24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hoa. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1963.
Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1963.
Wool Tax Bill (No. 2) 1963.
States Grants (Additional Assistance) Bill 1963.
MacROBERTSON MILLER AIRLINES LIMITED.
– I address the following questions to the Minister for Civil Aviation: - When did the Minister first become aware of the acquisition or the proposed acquisition by Ansett Transport Industries Limited’ of a controlling interest in MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited? By whom and in what circumstances was he so made aware? Did the Minister take any steps to prevent the acquisition? Has he given approval, express or implied, to the acquisition and, if so, when and to whom? In how many Australian airlines has Ansett Transport Industries Limited gained a controlling interest since it purchased Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in 1957? What are the names of the airlines in which Ansett Transport Industries Limited has gained a controlling interest since 1957? In how many and in which Australian airlines has the commission which controls Trans-Australia Airlines gained a controlling interest since its inception? Is the Minister or the Government concerned at the number of airlines in which Ansett Transport Industries Limited has acquired a controlling interest? I ask whether the Minister was correctly reported in the Melbourne “Herald” of Monday, 22nd April, 1963, as having said -
This is not a take-over. It is a purchase of a shareholding which since the inception of the company has been held by eastern State interests. What has happened is that an Australia-wide airline operator has bought the holding of an eastern States chocolate manufacturer.
Is MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited in receipt of an annual subsidy from the Commonwealth Government under a written agreement? Upon what date will that agreement expire? Will the Minister table in th« Senate a copy of the agreement? What was the amount of subsidy paid to that company in 1961-62? Is the Minister aware of the price or prices, or the average price per share, paid by Ansett Transport Industries Limited for the purchase of the shares of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited? If he is, will he state the price or prices? What are the names of the vendors of such shares? Was the commission which controls T.A.A. free to bid’ for the purchase of those shares? If it was not free to do so, why not? If the commission was free to do so, did the Minister afford the commission an opportunity to make such a bid? If he did not, why did he not do so?
– I shall attempt to answer the questions immediately. I cannot state the exact date when I first became aware of the acquisition or proposed acquisition, but it was late in March last. I was made aware of the proposal by the chairman of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, Mr. R. F. Rushton, who was conducting the negotiations on behalf of the MacRobertson group. The honorable senator asked whether I took any steps to prevent the acquisition. My reply is that I did not take any such steps. As to whether I approved the acquisition expressly or by implication, I can say that I gave express approval - that term might be used - to the vendor to dispose of his shares when he approached me.
The honorable senator asked in how many Australian airlines Ansett Transport Industries Limited had gained a controlling interest since the organization purchased Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in 1957. My reply is in two sections. In 1957 when Ansett Transport Industries Limited acquired the old A.N.A. company, it was a condition of the purchase that it should also acquire Bungana Investment Proprietary Limited, a subsidiary of the old A.N.A. organization. The Bungana organization was virtually the owner of two airlines engaged in air transport in New South Wales and in Queensland. So, simultaneously with the acquisition of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and as part of the purchase deal, Ansett Transport Industries Limited acquired the two airlines I have referred to - Butler
Air Transport Limited and Queensland Airlines. Lengthy litigation followed, but I believe I arn completely correct in saying that the acquisition of those two airlines was part and parcel of the negotiations which led to the acquisition by Ansett Transport Industries Limited of the old A.N.A. company. Since then, Ansett has acquired the whole of the shareholding in Guinea Airways Proprietary Limited in South Australia and1, more recently, a controlling interest in MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited in Western Australia. I think that that answers question number 6 as well as question number 5.
I have been asked in how many and in what Australian airlines has the commission controlling Trans-Australia Airlines gained a controlling interest since its inception. My reply is that it has gained such an interest in no airline at all.
As to whether the Minister or the Government is concerned at the acquisition, the answer to this requires me to restate briefly the policy of the Government on the conduct of airlines in Australia. Our policy is that on the trunk lines there shall be two airlines in operation, one of which shall be an airline conducted by the Australian National Airlines Commission. This is part and parcel of our legislation, which ensures the continuance of the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines. Airlines ofl the trunk routes have been operated over a period of years by a number of companies, some of them subsidiaries of the Ansett group and others privately owned. The policy of the Government has been to support those airlines by subsidy where necessary. May I say in passing that the prime object of paying subsidies is not to benefit the airlines themselves but to ensure that airline services are brought to people in isolated areas who would be without air
Services if it were not for the subsidies.
The honorable senator quoted a statement attributed to me and asked whether I had been correctly reported. May I say that I did not keep a record of the relevant
Statement at the time, because it was a telephone conversation, but I believe the statement referred to by the honorable senator is substantially correct as I read it. MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited is in receipt of an annual subsidy. The agreement will expire in 1969. It is a ten-year agree ment which commenced in 1959. The honorable senator has asked whether 1 will table a copy of it in the Senate. It is not usual to do so, and I know of no reason why I should do so in this case. The amount of the subsidy paid to the company in 1961-62 was between £120,000 and £130,000. Those figures may be out by a few thousand pounds, but the amount was of that order.
I have been asked whether I am aware of the price or prices, or the average price, per share paid by Ansett Transport Industries Limited for the purchase of shares in MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited. Yes, I am. I am not prepared to state the price, because I regard that as the business of the parties to the negotiation. I think that the MacRobertson holding was held, in large part anyway, by MacRobertson Proprietary Limited, the chocolate manufacturer, but there probably were other rather smaller holdings of shares associated with the main group. The other holding which was disposed of was held by H. C. Miller Investments Proprietary Limited of Perth, a family holding company.
The commission controlling T.A.A. was not free to bid for the shares and would not have been free to do so without the approval of the Minister. I have been asked whether, if the commission was free to bid, I afforded it an opportunity to do so. As I have said, it was not free to bid, but even if it had been, as the honorable senator well knows, the bid would not have been a worth-while proposition for the simple reason that T.A.A. has no intrastate operating routes in Western Australia and would not have been able to operate the airline had it acquired it.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether there has been criticism from either the local authorities or the people of Western Australia because of the purchase by AnsettA.N.A. of shares in MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited? If there has been criticism, would the Minister care to inform the Senate of its source? Has the Governs ment of Western Australia stated its opinion of this transaction, and has the Opposition party in Western Australia indicated its official attitude?
– There has been criticism of the deal.
– In the “West Australian “.
– It has emanated from the source from which one would expect it to emanate. Mr. Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, took the opportunity, almost as a matter of course, to criticize the deal mainly on the ground, as I understood his comments, that the airline had been acquired by Ansett Transport Industries Limited. The only political figure in Western Australia whose criticism I have seen is, not surprisingly, Mr. Chamberlain. He spoke, no doubt, as president of the party, for both the lay members and parliamentary members of it. His criticism was of a very mild nature, and having stated it once he did not repeat it. Senator Tangney has reminded me that the “ West Australian “ newspaper also was critical of some aspects of the negotiations. That is true, although I think it is fair to say that it made no criticism at all of the operation, or future operation, of the airline. That is the degree of criticism.
It is a significant fact that Mr. Nalder, the Acting Premier of the State and a Country Party supporter, approved of the acquisition. The Minister for the Northwest, Mr. Court, publicly went on record as approving the proposition. Almost all the shire presidents along the coastal towns served by the airline expressed their unqualified approval of the outcome of these negotiations.
– All except Farrell in Broome.
– The honorable senator should possess himself. What Mr. Farrell said was that he regarded it as inevitable. In a further consultation which I had with Mr. Farrell on another matter he indicated to me his personal view that the move will bring benefits to his own particular area. As a matter of fact, Senator Cant, who claims to know something about this part of Western Australia, might be interested to know that Mr. Farrell has further informed me that he has already been in touch or will be in touch immediately with Mr. Ansett, in an endeavour to get the Ansett organization interested in a projected tourist activity which he has been awaiting an opportunity to develop for a number of years. For what it is worth, the “ West Australian “ newspaper conducted something of an opinion poll among a number of shareholders, and they, too, expressed their approval of the deal. Members of the executive of the MacRobertson Miller airline have welcomed this development as something which will give them a flexibility which they have never had before. They believe that this association with a large airline, which will make available to them resources of equipment, of engineering and the like, will greatly strengthen their position. So all in all, Mr. President, it will be obvious that this deal, which has been of such great interest in Western Australia, has been publicly approved by every one who is directly interested in the operation of this airline, and is criticized almost exclusively by Mr. Calwell, who does not know the north-west area or the Kimberley area of Western Australia, but who deigns to criticize this development from the fastness of Melbourne.
– I desire to” ask the Minister for National Development a few questions, and I would like to say, before I ask them, that members^ of this Senate know how interested I have been in the invention by Mr. Henry Dohan, of a lady’s ladderless and snagproof stocking. People have asked why they cannot get such stockings. I believe that Mr. Dohan has now opened a shop in Sydney. Is tha Minister aware that Mr. Dohan has been unable to procure stockings for tha Dohanizing treatment? Is the Minister aware that stockings manufactured outside Australia have now been made available for treatment by Mr. Dohan? Is the boycott of Mr. Dohan and his patent process by Australian manufacturers legal? If so, should not a law be passed to ensure that a supply of Australian stockings shall be available, thus permitting Mr. Dohan to support the home manufacturing market? Does the Minister not think that our local manufacturers are remiss in their attitude, for if stockings had been available a most valuable export market could have been developed during the past twelve months?
I am at a disadvantage in answering the question because I have not Senator Brown’s knowledge of this particular product. He recited a set of circumstances with which he is familiar but with which I am not familiar. I cannot really express an opinion as to whether it would be a good thing to have a law passed to cover the circumstances mentioned. I hesitate to say that this is an ordinary commercial transaction but, at this stage, I hardly think it is a matter in which the Parliament can interfere.
. the large and annually increasing range of insecticides and pesticides - too many for public health authorities to classify into safe or hazardous groups.
It was stated also that the first world conference on pesticides was held in Rome in November last under the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. 1 should like to ask the Minister: What research or investigation is being undertaken or is envisaged by the Australian Government in connexion with this danger?
– The honorable senator is correct in stating that many insecticides and pesticides are now on the market and that their classification into safe or dangerous categories is difficult. However, it is equally true to say in general terms that the method of usage could well be the deciding factor. Australia was represented at the conference in Rome to which the honorable senator referred, and several expert committees were set up by that conference in order to study this problem. I think it is fair to say, at this stage, that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is very active in this field and is making a very valuable contribution to the solution of the problem. My own department is compiling a poisons register which will ultimately list some 10,000 products in general use. The great benefit of such a register will be that in cases of poisoning it will enable prompt action to be taken.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government been directed to an item in the “ Sunday Mirror “, of 14th April, in which reference was made to a person described as “ Sir Reginald Ansett “ ? If so, does the Minister know of any such person? Is there any truth in the persistent rumour now circulating that Mr. R. M. Ansett is to receive a knighthood at an early date and that he has been strongly recommended for this distinction by Senator Paltridge?
I find it somewhat difficult to answer the question as there is no such person as Sir Reginald Ansett. Mr. R. M. Ansett, in my judgment, has made a very valuable contribution to the development of Australia. I think he is a man who is entitled to our respect. I do not think that this derogatory sort of question is fair. I am quite certain that my colleague has made no recommendation such as that suggested by Senator Hendrickson.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply aware that, on 16th April, a young parachutist plummeted in a fatal fall at Goolwa, South Australia, from a height of 3,000 feet, when his parachute failed to open; that on 20th April, Private J. A. Michael, of Dalby, Queensland, fell 3,500 feet to his death at Camden, New South Wales, when his parachute failed to open properly; and that, on 4th January, Private Donald Elphinstone jumped, at 8,000 feet, from an aircraft at Evans Head, New South Wales, but was drowned when he came down in the sea? Is the Minister satisfied with the workmanship and quality of the parachutes being used in the services and in the parachute clubs? Will he order a searching inquiry into the methods of manufacture and the reasons why the parachutes recommended for use are proving defective and causing the loss of valuable young lives?
– I am interested in this matter in my civil aviation capacity, and I took the opportunity recently to investigate the regulations and the control that the Department of Civil Aviation exercises over this activity. 1 am happy to have the opportunity to inform the honorable senator that my investigation of that aspect of the matter indicated that in its regulations governing parachute jumping Australia demands higher degrees of safety than are demanded in any other part of the world. However, the question is directed to me as the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, and concerns the manufacturing aspect. I can only say that I will have inquiries made and will let the honorable senator have a reply as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Did Trans-Australia Airlines enter into negotiations in 1957 with the Western Australian Labour Government for the right to operate an airline service in Western Australia? Was the State Government in favour of T.A.A. entering the airline field? Did the Commonwealth Government, or the Minister, favour T.A.A. operating in Western Australia? Was T.A.A. instructed to cease negotiations with the Western Australian Government? If so, who gave the instructions, and why were they given?
– The honorable senator says that the date of these negotiations was 1957. I am not sure of the date. My own recollection of this incident is that it occurred probably a year or eighteen months before 1957. It is true that at that time the then chairman of the commission that controls Trans-Australia Airlines made approaches to the then Premier of Western Australia about the possibility of obtaining rights for T.A.A. to operate within that State. My recollection is that the then Premier of Western Australia wrote to the Commonwealth Government and was informed by the Commonwealth Government of the situation which existed. It was pointed out that the only operator then - and still the only operator - MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, could operate only by virtue of the payment of a subsidy, and that if another operator were to be admitted to the field it would mean the suspension altogether of the subsidy for airline operation in Western Australia. Obviously one of the basic principles of subsidization is that competi tion is not subsidized. This was a basic point which had apparently escaped the attention of the Premier of Western Australia when he wrote to the Commonwealth Government. The matter was not pressed beyond that point, and it lapsed.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of the disparity between the price of superphosphate ex-factory in Tasmania and the price ex-factory in Victoria? Does he know that this difference is said to be approximately £3 a ton lower in Victoria? If this is correct, will the Minister inquire into these differing prices with a view to ascertaining the reason for them?
– I am surprised indeed to learn that there is a disparity in the exfactory prices of superphosphate in Tasmania and Victoria. I should have thought that, generally speaking, the costs would be parallel and I should have expected the ex-factory prices to be identical. Having said that, I shall find out the true position in this regard and I shall advise the honorable senator accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Government’s attention been directed to a report appearing in to-day’s issue of the Melbourne “Sun-News Pictorial” to the effect that directors of Silverton Transport and General Industries Limited had said yesterday that they had not received advice from any government concerning a plan to standardize the railway line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie? As this company’s subsidiary operates the 35 miles of railway from Broken Hill to Cockburn, I ask the Minister whether this report is correct. If it is correct, why has the Government not advised and consulted the company, in view of the announcements by the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia on 19th April that it had been decided to standardize completely this section of track and that negotiations would proceed immediately?
– No, I have not seen the newspaper report. AH I can do in the circumstances is to consult with my colleague, Mr. Opperman, and ask him whether there is anything that he can make public as to the negotiations which presumably are to take place with the Silverton railway company.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the position either to confirm or to deny the statements that appeared recently in newspapers to the effect that coal exports to Japan are likely to decline seriously during the next twelve months?
This is a long story to attempt to give in reply to a question without notice. We were developing an expanding coal export trade to Japan. Certain restrictions - a credit squeeze - in the Japanese economy reduced the demand somewhat. This was followed by the adoption of a policy in Japan to utilize local resources of soft coking coal to a greater extent. There has been a long series of negotiations. Hard coking coal is not affected by the changed conditions. There will be a spasmodic demand for steaming coals. The demand for soft coking coal may be reduced. Negotiations are proceeding. To say that the Joint Coal Board is hopeful is to understate the position. The board expects that there will continue to be a large trade with Japan in soft coking coal - from memory the figure is about 600,000 tons a year.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In the light of strong criticism to the effect that Australia’s export income from wool is adversely affected by poor wool-classing, has the Minister any information on whether woolclassers employed to class the Australian wool clip are at present required to hold qualification certificates before they engage in classing? If this matter is not regulated, are steps being taken to regulate woolclassers?
– My understanding of the position is that Sir William Gunn, the chairman of the Australian Wool Board, has been instrumental in bringing to the notice of the growers some criticisms that have emanated from overseas buyers concerning the classing of our wool clips. I understand that moves are afoot to furnish qualified classers with a certificate from which would flow an indication to buyers that the wool had been classed by a recognized wool-classer. I am cautious about forecasting what percentage of the clip such a procedure would cover, because many wool-growers have spent almost the whole of their working life in becoming familiar with the finer points of classing and I believe that many of them would argue that as a result of that experience they themselves are competent to class their wool. The pattern having been set for a certain standard of classing, it would seem that some form of indoctrination is being applied to the wool-growing community and I am sure that, if there is any legitimate criticism of our wool-classing, as time goes by the cause for that criticism will be eliminated.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether Australia applied to have a consulate established in West New Guinea. Is there any truth in the report that this application has been withdrawn? If so, what are the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal and the reasons for it?
– I understand that a liaison officer who enjoyed diplomatic rights was appointed to West New Guinea when the Dutch, who were then in that country, and the Australians were co-operating in relation to various administrative matters affecting the area. That post was to have been abolished when the United Nations took over administration from the Dutch, but at the request of the United Nations it was retained during that organization’s period of administration. The period of United Nations responsibility having ended, the post has been dispensed with.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that doctors who are registered by the Commonwealth Government to treat age and invalid pensioners and their dependants under the national health scheme and who are penalized by this Government’s medical service committee of inquiry have no right of appeal unless they are struck off the Government’s list? Is it true that no doctors have been struck off the list? If this is not so, how many general practitioners have been struck off? Will the Minister institute a right of appeal for doctors who wish to challenge the fines that are imposed upon them by the medical service committee of inquiry?
– The honorable senator, who comes from New South Wales, has raised this matter before in this place and in other spheres. His impression seems to be that the Government adopts an arbitrary attitude in relation to what may be described as anomalies in the attendances of a few of the doctors who are operating under the national health scheme. I must remind the honorable senator again that any such doctor is invited to appear before a committee of doctors who have been nominated by the Australian Medical Association and to discuss with them at a clinical level his attendance upon people during the course of his duties under the national health scheme. The doctor may state a case in his own right or may have representation if he so chooses.
I remind the honorable senator, also, that the committee, which is constituted of doctors who are of high standing in the community, bases its decisions and its recommendations to me wholly and solely on the clinical evidence that is placed before it by the doctor whose conduct is in question. Surely that is justice as we would all like to see it. I believe that that committee’s recommendations should invariably be adopted, because the members of it are in a position to form a judgment and to make recommendations. If the honorable senator is suggesting that there is resentment in the profession about this matter, I refer him to the Australian Medical Association. If the association agrees with his suggestion, I shall adopt a different attitude when I reply to him in the future.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation tell the Senate plainly whether the Menzies Government approves the efforts of the corporation, Ansett Transport Industries Limited, to obtain a monopoly of all private airline transport in Australia?
– Ansett Transport Industries Limited is a large Australian industrial complex which conducts, amongst other things, an air transport service. In conducting that service it naturally must have regard to the conditions in which it operates. If, not unlike operators in other spheres of industry, it sees an opportunity to strengthen or to make the airline complex more efficient by combining private enterprise entities by one method or another - not necessarily by taking them over - then I submit that it is not doing a disservice to the Australian public if it seizes that opportunity.
The honorable senator has used the word “ monopoly “. He throws in this word because it is a nasty word. As I have said before, and as recently as this afternoon, this Government has adopted the very successful policy of having two airlines operate over the Australian trunk routes. It is palpably plain that off-trunk route services can be conducted only when there is no competition and very frequently only when they are subsidized. Through that form of monopoly, as Senator Murphy describes it - a much more accurate description would be regulated, subsidized transport - we have been able to provide for the isolated areas of Australia air services which otherwise they would not have. If Ansett Transport Industries Limited has produced this result it is doing a good job. The honorable senator asked me to state the Government’s position plainly. I put it to him that he or somebody else on his side of the chamber might state plainly what the Opposition’s airline policy is.
– Stick to T.A.A.
– The Australian Labour Party would not only stick to T.A.A.; it would make that airline a monopoly. We have had practical experience of what it would do. It has demonstrated that by its actions. The effect of its earlier legislation was to run private enterprise out of the air. In those days private enterprise in the air was represented by a firm which was owned by six Australian shipping companies; and what irks the Australian Labour Party and the Opposition more than anything else to-day is that the private airline industry in Australia is owned not by six shipping companies but by some 59,000 Australian investors under whose ownership a policy has been evolved which has been completely successful and has led to the establishment of a sound industry. So there is not only a wellconducted, well-managed and profitable government airline but also, in the other wing of the industry, an equally wellmanaged, well-conducted and profitable private enterprise airline.
– Has the Minister for National Development read recent press reports to the effect that the Western Australian Government is carrying out a survey in the Kimberleys for the harnessing of tidal electric power for consumption not only in the Kimberleys area but also in the southern part of Australia? 1 understand that the Western Australian Government has been informed that one authority claims that the power resources of Australia would be increased by about 50 times if tidal power could be harnessed. Has the Commonwealth Government taken any part in this survey? If not, is it about to do so, or will it agree to do so?
From time to time I have followed reports on this matter with a good deal of interest. 1 think it is true to say that there are possibilities of producing cheap tidal power but, as with similar projects for the generation of power, this proposal is not as simple as it appears at first to be. A good deal of ancillary work is essential, involving heavy initial capital investment. So far as I am aware, the only tidal power station in the world is in France.
The difficulty in developing tidal power in the north of Australia lies in the fact that there is no demand there for the consumption of the power. It is putting the cart before the horse to make a huge capital investment for the development of a power scheme when there is at present no available market for the power. Tn this connexion we must remember also that it is contemplated that the Ord River scheme will develop hydro-electric power. I can answer the honorable senator only in those general terms. This is a matter of much interest to those responsible for power generation, and the time may come when there will be a use for it in that part of Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister seen the statement by Dr. Buttworth of Western Australia with reference to the sub-standard conditions in which the majority of Asian students are living so that they may attend Australian universities and technical colleges? This is a matter to which I directed the attention of the Senate more than ten years ago. Can the Minister inform the Senate how many Asian students are attending our universities and technical colleges? How many are studying in Australia under the aegis of the Colombo Plan? What arrangements are made to ensure that such students are satisfactorily housed? Is there any authority which supervises the accommodation of other students who do not come under the Colombo Plan? In view of the need to encourage and preserve good relations with all- our South-East Asian neighbours does not the Minister consider that the exploitation of students should cease and that decent living conditions should be made available to them through Commonwealth and State co-operation?
– I have not seen the statement by Dr. Buttworth to which the honorable senator has referred. However, I understand that there are approximately 10,000 Asian students studying in Australia. Of that number approximately 1,000 are Colombo Plan students. The Colombo Plan students are met by officers of the Department of External Affairs when they arrive in Australia. They are given an indoctrination. Accommodation is found for them, the value of money is explained, they are taken on shopping tours, and everything possible is done to ensure that they fit into the community and’ are cared for. There is no government responsibility for private students who come to Australia at their own expense or at their parents’ expense, but there are organizations to which any student who feels he is badly treated can apply, even if only to the Department of Immigration, the Good Neighbour Councils or organizations of that kind.
As I have said, I have not seen Dr. Buttworth’s statement, but 1 would have some doubts about the truth of a blanket statement that Asian students are living in very bad conditions, although I have no doubt that examples can be found. Any private person, whether of Asian or other nationality, who comes to Australia and believes that he or she has been exploited can approach a member of Parliament or a Good Neighbour Council or adopt other measures to have a case taken up.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. Have experiments with nuclear explosions been conducted at Maralinga, South Australia? Were Department of Supply personnel and vehicles used prior to such explosions in attempting to keep aborigines away from the area? Were aborigines in fact kept away from the area at the time of such explosions? Has the Government knowledge of harmful effects on natives as a result of these explosions?
– I shall have to ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper. All that I can tell him now, from memory, is that nuclear tests of a type were conducted there some seven or eight years ago. I shall obtain information on the subject and let him have it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I assume that he and other honorable senators are aware unofficially of the decision which was handed down in recent days by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Was an assessment made of the cost to the economy as a whole of a three weeks’ annual holiday, as awarded- to the metal trades unions, after that award is applied generally, as inevitably it will be if there is any justice in industry? Is there, amongst the Government’s advisers, an economist who is prepared to deny that the award will make a significant increase in the cost of goods, especially those produced for export? Did the commission have before it argument addressed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government concerning the incidence of such an award upon Australia’s export programme?
– I know that the commission had arguments before it, but I think it will be better for the honorable senator to place his question on the noticepaper so that the Minister for Labour and National Service may be able to answer it in detail.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, by stating that more than a year ago 1 asked several questions relating to the United States trade expansion legislation and its possible effect on Australian primary production. I now ask whether the Government has made an assessment of President Kennedy’s proposal. Is it true that the United States of America inflicted a serious blow on the Australian rice industry recently when an arrangement by Australia to sell 40,000 tons of Australian rice to Indonesia was cancelled and the United States was able to sell 60,000 tons of rice to that country? If that is correct, is it an example of the way in which the United States is prepared to break down so-called trade barriers?
– The question asked by the honorable senator concerns both the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry. If he will place it on the notice-paper I shall ask the respective Ministers to supply the requisite information.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied: -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Attorney. General has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
New South Wales branch of the War Service Homes Division, six are occupied by qualified architects, nine are occupied by unqualified staff of various degrees of technical experience and two are unoccupied.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Senator McKENNA (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Has the Government given consideration to the report presented in December by the committee appointed to review the operation of the Bankruptcy Act?
Has the Government given consideration to the revised draft of that act presented with the committee’s report?
Is it to be expected that a revised Bankruptcy Bill will be presented during the autumn session of the Parliament?
– The Minister has supplied the following answer: - 1, 2 and 3. Copies of the report of the Bankruptcy Law Review Committee, with a draft bill attached, were circulated to all members of Parliament in February of this year. At the same time the Attorney-General forwarded copies of the report to ‘interested professional bodies throughout Australia and indicated that he was prepared to consider any comments by those bodies. Some of those bodies have informed the AttorneyGeneral that they have set up special committees to consider the report and the bill. Although the Attorney-General is anxious to receive comments, and to introduce a bill at an early date, it is nevertheless clearly desirable that those bodies should be given reasonable time to give the matter consideration. When the comments have been received, the matter will be placed before Cabinet.
– Question No. 1 on the notice-paper in my name was asked on 6th December last. This is a straightforward question, the answer to which does not require any research. I want to know when I can expect a reply.
– I can only ask the Minister for Labour and National Service, whom I represent in this chamber, when a reply is expected.
Reports on Items.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER (New
South Wales - Vice-President of the
Executive Council and Minister for National Development). - I lay on the table of the Senate reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Air-cooled internal combustion piston engines not exceeding 10 brake horse-power.
Paper and paperboards.
– by leave - Mr. Deputy President, I wish to inform the Senate that during the absence of Mr. Townley on account of ill health Senator Paltridge will act as Minister for Defence. Also I inform the Senate that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) will be absent from the sittings of the Senate this week while on a ministerial visit to New Zealand.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Copyright Act 1912-1950 in respect of the procedure governing submissions to arbitration under section 13a of the act. This section applies to cases where there is a dispute concerning the public performance of works or the use of records which are the subject of copyright, and the parties to the dispute desire to resolve their differences by a voluntary resort to arbitration. It provides that any party to such a dispute may apply in writing to the AttorneyGeneral to have the dispute determined by an arbitrator mutually selected by the parties, or, where the parties cannot agree, by an arbitrator appointed by the GovernorGeneral.
At present the section provides for the regulations to prescribe matters relating to the practice and procedure before an arbitrator in an arbitration under the section. It has been provided by regulation that the arbitration proceedings shall be conducted according to the laws relating to arbitration in force in the State or Territory in which the arbitration takes place. This means that the law governing an arbitration under the section depends on the place where the arbitrator sits, and accordingly it varies from State to State. Since an arbitration under section 13a is intended to settle the rights of the parties to a dispute on a Commonwealth-wide basis under a Commonwealth act, it seemed to the Government to be undesirable that the law governing procedural matters should vary in this manner.
The matter was brought under notice when an application was recently made to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) for determination of a dispute under this section. So far as can be ascertained, this is the first occasion on which such an application has been made since section 13a was enacted in 1933. Shortly before that time a royal commission had been appointed to inquire into complaints about the activities of the Australasian Performing Rights Association Limited. The royal commissioner had recommended the setting up of a tribunal to which either party to a dispute about the use of copyright material might resort, and which would have jurisdiction to make an award binding on the parties. It seems that the government of the day decided not to implement the recommendation because there was a very strong body of opinion, including that of some of the most eminent authors and composers of the day, opposed to the proposal. Instead, the act was amended to provide for arbitration between the parties to a dispute in circumstances where the parties agree to submit their disputes to arbitration.
The bill now before the Senate would incorporate into the principal act provisions setting forth the procedure to be be followed in an arbitration under the section. The law which governs an arbitration would henceforth, if this bill be enacted, be uniform throughout the Commonwealth, and would not depend, as at present, on the place where the arbitration takes place. For this purpose, it is necessary to vest in a federal court such of the functions normally vested in the Supreme Court of the States as are required in relation to such an arbitration. Because the
High Court has original jurisdiction under other industrial property legislation of the Commonwealth, the bill proposes to vest these functions in the High Court. I would remind the Senate that the Government is giving attention to the question of relieving the High Court of some of the burden of work now laid on it by Commonwealth legislation. I have no doubt that when these proposals are considered in detail the question of jurisdiction under all of the Commonwealth industrial property legislation can be looked at as a whole.
The provisions of the bill follow, in part at least, the provisions which are generally common to the arbitration laws of the States. Constitutional limitations on the powers that may be conferred on the High Court have resulted in some modification of provisions found in State legislation. The new provisions are intended’ to apply to the arbitration under section 13a which is now pending; and clause 5 of the bill has been inserted to make this intention clear. Honorable senators will no doubt be anxious to know that the introduction of this bill to amend the existing Copyright Act does not presage the abandonment of the substantial revision of the copyright law of the Commonwealth recommended by the Copyright Law Review Committee of which Mr. Justice Spicer was chairman. The AttorneyGeneral is giving close attention to that report, and the larger project will be proceeded with as soon as it is found possible to do so. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the existing provisions of the Service and Execution of Process Act 1901-1958. The main purpose of the bill, however, is to add a new part to the act, Part IVa., the effect of which may be briefly described as making provision for the enforcement in one State of fines imposed by a court in another State. The act as it stands at present contains provisions which can be used for the enforcement of a fine imposed in one State when the offender does not pay the fine and is in another State. Under these provisions if a warrant of arrest is issued in the State where the fine was imposed it may be endorsed by a magistrate in the State where the offender then is. The warrant then authorizes the arrest of the offender and he is brought before a magistrate in the State in which the offender is found. The act empowers the magistrate then to order the offender’s return to the State where the fine was imposed and on being returned to that State the offender is imprisoned for the period of default fixed for non-payment of the fine.
Honorable senators will readily see that the procedure I have outlined under the existing provisions of the act is, of necessity, elaborate and costly, involving as it does, the sending of police from the State where the fine was imposed to the State where the offender was arrested so that the offender can be taken back to the first-mentioned State. In most cases the cost to the State concerned would exceed the amount of the fine. The legislation, however, not only operates in a way to cause great expense to the States but also can operate harshly against the offender by causing him to be removed from the State where he is living to another State to undergo imprisonment and then on his release leaving him to make his own way home. Increase in travel between States has, of course, led to a corresponding increase in the number of occasions on which persons may be convicted in States other than their home State, and the problem of enforcement of fines against those persons has likewise increased.
All the States have corresponded with the Commonwealth requesting that some more effective system should be applied under the Service and Execution of Process Act for the enforcement in one State or Territory of fines imposed in another State or Territory and that the system should take the form of a provision whereby the defaulter may be imprisoned in whatever State he is found. The problem was discussed on several occasions by the standing committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General and the final provisions of the bill have been approved by that committee, which is satisfied that the provisions, while according proper safeguard of the rights of individuals, will still be adequate for the purposes for which the States requested the legislation. I should like to make it quite clear to honorable senators that the legislation does not apply to an individual who is fined in another State and pays the fine. The legislation operates only where the offender neglects or refuses to pay the fine in those circumstances. The mainland Territories, namely the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, are included in the legislation and provision is made for the proclaiming of other Territories. The legislation extends to fines imposed for breaches of State and Territory laws, and Commonwealth laws other than revenue laws.
The procedures proposed in the bill are that where a fine is imposed and a warrant of arrest is or can be issued against an offender who is in another State, the court which imposes the fine may issue a warrant for the apprehension of the offender. The warrant is addressed to members of the police force in the State where the offender is believed to be and to members of the Commonwealth Police Force. When the offender is found, the constable who is executing the warrant must first give the offender the opportunity to pay the amount of the fine. If the fine is paid the constable will return the warrant and the amount of the fine to the court that issued it and will take no steps to arrest the offender. If the offender does not pay the fine, however, the constable may arrest him and take him before a nearby court. If the court is satisfied that the person before it is the person on whom the fine was imposed and is also satisfied that the fine is still unpaid, the court may commit the offender to gaol. Power is granted to the court to remand the offender, to grant bail or to allow time for payment. Irrespective of the term of imprisonment specified in the warrant the maximum term which the court can order is six months. However, if the term specified is less than six months the court has no authority to order a term in excess of that stated in the warrant. If the offender has paid or pays part of the fine provision is made for rebate of the whole or part of the term of imprisonment. The rebate which is granted is calculated on a proportionate basis. Although the procedure outlined is simple the provisions to give effect to it are, of necessity, elaborate. This is due to the fact that quite unusual complications of law may arise when a person can be imprisoned in one State for a fine imposed in another State, and every endeavour has been made to ensure that no injustice or hardship will be imposed on any individual. Honorable senators will note that the bill prohibits the apprehension or committal of a person under the age of eighteen years.
The amendments which the bill makes to the existing provisions are, excluding formal amendments, to sections 3, IS, 16 and 16a. The purpose of the amendment to section 3 is to facilitate the service of process for the maintenance of deserted wives and children and in affiliation proceedings. The amendment to the definition of “ suit “ excludes proceedings for the maintenance of wives and children from section 4 and makes it quite clear that section IS applies to such a process. The necessity for the amendment is due to the fact that it has been held in some States that a maintenance summons is a process for the service of which section 4 of the act applies and not section 15. The amendment to section IS is proposed in clause 6. The existing provisions of the act only permit a summons or information made on oath to be served under the provisions of that section. It has been found that not all informations or complaints are made on oath. However, the requirement that service of a summons in another State under this section should only be effective if the complaint is supported on oath, is a sound one. The amendment proposes to add “ or supported by “ after the words “ made on “. It will enable a process to issue which does not have to be made on oath, but will still give a protection to the requirement of an oath before advantage can be taken of the act to serve a summons in another State.
The amendment proposed to section 16 will extend the class of person who may grant leave to serve a subpoena in another State. The proposed amendment will enable court officers to grant leave if they are so authorized by State law. Section 16a contains the machinery whereby persons imprisoned in one State may be produced in custody in another State for the purpose of giving evidence. At present it is provided that the court before whom the prisoner is produced may make an order as to costs. A State may incur considerable expense in complying with an order for the production of a prisoner in another State and the amendment proposed will enable the court which makes an order for the production of the prisoner to require that the person seeking the order give security for the reasonable costs involved. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9th April (vide page 27), on motion by Senator Sir William
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The fact that this bill is coming up for debate to-day, so long after its introduction in another place, makes it rather difficult to collect one’s thoughts upon it. It is also some time since the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) made his secondreading speech in this place. Perhaps I should risk wearying honorable senators by reiterating, in order to bring things back to an even keel, that the purpose of the bill is to supplement amounts previously granted to the University of New South Wales, the Monash University and the University of Adelaide.
The whole purpose of government grants to universities was set out by the Minister in his second-reading speech. He said -
The Government’s policy is to offer, for a period of three years in advance, specified sums of money for the university purposes which have been recommended to us by the commission. In general, our view is that if a State university requires additional money during that period it must obtain it from other than Commonwealth sources. In fact, this usually means State government grants and private benefactions. The State governments recognize that they have a special responsibility for their own universities.
That is true, but what does it really mean? It means that the grants we are considering to-day are necessary because the reports upon which government finance for universities is based were drawn up as far back as 1959. It is very difficult to make accurate predictions of expenditure of a capital, or even a recurrent kind three or four years in advance. It appears to me that we will be faced in the future with legislation of a type similar to this unless we can find some way of getting more accurate or more definite reports from the Australian Universities Commission of the proposed expenditure during the ensuing three years.
I do not say for one moment that this method of granting money after drawing up plans for three years is a bad one. It is not. It is much easier to work if you know that you have a definite plan for the ensuing three years, but the plan should be made a little more elastic in order to meet expenses which cannot be known at the time that the commission prepares its report. That is, of course, what has happened in this instance.
The amount of money to be spent under the bill is not very large when compared with total university expenditure. A sum of £420,000 is to be divided among these three establishments. They are three new universities. In the main, the University of New South Wales is a new institution, and as such, of course, has many expenditures which cannot be envisaged accurately. Much developmental work has to be done there. The same applies to the Monash University.
One thing we must ensure is that these second universities which are being established in the various States shall never become second-rate universities. Adequate money has to be found for them. It is not expected that the extension to the University of Adelaide at Bedford Park will be receiving students until 1966, but expenditure at the present time is necessary so that the University of Adelaide can make certain, at this juncture, that it can recruit the best available staff for the extension of its university work. We do not want the students admitted to the new institution to be rejects from the main University of Adelaide. We do not want any university in Australia to be a second-rate university which receives only those students who cannot be accommodated at the older universities.
It is appropriate that this bill should be considered by the Senate this week when my own University of Western Australia is celebrating the golden jubilee of its foundation in 1913. Vast changes have affected the university since then, not only because of the number of students now attending, but also because of the wonderful buildings there, of which we are very proud. When the University of Western Australia was established it was a free university, but it is no longer free. That, I think, is a retrograde step. I have said before, and I will say again, that had not the University of Western Australia been a free university I could never have attended it. Many people to-day cannot attend the university, and even though the Commonwealth Government pays grants to certain students they are still unable to afford to go to university.
While some people may say that a university should be reserved for the most brilliant students who do best, academically, at examinations, I have known a number of people who have become excellent citizens and excellent university leaders although they were not brilliant at their school examinations at the age of seventeen. They were able to benefit considerably from a university education and to find their real place in the community and become of great value to the nation. Despite the system of university scholarships the increase of university fees has prevented a number of students who could, perhaps, have become worth-while members of a university, from entering. Of course, their secondary education may have had some bearing on this. If they came from rural districts, or places where schools are not so well staffed as in the cities, their examination results might not have been so good as those of students who had the benefit of better educational advantages. But the fact that they surmounted many of the original obstacles should weigh in their favour.
I admit that the granting of Commonwealth scholarships has been a very big step forward and, in the main, I congratulate the Government for its interest in this matter. But I do not think we are doing enough about it. For instance, in 1953 there were 7,210 applicants for Commonwealth scholarships, but only 2,734 scholarships were granted - that is, to 38 per cent, of those who applied. I have no figures for 1962, but in 1961 16,746 students applied for Commonwealth scholarships and only 3,872, or 23 per cent., received scholarships. That means that the other 77 per cent, who applied for Commonwealth scholarships did not get them and, in most cases, were unable to become full-time students at a university. I am not saying that it does anybody any harm to be a part-time student. I know that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Sir William Spooner) agrees with me. I was only a part-time student, and so was he. I hope we are none the worse for it. At the same time I feel that a full-time student at a university does have great advantages. One of the main differences between Australian and American universities is that in America the vast majority of students are in residence at the university and get something more than mere lectures. They get all that can be had by residential students. They learn much more of the undefinable things, such as esprit de corps, that a university can provide.
– And teamwork!
– Yes. In Australia not the majority, but only the privileged minority of students are resident at universities. In my own State, we have carried out a very successful experiment; it was something good that came out of the war. An American flying boat and submarine base was established at Crawley Bay, on the shores of which our university stands. The men manning the base were housed in army-type buildings on the university grounds. These were to be demolished after the war but, at the request of the university authorities, I approached our Minister for the Army and other service Ministers, and we were able to retain those buildings temporarily to house residential students at the university. Prior to that, we had only one university college, St. George’s, the establishment of which had been made possible by the benefactions of Sir Winthrop Hackett.
The amount of really good work that was done in those old buildings was amazing. There we established the nucleus of our men’s college and of our women’s college, which is now St. Catherine’s College and occupies a very fine building. We called the place Currie Hall - a name which means something in Canberra - not because it was a hot place but because Sir George Currie was the vice-chancellor of our university for many years. He and his wife did a great deal for the university and its students, which went beyond the academic side of university life. To be the chief administrative officer of the university during the war years and to carry on so very successfully was quite an achievement. Currie Hall still exists side by side with the new buildings for residential purposes that have been erected in the grounds. Persons who have not the means of attending the more expensive colleges can go into residence there at a very reasonable rate and still enjoy quite a lot of the advantages of community living within the university.
The University of Western Australia was the only free university in Australia when we decided to establish a medical school there. Western Australia, like Tasmania to-day, lacked a medical school and it was difficult for students who wished to become doctors to be accommodated in other universities. We faced up to the problem. The university had become such an integral part of the life of the people of Western Australia - not just because it was a free university but because it belonged to the people - that when the need came for the erection of a medical school and the call went out, people in every little village, hamlet and farm house throughout the length and breadth of Western Australia responded and we raised over £500,000 to erect our first medical school.
The expenditure of additional money on that medical school is now needed. At the present time students are working under great difficulties at the old Perth Hospital, which has been remodelled to provide residential accommodation and lecture rooms. The lack of adequate accommodation is something to which we Western Australians will have to face up quite shortly. Whether the Australian Universities Commission has this matter down for consideration in the next triennium, I do not know. The capital expenditure required is of such a nature that I can well envisage the matter coming before the Parliament in the way that these three items have come before us to-day. That is why I think that, while higher planning is good for the universities, restriction of university expenditure to the amount envisaged for the triennium is rather difficult, because each time there is to be big expenditure the matter must come again before the Parliament. According to the Prime Minister, it is not the policy of the Government to provide more than the amount set down originally, as requested by the Australian Universities Commission, for a three-year period. I do not know what is the best way of overcoming this difficulty, but I do know that it is a difficulty which any growing university, particularly a new university, is sure to find much more pressing as the years go by.
We support this bill. We do not oppose it, as we realize that it is necessary. I should like to congratulate the Government on the amount of work that it has done for the universities and the amount of money that it has given to them. We know that it has done a very great deal in that regard, but I should like to remind the Government that this is only the top-most layer of our education system. A good deal still remains to be done for the primary and secondary sections of our education system. Even on the technical side of tertiary education there is a vast field with which State governments find it increasingly difficult to deal adequately. I think that a challenge has to be made to the Federal Government to assist with more finance for primary, secondary and tertiary education. I am aware that a committee is inquiring at present into the needs of tertiary education. Why do we not establish a commission to inquire into the needs of primary and secondary education? After all, when we spend vast sums on tertiary education, including university education, we must remember that if the foundations of our education system are not sound we are throwing quite a lot of money away.
In addition, the number of children who are seeking higher education through our secondary schools and universities to-day is increasing so much that the States are finding greater and greater difficulty in coping with them. A human tragedy is involved in this. It is of no use merely to talk about these things abstractedly when we come to deal with the human beings involved. I think I have never been more upset than I was by having come to rae at the beginning of the year so many young people whose hopes of getting into the university or teachers’ training colleges had been dashed because they had missed out on a mark here or there. They could become quite good students. Normally, if the facilities had been available, they would have been accepted without any quarrel. They find now that they are unable to obtain entrance to teachers’ training colleges.
There is a great shortage of teachers throughout Australia and there is not enough money for teacher training. That is reflected also in our universities. I do not know exactly the standard of training for university teachers. I know that they cannot be trained to the same standards as those to which teachers are trained for primary and secondary schools. But too often, I believe, many of those persons who are responsible for the lecturing and training of our students in their first year at universities have themselves had no experience or training as teachers. Although they might have been quite brilliant as students, as teachers they might be quite the reverse, because a brilliant person does not tend to be very patient. Patience is one of the qualities that is most needed in teachers. I believe that much of the responsibility for the high failure rate in first year university students, which is quite a problem, lies in the inadequacy of the training given to university teachers. I am not being critical of all teachers, because many are born teachers; but there must be some link between the failure rate and the standard of teaching in the universities.
– Do university lecturers receive any training as teachers?
– That is the point. Because they have passed their examinations well and have their degrees, many of them have become lecturers without any teacher training at all. When all is said and done, the first year spent at the university is simply an extension of the period of adolescence spent in the school room. Another fact to be considered is the size of the classes, which perhaps comes back to the inadequacy of staffing. No matter what complaints one may have or what criticism one has to offer, the problem, is one of pounds, shillings and pence. No matter how idealistic, noble or aesthetic one may want to be, all the facilities needed must be paid for.
In the past there was criticism of the salaries paid to the professors at the Australian National University here in Canberra when compared with those paid in State universities, but that situation has been rectified. We must offer good salaries to get the best men. As I said earlier, we cannot afford to be satisfied with second-rate universities in Australia. In the past many of our graduates have gone overseas and have done very well, but because we have raised the standard of our facilities, salaries and so forth for professors in all our universities, many graduates are now returning. Here in Canberra we have an institution of which we all may be very proud. The standard of teaching - in fact, the standard generally - of the Australian National University, in both the field of research and the field of general studies, is very high. I still have a few pangs at the passing of the National University as a purely research institute. However, the marriage between the National University as a research institute and the Canberra University College, which is now the School of General Studies, seems to be going along fairly well. So far I have not heard of any approach being made to the divorce court, so I suppose the marriage has been more or less successful.
A great need still exists for more research facilities in the State universities and for more money to be made available for research into State problems. When Her Majesty the Queen visited the University of Western Australia recently, a fund of £10,000 was established in honour of her visit. That money was to be set aside for research into trace elements. Many more problems could be solved by laboratories in State universities if the necessary finance were available. It is a pity that we have to wait for a royal visit to realize the importance of research.
Although the bill deals only with the giving of money to three specific universities it opens up the whole Australian university system, because the measure is before us as a result of the financial policy which has been adopted by the Government for our universities and the establishment of the Australian Universities Commission. Our universities have been much better off since the establishment of the commission. I do not agree with those persons who criticize the commission and who say it is a buffer between the Government and the universities and that it cuts down the requests of the universities to what it thinks the Government will grant. I believe that the standard of the members of the commission is sufficiently high for u9 to rest assured that they will put the needs of the universities first. If it is found’ that the funds which have been granted by the Parliament to the universities are inadequate, I hope honorable senators will regard future demands as sympathetically as we are regarding those which are before us to-day. The Opposition supports the bill.
– I also rise to support the bill. I should like to thank Senator Tangney for the generous support she has given and the contribution she has made to the debate. This measure provides for funds for the University of New South Wales, the Monash University, and the Bedford Park extension to the University of Adelaide.
Normally, grants to the Australian universities are made every three years. The first triennium for which funds were made available was the period from 1958 to 1960. Those funds were made available following a straight out recommendation to the Government from the Murray committee. The grants for the second triennium, that is for the years 1961 to 1963 inclusive, were made upon the recommendation of the Australian Universities Commission. This afternoon we are considering a supplementary grant which was not dealt with by the Australian Universities Commission when it originally considered the needs of the current triennium. When the Government presents such a proposal to the Senate, it is natural to ask why the triennium grants should be interfered with. Normally, if additional moneys are required by any university, the appropriate State government or private benefactions are expected to provide those funds. But on this occasion the Commonwealth has come on to the scene to provide the additional finance that is needed. It should be remembered that evidence in relation to the triennium 1961 to 1963 was presented as far back as 1959. With rising costs and the development of new universities, it is not possible for anybody to state precisely what money will be needed two, three or even four years hence. The needs of new university projects are difficult to forecast. So the Government has been advised by the Australian Universities Commission that it is desirable that the three institutions in question should receive additional assistance.
I am a member of the council of the Australian National University, and as I sit at the council table I direct my attention to the requirements of that institution. As a member of that council, I know how closely requests for assistance are scrutinized by the Universities Commission. The members of the commission are astute businessmen and professional men and they are tireless in their examination of the proposals that are placed before them by the Australian universities. I should like to pay a great tribute to them for the way in which they go about their work.
Let me deal with the Bedford Park proposal in South Australia. As you, Mr. Deputy President, know, the University of Adelaide, which was established more than 90 years ago, is wedged in on a small piece of land between North Terrace and the river Torrens. The stage has been reached where there is absolutely no room for further building. The State Government gave to the university 370 acres of land at Bedford Park, about seven or eight miles south of Adelaide and it is here that the annexe, as it were, of the University of Adelaide will be created. It is expected that by 1966 it will have accommodation for 500 students. There will be six professors and the faculties will be for the teaching of languages, literature, social studies, psysiology and biology. Honorable senators can see, therefore, of what great use this new establishment will be to the student population of South Australia.
I welcome this bill in particular because I know of the dire need in South Australia for this expansion. It should be of interest to the Senate to know that the State governments are required to match Commonwealth grants in this field. In the case of capital expenditure they match £1 for £1 and in the case of recurrent costs they match £1 17s. for £1. I believe that the principle of not being hidebound is tremendously important to the development of universities. I am glad that in these three special cases the Government has kept the door open so that university development will not suffer by the fact that it was not possible to forecast three or four years ago what would be required now. This idea of keeping the door open for special cases is important because we in Australia have some important matters relating to university development on our doorstep at present.
The Senate will recall that recently a high level committee was appointed to inquire into university requirements in Papua and New Guinea. It is quite likely that its report will not be to hand in sufficient time for the 1964-66 triennium. So it would be a pity if nothing were done - if the report Were favorable - and if the door were not kept open for the possibility of a supplementary report coming before the Senate in the near future.
I also look at the position in South Australia and in this connexion 1 direct attention to the extension of regional universities throughout Australia. The University of New England has really arrived in New South Wales and is doing splendid work at both the under-graduate and research levels. It is doing valuable research, I understand, into problems relating to rural expansion in northern Australia. I was interested to read in the newspapers in connexion with this bill that the Townsville University College has already arrived and is processing students at present. This is quite an exciting development of university education in Australia.
Turning to the report so far as it relates to South Australia, I have mentioned the urban extension of the university annexe at Bedford Park; but I come to the point that I think it is time consideration was given to expansion of rural educational facilities in South Australia. There are two aspects of expansion I would like the Minister to consider at the appropriate time when submissions are going forward to the Australian Universities Commission for the triennium 1967-69 or for some supplementary treatment before such a triennium commences.
I notice that the South Australian Institute of Technology, a very famous institution situated in North Terrace, Adelaide, has received grants under the legislation that was passed last year. I should like to see an extension of such institutes of technology into the Spencer’s Gulf area in the north of South Australia because in Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie most important developments of an engineering nature are proceeding. For instance, at Whyalla, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is in the process of building an integrated steel plant worth in the vicinity of £40,000,000. At Port Augusta, 40 miles away at the head of Spencer’s Gulf, the South Australian Electricity Trust has developed two very large electricity generating plants using Leigh Creek coal. I venture to guess that the capital cost of those plants at present is of the order of £20,000,000.
At Port Pirie, about 60 miles to the south of Port Augusta, the Broken Hill Associated Smelters are established. This is the largest lead smelting plant in the world. All these three great projects, as well as the shipbuilding at Whyalla, require technical skill and engineers and similar trained personnel. I am sure that the training of these people could be improved upon, for they are coming forward in great numbers. This improvement could be achieved by an extension into the north of South Australia of the South Australian Institute of Technology which is at present being subsidized under this scheme, but only for its Adelaide establishment. I hope that, for the reasons I have mentioned, the Government will see fit to spread out in a northerly direction in that phase.
I look also to the south-east of South Australia for an extension of the annexe of the University of Adelaide. I was interested to read a speech made by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) when this matter was before the House of Representatives. He mentioned Gawler, 25 miles north of Adelaide, and Strathalbyn, about 40 miles south of Adelaide, as possible locations for annexes of the University of Adelaide. With all respect to Mr. Makin, I disagree with him as I think those locations are much too near the existing university institutions. Consequently, my mind takes me to Mount Gambier as a suitable site for a country annexe to the University of Adelaide. I do so with the great hope that it will not be regarded as a university for South Australia alone, because I think the importance of university education is that there should be no restriction of its service within State boundaries. I am encouraged to believe in this idea because of the way in which the Australian National University has developed. As honorable senators may know, the Australian National University is not restricted to undergraduate students from Canberra. I venture to suggest that several hundred students at the university have been drawn from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and also from overseas.
I should like to see at Mount Gambier, in the south-east of South Australia, a regional university, or perhaps it might be called a university college, such as that which exists at Townsville at the present time, and which ultimately would reach the status of the University of New England. I commend that idea to the Government. It is obvious from the bill that the Government envisages the expansion of university education beyond the present universities. I also make a plea for the establishment of an annex of the Institute of Technology at one of the main Spencer’s Gulf towns. Extension of the University of Adelaide in a southeasterly direction would provide adequately for the western districts of Victoria.
– I make no excuse for rising to speak whenever a bill dealing with universities comes before the Senate. I plead with the Government to extend its aid to universities. Let me say at once that I have the greatest admiration for the effective legislation which the Government has introduced in regard to aid for universities. For having introduced the legislation the Government deserves credit, if not to stay in office in perpetuity. However, the assistance that has been given is not sufficient. Some people are dissatisfied no matter what is done, and I am one of those who are not satisfied with the rate of assistance to universities. We in Australia can never be satisfied until such’ time as we have the equivalent of six more universities. I do not mean that we should build six more universities in addition to those we have already built. I mean that we must increase the size of the universities we have in order to cope with the numbers of people who wish to enter universities.
We in this country simply do not realize that Australia’s existence depends on university education. That is not an exaggeration. Unless we have scientists in sufficient numbers we shall get further and further behind in any armaments race. Because our existence depends on university education, it should be regarded as one of our defence measures, especially so far as the sciences are concerned. Teaching is most important. I do not refer to teaching to qualify students for the Bachelor of Arts degree which is given so lavishly in all the universities and which is really a marriage degree for girls who go to universities.
– That is rude.
– I do not know whether it is rude, but it is better to get married with a B.A. degree than not to get married. Those who teach deserve the highest commendation, because without teachers there would not be science students. However, it is vital for Australia to have room for every one who wishes to take a science course. We are not going fast enough to achieve that aim.
Another important point about our universities is the frustration that is experienced by eager young people who want to attend universities but who cannot do so. It must be most frustrating for a young man or woman, who wants to go to a university, not to be able to do so. If honorable senators put themselves in the position of such young people and think how they would have felt had they wanted to attend a university in their younger years and not been able to do so, they will appreciate how despairing young people are of the university position to-day. For this second reason, therefore, we must rapidly increase our university allocation.
I must refer again to the failure rate at universities. Unlike the vice-chancellors and the professors, I do not blame the students. It is not altogether the fault of the students. Admittedly, in the first year at a university a student suddenly has a lot of freedom. He may play up, but that is the fault of the university because it sets the matriculation examination. Having done so, the university says, “If you pass that examination you will be a fit and proper person and suitably qualified to enter this university “. Students pass the examination, but they cannot enter the university. Those who do get in do not know how to study. At school, they were taught, but at a university they have to learn, which is a totally different process. Our vicechancellors and professors apparently cannot evolve a scheme to cover the final year at school. We need a change from the old system.
We have our matriculation classes, and the last year at school should not be conducted under the rigid school methods. There should be a combination of university methods and school methods. If that were so, the boy who went to a university in the following year would know what he was in for. He would know that he had to work and to think for himself, instead of being taught. There are very few teachers at matriculation standard who teach their students to think for themselves. I have always remembered a history master who invariably made us think for ourselves, but that is not the rule. Usually, all that the teachers are concerned about is to get the students qualified to matriculate. I blame the universities for the failure rate because the matriculation examination is their examination. It is up to them to see that when students reach the universities they know how to study.
– In saying that the method should be changed in the last year at school instead of in the first year at university, I think you are putting the cart before the horse.
– I should rather modify the final year at school, although it amounts to much the same thing. I am quite happy to adopt the honorable senator’s suggestion that we modify the first year at university, but the principle is the same.
I used to advocate free university education. I do not advocate it any longer, but I do say that we should have a far greater number of scholarships. At present, roughly 25 per cent, of those who attend universities are granted scholarships, but the proportion should be at least 50 per cent. Why should we not have more free scholarships? I know that we may be splitting straws on this matter, but once a university is completely dependent on the government it is the end of that university. While scholarships come indirectly from the government, they do not result in government control.
– We never had government control of the university in Western Australia.
– But that was an endowed university. It was not dependent on government money. It was endowed by Hackett, and the Government did not have any say in it at that time.
I should like to see an increased number of scholarships, with no control, because we must have freedom in universities. If ever we have had a more pathetic example of lack of freedom it is in Tasmania. I do not like to hold up my State, in this matter, when I cannot speak proudly of it, but I remind honorable senators of the Orr case. I have never spoken publicly on this matter before. Those honorable senators who have read the book which has been written about the Orr case must agree that he was victimized, but to my mind, the person to blame was the father of the girl. I have never taken much interest in the case, but when we find a university so subservient to the government as is the University of Tasmania, and so subservient to the establishment and the press, which I assume can be included’ in the establishment, there is no hope for such a university. One of the newspapers published an editorial stating, in effect, “Yes, we think he . has been victimized, but for Heaven’s sake let us forget about it”. That is an attitude that I cannot accept, nor do I think there would be many people who could accept it.
If we have made an error we should face up to our responsibilities and’ acknowledge the error. We have the press so subservient to the government, which does not want the case re-opened, that when the Governor himself visited the university and made a statement - not quite related to the facts of the case, if I may put it so mildly - the press, instead of attacking the Governor for it, said, “ Let it pass “, because the government did not want anything more to be done about it. I can give another example which may be of interest to honorable senators. The Tasmanian Government asked our three daily newspapers not to publish certain facts. I raised the matter on the motion for adjournment of the House of Assembly and I was then taken to task for releasing facts which I believed the press should have made known to the public.
Just recently a most amusing thing happened, but because the Tasmanian Government did not want any publicity the news item was not published. An officer of the Parliament struck another officer. To me and to every one else that is news, and one would presume that the press would be happy to publish it. When an officer strikes another officer and is suspended, that is doubly news. But when an officer strikes another officer and is suspended for one week, with pay, it becomes hilarious news. Every one is saying that the officers of Parliament should all have gone up and hit the Speaker on the nose and been given perhaps a month’s suspension, with pay. What better holiday could one have? I mention that matter to show how subservient the press is to the Government of Tasmania. The Government did not want people to know of the stupidity of the Speaker - I suppose that is how one should put it - so it said to the press, “ Do not publish that “, and the press did not publish it. That is the attitude of the press in Tasmania if a matter concerns the Government. I take the Tasmanian press to task also for not supporting the reopening of the Orr case, with the result that we still have not a professor for the Chair of Philosophy. That is why I feel that we cannot have universities completely dependent on the Government.
Another matter that I should like to mention might interest the Commonwealth Grants Commission if it should ever get to know about it. We are giving Commonwealth money to various universities, yet in Brisbane, which at one time had the only medical school open to Tasmanian medical students, the Queensland Government promptly imposed a 50 per cent. surcharge on students who were not Queenslanders. I think that was reprehensible. Admittedly, it can be argued that students from Tasmania are not Queenslanders and Queensland taxpayers are meeting the cost of the university. But after all Queensland income tax revenue is Commonwealth money whichever way you like to look at it, and it seems rather hard that Tasmanian medical students who have to go to Brisbane for their medical education should be hit by a SO per cent, surcharge.
I have spoken before in this chamber about taxation concessions for education expenses. Income tax deductions in respect of full-time students cease when they reach the age of 21. As the Commonwealth accepts the principle that a university student should be the subject of a tax deduction, why should the deduction not continue until he finishes his course? The Commonwealth concedes that when a boy is 25 he is entitled to a greater scholarship allowance, but, apparently, between the ages of 21 and 25, if he has a scholarship, or between 21 and the termination of his course if he has no scholarship, he is not regarded as being dependent on his family. Who he is dependent on I do not know. There are a few who work their way through university and are dependent upon themselves, but for those parents who send their children to university I cannot for the life of me see why, at the age of 21, a child should be no longer regarded as a dependant for the purpose of an income tax concession.
I want to make only two remarks on other speeches that have been made in this debate. The first is on the suggestion that primary and secondary education should be further supported by the Commonwealth Government. I do not agree with that. If we are to do that we might as well give up State governments altogether. I think it is enough for the Commonwealth to take over altogether tertiary education, which is vital to Australia. That is all that the Commonwealth should do. The States have some responsibility in this matter.
A reference was made to the commission investigating the need for a university in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In the short time I was in New Guinea my inquiries from the 150 or so people I spoke to revealed that they could produce only one university student who was about to graduate. There would not be more than 25 who would qualify to matriculate this year, yet it is suggested that the Territory needs a university! At the same time we are denied funds for our university. Papua and New Guinea will not be ready for a university for another six to ten years because it is much cheaper to send the students to the mainland. However, I congratulate the Government on the work it is doing for universities generally. It is doing a magnificent job, but should be spending twice as much as it is at present.
.- It is not my intention to make a lengthy contribution to this debate, but I am prompted to offer some brief observations first, because of the very great importance of the subject-matter of this bill, and secondly, and naturally enough, because a university in my own State of Victoria is to be the recipient of part of the grant that is proposed in this bill.
The subject of education to-day is very much in the minds of all thinking citizens in the Australian community. It is difficult to pick up a daily paper, a weekly or other periodical, or to converse with any person in the community who can make some balanced assessment of the community’s needs and values, without realizing that in the very forefront of the community’s thinking is the problem of the education of our children and their children. It is so in the primary education field; it is so in the secondary education field and in the technical education field; and it is so in the field of university education.
Reference has been made during the course of the debate to the fact that there is a body investigating the needs of tertiary education at the moment. I think it is common ground and well known to members of this Parliament that the Opposition has been pressing the Government to adopt a different view of CommonwealthState relationships in education than it has been prepared to do up to date. We have asserted, in line with what we believe is the community’s thinking on the matter, that the Commonwealth must take an increasing share of responsibility for the future education of our citizens. It is very obvious that the pressures that are arising at the primary, secondary and technical levels are moving upwards so that, eventually they concentrate - or many of them do - in the universities. We know that there has been a tremendous amount of money spent on education. I do not want to detract from what has been done in the States and I do not want to turn my back as a citizen and as a member of this Parliament upon what has in fact come from the Commonwealth Government. It is really a question of approach, lt depends upon whether you think that this is primarily a matter for the States, each running its own education system, with the Commonwealth acting as a benevolent dispenser of funds for particular purposes, or whether you think that only one authority, the Commonwealth Government, is in any position to undertake the task of assessing realistically the ultimate educational needs of Australians and the ultimate demands on this community’s reservoir of skilled scientific and professional man-power. We of the Opposition have taken the view, which we are sure must in the end be adopted, that there can be no escape from the position that the Commonwealth must ultimately provide the funds for education. Everybody recognizes that.
Looking at the bill ,that is before the Senate at the moment, we find, in effect, this kind of outlook: “ Well, we have a Universities Commission. That is a body that sifts the demands from the universities and makes recommendations to us. When wc think they are sensible recommendations and approve of them we then say, “ Please do not ask us, in the ordinary course of events, for any further help until the end of the triennium “. lt seems to me that there is a weakness in this approach. I do not criticize the triennium as the basic unit for estimating the need’s of universities; but I suggest that there has to be a great deal more flexibility in the administration of this triennial system than is evidenced from the remarks made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) when introducing this bill.
There should always be an open door to those universities which can make a good case for the granting of extra money at any time, because the pace of university expansion is such that what was thought to be adequate a year ago is quite inadequate today. A good illustration is the sort of planning that took place for the Monash University in my own State of Victoria. It was planned to develop this university at a more or less leisurely pace, opening in 1964. The university was planned as a second Victorian university to take the overflow, so to speak, from the University of Melbourne, in the first instance. But the problem was made more acute by the increasing pressure of enrolments in the University of Melbourne and it became necessary to move at a greatly increased rate.
If we look at the last report of the council of the Monash University we see, almost with astonishment, that it was planned that there would be a student population of 450 in 1961, rising to a total of 8,000 full-time students and some 4,000 part-time students by 1968. That means 12,000 students at Monash University in five years time. That is the plan. As soon as one plan is made it has to be replaced by another to cope with some urgent necessity which arises. Mr. Deputy President, there are many problems that the universities have to face which are well-nigh insoluble but which have to be solved if Australia is to -grow and prosper and if there is to be a proper appreciation of the vital role to be played by graduates who are turned out by the universities. They are not turned out as from a machine. A university is not a factory. The people who arc the end-product of a university education h:ive a contribution of great value to make to the community.
Some very challenging remarks on this subject were made on a very important occasion in Melbourne last Saturday. It was the official opening of the medical school at Monash University. Professor Roderick Andrew, the very distinguished Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, made the keynote address on that occasion. He had some very important things to say. First, he spoke with appreciation of the help received from Commonwealth and State governments. He spoke of the great problems that had been encountered, in a very short period, to design new buildings, recruit staff, order equipment, construct a new curriculum, teach students, and continue research and take a share in creating the spirit not only for a new medical school but for a new university. He pointed out the problems that face a new university which do not exist for the established university. The problems of the new university are multiplied many times because of the need to start from scratch and get the bricks and mortar. It is also necessary to get not so many bodies as teachers but so many highly qualified men who are capable of transmitting knowledge to the next generation. He said -
But I must admit to some fears for the future. This school has agreed to increase its rate of build-up, that is the number of students entering, on two occasions in the last nine months, at the urgent request of the State Government;-
That proves the point that I made earlier about how quickly to-day’s need is replaced by to-morrow’s. He continued - and in the last few weeks reluctantly agreed to try and raise very substantially Die maximum intake. The associated problems to these increases, in terms of staff, buildings, equipment and the development of our academic plans, will fall heavily on the faculty and the university at a time when the ordinary complexities of starting a new medical school are increasing daily. If there were guarantees that adequate finance would be available and enough time to plan properly, I would not be so worried, but this is not the case. The faculty and the university as a consequence has grave fears about maintaining standards.
Now it is nonsensical if not immoral to be concerned in planning a second-rate medical school. One can agree that there are degrees of excellence Between various medical schools but the community, f hope, would not tolerate a lowering of standards. This rich country has enjoyed a level of medical practice as high as anywhere in the world for generations, and only yesterday the Prime Minister publicly acknowledged this achievement. Advances in medicine and the changes in orientation which are going on towards more fundamental discoveries in the laboratory on the one hand, and, on the other, towards a better understanding of the effect of man’s environment on his health and happiness, that is of human ecology, make it imperative that medical education should be in the forefront. It is folly to believe that tile planning and performance for these tasks can be done cheaply.
Finally, Professor Andrews made this statement which illustrates a point made earlier in this debate -
But in turn a new university dependent entirely on government funds can provide a faculty only with what governments are prepared to spend, and I am afraid this faculty is being asked to do too much, too quickly and with too little.
This is a problem which the community must face realistically and dispassionately. The claims of forests, water, roads, housing and so on are very strong, while those of education are of the highest priority. Unless this country is prepared to spend a lot more on all forms of education, including medical, there will be an inevitable decline in standards.
There is the anguished but authoritative cry of teachers and scholars in the universities who want to see the maintenance and improvement of university standards. They have to compete with other pressures which are very real. Last year and this year hundreds of students of the required qualification who had matriculated were turned away from Australian universities because of the application in some faculties of the quota system. The pressure of enrolment is an obstacle to maintaining high standards. There is also the overwhelmingly difficult problem of obtaining funds. There is a note of anguish but a note of realism in the challenge made by the dean of medicine on a very important occasion - the opening of the medical school at the Monash University - to those who find time or who are under a duty to think about these problems.
Reference has been made in this debate to the role of the Universities Commission, which is a very important body. As I understand it, it appears to have the responsibility of acting as a kind of buffer between the universities and the Government. In one breath, I suppose, it is the spokesman for the universities in their demands upon the Government and their requests for assistance. Then, turning its h. t around to the other side of its head, it becomes, in effect, the spokesman for the Government telling the universities what they can have in the current year. That may not be the formal position, but the commission stands between the Government and the universities as a kind of interpreter of the policy of each to the other.
This matter was raised when the bill was debated in the other place. One may speculate whether there is not soma pruning by the universities of their demands so that they are tailored to fit what can reasonably be expected from the Government at a particular time. One suspects that the Australian Universities Commission itself aims to live in the world of the possible and recommends only what it regards as likely to be granted by the Government. This is not directly to criticize the universities or the commission. I merely pose the question as to what is the role of the commission in these matters. It is a difficult problem.
When we come to examine legislation of this kind we are confronted with a set of figures. Those of us who took an interest in the building programme for the Monash University know that it was estimated to cost £7,780,000 for the triennium 1961-63. We know that the present bill allocates £114,000 for the Monash University, and other specified amounts for the University of New South Wales and for an extension to the University of Adelaide. But how can we pass judgment on whether those amounts are adequate or not? We do not know precisely what the demand of any one university was. We do not know how many requests for assistance by the universities have been turned down. We know, in respect of these particular items, that the commission was prepared to make recommendations to the Government which the Government was prepared to accept. That is all we know about it. We do not know whether the number or the type of requests made by the universities which failed to gain the recommendation of the Australian Universities Commission.
I make these observations in my short contribution to this debate because it seems to me that in the area of education nothing short of a new national approach to the problem is good enough. We have to think big about education or we will go under. It is not a good enough answer for the Government to point to the millions of pounds that are being spent and say that we cannot do any more. First of all we must assess our needs. Does the Government move merely in response to the express pressures that are exerted at given times, or has it some way of telling us - as a result of a proper investigation - what this community will need in the way of scientists and people in the various professions? Unless there is some such approach it is as irrelevant to talk to-day about millions as it used to be irrelevant years ago to talk about thousands. We look at the size of the national income to-day. We look at the size of the annual expenditure by the Commonwealth and, of course, it dwarfs the expenditure of years ago. This is so for many reasons, one of which is inflation and another the growth of Australia in its many aspects. It is no assistance to anybody who tries to point out that we need £60,000,000 or £80,000,000 to-day in a given area of education merely to say to him that ten, twenty or thirty years ago the expenditure in that area of education was only £300,000. The figures are meaningless, because they are not relevant to the subject.matter under discussion. 1 am not concerned to challenge the figures produced here. I am content to associate myself with Senator Tangney’s remarks in support of this bill. It is always gratifying to know that tertiary education is receiving some recognition from the Commonwealth Parliament. But there will have to be, in our view, a great deal more assistance before we can say that we are measuring up to the very great responsibility which we have.
[5.41]. - in reply - Senator Cohen, if I may say so, overstated his case. He relied, to some degree at least, on a special plea from a university professor in a faculty which has grown more rapidly than any other faculty. Even If I am wrong in that, it is a faculty in which the difficulties are greater than they are in other faculties.
– In a university?
– I am talking of a faculty, because I understood that the professor to whom the honorable senator referred was a professor of medicine. That is the first note that I sound. Medicine is the faculty which has had to face the greatest difficulties. We may get things out of perspective if we rely too much upon the demands that have come from that particular faculty.
Another point that Senator Cohen made was that it is not sufficient to consider the millions of pounds that have been spent, but that there should be a survey of needs. With respect, I reply to Senator Cohen that that is just the function that the Aus.ralian Universities Commission performs. We have evidence of its work in the recommendations that are made. We do not have only the evidence of the work of the commission, but we have also evidence that its work is accepted by the State governments. The State governments are financial contributors to the production of the recommendations of the commission. The result is that what comes before the Senate are, in effect, the considered views of the State governments and the Federal Government based upon an examination by the Australian Universities Commission. In those circumstances it is not right to say that this matter is one that has not been carefully examined.
On the face of it this is a simple bill. It provides for three payments. But it is a bill that deals with an aspect of such absorbing interest that the debate has gone off in a number of directions. Senator Cohen and Senator Tangney made a comment upon the number of young people who were unable to gain admittance to universities this year. At the beginning of the year I read in the newspapers stories of great distress because young people gaining their leaving certificates could not obtain admittance to universities. Just a month or so ago I read with great surprise further newspaper reports in which it was pointed out that in the final analysis virtually all those who applied - and who had the required qualifications - were able to gain admission to universities. It is a great mistake to be over-sensational. In a big matter such as this it is a mistake to be carried away by an atmosphere of excitement or emotion and make too much of the fact that young people find difficulty in getting immediately what they want in the way that they want it. Inquiries I have made show that with the exception of the faculty of medicine - and the exception applies only in Sydney and Melbourne - the great majority, virtually all, of those persons who wanted admission to universities and had the qualifications were able to gain admission this year. That is a very different picture, is it not, from that which was presented to us towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year? I am not saying for a minute that all is perfect in this world. Some who wanted to go to University of Sydney had to go to University of New South Wales. Some who wanted to go to Monash University or University of Melbourne had to go to the other, but that is a hardship, surely, with which they can live.
– Some had to withdraw their applications for admission because they could not afford to go.
That is another story altogether. The honorable senator and Senator Cohen said that great numbers had been unable to obtain admission because of lack of accommodation. I take a lot of satisfaction in saying that that point of view was grossly over-exaggerated by the press at the time. In the light of the facts as they appear at present, it was an overstatement. For all practical purposes, those persons requiring admission were admitted, the only weakness being in relation to medicine.
– I read recently that students in Sydney could not be admitted to university.
That is the trouble. One reads one report and not the subsequent report, or the first point of view remains in one’s memory, and perhaps one misses the second point of view. These are the facts of the situation, as obtained from the Australian Universities Commission. In brief, the problem of quotas has been very much exaggerated and is of importance only in medicine, and then only in the States of New South Wales and Victoria.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 till 8 p.m.
Deputy President, I should now like to turn to the comment that has been made about the present arrangement under which finance is provided to universities for three years ahead. Senator Tangney and Senator Cohen have said that this financial provision should be supplemented and that money should be made available, perhaps, on an annual basis. I point out that it is the universal practice for all governments to provide finance year by year. Governments run their activities on a cash basis, irrespective of the nature of those activities. Even for big undertakings like the Snowy Mountains scheme governments make their appropriations for twelve months only. Therefore, to accept commitments for a three-year period in the case of universities is a substantial departure from usual governmental procedures. Under the existing arrangement the universities are enabled to plan for three years instead of the usual period of twelve months.
Without having had any discussion on the matter, I venture to suggest that none of the universities would like to break down the present system, which is of great advantage to them. To suggest that, in addition, they should be allowed to make a further request every year is asking for the best of all worlds. If we were to superimpose another arrangement upon the existing scheme, I am certain that the present scheme would be weakened and eventually would break down. As I have already said, I do not believe that any of the universities would want to lose the benefits of the present arrangement.
It has been stated that under the present system, perhaps, requests are made but are not dealt with. I remind the Senate that right now we are being asked to approve the provision of £420,000 because the three projects in question are new and the circumstances surrounding them warrant this expenditure. We have provided a good solid foundation to enable universities to plan three years ahead, and we have provided for flexibility when particular circumstances arise.
Senator Cohen made the point that it w.is not known whether applications had been made which had not been supported and which had been turned down. Let me say, with all respect that that is not a virile, proper manner in which to approach a subject like this. To make such statements is to indulge in insinuation or inuendo. If valid criticism can be offered, the proper way in which to offer it is to say that a certain application had been turned down, that its rejection was unjust, and that the circumstances did not justify the Government’s decision. 1 believe there is no substance in the suggestion that applications are made and turned down. Without doubt it is of tremendous advantage to the universities for them to have this three-year arrangement. It is quite unfair and improper to make insinuations of the kind I have referred to. If criticism is to be offered, let it be based on fact, and let honorable senators not try to create a certain atmosphere when there is no justification for it. The honorable senator made a poor debating point. It is dishonest to suggest that something may be wrong when the person making the suggestion has no foundation for his criticism. The situation is altogether different if one can quote chapter and verse and can say definitely that something which should have been done has not been done. To suggest that there may be something which has not been done does not win any commendation from me.
I do not want to deal with matters that really are not referred to in the bill. It is not altogether proper for a Minister to ex press personal opinions about matters which do not come within the ambit of a bill, particularly when he is representing the Minister who has introduced the measure in another place. However, it has been stated that insufficient scholarships are provided. I suppose that, even if the number were doubled, somebody would still say that insufficient scholarships were being provided. Actually, the increasing number of scholarship holders is evidence of the very great contribution which the Commonwealth scholarship scheme is making to university education. The number of scholarship holders rose from 6,400 in 1951 to 9,300 in 1955, to 10,600 in 1958, and to 12,700 in 1961, that being the last year for which I have figures.
– They are not all new scholarship holders.
That is the number of people who hold scholarships. I have not ascertained the exact figure, but I think that 3,000 new scholarships are awarded each year. The number of university undergraduates who hold Commonwealth scholarships has doubled in a decade. That emphasizes the contribution which is being made by the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. Senator Tangney made the point that a great number of people who apply for scholarships are not successful. I again sound a note of warning in relation to statistics. My inquiries show that the statistics which are quoted so frequently relate to applications that are made at about the end of November in each year and before students have passed their school examinations and have made a final decision about what they intend to do. When the new academic year opens the position is quite different from that which obtained at the end of November.
I shall now make my last point. This is a debate during which the Opposition is able to criticize. That is parliamentary procedure as we understand it. But I do not believe that the debate ought to conclude on the note that I have sounded. The introduction of the present financial arrangement for universities, in which the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has been so much concerned, opened a new era for Australian universities. It changed the face of Australian university life. I have no doubt that honorable senators on both sides of the Senate have had the same experience as I have had as I have mixed with university people. I have found those people to be fulsome in their praise of the benefits which have been conferred upon the Australian universities. Evidence of those benefits is found in the fact that financial support in the form of Commonwealth grants rose from £1,400,000 in 1951-52 to £15,800,000 for 1961-62. It is provided also on two bases - one for recurrent expenditure, the other for capital expenditure. Thus, in the year 1962-63 the capital expenditure from the Commonwealth which has to be matched by an equivalent amount from the States is £7,000,000. So that is a building programme of £14,000,000 for the universities throughout Australia.
Senator Turnbull said how much the future of Australia depended on the graduates of Australian universities. To that I say, “Amen”. That is a powerful argument. But I point out also that in this country there are many demands in so many directions on our resources because of the rapid growth in our population. In a decade our population has increased by 25 per cent. So I say that, having regard to the total demand on our resources, the universities have been treated very generously indeed. I find these figures of Commonwealth grants year after year from 1951 to 1963 so illuminating that with the concurrence of the Senate I incorporate them in “ Hansard “ as follows: -
These figures are useful for reference. We are apt to look at these things year by year and fail to get into perspective the development that has occurred over a longer period. More than £40,000,000 has been provided by the Commonwealth for universities over the past three years, of which about £18,000,000 was for capital expenditure. That means that over the past three years the total building programme for Australian universities has been of the order of £35,000,000 to £36,000,000. That is not a bad contribution for a country with a population of 10,000,000 when we remember that many of the universities are old institutions. They have a good solid foundation.
I have no factual way of supporting these figures, but I would suggest that the Australian universities are getting a greater share of Australia’s resources than would be justified by the increase in the university population of Australia or by the growth of Australia’s population. What is being done for the universities is something in which we should all take some satisfaction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Sir Wililam Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I wish to make a few remarks because of the unctuous statements made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir William Spooner). This legislation involves a matter of £420,000 and I take this opportunity to pay a tribute, not to the Government but to the students of the universities, and more particularly the senior students, who are working so hard, sacrificing so much time and spending so much of their own money to bring before the Government its responsibility to provide for the educational needs of Australia. The Minister said that the Government had provided £40,000,000 in three years. In the same period the Government has collected from the people about £6,000,000,000, so the expenditure of about £40,000,000 on tertiary education surely does not entitle the Minister to any selfgratification. I know he is extraordinarily capable of such feelings. The Minister said he had no factual way of supporting his statements. That is true, because there are no facts to support him. When we see that the provision under this bill applies to three States we realize in what a meagre way the Government has answered to its responsibilities. In reply to the very real demand by the people for education the Government’s reply is that this is a matter for the States. It shelters behind that wall continually whether there is a demand for housing, national development or State grants to relieve unemployment. This is a government of bits and pieces. It ha9 thrown Australia into bits and is now trying to pick up the pieces.
Since I became a member of the Senate I have been most generous in expressing my views about the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I pay tribute to him for the interest he has taken in university education. It is probably the only real contribution he has made to the history of Australia, but his contribution has not been generous enough nor has it been consistent with the needs of the nation and the rights of its children. Irrespective of what the Government has done in the field of tertiary education it has not faced its responsibilities fully. The contributions that have been made by the Government since 1951 have not been large enough.
[8.20]. - in reply - I shall reply to Senator Dittmer by referirng to statements he has made on other occasions.
– I praised the Prime Minister for the little he has contributed to the history of Australia.
– In one speech Senator Dittmer said that he praised the Prime Minister for his interest in universities, as evidenced by the legislation.
– I did so to-night, too.
He praised the Prime Minister for this scheme which, as I said earlier, has created a new era in university life in .Australia. Having praised the Prime Minister, in his own inimitable way he tried to-night to go back on what he had said.
– That is not true.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER.He tried to withdraw his praise and substitute criticism.
– That is not true. 1 praised him again to-night.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER.It is always difficult, of course, to understand what Senator Dittmer really stands for and the views he expresses.
– I stand for the rights of the people.
– He is not going to get away with that.
– I suggest to the Senate that to-night Senator Dittmer has excelled himself. He has made the most confused contribution that I have ever heard him make. He is a university man and he is as pleased as Punch about this legislation and the effect it is having on Australian universities. In an unguarded moment he expressed that feeling in an honest, decent way, but he could not live up to that standard of ethics. He had to fall from grace and bring the matter back to the party political level.
– I take a point of order, Mr. President. The Minister said that I was not honest.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9th April (vide page 28), on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Loan (Housing) Bill which is now before the Senate seeks the approval of the Parliament to the borrowing of some £2,711,000 for advances to the States in accordance with the provisions of the bousing agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the respective State governments. This amount will bc distributed among the States in the manner described in the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner). It is proposed, under the bill, that New South Wales will receive £1,300,000; Victoria, £250,000; Queensland, £100,000; South Australia, £491,000; Western Australia, £470,000; and Tasmania, £100,000. The sum of £2,711,000, when added to the £45,900,000 which was appropriated by this Parliament in November, 1962, make a total amount made available by the Commonwealth to the States for housing purposes in this financial year of £48,611,000.
The Opposition, while not opposing the measure, because it realizes that the finance to be raised under the bill will give relief to some Australians who are anxiously seeking decent living accommodation, is keen to use the debate on the bill to point to some of the social problems which exist in this country because of the Government’s failure to overcome the nation-wide housing shortage. The Minister, by a somewhat superficial use of statistics, tried in his second-reading speech to induce a feeling Of self-satisfaction with the Government’s housing record, but honorable senators will remember that not one word was mentioned by him about the harsh social evils, anxiety and frustration which confront the Australian home seeker in this year, 1963. One would have thought that the Government, after thirteen and one-half years of office, and having regard to the rosy picture of the economy it constantly has painted, would have ensured that there would be no housing problem for the Australian people generally.
Despite the many books, articles and pamphlets that have been written by experts and authorities on the subject, one is unable to find anywhere the real extent of the backlog of housing demand. However, from what we read, we know that there is a considerable shortage of homes throughout Australia. In New South Wales alone, according to the last annual report of the New South Wales Housing Commission, 36,322 people are registered with the commission for accommodation. That is the number of applications in only one State. It must not be taken for granted that that figure represents the sum of all those who have such a problem in Australia. Indeed, experienced businessmen in this particular sphere of housing estimate that the actual shortage in New South Wales alone is of the order of 50,000 homes. In Victoria, also, according to the last annual report of the housing commission of that State, there is a shortage. The following statement was made in the very first paragraph of the report: -
Demand for accommodation has been maintained throughout the year with the receipt of 9,699 applications, as compared with 9,091 for 1960-61. Applications remaining unsatisfied at the 30th June, 1962, total 13,147 and still greatly exceed the number of dwelling units being built annually by the commission. For 1961-62, 2,400 dwellings were completed, but waiting periods in the metropolitan area are still in excess of two years and are up to eighteen months in the larger country towns.
So, according to the last annual report of the Victorian Housing Commission, an additional 10,000 people were registered with the commission, thereby increasing the backlog of applications for accommodation. The report states that people have to wait for periods of up to two years before they can have their housing requirements satisfied.
The last annual report of the Western Australian Housing Commission shows that a total of 7,823 applications was received and that 1,660 homes were constructed in that financial year. There are 7,658 registrations still outstanding with the Housing Commission. In South Australia the number registered with the Housing Trust is 12,000. The number of unsatisfied applications which have been made to the Housing Commission in Queensland is 4,166. In Tasmania, the number is 1,652. So, all told, as at 30th June of last year, there were 74,945 applications registered with the housing authorities of the respective States for reasonable accommodation. Of course, the figures I have quoted for the respective States do not take into account the Australian Capital Territory or any backlag that there might be in the Northern Territory. The overall picture shows that the demand is getting further away from the supply at a rather disconcerting rate. The actual shortage throughout Australia, I suggest, may well be over 100,000. I should like the Minister, in replying to the debate this evening, to tell the Senate what the Government intends to do about the State housing ministers’ resolution of 19th
March of this year in which they asked the Commonwealth to set up a committee to investigate Australia’s housing needs for the next five years. The very able New South Wales Minister, Mr. Landa, said at the time that an appreciable increase in housing demand could be expected in the next few years. He added that there was an increasing number of young people reaching marriageable age and that an immediate attempt to assess future demand, which of course will be affected by any migration policy, was indeed essential.
The fact is, Mr. President, that there is no lack of home-building in the more salubrious metropolitan suburbs. Localities such as Bellevue Hill and Point Piper in Sydney seem to be well catered for. I suggest that the situation could well be the same in Kew and Toorak in Melbourne, or perhaps Clayfield in Brisbane. Only in the suburbs where the ordinary man lives does a chronic shortage exist - the places where the ordinary working man wants to build a house and own his own home. It would be fair to say that there is nothing more precious to an Australian worker than to be able to go home after a day’s work, turn the key to his front door and enter the private sanctity of his home where he can enjoy family life with his wife and children. Every man in this country, which comprises some 3,000,000 square miles, not only should want to, but is entitled to enjoy the sanctity of family life in the community. That, I believe, is his right and should not be regarded as a privilege, but because of the policies enunciated and practised by this Government, for a large section of the Australian community it has become a privilege to own a home. Whatever a man’s calling, in a country with an area of some 3,000,000 square miles he has a right to a block of land some 50 feet by 150 feet that he can call his own, but as I have said this right is denied to many thousands of Australian people, under the policies pursued by this Government. Nearly eighteen years after the war many thousands of people are still living with their in-laws and in inadequate accommodation. Those who are not prepared to put up with this but are unable to raise finance to get a start in life are further impeded by having to pay very high rents. Let me quote a portion of a letter that I received from a constituent on 3rd April last. He said:
I wish to ask your help in respect to my housing situation. Over the past two years I have paid in rent for our unfurnished house the sum of £1,360. My wage is £21 per week, which makes it necessary for my wife to go to work. 1 have tried very hard during this time to find something cheaper, and in doing so have travelled hundreds of miles and applied to many people. While I am paying this high rent it is impossible for my wife and I to save money for a deposit for our own home. I have been on the housing list for a period of two years.
That is only one letter of the many that each member of this Parliament no doubt would receive in the course of his parliamentary duties. No one can deny that the welfare of the Australian nation and of the Australian people as individuals lies in the family life of the community, and no one would dare affirm that the ordinary man is not prepared to work for a goal if he can see a reasonable chance of reaching it.
The question to be answered is how can we devise ways and means of making this possible for every one. I suggest that one of the obvious answers lies in the interest rates charged by money lenders. Labour leaders, trade union leaders, businessmen and housing experts - indeed, land investors - are unanimous on this point, and it might be fair to suggest that the only ones who seem to be out of step are members of the Government and certain hard-hearted financiers.
In a book entitled “ Housing Trends and Economic Growth” by Dr. A. R. Hall, published by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, this passage appears -
It could well be the case that the present level of interest rates is too high while the limits of maximum loans available from the major institutional lenders are too low. In 1963 and the following years the marriage rate is expected to increase and the demand for housing will be accelerated. In the next few years our Commonwealth and State housing policies must be geared to removing the backlog of applicants in preparation for meeting the anticipated increased demand in later years. Housing for low income groups must be a top priority.
I think Dr. Hall is recognized by all sections of the community as being an expert on housing in Australia. His views on this matter have been supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In talks held on 21st February of this year council representatives told the Prime Minister and, I understand, other senior members of his Ministry, that the Federal
Government had failed to undertake effective economic planning. One of the submissions put forward by the council was that most of Australia’s economic defects since 1960 stemmed from a haphazard and unplanned allocation of resources which would not have occurred if the Government had pursued a sound economic policy. Among other things, the council urged immediate action to stimulate home building and its ancillary industries by making housing finance available to the States and to co-operative bodies at low interest rates.
If members of this Government are suspicious of a recommendation that comes from the A.C.T.U., perhaps they will take notice of a statement made by one who is not a trade unionist, one who has made, I suppose it would be fair to say, thousands, if not millions, of pounds from land investment and home construction.
– We, too, have unionists.
– They did not take much notice of the submissions made to the Prime Minister by the A.C.T.U. The person to whom I am referring is one whose name is well known throughout Australia, Mr. L. J. Hooker. In an article in the Sydney “ Sun “ on 21st February this year Mr. Hooker said -
There is no real shortage of houses - only an artificial shortage, created by the Commonwealth Government. How can houses really be scarce when any estate agent will show you hundreds - many of them on the market for a considerable time.
Mr. Hooker went on ;
If none of these hundreds suit, then a thousand builders will build you one that does. You cannot even say there is a real shortage of money because any one of dozens of hire-purchase companies will lend it to you. But they will lend it to you at a rate of interest you cannot afford - between 12 per cent, and IS per cent.
Mr. Hooker also said ;
The hire-purchase companies are far from being fools. They are only too willing to accommodate the home seeker at 12 per cent, or IS per cent.
Mr. Hooker went on to say that he often thinks it is easier to obtain finance for a hot-dog stall than it is for an ordinary, decent working man on an ordinary wage to acquire his own home.
– And they will take him back into the party after that.
– Yes. Of course, we all know that in recent weeks interest rates have dropped from, I think, 5i per cent, to 5 per cent., which I suggest is very commendable indeed. But we of the Labour movement suggest that this is far from being enough. The Federal parliamentary Labour leader, Mr. Calwell, in presenting Labour’s policy speech at the last general election recognized the gravamen of the housing problem and undertook to provide finance for homebuilders at 3i per cent. I suggest that this was a practical and forthright statement by the Labour leader, who showed that he recognized the real problem of the Australian home seeker. In contradistinction to that statement, what did the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) have to say about this facet of Labour’s policy? Speaking, no doubt, on behalf of the Government and its supporters, he described this aspect of Labour’s policy as impracticable and dangerous. It snowed where his real interests lie when he added that private investors would not be able to compete with the 3i per cent. rate.
Of course, I remind the Senate that the interest rate proposed by the Australian Labour Party at the time was ? per cent, more than the rate which has been available in New Zealand under both Labour and Conservative administrations. In 1958 the New Zealand Government introduced housing loans with interest rates rebated to 3 per cent, subject to a means test. We strongly suggest that if a government on one side of the Tasman can do something about this very real problem it is good enough for another government on the other side of the Tasman at least to have a go at tackling the same problem. At page 409, the Commonwealth “ Year Book “ for 1962 shows that the average gross earnings of the Australian wage and salary earner amount to ?22 per week. I suggest it would be fair to assume that, on the average, after tax and other incidentals are deducted, the net value of his take-home pay would be between ?20 and ?21 a week. Therefore I postulate the question: What hope has the ordinary Australian, under to-day’s cost structure, of being able to save sufficient for a deposit to purchase an average block of land at between ?1,500 and ?1,800 and have enough thereafter for a deposit on the erection of a reasonable dwelling? We of the Labour Party reject the thinking of the Government on this subject
The Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator Sir William Spooner) said in September of last year that the growing tendency of State housing authorities to sell houses on low deposit could, if carried too far, reduce the incentive towards personal saving. I suggest that for a Minister for National Development to make such utterances, having regard to the take-home pay of the Australian worker, indicates a dismal outlook for the future for the average working man. Labour believes that many thrifty people will never be able to purchase their own homes unless they can secure them on low deposits and at reasonable rates of interest. Since 1950, the average number of homes built annually is fewer than 79,000. The Minister for National Development, on 24th January, made the bold boast that 87,000 homes were built last year and said -
There is no doubt that the existing rate of construction is making more homes available each year than the number required by our growing population.
I believe I speak for the whole of the Labour movement and those who support us when I assure the Minister that there is plenty of doubt, especially on the part of those who have been waiting for good luck to come their way for some considerable time. There is doubt in the mind of Dr. Hall, the eminent authority whom I quoted earlier, who analysed our need at 102,000 homes a year and said that only 90,000 are being constructed each year. Dr. Hall estimates our requirements for 1967 as being in the vicinity of 115,000 and he suggests that by 1970 we will need 131,000 homes to be built each year in order to cope with the demand. But if the Minister has no doubt I suggest that he might be able to tell the Senate and the people when, in fact, the existing back-lag will be overcome. Let him tell us when the happy balance of supply and demand of homes will be perfected so that we, the representatives of the people, including the people whom I suggest are hit hardest by this national problem, may transmit such infomation to our fellow Australians.
In February, 1957, the Minister for National Development, who is now at the table, said that if 77,000 houses a year could be completed the back of the housing problem would be broken in four or five years. .It. is now six years later and despite the fact that on the average more than 77,000 dwellings have become available each year the problem is still as serious, if not more serious, than it was in 1957. I think I mentioned previously that 79,000 homes had been under construction each year. In January of this year, the professor of Town and Country Planning at the University of Sydney, Professor D. Winston, said it was time Australia stopped waiting for private enterprise to do something about its housing plight. Referring to the housing problem, the professor said -
For many years we have been facing it on a small scale, hoping private enterprise would solve it. What we need is strong Government action and the only government with enough money is the Federal authority.
I suggest, Mr. President, that if this Government has a plan to overcome the housing shortage it has not been made known to the people who are affected by the shortage. Indeed, if the Minister for National Development can inform me what the plan is I should certainly like to be told. We of the Australian Labour movement have a complete and imaginative programme to put forward. Labour suggests that a target figure for home building be set, even at the cost of a temporary cut in commercial building. According to the 1962 Commonwealth “Year Book”, £602,000,000 was spent on building con.strunction in the preceding financial year, only about half of which was devoted to house or flat construction.
Labour suggests also that with the cooperation of unions and employers more building workers should be trained for home-building. It suggests that taxation laws and banking procedures should be adjusted to make lending for homes more attractive to investors and institutions and that land development should be planned on an orderly basis with provision made for adequate roads, water, sewerage and gas. We of the Labour movement suggest that until such a plan is implemented Australian home-seekers will be regarded by speculative interests and land developers as being somewhat in the same category as Mexican peons who labour for the rest of their lives to redeem a debt. Whilst this Government - and I make this suggestion in all seriousness - practises the doctrines of hedonism, self-satisfaction and smugness the Australian wage-earner will be the victim of land speculators and profiteers. _ i Id opening this debate tor the Opposi-) tion, Madam Acting President, I urge the Government to formulate a definite plan of action and to say, in effect, to the Australian people that by a certain year there will be no housing shortage. I suggest that if it does not do so the well-being of future generations will be fraught with worry and anxiety.
– 1 do not intend to speak al any length in this debate, but there are several things I should like to say, two of them particularly in reply to Senator McClelland. He made the claim at the beginning of his speech that the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) had made no statement in this chamber on housing philosophy. I should like to say that no man has given more time and thought to the housing needs of the people of Australia than has that Minister. I have been a supporter of the Government ever since he took over his portfolio, and I know that he has given hours and hours of conscientious time and thought to this matter. It was therefore most unfair of Senator McClelland to suggest that the Minister was not concerned with the housing needs of the Australian people.
I think also that it did Senator McClelland no credit when he said that it had become a privilege, under this Government, for a working man to own his own home. The figures prove the contrary. During the time the Menzies Government has been in office there has been a gradual rise in the percentage of people who own their own homes, or are buying their own homes. In 1947, before the Labour Government went out of office, 53.4 per cent, of the people were occupying dwellings which they owned or were purchasing. By 1954 the percentage had risen to 63.3. In 1961 it was 70.3 per cent. In my own State of Victoria the percentage has risen to 72.3. Those figures alone prove that during the lifetime of the Menzies Government more people have been encouraged to enter into commitments to buy their own homes than at any other time under any other administration.
The purpose of the bill, as Senator McClelland said, is to authorize the Treasurer to provide loan moneys amounting to £2,700,000 to assist the States with their housing programmes. The honorable senator went on to suggest that the £48,600,000 which the Commonwealth Government is finding under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is not a very large sum. I happen to have in front of me - it was not a figure I expected to quote at all - the Commonwealth payments to or for the States. I find that the allocation under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement from 1945 to 1949 - a period of five years of Labour government - amounted to £63,800,000, whereas the Menzies Government this year - in one year alone - is finding £48,600,000. The total amount that has been allocated to the States since the Menzies Government came into office is £448,000,000.
– Plus an increased war service homes allocation.
– I will come to war service homes. It is, of course, very easy to criticize a government and to suggest that it should be doing more and more. I was very interested in some of the economic theories that were put forward by Senator McClelland. I wondered how the Labour Party could persuade people to lend it money at the interest rate that he suggested. What he did not say was that private enterprise was forced out of the home-building business because of the rigid control conditions that were imposed by State governments. It has never come back into it. That is the reason why the Commonwealth Government has to find increasing suras of money for the States.
I was reminded by my colleague, Senator Marriott, of the amount of money that has been found by the Government for war service homes. Before I deal with that I should like to say that since the Menzies Government came into office more than 1,000,000 new homes have been built in Australia. That represents about one-third of the existing homes in Australia to-day. I think that the Government’s record in that respect is a very good one. The war service homes scheme, of course, provides finance to ex-servicemen at 3i per cent. For some years £35,000,000 has been found annually for war service homes. This year the Menzies Government decided to increase the amount to £37,500,000. Since the inception of the scheme in 1919 more than 217,000 homes have been provided at a cost of more than £435,000,000. Of that amount £382,000,000 has been provided by the Menzies Government. Adding the amount the Government has provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to the amount provided under the War Service Homes Agreement and for housing in Commonwealth Territories, the total for the year is approximately £90,000,000. How any honorable senator can suggest, in the circumstances, that the Menzies Government has no interest in housing is beyond my comprehension. Of course it has an interest in housing. I do not think any person in Australia with any sense whatsoever believes that good and adequate housing is not desirable. We oh this side - and, I believe, also the honorable senator who has just spoken - believe that people should be encouraged to own their houses. I should like to see less money expended by State housing commissions and more money channelled into cooperative and other building societies which assist people to own homes. It is undeniably true that home ownership produces better citizenship. It brings, particularly to the mother of a family, a sense of confidence in the future and security, and this is most important. It creates responsibility in children, who understand that the parents are making a great sacrifice, to obtain a home and who are therefore inclined to treat the home differently and regard it as a personal belonging. For all of those reasons, every government would wish to see as many people as possible own homes.
I agree that land speculation has been one of the great difficulties associated with the tremendous increase in the cost of homes. I should like to see more money made available through banking channels to people desirous of purchasing homes. A matter that undoubtedly has been of great concern to young couples is the finding of the initial deposit for a home. Any scheme which will enable them to purchase a home on a smaller deposit than has been required in the past few years will undoubtedly be very beneficial.
The Government does not stand condemned on its housing policy. It has provided enormous sums of money for this purpose. I was particularly interested to hear the Minister say that the State Premiers had asked for a decreased amount to be devoted to their housing programmes. Surely the fact that the State Premiers asked for less money under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is evidence that the money we are providing in this way is as much as they hope to receive. I should like to stress the importance of the housing industry to the economic well being of the community. It is essential that every encouragement be given to private builders. I do not believe that the country will suffer through having private industry compete as much as it possibly can in the housing field. At present, about one-third of the whole of private investment in Australia is in the building industry, and anything that assists that industry must assist the community generally.
I conclude with the remarks I made at the commencement. Senator Sir William Spooner has been indefatigable in his attempts to find a solution to the housing problem and to gain for the people the very best housing conditions possible. I commend him for the work that he has done. Both the Government and the Opposition are supporting the bill. I support it also.
.- I have always thought that the Commonwealth Government has never done sufficient in the provision of homes for the homeless and that whatever it did was done grudgingly and unwillingly. As an example of how hesitant it has been over the years, I mention the bill that we are considering. In 1962 so many millions of pounds were made available for the construction of homes. Of course, the money is lent to the States, which in turn lend it to those persons who wish to have homes built. The Government was satisfied that the amount fixed last year was sufficient and adequate for all purposes and that it would meet the cost of home construction in the Commonwealth until 30th June next. But for some reason or other the provision of a further sum is found necessary. The Minister has not made plain to me or anybody else why this further sum is to be appropriated. It is an afterthought. If the Government had had sufficient nous, it would have made available at the beginning of the present financial year many more millions of pounds than the sum of the amount it did make available then and the amount that it proposes to make available now, because we were emerging from what is called the credit-squeeze period. The Government would have given an impetus by making more money available to the building trade, which is the trade with the most capacity for increasing the bouyancy of the economy. By way of explanation, let me say that a carpenter who is employed at £20 a week in the course of a week uses materials to the value of twenty times his wages.
Queensland’s allocation last year amounted to £3,800,000. The sum proposed to be allotted to Queensland now is only £100,000, to make the total for this financial year £3,900,000. Taking into account the increase in Queensland’s population, that is totally inadequate, especially in the light of the housing shortage in Queensland. I cannot blame the Government for the smallness of this sum, because I understand that the amounts made available to the States are in accordance with the calculations which they submitted to the Loan Council. The Commonwealth, therefore, is not solely responsible if the States are short of loan funds for home construction. But the Commonwealth is an experienced landlord or home owner. It knows the trials associated with conducting a form of housing commission. The Commonwealth operates in the field of home construction. It administers the War Service Homes Act. It provides the money, sees how it is spent and supervises the construction of homes. The report of the War Service Homes Division for last year reveals that 148,000 homes are still subject to the act. In other words, they are not fully paid for. Senator Wedgwood cited certain percentages in relation to home ownership to make it appear that under this Government’s administration home ownership in Australia has increased.
– I did not make it appear that home ownership has increased. Ir has in fact increased.
– The honorable senator tried to make it appear so to those who Were listening, but what she does not understand is that there is a difference between being a registered or nominal home owner and a real home owner. One has to travel a long, rough road between paying a deposit on a house and having it registered- in his i name and the time when he owns the deeds of the property. Senator Hannaford, who is now interjecting, should stick to his wheat-fields. He knows more about that subject than about providing homes for people. He is just not interested in this subject; he has no sympathy for the homeless people.
Let us see what happens to the money that is provided for the construction of homes. The Commonwealth makes it available to the States, which in turn lend it to approved persons. Before a person can qualify for home finance, he must own a building site somewhere. In Australia it is customary to build houses on blocks of land and not, as do the natives of New Guinea, out in the water. To acquire a suitable building site presents great difficulties. Senator Wedgwood should tell us something about the building sites which were sold at Middle Brighton on Saturday last at an average price of £4,303.
– That was too much.
– But the honorable senator did not advance any proposal to correct that state of affairs. She did not point out to the Senate that the Commonwealth Government and the State governments have powers of acquisition. They can acquire land for home construction or for any other purpose. The Commonwealth can acquire land to build a post office, a broadcasting station or any other building in which it is interested and the State governments can acquire land on which to construct railway stations, railway lines and so forth. They all have full authority to acquire land for homebuilding purposes. In that respect the Commonwealth and the State governments have failed the people of Australia. It would be easy for the State governments to appoint persons to ascertain the trend of development and where the next suitable building area would become available, to clear every acre of it, and then to sell it at a reasonable and fair price. But they sit back smugly and watch the ramifications of the big land jobbers, the building site racketeers, some of whom have failed in recent months. By doing as I have suggested the various governments could assist to provide the homeless people of Australia with homes. Instead of doing that, they have watchedeople pay as much’, as £5,050 for building sites down at Middle Brighton. I am not in a position to say what that land was Worth, but I do say that it was not worth what was paid. It would not be worth £5,000 a block to anybody. A false value has been placed on land that is used for building purposes.
I was outlining the procedure that is followed when the Commonwealth makes money available to the States for home construction. The States lend the money to people who have a building site and are able to pay a deposit on the construction cost of the home. People have a great struggle to save sufficient money to pay even the deposit. Supporters of the Government do not understand what I mean. Here we speak about people in the middle income group, those in the high income group, and others in the low income group. I propose to set out the wages of some of the people who require homes. A senior male shop assistant receives a wage of £17 4s. a week. How in the name of goodness can that man save, say, £1,000 between the time he commences work and when he is married at 23 or 24 years of age? That is about the minimum sum that is required to enable him to acquire a building site and to pay a deposit on a house. In many cases these employees, if in permanent employment, support younger members of the family and also their parents to some extent. A shop assistant would have no possible chance of saving £1,000 in the period I have mentioned.
A carpenter receives a wage of £19 15s. 6d. a week plus £1 for allowances, a total of £20 15s. 6d. A clerk receives £17 8s. a week; a carter who is driving a two-ton vehicle around this city receives £17 6s. 6d. a week; and a fitter and turner, who is in a special classification and about whom we hear so much these days when industrial tribunal judgments are delivered, receives £19 6s. 6d. a week. A butcher who works in a butcher’s shop is paid £18 4s. 6d. a week. These people are in the middle income group, but what possible chance have they of saving £1,000 between the time they start work and when they reach 24 or 25 years of age? To save that amount is an impossibility. For an average citizen to be able to establish a home is almost an impossibility. This Government is not to be excused for its efforts in this field.
Let us suppose. that .a man .does acquire a building site somewhere -.and puts up a deposit. What happens then? The State Housing Commission goes ahead, calls contracts and builds a house. The man takes it over, but he cannot live in an empty house. He must have furnishings and furniture so that he and his family can live like ordinary citizens. Where is he to get the deposit on the furnishings? He is up against it again, and often that is when he is driven into the clutches of the hirepurchase companies. Every one knows the rate of interest that has to be paid on loans granted by those companies.
So a man who is probably only 25 or 26 years old settles down with huge commitments facing him. He has to liquidate the cost of the house, which would not be less than £3,739, which was the average cost of a war service home in Queensland last year. Let us say that that is his liability for the house and land, and add the cost of furniture and furnishings and all the things that go into a home to-day. Then children start to arrive. What of the future? Suppose there is sickness in the family. The position of these people has not been eased by the Government but is constantly being made worse. The Commonwealth Government has failed the people but the State governments have fallen down on their obligations in this field also. I am not talking about people in the higher income groups, but about the typical working man. He is the one we want to see provided with a home.
We boast about our standard of living. What is the standard of living if the family unit has no home? We start to measure living standards by the home, and if there is no home there is no living standard. I have cot seen slums in Australia, but I have seen them in other countries. They are dreadful, and I do not want to see them here. There is a social obligation on every government to see that people are properly housed.
In the present situation the Government is making it impossible for the people to be provided with homes. I am referring to those in the income group between £900 and £999. They number 360,000, of whom 304,000 are males. These are the people who are seeking homes. In the next income group, from £1,500 to £1,999, there are, .about. .360,000 persons of. whom -336,600. are males. ; ^ - , .
I believe we could improve our housing schemes by using the available finance to better purpose. I do not know precisely how many Commonwealth public servants there are, but there must be over 100,000. The State governments also have armies of public servants. There is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Government discussing with the State governments the possibility of some form of amalgamation to provide public servants, including po.’ice and railway employees, with homes. Let us take these people right out of this demand for housing loans which are made available to the States annually. All the public service bodies have their own superannuation schemes, and it would be easy to link the superannuation schemes with a simple housing scheme. At present the surplus funds from superannuation schemes are invested with the Commonwealth Government. Let those bodies have their surplus funds to establish a housing scheme which would be more favorable to the public servants than are the present housing schemes of the States. That is one way to relieve the Commonwealth Government’s liability. We know that the public servant is a good risk for a long-term loan because he is not likely to become unemployed. The average citizen outside the Public Service is not a good or sound risk.
A man receiving approximately £20 a week needs to borrow over £3,000 to build a house. Who, in the name of goodness, would lend him that money on the security he has to offer. He has to go to a government housing scheme. He must have his life insured for the protection of the government itself. This situation has not improved since the Menzies Government took office in 1949. It had an opportunity to make a great name for itself by establishing a housing scheme that would have stood up to all tests up to the present instead of this shilly-shallying method it has adopted. Had the Government undertaken its task in a manly way and provided finance on a scientific basis such as I have suggested the situation would have been much better.
The Government has done something for those who went to war. The war service homes scheme is quite good and I have nothing against it, but the Government could make the public servants aloof from such schemes. They should no longer be beneficiaries of the loans made available to the States. Then there would be more money available for the homeless. The Government must change its tune. There will be a breaking point if the Government does not do something along these lines. Prices of homes are going up, as can be seen from the average cost of building a home in Queensland over recent years. The comparative costs art? -
The cost of building is rising but nothing has been done by the Commonwealth Government to correct this situation. We are building houses in an old-fashioned way. Let us consider a house built of timber. First, the exterior boarding is put up, and then the builders go inside and build another house. They line the exterior with pine. Surely the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization could produce a. material, that would be impervious to extremes of heat and cold, and which would be as serviceable as weatherboards and just as beautiful. With the brick veneer house, once the walls have been constructed the builders go inside and line them with fibro cement. So, they build another house inside the brick veneer walls. All these processes add to the cost of the home.
Something must be done to reduce the cost of home construction in the Commonwealth.
– And the cost of land.
– 1 shall have something to say about land in a moment. We lean on the C.S.I. R.O. so much these days. Surely it could provide us with building materials which would be just as serviceable as the materials we have at the present time. Inside modern homes we find plastics taking the place of enamel ware, and so no. Why cannot something be found to take the place of some of the materials we use in the construction of the home itself?
For quite a while, we have seen the big land jobbers going out and acquiring hundreds of acres of land. They have sat back smiling once they have acquired it, and the cheaper they acquired it the better they felt. Later, they subdivided the land and sold it at so much a lot.
– That is what I was telling you about.
– I do not know what is done in Adelaide, but 1 know what happens in some of the municipalities in the Commonwealth. In Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane the council officers go along to the land jobbers and the building-site racketeers and say, “ We want you to put the gutters over there, the kerbing there and the water channels here, and you will have to have it properly drained “. They may say, “ We would like some of that land over there, because we want to make some streets “, and the land jobbers may fall in with their wishes. That is all very well, but when the property is subdivided the purchasers of the land have to pay for their own improvements. That is a rotten way of doing things, lt is as anti-Labour as it possibly could be. It is something that we on this side do not stand for. The cost of the roadways, the water channels and all the other improvements that are made to the properties should come from a common fund to which every one has to contribute. It appears that the innocent married couples of to-day have the whole community lined up against them and ready to make it very difficult for them to establish their homes.
It is possible for me to find out the average expenditure per head per annum for various purposes. For instance, I have ascertained that the cost per head for defence services last year was £10 6s. 9d., and that the average cost of repatriation services was £10 4s. lid. Expenditure from the National Welfare Fund amounted to £35 17s. 4d. per head. Expenditure on other special appropriations amounted to £9 13s. a head. I could continue to cite such figures, but nowhere can I find the average expenditure per head of population on housing throughout the Commonwealth last year. So far as the Commonwealth’s expenditure in this respect is concerned, it seems to be hidden away somewhere. Did it cost the Government nothing for housing last year? If we examine the situation we find that that is pretty right. Nothing whatever has gone out except by way of loan moneys. The Government preens itself on its housing record. Honorable senators opposite put their thumbs in their lapels and say, “ This is what we arc doing in a magnaminous effort to house the people of the Common wealth “. That is all nonsense. The Government is doing nothing. It is merely practising usury. It is lending money to the States, and they, in turn, lend it to home seekers. Notwithstanding all the things I have said, Mr. Acting Deputy President, we find that we have to support the bill.
– Having listened to the speeches of Senator McClelland and Senator Benn of the Opposition, I feel obliged to remind them that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power at all over housing. This bill comes within the framework of legislation which was introduced originally by the Chifley Government to give to the States funds for works and housing, under the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution. I say to Senator Benn, particularly, that the Commonwealth has no power in respect of housing and that the States have all the power in that field.
The honorable senator referred to the acquisition of land and came forward with the bright idea that the Commonwealth should acquire land. I inform him that the Commonwealth may acquire land, under its constiutional powers, on just terms. If it acquires land it must pay the current market value. So, the bright idea that we should get the Commonwealth to act as a big grabber of cheap land falls to the ground. The next matter on which I wish to tackle the honorable senator is the problem related to the increasing cost of land and the spending of money on the subdivision of land by statutory authorities. The worst offender in that respect in the whole of Australia is a statutory authority in New South Wales, where we have had a Labour Government in office for the last 22 years. One of the reasons for the high cost of land in New South Wales is the behaviour of this particular statutory authority which insists on all kinds of charges being made, with the result that the price of land has become unreal.
It is all very well to try to blame the Commonwealth for this position, but the fact is that the Labour Government of New South Wales has been one of the worst offenders in relation to the high cost of land. For years, it froze thousands of acres of land. Then, instead of releasing the land in a rational way, it did so in dribs and drabs, thus creating a false market for the land.
That was the act of the New South Wales Labour Government.
– What about the Minister for the Interior in Canberra? He is doing worse than that.
– The area of land affected in New South Wales would swallow the area released in Canberra. In one area alone there was a freeze of something like 600 acres. There was a blanket freeze so that nobody could sell, alter, repair or improve any property, but had to let it remain derelict.
– Did that make you get out?
– I got out of the land business a long time ago and set my star on a higher field. What I am saying is that all the conditions that you mentioned are the direct result of State Government action. The Commonwealth has no constitutional power over housing. All that it can do is provide money to the States under section 96 of the Constitution. As Senator Wedgwood very properly pointed out, at Loan Council meetings the States themselves determined the relationship of housing money to works money. If there was a reduction in the amount available for housing, it was because of a decision of the State Premiers.
I think those things had to be said. I do not want to be held up as one who does not realize that there is a housing problem. I propose to deal with some aspects of the problem and indeed to see what we can do to effect improvements, but first I want to refer to a matter mentioned by Senator McClelland, who quoted a very sad instance of a high rental being charged. He spoke of the terrific problem that confronted the person concerned, and we can assume that, as Senator McClelland is from New South Wales, he was speaking about a New South Welshman. I should like to remind the honorable senator that the New South Wales Government has been in power and h£.s had control over rentals for 22 years, so instead of coming into this chamber and telling a sad story about high rentals he should go back to his own political party in power in his State and ask what it is doing about the problem. But that is not his technique; his technique is to come here and to suggest that the problem is one for the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth is a vicious landlord. It is about time the facts were brought out. The rental problem in New South Wales is a problem for the Government of New South Wales, which has sovereign power. That is indisputable, and I think the record should be put straight in that regard.
Having said all those things in a gentle fashion, I come back to the point that this is a bill to provide something like £2,700,000 for the States for housing during 1962-63 to supplement the amount of £45,900,000 which has already been provided. This, of course, will mean that extra housing money will be available to the States through their housing authorities and through the co-operative building society movement by virtue of the provision that 30 per cent, of all money made available for housing must go into the co-operative societies.
I note that the Opposition does not intend to oppose this bill, and I can appreciate that. After all, the measure does provide an additional amount for housing, and we are all on common ground in our willingness to see that that goes to the States and in our hope that it will be spent fruitfully on providing homes for those who require them. Any discussion of the bill, therefore, is not on its actual terms so much, perhaps, as on the principles involved in this question of housing.
Housing has been a political football for a long time. The housing needs of the Commonwealth and the States have been variously stated from time to time. A survey conducted by the Department of National Development in 1957 suggested that by 1970 the annual requirement would be of the order of 79,000 homes. To-day, as in a previous debate on this subject, the opposition pins its faith on booklets by Dr. A. R. Hall of the Australian National University. I feel bound to point out, that Dr. Hall has had a number of bites at the cherry. In 1961 he estimated what the housing needs were and would be by 1970. Twelve months later he had another shot at it and substantially increased his estimates. He said that the annual requirement by 1970 would be not 107,000 homes, but some figure between 124,000 and 130,000. I mention that merely to point out that even for the learned doctor this is apparently not a very precise science. We can assume that the housing need by . 1970 will be somewhere between the figure of 79,000 indicated by the department’s 1957 survey and 124,000 or 125,000. I understand that the appreciation made in that survey of the need for the year ended 30th June last was something like 4,000 or 5,000 more homes than were actually produced.
The Commonwealth Statistician has published figures which show that 86,300 dwellings were commenced in the calendar year 1962. This was 6,300 more than in 1961. The year 1962 saw the highest level of dwelling commencements we had ever had, with the exception of 1960. The latest figures available show that the trend is still upwards and that the figure is expected to reach more than 90,000 units this year. Non-residential construction also is going along well. The value of buildings other than houses and flats commenced in 1961-62 is estimated at £263,700,000, compared with £252,800,000 in 1960-61 and £231,000,000 in 1959-60.
The housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States provides that 30 per cent, of funds must be directed to the co-operative building societies for home ownership loans, Under the agreement there is provision for a revolving fund and of the money given to the States for housing, 30 per cent, goes into the revolving fund. As the money in the fund is armortized on a 53-year basis, whereas the co-operative building societies lend on a 31 -year basis, the money can be used approximately twice in the 53-year period, Particularly is this apparent when it is borne in mind that at least 10 per cent., and usually 20 per cent, of the purchase price of a home, has to be found by way of deposit by a borrower from a building society. So, 30 per cent, of the money which is given to the States for housing represents a far greater capacity to finance home purchase than it appears to be on the surface.
I believe that Senator Benn referred to the problem of the deposit that has to be found by persons who purchase a home. I think most of us will agree that that is a fundamental problem. I do not think there is any doubt that one of the most effective ways in which you could overcome that problem would be to have a situation in which costs were much less than they ire. The other obvious way is to increase the percentage of the value of a home that can be advanced by way of loan. After all, this is fundamentally a State responsibility, and I think that State governments should contrive, by regulation and legislation, if necessary, to enable societies to lend a greater percentage of the value of homes than they do at present. I am thinking more of permanent building societies than of terminating societies. Terminating building societies have a government guarantee.
– Do they not lend all that they have?
– Yes. But they can lend to more people if they require a lower deposit. Whilst terminating societies have a government guarantee and it is possible to get a 90 per cent, advance covered by government indemnity, that is not the position with permanent societies which would advance only about 75 per cent, of the cost of a home. We all recognize that the problem of the deposit is one that has to be faced.
I come back to the theme of State governments, on which I started. It is they who should enable people to borrow through these schemes without requiring so high a deposit proportionately as is at present required. One of the problems of the permanent building societies, which provide quite substantial amounts for home ownership, is that of available funds, lt must be admitted that by and large such societies get those funds from government instrumentalities, banks, insurance companies and the like. But they attempt to attract funds also from the private sector of the community. I should think that you would find in most newspapers in capital cities advertisements by permanent building societies seeking to borrow money from the community at large. They offer an interest rate of about 6 per cent, and they lend for home building at approximately 7 per cent., plus management charges - say, 7i per cent. Here, the Commonwealth Government could play a definite part. If a tax concession were allowed to investors in home building I believe that it would be a very real stimulant to the provision of homeownership funds. It would not necessarily need to be a very big concession. I am informed that the New Zealand Government does something like that. In other words, if you invested your money in an accepted building society you would get a taxation rebate in respect of a certain percentage of your investment. The rebate might be up to £50. That would be an incentive to people to advance money to the building societies.
– A rebate in tax?
– Yes. As a further means of providing funds for the building society movement, I think the Government should look at the 70/30 rule in regard to savings banks. As we know, by statute, the amount of money that savings banks can make available for housing must not exceed 30 per cent, of their funds. At the moment, only 20 per cent, of their available funds are being used in this way. There is a tolerance there which I think should be looked at with a view to providing more funds for home ownership.
I have mentioned two propositions which should be looked at. The third proposition that I want to raise is one which has been canvassed quite a lot. I know that the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) has a full appreciation of this proposition which has been put by the co-operative building society movement. It is that a mortgage insurance corporation should be created which would enable insurance to be carried by the borrower. This insurance would protect the lender and thereby would give an added security to people and organizations prepared to advance money for housing. Such a mortgage insurance corporation scheme works very effectively, I understand, in the United States of America. The interest rate, I think, is about one-half per cent, on outstanding balances. The insurance is paid by the borrower but, of course, it gives a measure of protection to people or institutions prepared to finance the building society movement. I believe that this would provide a very real stimulant for home building in Australia.
The only other matter I want to speak about is slum clearance. We have a degree of sub-standard housing in Australia. Nobody can deny that. I think that the last census figures show that fact in stark reality. The fact that new homes are being built and are being made available for occupation either by tenants or by purchasers on low deposits, of itself, does not do anything - or does practically nothing - to solve the problem of sub-standard housing. I have always believed that there should be a new agreement in some form or other to provide not only for the building of new housing but also, at the same time, for the clearing of sub-standard housing. In the very nature of things, if you move somebody out of a sub-standard home and put him into a low economic rental home there will always be somebody else who will move into the sub-standard home. Some statutory authority has to be set up as between the Commonwealth and the States to provide not only for low income rental homes but also for the removal of obsolescent or sub-standard housing. That may involve, of course, such things as compensation, and raise all manner of problems in relation to alternative accommodation and the like. Because of constitutional difficulties it would have to be worked out between the Commonwealth and the States. It is something which would require, in my view, the full-time attention of some statutory authority.
I have always held the view that in a young country, as Australia is, compared with the old world countries, our housing problem could be dealt with in our lifetime with a certain degree of success, but if we continue to do nothing about the problem the era will dawn when it will be impossible for us to catch up with it. One of the big responsibilities of governments, both State and Commonwealth, is to tackle this problem. It may well be that in the fullness of time some re-arrangement of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States will have to be made to meet the situation. We do not want anything that will prejudice the 30 per cent, allocation which is at present being used in a straightout attempt to provide homes on terms. Such money should not be used for acquisition, replacement or things of that nature.
For these reasons I support the measure and I am delighted to know that the Opposition is supporting it also. I finish on the note that it should never be forgotten that constitutionally the Commonwealth has not the power to deal with this matter. The States have the power and the obligation to do so. The sums of money provided in this particular instance were fixed by the Premiers and not by the Commonwealth Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 April 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630430_senate_24_s23/>.