immigration should continue. It is foolish to blame immigration for the housing difficulties that are being experienced in all States. I have some statistics to read to the Senate which support fully my contention that the influx of migrants has nothing to do with housing difficulties. In 1954, non-British immigrants accounted for 16.5 per cent, of workers in the brick and tile industry, 24.5 per cent, of persons making asbestos cement sheets, 14.4 per cent, of fibrous plaster producers, 12.6 per cent, of cement workers, 11.7 per cent, of sawmill hands and 7.3 per cent, of paint makers.
Those percentages would be almost doubled if British immigrant workers were added. Therefore, those immigrants produced one brick in three, enough fibro for almost one fibro house in two, enough plaster to line nearly one house in four and timber for almost one home in four.
Immigrants have also taken on many distasteful jobs in industry. Australian steel output has doubled since 1948, and 73 per cent, of the additional workers needed to achieve that result were immigrants. Thousands of immigrant workers, skilled and unskilled, helped in the building programmes that have more than doubled the output of electricity in nine years. Those two industries alone are basic to the building trade. Honorable senators will remember the shortages of galvanized iron, guttering, bricks, steel reinforcement, structural steel, cement and timber that plagued the builders between 1945 and 1951. lt is more than a coincidence that those shortages were overcome in the time that large-scale selective immigration became a feature of our national life. It is obvious, therefore, that immigration was not responsible for the housing position in Australia. The lack of housing is due mainly to the lack of money and to the continual increase in costs.
Just after World War 11., many persons -built their own homes because, if they had a block of land, the bank would build a house on the block for them. Now they have to get a home through government instrumentalities. If they want to finance a home through the private banks, the amount of money they have to find as a -deposit still prevents them from building a house. It is essential, therefore, that more money should be found by the Government for this essential work, and that it should be provided at a low rate of interest. It has been suggested that in this respect an exception could be made so that persons building their own homes may be able to borrow at less than the commercial rate of interest. That might not be a strictly economic proposition, but it may be necessary in order to ensure that our people are properly housed. I believe that the words that 1 propose should be left out ought never to have been in the original amendment. 1 have worded my amendment as it is now because I believe we must have some authority to co-ordinate home-building activity. The Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with the States, should be the authority to co-ordinate various homebuilding activities through State Departments. I hope that both the Government and the Opposition will give this amendment their support.
I have told the Senate what we stand for and what we hope to achieve as a party. We do not belong to any section or exclusively to any class. Our ranks are open to all people who sincerely subscribe to our ideals. We believe that Australia is greater than the incidental divisions of birth. The task then for our party, 1 believe, is to produce a political organization .which accepts our social responsibility and at the same time maintains our liberties. We should concentrate on political objectives which meet the practical problems of Australia to-day and we should do so in a manner which is acceptable to al) people who are prepared to place principles before expediency, and their country before themselves.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Is the amendment moved by Senator Cole seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I am sorry that owing to another engagement of an important nature I did not have the opportunity to hear the whole of the address of the Leader of the’ Opposition (Senator McKenna). However, I had the opportunity of hearing his opening, and last night I had the opportunity of nearing the Leader of the Opposition in another place.
That there is a housing problem is beyond doubt. It is one of the unfortunate legacies of World War II., a war in which every available element of our country’s manpower and material was engagd on the fighting front or on the home front in an all-out effort to preserve our way of life. During those tragic years, finance, man-power and materials were not available for homebuilding. In a sphere other than politics one would wonder why the Opposition launched this amendment. During the first five post-war years, when Labour was in office, it recognized and faced this problem. During that period 202,000 houses and flats and 22,000 war service homes were built. During this Government’s first five years of office, 388,000 houses and flats and 68,000 war service homes were built. So, Mr. President, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition does nothing to help those unfortunate people who badly want homes, but it does highlight the immeasurably better achievement of this Government compared with the commendable record of the Oppositon in this sphere. I do not propose, at this juncture, to devote any more time to this matter. My colleague, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), has already dealt with it most exhaustively and effectively. In passing, may I say that probably no public man in Australia in recent years has brought more zeal, ability and understanding to bear upon this matter than has the Minister for National Development. I know that he will not relax his efforts until the whole problem has been discharged. lt is quite a common technique with the Labour party to create some distraction or other in order to divert attention and criticism from its own sorry and bankrupt plight. Any one who studies the progress and decay of the once great Australian Labour party will note-
– Tell us something about housing.
– I know honorable senators opposite do not like this; very few of them feel worthy of the pioneers of their movement. However, any one who studies the progress and decay of the once great Australian Labour party will note that it reached its greatest height between 1909 and 1915. It embarked upon the road to decadence, disintegration and decay when in Brisbane, of all places, it shed its robust Australian outlook and embraced the Marxian philosophy of fullblooded, unqualified socialism.
– You told us that years ago.
– I know the honorable senator does not like it. Mr. Theodore, once Premier of Queensland and later federal Treasurer, who bitterly opposed the socialization plank espoused by Jock Garden, then recently returned from Moscow, said to the conference with scathing contempt -
Now that you have changed your platform., why don’t you change your name and call yourselves the Australian Communist party: your objective is identical.
Those are Mr. Theodore’s words, not mine. Certainly, Mr. Blackburn moved a modifying or explanatory resolution; but it did not receive the requisite majority. This explanation, or interpretation, or whatever one may care to call it - it was never a part of the official Labour platform - lay in obscurity for nearly 30 years, and in the time of the previous Government it found the light of day under, the name of the Blackburn interpretation. ‘
Just let us make a brief comparison of the Australian Labour party as it was under, say, Andrew Fisher, with the Australian Labour party to-day under its present federal Leader. Labour in those days conceived the idea of the Commonwealth Bank. It was enthusiastic about the defence of Australia; it sponsored the Royal Australian Navy; it sponsored universal military training; and in many other spheres of political activity it was responsible for placing upon our national statute-book enactments that will remain as monuments to its broad Australian statesmanship.
– We got a lot of credit for it. too, in those days.
– Before 1921 I. personally, had great pleasure and great enthusiasm in supporting the Australian Labour party although I was never a member of it. Before socialism, I had great pleasure in doing so. The Labour party at that time was comprised of men devoted to the cultivation of a sturdy and robust Australian national sentiment. They had the zeal, enthusiasm and unselfishness of revivalists, and through their ranks ran a strong bond of loyalty and mateship.
That, Mr. President, though by no means complete, is a fair description of the once great Australian Labour party. Now. let us have a look at the Labour party to-day.
I hope the pictureI paint of it, though by no means a pretty or pleasant one, will be factual and fair.
– The Minister should stick to the Address-in-Reply.
-I know that honorable senators opposite do not like this. As a matter of interest I shall, for some of my material, draw upon the report of proceedings of the recent federal Labour conference in Brisbane - Brisbane again.
– Was the honorable senator there?
– I read what the newspapers had to say about it. There, the party forged - I do not mean uttered, rather should I say manufactured - a second Bris bane line. There, as in Hobart two years ago, all realistic ideas of an adequate plan of defence were again rejected. The training of the youth of the country was opposed. Demand was made for the recall of our troops from Malaya, although the Chief Minister of Malaya is glad of their presence and assistance in repelling Communist aggression. And, not surprisingly in the present circumstances, the old socialization plank with a new prefix was re-affirmed. The provision for the holding of secret ballots under independent supervision in union elections was opposed.
– I rise to order. Under Standing Order 305, is the Minister in order in reading his speech?
– Order! The Minister is not reading his speech; he is speaking from extensive notes. The point of order is not upheld.
– I am glad the honorable senator reminded me about reading becauseI have something here which I desire to read. It is easier to read it than to understand it. The Melbourne “ Herald”, of 19th March last, reported -
Last Friday’s Labour party resolution read - “ That the Federal Labour party be urged upon taking office to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act by removing all those provisions detrimental to trade unions-
Now, mark this, Mr. President - which provide for outside bodies to direct the domestic policy of trade unions thus removing the possibility of interference in union affairs by outside bodies.”
In the name of common sense, how can an officer of the electoral office or an officer of the Arbitration Court interfere with the domestic policy of a union merely because he presides at a secret ballot? It would be just as logical to suggest that an electoral officer at a State, Federal or municipal election could influence the fate of Parliament. But this is one of the resolutions that was passed at the recent conference in Brisbane under the influence of the Communists.
When this Government brought in the section amending the Chifley legislation it was bitterly opposed by the Communists. The secret ballot has never been liked by the Communists. Up to that time union elections were subject to gerrymandering and faked ballots - as was found by a Justice of the Arbitration Court in Western Australia. By fraud and other devices, the Communists held control of many important unions. However, as a result of using the machinery provided by the Menzies Administration in 1951, elections were presided over by an officer of the Arbitration Court and, as a result of using the secret ballot, in the case of more than 30 unions Communist domination was broken, and the control of those unions restored to the rank and file. Naturally, the Communists, holding office as a result of fraud and chicanery, hated the idea of a secret ballot. They hate everything that is fair and just and decent - and that is one of the tragedies of the once great Australian Labour party.
I am not suggesting that any honorable senators opposite are Communists, but they are very greatly influenced by them judging by their attitude in these matters. To agree to resolutions such as were carried at the Brisbane conference under pressure from the Communists, and particularly that relating to the secret ballot, is a clear indication of how strongly members of the Labour party are dominated by Communists. The Communists at that conference used their influence to have the secret ballot provision jettisoned. That was a great disservice to the great Australian trade union movement. It is not a case of honorable senators opposite caring for what my opinions are but. for the record, I want to say that not for a moment do I believe that any of my friends opposite are Communists, or even that in their hearts they are well disposed towards communism, and that makes their present attitude all the worse. But it is there for all to read that before the Hobart conference, as well as at that conference and at the Brisbane conference many major planks of policy advocated and pursued by the Labour party, and many of the resolutions carried, were identical with the policies urged by the Communist party. They were identical even in words, apart from sentiment. 1 shall mention a few of them. I have just referred to the abolition of secret ballots. The Communists have been advocating that ever since the amendment was made.
– Cut out the smokescreen!
– This is not a smoke-screen. Another item was the recognition of Communist China. The Communists have been advocating that for some time, and it was approved at the Brisbane conference. The defence programme advocated in Hobart and adopted in Brisbane is entirely opposed to the defence policy of the Government, but it -is the defence programme of the Communists. The withdrawal of Australian troops from Malaya and other lands is precisely the policy of the Communist party whose policy on immigration is the same as that of the Labour party.
– What about the Suezpolicy?
– That is the same. Although “ unity tickets “ for the election of union officials are frowned upon, and condemned on the record, they have been frequently run to the advantage of the Communists and to the disadvantage of moderate Labour men, who were non-Evatt candidates. One of the recent victories, sad to say for the Australian unionists, and sad indeed for the whole of the economy of Australia, was the recent election to office of Brown, a well-known Communist, to the position of secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union. He opposed a moderate Labour man, but he was elected because he ran on the “ unity ticket “. The policy of the Australian Labour party to-day, both domestic and foreign, is very much in line with that of the Communist party.
As to the composition of the Labour party itself, and what one may call its state of health, how does it compare with the old days? Instead of the zeal of the revivalist we see the selfish zeal of the survivalist. So keen is the urge to survive that Communist influence is clear and obvious in the domestic and foreign policies of the Australian Labour party.
– How does the honorable senator know that there may not be a Communist on the Government side of the House?
– I do not know. I referred earlier to the outstanding characteristics of the old Australian Labour party - the loyalty and the mateship of the men comprising it. Where is that old loyalty and mateship to-day? Where is that mutual trust and respect and regard? Why, even in this Parliament House one does not know who is his friend because of the spirit of distrust and suspicion that seems to prevail. In outside branches there is strife. Members are being expelled, and that influence seems to have come to this very place. Honorable senators on this side of the House can sense the air of distrust and disloyalty and strain. We do not get any pleasure or satisfaction out of it. We could defeat the Opposition easily, but we would much prefer to fight the Opposition party when it is in a state of good health and not the sickly body that it is to-day. I urge it to get well and fight us. It is a shame to take the victory from the Opposition in its present condition.
One of our fears is that we shall go stale for want of a good fight. We feel that in this Parliament we have no opposition, and that is not good for the country. I hope that the party will have some of its health restored, and that the old spirit of mateship that was once a characteristic of the party will be restored. It will make us happier on this side when we have a more virile opposition: or at least, if it is not virile let it not be so anaemic.
In the scheme of things the present nonLabour parties’ will not be in government for ever, although, in all humility, I must say that on the present showing of the Opposition there does not appear to be any eminent prospect of change. But, in due time, when a change does take place, this Government, or a government from this side of the House will be followed by a government comprised of members of the present Opposition. On the time schedule, however, it is more likely that that government will consist of their successors in opposition. However, to us, as indeed to all Australians, it is a matter of prime importance that we be succeeded by another good government. In that sense I earnestly hope that the once great Australian Labour party will regain its soul by shaking off the diseased and blighting hand of Communist influence, so that it may once again pursue a course more in keeping with the robust Australianism of its pioneer forebears, and in keeping with the initial philosophy of the Australian Labour party. I am certain that such a change would be cordially welcomed not only by honorable senators here, but also by the overwhelming majority of the members of the Australian Labour party, and by all lovers of Australia.
.- The Government is under challenge and censure from the Opposition on a question of national importance; and I think we were entitled, in the parliamentary tradition, to expect that in such grave circumstances - a motion of censure moved with deliberation by the Opposition always pre.cepitates an occasion of great gravity in the nation - the leader in this place of the Government under censure would at least have adverted to the matter on which his Government is being censured. I say that, not because of the matter itself, but bearing in mind the parliamentary tradition usually observed in such circumstances. Nobody could say that, following the moving of the amendment by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and the case presented by him, the reply submitted by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) was in any way so conclusive that the Government’s case did not require some support from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan), who has just resumed his seat. I am sure it was poor consolation to those people who need nouses to hear this debate to-night and to have heard little or no reference by the Leader of the Government to this matter which is of such vital importance. Without further comment, I leave the speech that has just been delivered.
The question of housing is one which is moving in what I might call a condition of legal twilight. There is controversy between the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for National Development as to the constitutional powers of the central government to handle directly this important question. But whatever the legal and constitutional position may be, I think the Constitution must be looked at not from the point of view of the powers that are reposed in either the central government or the State governments but from the point of view of the duties that are imposed upon them. Whilst we might look at the powers in terms of the legal and constitutional approach, we must also look at duty and responsibility in terms of the political and administrative approach. If the central government has power to handle Australian defence, then it has a corresponding duty to do something about it. Similarly, if a State government has the power to handle housing, it has a duty to do something about it.
It seems inconceivable to me that the framers of the Constitution could have conferred upon the States the power and the duty to do something of that nature without endowing them with the fiscal opportunities or fiscal means of exercising that power and discharging that duty. As there is a legal and constitutional weakness, 1 feel that the central government, politically and administratively, must make money available to the States in terms of the spirit of the Constitution to enable them to provide adequate housing. In this legal twilight, in which this question of housing appears to be moving, I feel that the accent of the Government should be on the political and administrative questions and that the allocation to the States for housing should be of such generous proportions as would enable the States to discharge their responsibilities with dignity under the Constitution. What concerns me in this debate is the lack of accurate awareness by the Government of the position, as disclosed by the speeches which we have heard here and which we have heard or read about in another place. There is a grave housing situation. That is acknowledged, but the causes from which it springs seem to be in dispute; and I feel that the reasons that are suggested on behalf of the Government show a lack of alertness and a most astounding and dangerous ignorance of the actual situation.
The. general question of housing, of course, is the main basis of the censure motion and, no doubt, will be discussed at length during this debate; but there is before ;he Senate, and before me as a Queenslander, just as there is before all Queenslanders in this chamber, a problem of great immediacy and tremendous urgency. I refer to the position which has developed in respect of the Queensland State Housing Commission. 1 am glad that the Minister for National Development has been able to return to the chamber to-night, because the remarks I want to make are addressed to him, and 1 ask that he give them due and sympathetic consideration.
I understand the Minister’s position in this dispute that has arisen between himself and the Queensland Government. After all, the Commonwealth Government, being the main collector of revenue, must discharge with honour and care the disbursement of those moneys, and I should think less of the Minister if he were recreant to that trust. Again, as a man qualified in the accountancy profession, he naturally wants to have regard for correct and proper accounting procedures and the procedures of commerce and industrial budgeting which I believe, from his expression of view, he thinks have not been exercised by the Queensland Housing Commission in this case. I am quite aware that those two considerations might be impressing themselves upon his mind and determining his attitude in this case. If that were the whole story, I possibly might agree with him in principle, but there are some other considerations which I wish to place before him, They are considerations which, I think, will help to throw new light upon this technical argument - and it is little more than a technical argument - that has developed between the Queensland Government and the Queensland Housing Commission on the one hand and the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Minister for National Development on the other.
At the risk of boring the Senate, I shall recite very briefly and, I trust, accurately, what has happened. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, as it applies to Queensland, the Queensland State Government could have obtained £3,000,000. It elected to obtain £2,750.000 and then, in terms of the agreement, and in terms of a condition reposing in the agreement, portion of that money - £550,300 - was allocated to be spent through cooperative building societies. All of it was not so spent, and some of it was fed back through the Queensland Housing Commission which pursued its building programme with that money. With three months remaining of the financial year, the money became virtually exhausted, and the Government and the commission were then faced with the dismissal of 400 workers, together with some clerical and executive officers, because it was just impossible to retain them for the balance of the year in view of the financial situation. Those were the circumstances in which the Queensland Government approached the Commonwealth Government for a sum of £278,000 to enable it to complete its construction budget for the balance of the year.
– Publishing, of course, all the telegrams in the newspapers before they were dispatched to me.
– I am unaware of that. I said early in my speech that I could understand the Minister’s feelings of sensitivity in this matter. Perhaps, on both sides feelings have been exacerbated by challenge, counter-challenge, argument and counterargument. I feel that it is a tragedy that the reality of this situation is being clouded by personal feelings which have been aroused, rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly, on either side; and my purpose in directing my remarks, to this question so specifically to-night is to try to assuage the storm of resentment that is felt on both sides and to have something done on the real principle which is involved, that principle being the welfare of 450 men and their families. That is why I am placing this matter so specifically before the Minister to-night.
The first question to consider is to what extent the Queensland Housing Commission contributed to what I shall call this crisis. That is the first question. It is a natural and fair question; and it is one that should be answered. The next question is: Did the Queensland Housing Commission frame its construction budget carelessly or badly, or almost dishonestly? That is the second question which we must try to answer fairly in order to ascertain where the truth lies in this situation. As to the first question, why did the Queensland Government ask for £250,000 less than it might have obtained at the instance of the Commonwealth Government? Significantly, the figure by which the
Queensland Government is short - £278,000 - and the extra amount it might have obtained - £250,000 - are almost identical and the Queensland Government’s action at that time would appear to account for the present situation. 1 am advised that this is the history in short and, I trust, accurately, of the situation. There was in the funds of the Queensland Housing Commission a carry-over of about £460,000 from the previous financial year. I think that the Minister for National Development will concede that the submissions of the Queensland Government at meetings of the Australian Loan Council, and at Premiers Conferences, in relation to budgets for works programmes have usually been accepted as fair and reasonable - not projecting a programme of works beyond the technical capacity and the labour capacity of that Government. The Queensland Government, rightly or wrongly, prides itself that that has been its approach, and it therefore has a tradition of honesty in the presentation of its proposals, a tradition that is, I think, accepted in Commonwealth circles. The Queensland Government pursuing that tradition, having a carry-over of £460,000, and estimating what construction work it could do in the ensuing twelve months, said, in effect, “ We do not think that we can spend more than £2,750,000, and therefore we do not want £3,000,000 “. That might have been a mistake, lt may have been bad estimating, but it was done in good faith, and it was done in accordance with the best traditions. I know that the Minister has, from time to time, expressed justifiable impatience at the action of State governments in coming to Loan Council meetings and presenting inflated budgets of works proposals, which the Commonwealth has had to cut down. Therefore, I am sure that when he sees an action such as that of the Queensland Government he realizes that it is a matter for commendation, not condemnation. If that action has brought about the position we are now discussing, I think that the Queensland Government is deserving of sympathy rather than criticism from the Federal Government.
The Queensland Housing Commission asked for £250,000 less than it might have obtained, and to-day it is £278.000 short to complete its programme. The estimate submitted by the commission was based on the previous year’s expenditure. That, of course, is not only the normal way of budgeting; it is a fair and equitable way. That was the approach of the Queensland Housing Commission, after allowing for contingencies such as departures from last year’s programme of expenditure. But. unfortunately, the estimating did not go according to plan. For some reason, there was an increase of about 10 per cent, in the rate of construction, so that the budget of estimated expenditure went out of plumb. 1 suppose it is fair criticism to say that, at that stage, the Queensland Housing Commission might have reviewed its programme with an eye to the unexpended moneys that were coming to it, and started to prune back. I do not deny that it could have done so. There would be, of course, very natural considerations, human considerations, why that might not be done. I mean that the houses were needed.
The Minister for National Development suggested in the course of his remarks to-day that there was no real housing problem in any States but New South Wales and Victoria. Actually, in round figures, there is a lag of 10,000 houses in Queensland. With such a lag, it was natural for the Queensland Government to maintain a work force to push on with construction. That is what the Housing Commission did. The alternative, of course, was to prune the staff back gradually, thus creating a slight haemorrhage of staff and of materials. It chose to keep the blood flowing at the normal rate until a crisis was reached. Nevertheless, the bases on which the Queensland Housing Commission acted were fair bases - very human and understandable. I am presenting these facts as I understand them, for a purpose which I shall mention at a later stage of my remarks. Of course, the Queensland Government could have slowed down the rate of homeconstruction, but as the purpose of the commission was to facilitate and accelerate home-construction it was only natural that, as construction had gained a certain momentum, the Government should be reluctant to check it or slow it down at all.
Why have I mentioned these things? I have not mentioned them because this chamber has to make a decision on the issue as between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government. We would need all the facts before us to do so. I do not think that we are technically equipped to make a decision and, in any case, it is not a matter for us to decide. I have stated my views for this reason: It is obvious that, perhaps with complete good faith on both sides, a difference of opinion has developed, and perhaps now neither side completely understands the point of view of the other. Perhaps Senator Spooner, because the position has been obscured by antagonism and heated feelings, has not altogether appreciated some of the facts that I have presented on behalf of the Queensland Government. When he does appreciate them, it may well be that the quite legitimate difference of opinion that exists can be resolved in due course with honour to .both sides, and with complete equity and total justice. But in the middle of that determination, which must come in time, the fact remains - the inescapable fact - that 450 men and their wives and families are being immediately and grievously affected by the decision and the attitude of the Government during the course of this debate, and the decision as to what is to be done in relation to the application of the Queensland Housing Commission.
I do not appeal to Senator Spooner on the basis that it is his personal humanity that I am challenging. That would not be fair to him. A Minister often has to make political and administrative decisions contrary to his feelings. Nevertheless, I believe that this very human problem is easy of resolution. It is not a question of deciding who is right and who is wrong - certainly it is not for us so to decide at this moment and in this atmosphere. It is a matter that, in time, can be quite calmly and dispassionately decided. For that reason, I support, and I place again before the Minister, the proposal that was put forward succinctly and capably by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) early in this debate, that the Commonwealth Government give consideration to meeting the request of the Queensland Government for £278.000 to alleviate the immediate position and to resolve the present crisis. That amount of £278,000 might, after the rights and wrongs of the matter have been determined, be found to be excessive, or it may be decided that the Queensland Government was not entitled to the money. On the other hand, it might be conceded, if the judgment falls the other way, that this is money to which the Queensland Government was not strictly entitled, but could have received in the first place. The payment of it would do no immediate damage to the Commonwealth Government. ‘ Its financial resources are so vast that the payment would have no immediate impact on any of its other activities. When Senator McKenna was speaking earlier, the Minister quite properly asked him, “ Have you put that request to the Queensland Government? “ But the Queensland Government, whose finances are already attenuated, has displaced employees of the Forestry Department and the Railway Department. It is unable to meet this payment immediately. If it were to do so, there would be a corresponding impact somewhere else in the State system of employment. I repeat that if the Commonwealth were to make the money available temporarily, a similar impact would not be made on any activity being undertaken by this Government.
As I said, if it were discovered subsequently that the money was not due and owing by the Commonwealth to the States or would not be given as an additional grant, when next year’s grant came along under the terms of the agreement we could expect that the amount offered would again be £3,000,000, and the Queensland Government could forego £278,000 of it. That amount having been deducted, the State Government would virtually be enabled to budget for a construction programme for the whole of next year at the rate at which it should have budgeted this year had it spread all its moneys over twelve months instead of nine. Of course, that would immediately create the situation that the Minister suggests should have been created in this financial year, that is, a spreading of the money over a longer period, allowing for periodic and minor prunings without any dramatic affect on the employment situation within the Forestry Department, and finishing with a nil balance at the end of the financial year.
I urge the Minister to consider this proposition. It is not often that we in the Senate have an opportunity or the responsibility to deal with an immediate human problem. We deal with major issues, with vast and gigantic questions, and we might be parties to a declaration of war or to the ratification of a treaty; but it is seldom that we are in a position to make a decision which has an immediate impact on an individual human being. If a sympathetic decision is not made in this case, there are men who next Monday will face total unemployment with little prospect of the position being remedied within the foreseeable future. It is a very great responsibility, but it presents a magnificent opportunity. This is an occasion on which the Government through the Minister, without any risk ultimately of financial loss to the Commonwealth, could immediately make a gesture of great significance to 1,300 or 1,400 people - a gesture which to-morrow would convert the darkness of their vision, lives and imagination into brightness. We must not allow a debate on a technical principle to interfere with ordinary human relations. If any fundamental and vital principle were involved, I should say that no emotion or feelings of humanity should be allowed to limit or override it. But I do not know of any such principle that is involved. It is a matter of technical disputation. Never let it be said that in these circumstances and in this kind of crisis the Senate, and the Government, which has the matter within its own discharge, failed to measure up to simple demands by human beings.
So I sincerely press these considerations upon the Minister. If he has not already considered the matter along these lines, I now ask him to do so and to present the matter again to the Government. I support the request of the Queensland Government with all the intensity and, perhaps, all the emotion at my command, because I have seen the terror that faces these men. It is a life that they are not used to. There was a time when there was periodic unemployment and when men who worked for a week and were out of work for a week became, in a sense, accustomed to it; but these men have known only full employment. The prospect before them is a terror to them. It is the terror of the unknown - something to which they cannot adjust themselves, because they have had no experience of it in their lives. I ask the Minister, if it is within his competence to do so, to try to meet the wishes of the Opposition in relation to this vitally important matter.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia) ciated with the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and to express my loyalty to our most gracious Sovereign. We have just listened to a speech by an honorable senator from Queensland who has beseeched the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to make available to the Queensland Minister for Housing a further sum of £278,000 to ease the unemployment position in that State. I ask honorable senators opposite just how far they expect this Government to go. Within the last few months we have had applications from various organizations for assistance, and within the last week the Australian Road Transport Association has asked for £1,500,000, to be spread over a period of years, to build roads throughout Australia. Now we have the Queensland Government, after being offered £3,000.000 under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and having taken only £2,750,000, wanting £278,000. And the New South Wales Labour Government said that it wanted £400,000,000 for its loan programme last year. Moreover, the Western Australian Government asked for £2,000,000 to relieve unemployment in that State, and now it wants a further £2,000,000.. When this Government, with the permission of the Australian Loan Council, granted £2,000,000 to Western Australia, not one person was given a job by the State Government.
– What did they do with it? Did they eat it?
– I do not know what they did, or what the Queensland Minister for Housing has done. All I know is that the Commonwealth Government cannot go on and on finding additional moneys. This afternoon and to-night we have heard honorable senators opposite, led by their Leader, expressing great dissatisfaction with our housing record. What was done by the Government that was in office until 1949 bears no comparison with what has been done by this Government. We have outshone the previous Government in every department. Let us consider war service homes alone. In 1949, the Labour Government expended £8,396,000 on 6,285 homes for returned service men and women. In 1948, it built 3,876 homes. The Menzies Government, which has a marvellous record in the provision of war service homes, in 1956 expended £30,000,000 and built approximately 23,000 homes.
– Throughout Australia. The Menzies Government expended £30,000,000 and supplied 23,000 war service homes in that year.
– That is better. It supplied them; it did not build them.
– When it is realized that the basic wage in 1949 was approximately half the present basic wage, it can be seen that we have a record which is 100 per cent better than Labour could achieve when it was in office. In the last seven years the Government has expended £189,000,000 on war service homes and built over 90,000 homes.
– Not built them.
– Supplied them.
– That is better.
– This Government’s record in the provision of war service homes shows that within four years it surpassed the number of war service homes provided by all previous governments up to 1949. That is a record of which we can be proud. We all admit that we have in Australia a housing problem which we are doing our best to overcome. In the eleven years between 30th June, 1945, and 30th June, 1956, our population has increased by 2,086,000.In that same period 669,000 homes were built, or one for every 3.2 additional persons. That may be compared with an average number of 3.55 persons in each occupied dwelling at 30th June, 1954. Comparing our record with that of other nations, we find that in 1955-56 the number of new dwellings completed for every 1,000 persons was as follows: New Zealand, 9.6; Australia, 8.4; Canada, 8.2; United States of America, 8.0; Netherlands, 6.5; United Kingdom, 6.4; South Africa, 6.3; Sweden, 6.2. Amongst those countries, we ran second. That shows what we are doing in Australia as regards housing.
Another interesting comparison may be made of the number of persons in each occupied dwelling. This gives an indication of the overall housing situation in each country. Australia again shows up favorably on this basis. The figures at 30th June, 1956, are: New Zealand, 3.50; Australia, 3.52; United States of America, 3.54; United Kingdom, 3.64; Canada, 3.90; South Africa, 3.95. These statistics show that we are actually doing the job, but I should like to inform honorable senators opposite of the difficulties that we had to surmount before we could get the wheels of industry turning so that these homes could be built. Honorable senators opposite say that we as a government have not been able to achieve anything and that we have been unable to maintain full employment. Let us look at the conditions that existed when we became the Government. Honorable senators opposite say that when in government they went forward resolutely to build more homes. When we came into government enough cement could not be bought, enough bricks were not made, and enough timber mills were not operating.
– Tell us why.
– Because Labour did not have any idea of organization.
– It was because your government closed them all down in the depression.
– It was because Labour could not think of anything but controls. In 1949, there was rationing in every degree, even of sugar and butter. Labour had no idea of stepping-up coal production and increasing steel supplies. Labour said, “ We are short of all these commodities, so we will ration them “. Even petrol was rationed, and when we came into office in 1949 we said that we would do away with these problems. I think that to-day we can honestly say that we have done so. Let us see what action we took to remedy shortages of materials. When we came into government in 1949, Australia’s coal needs were about 18,000,000 tons a year, and 14,000,000 were being produced. We decided to borrow dollars from overseas to get the equipment necessary to improve our coal supplies. We floated a dollar loan. What did members of the Opposition do? They opposed the proposal and voted against it. They did not want any machinery imported to improve our supplies of steel, coal, bricks, or timber. They wanted to go on with their programme of rationing.
– Tell us what machinery you brought in?
– We brought in all the machinery that was needed.
– Tell us what it was. You have no idea.
– We brought in machinery to mechanize the coal mines, and we brought in the machinery that the States are now using to develop their road systems.
– You said you brought in machinery for coal production.
– Yes, we imported loading equipment to improve coal production in the deep mines.
– What sort of equipment?
– All types of equipment to increase production. Within two years we had increased production. After having had to buy coal from South Africa and India while the mines were being mechanized, we produced all the coal that we needed. We have a good record in the production of coal. Since we assumed office, our steel production has been increased by more than 100 per cent. Our record in coal production is one of .which we are proud. We are also proud of our record in housing.
I wanted to say a few words to-night on matters other than housing. Since the war, our population has increased by about 2,038,000, and we have taken great steps forward in the development of our country, lt is interesting that the Government has been able to plan this development as it goes along. We have had to impose some import restrictions but, by and large, we have passed through probably the most prosperous era in Australia’s history. I am proud to be a supporter of the Government that has administered the affairs of Australia during that period.
The economic position is again showing improvement. Our overseas balances have increased to almost £380,000,000, and the Government has decided to ease some of the import controls. The economic position is improving so quickly that I have no doubt there will be further concessions soon. The nation has progressed so rapidly that we arc suffering from growing pains. We have not been able to get enough capital to do everything we want to do. As a result, we have had to encourage the investment of foreign capital in Australia.
Recently, the Chase Syndicate has taken up large areas of land in the Esperance district of Western Australia. We hope that about 1,500,000 acres will be developed there. The number of sheep in Western Australia now totals 15,000,000, and we hope that that total will be increased at least to 20,000,000 when the Esperance area is developed. Recently, I had the privilege of spending a few days there, and I was astounded by the potentialities. The Esperance Downs country enjoys a rainfall of 20 to 25 inches, lt covers an area about 200 miles long by 30 miles deep, and is capable of providing a livelihood for large numbers of people. Many persons in the eastern States of Australia and in other parts of the world, are inquiring about land in Western Australia, particularly in the higher rainfall areas. We hope that our rural population will increase, and that our production of wool will help to swell our export income.
Australia is dependent largely on the income from wool to meet its overseas commitments. Everything possible should be done to find new avenues of overseas income. I believe that the Australian mining industry has a great future. Minerals could form an important part of our export income. The Bureau of Mineral Resources, in conjunction with the State mines departments, is making surveys of mineral deposits, and is endeavouring to find new deposits throughout Australia. The bureau and the departments are doing valuable work and deserve commendation.
Other nations have shown how we could do much more to encourage mining by tax concessions. In 1 925, Canada introduced an incentive system, and since then has more than trebled its exports of base metals. Any new mining company can operate for three years free of income tax. After that period, the company can write off its plant and development costs. It also receives heavy depreciation allowances before any income tax commitments have to be met. Production of minerals in Canada now totals almost £1,500,000,000 compared with £500,000.000 in 1925.
The deposits of minerals in Australia are probably as large as those in Canada, and I believe that our mineral output could be greatly increased. Minerals could probably replace wool as our largest earner of overseas income. Our income from wool now is about £500,000,000. New methods have revolutionized the mining industry. Large deposits of bauxite have been found off the Queensland coast, and they will supply the aluminium industry at Bell Bay, in Tasmania. Large new deposits of copper and lead have been found at Mount Isa. On the west coast of Tasmania, the Rio Tinto company, in conjunction with the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited and the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, has been granted prospect.ings rights over large areas which are known to contain rich deposits of valuable minerals, including uranium, zinc, lead, copper and gold. I have no doubt that in the near future we shall hear, particularly as large sums of money are being spent in this area, that new discoveries of lead and copper will be made. I had the privilege recently of travelling through the west coast region of Tasmania. It is winter jungle country and very mountainous. I would say that one-third of Tasmania is totally unexplored so far as minerals are concerned; but with the advent of the helicopter and the latest methods of the Bureau of Mineral Resources new finds will be brought to light. I understand that the bureau is now able to locate and contact ore bodies to a depth of 500 ft. As the result of these new methods of discovery I have no doubt that Tasmania will play a large part in providing the minerals that are necessary for Australia to increase its export income. The Government should look into ways and means of providing an incentive for our secondary industries throughout Australia. Depreciation allowance on new plant is, I believe, the answer to cheaper production and will enable our industries to compete with those of other nations.
The cost structure and standard of living in the United States of America is higher than in Australia, yet that nation can compete very favorably with other nations because of the mechanization of its factories. I believe that we can achieve the same objective, but to do so we may have to grant special depreciation allowances to factories to enable them to install new equipment. I am pleased to know that General Motors-Holden’s Limited, which some years ago erected a new factory, is now exporting motor cars to New Zealand, and hopes in the near future to obtain markets in South-East Asia. All this will help Australia to overcome its export difficulties, increase its export income and eventually enable it to do away altogether with import licensing. Our import licensing system could very easily be dispensed with if the right incentives were given to people engaged in industry, such as taxation con.cssions. If such concessions were granted, we could increase our overseas income and would have no difficulty in respect of our balance of payments.
I should like to conclude on this note: I believe that Australia is experiencing an era of prosperity greater than it has ever enjoyed previously,, and that this Government has played a large part in bringing about that prosperity. While the present Government remains in office no difficulty will endanger that prosperity. Therefore, the only way this nation can continue to enjoy prosperity is by keeping this Government in office.
– I have pleasure in associating myself with the motion for the AddressinReply moved by Senator Hannan on behalf of the Government in the following words: -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
With that section of the Address-in-Reply, the Opposition fully agrees, but at that point I am afraid, as a good Opposition, we must seriously part company with the Government.
The Speech of the Governor-General was based on the advice of his Ministers and contained the aspirations of this Government for this sessional period as well as probably some succeeding sessional periods. I can say no more than that it is a shoddy document. It offers little hope to the Australian people. Each Minister who has spoken has studiously avoided explaining any of the matters with which the Speech deals. Honorable senators opposite have lowered the standard of debate in the Senate by avoiding their responsibility to place a pro- gramme before the people, and have utilized the time at their disposal in indulging in propaganda or in casting aspersions on the Opposition and on other governments. Each State government in turn has been accused of bungling and overspending, but no mention has been made of the faults of this Government. In the opinion of the Opposition, and, I think, in the opinion of most people in Australia, the Government has not honorably discharged its responsibility. Senator Scott and each honorable senator opposite who has spoken dealt with the very prosperous period through which we are passing. When they say “ we “ in that context they mean the Government. No previous government in the history of Australia has extracted from the people of this country £1,200,000,000 in any one year. That amount of revenue is greater than any amount taken from the country even in any year during a period of war. I admit that this huge amount is being taken from the people during a period of very serious inflation, although this Government, because of its immense revenues, is not yet feeling the embarrassment of inflation; but every section of the community has been embarrassed by the heavy extraction of moneys by the Government either in direct or indirect taxation.
The policy of the Government has lowered the standard of living of the Australian people by permitting inflation to take such a harsh toll of Australian industry and of the people generally. When I look through the Speech of the GovernorGeneral, which expresses the policy and aspirations of the Government, I find no hope in it for the pensioners, the people who are existing on an amount much lower than the basic wage and who have no income other than their pension. The Government can garnish the position in any manner it wishes. For instance, it says that it is providing certain medical benefits. That in itself may be commendable. It may also say it is providing homes for the aged on a £l-for-£l basis. That also is commendable. It has also introduced a number of social services benefits which have been recommended by social services committees appointed by this and preceding governments. The fact remains, however, that 75 per cent, of our pensioners are forced to live on sub-standard allowances; they have no other income. All the extra amenities which this Government might provide for the aged people do not in any way relieve the great distress which they are suffering and which the Government ignores entirely.
Then, there is the matter of import restrictions. Again, in this respect, there is no promise of anything definite, although we hoped that something would be done about this pernicious system. Neither is there any mention of housing in the sense that the Government proposes to do something about the matter. The Governor-General makes an apology for the fact that there has been a retrogradation in housing, and lays the blame at the door of the States. I shall later prove that this Government has not done the job that it promised to do, nor has it met its responsibility in this matter. Ministers and supporters of the Government say that they do not support combines and cartels, but throughout the whole period that this Government has been in office our exporters have had to pay exorbitant freights to the shipping companies, and the Government has done nothing. Moreover, there is nothing in the Speech to lead the people to hope that the Government will do anything to remedy that position.
Postal services have become most expensive, and have been restricted. As to the standardization of the railway gauge, which has been recommended by a Government and an Opposition committee, nothing has been done. This subject has been useful for publicity, but it is far more important than that. It is essential, particularly as a defence item - and the country is committed to a tremendous expenditure. Nothing has been mentioned about it in the Speech. In fact, the Speech reveals that the Government is bankrupt of ideas to provide a constructive programme for the development of Australia, or to correct the many anomalies about which the people are complaining.
I wish to deal with the housing situation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), has- continually made promises, but of them all his greatest was made in his 1949 promise schedule. On that occasion he said -
We give this firm promise to young couples: The Liberal party, when returned to office, will regard as its permanent and vital responsibility the speeding up of the housing programme. We will not allow any other public works, other than i hose of extreme urgency, to be given priority over home building. You are penalized to-day by the Chifley Government . . . The very Government which claims to be the champion of the average man and woman is the Government that is depriving you of a home, and, by starving State Governments of funds, preventing even your State Government from helping you.
That is true of this Government to-day. Although the Minister (Senator Spooner) has made his apologies here to-day for his Government’s failures, he has not taken the responsibility, as a man, for his Government. He says it is the responsibility of the States. Yet the unanimous decision of the State governments - not all of them Labour, but including also the Liberal governments of South Australia and Victoria - is that this Government has failed in relation to housing. They are all appealing for more funds, and for a more progressive and vigorous programme. We can look back over the years and compare figures and talk of the money that has been spent, but there can be no real comparison because of inflation.
However, the Chifley Government maintained a housing programme on the basis that so long as material and labour were available there would be no restriction of finance. The Chifley Government not only made an agreement on that basis with the States, but also honoured it. A change has taken place since then, during the term of this Government, and in 1953 the present Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) made it clear that the housing agreement then existing, under which the Commonwealth Government would make funds available to the extent that the States could utilize them, was to be changed. I shall read some of the remarks made by Senator Spooner at that time. He said -
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has many virtues - but in conjunction with rental control and landlord and tenant regulations, it has driven private investment out of the housebuilding field with the result that the Governments are now the only builders of houses for rental purposes throughout the Commonwealth. The work is being done with funds that are being provided by the Australian Government, but it is not a good proposition, economically or socially.
He showed his attitude then, quite early in the piece, when progress was being claimed by the Government and acclaimed by the States. . He went on to say -
Unlimited provision of advances at low rates of interest is preventing private builders from competing.
We were aiming at giving people in Australia homes at the lowest possible cost. It was not going to be a field for speculators or investors. There was adequate room for investment in Australia at that time to absorb any capital that was available. The Chifley Government had accepted the responsibility, in effect, for the provision of housing. This Government has repudiated that responsibility. Senator Spooner went on to say -
Traditionally, over a long period of years, a substantial number of banks, insurance and building societies and private persons have been investing in housing; and it should be our aim to give them every opportunity to do so in the future. We must encourage more investors to return to this field.
I agree with that. Investors should be encouraged to return to the field at a rate of interest which will permit the Australian people to enjoy the occupation of a home either as owners or for the payment of a reasonable rental. The States, even then, were discovering that inflation was making it quite impossible for the average citizen of Australia to get a home. Sixty per cent, of our citizens were unable either to buy a home or to rent one, because of inflation. I shall refer to a joint report of the State Housing Ministers in 1953. This part is relevant -
The ever increasing rates and charges associated with houses constructed under the Acts are a continuous cause of unrest among the tenants. For instance, increases in rates, water rates, and other charges are passed on to occupiers in increased rents, and it is the cause of much complaint, whereas, if the homes had been sold to the occupiers, they would readily bear the burden of the additional charges as part of the accepted price to pay for home ownership.
That type of inflation has increased still further since then. In addition, this Government has forced up interest charges. I warn it now that private investors will not go into that field of investment until the Government makes it possible for them to earn at least the rate of interest ruling in other investment fields. If the Government is sincere in its desire to give the people of Australia homes at a reasonable cost, or a reasonable rental, it should at least give some encouragement to people to invest in this sphere, but I am afraid that task will be rather difficult.
Another distressing factor which no honorable senator on the Government side has mentioned is the abolition by the Go- vernment of the economic rental system which helped people on the lower incomes to obtain homes at a reasonable rental. People in receipt of the basic wage or in lower income groups are unable to pay the exorbitant rentals now being charged. The abolition of the assessment of an economic rental at one-fifth of a family income has visited tremendous hardship upon many families.
The Government says that everything is quite all right and it claims credit for all the progress that has been made over the years; but when it comes to a question of finance, it refuses to accept any responsibility. It says that the States are responsible. The original scheme envisaged that the States would accept responsibility to the limit of their resources and the availability of materials and man-power, and the Prime Minister’s claim that the shortage of material and man-power is causing this deterioration in the housing position is not true. He could have made that claim in ignorance, but I believe that his statement was made neither in ignorance nor in honesty.
Queensland has been mentioned during the course of the debate. Western Australia’s position is similar to that of Queensland. In Western Australia, the Housing Commission embarked upon a vigorous housing policy and was successful in reducing the cost of houses to a figure 25 per cent, below the average ruling cost. It constructed more houses than had been built in any preceding twelve months’ period. Both materials and man-power were readily available, but an argument then developed between the Commonwealth and State Ministers over costs. The Western Australian Housing Commission had not adopted the Commonwealth’s suggestion to spread the available finance over the full twelve months. If it had done so, the cost of houses erected under the slower method would have been from £750 to £1,000 higher. When the Western Australian Housing Commission needed further moneys to enable it to continue with its programme for the full twelve months, the Commonwealth Government repudiated its responsibility. Although adequate manpower and materials were available, this Government refused to provide the extra finance needed. From then on, the construction of houses in that State began to slow down.
On the 19th of this month, official figures were released by the Western Australian Government Statistician, Mr. R. J. Little. They showed that house building in that State fell sharply during 1956. They also showed that during the last three months of 1956 only 1,296 houses were completed compared with 2,339 for the December quarter of 1955, and that the number of houses started in the December quarter last year declined to 1,252 compared with 1,715 houses started in 1955. Mr. Little’s figures disclose that other building activity also declined. The number of shops without dwellings completed in the December quarter of 1956 was 59, which was 40 fewer than the figure for 1955. Further, the number of factories completed fell from 28 in 1955 to 21 in 1956. Between the middle of December, 1955, and the middle of December last year, the labour force in the building industry fell from 10,177 to 8,803. In Western Australia to-day more than 2,000 building tradesmen are looking for work although timber is stacked at every millyard. In an endeavour to conserve timber supplies, mill-owners and builders have built up stacks and are paying interest on money borrowed for that purpose. The brick kilns have excess supplies of bricks and are dismissing workers. We have all the things . necessary for the building of houses in Western Australia. For the last six months, we have had ample materials. Yet, tradesmen are walking the streets unemployed. And the Prime Minister tells this country, quite dishonestly, that the only thing that is holding up housing is the lack of materials and man-power. The Minister for National Development had the effrontery to-night to talk about dishonesty. I think he might have chosen a better word.
– I rise to order. In view of the ruling given by the President earlier in the evening, I submit that Senator Cooke is out of order in imputing dishonesty to the Prime Minister.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - The point of order is upheld. I ask Senator Cooke to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw the words complained of. I can only say that the Prime Minister must have been at a loss for better words. Gross mis-statements have been made in order to deceive the people of Australia in connexion with this matter. Nobody can deny that there is a grave and urgent need for housing in this country; and nobody can deny that conditions everywhere warrant immediate action. The States are willing and anxious to go ahead. At a meeting held on 20th March, 1957, the State Ministers in charge of housing pointed out that materials and man-power are available. Yet, tradesmen are suffering unemployment because this Government will not make the requisite finance available. It is quite easy to see why the people of Australia are not being housed. The whole position has degenerated because this Government has restricted the amount of money available to the State governments which are thus placed in the position of a buffer between the Commonwealth Government and the people who urgently need houses. The Government will not let the scheme proceed evenly, and it has a duty to do something about the matter.
I want to refer to several other matters. The Government states that the comprehensive water scheme in Western Australia has been held up on account of State inefficiency. So far as the provision of finance by the Commonwealth has permitted, work on the scheme has proceeeded vigorously and it is now ahead of schedule. As a result, a considerable sum of money has been saved. The reason why work on the scheme is being restricted now is that the Commonwealth, which provides the Slate Government with finance on a £l-for- £1 basis, has placed a ceiling of £462,500 on its annual expenditure, whereas the State Government wants to raise its expenditure to £570,000 a year. The Commonwealth should accede to the wishes of the State Government. It is pledged to spend £8,000.000 on the scheme, which, possibly, is more than would have been required had the scheme been completed before inflation reached its present height. If the Commonwealth were prepared to remove the limit that it has placed on the amount that it will allocate to the State Government each year on a £l-for-£l basis, work on the scheme would go ahead quickly, with great benefit to the people of the areas concerned, and the total cost would be lower than would otherwise be the case. 1 ask the Government to do something in this matter.
The next subject to which I want to refer is the use of pyrites, about which this Government has said very much, but has achieved very little. 1 admit that there are difficulties in the way of the Government. Pyrites is mined in Western Australia, and also in other States. There has been great development of the industry, which has been encouraged by the policy of this Government to endeavour to ensure that 65 per cent, of the pyrites used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid and superphosphate shall be supplied from local sources. This has been going on for a number of years. There have been reports from time to time of big developments, but the Government does not seem to be able to secure the cooperation of a big combine in this country. Apparently, it is not prepared to introduce legislation to compel the combine to conform to its policy, in the interests of the national economy, even though the refusal of the combine to do so is adversely affecting the nation. It was agreed by the Government and the Opposition that certain quantities of pyrites from local sources should be used, but the Government has not asserted its authority. The combine, apparently, is too strong for it. I ask that something be done in that matter also.
Now I come to the question of pensions. I appeal to the Government to do something to improve the lot of the unfortunate pensioners of this country, whose standard of living has been reduced to a degree of which we cannot be proud. Before he came into office in 1949, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in his policy speech -
Existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
He promised also to remove injustices arising from the operation of the means test. There has been a cruel repudiation of the promise at least to maintain the rates of pension existing then. I shall not refer in this speech to the many quite commendable social services measures that the Government has introduced. I am concerned now only with the plight of the pensioner who has no income other than his pension. In this inflationary period, his living conditions are sub-standard, and the Government should do something to help him. Hundreds of thousands of pensioners spent some of their money to post the petitions which were presented to the Government during the last session, but those petitions were brushed aside and nothing was done to give effect to them, although plenty of promises and some apologies were made. There is no reference to any increase of pensions in the Speech that we are discussing to-day. In my opinion, it was shameful that the representative of Her Majesty in this country was called upon to deliver to the Parliament a speech which contained no statement of the intention of the Government to honour the promises with which it has deceived the people from time to time since it came into office.
– I join with the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in their expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. We enjoy constitutional government under a constitutional monarch. When we recall the vicissitudes of the institution of monarchy through the ages, we realize that we are fortunate to be enjoying a democratic way of life under a constitutional monarch. We have a Queen who is a very charming and a very fine person and she has, as her Consort, a very fine man, but that is only incidental to the fact that we enjoy a constitutional monarchy, one that has developed through the ages and has no semblance of absolutism. For that reason, I am happy to join with those honorable senators who have expressed their loyalty and allegiance to the Crown.
At this late hour, one has not much opportunity to deliver a cogent speech, but I want to touch upon one or two subjects that may be of interest to honorable senators. Senator McCallum made reference to the school for civil defence that was held recently at Mount Macedon. I join with him in expressing appreciation of what was done for the members of this Parliament who attended the school. It was of great educational value to us. As we know, it was non-political in character. Those of us who attended were unanimous in expressing our approval of the establishment of the school, of the way in which it was conducted and of what we were taught there in our short stay of four days. I believe that it was a fine gesture on the part of the Government to give members of the Parliament an opportunity to attend the school and see for themselves what was being done in the way of civil defence. We were able to see that the Government was not neglecting that important aspect of our national life. We were conveyed from Melbourne to Mount Macedon, and accommodated in a building that formerly housed the golf club, lt is ideally situated, and we were made as comfortable as possible during our stay. A very competent body of men delivered lectures to us. I should like to pay a tribute to the commandant of the school, and to his staff of lecturers, who imparted to us all of the information on civil defence at their disposal. I shall not attempt to detail all that occurred during our stay at the school. Suffice it for me to say that, as a result of the excellently delivered lectures, we came away completely civil defence minded.
Under the Constitution, civil defence is a State matter, but overall surveillance may be provided by the Commonwealth. Indeed, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) is charged with this responsibility, and it was under his aegis that the civil defence school at Mount Macedon was established. I should like to point out that the school acts in a purely advisory capacity. Its scope is comparatively limited, and it has no power to impose its ideas on the States. The commandant has authority to invite State representatives to attend the lectures, but I emphasize that the school’s main purpose is to assist the States by supplying to them all of the information on civil defence that is at its disposal.
I am disturbed by the realization of how little has been done in Australia in relation to civil defence. During the debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers last year, Senator Anderson directed attention to the fact that only relatively small financial provision had been - made for civil defence. I am sure that, when this most pressing need becomes more apparent to those in authority, more money will be appropriated for the purpose. However, it is encouraging to know that the Commonwealth Government has given a lead in the matter by appropriating money for the training of key personnel. In the main, the key personnel are Commonwealth officers who have supplemented their experience in this field m England, America and various other countries by reading up-to-date literature on :he subject.
I assure you, Mr. President, that most Western countries have a keen appreciation
Df the need for civil defence, which they have developed to a much greater extent than nas been done in Australia. In view of the disturbed state of affairs in the world-today, we must be prepared to face any eventuality. We know what has happened in the Suez area in recent times, and we are fully aware of the consequences that could have followed. In view of the differences of opinion between Communist countries and Western countries, it is of prime importance for us to take all possible steps to develop our civil defence organization, in order that we might have some chance of survival should an atomic war break out.
There are many aspects of this subject. First, should civil defence training be the responsibility of the several States, or should it be a Commonwealth responsibility? At present, there is only a minimum staff at Mount Macedon to impart civil defence information to the representatives of the States who accept invitations to attend the school. Some States are more advanced in the matter of civil defence than others. I understand that New South Wales has made good progress in this connexion. Representatives of the New South Wales Police Force and of the ambulance service have attended courses of instruction at Mount Macedon. But do you, sir, think that this matter is of such little moment that responsibility for civil defence should rest on the States? I believe that, in order to achieve uniform training and a complete interchange of ideas, the Commonwealth should bear the responsibility for civil defence training. As this is a national question of the greatest moment, I am convinced that, ultimately, responsibility for civil defence training will be assumed by the Commonwealth. In other words, civil defence must become our fourth arm of defence.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 March 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19570321_senate_22_s10/>.