24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation, and with the indulgence of the Senate I preface my question by reading a telegram that the four Labour senators from Victoria have received from the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. It is as follows: -
As November 18th is date under which domestic airlines may apply for approval to purchase pure jet aircraft, is apparent from current newspaper reports that Cabinet must give imminent consideration to this and related matter of Tullamarine airport project. While 1 appreciate the recent interest shown by all Victoria’s Federal senators and members in Tullamarine question I seriously doubt if its importance has been sufficiently stressed to Cabinet Ministers who must now make the vital executive decision.
Unless Tullamarine project is completed, jet aircraft cannot repeat cannot be introduced in the Australian network of domestic air services. This means that Victoria’s representations regards Tullamarine has national as well as State significance. Having been most perturbed by the bypassing of Victoria by international air services I am most adamant this should not also happen to domestic services.
Due to the complete unanimity on this point among technical and operational experts in the airline industry, I am certain that only the strongest Treasury objections could have persuaded Cabinet not to commence the Tullamarine project long before this. I strongly urge you to make the most concerted effort to ensure that the Government does not defer the introduction of domestic jet aircraft for the construction of Tullamarine which is a vital prerequisite to the introduction of modern jet services in Australia. We look to you especially to ensure that Victorian members of Cabinet are made expressly clear on our views on these important matters of national concern.
Maurice A. Nathan, Lord Mayor, Chairman, Victoria Promotion Committee.
Is it a fact that jet aircraft will be used on the internal airline network after 1st July, 1964? Is the Minister satisfied that existing runways at Essendon can be used by those jet aircraft to take off when fully loaded and fly to distant cities, such as Perth? If not, why is not the Government already undertaking the construction of the Tullamarine airport? I point out that the Labour Party is concerned that this project be proceeded with as a matter of urgency.
– If the purpose of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in reading the telegram was to make me aware of its contents, I regret to tell him that it was love’s labour lost, because the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, as a matter of courtesy, sent me a copy of the telegram; and indeed I know that he sent a copy to every Victorian senator and member. As to the telegram itself, I should only like to say that I thought the reference to the Treasurer was unnecessarily harsh.
The Civil Aviation Agreement and the Civil Aviation Agreement Act provide that at some time after 1st July, 1964, jet aircraft can be operated by domestic operators in Australia. The question of the capacity of Melbourne airport to provide runways at full take-off load is now being determined. It will be necessary to impose some payload penalty on aircraft making the direct Melbourne-Perth run from Essendon. The construction of an airport at Tullamarine is receiving the consideration of the Government.
– I should like to preface a question, which I direct to the Minister for Health, by saying that, in this morning’s edition of the Melbourne “ Age “, under the heading, “ New Check on Babies Prevents Form of Mental Retardation “, is a reference to a test aimed at detecting phenylketonuria, a chemical cause of mental deficiency. Has the Minister seen the report and has anything been done along these lines in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I have not seen the report and I have no knowledge of it, but I shall make investigations and inform the honorable senator of the result.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, by saying that the Indi Federal Campaign Committee of the Australian Labour Party carried a resolution, which reads as follows: -
In view of general condition re flax industry from an essential point of view nationally, as military coverings, post office requirements and railway requirements as well as any tarpauline needs, depends on the flax industry in times of national need, we view with disgust the answer of the Country Party Minister, Senator Wade, and ask that the matter of satisfactory means of stabilisation of the industry either by tariff or subsidy on a profitable basis to growers be treated as urgent, and that assistance be given to growers association to take over mill at Myrtleford, on basis of growers-controlled co-operative, and thereby give them control of their industry to the fibre production stage; and further that this motion be sent to Senator Hendrickson to bring forward again and demand attention of Mr. Adermann to the problem.
Because of the urgent need for flax by the military authorities, the Postal Department and the railways, and because of the dependence of families on the industry, will the Minister give further consideration to the granting of subsidies to the industry?
– I am not at all surprised by the resolution that has been read out by Senator Hendrickson. When a similar question to this was asked the other day I thought it was asked for a specific purpose. I thought also that the factual answer that I gave would not be in accordance with the views held by the people in whose interests the question was asked. As Senator Hendrickson has suggested that my reply may be contrary to Government thinking on this matter, I suggest that he place his question on the notice-paper. I will then ask the Minister for Primary Industry to indicate his views on the matter. If what I said on a previous occasion is not in line with the views expressed by the Minister for Primary Industry, I will readily retract what I said.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. President. Is it a fact that almost all State parliaments and many foreign parliaments have note-paper featuring an embossed crest? Do you think it would befit the status of this Commonwealth Parliament of Australia if it also had embossed note-paper? If so, will you undertake to investigate the position to see whether at least half of our stationery could feature an embossed crest?
– I will go into the matter and give the honorable senator a reply at a later stage.
– In elaboration of my reply yesterday to Senator Hendrickson I am now able to inform him that Australian books are selected and supplied by the Commonwealth National Library to 61 Australian official posts abroad. In addition, the library issues and distributes widely each year a publication entitled “ Australian Books “, which is a select list of Australian books in print. It contributes reviews monthly to the “British Book News”, which circulates throughout the English-speaking world. It arranges overseas exhibitions from time to time. No Australian Book Week exhibition was mounted this year in King’s Hall because of the lack of time following the dismounting of an earlier exhibition by another department. Instead, the library has arranged an exhibition of Australian book printing in the Civic branch of the Canberra Public Library, and has cooperated actively in the programme arranged for the Australian Book Week by the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Books are also supplied by the Department of External Affairs through the Colombo Plan to various institutions and government agencies in the Colombo Plan countries. In this current financial year provision has been made for book gifts to be made by the Department of External Affairs to selected libraries and academic institutions in other overseas countries.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. I point out that some concern is felt by constituents in Tasmania over the presence of typhoid fever at the Bonegilla migrant centre and another place amongst recent arrivals from Hong Kong. Will the Minister give an assurance that the vaccination procedure at Hong Kong will be considerably tightened, and that all contacts will be thoroughly quarantined?
– I have asked my department as late as to-day to inform me of the current position with regard to the outbreak of typhoid. It may be of interest if I inform the Senate that at Bonegilla migrant centre there are five proven cases, four probable cases and five suspected cases of typhoid. No further cases were added to the list during the day - that is, yesterday - and no further cases have been reported in Brisbane. I have noticed a rather disturbing newspaper report in which it was suggested that a suspected case of cholera had been detected. My information on that subject is that the case is not cholera. It has been diagnosed as a kidney infection, and has no relation to cholera. Senator O’Byrne asked for an undertaking that vaccination requirements in Hong Kong would be tightened up. I think that was the place he mentioned. He asked also that all typhoid contacts be quarantined. Typhoid fever is not a quarantinable disease. Quarantinable diseases are listed by the World Health Organization under an international agreement, and are limited to diseases that are likely to spread internationally. Typhoid fever can occur in local outbreaks, but it is not likely to spread internationally. With proper sanitary conditions, and especially with the use of modern antibiotics, it can be readily controlled. I do not think there is any need for me to remind the Senate that the spread of typhoid is by means of food, fingers and other mediums of that sort.
The Department of Health has no power to enforce the inoculation of migrants. It has no legal right to demand, under international law, that before people come to this country they be inoculated against typhoid. However, the Department of Immigration may insist on inoculation, and that precaution was insisted upon in the case of the white Russian people who arrived here recently. They were inoculated at Hong Kong, but it appears that that inoculation was not fully effective. I assure the honorable senator that the Department of Health has discussed this matter again with the Department of Immigration, and that that department, as far as is possible, will insist upon migrants being inoculated before they arrive in this country.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Has the attention of the Minister been directed to a report that police believe that Sydney is being used as a clearing house for narcotics in the world drug trade? In view of a recent statement by Mr. Auslinger, the United States Commissioner of Narcotics, that China is trying to flood the world with heroin in a bid to win gold and hard currency, will the Minister inform the Senate of the action that is taken, apart from routine checks of ships, to prevent the entry of drugs, particularly heroin, into Australia?
– The honorable senator asked me a question on this subject a few months ago. I intimated to her then that we were strengthening the preventive staff in Sydney and throughout Australia, and intensifying our search for heroin and other drugs. The latest find was made on a Dutch vessel trading to Australia from Hong Kong and Manilla. It came to Sydney, then went on to Melbourne and came back to Sydney. The vessel was searched in Sydney and Melbourne and again in Sydney. It was during the second search in Sydney that the drugs were found. They were encased in cargo which was consigned directly to Brisbane from overseas. Some of the cargo had been taken out and this parcel of drugs had been inserted. The total weight was more than 2 lb. That is the largest find of heroin we have had. It is a cause for satisfaction that the increased endeavours of the department have been rewarded.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I have not given notice of the question, and the Minister may not be able to answer it now. It relates to the fine arts. Can the Minister inform us of the policy of the Government with regard to the purchase of paintings, sculpture, and so on? I notice that the Commonwealth Government purchased recently for £150 a painting that was exhibited in Brisbane. Is that common practice? Does the Commonwealth Government purchase works of art shown in various exhibitions in all States? Where are these exhibits hung - and I refer especially to the Brisbane purchase? How many pictures and statues were purchased within the last year, and what was their cost? Are purchases made on the advice of a committee? If so, what are the names of the members of that committee? Perhaps the Minister would prefer me to put the question on the notice-paper.
– I ask Senator Turnbull to place his question on the noticepaper. However, I can give him a little general information on this subject. The Government has an advisory committee to deal with matters of this kind. I hesitate to name the members of the committee, although I have met them and know some of them. The committee is given a budget and operates within the limits of that budget each year. Expressing my own personal views, I wish that we had better facilities for the hanging of pictures than we have at present. I am keen to see a national art gallery in Canberra as soon as possible, no matter how small it may be. However, that must take its place in the order of priorities. If the honorable senator puts the question on the notice-paper I shall obtain a more informative answer for him.
– My question, which is addressed to you, Mr. President, relates to a published expression of opinion by, I assume, a spokesman for the National Capital Development Commission regarding a new Parliament House. In view of the work that is proceeding at the edge of the proposed lakes, in an area which I am informed is to be the site of the new Parliament House, will you, as the Senate’s principal officer, consider making to the Senate a statement of your views on this matter which touches the Parliament so intimately?
– I shall consider the matter and confer with Mr. Speaker. Perhaps we shall be able to bring down a statement on the new Parliament House.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate believe in the biblical injunction, “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free “? Does he also believe that politicians should speak the truth? If so, will he tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth concerning the resignation of Sir Leslie Melville as chairman of the Tariff Board?
– I suppose if I were a little cynical I could say that that is a hypothetical question, having regard to the way in which the honorable senator has linked truth with other matters. There is no mystery about the resignation of Sir Leslie Melville. There has been no dispute. There has been no clash of views. Sir Leslie Melville, for his own good purposes and his own reasons, has accepted an appointment elsewhere. I am sorry to disappoint Senator Brown.
– My department strives to keep me currently informed of new drug discoveries. Information regarding cephalothin has not yet appeared in the medical journals, but the medical profession is looking forward to receiving information from the United Kingdom when the results of tests are published. The only information we have had so far has been that which we have read in the newspapers. When supplies of this antibiotic are available, it will be tested in Australia. It has aroused much interest in the medical profession here, and we hope it will lead to an outstanding advance in antibiotic therapy.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, relates to the trade balance figures for the September quarter. Is it a fact that, on the figures given, the trading deficit for that quarter was approximately £1,000,000? Further, is it a fact that if the only items taken into consideration had been exports and imports, the deficit would have been £96,000,000? Do the figures for the September quarter show that the value of exports in that period was the lowest for any quarter since the December quarter of 1960 and that the value of imports was the highest since the March quarter of 1961? Are these figures compatible with the Government’s statement that it is improving the position of our overseas balances? I ask the Minister, further, whether he can explain a reference in the official statistics to a private foreign capital inflow, with balancing items, of £83,000,000. What are the specific items end amounts making up that figure?
– The question is so comprehensive that I am sure the honorable senator will agree that it will require some examination before a satisfactory answer can be given. He asks, in effect, what the position would be if invisibles were taken into account. I cannot tell him that, because the figure for invisibles during a particular period does not become available until many months after the end of that period.
– My question relates to he September quarter.
– The figure for invisibles for the September quarter will not be available for some months. It is certainly not available now. I suggest that the honorable senator put the question on the notice-paper so that I may have an opportunity to study it and give a more detailed reply.
– Is the
Minister representing the Minister for Territories aware that Administration patrol officers were attacked last week by natives with bows and arrows while on patrol in the southern highlands of New Guinea? It has been stated that the natives objected to being jabbed with immunization needles in order to protect them against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria. In view of our need to have the friendship and support of New Guinea people, what preliminary arrangements are made to advise natives of the advantages to be gained from immunization and to prepare them for it? Are adult natives forced, against their wishes, to submit to being jabbed with immunization needles?
– I was not aware of the incident referred to by the honorable senator. I do not know whether natives are jabbed with their consent or without their consent. I ask the honorable senator to put his question on the noticepaper.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General a question without notice. Does section 92c. of the Broadcasting and Television Act, which was assented to on 8th June, 1960, provide that a person shall not be a director of more than two companies each of which is in a position to exercise control of a different television licence? Is a penalty provided of £100, and £10 for every day on which the offence continues for directors who breach that section of the act? Was Williams, the managing director of the Melbourne “ Herald “, a director of three companies, namely, the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, Queensland Press Limited, and Advertiser Newspapers Limited, which controlled television stations HSV, BTQ and ADS respectively? Is it a fact that although Williams resigned as a director of Advertiser Newspapers Limited around the beginning of April this year, he was in breach of this act from June, 1960, until the beginning of April this year - a period of about 22 months - and thereby was liable to a penalty of approximately £6,700? Did the Government launch any prosecution against Williams during that period? If it did not, did it fail to do so because it regarded the nonenforcement of the law as some small compensation for favours given to it by the newspapers that Williams controls?
– Senator Kennelly could not expect me to - answer that question.
– Can I put it on the notice-paper?
– The normal thing for him to do would have been to put it on the notice-paper without asking it in the Senate, and without attracting publicity to it until the facts were ascertained. Instead of doing the normal thing, he has taken the opportunity to make accusations against the character of a person. I do not know that person. I do not think I have ever met him. I do not take kindly to the idea of character assassination over the air.
– My statements are true.
– I do not know whether the statements are true or not.
– I know that they are true.
– What I am saying to you is that the more decent way of asking the question would have been to put it on the notice-paper so that the AttorneyGeneral could ascertain the facts. I have no opportunity to make any defence of this man, if I wanted to make a defence of him. In my opinion, approaching the matter in that way does credit to none of us. The last part of the question is in keeping with the first part of it. The last part is an attack on the Government for allegedly doing something that the Government would not do. There are decent ways of running a country. The Government runs this country in a decent way. I recommend to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he ask his questions in a decent way, too.
– As there is considerable thought in the business world to-day that there should be a general reduction of interest rates, I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer this question: In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government has already reduced, and is considering further reductions, to its interest rates on Commonwealth loans, will the Government initiate a general reduction of bank interest rates through the Commonwealth-owned bank and thus not only give a further and still needed boost to the national economy, but also afford some relief to business firms and individuals in regard to their overdraft payments?
– The question of interest rates and their reduction or variation is, to say the least, a difficult subject to discuss at question-time, particularly having regard to the fact that a movement in one rate generally generates a movement throughout the entire interest rate structure. I have seen one recent comment attributed to a Melbourne businessman who referred to the desirability of a reduction of interest rates. I only mention it because, coming from the source it did, I read it with considerable surprise having regard to the fact that the particular business in which this gentleman claims to be interested is at the moment expanding rather more quickly than are other businesses. His comment prompted in my mind the thought whether there should not be in his case a desire to steady rather than to boost. As I have said, the question is difficult to discuss at question-time in the Senate. All I can say to the honorable senator is that I will have a look at the question and refer again to the reference he has indicated, and will see whether there is anything further that should be said on the suggestion that has been made.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Health by stating that no doubt he has shared with other people throughout the world deepest sympathy with those tragically affected by the drug thalidomide. I ask the Minister: Is there any law in Australia under which manufacturers of drugs of this nature can be prosecuted vigorously, since this drug in particular has caused much loss of life, as well as great anguish to many unsuspecting persons? If there is no such law in Australia, does the Minister contemplate the introduction of appropriate legislation?
– I know of no law in Australia such as that referred to by the honorable senator, nor do I know of any such legislation in any other country. However, I will ask the Department of Health to study the points that the honorable senator has raised, and when I have been informed, I will let him know of the thinking on this matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The fact remains, however, that approximately 53% of those persons eligible as at that date have become naturalized. During the financial year just ended, a record number of 51,377 persons were granted naturalization. This indicates that migrants are becoming increasingly more aware of the desirability of becoming naturalized as well as of the advantages of such a step.
Furthermore, the initiative in seeking citizenship is not left entirely to the migrant. Each unnaturalized person who has been in Australia for four and a half years, receives a warmly phrased letter from the Minister inviting him to consider naturalization when he has been here for five years.
It is probable that some of the reasons advanced in these articles as to why migrants do not seek citizenship would be true of a small minority of the migrant community, but it is not correct to view them as being of general application.
Possibly, the greatest deterrent to application for naturalization is the inability of some migrants to acquire an adequate knowledge of the English language. Here again, every effort is made by the Government to assist. Classes in English are provided free for all who wish to make use of them.
The Good Neighbour Council, which is representative of a broad section of the Australian community and in particular numbers amongst its members all of the churches and most of the service organizations, is fully aware of the task confronting it. The council has discussed the integration of migrants at conferences at regional, State and Federal levels, and the steps agreed upon are slowly but surely achieving results. This is reflected in the record number naturalized during the last financial year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. I am happy to inform the honorable senator that no application for naturalization has been or will be refused solely by reason of the applicant’s political or trade union activities or associations.
It has been the practice since 1949 when considering applications for naturalization to take into account an applicant’s membership of, or association with, the Communist Party or other Communist activities, although applications for .naturalization are not necessarily rejected on all of the grounds mentioned. However, if an applicant’s activities are such that he is not considered suitable for Australian citizenship, then citizenship has been, and will continue to be, refused.
Inquiries are made by officers of the Department of Immigration into all aspects of applications for naturalization. In the matter of security, considerable reliance is placed on the reports of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.
During the period 1st January, 1949, to 30th June, 1962, 266 persons had their applications for naturalization either refused or deferred on security grounds, but of this number 53 were subsequently approved upon review. I would, however, emphasize that care is taken to ensure that security reports are objective, fair and reliable, and that they are weighed most carefully by mc before naturalization is withheld on security grounds.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the fact that since the abolition ot the experimental frequency modulation transmissions in the Australian capital cities Australia has possessed no modern high quality broadcasting, will the Government consider the conversion of existing amplitude modulation broadcasting transmitters to a type of single sideband operation for the purpose of reducing the interference which at present makes reasonable listening impossible on the east coast of Australia after dark, even though some minor down-grading of quality may be inevitable?
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply: -
The Postmaster-General does not agree that Australia has no modern high quality broadcasting. Australian broadcasting stations operate in accordance with technical standards determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and those standards provide for high quality transmission even though the frequency band transmitted may not be as great as is practicable with frequency modulation. Further, although there are some areas where reception is marred at times by interference the great majority of the Australian public has available reception from local stations which is free of interference both day and night.
It is realized that there are some areas where reception is deficient but the possibilities of improvement are receiving continuing attention by the board and recently, on the recommendation of the board, the Postmaster-General approved the establishment of three new national stations in Queensland and is inviting applications for the grant of a licence for a commercial broadcasting station to serve the Nambour area.
With regard to the suggestion that conversion of the existing amplitude modulation system to a type of single sideband operation be considered, the board has been investigating for some time the characteristics of single sideband, together with other means of providing broadcasting services. These investigations will continue but at the present time there is no intention to change the existing amplitude modulation system.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What revenue did each State receive in 1961-62 from (a) Commonwealth sources, and (b) its own sources, apart from business undertakings?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The information sought is not yet available in respect of 1961-62 on a comparable basis for all States, and I understand that it might be several months before the Statistician has obtained all the relevant data. I will see that the answer is conveyed to the honorable senator as soon as practicable.
– I bring up and lay on the table the eighteenth report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 13th November (vide page 1328), on motion by Senator Paltridge-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill is to grant financial assistance to two States known as claimant States, namely Western Australia and Tasmania. It is an annual bill and one to which, I am sure, the States look forward to lift them out of their difficult position. On this occasion, the Commonwealth Grants Commission proposes to grant £6,210,000 to Western Australia and £5,041,000 to Tasmania, making a total of £11,251,000. The assistance applied for by those States totalled £13,018,000, Western Australia’s application being for £7,387,000, and Tasmania’s application being for £5,631,000. This means that Western Australia’s application is to be reduced by £1,177,000 and Tasmania’s application by £590,000.
In 1961, Western Australia applied for £6,301,000, and was granted £6,156,000, a reduction of £145,000; and Tasmania applied for £4,511,000 and was granted £5,075,000, an increase of £564,000. In 1960, somewhat the same pattern was followed. Western Australia applied for £4,482,000 and was granted £4,309,000, a reduction of £173,000; Tasmania applied ; for £3,845,000 and was granted £4,309,000, exactly the same amount as was granted to Western Australia, this being an increase of £464,000 over the amount applied for. I claim that this indicates the inferior position in which the larger State with the greater disability is being placed in respect of the amounts being granted by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I am not being critical of the commission. It does a very good job under very difficult circumstances. When the State governments are unable fully to finance their operations, the deficit has to be met out of loan funds. Under the system adopted by the Commonwealth those loans bear interest. This system operates against the States when the Grants Commission does not fully provide for their needs. In its report the commission gives reasons why the applications of the States are not always granted in full. However, those reasons in some cases are open to criticism, as I hope to show shortly.
It is true that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has adopted a two-State standard. Honorable senators are aware that some time ago the pattern of assistance to the States was altered. Four States became non-claimant States, and two States remained claimant States. The Commonwealth Treasury has always insisted that the standard be a four-State standard, but the Grants Commission insisted that the standard be set by the more populous and better developed States of New South Wales and Victoria. In some instances that system has had its drawbacks. It has advantages in that it represents an attempt to bring the lesser-developed States to the standard of the more highly developed States, but in doing that pressure is brought to bear on the lesser-developed States to apply the standards and charges that apply in the more developed States. It is not good to read in the report of the constant attacks by Commonwealth Treasury officials on the position of the States, and the constant attempt to break down the amounts granted by the commission, but the commission is to be applauded for the way in which it has resisted what might be termed Treasury pressure. On the face of it, the Commonwealth allows the Grants Commission to make what it considers fair and equitable recommendations and the
Government implements those recommendations, but Treasury officials are constantly trying to break down the amounts that are granted to the claimant States.
In determining what amounts shall be granted to the States the Grants Commission has regard to matters such as the financial results of business undertakings. The first thing that attracts my attention in the commission’s report is the criticism levelled at the Metropolitan Transport Trust in Perth. A Labour government passed legislation to set up the Metropolitan Transport Trust, which was to serve the area of Greater Perth. That action was not lightly taken because transport systems in almost every city in the world are operating under very great difficulties. One thing that influenced the Labour Government to set up the trust was the request of the private transport operators. They were unable to provide an efficient service at a profit. If private enterprise cannot operate at a profit it goes out of business. The private operators wanted to get out of the transport business with as little cost as possible, and they welcomed what was termed the take-over by the State government.
The Grants Commission also criticizes the lack of co-ordination between the Metropolitan Transport Trust and the railway system. It is true that there is not a great deal of co-ordination, if any, between the railway system and the road transport systems. Perth is a growing area. It is a city that is expanding in all directions at one time. Perth does not have railway services leading into all suburbs, as one would expect in cities with old-established suburbs. Only three lines in Perth could possibly be coordinated with the road transport system. Those lines are the Perth to Fremantle line, the Perth to Midland Junction line, and the Perth to Armadale line. But co-ordination of those lines with the road transport system would do little to solve the problem confronting the northern and southern suburbs. When I speak of the southern suburbs I speak of the area out through south Perth and Manning. So, although co-ordination may be desirable, I am not of the opinion that it would greatly reduce the operating costs of the metropolitan transport system. In my opinion, the problems confronting that system are brought about by the lack of population and the spreading nature of Perth. This latter feature has its advantages in that it has enabled people to obtain residential blocks of at least one-quarter of an acre. However, that tends to spread the suburbs over rather large areas.
In considering this problem we must have regard to the development of car ownership in Australia. At present in Australia there is one car for approximately every four persons in the population, counting men, women and children. That means we have a large number of motor cars on the roads. The result is that people do not use public transport systems as they used to. The public transport system is provided mainly for those people in the lower income bracket who cannot afford a car, and for the young people who are not yet earning enough to buy a car, although the first thing that young people think about when they leave school and start work is the purchase of an old bomb.
Considerable criticism has been levelled at the State Shipping Service of Western Australia. The Commonwealth Grants Commission was unable to compare the operations of the service with operations in any other State, including the standard States. Anybody who has visited the coast of Western Australia will appreciate the job that is done by the State Shipping Service, which operates between Fremantle and Darwin. It is all very well for Treasury officials to be critical of the losses sustained by the State Shipping Service each year, but they should remember that it provides a service to the Northern Territory, which is a Commonwealth Territory. If that service were not provided, the Commonwealth would have to provide some means of communication with Darwin and its hinterland.
As a result of pressure brought to bear on the Western Australian Government an independent inquiry was conducted by a Captain Williams. 1 have not seen Captain Williams’ report. It was not available when I sought to obtain a copy, but press reports reveal that the Western Australian Government proposes to increase by 50 per cent, fares paid by people travelling by the State Shipping Services. It proposes also to increase freight rates by fi 10s. a ton, to increase the charge for- carrying cattle by £2 per head and to increase the charge for carrying sheep by 2s. per head. These increases will impose a considerable burden on an undeveloped area that is already a high-cost area. Any one familiar with the area will know that, because of high costs, practically all the workers there are entitled io allowances to raise their earnings above he level of the wages paid in less isolated End less difficult areas. Now, as a result of pressure brought to bear upon it, the (State Government has been forced to increase the charges to which I have
Referred. Those increased charges will have an adverse effect on an area in which considerable development is required and in which it is most inappropriate that costs Should be increased.
It is true that the State Shipping Service
Made a loss amounting to approximately £1,000,000 annually. However, in view of the territory it serves, it is a cause for yonder that the service made such a small loss. The traffic, in the main, is one-way traffic, occurring on the northward journey. Ships on the northward run carry materials for the residents of the area, but very little Cargo is shipped out of the area because of the lack of development. During the meat season a considerable amount of meat and livestock comes out, but the only port that has a continuous outward shipment is Port Sampson, which handles the products of the blue asbestos industry. When a ship is virtually empty for half of its voyage, “and has to compete with road transport at the same time, it is difficult for the operators to run that ship economically. Very little cargo is being shipped from Carnarvon to-day, but eight or nine years ago the port was regarded as the second busiest port in Western Australia. The work force on the waterfront there is depleted and those men who remain are unable to earn even the basic wage.
– The Carnarvon people wanted a sealed road.
– Everybody wants sealed roads to be built. I am not criticizing the building of the road. I am criticizing those who were responsible for obliging the State Shipping Service to increase its charges although it is providing a service that is still necessary. The report of the commission discloses that Westers Austra lia has had an unfavorable adjustment in its grant, amounting to £687,000, because of differential impacts of financial results of State undertakings on the budget.
– I was in the area a few years ago when the people there asked for that road to be built.
– I am not complaining about the road. I think every Western Australian welcomed the black top road that was put through in the face of very great difficulties. The point I am making is that it is having an impact on the State Shipping Service. Road transport has moved in and is handling the bulk of the material coming out of the Carnarvon area. That material is coming out along the black top road, instead of in State ships. If you travel to Carnarvon on a State ship you will find that, in the main, the cargo being loaded consists of empty oil drums and empty beer cans. Those items are not profitable for road transport.
Almost the only other product carried by the ships is whale meal from the whaling station, but every one knows that whaling in Australia is declining. There is not now the quantity of whale meal and solubles being shipped out of Carnarvon that there was a few years ago. Because the State Government maintains this service to the northern ports of Australia, including Darwin, it should receive more consideration from the Treasury officials. Instead, they are constantly trying to force the Commonwealth Grants Commission to penalize this essential service.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission also discussed water supplies. Western Australia is a large, dry area. Australia is the driest continent in the world, and Western Australia is probably the driest State in Australia. Water can be obtained only at certain points, and it must be distributed by long pipelines. Some years ago the State Government set out to develop what it calls a comprehensive water scheme. That was a scheme, based on the Wellington weir, to service rural areas. The scheme was subsequently broken into two parts, and the Commonwealth Government subsidized the first part on a £l-for-£l basis, contributing £5,000,000. I understand that an application is before the Treasury officials for assistance in the second stage of the comprehensive water scheme. In the interim, the State Government is attempting, with its limited resources, to complete the scheme itself.
This scheme, which serves rural areas, will assist in the development of those areas. It is only through the development of rural areas that Australia will be able to maintain its position in the trading markets of the world. The majority of the people employed in Australia are employed in secondary or manufacturing industries. Secondary industry in all States of Australia could be expanded if we processed more of the products of our rural industries. It seems a pity to me that so many of the products of Australia are exported in their raw state to provide work for people in other countries. It would be better if Australia were to concentrate on developing its secondary industries by processing its own raw materials and shipping the finished products overseas. The extension of water supplies to these rural areas would assist in their development and, subsequently, in the development of secondary industries to process raw materials.
The Government of Western Australia suffered an adverse adjustment in respect of what are broadly termed social services. The unfavorable adjustment was £436,000. The matters that are discussed in the report are, apart from miscellaneous undertakings, education, health, hospitals, charities, law and order, and public safety. The provision of education in a State that is so large and so sparsely populated as is Western Australia is a very difficult matter.
The State Government must be commended for the education system that operates, although it cannot operate it efficiently. I refer to the system of regional schools. Bus services are provided and subsidized by the Government. Buses transport children to a central point, but that can be done only in areas that are comparatively thickly populated. In the outer areas, of course, it is not possible to do so. It is necessary to have small schools, with one or two teachers who are required to teach all classes from the first to the final class, which generally is sixth class. A financial burden is placed on the State not only in the provision of trained teachers but also in the provision of schoolrooms. Capital works must be undertaken from the resources of the State. On the last occasion I visited Cockatoo Island, there were seventeen pupils at the school, and one teacher was expected to teach all subjects to all classes. That is the general position in the small, isolated townships.
When a child wishes to further his education, he has to go away to a larger town or to the metropolitan area. The State Government assists by making annual grants to the parents of such a child and by providing return fares for the child to travel home in the school holidays. That also means additional expense for the State Government. Technical education is confined to the metropolitan area and some of the larger towns. A child attending technical classes generally has reached a stage at which he requires greater supervision than he did when he was younger. Many parents are loath to allow their child to go away, but if he has to go away to be educated the mother will want to go with him. As a result, there is an exodus from isolated areas, because the fathers do not wish to be separated from their wives and children for very long. The Government is put to the expense of assisting with that kind of education. It must also assist in the provision of hostels to accommodate the students. These additional burdens on the State budget should be considered.
In paragraph 20, at page 18 of its report, the commission refers to the position in Western Australia and Tasmania and states that those States maintain high rates of natural increase. This means that the percentage of children in Western Australia and Tasmania, relative to the population as a whole, is greater than it is in other States. Therefore, on a comparable basis the governments of Western Australia and Tasmania have to provide more facilities for education than do the governments of the other States. In common with other States, Western Australia is up against the problem of providing a sufficient number of schools and schoolrooms for the children who require them. Perhaps the Commonwealth Government should consider making a special grant for the capital costs of education. Instead nf taking education into consideration along with the other matters covered by the annual State grants, perhaps a grant should be made under section 96 of the Constitution to assist with the capital costs of schools. If that were done, the States might be able to cope with the running expenses of education.
I was in Geraldton during the 1950 State elections and I remember that the McLarty-Watts Government promised the Geraldton people that if it were returned to power it would proceed immediately with the construction of a regional hospital in the area. The McLarty-Watts Government was successful at the election, and although a Labour government came to office in 1953 and continued in office until 1959, and the Brand Government has been in office since .that time, none of those governments Kas been able to find sufficient finance to construct a regional hospital in Geraldton. It is true that the State Government proposes to spend £1,000,000 on the construction of a regional hospital at Bunbury and is looking for ways and means to provide hospital accommodation at Geraldton. I instance that matter in order to indicate the difficult position in which Western Australia finds itself in providing hospital accommodation throughout such a large area. There is considerable difficulty, too, in the staffing of hospitals. Whilst I do not want to be critical of the medical and nursing professions, I must say that in the very isolated areas, where the climate is difficult, the hospitals are unable to procure staff. There is a constant change-over of staff.
This high level of exchange of labour adds to the cost of operating hospitals. In addition, because of the smaller population in isolated areas, specialist medical treatment cannot be provided. When such treatment is required, or when a person suffers from a prolonged illness, usually he has to move to the metropolitan area where the necessary treatment and better facilities are available. If a person living in the north-west is injured or becomes ill and is ordered by the local doctor to have specialist treatment, the State Government pays his fare to the metropolitan area and also his return fare when the treatment has ended. That also places an added burden on the State budget. Much the same position applies with respect to law, order and public safety. In the outer areas of the State, no provision has been made as yet for Supreme Court sittings. There are magisterial courts, but no Supreme Court sittings. Recently, the State Government appointed an additional judge whom it proposes to send on circuit to the bigger towns, and even to the smaller towns if the cases to be heard in those towns warrant their being heard by a Supreme Court judge in preference to a magistrate operating under a commission. This, naturally, will add to the cost of law enforcement throughout the State because, in addition to the cost of the extra judge, there will be the cost of providing facilities for him and his associate while on circuit. That added cost will be included in the State budget. The high cost of the police force is due to the fact that Western Australia is a sparsely populated State, with a large area, and it is necessary to have police officers stationed in small centres.
I hope the time will arrive when there will be no claimant States, but I cannot see Western Australia becoming a non-claimant State in the very near future. That State is urgently in need of a great amount of developmental work, the cost of which is far beyond the financial resources of the State Government alone. I commend the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the fair and just manner in which it has attempted, within its terms of reference, to treat the States, but I criticize the Commonwealth Treasury officers for their constant attempts to impose their will on the commission.
– I am very pleased to enter this debate because I feel it gives us an opportunity to take a broad, national view of financial matters. It has been interesting to listen to Senator Cant. It seems to me that here we have a situation of haves and have-nots. In the chamber at the moment, apart from the Minister in charge of the bill and the last speaker, there is not one Western Australian, nor was there one Tasmanian until a moment ago. It is significant that, on the Government side, the
South Australians are prominent by the interest they are taking in this matter. Perhaps that indicates that they represent some of the have-nots. That remains to be seen.
It is seldom that we have an opportunity to look at these matters from a broad national outlook and to say, “We are pleased that some States are getting special grants “. I am pleased that Western Australia and Tasmania are to receive special grants under the bill before us. It is very praiseworthy that we have a Commonwealth Grants Commission which can examine the claims of all States and recommend that these two States need special grants.
I believe it is the duty of all honorable senators to weigh up the situation. Firstly, as a State representative, an honorable senator should look at his own State’s needs and then balance them with the needs of the nation. There is far too much pressure, especially from newspapers, for State representatives to fight only State battles and to ignore what is needed by the nation. It is vitally important that the prosperity and standards of living in all States should be almost equal. If some States had lower standards than others, that would be detrimental to the development and security of the nation. In this National Parliament, we look at other nations, some of them close to us, which have not the standards of living that we have, and we endeavour to assist them. Under the Colombo Plan, we send aid to countries which have lower standards of living than ours in an effort to help raise their standards. That is what the Commonwealth Grants Commission is required to do in Australia. Its duty is to weigh up all factors and see to it that those States which, because of smaller populations and perhaps greater area, have the least opportunity to maintain their standards of living are given an extra benefit to help them move up to the other States.
I want to make clear just what I do believe in. I believe in a strong, vigorous and expanding Australia. I believe that the way in which to achieve that is to adopt the principles outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his last policy speech. All honorable senators on this side have reiterated many times his statement that we believe in the development of Australia as a whole. We therefore believe in immigration, defence, full employment, trade and aid. If we are to have progress under all headings from national development down to aid, it is essential that we have exports. Each step leads to another. For example, national development means more people in the country, which means that we must have immigration. With more people in the country, we must have more job opportunities. This means that we must have more factories and other avenues of employment. If there are to be more factories, more capital goods and raw materials must be brought in for them. To pay for those things, we must increase our exports, and we have got to be able to export at price levels which will allow us to compete in the world’s markets.
We want all these things to happen all over Australia simultaneously. We do not want them to happen in only one or two States. We want decentralization. If we allowed all the development to take place in the more populous States, there would be a rush of people from the less populous States to the States which would obviously become more prosperous. Therefore, the aim of this Parliament must be to ensure that all States get opportunities to develop in the ways that I have outlined. It is obvious that all States are not equal in size, in population, or even in soil fertility. They have not all the same availability of raw materials nor the same amount of water. We must try to keep all States progressing at an even pace, and we seek to achieve this even development through a system of special grants to the States.
It is of interest to note the principles to which the Government adheres in adopting the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. They are set out by the commission in this way - ; the Government adheres to the principle, which is a long established one, that those States which operate under basic financial difficulties should be extended a helping hand in order that the standards of services available to all citizens, regardless of whether they live in one State or another, should not be far out of line.
It is inevitable that there will be inequalities among the States, and, in a chapter headed “ Inequalities among States “, the commission says -
These “ underlying differences “ have occasioned comparatively heavy development costs in the less well endowed States and, in addition, they increase the operating costs of their business undertakings and the administrative costs of their social service departments.
It is interesting to see how special assistance under the States Grants (Special Assistance) Acts has developed. Prior to 1959 my own State of South Australia was one of the claimant States. I think they are described as mendicant States.
– They are not.
– I am afraid they are called mendicant States. Western Australia might not like to feel that it is a mendicant, but that is how the claimant States have been described. Prior to 1959 South Australia was one of those States. When the new agreement was made and the tax reimbursement system was altered, South Australia had reached the stage, due to the efficiency of its government, where it was able to say: “ We do not need to be a claimant State. We will go along with the other three bigger States.” Under this new arrangement South Australia still receives a relatively higher proportion of Commonwealth financial assistance than do the two more populous States, New South Wales and Victoria. But Western Australia and Tasmania, the two States which still receive special assistance, receive both the Commonwealth financial assistance and the special Commonwealth grant assistance.
It is interesting to note that under the new arrangement, as a result of the last census and the way the proportions are fixed, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania would have received less money because they had less estimated growth of population, and the other States - South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland - would have received more money. However, the Government, in its usual fair way, has adopted a policy of making the allocation on whichever basis gives the State the most money - either the figures prior to the taking of the census or the figures after the taking of the census. Ail the States have been able to receive very reasonable amounts under the new reimbursement system.
It is also interesting to see some of the grounds for the claims for special grants. Senator Cant mentioned difficulties in the payment of social services. There are many others. He referred to them as incidentals, but they are worth mentioning. They include the following: Budget adjustments made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the financial results of business undertakings; comparisons between the claimant and other States in the field of miscellaneous State expenditures for which no Budget adjustments have hitherto been made, including State expenditure on superannuation and pensions; Budget adjustments made by the commission for severity of State non-income taxation; unproductive State loan expenditure, funded State deficits and costs of capital development; capital losses on war service land settlement; operation of the railways and other State business undertakings such as the State Shipping Service of Western Australia; the development of State resources such as forests, minerals and water supplies; and proposals for industrial development and for the development of the north-west of Western Australia.
As I said previously, I am pleased and proud that South Australia is no longer a claimant State on that basis. Our State has a very high degree of prosperity and stability in its economy. In each of the four years prior to changing from being a claimant State to being a non-claimant State the South Australian Government had a budget deficit; but since becoming a nonclaimant State, in 1960-61 there was a budget surplus of £1,180,000 and in the last financial year there was a budget surplus of £507,000. That is an extremely good record. South Australia’s good record is obvious when we look through the commission’s report and see some of the ways in which that State is ahead of the other States in its spending. On education South Australia is spending £14 15s. 2d. per head of population. I hear people in my State say that not enough money is being spent on education. They may be interested to know that South Australia is spending more than New South Wales is spending per head of population. South Australia is using more loan money to provide permanent improvements and buildings and therefore to increase the productive capacity of the State. On electricity South Australia is spending £55.4 per head, compared with the New South Wales expenditure of £38.2 per head. On water supply South Australia is spending £94.3 per head, compared with the New South Wales expenditure of £40.8 per head.
On housing South Australia is spending £50.4 per head, compared with the New South Wales expenditure of £1.7 per head. South Australia is spending about 50 times more per head on housing than New South Wales is spending. Although the South Australian Housing Trust is to be congratulated warmly on the job that it is doing, I believe it is a great pity that it is claiming all the money that is available for loans in that State and refusing to give guarantees to building societies, as every other State in the Commonwealth does. That means that the building societies cannot go to the banks and insurance companies and borrow with the assurance of a State guarantee.
– Is not the South Australian Housing Trust evading the law by not giving money to them?
– The Housing Trust allocates to the building societies a little less than the required 30 per cent., but it does not give guarantees. That means that there is no way for the building societies to obtain extra money. The amount represented by a little less than 30 per cent, comes out of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement moneys. I am speaking about additional loan money. The percentage of unemployment in South Australia is the lowest in the Commonwealth. That is praiseworthy.
I do not want to talk about only my own State. We know that we have requirements. We know that we need further rail standardization work, more water and more roads, particularly in country areas. But so do other States. Our responsibility in the Senate is to look at what the other States need, weigh up all the needs and say, “ This should be given priority in that State this time and in another State next time “. It is very easy for the State Premiers to say, “This is what we need and the senators from our State should see that we get it “.
But the State Premiers do not have to look beyond their own States. Their responsibility is to do the best for their own States. Although senators are State representatives, they are also in the National Parliament and they have a responsibility to look at the national needs. I believe this should be! repeated: When an issue arises and it seems that a State may not receive fair treatment under a certain bill, senators do their job by trying to have that situation remedied. A very good example of that occurred when the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Agreement was coming up for signautre. South Australian senators thought that their State was not getting what it should get out of the additional water in the River Murray. They made their representations - not all within this Parliament. Some representations were made outside the Parliament behind closed doors. Frequently business is done better in that way than in this Parliament. On that occasion we were successful in getting a better deal for South Australia. That happens in connexion with many other matters. I repeat that representations are1 not always made in this Parliament. Pressure from newspapers and State governments . will not always force senators to stand up in this chamber and say, “ We ought to receive more “. It is what is done behind the scenes that counts in matters such as these.
We are all in favour of schemes such as the one that the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority is undertaking going ahead. Three or four States will derive benefit from that scheme. We want to see the Blowering dam built by the New South Wales Government because it is part of the Snowy Mountains scheme. We want to see a dam built on the River Murray further down-stream. That is the Chowilla dam. South Australia will receive further benefit from that. We are very pleased that Western Australia is receiving the benefit of improved water supplies through the development of the Ord River scheme. No doubt that State also wants other benefits. Because of its vast area, it is entitled to ask for more.
Tasmania, being a smaller State, probably has more services to undertake in proportion to population. Therefore, it is good that that State is able to draw from this pool. It is imperative for me to say that the pool of money available to the Commonwealth is not unlimited. Many people think that money is lying idle waiting to be used as the Commonwealth Government decides it will be used. It is the taxpayers’ money which comes into the pool each year. If more is to be drawn out of it than is available at present, the taxpayers will have to pay more. I for one am not prepared to prejudice the claims of other States and the taxpayers by saying that my State must have what it wants at this moment, regardless of what other projects are under way or proposed.
I repeat that 1 believe in the Government’s policy of priority for projects that will increase the production of goods for export. That is what we must have if we believe in national development. If South Australia has a claim to participate in activities designed to increase exports I will fight for that as hard as I can, because that is in accord with the Government’s policy to undertake projects that will increase exports. I would support such a claim with all the vigour I possess; but I am not prepared to rise in the Senate and say that we must have what we want right now regardless of the national outlook. If there are things that South Australia wants, I would like to know what is the order of priority in respect of them. If the Premier of South Australia says that he wants No. 1 priority for water and the Chowilla dam, I will go for it first of all. But it is impossible for the South Australian representatives to stick to a claim if every time we go for one thing, the Premier changes his mind and wants something else. The Chowilla dam is one thing upon which I have been concentrating in representations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and that is what I will insist upon just as long as I can keep it in my sights and look on national as well as State requirements.
.- The purpose of the bill before the Senate is to grant financial assistance to Western Australia and Tasmania. It is the result of an agreement made between the Premiers of those two States and the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Grants
Commission has outlined the reasons for a Commonwealth grant of £5,041,000 to Tasmania this year. This gives me an opportunity to explain the difficulties which justify the allocation of this grant to Tasmania, and to tell honorable senators of the disabilities under which Tasmania, a small claimant State, suffers. These disabilities have not been encountered by other States. For that reason, the people of Tasmania look to the stronger States to help them to develop their resources in the hope that some time in the future Tasmania will cease to be a claimant State and will be able to show returns on the basis of population that will be the envy of people throughout Australia.
I do not want to stress the point, but the fact is that the Tasmanian Government has undertaken some major long-range developmental projects over the years. A big strain has been placed upon Tasmania’s resources by the immigration scheme which is a Commonwealth responsibility. The Tasmanian Government has had to find funds wherever it could to provide homes for its growing population. This growth has been brought about both by natural increase and by the Commonwealth immigration scheme. It has been necessary to provide extra schools to accommodate the children of immigrants and they are being assimilated very well. The Tasmanian Government also has the responsibility of providing everincreasing hospital accommodation as well as all the other amenities needed by a growing community.
As a result of the assistance that is being given to Tasmania, important allocations can be made to developmental projects involving Tasmania’s most valuable assets. One is the conservation and deviation of water resources for the generation of electricity. During the coming year, plans will be put into operation necessitating the eventual expenditure of up to £10,000,000 on the construction and operation of generators near the upper reaches of the river Derwent. Another project envisages the development of the resources of the Forth and Mersey Rivers. Both these are grand concepts and will make tremendous employment opportunities for present and future generations of Tasmanians.
At the same time, progress is being made with the great Poatina hydro-electric scheme. For this purpose, the waters of the Great Lake, the natural catchment on the Tasmanian plateau, are being tapped from the northern end. Rivers which normally flow into the Great Lake and then to the south will be deviated through the Poatina tunnel and after operating the generators, they will pass into the South Esk River. These waters will be used for irrigation as well as for the generation of electric power.
Tasmania is also faced with tremendous traffic problems. As a result of the operations ot two roll-on-roll-off ferries - the “ Princess of Tasmania “ and the “ Bass Trader “ - and other ships which are handling bulk cargo, road traffic has increased and the strain of maintaining the road system is growing each year, lt is the responsibility of the Government to tap whatever financial resources it can to meet these commitments. At present a magnificent bridge is being built across the Derwent River at a cost of £3,000,000 to £3,500,000. Time has caught up with the famous semi-circular floating concrete bridge which was built before the Second World War and has played a tremendous part in the development of Hobart. Because of the ravages of time, wind, tides and traffic on the floating bridge, it has been necessary to replace it with an arch structure.
– Where is it?
– It is being built practically across the base of the arc that the concrete bridge formed across the river. It begins immediately in front of Government House and stretches across to the eastern bank of the river. It crosses the river at about the ends of the old concrete floating bridge. The Tasmanian Government also has a responsibility to provide for a crossing of the Tamar River, and plans are under way for the erection of a bridge to serve the lower reaches of that river, because of the growing importance of the aluminium industry there. Honorable senators should make a point of visiting the beautiful island State to see not only the great natural scenic beauty but also the great development that has taken place in many areas. With the development of the aluminium industry and other subsidiary industries, the need for a bridge across the lower reaches of the Tamar has become greater, and funds must be found for that purpose.
We claim also to lead the States in the standards of our schools. I must give credit to those who are responsible for the schools in the Australian Capital Territory, because these really set a very high standard. Among the States, it is accepted that Tasmanian school buildings and education generally are of a very high standard. A Labour government has been in power in Tasmania for nearly 28 years. Its main plank has been investment in the minds of our children. For a number of years the! school-leaving age has been sixteen. This met with quite a lot of criticism in the early stages after its introduction. At this age young men and women have had sufficient time to test their capacity to absorb knowledge and can choose to go into a nonskilled or semi-skilled calling or proceed to higher education. The provision of extra classroom accommodation is a very costly exercise. Like all other States, we could do with more and roomier classrooms and with more teachers. The restraining influence on the further expansion of facilities is money. It is rather a pity that in an important aspect of our social life such as education more money is not available to the States for what is, in my view, the supreme investment, that is, an opportunity for children to develop fully their intellectual capacities and, incidentally, their personalities through education.
The same position applies in respect of our need for hospitals. Over the past year contractors have been bringing to an. early stage of completion the Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital in Launceston, and other hospital developments are under way. During the year we had a visit from the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) to Lachlan Park, our hospital for the mentally ill. I was very pleased to read of his reaction to the great problem. At the time, there was very strong criticism from misinformed people who tried tq bring politics into a very delicate situation, the care of the mentally ill. Senator Wade gave the impression that he viewed mental illness in the same light as physical illness.
– Not in the case of pensioners.
– I must concede that point. Senator Turnbull has said that he will never let up on that matter and he may be assured of my assistance always, until we get justice on that aspect. I want to keep to the subject of a new approach to the problem of mental hospitals. The Commonwealth Government made a grant of £10,000,000 to be distributed pro rata among the States and to be used only in the construction or expansion of mental hospitals. Tasmania has used its full quota. Now on the one hand it is being criticized by its political opponents - I am afraid only for the purpose of making party political capital - because more is not being done, and on the other hand it is restrained by the fact that when special grants are being made no allowance is made for any expenditure that it makes from ordinary loan funds or other sources. The Tasmanian Government is in a rather awkward position. It cannot rapidly implement plans to bring high or even relatively good standards of accommodation to those unfortunate people who are in the mental hospital at Lachlan Park. There are approximately 800 inmates, about 400 of whom have accommodation that would compare with anything provided anywhere in Australia; but we will not be satisfied until all of the mentally ill persons are living under similar conditions. This is a very pressing problem which will have to be faced in the near future. I am not prepared to guess whether some arrangements may be made with other States to forgo their unexpended portions of the £10,000,000 or whether we can prevail on the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or the Cabinet, to provide other ways and means of helping Tasmania out of its difficulties. Special provision should be made for Tasmania in relation to the problem of our mentally ill.
I desire to mention also a problem in relation to war service land settlement. Great uncertainty seems to prevail in the minds of those who have taken the opportunity to go on to the land. Because of the valuations of many of these properties, settlers are finding that after having done basic pioneering work fer twelve or fifteen years they are no nearer a firm title to their land. As a matter of fact some of them are, unfortunately, following a precedent, that was set after the First World War. We resolved that if possible we would see that men who took up land under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme did not have to leave their land. However, some men have felt frustrated at the lack of policy on the part of the Commonwealth and the States in relation to this matter. This situation is very distressing.
I should like to refer particularly to the King Island land settlement scheme. Many of the settlers under the scheme have found that with the passage of time their capacity for hard work has declined. Many of them are in the 45 to 50 years age group, and they have no title whatever to the land that they have been working. There have been many changes in policy affecting the terms under which they work their properties. Sometimes they are offered their properties at a weekly rental and at other times they are offered them at a yearly rental. At other times they may lease equipment. The terms under which they work their properties have varied considerably. The overriding problem confronting these men is that if they are unable to continue on their properties they are too old to take up other occupations. This is a serious matter. In its twentyninth report the Commonwealth Grants Commission states -
The Commission intimated that the Commonwealth Treasury and the Slates should reach agreement between themselves as to the basis which should be adopted for dealing with the State’s shares of capital losses. Both parties had to recognize that whatever basis was adopted, the annual amounts involved would come into the State budgets and have an effect on the amounts of special grants. The Commonwealth Treasury and the States agreed to confer on the matter.
That has been going on for quite a number of years. Tasmania has done its best to throw open land that was previously relatively unproductive, and at the same time to enable people to become the owners of blocks of land. But because of the lack of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States a grave human problem has arisen that must be solved in a hurry. It is imperative that much of the capital cost of these places be written down. Over the years, expenditure of various kinds has been loaded on to the War Service Land Settlement Scheme, and if settlers were asked to bear that cost they would be ruined financially. The uncertainty about reaching an agreement has meant a good deal of unhappiness to many settlers. Their future and the well-being of their wives and children are at stake. I hope that the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission will bear fruit, and that the Commonwealth and the States will get together and arrive at an agreement that will lift the heavy burden of doubt from the minds of the war service land settlers in Tasmania. Tasmania is, of course, thankful for small mercies. The Premier of Tasmania has described the grant of £5,041,000 as very satisfactory. If that is his view, I concur in it. We do not oppose the measure. We wish it a speedy passage.
.- My remarks on this measure will be brief because I wish to raise only a few matters. For as long as I can remember I have heard about disabilities that Tasmania has suffered under federation - disabilities brought about by the Commonwealth’s tariff policy, by Tasmania’s isolation and by other factors that are peculiar to Tasmania because of its insular position. I well remember that the late Mr. Dwyer Gray, who was regarded as an expert in these matters, worked out in pounds, shillings and pence exactly what federation had cost Tasmania.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission was born during the reign of the Lyons Government. During my time in the Tasmanian Parliament, I always heard the commission referred to in terms of high commendation. Everybody in the Tasmanian Parliament, from the Premier down, agreed that the commission did a wonderful job in assessing the disabilities of the claimant States. I support that view. I think the commission has fitted well into the financial scheme of things, despite the fact that it has been used, and still is being used, in the Tasmanian Parliament as a lever by which legislation may be placed on the statute-book. During my time in the Tasmanian Parliament, I constantly heard it said that unless Tasmania increased this tax or that tax in conformity with the taxes levied in the standard States, Tasmania would suffer a penalty so far as her special grant was concerned. It was also said that unless Tasmania incurred expenditure in this direction or that direction in conformity with expenditure incurred by the standard States, it would suffer a penalty so far as its special grant was concerned. That is a disability that is difficult to handle, but obviously the State government must pursue whatever course it thinks is right, and suffer whatever penalty is entailed.
I agree entirely with what Senator Buttfield said about exports. Obviously, Australia’s prosperity and future development is bound up with the fact that we are a great trading nation and a great importing nation. Because we are a great importing nation we must also be a great exporting nation. I think the Commonwealth was wise in laying down that special grants may be made to a State only if those grants are for the purpose of increasing export trade. I call to mind that there has been criticism of that. My experience in this place is that States can be just as parochial in their outlook as local municipal councils. I have heard criticism levelled at the Commonwealth Government because special grants have been made to Queensland and other States but Tasmania has been left out in the cold. Upon enquiry, however, I have found that no proposition, with proper costing and the relevant data attached, has been placed before the Commonwealth Government by the State of Tasmania which the Commonwealth could decide would lead to the export trade of Australia being increased. Any criticism that has been levelled at the Commonwealth Government in that connexion is, therefore, unjustified.
I do not think we can expect to continue to live in the southern parts of this continent if we do not try to develop the northern parts and bring about a more even distribution of population. If we think we can continue to live in the southern parts of Australia, proceeding on the basis that the rest of the continent does not matter very much, we are in for a rude awakening. It is obvious that in these matters you cannot be parochial. This country must be developed in those areas where development is most needed, irrespective of State boundaries. Although criticism has been levelled at the Commonwealth Government during the time I have been in the Senate, J have never yet heard one honorable senator on either side of the chamber complain about the treatment meted out to Tasmania.
– Do not the Premiers do that with their, tongues in their cheeks?
– The Tasmanian Premier spoke with his tongue in his cheek when he criticized the expenditure on beef roads in Queensland. He should have realized that we must develop Australia in the manner I have indicated, and that parochialism in these matters should not be entertained for one moment.
Before I sit down I feel I must state my agreement with Senator O’Byrne on war service land settlement. Undoubtedly a loss will be sustained. The State is responsible to meet two-fifths of that loss and the Commonwealth is responsible to meet the other three-fifths. I think those are the correct proportions. I agree with Senator O’Byrne entirely that there must be some writing down of values. For many years after the 1914-18 war men were settled on the land. Some of them, because of their unsuitability for farming or because of their financial commitments, had to relinquish their holdings. Those who had the hardihood to continue made good. Eventually there had to be a writing down of values, and there was one. It seems to me to be absurd that, so long after the end of the 1939-45 war, the position of men settled on the land after that war is still not finalized. 1 have been a farmer all my life, and I have been on the farms of some of these men. I inquired of them about the financial commitments they had to meet. I am definitely of the opinion that those commitments are too heavy. Since the values were assessed, there has been a slump in the prices of the products the settlers produce. In some ways their burdens have been eased, and they have been given help, but the relief they have been given has not been in proportion with the decreased prices they have received for their products.
It is no use leaving a man on a farm if his financial handicap is such that he has little chance of making good. That is the surest way to break his heart. It would be very much better, even at this late stage, for some concerted move to be made by the two governments concerned to decrease the commitments of the settlers to a level more commensurate with the prices being received at the present time. The settlers’ association has been to Canberra about this. Federal members of Parliament have attended meetings of the association and the position of the settlers has been discussed on many occasions. I think that the settlers have a very good case, and that the sooner some realistic action is taken, preferably along the lines of assessing their assets at the real values, the sooner the settlers will have a real chance of making good.
That is almost all I want to say on this bill, which I support. I am glad that Tasmania is to receive such a substantial grant, but I wish that more money were available for developmental work. The Commonwealth made a grant to Tasmania to relieve unemployment, but it seems to me that it was not spent to the best advantage. Instead of being concentrated upon two or three essential works that would have brought lasting benefit to the State, portions of the grant were spent here and there. The grant was spent in hundreds of different ways - a few thousands of pounds on this project and a few thousands of pounds on that. Some of the money has not yet been spent. Some of it was used to purchase equipment which could not create employment in Tasmania. It seems to me that the Commonwealth has to say, “ We want blueprints or some scheme of work to be put to us which will show that lasting benefits will accrue to the State concerned “. It would be infinitely better to do that than to allow the money to be used in the shillyshallying, drib-drab fashion in which it has been used in Tasmania.
– I rise to support this bill which, for the year 1962-63, proposes to make special grants of approximately £11,250,000 to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania. I have listened with interest to the speeches of two eminent senators from Tasmania, of my South Australian colleague and of an honorable senator from Western Australia, who was the opening speaker for the Opposition. Generally, the tone of the debate has been one of approval of the grants. It has been the practice in this Parliament, over the years that I have been a member of it, for the Government to accept without question the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. We have in our hands the twentyninth report of the commission. As I have said before, the reports of the commission are among the most important and interesting documents that come before us during the course of the year. The report that we are discussing is expressed in very clear language. It has been drawn up on the basis of evidence taken both verbally and in writing. The commission takes evidence from State Treasurers. It comes to its conclusions without fear or favour. That is why legislation of this kind is always received favorably by members of the Senate.
As a senator from South Australia, the discussion of this bill gives me an opportunity to congratulate the States which are to receive these special grants. I hope the recipients do well with them. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) incorporated in his interesting second-reading speech figures showing the financial assistance grants and the special grants. For this year, the figures show that New South Wales will receive from the Commonwealth £103,000,000; Victoria, £76,000,000; Queensland, £45,000,000; South Australia, £34,000,000; Western Australia, £37,000,000; and Tasmania, £18,000,000. It can be seen that Western Australia is in a very favorable position compared with the other States. This result has been arrived at after due consideration by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
Since 1959, South Australia has not received grants on the basis of the reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. This matter has caused a good deal of concern in certain parts of the State. On 4th September, Sir Thomas Playford, when speaking in the House of Assembly in South Australia, said that the matter should be examined. He went on to say -
I think it is appropriate to point out that in South Australia we are, at this stage, attempting to meet our abnormal problems with funds limited to those available through the normal channels. Insofar as those channels are financed or supported from Commonwealth revenues, they are shared by all States in the recognized normal proportions. But the majority of the other States have not in recent years been so limited, and in the present year they are being helped by the Commonwealth with very considerable financial supplements for special development projects.
I emphasize the words “ special development projects “ -
I am at a loss to understand why South Australia’s claims for a modest share of the supplementary finance made available by the Commonwealth for State development works should be dismissed so lightly. It would certainly be most unjust if the recent better employment achievement in this State is the excuse for ignoring its claims for special assistance. The State of South Australia would thereby be actually penalized for its very successful efforts to counter unemployment by the well-judged early use of its own resources.
It will be remembered that, in considering measures introduced in the Senate earlier this year, emphasis was placed on the fact that South Australia, by its diligence, had been able to keep its unemployment figure at, I believe, the lowest level in the Commonwealth.
Sir Thomas Playford has raised the question of whether South Australia is being penalized and has referred to financial supplements. I am considerably puzzled by the system that is being used by the Commonwealth to adjudge these financial supplements to which Sir Thomas has referred. My confusion prompted me recently to ask a question of Senator Spooner, and with the indulgence of the Senate I shall repeat it. To my way of thinking, its subject-matter is important in considering the grants recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to Western Australia and Tasmania. My question was prompted by statements I had read in the Adelaide “ News “, of 7th November, under the heading “ Lopsided “. The article in the “ News “ stated -
South Australia will observe that Queensland has again scored heavily in the field of Commonwealth aid.
The Commonwealth Government last night decided to make a grant of £7,250,000 to the Queensland Government for development of the central Queensland brigalow country.
What is being done for Queensland contrasts sharply with what is not being done to help South Australia.
That criticism is similar to a good deal of criticism that is heard in South Australia. I therefore asked the Minister -
What system is used by a fortunate State to encourage the Commonwealth to make these loans, grants or handouts? Does the incompetence, ineptitude or inability of a State, without Commonwealth aid, to clear its own scrub, relay ils own railway lines or develop its own ports act as an invitation to the Commonwealth to grant aid? On the other hand, does the good husbandry of a State in its own internal affairs spoil its chances of getting a Commonwealth grant, loan or handout? Has not the time arrived for the appointment of an authority similar in pattern to the Interstate Commission envisaged in the Constitution, or the Australian Universities Cornmission, to advise the Government on important matters?
That is the point I wish to make. We have an excellent body, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which submits annual reports relating to the grants to be made to Tasmania and Western Australia. Those reports are not criticized. On the contrary, they are admired on all sides of the Senate. Yet on the tremendously important question of what we might call supplementary grants or loans there is no set method of procedure. I ask the Minister whether some consideration could be given to the appointment of an authority similar in pattern to the InterState Commission or the Australian Universities Commission.
Since the Budget was presented to this Parliament, a handout has been given to Western Australia for a jetty in the north and for further road works. Again, since the presentation of the Budget, Queensland has received a handout for beef roads and there has been an announcement of .a grant of £7,250,000 for the development of what is called the brigalow country there. What concerns me is that we have not been given any documents relating to those matters. If any inquiries have been held, the evidence has not been made public. We have no information upon which we can discuss in this place the grants that have been made or promised since the Budget was presented. This is causing great distress, in that a feeling of uncertainty is arising in other States. I am sure that those honorable senators who come from Victoria and New South Wales must be wondering about all this, especially when we have not before us anything upon which we may arrive at a judgment. After all, it will be our responsibility to vote this money at the appropriate time. It would seem that, apart from South Australia applying to be regarded again as one of the States eligible to apply to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for special grants, there are no satisfactory means of having these ques tions considered by the Senate. On hears varying reports of the importance to Australia of the development of the brigalow country. Senator Sir Walter Cooper was good enough to give the Senate some thoughts on this matter when the amount to be provided was something over £1,000,000. Now the amount has been increased to something over £7,000,000 and, almost as a bolt from the blue, we are asked to give some thought to the matter. Certainly the Minister will present a bill relating to the venture. Those who know something about the matter will debate that bill, and honorable senators who come from Queensland possibly will be 100 per cent, in favour of it, but that is all the opportunity the Senate will have to consider the matter.
The whole question of financing national development by means of supplementary Commonwealth grants gets into a very untidy position with the Constitution worded as it is and when we have no authoritative body to make impartial reports on the various propositions put forward. Under the present system, the Senate could become a place in which methods akin to blackmail were used to persuade the Government to make money available for this or that supplementary developmental project. There has never been anything approaching blackmail, pressure or whatever you like to call it in connexion with grants recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The supplementary grants amount to a considerable sum each year. In the document relating to Commonwealth payments to or for the States, which was circulated with the Budget, it was estimated that in 1962-63 £1,400,000 would be made available to Western Australia for what is known as northern development, £300,000 for the replacement of the jetty at Derby, and £700,000 for cattle roads. Since the presentation of the Budget we have been advised that further moneys are to be made available to Western Australia. In the document to which I have referred, reference was made to the fact that Queensland was to receive £145,000 for coal loading facilities, £1,730,000 for cattle roads and £1,750,000 for brigalow lands development. It is now foreshadowed that considerably more will be made available for that latter project. These are sizeable sums. I believe that if development in Australia is to proceed as fast as we hope it will this whole question of extraordinary or supplementary grants will be of very great importance.
– Of course, you understand that these grants are being made to encourage the export trade.
– As my friend, Senator Maher, reminds me, these moneys are being made available for the encouragement of the export trade. Let me take the honorable senator up on that point. I think that the question of the provision of money to the States to encourage the export trade is assuming such large proportions that something more should be done to examine and check the proposals submitted. They should be brought before the Parliament earlier than they are at the present time. I should imagine that the Senate will not have more than 24 hours to consider the question of the development of brigalow lands in Queensland, and 1 remind honorable senators that the amount provided in the Budget for that project this year is £1,700,000. We will not have before us for consideration any report similar to that which we received from the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
I have been conducting a little research into this matter. When the fathers of federation were framing the constitution they realized that some highly important matters would arise as between the States themselves and as between the States and the Commonwealth. In their wisdom, they made this provision in section 101 of the Constitution -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
Admittedly, in their wisdom, they used the words “ trade and commerce “. This section of the Constitution came under very close scrutiny by the Constitutional Review Committee, which met in the years preceding 1959. I am indebted to that committee for setting out at page 119 of its report the historical reason why the Inter-State Commission is not functioning at the present time. It came to grief, in its fullness, in the year 1915, as a result of the decision given by the High Court in what is known as the Wheat case. The High Court found that the commission had no power to issue an injunction - that it was an administrative and executive body, not a cudal body, not a body that could adjudicate. Following that decision, the commission fell into disuse, and in 1920 it lapsed for want of further appointments to it. But this commission could have been a very powerful body, with authority to inquire into interstate matters. I believe that some thought should be given to reviving such an august body. It would not be necessary to give it the judicial powers which the first interstate commission thought it had until tha High Court ruled otherwise, but I do feel that such an august body, charged with somewhat similar responsibilities, could serve a very valuable purpose. I am informed that in 1938 the Senate passed an Inter-State Commission Bill for the reconstitution of the commission, with power to conduct investigations into a wide range of commercial and financial matters, including rates of charge on the railways, but the Government did not persist with the measure. I submit to the Government that now, when the rapid development of our export trade is most desirable, is the time when serious consideration should be given to the appointment of a special authority to make impartial recommendations on matters relating to supplementary grants or handouts - or whatever you like to call them - to the States. The idea of developing the north is a powerful one which is readily accepted in the southern States because we believe that such development is important to the security of Australia.
The only other observation I wish to make is that about four years ago this Government established an important commission to deal with the whole question of universities, namely, the Australian Universities Commission. That commission was appointed as a result of observations made in the Murray report. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), with his very deep interest in education, was very active in the appointment of that commission and the selection of ideal people to comprise it. As one of the Senate’s representatives on the Australian National University Council, I can speak with some knowledge of the thoroughness of the work Of the Australian Universities Commission. That body is charged with the responsibility of visiting all the Australian universities every three years and of reporting to the Government its recommendations for Commonwealth assistance for university development.
If it were not possible to use the pattern of the Interstate Commission envisaged in the Constitution, I believe that the pattern of the Australian Universities Commission could well be the pattern of a body to consider these important matters relating to developmental grants to the States. From my experience as a member of the Australian National University Council, I say that great satisfaction would result if the care with which the Australian Universities Commission seeks information and the care with which it examines the information that is presented to it were applied to this vast national question of supplementary grants. I believe that that would be good for the Senate because it would not be, as it has become, a place in which disputation about grants as likely to occur and a place in which pressure is applied to senators from their own States to promote matters that have not been carefully examined. Therefore, I believe it would be in the interests of the Senate and the Government - whether it was a Labour government or a Liberal-Country Party government - if an impartial body fashioned in the way I have suggested were appointed.
– in reply - I am grateful that the Senate has given its support to this measure. As has been stated by one or two previous speakers, it has become the custom of the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament to accept without question the recommendations made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That applies to governments of all colours. That position is a tribute to the work of the commission over many years and an acknowledgment of the excellence of the work that it does for the claimant States. Senators Laught and Buttfield made very interesting speeches, particularly in connexion with special projects that the Government has supported recently in a number of States. I do not propose to comment on what either of them said because, with respect, Mr. President, I believe that their comments got outside the scope of this bill. However, they can be assured that what they said will not go unnoticed and that heed will be taken of their comments.
I do not want to say a great deal about the debate. One or two matters are worth talking about. Senator Cant, who led for the Opposition, commenced his speech by pointing out the differences between the amounts of the claims made by Western Australia and Tasmania and the actual grants made to them. He showed that in all cases the differences between the claim and the grant was much narrower in respect of Tasmania than in respect of Western Australia. The reason for that is found in the different approaches that the two States make to the Grants Commission. Western Australia makes a practice of putting in a claim for the full amount of the deficit in the year under review. It claims hopefully the recovery of the full amount. Of course, on examination the commission pares the claim down and makes adjustments, many of which were referred to by Senator Cant. On the other hand, Tasmania makes a finer calculation of what the grant should be and consequently succeeds in getting closer to the grant than Western Australia does. Senator Cant also referred to the payment recommended by the commission in respect of social services in Western Australia. He mentioned the difficulty that exists in that State in providing social services over such a vast area, much of which is only sparsely populated. Undoubtedly, that difficulty exists. It is a characteristic of the western State that is acknowledged by the commission. It makes a 14 per cent, allowance to Western Australia in excess of the figure arrived at as a result of the usual comparison with the standard States, Victoria and New South Wales.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is Senator Cant’s reference to the Western Australian State Shipping Service and the attitude of Treasury officers to that service. It is true that the Treasury directed the attention of the Grants Commission to the large and increasing operating deficit incurred by this utility. The Treasury was genuinely concerned about the extent of the operating loss and the progressive increases each year.
It was thought - and I think that this view will be regarded as having some justification - that if the State in fact were asked to bear a share of the operating losses, that in itself would supply an additional incentive to see that the loss was kept to a minimum. In the event, of course, the Western Australian Government appointed an inquiry into the shipping service. The gentleman appointed to conduct the inquiry was Captain J. P. Williams, of the Australian National Shipping Line. I think that most honorable senators will agree with me that the State Government could not have appointed a better man for the job. I believe the report of the Tribunal has not yet been released, but I have no doubt that when it is issued, and if it is acted upon, it will be the means of ensuring many operational and financial improvements in the conduct of the line.
– I think that the report is out now.
– Is it? I had encountered difficulty when I endeavoured to secure a copy of it recently. However, I am sure it will be an excellent report. Again, I thank the Senate for its support of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.5’8 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 13th November (vide page 1330), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
[8.0]. - The bill now before the Senate is one to amend the Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Act.
Oddly enough, it is in effect a bill not to remove prisoners but to liberate them on licence, with or without conditions. The bill becomes necessary by reason of a gap in the law. The Senate will remember that in 1960 we had the Crimes Act before us and among multitudinous amendments, some of them highly controversial, was included a new section which provided that prisoners who had committed offences against Commonwealth law could be released on licence, the licence being subject to conditions or not, as the case might be. If conditions were imposed, a breach of them would lead to the re-arrest of the prisoner who had been released, and he would have to serve the balance of the term of the original sentence. That was humane legislation, because languishing in prisons throughout Australia were people who, quite safely from a community viewpoint, could have been liberated as long as they were liberated under conditions that safeguarded the community. So the Opposision supported the law on that occasion.
Then a difficulty was experienced. The Crimes Act dealt solely with prisoners who had committed offences against Commonwealth law. That excluded the Territories of the Commonwealth, including the Northern Territory. The Crimes Act did not cover, in its provisions relating to licence, prisoners who had committed an offence against laws of a Territory. Under arrangements made between the Territories and the States, prisoners committing offences against Territorial law are imprisoned mostly in the States. The laws of the States relating to the incarceration of State prisoners would apply equally to Territorial prisoners. When it came to releasing prisoners, the Administration was faced with this difficulty: If the Administrator of the Territory provided for a release under conditions, as he could do, it was questionable whether, if the prisoner left the Territory, the conditions could still apply to him. That was one of the major difficulties. On the other hand, if the GovernorGeneral, on the advice of the Executive Council, saw fit to exercise the prerogative of mercy and release a prisoner, he had no power to impose conditions. Therefore, he was obliged to release him either unconditionally or not at all, if it were felt by the authorities that conditions were necessary.
What the bill now before us does is to put the position of prisoners under Territorial law, whether they are held in the Territory or in State prisons, in exactly the same position as prisoners serving sentences for offences against Commonwealth law, in other words, law made by this Parliament or under its jurisdiction. So the net effect of the legislation is to put Territorial prisoners or, more accurately, prisoners who are convicted of offences against Territorial laws, in exactly the same position as those convicted of offences against the laws of the Commonwealth. Both will be dealt with in the one way that 1 have already explained. They may be released unconditionally or with conditions.
I had occasion some months ago to make representations to the Government regarding the need for legislation of this type. I was pleased to find that the matter was already under consideration and that a decision to alter the law had been made. I take the opportunity to thank the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) for expediting the introduction of this legislation. I repeat that there are cases where prisoners convicted of offences against Territorial laws can, it appears, be quite safely released, as long as their release is surrounded by safeguarding conditions. This will be a humane provision and make the law regarding releases on licence uniform throughout the Commonwealth.
I note, as a matter of interest, that our Constitution, in section 120, makes it compulsory upon the State governments to take prisoners accused of, convicted of, or imprisoned in respect of offences against Commonwealth law. That is a law of this Parliament. They are compelled to do that under the Constitution. So far as the Territories are concerned, it is necessary for the administrators in the Territories to be authorized to make arrangements with the various State governments. It is not mandatory upon the States under the Constitution to take prisoners convicted under Territorial laws. This bill does not purport in any way to affect that position. The Opposition accordingly, in the light of the good purpose served by the bill, supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13th November (vide page 1351), on motion by Senator Paltridge-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) stated, this is a bill to allocate £45,900,000 for housing. It provides that 65 per cent, shall be expended by the housing commissions in the various States, and 30 per cent, by building societies, and that 5 per cent, shall be used for the housing of members of the armed forces. This leaves a very great problem in relation to housing. It is true that any government that provides £45,900,000, even distributed in the categories and percentages I have mentioned, must relieve the housing problem to some extent. No one can claim - I do not think that the Minister would claim - that this will overcome the problem altogether.
It is interesting to recall that in February 1957, Senator Spooner, speaking to a bill connected with housing, said that if 77,000 houses were built each year the back of the housing problem would be broken in from four to five years. That period has now elapsed, and that rate of construction has been bettered; but to-day we find ourselves with a housing problem in fact worse than it was when Senator Spooner made that prediction. In 1957, the Minister estimated that the demand for houses in 1965 would be 65,000 a year, rising to 79,000 in 1970. All I can say is that his estimate was particularly wide of the mark if one can give credence to the figures published by Dr. Hall of the Australian National University in a paper that he presented on housing. Dr. Hall stated that in 1965 we would need not 65,000 houses, but . 106,000 houses, and that in 1970 the figure would be 113,000.
– Who said that?
– Dr. Hall of the Australian National University. He has assumed, of course, that we would be bringing into this country each year about 80,000 migrants. Dr. Hall points out that, for a wide variety of reasons, estimates of the number of dwellings required must be revised from time to time. I think we all agree with that. It is a very wise man indeed who. in a country such as ours, and bearing in mind our migrant intake - the Government estimates that it will bring in 125,000 migrants a year, but Dr. Hall puts the figure at closer to 80,000 - can estimate with accuracy how many houses will be needed at any given time. Dr. Hall points out that it is difficult to estimate accurately how many houses are needed because many people have two homes. I know this to be so in Victoria. Many people have a second home in the beautiful Dandenongs or at seaside resorts. The building of those houses does not alleviate the housing shortage because those homes are occupied only infrequently by people fortunate enough to own a second home.
Dr. Hall points out that the 1947 census showed that 2.4 per cent, of houses were unoccupied. He states also that the figure had increased in 1961 to 6.4 per cent. Those figures are amazing. I am astounded at the number of unoccupied houses in Middle Park, Victoria - the suburb in which I live. I have tried to ascertain why so many houses are unoccupied. An estate agent friend of mine, who has a big business in Melbourne and a branch office in the suburb in which I live, told me that many houses are unoccupied because the rentals sought for them are as high as £8, £10 and even £12 a week, which is more than the ordinary individual, even a young professional man just starting out, can afford. The only way in which those houses can be let is to let them to two families on a share basis.
Dr. Hall points out that although many people rave two homes, large numbers of people have no home. Unfortunately, we all know that to be a fact. The 1961 census showed that 80,000 families were sharing private houses, and that 42,000 families were living in sheds or huts.
– In what treatise did Dr. Hall say this, and what is his speciality?
– It would appear that the Australian National University is becoming a research department for the Australian Labour Party. /
– That interjection from Senator Cormack is a little below his usual standard. Dr. Hall is not a research officer for this party. He is a member of the staff of the Australian National University.
– I asked who he was.
– All I can say is that he made these remarks in a treatise or paper on the housing position.
– Did he publish it?
– I have not seen it. I was informed of it.
– That was the point of my interjection.
– I do not think so. 1 think that Senator Cormack accused Dr. Hall of being a research officer for the Labour Party. I do not know whether he is even a member of the Labour Party. To be candid, Mr. Whitlam informed me of the position, and- stated these facts in a speech in the House of Representatives. The facts were not contradicted by any speaker who took part in the debate in the other place.
– I like to listen to you, but the weight I give to your remarks depends on the authority that you quote.
– If Senator Wright wishes I will see that he receives answers to the queries that he has raised. We all know that many houses that have been built have replaced dwellings that have been demolished. In the industrial centres of Melbourne, particular^ Flemingten, North Melbourne, South Melbourne and Port Melbourne, huge blocks of flats have been erected, but generally speaking they have taken the places of very old, smaller dwellings. That is as it should be, because those old dwellings had frontages of 16 feet, 14 feet and even less, b;it people were living in those dwellings - existing would be a better word to describe their situation. So although a number of dwelling units have been built in certain areas, they have only taken the place of other dwellings that have been demolished. In many of the industrial areas of Melbourne houses have been torn down to make way for factories. I have in mind areas such as Montague, North Melbourne and West Melbourne. In some cases the demolished dwellings have been replaced by blocks of flats, but in many cases factories have been built on the sites formerly occupied by houses. Because of the proximity of the railway and the seaport, undoubtedly this trend will continue for a number of years. One sees it in Collingwood, Richmond and other industrial centres. Factories are encroaching into these areas and the people have to find somewhere else to live. That is fortunate, as long as they can rent another dwelling or have sufficient money to buy one. Naturally their children will be better off in the outer areas.
It is all very well to say that if you build a certain number of houses a year you will overtake the housing lag in four or five years, but you must take into consideration the number of houses that are being demolished for various reasons. When one looks at the situation in perspective and takes that factor into consideration, one sees that the building rate may fall short of the rate that is required. I am not saying that over the years there has not been a great increase in building in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Anybody who has not visited the outer suburbs for a number of years is amazed, when he does make a visit, to see how far people have to go out to obtain building blocks. I believe that insufficient weight has been placed on the number of buildings demolished by those who have made estimates of the building rate that is required. This is particularly so in the case of the Minister. I wonder whether sufficient consideration has been given to the people who share houses but who are, of course, attempting to obtain houses or flats of their own. My point is that the figures that have been given are not linked with reality. We are not breaking the back of the housing problem. Unfortunately, the position is not getting better, but rather is getting worse.
The money to be allocated as the result of this bill is £3,000,000 more than was originally allocated last financial year, but the fact is that an additional £4,500,000 was allocated during that year. Taking that into consideration, the amount to be provided this year will be less than that allocated during the financial year ended 30th June, last.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has said that the general aim of State housing authorities is to construct dwellings for families of low or moderate means. I have with me a pamphlet entitled “ Housing Priorities. The Plight of the Low Income Group “, published by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. This document makes the point that, largely because of Commonwealth pressure, interest rates payable on loans have increased and the percentage of money allocated to building societies under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has also increased. It points out that these measures lead to increased rents to offset the increased interest rates, that they reduce the finance available to State housing authorities by one-third, and that they open up a new source of finance to building societies at the expense of the finance available for State housing authorities. I am not altogether complaining about that. The Brotherhood of St. Laurence does not seem to like the idea, but I think that, if it is easier for a young person to obtain his home through a building society than through a housing commission, we should encourage the method by which he can obtain his own home. For that reason, I am not agreeing with all the details given in this pamphlet, but it is a very interesting document on housing.
In order to satisfy my good friend, Senator Wright, I shall allow him to read Dr. Hall’s booklet, which has just been handed to me. j
– Is it document J?
– I hope we do not get into that sort of discussion. I notice that my friend who sits in the back row on the other side of the chamber is absent, so I do not think that document J will be mentioned.
The document published by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence mentions that people who build homes through building societies are expected to find substantial deposits before they become entitled to loans. In addition, they have to buy blocks of land. I am certain that my colleagues on both sides of the chamber who come from Victoria know full well the trouble a young person has in purchasing a block of land. He has to go out eight, ten or twelve miles and still pay £1,300 or £1,500. It is true that the roads are made and that water and light are available, but very seldom do the blocks have gas available, except those situated close to the Box Hill gasworks, the Metropolitan Gas and Fuel Corporation or, I think, the Colonial Gas Company out at Footscray. The majority of blocks do not have gas available. They have light, water and roads. The remainder of the facilities that we all accept as being normal may come, but no one knows when. One of the greatest troubles in regard to housing is to obtain a loan. That is the reason, I believe, why the existing capacity of the building industry is not being fully utilized. The full capacity of the building industry could be utilized and there could be a substantial increase in the construction of houses if the Government was prepared to find the money.
What better investment can a government have than housing? The rents are based on the economic value of the houses. I was astounded to learn that some flats built recently in South Melbourne, which were opened by the Premier of Victoria, were being rented at £5 15s. a week. But the cost does not stop there. Because of the flat site, the occupants have to pay so much for certain commodities which they need. They even have to pay for parking their cars. I ask myself, “ How can they afford to run cars? “
– Hear, head
– You people have advocated, “ Earn as much as you can and owe twice as much “. Unfortunately, people who perhaps are not as old in the head as Senator Hannaford or I are caught up in the craze to own motor cars. In Victoria there is one car for every 3.3 people - men, women and children.
– And you say the
Government should tax the people to get money to build houses.
- Senator Wright may get away with that kind of thing in the courts, but not here. He should not put up an Aunt Sally and then knock it over.
– Do not disparage the courts.
– That is all very well. The honorable senator may be able to get away with that kind of thing because of his eminence in the legal world, but he cannot get away with it here. I am merely stating the facts as we find them to-day.
– Why should you tax people to get money for homes when they can buy motor cars?
– It is a wonder that the honorable senator is prepared to pay any taxes at all. I shall leave him to make his speech in his own way. No doubt, from his point of view it will be a very interesting speech, but if it is along the lines he has indicated, there will be a number of people, both inside and outside the Parliament, who will not agree with it at all.
It is interesting to read that, according to the Department of Trade survey of building construction materials and the building industry, in March, 1962, the industry was operating at only 74 per cent, of its capacity. It will be remembered that some time ago Senator Spooner, either in answer to a “ Dorothy Dix “ question or in a statement, was delighted to be able to say that there had been an increase in the number of building permits issued. The fact is that the building industry is still only operating at 74 per cent, of its capacity. May I ask Senator Wright through you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, and with the greatest respect, a question. The honorable senator wondered why the Opposition had opposed the reduction in income tax of £36,000,000. The Government proposes to spend, under this legislation, £45,900,000. I have worked out that it would have taken about £66,600,000 to employ the building industry at 100 per cent, capacity. Would not expenditure in that way have served this nation much better from an economic point of view? Would it not have set the wheels of industry turning, as we all want them to turn? Would it not also have provided a greater number of houses? Senator Wright will agree with me-
– I thought you were asking me a question.
– No. The honorable senator may reply when he is speaking. I think he will agree with me that the greatest counter to the “ isms “ about which we hear so much, particularly at election time, is to give people the opportunity to have their own homes. They should be given a stake in the country.
The £36,000,000 reduction in income tax, about which we argued some time ago, was given to the people who already had the most money. Certainly, they paid the most income tax, but they did not need the rebate. They would have no real use for it and would either bank it or invest it. The rebate given to the average worker was so little that he would not appreciate it. As I said at the time, it was not worth having. If the workers had been given a greater share of the rebate they would have put the money into housing. More people would have been employed in the building industry. I have heard Ministers say in the Senate, and it is true, that if you can get the building industry to its full capacity industry as a whole receives a tremendous lift.
– Do you not think that the reduction of £36,000,000 in income tax stimulated employment?
– I do not think so; 1 proved my contention when I gave the figures. I said then that if the money had been given to the mothers of this nation in the form of increased child endowment, it certainly would have been spent immediately and industry would have benefited. Every one is supposed to be pleased because the March figures for housing were better than they had been for some time, but the fact is, according to the Department of Trade, that only 74 per cent, of the building industry is engaged.
– Is not the building industry so unemployed because costs are such that houses cannot be built and let at rents that people can afford to pay?
– It is true that costs are heavy, but I do not think you can blame us on this side of the Parliament for that. You people have had command of the Government of this nation since 1949. You know what happened between the years from 1952 to 1955. You lifted the lid. Inflation occurred, and up went costs.
Now, you are the first to sing out about it. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. I say, in a friendly way, that it ill becomes any honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber now to appear worried over costs. The Government had the remedy in its own hands and would not use it.
As I said earlier, one of the factors greatly affecting the housing position is the spiralling cost of land. It is outrageous in my city. I am certain that every honorable senator from Victoria, regardless of where he sits in this chamber, will agree that prices for building blocks are far too high. Of course, if people are not prepared to pay those prices, they do not get land. I noticed in Monday morning’s press that the average cost of blocks of land sold at Glen Waverley last Saturday was £1,450. That was for blocks with a frontage of 45 feet and a depth of 120 feet or 130 feet. A young married couple who had £1,450 to buy a block of land would have to face the task of building a house on it. For a brick veneer house of from 11 to 13 squares, the cost would be from £4,900 to £5,300 - and not many homes can be obtained for £4,900. I took out some figures on the basis of a home costing £4,500. Assuming they have their own land, they then have to obtain £3,500 by way of a first mortgage which, 1 should say, they would be extremely lucky to get at 6i per cent, interest. It is more likely that they would have to pay 7 per cent, for the1 money. The other £1,000 would have to be obtained on second mortgage, and for that money they would be required to pay anything from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent, interest. This means that the interest alone would cost the purchaser anything from £6 10s. to £7 a week, and how many people can afford to pay that? With repayment of capital, the rental would probably be £10 a week and, to be able to afford that amount, a person’s take-home pay would have to be in the vicinity of at least from £25 to £30 a week. In addition to that, the purchaser would have to pay municipal rates, and I suppose the wise person who owns his own home would put aside each year £100 to meet the cost of rates, taxes and maintenance. Therefore, I say it becomes impossible under present conditions for a young person to own his own home.
It is true, as Senator Tangney says, that the young wife remains at work to help meet these heavy costs, but we all know what that means from the nation’s point of view. The young couple might have the first within a reasonably short time, but, purely because of economic reasons, it is a fairly long while before the second one arrives.
– To what are you referring?
– I say in all friendliness that I do not give you credit for having the capacity for good political thinking, but I did think that you would have deduced what I was hinting at. We are placing too much worry, stress and strain on our young people. As one who still has vivid memories of the years from 1930 to 1935, when not one but thousands of people just walked out of their homes in every State, I think that the young people who would undertake the purchase of their own homes to-day have a great deal more courage than I have.
I have often wondered whether, at conferences between the Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers, this Government has given any thought to carrying its own insurance on these homes, as is done in connexion with war service homes. To give some idea of the difference between premiums charged for insurance, I point out that the rate charged by the War Service Homes Divisiion for insuring a timber home valued at £5,000 is £7 10s., as against £8 15s. charged by private insurance companies. In addition, the rebate granted by the War Service Homes Division is 66 per cent., which gives some idea of how much profit the War Service Homes Division makes out of insurance. For a brick-veneer home, the War Service Homes Division charges a premium of £5 for insurance, as against £5 12s. 6d. charged by the private insurance companies and the War Service Homes Division pays a rebate of £3 6s. 8d.
Again, at these conferences between the Commonwealth and the State Ministers, when the distribution of the people’s money is being discussed, I wonder whether any thought is given to the proposition that the Commonwealth should purchase the land itself? Has any thought ever been given to giving the young people a real chance? I do not say that the present Government has ever done it, but I do know that in 1949 the Government of that day purchased a large area of land at Chelsea, cut it into blocks and sold those blocks in 1950 and 1951 for £549 each. The average taxable value of each of those blocks to-day is £2,289. If it is good enough to adopt that principle in connexion with war service homes, it should be good enough to follow the same procedure when dealing with the nation’s money, especially if we are really sincere in wishing to help the young people. Perhaps this Government has valid reasons for not wanting to interfere with the private insurance companies, but there is no valid reason from my point of view for not competing against them, because I have never had any help from these companies at election time. But, apart altogether from that, we are spending the people’s money in attempting to house our citizens. In providing war service homes for those who fought for this country in times of stress, the Government embarked upon its own insurance scheme, and the figures published in the latest report of the War Service Homes Division emphasize the great savings effected for the persons concerned. After all. the Government has an obligation to spend the people’s money to the best possible advantage, and in such a way as will ensure that the greatest possible number of people will be enabled to buy homes. My suggestion might mean the adoption of something unique so far as overall housing is concerned, but when I was preparing some notes for this speech I wondered why the. Government did not do this.
– Do what?
– Go in for its own insurance.
– Does not the War Service Homes Division insure the houses it finances?
– It does.
– He wants the Commonwealth to insure with the State insurance offices.
– I did not say that. As the honorable senator has just come back from the city I would not expect him to be as quick on the uptake as he would be if he had been here all the time; but I do not blame him for being away, because he was engaged on very important Government business.
Senator Gorton__ If I had been here listening to you I would have been slower than I am.
– We on this side have known for a long time that you are slow. It is common knowledge that you are slow. The War Service Homes Division even bought its own land at one period, and I cannot understand why the purchase of land by the Government is not suggested at these conferences between Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers. This Government claims that it is desirous of housing the people in a satisfactory manner, but the Let is that it will not devote enough money to this purpose. Even the small amount that is being made available now for housing other than war service homes could be used to better effect if the Government conducted its own insurance scheme. First, I say that more money should have been made available for housing. I hope that before the end of this financial year the Government will make more money available. At the moment the expenditure is £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 less than the expenditure in the last financial year. The housing lag is getting greater. The Government is using the people’s money and it should get the best value for that money.
I long for the day when interest rates will be reduced. I read in the Melbourne “ Age “ that one of the big manufacturers in that city intended to make representations to have the rate of interest on future loans reduced. I hope the Government is successful in reducing interest rates and filling its loans. I hope the time will come when we will be able to provide housing loans at a rate of interest in the vicinity of 3i to 4 per cent., even though we may borrow the money at 1 per cent, more than that rate. It is the duty of the Federal and State governments to combine in order to provide homes for people at the lowest possible rate of interest and to build as many homes as possible each year. It is also their duty not to have the building industry working at 74 per cent, capacity at a time of peak demand.
I believe that lack of housing is the main reason why a large number of immigrants have left Australia. I am not blaming the Government altogether. It has carried on the hostel system to which I was very much opposed from the start. When the building industry was at its worst level, we should have asked for 20,000 trained building workers, provided the necessary money and told them that the first house they built was theirs to rent or to buy as long as they remained in the building industry. This country needs building workers. We need skilled labour. The interests of the nation must come before the interests of one or two individuals. The welfare of the mass is more important than the welfare of the few. I believe that we should build homes for skilled workers. By having skilled workers, whether they are in the engineering, building or any other trade, we can create tremendous avenues of employment right down the line. Whilst the Opposition does not oppose this bill, we criticize it. We believe that the first bite of the cherry in this financial year should have been at least as big as last year’s expenditure; but that has not been so. We hope that the time is not far distant when the Government will put more money into housing. I believe that there will be no ills and no “ isms “ - although we will always find them at election time, of course - if the people are housed as we believe they should be housed.
– Before I conclude my speech I hope to refer to some of the points that have been raised by Senator Kennelly, who led for the Opposition. Much of what he said had no relation to this bill, the Loan (Housing) Bill (No. 2) 1962. I give a classic example of that when I direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that Senator Kennelly referred to high interest rates and cited all sorts of figures on interest rates; but under the bill £45,900,000 is being made available to the States under an agreement which provides for an interest rate of 1 per cent, less than the long-term borrowing rate. That brings the rate of interest back to about 4 per cent. That is a classic example of building up an argument about a set of circumstances which have no relation at all to the bill under discussion. I shall say more about that anon, particularly with reference to Dr. A. R. Hall. I shall give some quotations from his paper.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £45,900,000. That amount will be advanced to the States during 1962-63 under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I point out that this money is being advanced to the States and that the management and control of it, to which the arguments advanced by Senator Kennelly referred, fall within the responsibility of the States. The provision of this amount will mean the construction of about 15,500 dwellings in 1962-63. I remind Senator Kennelly that that is only a percentage of the total home construction in Australia. He knows that, but for the purposes of this debate it was not made clear.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was renewed and embodied in a new act in 1961. The new agreement included some provisions that were not in the previous agreement, notably a provision that 30 per cent, of the funds paid to the States shall be paid into a home builders’ account and channelled into home building through the co-operative building society movement, and another provision that 5 per cent, shall be made available for the erection of dwellings for service personnel. Under the new agreement the Commonwealth will make advances to the States at a rate of interest equal to the current long-term bond rate less 1 per cent, per annum. Although that is a variation of the formula applying in the last two years of the agreement, it is the same rule as has actually been applied for the duration of the 1956 agreement. The effective rates of interest under the new agreement have been 4i per cent, from 1st July, 1961, to 6th February, 1962, and 4 per cent, since 7th February, 1962. So, for the purposes of this bill, we can dispose of the argument advanced by Senator Kennelly about borrowing money at first and second mortgage rates. I presume that that argument related to general housing. I shall refer to that matter again later because I believe that some of the figures we have heard need to be studied.
Another point should be made strongly and understood in this debate. I shall read this part of my speech on the provision of finance under the housing agreements in order to make it perfectly clear and to get it on the record. The amount which each State has received for housing in each financial year under the housing agreements has been determined at meetings of the Australian Loan Council. After a general survey of financial resources, the Loan Council has fixed an overall limit to the borrowing programme for the ensuing financial year. This overall sum has been divided among the States by agreement between them. Each State then nominated” the amount which it required for housing as advances under the housing agreements. With the approval of the Loan Council the total of the amounts so nominated by the States for housing has become the Commonwealth’s share of Governmental loan raisings for the year and has been made available by the Commonwealth to the States under the housing agreements. I make that point because it is the very essence of this issue. In truth, if we are voting £45,900,000 to the States under this agreement, it is because the States, at the Loan Council level, have indicated that, from the loan moneys available to them in the whole field of Commonwealth and State finance, £45,900,000 is what they require for housing. That is documented. It is indisputable.
So when we have this argument about the amount of money available for housing, the plain fact is that the States in turn have stated that of the loan moneys available to them, that is the amount they require for housing purposes. Against that background, and in accordance with the requests of the States - and with the approval of the Australian Loan Council on which the States have representation - the amount of £45,900,000 will be allocated as follows: New South Wales, £15,000,000; Victoria, £12,600,000; Queensland, £3,800,000 and South Australia, £9,000,000. We have heard a lot about South Australia to-day in debate, and it is interesting to note that South Australia has elected to take £9,000,000 of the funds available for housing. Western Australia is to receive £3,000,000 and Tasmania £2,500,000.
I think it is important that that point should be made, because for too long we have heard the other argument in this place and elsewhere, and the people generally tend to misunderstand the financial structure in relation to housing. The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth Government, because of constitutional difficulties in the first place, has an agreement with the States. When Senator Kennelly talks about insurance programmes and the like, he overlooks that they are all internal affairs within the framework of the States concerned. They borrow this money f/om the Commonwealth at an advantageous rate of interest, and every taxpayer subsidizes the cost of housing.
The distribution of the money for housing is provided within the framework of the agreement which states that 30 per cent, shall go into the co-operative building society movement which the States have authorized by way of legislation, and the balance goes to the State Treasuries, which utilize it through their own housing schemes. I think it is high time that everybody realized that the responsibilities in housing and the future of housing will not be determined simply by suggesting that the Commonwealth, or for thu matter the States, can churn out extra money for housing. On the basis of a free enterprise economy - a capitalist economy if you like to use that word - essentially there must be provision for home-building through the ordinary economic channels of private enterprise. It would be a poor outlook if we were to assume that governments should take full responsibility for housing and provide the necessary funds, because that just will not happen. We have to realize that there are responsibilities outside government in relation to housing.
I want to deal with the question of what our housing needs are, because it is germane to the general debate. Senator Kennelly, in his references to the housing need, quoted from Dr. A. R. Hall, a professor at the Australian National University. If you read the debates in another place, you find that Professor Hall apparently was quoted there as the authority for saying that our housing need at present is something of the order of over 100,000 homes a year.
But it is rather significant that Dr. Hall has issued a new pamphlet entitled, “ The Housing Demand: A Second Look “. The fact that Dr. Hall has had to have a second look at this problem suggests that his first look was not so good. I am not putting this forward as a criticism of the professor. I think the facts of life are that, against the background of what is happening, nobody can be certain what are the housing needs of Australia. Professor Hall apparently felt constrained to issue a booklet which he himself called his second look. I want to go beyond the second, third and fourth looks of this professor.
In October, 1961, Dr. Hall wrote a paper which was published by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. In it, Professor Hall stated that the trend of demand for dwellings in Australia showed the following needs: In 1960-61, 89,000; 1961-62, 90,000; 1962-63, 91,000; 1963-64, 92,000. Then he went on for a further period. Now I come to Professor Hall’s second look. In a paper published in “Architecture of Australia” in June, 1962, Dr. Hall reduced his estimate, and gave as his reason the decline in immigration. In June, 1962, his estimate of the need in 1961- 62 was 85,000. I direct attention to the fact that he retreated from his original estimate of 89,000 in 1960-61 to 85,000. Then, for 1962-63, his estimate is 86,000. compared with his previous estimate of 91,000. He estimated that the need in 1963-64 would be 89,000, according to his paper published in June, 1962, whereas previously he said the estimate was 92,000.
– But did he not give his reasons?
– I will give the Senate the reasons. Then we have Professor Hall’s third look. In a paper summarized in the “ Financial Review “ of October, 1962, Dr. Hall revised his estimates. For 1962- 63, his estimate rose to 97,000, with a tolerance which may go from 97,000 to 102,000. He is getting doubtful at this stage, and gives a tolerance. For 1964-65, his estimate is a variation between 101,000 and 106,000. So it is quite clear that this argument about the housing need in Australia - a dogmatic argument from the Opposition side here and in another place - is not quite as simple as it would appear. I do not say that in any disrespectful way, because Professor Hall has had to deal with variations in the economy just as has every other prognosticator. He has reached the point where he allows some tolerance in his estimates. But in any case, I do not think the Opposition would be wise to build the whole structure of its arguments on the housing need of Australia on that document headed, “ The Housing Demand: A Second Look “.
Now I want to cite the actual figures at present so far as I am able to make an estimate on the basis of the statistical figures we have available to us. I gather that the situation is that the number of flats and houses erected in the September quarter of 1962 was 22,884. That is taken from official statistics. Put that on an annual basis, and you get a figure of 92,000 houses or flats built in the twelve months period. That is very close to the figure proposed by the professor, which provides the foundation stone for the argument of the Opposition. There is another aspect. One of the early indications of the census taken last year was that our home construction figures were perhaps subject to a degree of understatement, lt is suggested that this could run to the order of about 7 per cent. If this is a correct indication, it suggests a construction figure of about 99,000 houses per annum.
I would not be so unwise as to stand here and say that we have the complete answer to our housing problem, I know that we have not. I have a fairly intimate association with the building industry and the cooperative building society movement. I know that this is a problem that needs a great deal of attention, care and responsibility by those people who are associated with it, particularly in government. Senator Kennelly produced an argument in relation to the deposits paid for home finance. With great respect to him, I say that he was completely off the beam. Thirty per cent, of the money to be provided under this bill is to go to the building society movement. The deposit required is a percentage of the capital cost of house and land. Senator Kennelly gave us an arithmetical problem, the value of the land being one figure and the value of the house another. He said that a borrower had to have a certain percentage of the cost of the house as deposit, but that is not the position. I should like to give a simple example of how money is provided under this agreement through the co-operative building society movement. I take New South Wales where, with the government guarantee and State government indemnity, an advance equal to a maximum of 90 per cent, of the capital cost of house and land combined can be made. If a timber-framed home costs £3,250 and the block of land on which it stands costs £1,250, the combined capital cost is £4,500. Quite clearly, the 10 per cent, deposit would be £450. Any suggestion that money that is provided in this way by the Commonwealth is subject to a requirement for large deposits is quite incorrect.
I should like to make some reference to land values. Senator Kennelly, who lead for the Opposition, spoke about high land values, and I could not agree more with him. I agree that land values in relation to capital costs of dwellings are out of all proportion. We all know that at present people who are building homes find that land value is about 40 per cent, of the total capital cost. That is patently absurd, but it is inevitable. The honorable senator did not tell us why land values were so high. He tried to pass them off as being due to the broad economic situation of the nation. He did not tell us that one of the greatest contributors to high land values in New South Wales was the State Government, which for years had a town planning authority that put a blanket freeze over hundreds of thousands of acres of land, creating a false demand. Instead of releasing the land in such a way as to satisfy demand, it had a glorious technique of dribbling releases little by little, almost block by block, so that the demand was never satisfied. That was one of the tremendous factors in the high cost of land in New South Wales.
– Senator Kennelly was talking about his own State, Victoria. What he said had nothing to do with the New South Wales Government.
– It had nothing at all to do with this bill. The Commonwealth, in accordance with its constitutional powers, is providing the money. It is the obligation of the State to distribute the money. I say that the State governments are, in the main, responsible for the high value of land. In New South Wales we have had the same political form of government for 22 years. A reference has been made to insurance. We had a dissertation about insurance in relation to war service homes. With great raped, I say that to link that subject to this bill was absurd. In any event, I remind Senator Kennelly that the State governments operate insurance offices. We provide the money. If there is a grievance about insurance, the people can insure with the New South Wales Government insurance office.
– Or the Victorian one.
– Yes. This is a fallacious argument about something for which this Government is not responsible. Constitutionally, we provide the money. The States decide how much they want. They could have had more money for housing if they had wanted it. In relation to the loan programmes, they could have said, “ We shall take more than £45,900,000 for housing “. They chose to take £45,900,000. The management of the money and responsibility for it are clearly matters for the States, with the restriction that 30 per cent, is to go to the cooperative building society movement and 5 per cent, to provide homes for service personnel.
– Does that apply to South Australia as well as to the other States?
– South Australia has a special arrangement, because it has not a co-operative building society movement developed in the same way as in the other States; but I understand there is a growing appreciation of this ideal in homeownership programmes. I do not want to be quoted as saying that the housing problem is over. It is not. The co-operation of all groups in the community is required. Insurance companies and financial companies must play a part. They could do more than they have done. It is an historical fact that last year the life assurance companies did not put into housing as much as they had put in previously. The reduction was quite marked. The explanation given - I do not know whether it was their explanation - was, I understand, that they chose to invest large sums in long-term investment pursuant to an act passed by this Parliament last year in relation to the investment of life assurance funds. The plain fact of the matter is that they did not invest as much in housing. There is a pattern now that indicates that life assurance companies and banks are again channelling money into housing, and I hope that housing needs will gradually be taken up. At present we are completing between 92,000 and 99,000 houses a year. That rate of construction seems to meet current demand, but it would appear that there is a need to increase the rate of construction in the future.
I should like to raise many other points if time would permit. There is no doubt that home ownership is the great prospect for any citizen, and government at all levels has an obligation to help make it possible for the ordinary citizen to acquire his own home. There are certain difficulties associated with the attainment of that objective, but not all of them can be laid at the doors of governments. The human element comes into the picture. If we can obtain the cooperation of all sectors of the community we shall overcome many of the difficulties associated with home ownership.
I am happy to support the bill. I look forward to the development of home ownership in the future. I look forward particularly to the development and progress of the co-operative building society movement, which is playing such an important part within the framework of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
– I address myself to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement because of certain factors that are operating in Western Australia. In his second-reading speech on this bill the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), referring to the agreement, said -
It is aimed, moreover, at the construction by the State housing authorities of dwellings for families of low or moderate means.
Clause 11 (1.) of the 1956 agreement provides -
Except as otherwise provided in this agreement, dwellings erected with that part of the advances which pursuant to clause 6 of this agreement are to be used for the erection of dwellings shall be of reasonable size and standard, primarily for families of low or moderate means, and may be built in such localities and in accordance with such policy as the State deems fit.
Clause 14(1.) of the agreement provides- -
Subject to this clause and to sub-clause (4.) of clause 13 of this agreement, each State will a!lot dwellings to persons who are in need of proper housing accommodation in such order of priority as it decides.
Under this bill Western Australia is to receive £3,000,000. It is essential that the money made available to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement should be spent in accordance with the terms and spirit of the agreement. We all know that Labour, when in power in Western Australia, almost solved the housing problem there, but that there has been some deterioration since Labour went out of office. I direct attention to the fact that the Western Australian Government decided to use money provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to construct what is known as the Commonwealth Games Village. That village is a group of 150 houses situated at City Beach. The houses are of thirteen different designs, which means that is some cases as many as twenty houses of one design have been built. So it will be seen that there is quite a degree of uniformity of construction in the village.
I have referred to certain clauses of the agreement because I want to direct attention to the cost of the houses that have been built in the village with money provided under the agreement. The average cost of the houses, without allowing for the cost of the land, is £6,053. It is difficult to say what the land is worth. The land formerly belonged to the Perth City Council, and was given to the housing authority of Western Australia for the construction of these houses.
– Does the cost of these houses include the provision of special buildings, such as assembly halls?
– The cost covers only houses, roads and footpaths - all of the things that can be done under the agreement.
– It includes road making?
– Yes. The housing authority of Western Australia always adds the cost of those services to houses built in newly developed areas.
– What did you say the cost of the houses was?
– The cost of each house is £6,053. The only way to obtain an idea of the value of the land on which these houses have been built is to see what prices have been paid for land at auctions held in the same area. Recently 69 blocks of land across the street from the village were auctioned. They brought an average price of £1,451 each. So if we add £1,451 to the cost of the houses we find that the total cost of each house in the village, including land, is £7,504. This matter has been the subject of a good deal of discussion in Western Australia. The figure of £7,504 is not necessarily the final price at which the houses will be sold. The Minister in charge of this matter in Western Australia has refused to state what the final price of the houses will be when they are sold, because so far nothing has been added for administrative costs.
Having spent one-third of its allocation on the Commonwealth Games Village, how does the Western Australian Government propose to satisfy the people who have been waiting up to four years for houses? This legislation is designed to provide houses for people who have been waiting a long time. It is obvious that the houses in the village will be beyond the means of those persons who may seek to purchase them, lt is also obvious that they will be beyond the means of those persons who may seek to rent them. In fact, anybody who had the financial resources to purchase one of these houses would not be eligible to purchase it because the 1961 agreement provides that a person in receipt of more than £23 13s. a week is not eligible to rent a house built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In addition, such persons are precluded from buying a house built under the Western Australian Housing Act.
– That has nothing to do with us, has it?
– Well, it has something to do with the Government that is making this money available.
– There is no agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia with regard to an income barrier of £23-odd.
– The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that the money provided under the agreement shall be spent on certain types of houses, which shall be allocated to persons in certain categories.
– The £23 rule is purely a State matter.
– That is a provision of the Western Australian Housing Act. It has applied also to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I am concerned that Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement money is being spent in what might be termed a lavish style, whilst people who have had applications before the State Housing Commission for some considerable time are waiting for homes.
I have not gone back very far in my research. I have referred to only the last two reports of the State Housing Commission. In 1959-60 there were 1,370 applications from persons wishing to purchase a home and 4,128 applications from persons wishing to rent homes. In 1960-61 there were 1,917 applications to purchase homes and 4,282 applications to rent homes. In 1959-60 there were 1,019 homes constructed under the State Housing Act and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In 1960-61 the number of houses constructed under the two acts was 1,261. In 1959-60 there were 961 outstanding applications to purchase homes and 3,851 outstanding applications for rental homes. In 1960-61 there were 1,066 outstanding applications to purchase homes, which was an increase, and 3,519 outstanding applications for rental homes. None of these people can be satisfied out of the one-third portion of the grant that is to be made under this bill. It might not be quite correct to say that because the money for such homes will come out of the reserves held under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement - approximately £1,000,000 which could have been spent on providing many more homes for people than will be provided as the result of this legislation. In fact the homes to be provided will not go to those people who are eligible for them under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
It is interesting to compare the cost of the homes that are provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to the ordinary applicant with the cost of the homes that have been constructed in the Commonwealth Games Village. The construction figures are given in the 1960-61 report of the State Housing Commission. The commission reports -
Although wages and materials costs increased in Western Australia, during the past twelve months the tender prices for the houses built by the Commission showed no appreciable increase. Applicants have thus been enabled to continue purchasing homes of good finish and value, on deposits from £100 and in certain circumstances, lower deposits have been accepted. The favorable tender prices have also made it possible for the Commission to keep rents to a minimum.
The statistics of construction are contained in the 1959-60 report of the commission, but honorable senators can see from the quotation in this year’s report that there is little variation from 1959-60. I will not bother reading the figures because they refer to various areas and districts in the State. The highest cost home built in Western Australia is built in the Kimberleys - around Wyndham, Derby and Broome. The cost is £4,190. In the metropolitan area a brick-veneer, five-roomed home costs £2,650 and a timber-framed fibro home costs £2,290. Compare those figures with £6,053, which is the averaged cost of the homes in the Commonwealth Games Village. The figures I have quoted do not, in either case, include the price of land. The Commonwealth Games Village homes have cost more than two and a half times as much as a brick-veneer home built in the metropolitan area for applicants to the State Housing Commission.
– Does that price include roads and streets?
– It includes all the services. Most of the State Housing Commission areas in Western Australia are completely new areas. The first thing that happens in Western Australia is that the Main Roads Department constructs the roads. Later the local authority puts down the footpaths. This is all included in the cost of the dwelling, just as those costs are included in the cost of a dwelling in the Commonwealth Games Village. I think this is a matter into which the Commonwealth should look. I have made an inspection of these village homes. I will be amazed if the Western Australian Government can recover its money. There is no doubt that the workmanship in the buildings is very good. It is of the highest standard you could possibly get, but that has added to the cost of the homes. Every dwelling should be of the highest standard but, as we know, buildings erected under the contract system are rarely of the highest standard.
People who can afford to pay up to £7,500 for a home do not want houses on either side of them to be built exactly to the same design. People who can afford that price want some individuality in their homes.
– Are not the designs of the homes staggered?
– They are to some extent. On the day that the village was opened for inspection I had a look at it. There were eight houses in one street, and six of them were of the same design. As I said earlier, thirteen designs are used, but some are used up to twenty times. The group of homes I inspected faced the main highway. You would expect them to be the best. Of eight of those homes, six were of the one design. People who have that amount of money to spend on a home are not likely to purchase that type of home. I wish to make it clear that I have cited the average price given by the Minister for Housing in Western Australia. It does not necessarily mean that each house will cost that sum. Some in better positions will cost more, and some in less favourable positions will cost less; but the average price cited was £6,053. I think that the Commonwealth Government should be concerned when Commonwealth State Housing Agreement funds are being expended in this way.
– As we all know, the purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £45,900,000 to provide funds for the various housing authorities and building organizations in the States of the Commonwealth. As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) stated in his second-reading speech, the sum to be provided represents an increase of £3,000.000 over the amount originally approved by the Australian Loan Council in 1961-62. The advances to the States, of course, will be made under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1961.
This is the second year of operation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1961. If I remember correctly, most of the agreements have run for a period of five years. There has been a kind of continuous five-year plan. My mind goes back to the days when I first became a member of the Senate. At that time, there was an agreement which had been initiated by the Chifley Labour Government. I cannot remember the exact date that it was initiated, but basing my estimate on five-year terms. I should say that it would have commenced to operate in the five years prior to 1951. The scheme has been carried on, with modifications, by the present Government over the years, on the same five-year terms. I believe that this Government initiated its first housing scheme under this legislation in 1951. That agreement ran till 1956. The second agreement operated from 1956 to 1961. It expired last year. Now, we are in the second year of the fourth agreement.
I think all honorable senators will acknowledge that these five-year plans have made a great contribution to solving the housing problem throughout Australia. That problem has been of unprecedented difficulty throughout the period because of the increase of population that has occurred.
– In what year did South Australia come into the scheme?
– I cannot answer that question at the present itme, but I know that South Australia did not participate in the original plan, although it is participating in the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, with satisfactory results. So far as I can see, the work that is being done by the South Australian Government under this scheme compares more than favorably with that being done by housing authorities in other States.
– Senator Anderson does not agree. He says it should be done under the housing co-operatives.
– Senator Anderson is entitled to his opinion. In certain respects, I may agree with him regarding the efficacy of building societies but building societies do not operate to any great extent in South Australia. The Government of that State, in its wisdom or otherwise, has decided on a plan which does not make use of building societies to the degree that they are used in other States. In this regard, I am inclined to agree with Senator Anderson. Perhaps the Government of South Australia could with advantage encourage the building societies more than it does at present.
The population has grown rapidly, because of immigration and natural increase, and we have had to meet the challenge posed by the need to house the people. We have had to augment the ordinary building schemes throughout the Commonwealth by introducing schemes such as those which operate under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Senator Kennelly mentioned the enormous number of housing replacements that come into the picture. We are inclined to forget that houses have only a certain life and that there was a very big lag in housing during the period of the depression. At that time, many houses which should have been replaced were not replaced. We have had to make up that lag. The only way to do that was by making a concentrated effort under housing agreements with the States and by accelerating the building rate throughout the Commonwealth.
I do not think it is generally realized that, valuable as they are, State housing agreements are not the complete answer to our housing problem. Iti truth, they are far from being so. We do not give sufficient thought to the fact that of all the building that is undertaken throughout the Commonwealth, approximately 80 per cent, is outside the field of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement or the field of housing authorities in the various States. The private entrepreneur who carries out, in the main, the building requirements of the Commonwealth, has no real contact with the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. His finance is arranged through the banking institutions and other lending authorities. The vast bulk of the people of Australia build their homes without assistance from the housing authorities with which we are concerned at the present time.
I have calculated roughly that the building rate approximates 90,000 houses a year. I understand that that has been the average for a number of years now. I estimate that the amount of £45,900,000 which is to be spent on housing under the agreement with which we are concerned at the moment would provide approximately 17,423 homes. I think that in the last financial year something over £50,000,000 was spent. If we relate the figure of 17,423 to the building rate of 90,000 homes, we see that it is approximately 20 per cent. So about 20 per cent, of the total number of houses built in the Commonwealth are built under this scheme. The remainder are built by building authorities which are completely outside the scope of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Therefore, I say that, valuable as these schemes are, they are only a part of the picture. They fulfil the housing need of people who are unable to obtain finance from financial institutions and who require houses of low or moderate cost.
The money that is to be expended under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is divided roughly into three categories. First, there are the State housing authorities. I gather from the discussion that has taken place during the debate in this chamber, that they are not all alike. Some seem to operate more satisfactorily than others. At various times, I have heard complaints from honorable senators on both sides which indicate that some housing authorities are not as efficient as others. The State Housing Trust of South Australia has a very good record indeed and we can look with some pride at the work that it has accomplished over the years. It has done a magnificent job in housing a vast number of people throughout South Australia. One has only to go to the new town of Elizabeth to see an example of just what it has achieved. Within a relatively short time, the town of Elizabeth, which was designed originally for a population of 20,000 people, has grown into a city of 40,000 people. Before very long, the population there will probably be 50,000, and we in South Australia are very proud of that city. All that work has been carried out by the South Australian Housing Trust.
– ls Elizabeth a town or a city?
– I have just had a rude interjection from an honorable senator from Queensland who, by the way, is not sitting in his proper place in the chamber, and is therefore out of order in making the interjection. He wants to know whether Elizabeth is a town or a city. I should have thought that, with his experience of local government, he would know how to distinguish between a town and a city. I think the distinction is based on population. For his education, I have no hesitation in saying that Elizabeth is a city of no mean proportions and beauty, and it would do his heart good to go and see it.
I have mentioned that money is made available in three ways under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. First we have the State housing authorities. Then there’ is the Home Builders Account through which money is made available to building societies and other societies that lend money to home builders. I understand that the building societies have done very good work in the States, especially in New South Wales and Victoria. The third avenue through which money is made available is the provision of housing for defence services personnel. Under the agreement. 5 per cent, of the total moneys made available for housing must be used for this purpose.
I have also stated that 80 per cent, of the Australian people provide housing for themselves in one way or another. We want to preserve that high percentage, for I do not believe in extending unnecessarily the activities of the State housing authorities. I am a firm believer in the ability of private enterprise to meet the demand, to a large extent, at any rate. Nevertheless, under this agreement, facilities are provided under which a substantial section of the community is enabled, on favorable terms, to build houses at moderate cost and have a reasonable hope of repaying the borrowed money over a period of year’. For that reason, it is most desirable that the housing authorities be given the opportunity, as far as is possible, to meet the requirements i the States of the 20 per cent, of the people who would otherwise find great difficulty in obtaining money to buy or build homes.
An interesting feature of the scheme is the revolving fund. As I understand the position, the revolving fund is made possible because of the different terms of repayment of the money made available under the agreement. For instance, money made available to the States is repayable over 53 years, whereas money made available to building societies is repayable in 31 years. The money repaid by the building societies in the shorter period is credited to a revolving fund and made available to the States for further housing. In this way, more money is made available over the period to the State authorities for housing requirements. The figures that I have been able to obtain disclose that in 1961-62 the amount paid into the revolving fund was £1,700,000, and it is expected that that figure will be increased this financial year.
As I said earlier, there has been very little activity by building societies in South Australia. We do have building societies there, but not as many as there are in other States. Consequently, we rely on other means of disbursing the money that is made available to us by the Commonwealth. Under the 1956 agreement, some States were able, under individual agreements between State ministers and the Minister for National Development, to allocate portion of the money for home building to lending institutions other than building societies. That system applies in South Australia to-day. I think it did apply also to some extent in Western Australia and Tasmania, and also in Queensland for a couple of years. In South Australia we have the State Bank and other lending institutions which work in conjunction with the Housing Trust in lending money for housing. The housing position in our State compares quite favorably with that in the other States. The backlag of housing in South Australia has been largely overtaken. I hope that we will always have a demand for nouses. Such a demand is one of the best barometers of economic advancement and prosperity. If we have a continuing demand for houses it means that the population is increasing, probably as a result of the continuation of our immigration programme. Such a demand is indicative of the fact that we are making progress and that the population is increasing. It is essential that we have a continuation of building in all States.
The housing position is not as satisfac- tory in New South Wales and perhaps in Victoria as it is in South Australia. The two more populous States have considerable backlags. South Australia is in a more favorable position. Its position is not perfect by any means. I do not think that we will ever reach perfection. I hope that we never overtake the housing demand. If the immigration programme is continued we will have a continuation of the housing demand and the need for a continuation of this type of legislation down through the years. When we have a cessation of building, that will be the time when we can expect trouble. I sincerely hope that the demand for housing throughout Australia will continue as that will indicate an upward trend in the economy. The building of homes and the meeting of the ancillary requirements for homes stimulate activity throughout the economy.
The South Australian Government has done a very fine job through the South Australian Housing Trust. The Government is not bankrupt of ideas.
– You did not say that about the South Australian Government in respect of rail standardization.
– If you do not mind, will you keep to the subject that I am discussing? If you want to make an interjection, make a sensible one and not one about railways at this stage. I suggest that the South Australian Government, after operating the Housing Trust for a number of years, is not bankrupt of ideas. Its main objective is to provide low and moderate cost homes for people who need homes and who find it very difficult to obtain finance to build them. Not very long ago the Premier of South Australia announced a new scheme, almost a revolu- tionary scheme. People may build houses on £50 deposits. That scheme was promoted quite recently and many hundreds of people have taken advantage of it since its inception. However, we recognize that ! housing is mainly - and I hope it will con tinue to be - the responsibility of private enterpreneurs. They have shown themselves to be quite competitive in prices and superior in many ways to the housing authorities in the types of houses they provide. The private houses are not as stereotyped as housing authority houses. They have more imagination in the designs. I sincerely hope that incentives will be given to private builders to continue the splendid job that they have done over the yeaTS.
Fortunately, in comparison with the number of types of houses mentioned by Senator Cant - I think he said thirteen - the South Australian Housing Trust has at least 40 or 50 types of houses. Therefore, we do not have the dull sameness that one finds in some housing authority areas. The South Australian Housing Trust has extended its activities over the whole State. It is not confined to the metropolitan area, although it builds houses mainly in that area. If any local government authority evinces any interest in the establishment of a housing trust block of homes in a country area, aid is forthcoming from the trust. I have seen many charming blocks of homes in the country areas and provincial towns of South Australia, where the trust has stepped in and met a need for low or moderate cost houses that people want to rent or purchase.
This bill is a good one. Its terms, including the amount involved, were hammered out originally by the Australian Loan Council. Whilst members of the Opposition, particularly Senator Kennelly, suggest that more money is required, we have to remember that these decisions were made by the Premiers or State Housing Ministers in conference and the amount of loan funds to be provided, £45,900,000, was decided upon. That sum of money represents the funds that will be expended in the current financial year. The provision may be enlarged as it was in the previous financial year. I hope that the need to do that will not arise; but should it do so I am sure that the Government would be sympathetic to increasing the funds available from general revenue. As honorable senators know, last year the Government provided a sum which it thought was sufficient for our housing needs under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. But, as a result of economic policy the Government increased that sum by grants to the States. Finally we spent more than £50,000,000 last year, compared with the £45,900,000 provided under this bill. This vast sum of money should help substantially to meet the ordinary housing requirements of Australia. In view of what has been achieved throughout the Commonwealth in meeting the needs of the people, particularly in housing, we can take unto ourselves a certain amount of credit for the fact that a great deal of thought has been given to this question and that we are determined to continue along the same lines. I am sure that our efforts in general will meet the situation.
.- This bill authorizes the raising of loan moneys totalling £45,900,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. A similar bill comes before the Senate annually as a result of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The main criticism that the Opposition makes of the bill is that not sufficient money is being provided for the high and rising demand for housing by ordinary wage-earners. When this bill comes before the Senate, we have an opportunity to survey the progress in housing that has been made in the previous year, and to bring to the attention of the Government the situation in each State. Senator Anderson was very critical of Senator Kennelly, who made a valuable contribution to the debate. Senator Anderson accused him of having discussed matters that were not relevant to the bill. I believe that the matters Senator Kennelly raised, and particularly his references to the high cost of land, high interest rates on second mortgage and the general plight of wage earners, were quite relevant to this matter. No honorable senator should be restricted in his remarks on this subject to the extent that Senator Anderson seemed to require.
We are facing the problems of a growing population. This is a matter of government policy, because 100,000 persons enter Australia each year as immigrants while our native population is also increasing. There were 45,000 outstanding applications for homes in Australia last year. According to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), funds were allocated for the provision of 18,000 dwellings. According to my calculations, the grant this year will probably provide for 15,000 to 16,000 dwellings.
We should pay a tribute to the States, which are providing homes at an average cost of £3,000. Even allowing for the shortcomings in designs, this compares more than favorably with the efforts of private enterprise, which is up to its neck in the exploitation of the housing situation. One does not have to go far from this chamber to see what can be done with an unplanned approach to housing. Recently, there were land sales in Canberra of land which belongs to the people of Australia. The founders of the Commonwealth provided for the acquisition of land in the Australian Capital Territory. But now, by design, a government department is allowing exploitation of the people who are transferred to Canberra without choice as a matter of government policy. When they arrive in Canberra they find that a standard is being set for them in the price of building blocks. Recently, blocks were sold for £3,300 each. Some wealthy person might have bought a block at that price. Others might be able to buy similar blocks now, but next year their names might appear in a long list in a certain document tabled in this chamber.
– Only a few were sold at that price.
– But they set a standard, because values all over Canberra have gone up since those sales were made and prices generally have been influenced. I have calculated in a simple way that it would take twelve years at £5 a week for a man to pay just for his block of land at that price. If the Government is going to allow that sort of thing to happen in Canberra, no wonder other people in the community say, “ Blow you, Jack, I will get into this racket myself”. The Government is encouraging land speculators and sub-dividers to fleece the public, As a consequence the cost of a block of land, and the construction of a decent home on it, are beyond the reach of even those on better than average salaries and wages.
I began to pay a compliment to the States because they are producing home units at an average cost of £3,000. Those homes are built by State instrumentalities, and the price is reasonable. The interest payments come within what might be called a fair rental return, and this makes it possible for payments to be made by the home-owner over a period of years. In that regard, the States are doing a far better job than is the Commonwealth with housing in the Australian Capital Territory. I have heard it said that the cost of building a moderate home of fourteen or fifteen squares in Canberra is in the vicinity of f 7,500 to £8,000.
– It is much cheaper here than in Queensland.
– Well, it is much dearer here than it is in the southern States. Nevertheless, the State instrumentalities are doing good work by buying land themselves, subdividing it and arranging for competitive tenders for roads, kerbs and gutters. In some cases, they have done that work themselves through State departments. As I have said, the homes can be bought at an average price of about £3,000. Therefore, this agreement to provide money for homes is doing a real service to the community. It is one of the brighter aspects of the economy at present when the States can produce reasonable homes for £3,000 each.
– What is the average rental of the homes?
– It is about £4 10s. a week or £225 a year. That gives a fair interest return on £3,000. Much has been said about the allocation of money to building societies. Unfortunately, the building societies are not in a position to supply funds to the home seeker without asking for a substantial deposit. The purpose of the Commonwealth and State agreement is to assist people to get a home, and to foster the pride of home ownership. As Senator Kennelly said earlier, it is one of the great binding forces in our society for people to have the security of a home.
For that reason, I believe that anything that puts the acquisition of a home out of the reach of the people represents a backward step. Therefore, the diversion of funds to building societies actually reduces the opportunities of the people who normally, under the old agreement, would be able to obtain a home without a deposit, as is the case in Tasmania. In that State, the occupier pays rent for a certain period, and then has the option of purchasing the home. The rent he has paid over the previous years is accepted as a deposit. That allows the average family man to achieve home ownership within his means. It is very difficult for a family man to save any great proportion of his weekly earnings. He has to provide accommodation of some sort for his family. With the decontrol of interest rates, persons will not invest in homes for rental, except at a very high interest rate. When one hears the rentals charged for flats and other accommodation, one wonders how people can afford to pay them. There has been a reduction in the number of homes available for rental from older sources. People used to be prepared to accept 3, 4 or 5 per cent, interest on a fairly gilt-edged security such as a block of flats. To-day they have opportunities for investment at 8, 10 and 12 per cent., so that field of housing finance has dried up considerably. This places more responsibility upon the Commonwealth Government, which is the collector of public moneys.
Figures have been given over a period in relation to overtaking the housing lag, but each year these have been proved to be under-estimates. We do not seem to be any nearer to overcoming the lag. Apart from this, sections of our larger cities have already become a very bad advertisement for a democracy such as ours. We need a programme of slum clearance. In certain areas we see overcrowding, very small frontages and dilapidated houses. Last year’s census showed that 80,000 families shared accommodation and 22,000 families lived in huts, sheds and tents. Therefore, over 100,000 families were in sub-standard accommodation. Because of the barriers against them, in the form of lack of finance or a low position on the priority list, there is very little hope of their getting homes. Every honorable senator has a responsibility to raise such matters when this subject comes before the Senate.
An amount of £2,500,000 is to be allocated to Tasmania. We continually have persons coming along to various federal members with plaintive stories of bad accommodation and the great need for homes. The Tasmanian housing department does its very best in extreme cases, where persons are to be evicted. Nothing is more soul-searing than to see women and children faced with an eviction order. The husband is perhaps not a good provider, but this is not the fault of the children, who are the greatest sufferers. These great problems can be met only by the allocation of more funds to housing departments to increase the number of homes built annually. We hope that these funds will be made available speedily and that in the forthcoming year the Government will make a more vigorous attack on the lag in housing so that the accommodation standards for all sections of the community will be worthy of the democracy that we claim to sustain here.
– The bill before us is a simple bill. The permission of the Senate and of the Parliament is sought for the Australian Government to borrow £45,900,000 and hand that money to the States for the States to use for a particular type of housing construction. This amount was fixed by the Premiers themselves. They, having regard to the total amount available for works and housing, said, “ From that amount we wish you to borrow on our behalf £45,900,000 for housing.” The expenditure of the money so provided is entirely within the preserve of the States. The responsibility for spending it is entirely on their shoulders. Really, all that we are required to do is to give authority to the Commonwealth to raise a sum of money, the amount and the expenditure of which are the responsibility of the States.
There has been no objection to the principle of the bill. The speeches that have been made on it from the Opposition side, as to about 90 per cent, of them, starting with the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kenelly), seem to have been on matters which are not dealt with in the bill and are not the responsibility of this Government or this Parliament. Senator Kennelly asked why we did not suggest or see that the States insured the houses that they built in the way in which the War Service Homes Division, which is our responsibility, insures its houses. The answer is that the agreement signed by the
Commonwealth and the States clearly puts forward that it is the responsibiliy of the States to carry out the policies in accordance with which they spend this money. It is open to them to implement any insurance scheme they wish to have, if they think it is in their best interests. As far as I know none of them does that, although in at least two States there are State insurance offices. If the State governments choose to agree with Senator Kennelly, there is nothing to stop them from implementing any insurance scheme they wish, but it is not our responsibility to see that they do it, nor have we any power to see that they do it.
As far as I can see, questions regarding the price of land do not derive from a consideration of how much money shall be borrowed for the construction of houses by the States. Most of the discussion from the opposite side of the chamber has been along the lines that the amount provided under this bill is not enough. That is a perennial claim, one that is made whenever this bill comes before us, which is annually. Whatever the sum involved, it is claimed to be not enough. All I can do is emphasize that it is the sum which the Premiers sought to have borrowed for this purpose.
I should like to add that this measure covers only one avenue of housing construction. Under this bill £45,900,000 will be provided for housing construction, of which 70 per cent, will be for the construction of houses for persons of low or medium incomes. In addition to the money to be provided under this legislation, the Commonwealth is making available £35,000,000 a year for the construction of war service homes. In addition, people are borrowing £66,000,000 a year from banks and life insurance offices for the construction of houses. In addition, the Commonwealth Government has been making available £56,000,000 a year for the construction of homes for the aged and for servicemen, and housing in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
I would say that we are close to two goals. One is the goal of employing the skilled man-power and material that are available for this work, but at the same time not creating an artificial scarcity of such skilled manpower and material. The other is the goal of providing what the economists think will be the need for houses. Senator Kennelly quoted some remarks by Dr. Hall, which have been published under the auspices of Sir Douglas Copland and a group that he has formed to do something or other which he will no doubt tell us about in time. This document, which I now have before me, indicates, according to Dr. Hall’s third go at estimating what would be required, that we shall need to construct for years to come about 101,000 houses or dwelling units a year. I have cited figures to show that we are building about 99,000 houses a year. Dr. Hall’s document does not seek to state the need for housing in Australia. It studies the demand for house construction, and included in that demand is the construction of second homes in the Dandenongs and at the seaside, about which Senator Kennelly spoke. Certainly the figures indicate that the average number of persons to a house in Australia is steadily declining. In 1961, there was one dwelling unit for every 3.5 persons in Australia. That ratio of dwellings to population is amongst the best of any country. In a field such as housing, where you are dealing with the desires of human beings, you will never reach the stage where you can say that you are completely satisfied with the standard or quality of housing that has been provided. But there are limitations on what can be spent in any field of public endeavour. When we see something like £200,000,000 a year being spent on housing, and bear in mind the ratio of dwelling units to population, I think it can be said that this bill represents a genuine attempt - an attempt that has some success attending it - to cope with the problem of housing in Australia. In saying that I am not unmindful of the fact that the money provided under this bill is borrowed money, and that the borrowers wanted this amount of money expended as provided in this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13 th November (vide page 1327), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– 1 am sorry to have to speak at this late hour, but I understand that this is perhaps my only opportunity to address myself to a subject that is of some importance to the nation. I am referring to the impact on the medical profession in Australia of the proposed entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. This matter affects the people of Australia in general, and the medical profession in particular.
We in Australia are very proud of our medical standards - our exceptionally high medical standards. Those standards are something of which one may be justly proud, particularly if he graduated from the University of Melbourne. But the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community could alter all this unless we are prepared to do something about it right now. I suggest that we should not underrate this problem, because it could seriously affect everybody in Australia in the near future.
This problem has not been discussed previously in debates on the European Economic Community, and that is why I am bringing it to the attention of the Senate now. The problem involves the provision for compulsory reciprocity in respect to doctors registered in the United Kingdom and those registered in the member nations of . the European Economic Community. Section 1 of Article 57 of the Treaty of Rome contains some very portentous words which strike at the root of the whole matter. It provides among other things that the commission shall act - by issuing directives regarding mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates and other qualifications.
That was a simple majority decision. It affects not only the medical profession but also any profession in Australia. Assuming that Great Britain joins the Common Market, professional qualifications obtained in any country which is a member of the European Economic Community would automatically be acceptable in Great Britain, and if we follow it through this will affect our standards in Australia.
There is a great variety of standards in the multitudinous medical schools in European countries. Some are exceptionally high. In many you would be proud to be a graduate of the school. On the other hand, there are a considerable number of schools where the standard is deplorably low. The editor of the “Medical Journal of Australia” recently pointed out that one of the inspectors of the Medical Council of Europe had visited a European country and had reported that oral examinations had degenerated into a complete farce, that series of pupils passed in groups, and that students were given degrees although they had never been in a hospital ward during the whole of their training. That is something we would regard as unthinkable in our training of medical students.
– Is this in reference to the United Kingdom or to European countries?
– An inspector of the Medical Council of Europe inspected one of the universities in Europe. Not all universities are of that low standard, but graduates from that university would, as soon as Great Britain enters the Common Market, be eligible to practise in Great Britain, and therefore be eligible to practise out here. Lord Cohen, who is the president of the General Medical Council of Great Britain, said that among other things to be considered was the British system of education. That system clearly defines that registration of professional men is designed to assist and protect the public. The key words are “ assist and protect the public “. That is why I raise this matter. Are we going to allow our system to break down without doing anything about it?
In the United Kingdom Commonwealth diplomas and degrees are sifted by the General Medical Council, but of course once Great Britain enters the Common Market, European diplomas and degrees will not be sifted. They will be accepted between the participating nations. There will be no safeguards at all. We want to know what the position will be in regard to Australia when the United Kingdom will be forcibly obliged to accept graduates from European universities.
– Are you justified in saying that there is reciprocity between the United Kingdom and the European universities?
– If a doctor is registered in the United Kingdom he is registerable here.
– I mean between the United Kingdom and the member countries of the European Economic Community?
– Article 57 of the Treaty of Rome, which I read, makes that provision.
– It says that the commission may make regulations for the recognition of diplomas; but that is not automatic reciprocity.
– Yes. it is. I have no legal knowledge of these matters, but I understand that when this was discussed in the General Medical Council of Great Britain, that was the way the council interpreted it.
– It may not be so, but the Medical Journal of Australia suggests that it will be so. I do not want to argue about it. We have to protect ourselves. This is what I am leading up to. I ask the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) to help in whatever way he can. I suggest that we in Australia should form an Australian medical council of our own in order to make for uniform standards of registration in Australia. At the present moment each State has its own medical council which registers doctors in each State. It is pathetic that a graduate of an Australian university has to register in every State. He is not accepted in any State other than the one in which he registers until he passes - not an examination - but a cheque in order to register himself in another State. Surely if a person is registerable as a graduate in one State, he should be accepted in every other State. The other point is that each State has different ideas on residency, although at the present moment all States have accepted the principle that a graduate must have one year as a resident. Some of us think that you should have two years as a resident.
Then we have the problem of aliens. Each State tackles this problem in a different way. We in Tasmania think we have tackled it in the best way. We make aliens attend one of our universities for a year to become acclimatized. Each State thinks that its own arrangement is the best. However, all these things need a common background. What I am trying to get at is that no matter what happens we should not allow our standards of medical care to deteriorate. We should fight to the last to prevent them being lowered. One of the ways to do this is to have a general medical council of Australia. Each State is pathetically “ anti “ to anything that is suggested by another State. This is where I think the Minister for Health could give a lead by calling together, either the State Ministers, or the medical councils and holding a combined meeting with the Australian Medical Association in an endeavour to thrash out what we should do when Great Britain joins the Common Market. It is obvious that she is going to join it. That has been obvious for the last twelve months, despite all the talk in both Houses of the Parliament.
The only way to get over the point that Senator Wright mentioned is to have a meeting of these local councils with the Australian Medical Association and thrash out the whole matter. No one can get these councils together except the federal Minister for Health, because they are all jealous of one another and will not do anything until some lead is given. I think that the Minister for Health could do a lot of good by ensuring that such a meeting takes place. Then we would get some understanding of the real impact of what will happen when Britain enters the Common Market.
I wish to mention another point. I find I have to do it on the first reading of the Appropriation Bill because the subject was deliberately omitted from the Estimates when we were dealing with them in this chamber. I refer to the subject of medical benefits. I am rather bitter about this matter because I am beginning to wonder whom medical benefits benefit. It seems to me that we are moving to a point where the public is not being considered any more. The benefits’ are not going to the public but to the funds themselves. If you analyse the financial statement of the Blue Cross, which is associated with all the medical benefit associations, you find that it made a profit of £4,000,000 in 1960 and £4,750,000 in 1961. That is a large profit for a non-profit making organization.
Then we must consider the fact that all these funds together have £11,000,000 in reserves. I think it is time that the Minister directed these funds to do a bit more for the public who contribute to them. The Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, which is a non-profit making organization, made £500,000 last year. It has reserves amounting to £3,300,000. Surely that is enough to be held in reserve by an organization of that size. I want to know when the public is going to benefit. In regard to the medical benefit funds, the total receipts from Commonwealth and fund sources are 2rd times the amount returned to contributors. The benefits returned could easily be increased. Admittedly the profits of the organizations would go down, but, being mutual concerns, surely the contributors should benefit. We are reaching the stage at which life assurance companies are beginning to take control of the Government. They have become great financial institutions and now tell governments what to do. There should be an actuarial investigation of these funds to find out what is a fair limit for reserves. They should then be made to return to the contributors, who give them their profits, any excess profits that they have made.
Another point about fund benefits is that the Commonwealth basic grant is still 6s. a day for medical benefits, as it was in 1953. It has not increased. I repeat again for the benefit of honorable senators that the cost of living has increased since 1950, if not since 1953, by some 118 per cent. Parliamentary salaries have increased in that period by approximately 80 per cent. Despite that, the grant made by the Commonwealth for medical benefits has remained stationary, and nothing we can do seems to be able to induce the Government to alter it. A particular attitude is adopted by every one in every walk of life in relation to salary or wage increases. Every one thinks that his salary or wages should be increased and that nobody else’s should be. No matter whether we speak to a public servant, a doctor or a lawyer, he thinks that his salary or his fees should be raised and that nobody else’s should be. The Commonwealth grant for medical benefits should be increased. If the cost of living goes up, so should the basic grant that the Commonwealth makes. As I have pointed out, the fund benefits also could be increased from profits. I know that one of the matters worrying the Minister is that some of the smaller funds might go to the wall, but I do not think that consideration is really important when it is weighed against the benefit that would flow to the general public.
Every time that we speak of an increase of fund benefits we receive the answer straightaway that that would mean an increase in doctors’ fees. If these matters are to be tied up, obviously an increase of doctors’ fees would mean an increase of premiums to cope with it. On the other hand, if the Commonwealth made the increase first and the doctors finally increased their fees, there would be an awful stink about it; it would be said they were doing so only because the Commonwealth had raised the rate of benefit. But when parliamentarians raise their salaries we do not think about it in that way. We say that that is a good thing. If any one else wants to increase fees, however, it is wrong and improper.
In reference to medical benefit funds, I must say that I think it is wrong and improper that there should be doctors on the funds. The Minister for Health should take direct action in this respect. I propose to raise the matter in my own branch of the Australian Medical Association. I did start the ball rolling, and I shall take the matter up again. There should be no doctors on these funds. After all, it is in their interests not to be on the funds. I do not mind the funds having an advisory committee of doctors, but to have a fund run by doctors for the benefit of doctors seems to me to be improper. It is the same as having doctors on the board of a firm of funeral directors. To my mind that also would be improper.
I again ask the Minister, because I think he can do something in the matter, to see to it that there is a very close accounting analysis - I do not say a Senate inquiry - of these funds in order to find out how much more money they could give back to the people who subscribe to them. I also ask the Minister to look into the question of doctors being more or less directors of these funds, which to my mind is intolerable. Actually, I do not think the doctors should even wish to be on the funds. If they care to do so, they may act as members of an advisory commitee. I hope the Minister will take some notice of my comments on these matters and do what he can about them.
.- With the active incitement of my friend, the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), I wish to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the debate on the Appropriation Bill to make a passing reference to a subject which is becoming increasingly important in this country and which, I think, also is becoming of increasing interest to members of the public and some members of the Senate. I refer to Australia’s obsolescent broadcasting system. This very day I received from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a reply to a question I had asked on notice. I had alleged that Australia did not have a modern high-quality broadcasting system. The Minister stated in the course of his reply -
Australian broadcasting stations operate in accordance with technical standards determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and those standards provide for high quality transmission even though the frequency band transmitted may not be as great as is practicable with frequency modulation.
I propose to examine that statement and to contend that, because of inadequate planning, largely due to the fact that we have no body in this country corresponding to the Federal Communications Commission in the United States of America, we are committed to an obsolescent system of sound broadcasting. Even as we have been speaking in the Senate this evening, our words have been going over an oldfashioned system of broadcasting which was introduced into this country in about 1924. It is time that a little thought was given to improving the service to the public.
Because we will not adopt frequency modulation, we are using the woolly-minded method of vastly increasing the power of our national radio transmitters to get us out of awkward conditions. The PostmasterGeneral complains that frequency modulation would be an expensive system, but he sees no evil in increasing the power of national transmitters from 10 kilowatts to 50 kilowatts, whereas most frequency modulation transmitters operate on two or three kilowatts. Admittedly, the area of coverage is not so great, but the quality of the matter transmitted is a very great improvement on the results we can achieve with the present system. No man who wanted personal transport to cover a couple of hundred miles a day would get hold of an old coach and spend a fortune on it simply because it had been in his family for years. He would not take Boadicea’s old chariot and fit it with ball-bearings, trim the seats with solid leather, fit powerful headlights, buy a strong horse and think it would do the job simply because he had spent a fortune on it. Yet that is exactly the approach we are making towards our national and commercial broadcasting systems.
We are making a hopeless attempt to rectify an obsolescent system. As I have said, that is just as crazy as would be the attitude of a man who tried to turn a chariot into a motor car. I believe that the present Administration has been responsible for some magnificent achievements in the electronic fields in Australia since it took office. It has been responsible, for example, for giving us a system of 625-line television transmission, which has provided a quality of pictures that is surpassed nowhere in the world. It is equalled only in West Germany and Japan. There are many worthwhile achievements to the credit of the Government in this field, and it is because I would like to see that fine record made even better that I am urging that consideration be given to the introduction of a modern frequency modulation system.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir
Alister 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, 14 November 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621114_senate_24_s22/>.