25th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Because of the small amount of advertising available within the viewing area, will the Postmaster-General cancel the licence issued to permit a third commercial television station to be operated in Brisbane? Has he been advised that if three commercial stations operate in that city it will be necessary for them to exhibit the cheapest and poorest films if they are to avoid bankruptcy? Has he also been informed that the standard of films now being exhibited in Brisbane is lower than that of the films shown in other capital cities?
– I will direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the honorable senator’s question. In relation to his last remark, may I say that the quality of television shows is a matter of personal judgment. What might be regarded by one viewer as admirable might not necessarily appeal to another viewer. I think the honorable senator is merely expressing a personal taste. However, as I have said, I will certainly refer the substantive part of the question to the Postmaster-General for a suitable reply.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry any knowledge of the importation of footwear from Red China at less than one-half the cost of manufacture of similar articles in Australia? Has any approach been made to the Minister with a view to action being taken by the Tariff Board in this matter?
– I think this matter was raised by the Minister for Customs and Excise a couple of days ago, when he notified the Senate that his Department was taking anti-dumping action against footwear being imported from Red China. If manufacturers in Australia find that footwear is coming in from overseas and damaging the Australian industry, two courses of action are open to them. They can seek access to the Department of Trade and Industry with a view to submitting a case to the Special Advisory Authority, who will deal with the matter within four weeks, or they can seek the support of the Department of Trade and Industry for access to the Tariff Board itself. I do not know whether the Australian footwear industry has taken either step, but I will endeavour to find out and let the honorable senator know as early as possible.
– I preface my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by stating that one of the Melbourne daily newspapers recently carried an article to the effect that Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes had threatened to withdraw his support from the Government if it continued to send wheat, wool and strategic materials to mainland China and Indonesia. My question is: Did Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes, M.P., threaten the Prime Minister that he would withdraw his support from the Government unless it halted sales of wool and wheat to China? Is it true that the Government is continuing to supply strategic material to China and Indonesia and that the Government is assisting aggressors to kill Australian soldiers in the front line? Is it true that 10 rams and 110 ewes are to be shipped to China next month to start the Corriedale breed in China?
– The substantial part of the honorable senator’s question should be addressed to and answered by Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes if he feels so disposed.
– This is taken from a newspaper report.
– For that reason, if for no other, the question should be addressed to Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes. If the honorable senator is sufficiently interested, he should ask Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes to confirm the accuracy of the report or to deny it. As to general policy on aid to Indonesia, within the last few days the Minister for External Affairs has made a statement setting out Government policy and I can do no better than refer the honorable senator to that statement.
– I direct a question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. It has reference to the Martin report. At page 223 of that report a list of cash grants is set out in respect of institutes of colleges. Briefly, a distinction is drawn in the report between technical colleges that grant diplomas and those that do not. Cash grants totalling £5 million are to be made available for those granting diplomas and the report then recommends grants of £1.25 million for other technical colleges. The effect of that has been to exclude Tasmania from the list. What is the reason for the Ministerial statement approving these grants for institutes of colleges and refusing to approve grants for other institutions among which the Tasmanian technical colleges might rank?
– The effect of the Martin report recommendations as to grants which should be made for the tertiary levels of technical colleges was that around those tertiary levels new colleges could be built. It listed a number of colleges to which £1 for £1 grants ought to be made immediately as interim grants to be expended during 1965 and 1966. No doubt that list of colleges was compiled by the Martin Committee on the grounds that the colleges listed were already in a position to proceed at once with the construction of such colleges around those tertiary sections of their technical facilities. In other words, they had given some thought to the matter, had plans prepared and were ready to go ahead.
It was suggested that the other institutions to which the honorable senator referred should get £1.25 million, of which half would come from the Commonwealth Government. This was suggested to cover a whole lot of other instrumentalities which were lumped together including paramedical facilities, agricultural facilities and similar institutions throughout Australia. I have no doubt they were dealt with together in that way because in those cases there were no plans at a stage where sufficient thought had been given to the kind of development required in these individual institutions and they were not ready to proceed with specific proposals as I presume were the other colleges. In those circumstances, the Government indicated its willingness to discuss the application of its share of the grant for the listed colleges Which are ready to go ahead but did not go further than that.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that large stockbroking organisations, including A. C. Goode and Company of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, have warned buyers this month in a private and confidential circular to expect a tougher Budget next August? In view of the balance of payments deficit, an increase of over £200 million in defence expenditure in this coming year, the recent problems of American trade, drought conditions throughout the country and the recent failure of the Commonwealth loan, I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to give any advice to the Australian people so that they may know the problems facing the Government, and what to expect in the months ahead.
– I have not seen the private and confidential circular to which the honorable senator refers. I should say in passing that had I done so, its contents would have had to remain private and confidential. The matters to which the honorable senator has referred have been given pretty wide publicity in the Press. Most Australians understand the difficulties of droughts, our balance of payments problems and the other matters to which the honorable senator refers. The Treasurer may wish to take the opportunity to reply to the question by making a statement, and, therefore, if the honorable senator puts his question on the notice paper, I will refer it to my colleague.
” AUTO NURSE.”
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question. Has the Minister seen a report concerning a new electronic system called “Auto Nurse”, which is stated to have made its debut at a Tokyo hospital and, in terms of accuracy and saving in time and labour, is proving an invaluable aid to hospital routine? In view of the ever increasing demand for hospital treatment, and the problem of obtaining sufficient nursing staff, has any investigation been made, or is any investigation proposed, into the use of this device which, it is claimed, saves the time of three nurses formerly engaged in taking the temperature and pulse of 100 patients for one full hour, four times a day, in the hospital mentioned, and enables better care to be taken of the patients?
– I have seen the report referred to by the honorable senator, and I have discussed the new electronic system called “Auto Nurse” with the Director-General of Health. He has informed me that monitoring equipment of this type is being used at the present time in some Australian hospitals in specialized departments such as recovery, critical and intensive care units. The machines give an accurate reading when functioning efficiently and provide a valuable medical aid to patient care with critically ill patients. However, because they are machines, they have been known to get out of order and must be constantly observed by the nurse caring for the patient. At the present time, the main advantage so far as the nurse’s work is concerned is that the machine provides the nurse with some assistance in the nursing of a critically ill patient. However, discussions with the authorities in charge of hospitals in Australia where this equipment has been used indicate that it has little practical value in general ward nursing at present. I have been assured that the Department of Health will keep the Minister informed of any further developments in this field.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether the Australian Embassy in the United States of America has sent to the United States Atomic Energy Commission a report on the peaceful uses of nuclear power in Australia. Will the Minister make a statement on the matter in order to inform the Australian Parliament and the Australian people of the practicability of using nuclear explosion techniques in major construction works such as those of the Snowy Mountains and Ord River schemes and in the exploitation of mineral resources?
– The question is one of some importance. I ask the honorable senator to place it on the notice paper so that the Minister for National Development may have an opportunity to provide as complete an answer as he can.
– I address to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question about the Adelaide airport terminal. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report in .the “Adelaide News” of 30th March concerning the present complete inadequacy of the Adelaide airport terminal? Whether or not his attention has been directed to this report, in particular does he agree with the statement that the possibility of improving the terminal seesaws between the provision of a new terminal and doubling the existing terminal? Has the seesaw come to rest yet? If so, in what position is it? Did the Minister note the allegation that for six months the Public Works Committee has put off an inquiry into this matter? Is this correct? If so, what action can be taken to speed the matter up? As it is estimated that, with the new jet aircraft now in use, 800 passengers could need to use the terminal in the space of one hour, will the Minister give immediate attention to the problem?
– The matter to which the honorable senator has referred is under active consideration by the Department at the present time. This project is part and parcel of the civil works programme that will be submitted to the Government for approval as part of the forthcoming Budget. The honorable senator knows that when each Budget is presented a civil works programme is approved and that the programme for each department is decided upon in the light of the overall situation. I repeat that this matter is being considered within the confines of the civil aviation works programme.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware of an attempt by the textile industry of the United States of America to tie up the flow of wool textiles throughout the world by persuading the- wool textile exporting nations to come to an international agreement on wool textile trading? Would such an agreement have a detrimental effect on the Australian wool industry? If so, will the Minister make the strongest representations to the United States Government, pointing out the damaging effect of such an agreement on Australia’s major export industry and upon the Australian economy?
– I have been aware for some time that representatives of the United States textile industry have been holding discussions with representatives of textile industries throughout the world in an endeavour to reach a voluntary arrangement to regulate the importation of woollen goods into the United States of America. Quite frankly, I do not think the attempt will be very successful. However, the matter is being kept under review because, of course, a recession in the export of woollen goods anywhere must have an effect on the Australian wool industry which is of great importance to this country. This matter has been kept very closely under review.
– My questions are directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that Austarama Television Pty. Ltd., the holder of the television licence Channel 0 in Melbourne, undertook to provide 58 per cent. Australian content in its programmes? Is it a fact that, among other things, that company promised to present weekly a play of H hours duration written and produced in Australia; a half-hour situation comedy built around a Melbourne family; a programme on Australian affairs entitled “ Walkabout “; a variety show of 60 minutes duration; a cultural corroboree each Sunday night; an hour long historical series set in Victoria; and a teenage show each Saturday? Is it a fact that this undertaking was given on oath by a witness for the company during its application for a television licence? Is it a fact that the Australian content of Channel 0 programmes is at the moment the barest fraction of 58 per cent. - in the vicinity of 15 per cent? If so, will the Minister explain to the Senate the significance, if any, attached by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to this type of assurance in hearing applications for television licences? Is it a factor which weighs heavily in favour of an applicant making the highest Australian bid? If so, will appropriate action be taken to ascertain why this assurance has not been observed? How many dramatic programmes made in Australia have been transmitted by Channel 0 since its inception and what has been the percentage of Australian content in Channel 0 programmes for the first three months of 1965?
– The honorable senator’s interest in television and the pro?duction of television material is very well known to us all. It is reflected in the comprehensive nature of his question. Obviously the information he seeks is not readily available to me and therefore I ask him to place bis question on the notice paper.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. It has reference to his previous answer to a question concerning the Martin report. His answer seemed to me to imply that Tasmanian technical colleges would be excluded from any benefit that might flow from the Martin report. I ask the Minister whether this is not so.
– I think a study of the report will show that the recommendations made by the Martin committee and endorsed by the Government are going to provide the greatest opportunities for expansion and for new work in the tertiary technical segment of Tasmanian education. The report suggested, and the Government has accepted the suggestion, that during the 1967-69 triennium the Commonwealth will stand prepared to make available about £4 million a year for capital expenditure and £4 million a year for recurrent expenses for the new technical colleges and the tertiary technical elements in them. The Tasmanian Government has been asked to formulate its proposals for the 1967-69 triennium and to bring them to us and discuss them. It knows that this is the situation. Tasmania’s share of the amount to be made available, provided the Tasmanian Minister can give some thought to what he wants to do and can finally decide what he wants to do, will, 1 think, revolutionise this field of education in Tasmania, just as the Commonwealth grant previously made has revolutionised the secondary technical field in Tasmania. This year the Commonwealth grant for technical education in Tasmania is just twice as much as the total spent by the State of Tasmania in this field last year. It is about one and a half times the total being spent by Tasmania in the present year. It has revolutionised a field which has been neglected over the years by the State Minister in Tasmania, and a similar revolution might well occur in the tertiary field.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Is is a fact that the Army proposes to spend £400,000 on extensions to the Special Air Service Regiment headquarters at Swanbourne in Western Australia? Has the Minister received protests from civic authorities in the area, where the retention by the Army of 600 acres of highly valuable residential property is a serious barrier to residential and road development in a closely settled suburban area? ls it a fact that training needs could be at least as adequately met in other areas close to Perth where community amenities would also be available to soldiers and their families? ls it not also a fact that modern transport, new training methods and new concepts of warfare show that it is no longer necessary to keep an Army establishment close to the heart of the capital city, when even coastal guns have been removed from the nearby beach land at Leighton?
– I am not aware of the position in Western Australia to which the honorable senator refers. She asks that certain Army works to be undertaken in an area be transferred to another area because objections are raised to this use of the proposed area. T have been a fair time in the Parliament and I find that when it is announced that certain works are to be transferred from one area to another, objections are probably raised by residents in the new area. If the honorable senator will put the question on the notice paper, I shall get an answer from the Minister for the Army for her.
– I ask the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research to elucidate a paragraph in the report of the Martin committee at page 193, which reads -
Tasmania may see advantages in adopting the Institute of Colleges pattern as offering the best means of co-ordinating this branch of tertiary education and of improving the status of technical colleges in the State.
Will the Minister explain what is meant by the “ Institute of Colleges pattern “. in contradistinction to the existing pattern of technical education in Tasmania?
– As 1 understand it, the Institute of Colleges pattern is one in which a State adopts the suggestion made in the Martin committee report that the new tertiary colleges of education, including as they will the tertiary technical field of education, be taken out of the direct control of the State Department of Education and the State Minister for Education and placed under the control of a body appointed with autonomy in a way similar to the way in which universities are placed under the control of their own governing bodies with autonomy. I should not like to say just what motivated the Martin committee to make the short statement that it might be of advantage to Tasmania to have this Institute of Colleges pattern, but it is something to which Tasmanians themselves might well give attention for that decision is for the Government to make.
– I wish to ask yet another question in search of further information from the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Specifically, can he tell me whether the Martin committee had submitted to it, either by the Chancellor of the University of Tasmania or by the Minister for Education in Tasmania, any proposals for capital expenditure on technical education for the year with which the Martin committee dealt, namely 1965-66?
– I cannot answer that question. I do not know all that went on when the Martin committee was travelling around over the years during which it was taking submissions. Quite clearly, if it did have submitted to it by the Minister for Education in Tasmania proposals for the development of the tertiary section of technical education, it did not regard them as having reached a point of precision similar to the points which had been reached by the colleges it listed as ones for which it recommended an interim capital grant.
– I shall get the information from the Tasmanian Minister.
– Well, I hope that the honorable senator gets it accurately.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the Commonwealth funds involved in supporting the International Wool Secretariat’s wool promotion plan, will the Minister inform the Senate how the wear more wool campaign can be justified by setting a fashion for the Prime Minister for single breasted suits as against double breasted suits, thus reducing the amount of woollen fabric used in the suits by anything up to a yard, and also by featuring bathing beauties in bikinis, as a result of which the campaign might quite well be called the wear less wool campaign?
– . Promotional work is very interesting. It has a number of facets, perhaps, which are not readily apparent to the lesser breed of people who are not engaged in such promotion. I should have thought that one of the main objectives in any promotion is to grip the attention of the people who, it is hoped, will buy and wear the woollen garments concerned. Knowing the honorable senator as I know him, I must say that an attractive person in a bikini would not pass by him entirely unnoticed. The wearer would attract his attention and obviously the spectacle has attracted his attention to the sale of wool. I think that the promotional campaign undertaken by the Australian Wool Board has been a very good one. It has covered many facets. It is not an easy matter to set out to promote anything. One can but change the habits of the people slowly. That is a well known axiom. It will be a long uphill fight to establish the use of wool in some countries of the world. I believe that the efforts of the wool growers and the Wool Board, through its promotion campaign, have been of real value and will prove to be beneficial to the wool industry in the years ahead.
(Question No. 376.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
– by leave - Mr. Deputy President, the Government has recently undertaken a review of its national airports programme and has reached several significant decisions involving large sums of public money and covering developments of considerable importance not only to Australian aviation but also to the national economy and progress. In the circumstances, I consider it appropriate that I should report the substance of those decisions to Parliament.
Honorable senators will recall that the Government is currently engaged in a fiveyear airports programme which is designed to improve and extend the technical and passenger facilities at a large number of airports throughout the Commonwealth. This five-year programme began in the 1 963-64 financial year and covers the period up to and including the financial year 1967-68. Apart from the numerous other works involved, many of which are already complete with others under way, the two major projects included in the five-year plan are those at Sydney and Melbourne. It is to these two projects that I wish to direct my remarks today.
Since the two projects were first put to the Government, additional demands have been superimposed on the original requirements, mainly because of an unprecedented increase in both international and domestic air traffic. In domestic aviation, the rate of annual increase in the ten years up to 1962 was an average of 4 per cent. In 1963 it rose to 11 per cent, and last year it rose to 17.5 per cent. In the international field the average annual increase in the ten years up to 1962 was 17.5 per cent, with a tendency to flatten out towards the end of the period. However, since 1962 passenger traffic has risen by 21.5 per cent, in 1963 and by 23.5 per cent, last year. Preliminary figures for the first few months of this year indicate no slackening in the rate of increase. Indeed, recent trends in international aviation indicate that we must plan for large and continuing increases as new sources of traffic are tapped.
One practical result of this unprecedented traffic growth is that we have had to reconsider the new air terminals which we plan to build at Sydney and at Tullamarine so that they are now about twice as large as those we originally contemplated in 1962. With this must go a corresponding increase in all the other necessary supporting facilities such as apron areas and engineering services. We are planning the two terminals so that they will not require any significant extension for about ten years after their completion, although they have been designed in such a way as to allow for extension when and if needed.
The major result of all this additional work has been to increase the total estimated cost involved in these two projects alone to over £32 million. The Government had to consider all this against the background of increasing defence expenditure and the very many other demands placed on the national income. Nevertheless, it decided that the two projects should be pressed ahead as quickly as possible.
I think it would be appropriate if I dealt with the Sydney project first, not to indicate any order of priority, but rather because Sydney is our major international airport and therefore, quite logically the work already under way and planned for the air- port involves the greatest amount of Commonwealth expenditure. As honorable senators know, the airport’s north-south runway is now being extended into Botany Bay to a length of 8,000 ft. with a 500 ft. over-run. The work, which includes the diversion of a main sewer line and the construction of a large tunnel to carry General Holmes Drive under the runway extension, is progressing quite well and the entire project should be ready for operations by July 1967. The total cost of this runway extension is now estimated at just over £6 million.
We also plan to build a new international terminal at Sydney on a new site in the north-west corner of the airport. The cost of building this terminal together with the necessary aprons, taxiways and other facilities is estimated at about £10 million. The experts advising the Government say that with a terminal of this size and because of the difficult nature of the site we could not reasonably expect to have it operating before 1969. Every effort will be made to improve on that date, but at present we must regard 1969 as a realistic and practical target. Plans will be submitted to the Public Works Committee shortly, but I can say that the terminal will be a fitting gateway to Australia. Basically it will be a threestory building with radiating passenger loading fingers and aero bridges. International jet aircraft will nose in under their own power to a point immediately adjacent to a passenger holding room on the loading finger or concourse. An aero bridge will slide out at the same level as the cabin floor of the aircraft to connect with the aircraft nose door. This will give passengers a complete under-cover walk from the terminal entrance to their aircraft seat. The terminal building will also incorporate many of the better features of the latest overseas terminals.
The apron area will accommodate twelve large international aircraft simultaneously, and the loading fingers or concourses have been planned so that this arrangement can be readily and progressively extended to at least twenty international aircraft positions. The latest information we have about the British and American supersonic airliners indicates that the apron and terminal facilities will enable these types of aircraft to be handled quite satisfactorily. There is, of course, room for extension of the terminal to take domestic operations and this development is ultimately envisaged. However, the domestic airlines have indicated that for the present at Sydney they prefer to remain in their existing separate terminals on the other side of the airport.
One of the biggest problems we face in the construction of the new Sydney terminal is the site. The area is low lying and swampy and approximately two million cubic yards of filling will be required to bring the area up to the required levels before building and pavement works can start. In addition, test borings and subsurface investigations by the Department of Works have also established that the area will need surcharging with a further one million cubic yards of sand to achieve the necessary consolidation. This surcharge will subsequently be used for filling the adjacent areas reserved for future domestic terminal development.
Unfortunately the northwest section is the only part of the airport capable of reasonable development as a terminal area, initially for international aircraft and ultimately for domestic aircraft as well. We have had our experts investigate alternative sites on the airport, including the use of the existing building area, but they have concluded because of size and other factors, the northwest corner of the airport is the only area suitable.
Mr. Deputy President, if I may restate briefly what the Government is proposing to spend on the further development of Sydney airport: A sum of over £6 million for the runway extension and a further amount of about £10 million on the new international terminal complex - a total of approximately £16 million. I might add that this is in addition to the new air traffic control and communications centre which I recently announced would be built at Sydney airport at a cost of approximately £1 million, and which will ultimately include essential control and .safety equipment worth over £3 million.
Now, I turn to the project for a new Melbourne airport at Tullamarine. The total cost of this project is now estimated at about £16 million. Tullamarine is, unlike the Sydney project, an entirely new airport, made necessary because of the simple fact that the present Melbourne airport . at Essendon is incapable of further extension.
The figure of £16 million includes the airfield works such as runways, taxiways and aprons, the terminal and service buildings, engineering services, a new control tower and fire station as well as numerous other necessary facilities. Work on the runways in already going ahead.
The terminal building will be, like that at Sydney, a three-storey structure, incorporating passenger loading fingers and aero bridges. The apron area will accommodate eight international aircraft simultaneously, as well as up to 24 domestic aircraft with room for expansion. This pays due regard to the particular roles of Sydney and Melbourne airports. I mention it here because there have been, in some quarters, unfounded remarks about the respective claims of the two cities in regard to airport facilities. Sydney is logically and geographically our major international airport. Accordingly we are providing at Sydney more facilities for international aircraft than at Melbourne. Melbourne is the centre of our domestic aviation network and the new airport at Tullamarine is being equipped accordingly to meet that role as well as to handle its share of international traffic.
The apron at Tullamarine will be designed to the different strengths necessary for its role. For example, the international part of the apron is designed, like that at Sydney, to carry supersonic aircraft. The domestic section of the apron is designed for smaller, but nevertheless still large aircraft of the subsonic types such as the Boeing 727’s which are now operating on our domestic routes.
The substantially increased size of the Tullamarine terminal will put the completion date back to 1969. However, this does not automatically mean that Melbourne will be denied international operations until then. Certain of the passenger handling focilities could be available in advance of this date. My Department is considering this possibility with the Department of Works and other interested Commonwealth departments, such as the Department of Customs and Excise.
I might add that this time schedule will enable the two domestic airlines to more adequately finance and phase in their shift to Tullamarine.
Both Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett A.N. A. face a very heavy financial and technical commitment in moving from Essendon to Tullamarine. The estimated cost is of the order of £5 million for each of them over and above the several hundred thousand pounds it will cost them to furnish and fit out the respective areas they will occupy in the new Tullamarine terminal. I emphasize, however, that this factor did not influence the works schedule which has been dictated solely by the size and complexity of the project.
Mr. Deputy President, the Government also considered a number of other airport projects in its review. These include terminal and runway extensions at Adelaide, strengthening of the runway at Brisbane to handle the heavier type of international jets, extension of the Perth runway, major extensions to the terminal at Canberra, some further runway works at Coolangatta and Mackay, a new terminal at Port Moresby and also some temporary extensions to the existing international terminal at Sydney. I should emphasize that all these projects are in addition to the Government’s normal airport works programme which has been running at an annual rate of about £2 million. The Government has decided that this group of projects, which also involve a further large sum of public money, should be referred to a special interdepartmental committee for further investigation for possible Budget consideration in the next few months.
I present the following paper: -
National Airports Programme - Ministerial Statement, 1st April 1965.
– I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to make my speech at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) - by leave - proposed -
That Senator Laught be appointed to fill the vacancy on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That, until such time as vacancies for members of the Senate on the Committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Senator Branson bea member of the Committee.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
. -I heard my name mentioned in the motion.I should like some explanation if it was correctly mentioned.
– in reply - The honorable senator’s name is quite correctly mentioned. He is to fill the vacancy on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– Yes. He is appointed to the first section of the Committee. Senator Branson is nominated to fill the vacancy on the Committee until such time as the Opposition nominates members to serve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have to inform the Senate that the President has received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) intimating that, pursuant to paragraph 2 of the resolution constituting the Joint Committee of the Australian Capital Territory, Senator Hannaford has been appointed as a member of that Committee to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Vincent.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is proposed to amend the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1963 to provide for the bounty year to commence on 1st March and end on the last day of the following February. The current legislation defines the bounty year as the period commencing on the first day of January and ending on the following thirty-first day of December.
While the cotton harvest in Australia extends from March to late in August, the ginning of the cotton does not end until late November. In order to attract bounty at rates applicable in the year of ginning, the sale of raw cotton must be effected before the end of the bounty year, which at present is 31st December. Experience has shown that the period of time from the end of November to 31st December is insufficient to allow the processors to arrange for the completion of all sales of raw cotton. Bounty rates are prescribed yearly. Therefore, growers who have unsold raw cotton stocks carried over from one bounty year to the next could receive rates of bounty varying with those prescribed for the year in which the cotton was actually ginned.
It is, therefore, the purpose of this Bill to bring the bounty year more into line with the ginning year and, in so doing, to provide a further two months after the end of ginning for the sale of the season’s crop by processors. This proposed alteration will mean that the current Act will terminate on 28th February 1969 in lieu of 31st December 1968. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Benn) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In 1960 the Pollution of the Sea by Oil Act was passed to give effect to the provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil. The Bill before us is for the purpose of amending that Act to give effect to amendments of the Convention which were agreed to at a conference in London in 1962.
The original Convention resulted from international recognition of the increasing world-wide problem of oil pollution of the sea and the highly undesirable effects of this pollution upon beaches, fishing operations, and sea life. Before the Convention came into operation each country could, of course, legislate to prevent its own ships from discharging oil into the sea but it could not apply this legislation to foreign ships operating outside its territorial waters. The Convention recognised this difficulty and sought by international agreement to prevent the discharge of oil by all Convention country ships into certain specified zones along the world coast lines. The general aim of the amendments of the Convention is to improve its effectiveness by such means as extension of the types and sizes of vessels to which it applies, extension of the prohibited zones, and a total prohibition of the discharge of persistent oil in respect of new ships of over 20,000 tons gross tonnage.
The Convention applies to both territorial and non-territorial waters. As it is desirable for practical purposes that the States deal with the position in their own territorial waters, the Commonwealth and the States agreed that it would be best to apply the provisions of the Convention in respect of Australia by complementary Commonwealth and State legislation. This arrangement is, of course, being continued in respect of the amendments, and the States have the preparation of complementary legislation in hand.
Turning to the details of the Bill, I propose to deal with the few points which might need some clarification. Clause 2 ensures that the amending Act will come into operation when the amendments of the Convention come into operation. This will not be until twelve months after two-thirds of the number of countries which have accepted the Convention have signified acceptance of the amendments. The present position is that thirteen countries are known to have accepted, whereas twenty acceptances are necessary to enable the amendments to be brought into force. The date of coming into operation of the amending Act must be delayed, as I have explained, because the legislation is drawn under the external affairs power and therefore the amendments cannot be brought into force before the Convention amendments commence to apply to Australia.
Clause 3 replaces the definitions section with a new section containing the definitions that will be necessary for the purposes of the Act as being amended. The insertion of definitions of “ the sea “ and “ prohibited part of the sea” constitute a more convenient means of laying down that the prohibited areas under the Act are those laid down in the Convention, excluding the Territorial waters of Australia. The Third and Fourth Schedules, which at present prescribe the prohibited areas, therefore become unnecessary, and are being repealed.
Clause 4 repeals section 6, which specifies the ships to which the Act applies, because with the introduction of the term “ Australian ship “ as defined under clause 3, this section becomes redundant. Clause 4 also repeals and replaces section 7, the main operative section of the Act. The new section, which will become section 6, sets out the prohibitions in respect of the discharge of oil and the like which the Act must contain to give effect to the Convention as amended. Subject to the extenuating circumstances recognised under subsections (2.) and (4.), sub-section (1.) will make it an offence for an Australian ship to discharge oil or an oily mixture into a prohibited part of the sea or, in respect of an Australian ship of 20,000 tons gross or more, into any part of the sea, if the contract for building the ship was entered into after the date of commencement of the amending Act.
In general terms, the prohibited zones under the Convention include all of the sea within 50 miles of land. The Australian zone, however, extends for 150 miles from land except off the north and north-west coasts where the 50 mile limit applies. The penalty for a breach of the section will continue to be £1,000.
Clause 4 also repeals section 8 and inserts a revised section in its stead, as section 7. This amendment is necessary mainly to overcome complications which have arisen in applying the term “ country to which the Convention applies “, because various countries have accepted the Convention with reservations in respect of certain provisions. The other amendments are generally of a consequential or administrative nature.
The Government is anxious to have every practicable step taken to overcome the problem of oil pollution of the sea and I trust that this anxiety is shared by honorable senators opposite and that the Bill will therefore be given general support.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to provide a legal basis for certain administrative actions for which the Presiding Officers of the Parliament are responsible between the end of one Parliament and the beginning of another. Provision has also been included to cover interim periods caused by death, absence or illness. Certain statutory powers and functions are exercised by the Presiding Officers under the Public Service Act, the Audit Act, the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act and the Commonwealth Electoral Act. In the last two cases it is unlikely that there would be any need to exercise the functions when the Parliament is not in session. However, in the first two cases - that is under the Public Service Act and the Audit Act - it may well be necessary for the Presiding Officers to exercise important functions in the administration of the parliamentary departments for which they are responsible. For example, after the Parliament had been dissolved on the 1st November 1963 there was no person, in the strict legal sense, holding the office of Speaker until the election of a new Speaker in the new Parliament on the 25th February 1964. During this period it was necessary to submit certain regulations to the Governor-General under Section 9 of the Public Service Act to apply marginal increases to the salaries of certain positions in one of the parliamentary departments. Since there was nobody legally appointed to excercise the functions of the Speaker after the dissolution, the recommendation to the Governor-General for the gazettal of new regulations had to be deferred.
There are other examples which could be cited in connection with the appointment and promotion of members of the staff of the parliamentary departments which, for lack of a legal basis for exercising the powers of the Presiding Officers between the end of one Parliament and the beginning of another, would have to be held up with possible adverse effects on the individual officer’s rights. We have, therefore, sought in this Bill to provide a legal basis for the persons who had been the President and the Speaker immediately prior to a dissolution to continue to exercise the powers and functions of a Presiding Officer under the laws of the Commonwealth after the dissolution of a Parliament until new Presiding Officers have been elected by the new Parliament.
We have also included in the Bill provision that, if through death, illness or absence a Presiding Officer or the person who had been a Presiding Officer is unable to carry out the statutory functions, attaching to his office under a law of the Commonwealth, then the Chairman of Committees or the person who had been Chairman of Committees of the House concerned will have the powers of the Presiding Officer under the laws of the Commonwealth, until a new Presiding Officer is elected or the absence or incapacity terminates. The Bill which is brought forward is in line with the practice in the United Kingdom where there has been a House of Commons (Speaker) Act in force since 1832. I might add, we should have had a similar provision before this. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 31st March (vide page 234).
– I move -
At the end of the definition of “ approved security” add “and if the land is subject to a first legal mortgage to an authority of the Commonwealth or of a State, also includes a second legal mortgage.”. 1 point out to the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), who is in charge of the bill, that if this legislation is passed in its present form two anomalies will be created, in respect mainly of applicants and persons eligible for war service homes. Then there is an associated question which I have already spoken about and which concerns the South Australian position. It might not strictly come within the relevant category, but it ought to be examined by the Minister, having regard to the fact that his officers have been in South Australia and have discussed this matter with the Housing Trust in that State. However, this is only incidental.
The position is that persons who are eligible for war service homes finance will be prejudiced by this legislation. The ordinary member of the community would, in the words of the Minister, be able, if his credit were good enough, to have a loan insured by the Corporation of up to 95 per cent, of the capital value of the property involved. Under the war service homes legislation an ex-serviceman is limited, in the first place, to a loan of £3,500. The annual report of the War Service Homes Division gives the cost of building war service homes in various States. The cost ranges from £4,000 to more than £7,000. The average cost, or the cost upon which most of us have agreed, is about £5,000, and this figure has been mentioned by the Minister. It is obvious that applicants for war service homes costing as much as this would have to secure a second mortgage, and they would be outside the provisions of the legislation now before us.
The Returned Servicemen’s League last year made representations to the Minister concerning this matter and some consideration has been given to it, but I suggest that there has been no firm reply to the effect that he matter will be dealt with in any other piece of legislation. I noticed that in the other place the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) spoke about this matter. He told the R.S.L. that the position was being considered, but he made it clear that the intention of the legislation was not to make the provisions that it was suggested to him were necessary. Unless the Minister is prepared to say that the anomaly will be covered by subsequent legislation flowing from consideration of the various points raised, it would appear that it is necessary to propose this amendment.
I would like the Minister to answer my question about South Australia. J raised this point at the second reading stage. The position seems to be satisfactory in relation to the insurance of the mortgage, but I hope the Minister will give us the benefit of the results of his inquiries.
– Will the honorable senator repeat his question?
– The position in relation to South Australia is this: The South Australian Housing Trust makes a loan on second mortgage to the purchaser of a home built by the Trust. This money does not come directly from Commonwealth funds. After the applicant, or the purchaser, obtains a loan on first mortgage from the State savings bank he is required to raise another loan on second mortgage from the Housing Trust. Some Commonwealth funds are used in South Australia to build rental homes. What I am concerned about - and the question has not yet been satisfactorily answered - is whether purchasers in South Australia of homes built by the Housing Trust will be eligible for the kind of insurance proposed under this legislation.
I leave the matter there. The main intention is to remove the anomaly in respect of war service homes that will result if the legislation is passed in its present form. I make the point that, on the basis of what has been said, there has been no real undertaking by the Government, either in the Senate or in another place, that the position will be covered by appropriate amendments to the War Service Homes Act. Although the R.S.L. has made representations to the Government and I know the matter is being considered, it is obvious to me from the Minister’s statement in the other place that his thoughts on the question are that he should not make the suggested alterations to this legislation. If this position is not to be covered elsewhere, it is obvious that the amendment we propose is logical and ought to be agreed to by the Senate.
– Before the Minister replies to those questions I would like to make a few remarks concerning this amendment. I must express my complete surprise at an amendment of this import being proposed with such brevity and without any adequate explanation from the honorable senator who submitted it. In the first place, the amendment refers to “ an authority of the Commonwealth or of a State “. Senator Bishop did not indicate in any way, except by an oblique reference to a’ South Australian situation, what he had in mind. I would have thought that if this Committee were asked to consider a proposal of this kind, the person proferring the amendment would tell us what authorities of the States - the whole six States - were comprehended in the proposal, and what was the legal meaning of “ authority “. I would also expect somebody to make a reasonable attempt to list the Commonwealth authorities involved. I must express my complete surprise that a responsible body such as this Committee should be invited to consider the amendment with such inadequate material before it and such a weak explanation.
However, it is implied that “ an authority of the Commonwealth “ should include the War Service Homes Division. Indeed, this was mentioned in the debates in another place as a particular feature of this amendment. I should have thought that was worthy of being given some special attention, and that this aspect of the matter would not be prejudiced by including the War Service Homes Division in the omnibus term “ an authority of the Commonwealth or of a State”. Inasmuch as any thoughtful member of the Committee will always be concerned to consider proper benefits for the war service homes beneficiaries, it occurs to me that is pertinent to point out that under section 38 of the War Service Homes Act provision is made for the Director of War Service Homes to insure homes built under the Act - any homes in which the Director has an interest. It is provided that the Regulations may make provision for - . . voluntary insurance against fire and prescribed risks of a dwelling house which has been at any time before or after the commencement of this sub-section but has ceased to be the subject of a contract of sale or mortgage entered into for the purposes of this Act and is owned by a person who was a borrower or purchaser or a widow of any such person or the personal representative of any such person.
Whatever be its validity - and as to that I do not propose to offer any suggestion - section 38 of the War Service Homes Act now confers much wider power than is being given in this Bill in relation to the acceptance or arrangement of voluntary insurance by home owners while the homes are subject to a mortgage, or while they are subject to a contract of purchase, or at any time thereafter.
I am informed that the Director of the War Service Homes Division operates an insurance scheme at rates which are very attractive in comparison with those which are available in the market. That system having been established in relation to war service homes, I wonder what the advantage is in bringing second mortgagee interests, which are charges upon the home owner’s interest in the house, into this general housing loan insurance. There may be an advantage. I am not denying it, but I want a light shone on it. Prima facie, this is attractive until it is considered in relation to the system specially designed by the Director of the War Service Homes Division for insurance of the entire interests of the home owner, by a very simple amendment it should be possible to apply that system, first to the home owner, secondly to the first mortgagee - the Director of the War Service Homes Division - and thirdly to any second mortgagee who, we know, under the War Service Homes Act must get the permission of the Director before he can come into existence as such. I should think that the application of this general system to second mortgagees under the war service homes system would add an incubus of generalities which would be out of place and probably out or line with the general benefit which accrues from the special arrangements under the war service homes legislation. The Minister in another place has said that he will take this matter into consideration and, rather than interweave it into the proposal before us, will see whether the benefit can be given under the war service homes legislation, which seems to me to be the more attractive course.
Having said that, I want to add that if those reasons are not valid, I would not see any objection to applying the cover of this legislation to second mortgagees of war service homes simply because they are second mortgagees. I know that the Minister has insisted in this legislation that the insurance should be available to one single first mortgage, because of the advantage of getting the whole of the mortgage money in one security. If my first two arguments are invalid, merely because Senator Bishop’s amendment intends to apply this insurance to a second mortgagee, the fact that it is a second mortgage should not preclude it. The Minister has already indicated that this insurance will be available to second mortgages in cases where the purpose of the loan is to finance alterations to existing dwellings upon which there are already first mortgages. A second mortgagee under the War Service Homes Act is always subject to the permission of the Director and in that respect one can depend upon the supervision exercised by the Director for the benefit of the mortgagor, the war service homes beneficiary. The Director probably will not permit a second mortgage for speculation or to establish a business, but I believe that he will readily allow a second mortgage for extension of a house or where improvements to an old house arc required. Having regard to the general supervisory protection of the Director over the mortgagor, before a second mortgage is arranged, there is more guarantee than exists in the ordinary case that a second mortgagee is warranted. I make that contribution to the debate in the hope that the position will be further clarified.
– It seems to me that I should make a comment or two on what Senator Wright has said. On entering the debate he suggested that he did not understand what was proposed but when he had concluded his submissions it was obvious that he had done his homework, and that he had read the record of proceedings in the other chamber, which coincided fairly closely with what we said here at the second reading stage. The fact that I spoke as briefly as possible was, I think, a reaction to what was done last night, when we spent 45 minutes on an excursion which Senator Wright knew was quite inappropriate, and when we might have been giving more attention to this provision, which is of considerable importance. In making my submissions brief I was being reasonable in the light of what had transpired last night while the proceedings were being broadcast.
Let us have a look at the situation that Senator Wright talks about. In his legalistic manner, he wants to know why we use in the amendment the expression “ an authority of the Commonwealth or a State”, and he wants me to say how all the States might toe affected. The expression that we use has been used by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), who is in charge of this Bill. It was in common usage in the debates in the other chamber and it is in the Bill itself. If Senator Wright had proceeded to read the definitions he would have seen that - “ insurable loan “ means a loan (not being a loan made by the Commonwealth or a State, or by an authority of the Commonwealth or a State other than a bank). . .
– I have the words underlined in my Bill.
– In that case the honorable senator knew the position exactly and was merely belly-aching. This is not unusual for him and he expects people to sit down and take it. The position is that all honorable senators know exactly what is proposed in the amendment we have moved. Often when we propose an amendment, Senator Wright suggests that it is not framed in the terms that he thinks should be used. Our purpose is very clear. Senator Wright himself understands it. This is obvious, because he concluded with the same sort of advocacy as we have been using. He knew that the Returned Servicemen’s League had been to the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), who had promised to consider the representation in favour of insuring the mortgage which eligible ex-servicemen have to raise while awaiting loans from the War Service Homes Division. We are saying that an exserviceman who is eligible for finance from the War Service Homes Division should not be prejudiced in comparison with an ordinary member of the community. That would be obviously an injustice. Unless the Government intends to do something about this, it would appear to me to be necessary for this chamber to do something about it. That is why we propose this amendment. If Senator Wright was in the chamber when I made my submission he knows that ] referred to the very high interest rates that these people are’ paying for finance to carry them over until they get finance from the War Service Homes Division, for which they have to wait about 18 months. They are paying up to 12 per cent, for the money. The situation is not good enough. Somebody has to do something about it. The amendment that we propose will basically cover it. The other question which arises in this respect is the actual percentage of the loans. I think that every honorable senator understands the amendment. Nobody will convince me that Senator Wright does not understand it. Obviously he does.
I referred also to the position in South Australia. I raised it because I think that now is the appropriate time. I hope that the Minister has grasped the point which I made. A similar situation arose last year when we were debating the homes savings grant legislation. Those are the submissions of the Opposition. I think that they were well canvassed by me in the second reading debate. It seems unnecessary to refer to them again at any length. They are well understood. I leave the matter to the Committee to decide.
– I think that Senator Wright took the point that the amendment, as drafted, did in fact refer to Commonwealth and State authorities, and that it could cover a number of them. Of course, all of them are excluded from the operations of the proposed Act. In presenting the amendment Senator Bishop laid particular stress upon war service homes. Because of the way in which the amendment is phrased, I think it would be a mistake to believe that if it were accepted it would have application exclusively to war service homes. It would not. It would go further than that. The point I make, as I have tried to emphasise in the debate, is that the Bill is directed to two particular objectives. They are, first, the obviating of the need to raise second mortgage money, and secondly, the attraction of private investment to housing finance. The amendment as submitted by the Opposition cuts right across those two objectives. It refers to second mortgage finance which, with the exception of a very limited area, is excluded from the Bill, and because it refers to Government financed homes, it seeks to carry into the Bill something with which the Bill has nothing at all to do. For this reason the Government rejects the amendment. In fact, a similar amendment was rejected in another place.
I have spoken only briefly on this matter. I hope that the brevity of my remarks will not be taken as an indication that consideration has not been given to the amendment. I do not want to reiterate the remarks that I made two or three times last night. I merely want to indicate again that the amendment is completely out of sympathy with the Bill itself. The Bill is not intended to be addressed to all aspects of housing. Indeed, in respect of Commonwealth homes finance, the Minister in another place made it quite clear that he was currently conducting a review of war service homes finance. Other speakers in another place referred to the fact that any amendment that was sought in respect of war service homes should more appropriately be made when the war service homes legislation is being considered. There are other aspects of housing in addition to war service homes which, the Minister has indicated, are also under review. The Bill is for aspecific purpose, as I have indicated, and the amendment has reference to purposes which are not related to the Bill. It is therefore not accepted.
In regard to the particular query that Senator Bishop raised in respect of the provision of finance in South Australia, I am sure that if he looks at the definition of an “ insurable loan “ it will become quite obvious that the transaction to which he referred is excluded from the operations of this legislation.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Wood.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5. (I.) The Minister may, by instrument in writing, declare a class of persons specified in the instrument to be an approved class of lenders for the purposes of this Act.
– Last night there was considerable argument upon the principle involved in subclause (1.) of clause 5. I suggest that there is no justification whatever for classes of persons being selected by the Minister as the only classes of lenders whose loans should be insured under this Act. The principle of discrimination is repugnant. The question of acceptability for insurance should depend entirely upon the propriety of the terms and conditions of the loan, not merely from the point of view of integrity but also from the point of view of soundness of security. I find the subclause in question especially unacceptable when it is accompanied by a statementby the Minister that the classes of lenders who will be approved will include banks, life insurance companies and building societies, not forgetting that “ as time goes on other classes of lenders will almost certainly be approved “.
I look forward to dividing the Committee on this sub-clause and on this question of principle so that we shall have on record which parties in the Senate and which individual senators advocate the selection of special classes of lenders and which advocate the availability of loan insurance for lenders generally if the terms and conditions of the security, from the point of view of integrity and soundness, are otherwise unobjectionable. I move -
Leave out sub-clause (1:).
.- The Government does not accept the proposed amendment. I shall give an explanation of this decision when the sitting is resumed.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Through the amendment, Senator Wright seeks to delete clause 5 (1 .) of the Bill. In the emphatic view of the Government clause 5(1.) has an important relationship to matters to which I referred last night. First, there is the need - indeed, the essentiality - to get the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation into business as a going concern as quickly as possible and, secondly, to ensure that its early operations engender a spirit of confidence throughout the section of the Australian population who may be interested either in lending from private resources or borrowing from them for housing purposes.
From time to time during the debate I have pointed out that under this new scheme, the size of a loan for housing will be lifted to 90 per cent, of the valuation whereas the existing practice is to lend about 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, and frequently less. This in itself will create a number of new situations. I have referred to the fact that under this scheme the lenders will play a very responsible part and I think it is interesting to have some regard to what the lenders will be expected to do to ensure the efficient running of this scheme. They will be required to examine the title of the relevant property, to appraise its value and assess the capacity of the borrower to repay the loan. In the event of the default of the borrower, any effort to renegotiate a loan, to obtain vacant possession or to sell the property will be undertaken in almost every case by the lender.
An approved lender must be familiar with the conditions attaching to the contract of insurance. The lender will be responsible for reporting to the Corporation a loan in default. He will be responsible for what might be regarded by the Corporation as reasonable action in the event of a default and the extent to which costs may be included in a claim, as well as other administrative matters. Clearly it emerges that the lender must be a responsible person and must be a person equipped to carry out these administrative aspects and many others besides those I have mentioned.
In submitting this amendment, Senator Wright again referred to the fact that there will be only three categories of lenders. I propose to refer again to the intention of the Government to broaden that lending basis but I submit first that it is necessary to begin as proposed to ensure that the Corporation gets into operation quickly and, equally, to ensure that the early operation of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation is such that it will engender confidence.
The two main problems the Corporation will face when it opens its doors to business will be to check the lenders’ estimates of the valuation of the property against which lenders are seeking to have their loans insured. The Corporation must be satisfied that the borrower is reasonably capable of repaying the loan and meeting all the terms and conditions of the loan agreement. As I said earlier, these are matters that the lender will be expected to establish.
If the Corporation were required itself to investigate every insurance proposal in depth, it would need to establish al first a very large staff indeed and to open offices in many cities and towns throughout Australia. Initially, of course, it will have offices in each capital city. However, it is the Government’s hope that the scheme may be put into operation quickly by approving initially as lenders institutions which have had long experience in administering housing loans in the expectation that this will minimise the need for further investigation by the Corporation itself.
As I have said, it is intended that approved lenders will be responsible for the administration of their insured loans. To the extent to which this is possible, the Corporation may get into business more quickly with a much smaller staff than would otherwise be necessary. The Corporation is bound to face difficulties in acquiring the staff it needs in each capital city within a relatively short period and it will need the assistance of experienced lenders if it is to open its doors within a reasonable period. lt is for this reason that the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) intends, at least in the initial stages of the scheme and until the Corporation has suitable and sufficient staff, to limit approved lenders to those experienced in the administration of housing loans. But I want to repeat that the Minister has assured me that it is his intention to permit the Corporation to approve as lenders all classes of lenders who are financially sound and capable of meeting the Corporation’s criteria in administering insured loans. He points out that failure to do this would be to abandon one of the objectives of the scheme which is to encourage an increased flow of private money into housing. The proposed initial arrangements are dictated by sheer administrative necessity. It is the Minister’s wish and aim that all responsible lenders for housing will have access to the benefits of insurance cover for their housing loans.
I leave it at that. This is an acknowledged administrative necessity, but at the same time the Minister gives an assurance that as time goes on, this scheme will be open to lenders who are suitable and who can fulfil the criteria required by the Corporation.
– I indicate on behalf of the Opposition that we cannot support the proposed amendment. This Bill embarks the Commonwealth in an entirely new and unexplored field - that is, the financing of loans to an amount beyond the usual trust level. Ultimately, it will go up to perhaps 95 per cent, of the cost of a home. The first and the greatest task of this Corporation will be to attract money to this new purpose. In the light of those conditions, we find that the providers of housing finance are to be largely institutionalised. The number of private mortgagees today, compared with pre-war years, has fallen very considerably. The Government had several courses open to it. The first was to deal with the major institutions interested in the provision of the finance of housing, such as banks, insurance companies and building societies. The second course open to the Government was to concentrate in the first place upon private lenders. The third course was to open its doors to everybody at once.
The Government has the responsibility of attracting money for this purpose. I say at once that, in my own judgment, unless the Government can interest the institutions and attract money from the institutions fairly quickly, then the Corporation might as well put up its shutters. I believe it would never get off the ground. I do not profess to know what is the wise thing to do or which is the wise approach. We in this country are without experience regarding this matter. But I think it proper that the Government should assume the responsibility of saying how and where it will start and carry that responsibility. I think that, in the circumstances, the decision to determine classes of lenders is not one to which we would at this stage offer any objection. We think it a possible approach. It may well be the one that will yield the best results. It may be, too, that in choosing those three bodies the Government has in mind the readiness with which it can encourage or stimulate bodies of that nature into making funds available in this new field. For instance, it occurs to me that just as the Government stimulated banks, insurance companies and superannuation funds into supporting Commonwealth loans by certain taxation privileges and concessions, it may be able to import into that category of concession loans that are made in support of the activities which are envisaged for this Corporation. That may well be. I should like the Minister, if he has that thought in mind, or if he feels free to express it, to indicate whether that is one of the factors which induced the Government to make the decision that it did. So the Opposition is not disposed to contest the provision in sub-clause (1.).
I say, secondly, that there must be some form of control of lenders. One could not open the door indiscriminately to lenders. Particularly at an early stage of this new venture, we have to guard against the possibility - and we have had demonstrations of the possibility - of an unscrupulous salesman getting hold of people with small deposits and selling the one bolck of land to a whole succession of people on the assurance that he can finance the building project they contemplate up to 95 per cent. Of course, he is cut out at this early stage because his prospects are blighted by the fact that those types of loans can be arranged only between well established institutions. I have no doubt that the confidence man would see the opportunity that the prospect of raising loans of up to 95 per cent, of the total cost of a home would excite in the minds of home hungry people with small deposits who see no other , likelihood of ever obtaining a home. I think the Government has properly to guard against that sort of thing happening at this early stage. That is one example only of the type of thing that, I consider, could happen and would need to be guarded against particularly in this incipient stage of the scheme.
I spoke yesterday of the fact that because institutions of three types only at the moment have been approved, it would be impossible for individuals who had arranged advantageous agreements between themselves to get the benefit of the insurance cover from the Corporation. That point is answered to a certain extent in the second reading speech of the Minister for Defence by the fact that he has indicated that the making of such arrangements is contemplated but the servicing of such a loan, or the administration of it, is to be undertaken by one of the approved lenders - -that is, one of the institutions. That, no doubt, would involve the lender and borrower in meeting some charge to the institution. I have no doubt that, ultimately, whatever charge is involved in that transaction would fall on the borrower and would add to the costs of the finance. The borrower may well consider that charge worth while, having regard to the great advantage that he gets in securing a very large loan on first mortgage at a reasonable rate of interest. The cost might well be more offset by the disadvantages that a loan of the nature and magnitude would bring. It is not possible for private individuals - solicitors and others - to make the arrangements and have the loan administered by one of the major bodies. I do not know whether the Government is wise in what it is doing, but my own feeling in the matter is that it is entitled to make its decision at this time and to move a little cautiously into this untried field. For those reasons in general, we do not support the proposed amendment.
– I wanted to ask the same kind of questions as have been asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Mckenna) more expertly than I could have phrased them. I have heard a lot spoken about the lenders and the Corporation but very little about the borrower. I think that members of the Australian Labour Party and members of the Government should be looking alter the interests of the borrower. What I want to know is this: Is the Government setting any standards to protect the borrower, or is it accepting the general proposition which seems to be implicit in the Bill that the lenders can do no wrong and that the Government is prepared to accept their assessment of what is the right way to treat a borrower? Senator McKenna has put up the same sort of argument in a different way. Is there an answer to that point?
.- Before the Minister replies to that point, may I interpose some brief comments on his remarks and those of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The Minister described this proposal as an administrative necessity. He said that reliance could be placed upon the three types of institutions at the original stages of the activities of the Corporation. I wonder whether the Minister gives a really responsible reflection of opinion as to trustworthiness and soundness of judgment of the other sections of lenders whom he excludes. I myself see no greater reliability in a bank or a life insurance company and, indeed, no equal sense of responsibility in many of the building societies, particularly small building societies, than in established lending companies of integrity, trustee companies and, indeed, many of the great private trustee companies which rely for their advice upon the legal profession. This applies also to many of the estate agent companies which play an active part in the arrangement of housing loan finance.
It seems to me to be rather an indication of inexperience to suggest that people who lend in that field will not exhibit sufficient responsibility in respect of the safety of their own money to be some assurance to the Corporation that they will see their money properly secured and safeguarded. Senator McKenna said it appeared to him that the moneys to be used for this purpose would come largely from the institutions. He could not have given much attention to this matter, because I pointed out last night that those who have studied it in detail suggest that the lenders on whose behalf I speak have an outstanding liability in this field of finance of more than £300 million whereas the greatest liability in the three classes Whom the Minister presently proposes to approve - the banks, life assurance companies and building societies - is that of the building societies. It amounts to £289 million.
– What is the total liability of the three classes?
– The 1962 figures revealed that in the case of the building societies the liability was £289 million; in the case of the savings banks, £239 million; in the case of the major trading banks, £95 million; and in the case of the life assurance companies, £154 million. So those who say that the exclusion of those not in the classes presently to be nominated will enhance the flow of money for house finance are following a most unusual course.
Senator McKenna said that the Government must have some control; otherwise the Corporation would receive attention from the confidence men. I have stated his argument briefly. Of course the.re will be confidence men in this business, but has the insurance world found it necessary to stipulate certain classes in order to exclude confidence men? We trust the Corporation to deal with the security of those to whom it will extend insurance. There will be no obligation upon it to give insurance to the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd. if on the day after this legislation is passed the bank takes along to it a portfolio of mortgages amounting to £200,000. The Corporation would be recreant to its trust if it took those as an omnibus proposition. It will have to give to any proposals that are submitted to it the ordinary scrutiny that an insurance company would give to proposals it received and which the Export Guarantee Insurance Corporation gives to proposals submitted to it.
I thought I emphasised last night that I was quite prepared to leave it to the judgment - to the commercial integrity - of the Corporation to say: “Mr. X, we do not wish to deal with you “. It need not assign any reasons, but I am sure it will act on proper business considerations. It will not be dictated to by a classification of lenders who are approved by a Minister, be he of Liberal persuasion or, if unfortunately the possibility crystallises into eventuality, be he a Socialist Minister.
– That is spoiling it.
– No. I am not indicating a lack of confidence in the integrity of any individual Minister. I am dealing with the ministerial classification of people who are entitled to consideration from the Corporation. To give to a Minister the right to stipulate the classes of lenders who may do business and those who may not is, to my mind, opposed to the principles which should govern the administration of this legislation and to political principles generally. It is for those reasons that I speak in support of the amendment I have proposed.
– Senator Wright clings to the belief that the three groups of people who are to be approved initially will apparently retain an exclusive right to this field of insurance for all time.
– No, I do not. I read the relevant words this morning. The Minister has said that from time to time other classes may be included.
– That is right. And yesterday the honorable senator said, to quote his own words, that that did not mean anything.
– Well, the Minister did not quote me correctly.
– I ask the honorable senator to look at the “ Hansard “ report.
– I want the Minister to do so.
– I have said continually that to get this organisation going it is necessary, for administrative reasons which have been frankly acknowledged, to start in the modest way proposed. It is certainly the intention of the Minister for Housing to broaden the field of lenders. It may well be that, when he declares the classes of approved lenders, they will be found to go beyond the three classes proposedthat is, the banks, insurance companies and building societies. Already in a debate in another place the Minister has made direct reference to trustee companies.
All I can say in respect of what Senator Wright has put forward is that, if we proceeded on the lines that his amendment would make necessary, we certainly would attract a flood of individual applications that would call for an administrative effort which at this point of time it would not be possible to undertake. For that reason, and for that reason only, we are approaching this matter in the way in which I have indicated. I cannot say more than that. Senator Wright must either agree or disagree. I repeat that that is as far as I can go.
The matter raised by Senator Ormonde is adequately covered by the powers that will be conferred upon the Corporation itself. The Corporation will have the power to determine whether or not it will insure. It will not insure unless it is satisfied that the terms are such that a borrower might reasonably be expected to accept.
– I desire to add to one or two of the remarks made by my colleague Senator Ormonde. I concern myself with the problems of the borrower insofar as they are governed by clause 5. I draw the attention of the Minister to sub-clause (3.) in particular. It provides -
The Corporation shall cause notice of the approval, or the revocation of the approval–
I emphasise the last phrase - of a person as a lender under this section to be published in the Gazette.
I imagine that the number of borrowers under this legislation who would read the appropriate “ Gazette “ would be very few indeed. I should like to learn from the Minister what will happen to a borrower if the approval of the lending organisation involved is revoked by the Corporation. This is a matter of importance to the borrowers. As I read the sub-clause, it could well be used for administrative action, as it were, to turn the supply of finance for the building industry on or off like a tap. I ask the Minister what types of circumstances are envisaged in this clause that warrant its inclusion in the Bill? 1 refer more particularly to the revocation of approval than to the granting of approval.
– Has the honorable senator read sub-clause (4.) of clause 5?
– No, at this stage I have not, but I believe that these matters are important from the point of view of the borrower. 1 trust that the Minister will elucidate this point because I frankly believe that Parliament is entitled to know the terms upon which approval will be given or revoked, having regard especially to the fact that notice of intention to grant approval or revoke it is to be published only in the “ Gazette “.
. -In the event that a revocation occurs, the insurance of any loans outstanding made by a lender whose approval has been revoked will continue to operate; in other words, protection will be extended by a continuation of the insurance. Revocation of approval might be attracted by such things as the selling up of a borrower without the approval of the Corporation or a deliberate misstatement of fact in respect of any transaction. Actions of that type would attract revocation.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wright’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Wedgwood.)
Majority . . . . 46
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
In sub-clause (1.) leave out “, instrument in writing, declare a class of persons specified in the instrument “, insert “ regulation declare a class of persons “
The sub-clause would then read -
The Minister may by regulation declare a class of persons to be an approved class of lenders for the purposes of this Act.
As we know, a regulation is amenable to parliamentary control. A ministerial instrument in writing, declaring a class of persons, may never be known to us. It is not that sort of declaration which sub-clause (3.) requires to be published in the “Gazette”. It is the Corporation’s declaration of individual persons that must be published. But whether or not such a ministerial declaration is published, it is not subject to parliamentary control. As a Minister has the power, under the Bill as printed, to specify a class of persons as an approved class, it appears to me that it would be more consonant with parliamentary procedure that that should be done by a regulation, which is subject to parliamentary control. It is in that sense that I have moved the amendment.
– The Government does not accept the amendment. It is true, as Senator Wright says, that if by regulation the Government declares a group of people as approved for this purpose action’ can be taken in the Senate to void the regulations. Action can be taken, in effect, to challenge the Government’s decision in respect of the approval granted to a category of lenders. That is acknowledged. The honorable senator says that in his view, proceeding by regulation is more appropriate to the procedures of the Parliament. I hold the contrary view. I hold the view that if, in a case such as this, the Government takes a decision to approve a certain category of lenders for this purpose, that is, in effect, a policy decision, and a challenge to such a policy decision should come not from a committee of either House of the Parliament but from within the Parliament itself. This appears to me to ‘ be much more in consonance with established parliamentary practice. I do not think it can be denied that, in respect of a measure such as this, the approval of a category or class of lenders is a policy decision and, if challengeable, should be challengeable as a direct result of action taken in the Parliament, not within a committee of the Parliament. For that reason, the Government opposes the amendment.
.- I indicate that, although this amendment has come before us at short notice, the Opposition is in general sympathy with the end sought by Senator Wright. The Minister has just stated that if a policy decision concerning classes of lenders were to be challenged it should be challenged not by a Committee of the Parliament but in the Parliament itself. I point out to the Minister that, quite apart from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of this Senate, which looks at all regulations, it is competent for any member of the Parliament in either House to initiate a move to disallow a regulation or a portion of a regulation. That would take place not at the instance of or in the precincts of any committee, but in the Parliament in the most open way. If there were a regulation appointing three classes and it was felt in the Parliament that another class might be added, a motion could be moved for disallowance of the regulation so as to draw attention to the need for adding the further class. That is complete and open control by the Parliament.
The advantage of a regulation is that it becomes known in the Parliament There is no provision in sub-clause (1.) whereby the Minister must announce to anybody the classes he has selected. A Minister is discharging a public function; he is not acting in a private capacity. Sub-clause (1.) says -
The Minister may, by instrument in writing, declare a class of persons . . .
He is under no obligation to publish that instrument. He could just convey the information to the Corporation, if he wished, and to the. selected lenders. He is transacting public business and what he does ought to be done in the most public way. Whether it relates to policy or administration, any act of the Government should be published to the Parliament and should be clearly reviewable by the Parliament. There is a procedure for the purpose.
I think the Minister will find himself at variance with one of his colleagues on the principle involved in this matter, because
I find that, as recently as September 1963, the issue we are now debating cropped up in relation to the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill and a number of associated Bills. Using the same kind of argument as I am using now, I and others on both sides of the Senate succeeded in persuading the Minister concerned to accept our view. To quote exactly, he moved in the finish: “Leave out ‘such a notice has been published ‘ and insert ‘ a conference or mission has been declared by the regulation to be a conference or mission to which this section applies ‘ “. In other words, he agreed to set aside a mere declaration by a Minister as to what was or was not to be regarded as an international conference and agreed that the Minister should cause a regulation to be made in the matter. There was acceptance of this principle by one Minister of the Crown as recently as September 1963. I suggest that the Minister here is taking an entirely different course. There is a point of principle involved. I would think it possible to persuade the Minister and the Government to follow the example set by Senator Gorton in this matter. The principle is one for which we of the Opposition and some honorable senators on the Government side have contended so often that I thought it might well have been attended to in the drafting of this Bill.
– Contended whilst in Opposition, but not whilst in office.
– My memory is not so long as to go back 15 or 16 years and remember all of the things I did or did not do in government. On many occasions since I have been in Opposition I have contended for the principle and I have joined with some members of the Government parties in upholding it. I thought we had advanced to a stage at which we did not argue this matter any more, particularly in view of the gracious acceptance, after some little persuasion, by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), of the principle for which I am contending now. At the same time, I should be happier to see a variation of the form in which the amendment has been presented. If the sub-clause were amended as desired by Senator Wright, it would read -
The Minister may, by regulation, declare a class of persons …
I do not think it is completely appropriate to phrase the sub-clause in that way. It would not be the Minister who would make the regulation; it would really be the Governor-General in Council. I think that the honorable senator’s purpose might be better achieved if the sub-clause read -
The regulation may declare a class of person . . .
That would put it in an unexceptionable form.
– I would adopt that willingly. I shall ask for leave to amend my amendment accordingly. The amendment would then read -
Leave out “ The Minister may, by instrument in writing,” insert “the regulations may provide”.
– The Opposition would support the proposal in that form. I suggest that it would involve the Government in not the slightest embarrassment or difficulty. It is almost as easy to go through the mechanics of having a regulation promulgated as it is to sit down and write a letter on the subject under the hand of the Minister. It involves the Government in no administrative difficulty and it does meet the strong view of this Chamber that the Parliament should not be by-passed. I do not suggest that this is being done with deliberation on this occasion. Quite frankly, I think that the matter has not been adverted to. I feel quite certain that had attention been directed to it we would have been dealing with sub-clause (1.) in the amended terms now proposed by Senator Wright.
– I give notice that I propose to oppose the amendment, but I am now trying to get it into shape. As proposed to be amended, the subclause would read -
The regulations may provide that a class of persons specified in the regulations is an approved class of persons for the purposes of this Act.
I think it should read -
The regulations may provide that a class of persons specified in the regulations be an approved class …
I think that the appropriate word is “ be “ rather than “ is “.
– That is as I put it.
– I should like to be quite clear about the position. I do not want to complicate the issue, but I think we might do without the words “ specified in the regulations “. If the proposal simply read, “The regulations may declare a class of persons to be an approved class of lenders for the purposes of this Act “, we would be going directly to the point. I do not mind if the additional words are included, but I think that they are unnecessary. The Minister included the words “ specified in the regulations “. I suggest to him that those words are not necessary and that the form that I have suggested will achieve the purpose with a minimum of words.
– 1 quite agree. I adopt that suggestion and 1 ask for leave to amend my amendment accordingly.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I accept the wording in that form, but I oppose the amendment.
– This is a most important matter. It is a fundamental issue which has been raised once again in this chamber. It was last raised in September 1963 and a satisfactory solution was reached with the accord of all parties. In my view this amendment ought to be accepted generally. The Minister opposes the principle of the amendment. I am sure that if he gives it due consideration he will join in the general acceptance of the amendment. The fundamental issue arises in this way. There are three arms of government - the legislative, the administrative and the judicial. Each has to keep to its proper sphere. The Parliament makes the legislation, the Executive administers, and the courts interpret and enforce. The Parliament, for the sake of convenience, sometimes delegates legislation. It can delegate the making of legislation to any person, whether that person be the Governor General, or the Minister as was first suggested by Senator Wright, or some private person or body. But in every case the delegated legislation ought to be subjected to the approval of Parliament. It ought to be dealt with in such a way that Parliament can disallow the delegated legislation. Parliament should be able to supervise it in that way.
When regulations are made automatically under the Acts Interpretation Act the subordinate legislation is subjected to supervision by both Houses of Parliament acting separately. If the subordinate legislation is made not by regulation but merely by instrument then that subordinate legislation is not subjected to that supervision.
The Minister has given an answer which misses the point. He said that this clause concerns a matter of policy. By that he means that it is a matter of administration. It is not a matter of administration. The question of the approval of a particular lender is a matter of administration and ought not to be done by regulation, lt would be quite wrong to say that that type of thing should be done by regulation. That is in the administrative sphere. That is the type of thing that will be done under the next clause, clause 5 (2.), which provides for the approval of a person. Under that clause it happens to be by the Corporation. If it were approved by the Minister, that would be all right. There would be no problem about it. That could and ought to be done by instrument in writing, or in some other manner, but not by regulation, because we do not want all the administrative acts to be subjected to this kind of supervision by each House of Parliament which is appropriate for delegated legislation only.
However, when one designates a class of persons, as in clause 5 (1.) which we are considering, that is not administration but legislation. It is making the law. By designating a class of persons, the Government is doing something which applies to the community in general. It is not dealing with a particular person or a particular act of administration. That is clearly and undeniably subordinate legislation which ought to be subjected to the supervision of Parliament in the same way as other delegated legislation is subjected to that supervision.
Therefore, I think that the Minister, in line with the precedents and with the fundamental nature of our Australian Constitution, should agree to the proposal. It is dangerous to set up a precedent whereby one will have delegated legislation not subjected to the supervision of Parliament. I ask the Minister to consider this question not as being a party political one. No one wants to score any advantage at all. It is a most important matter of democracy and of the supremacy of Parliament. I ask the Minister to again consider the question in that light.
– I have listened with great interest to what has been said by speakers from both sides of the chamber. I regret to say that I have heard nothing which has convinced me that my original view is not the right one. Clause 5 (1.) which it is proposed to amend, deals directly with the administration of the provisions of the Bill and of the Corporation. It involves a decision of great importance. As such, in my own view it should be challenged from the floor of the House. Indeed, in some circumstances such challenge could be a vote of lack of confidence in the Government. For that reason, if for no other, I suggest that it is more in keeping wilh Parliamentary practice that the decision should come from the floor of the House.
I was impressed by what Senator Wright said about the fact that as the clause stands there is a possibility that the declaration of a certain category might not come to the public notice. I accept that. I would be quite prepared to accept an amendment to the clause so that it would read: “ The Minister may, … by publication in the “Gazette”, declare a class of persons … to be an approved class of persons for the purposes of this Act.” But that is the extent to which I am prepared to go.
.- Before the Minister makes a final decision on this question, I invite his attention to one further matter which seems to me to be a weighty consideration in favour of the view I have advanced and which has been advanced from the other side of the chamber. I ask the Minister to look at clause 47(2.) of the Bill. He will see that the draftsman of the Bill has chosen regulations to prescribe securities to be approved securities; to declare interests in land to be prescribed interests; and to prescribe classes of insurable loans for the purposes of clause 20. All the functions that are involved in the process of approving classes of lenders are - when it comes to prescribing securities to be approved securities, to declaring interests in land to be prescribed interests and to prescribing classes of insurable loans for the purposes of clause 20 - made operative by the vehicle of regulations. The same elements concerned in those three matters are involved in the declaration of classes of persons to be approved. Not one sensible distinction can be drawn between the process of declaring a class of persons as approved lenders, declaring interests in land as those which are qualified to be insured when subject to a mortgage under the Act, and prescribing classes of insurable loans for the purposes of clause 20.
I rose only to advance that argument which seems to me to be of such dominating force that it ought to persuade the Minister to adopt regulations as the vehicle of declaration of classes of approved lenders under this sub-clause of the Bill.
– I had, in fact, considered clause 47 (2.) prior to the reference made by Senator Wright. Despite his persuasive argument, I hold the view that the distinction does exist. Clause 47 (2.) refers to things which may be done. Clause 5 (1 .) refers to classes of persons who are to be approved. I hold the view, and hold it firmly, that in respect of the prescription of classes of persons, it is for the Government to take the decision and that it should not be done by regulation.
– I am obliged to the Minister for addressing his mind to this subject, but I am disappointed that he will not accept the proposed amendment. I do not understand him when he says that this is not the type of thing to come to a committee. I take it that he is referring to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. If that is in his mind, let me remind him that these matters do not necessarily come up in the Parliament through such a committee. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has a limited purpose. It has no authority to determine the merits of a governmental decision. It is not concerned with that. The Committee is concerned to see that a regulation complies with well defined conditions - that it is within constitutional power* that it is within the power conferred by the Act, and that it makes no undue invasion of liberties. Those considerations would not be at issue here. The matter could be raised, with a regulation, without reference to or consideration by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. 1 do not understand the Minister’s statement - I think I have heard it twice - to the effect that it is inappropriate that a committee of the Senate or of the Parliament should be reviewing an administrative act of the Government. The matter simply does not arise in that way. We are contending that a regulation is open to challenge by any one senator on the floor of the Senate or by any one member of the House of Representatives on the floor of that place, lt is the only convenient way that a governmental act of that kind can be attacked. I think it would be inappropriate that a difference of opinion between the Opposition and the Government on who shall be approved should be made the subject of a vote of confidence in or a censure motion on the Government. In effect, that would be using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I do not think that would be an appropriate procedure.
A very ready procedure that will achieve two purposes - first, enabling the Minister’s act to be promulgated and made known in public, and secondly, enabling it to be reviewed in the Parliament - lies in the proposed amendment now before the Committee. The Minister has met us on one leg of the proposition. One leg of our complaint - that the governmental act is not made public - is met by the Minister’s willingness to include the words “ published in the ‘ Gazette ‘ “, but that is a relatively unimportant leg in the view that we put. A question of principle is involved - that of using a regulation, which is made public and is reviewable by Parliament, as compared with producing a document which the Minister himself writes and which is not per se reviewable in the Parliament.
We have been over this ground many times today and on many prior occasions. The Government met us as recently as September 1963 in the context that I have put. I hope that the Minister, if he does not feel free, without consultation with the Minister he represents, to give an affirmative answer now, will consider postponing the clause until he has considered it further or has had the opportunity to consult with his colleague. If he wants to do that, we will agree very readily to give him that opportunity.
– I regret that I am unable to accept the suggestion that the clause be deferred. I accept the proposed amendment of the clause in the way that I have suggested, namely, by making it clear that the Minister shall, by publication in the “ Gazette “, meet the largest objection which has been raised. This will alert and bring to the notice of members of Parliament that the Minister has made a certain decision. Each individual member of the Senate will be in possession of facts sufficient to enable him to take whatever action he wants to take individually - that is the point - in a way no less effective than if this were done by regulation. Publication in the “ Gazette “ will inform every honorable senator-
– But what can he do?
– He can take whatever action he wants to take.
– The Senate can do nothing.
– It can. I would accept an amendment along those lines but I will not accept the amendment proposed by Senator Wright.
– I feel constrained to rise again in view of what has been said by the Minister so that every honorable senator will understand what is really at stake here.. The Minister said that the method he proposed would mean that any honorable senator would be able to take action. It is quite clear that if this Parliament now gives to the Executive the power to make this delegated legislation by instrument in writing and not by way of regulation, the Senate would not be able to disallow the action of prescribing classes. If it is done by regulation, the Senate will be able to supervise that delegated legislation. In other words, if it is not done by regulation but by an instrument in writing, the Senate will have no power whatever over the exercise of the delegated legislative authority. It is as simple as that and I think the Minister must understand it.
He has said that individual senators can do something, but not even the whole Senate can do anything. It would not matter whether the Senate determined, by an absolute majority, to do something about it. The Senate would have no power. Of course, as I have said, if it is done by regulation the Senate could disallow the regulation, but neither the Senate nor the
House of Representatives would have any power to supervise the exercise of this delegated legislative authority if it is allowed to be exercised not by regulation but by an instrument in writing. This is wrong. This should not be done. This is a bad precedent, and I hope that honorable senators, or enough of them, will see the evil that is inherent in this to enable the proposed amendment to be carried.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wright’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Wedgwood.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is -
That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7. (1.) The Corporation shall consist of five mem bers, namely: -
– I move -
At the end of sub-clause (5.) add, “ and another shall be a person who has had experience as an architect and town planner”.
The purpose of the amendment can be related to the proposal implicit in clause 7 (5.) to appoint to the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation a person with experience in banking carried on by an instrumentality of the Commonwealth. The intention of the Opposition is to nave appointed to the Corporation also a person who has had some experience both as a town planner and an architect. Honorable senators who have followed the debate in this chamber and have read the report of the debate in another place will have noticed that while the Bill is said to be designed to cover finance for home building and to attract more money and savings to that purpose, the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) stated that the Corporation would be a business undertaking charged with a strong social purpose.
It is evident that since the discussion has revolved around environment as well as finance and associated practices of home building, the issues are wider than actual home building and finance for homes. It will be noted that the Minister speaking in another place devoted some time to these matters in his second reading speech and during the debate on an amendment similar to that which I have moved in this chamber. The Opposition believes that strong social forces must be related not only tothe burdens of persons who have second mortgages now - and this is obviously a social problem and one which the Government aims to correct to some extent - but also to the social problem of lack of housing. Regard must be had to the fact that there is not sufficient housing and that as a result there are many social problems.
Having gone as far as that, one has to of town planning. For example, the scope of the Bill extends to the construction of roads and footpaths. This provision has never before been encompassed in consideration of a dwelling unit. In this context, finance in relation to environment and town planning becomes of new importance. I remind honorable senators that the Minister for Housing devoted some time to these matters as recorded at page 283 of “ Hansard “. The Minister also pointed out that the problem of costs was now altered by speculation. If there were no proper planning in relation to home building and housing areas there would ba greater cost, and the question would arise whether speculators would open up new areas. All these matters are related to the purposes of the Bill. In fact clause 23 provides that the Corporation may require to be satisfied as to standards of construction.
Earlier in the debate, reference was made to the labour force in the community in relation to housing. On this basis, it seems reasonable to have a member of the Corproation with experience as an architect and town planner. Clause 7 provides that the Corporation shall consist of five members - a chairman, a deputy chairman and three other members.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, made the observation also that there had been some delay in introducing this legislation because long discussions had taken place with some international authorities. He mentioned the Canadian authorities. We know also that some discussions were held with housing authorities in the United States of America. There is in fact a wider application of this principle in the United States legislation which might be considered. Under the United States Federal Housing Administration, regard must be had, before loans on properties may be insured, not only to the standards of construction, as mentioned in this Bill, but also the locality and liveability of the home.
The issue of housing in the Australian community has been canvassed in the consideration of this Bill. Concern was expressed by the Minister for Housing in another place when introducing this Bill. An attempt has been made to assist housing in Australia and that has brought forth the legislation which is now before us. Because of this, we suggest that it is most appropriate to have as a member of the Housing
Loans Insurance Corporation a person who has architectural experience as his knowledge would be most valuable to the operations of the Corporation in the wider sense.
– The Government does not accept this amendment although, in view of the result of the last division, I might more accurately say, I suppose, that the Government does not willingly accept the amendment. The Government does not accept the amendment because it believes that to do this would place an unnecessary restraint on the selection of the men who will form the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) to whom Senator Bishop referred at length, although he addressed himself also to a number of social aspects of housing, finally rejected the proposition.
The Minister rejected the proposition because, as he pointed out, the function of the Corporation is to insure loans made by other bodies. It is an insurance establishment; it is not a housing establishment. If it were a large body which was lending money, there might be some merit in the amendment which has been submitted by Senator Bishop. In the circumstances, it is obvious that the men who will fill the positions on the Corporation most appropriately are men who are skilled in finance and insurance. Should an occasion arise when the Corporation feels it necessary to have the advice of an architect, a town planner or any of the specialists in relation to housing, it is at’ perfect liberty to avail itself of whatever advice it requires. For the reasons I have given, the Government rejects the amendment.
– I wish to reply to the remarks of the Minister. He said that the amendment, if carried, would place unnecessary restraint on the selection of the members of this Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. While it must be admitted that it would be some restraint in respect of the persons who could be selected to be members of the Corporation, we must consider whether this is a necessary restraint or not. The Corporation has the function of insuring loans. As the Minister has stated, this function necessitates the appointment to the Corporation of someone skilled in finance. But the Corporation is not being set up to insure just anything. It is a Corporation to insure, amongst other things, those types of dwellings which are referred to in clause 23 which we discussed last night. The clause reads -
The Corporation may decline to enter into a contract of insurance in respect of an insurable loan if it is not satisfied that the dwelling-house to which the loan relates has been constructed, or Will be constructed, as the case requires, in accordance with sound standards of construction or, in the case of a loan made for the purpose of altering, improving or extending a dwelling-house, or for purposes including that purpose, that the alterations improvements or extensions will be carried out in accordance with sound standards of construction.
Surely that provision, in itself, necessitates the appointment to the Corporation of someone with a knowledge of building construction. The Minister has said that if the knowledge of an architect is necessary, that knowledge can be obtained. Architects can be hired for the purpose of advising the Corporation. But when an application in documentary form is being considered, surely an architect-member trained in building construction could point out from the document any defects in the standards of the construction. It was argued last night - and I did not readily agree with the argument - that the fact that a loan for building is to be insured will have the effect of protecting the borrower because a condition of the insurance will be that the building will be of sound construction. I do not think that the provision will have that effect. But if this is desired, surely we must have a member of the Corporation who at all times will look at specifications for the purpose of saying, before insurance is granted, that a proposed construction is a sound one in accordance with clause 23. I think it is reasonable and logical that someone who is conversant with building construction should be a member of the Corporation and look after that section relating to construction for the purpose of better control and the better operation of the Corporation.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided.
The Temporary Chairman ; Senator Wedgwood.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a third time.
– by leave - For the information of honorable senators I lay before the Senate copies of the following correspondence between the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) relating to the possible effects of measures taken by the United States Government to improve the balance of payments position of the United States of America -
Letter dated 12th March 1965 from the Prime Minister of Australia to the President of the United States of America;
Letter dated 12th March 1965 from the President of the United States of America to the Prime Minister of Australia;
Letter dated 24th March 1965 from the President of the United States of America to the Prime Minister of Australia.
Honorable senators will see that in his letter of 24th March the President made it clear that the door is open for discussion and, as I understand it, elucidation of the United States policies. As these matters are of great moment for us, the Prime Minister has asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to pay a short few days’ visit to Washington to have talks with the Administration. The Treasurer can do this immediately after the discussions with the Premiers and would not need to be absent for more than relatively few days. Because I think honorable senators would wish to have an opportunity to debate the issues involved,I present the following paper -
United States of AmericaBalance of Payments Programme - Ministerial Statement, 1st April 1965- and more -
That the Senate lake note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that discussions will be held in Canberra next week between officials of the British, New Zealand and Australian Governments about some important Nauruan matters. These three Governments are jointly responsible for the administration of Nauru under the United Nations Trusteeship Agreement and are partners in the British Phosphate Commission. The talks to be held next week are in preparation for later talks with representatives of the Nauruans.
Honorable senators will recall that talks took place in August last as part of a series of discussions with representatives of the Nauru Local Government Council. These talks have been concerned with possibilities of resettling the Nauruan people, political advancement for the Nauruans, the level of royalties payable on phosphate exports from Nauru, together with other matters related to the phosphate industry.
The question of resettlement of the Nauruan people, who number about 2,700, was discussed very fully at these talks in August 1964. Australia had offered to the Nauruans the prospect of establishing themselves on Curtis Island off the Queensland port of Gladstone. It was proposed that they should become Australian citizens and that arrangements would be made that would allow them to have extensive powers of local government and to retain their distinctive identity as a Nauruan community. The costs of resettlement, estimated at £10 million, would be met out of funds provided by the Governments of Australia, Britain and New Zealand.
The Nauruan representatives agreed that Curtis Island was generally suitable as a place for resettlement. They said, however, that they did not wish to become Australian citizens nor to be subject to Australian laws in such matters as taxation, immigration, customs and so on. They said that, after careful deliberation and discussion, the Nauruan people had come to the view that the difference of approach between the Commonwealth Government and the Nauruans left no prospect of agreement about Curtis Island nor, accordingly, about any other island close to the Australian coast. Defence and quarantine matters might be the subject of treaties between the Nauruans on Curtis Island and the Commonwealth Government and possibly some arrangements might be made in relation to external affairs; apart from these matters, however, if they were to resettle on Curtis Island it would be as a separate and independent nation and the Commonwealth had said that it could not accept this. They stated categorically, therefore, that the proceedings for the acquisition of properties at Curtis Island for their resettlement should be discontinued and that they intended to remain on the island of Nauru. The representatives of the Australian Government in these discussions urged the Nauruans not to close the door upon resettlement but the Nauruans maintained their attitude.
The Australian Government has given this question the fullest consideration. It has come to the conclusion that, in view of the very clear attitude of the Nauruan representatives, the particular resettlement. proposals involving Curtis Island should be dropped. In order to end uncertainty about their future position, the residents of Curtis Island and the Queensland Government have been informed. The Australian Government has no other specific proposals to make to the Nauruans regarding their resettlement. It still considers, however that, in view of the inevitable growth in the present population, the high standard of living enjoyed by the Nauruan people, the small size of Nauru and the limitations of its natural resources other than phosphate, in the long run the Nauruans’ own interests will require resettlement. The Australian Government, therefore, whilst not pursuing the proposal for resettlement of Curtis Island, remains of the view that resettlement is desirable in the interests of the Nauruans and will consider any new suggestions by the Nauruans in the spirit of willingness to co-operate in solving this continuing problem. In accordance with the usual practice, a visiting mission from the United Nations will shortly be visiting Nauru and the mission will have the opportunity, in the course of its visit, to test the attitude of the Nauruans towards resettlement.
The discussions with the partner governments and with the Nauruans will also cover the arrangements for government of the island. The Nauru Local Government Council representatives in last year’s talks asked that a Legislative Council be established in 1965 and that they be given independence by 1967. The Australian Government undertook that it would examine carefully the possibilities of greater participation by the Nauruans in the administration of Nauru. The Nauruans proposed in August that ownership of the phosphate industry should be transferred to the Nauruan people. The Australian representatives, in indicating that this request could not be agreed to, pointed to the present and future benefits accruing to the Nauruan people from a vigorous and efficient phosphate industry. They explained that the legal basis for the British Phosphate Commissioners’ operations stemmed from the purchase of phosphate rights from the commercial undertaking which had owned them before the First World War.
Another important matter that has been under discussion is the level of phosphate royalties. In August 1964 the Nauruans were offered an increase of 50 per cent., from 2s. 8d. to 4s. per ton, in the cash payments to be made to or on behalf of the Nauruan people. This was in addition to meeting the costs of administration on the island of approximately11s. per ton. An offer was also made, related to a proposed increase in output of phosphate, for an increase from1s. to 3s. per ton in payments to the Long Term Investment Fund which was created several years ago to provide a fund for the benefit of the Nauruan people after the phosphates were exhausted. At current rates of interest and on the proposed rate of output of phosphate, the fund would build up to approximately £20 million. The Nauruan delegation had proposed an increase in royalties to 14s.8d. per ton but this was not accepted by the Australian Government. The level of phosphate royalties along with the other matters I have mentioned will be further considered with partner governments next week and later with the Nauruans when talks can be arranged with them.
I present the following paper -
Nauru - Ministerial Statement, 1st April 1965 - and move -
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30th March (vide page 180), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Senate take note of the following paper - Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 23rd March 1965.
– When the debate was adjourned two days ago I was discussing various points in the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). I had confined myself first to the possession of nuclear power and, secondly, to Indonesia.I then made some observations on the situation in Vietnam, particularly to the changed circumstances there which have given rise to headlines which have become even more interesting in the last couple of days. I had said that like all wars, the war in Vietnam must some day end. I had said that if it were not to end in surrender then, at some stage, sooner or later, peace talks must be held. I had pointed out that both sides must negotiate together and that for this to happen, a situation would have to be created which would cause the North Vietnamese to realise that they could not win the war; or to use their own term, that they could not liberate South Vietnam. Then the Allies - mainly the Americans because of their numbers - including the South Vietnamese and Australia because of the representation we have in Vietnam, must realise that the use of force must end so that an agreement in the form of the 1954 Geneva Agreement could be reached. But above all, we must be sure that any agreement reached would work effectively.
As far as I am aware from a study of the American statements there has never been any suggestion of surrender. The alternative, therefore, is negotiation for peace. Peace must be negotiated in such a way that the rest of South East Asia, as well as Vietnam, must be placed in a position so as not to be forever looking over their borders to see whence aggression is to come. The people of South East Asia should be able to look forward to the development that must take place and at long last come to live in a period of peace and development and prosperity.
For the last few weeks, undoubtedly, there has been tremendous pressure on President Johnson. This pressure caused the President to decide to escalate the war, to use a modern term which has crept into the phraseology of the times. President Johnson, because of this pressure, decided to take the risk that commentators have been saying for some time could bring the colossus of Communist China in on the side of the Hanoi Government. That would mean, of course, the use of greater naval power by the Americans, as they used it in the Korean war. If the war is to be prolonged, it will be necessary to have some form of order in pushing back in Vietnam.
President Johnson has now said that he will go anywhere at any time and talk to anyone, and that the Americans will not be left behind the door if it is possible to bring the vicious conflict in Vietnam to an end. But other people could be bringing pressure to bear on the North Vietnamese. It has been said several times during this debate that it takes two parties to make a contract and the two parties must primarily be those who are involved. Russia is in an interesting situation. I do not wish to discuss at length the problems of the Communist world and the extent of Russia’s interestin the Vietnamese war, but they have a great interest and ought to be able to exert pressure both on Communist China and on the Hanoi Government.
President de Gaulle of France has made many pronouncements on South East Asia. Only a few weeks ago, France renegotiated her annual trade agreement with Hanoi and extended credit to the Hanoi Government so that North Vietnam could buy French goods. It appears from this distance that France has at least a toe in the door and may be able to use her diplomatic influence in an attempt to bring the parties together to negotiate peace. England and Russia were co-chairmen of the 1954 Geneva Conference. It may be possible for that arrangement to be exhumed and an attempt made to return to the situation that we thought would be a success away back in 1954.
So we have the situation that one side wants to talk. All sorts of pressures have been brought to bear on the President of the United States of America. We are all vitally interested in this dispute but it is time that the great powers, particularly England, Russia and France, began putting pressure on the Hanoi Government to get down to talks. We all hope they will do that and, for all I know, they are doing it. From time to time the Australian Labour Party has said that the final settlement of this dispute will be found not in guns but in economic and social development, and this has given rise to a fair amount of derision.
– Is there any real difference between the two points of view?
– Between that of the Government and that of the Opposition?
– I have never been able to see why there ought to be a difference; and I do not know that, basically, there is a difference. However, the honorable senator will agree that, particularly at election times, Government supporters have been tremendously vocal about this matter. In the debate last August a Government senator asked how economic and social progress could stop the Communist hordes.
– Without defence.
– We have never said that economic and social progress alone would be sufficient. 1 will not leave that thought in the mind of the Senate today. I made the comment during the debate in August that the honorable senator to whom 1 have referred, in saying that, was not very far away from Mao Tse-tung’s dictum that political power grows out of the mouth of a gun. It is wrong to assume that we have said that economic and social progress alone will be sufficient, but some Government supporters have suggested that the solution to the dispute is to be found only in guns. I do not see how anybody could suggest seriously that economic and social progress alone are sufficient when a war is raging. War always stands like a colossus and says: “ Until you dp something about me there will not be any progress “. That has been the history of all wars.
Because of the backwardness of the people of Vietnam - this region has never been properly developed - I think we must hold out some hope to them. If there is to be a permanent improvement, pacification and development must go on almost simultaneously. An analysis of the situation in South Vietnam shows that the greatest progress there was made in the days before the Communist attacks of 1957 and following the 1954 accord, when, under the Diem Government, strategic hamlets were set up. That was when we did the very thing that Senator Wright suggests, and with which I agree. While the spreading of the war was being prevented and while the aggressors were being pushed back, strategic hamlets were being set up and economic and social progress was being made. That continued until deterioration in the situation took place. I do not want it to be thought that this was just an airy-fairy idea, with people saying: “ Give them Point Four aid or aid under the Colombo Plan, or do what some of the text books say “.
South Vietnam is eminently suitable for tremendous development on an area . basis because it has one thing on which you can base progress - a fairly even distribution of water. Looking at the United States of America and Canada, we can see that where water flows fairly evenly across a continent there is decentralisation and the kind of progress which depends basically on water. How often do we think about the problem caused by a lack of water in our own continent? In South Vietnam there is the tremendous Mekong River. Only three or four years ago we dealt with a Bill to enable some of our people to be sent to work on a project there. It is true that the Mekong River flows through Laos, Cambodia and some parts of Thailand as well as through the two Vietnams, but the presence of the river means that if it is possible to secure peace in South Vietnam or to push the aggressors back and start work on development at long last, here is an area in which great progress can be made in the field of national development. On second thoughts, I do not want to use the word “ national “, because I do not think this should be national development. What is really needed, on an area basis, is the kind of development that is eminently suitable to the Vietnamese style of agriculture, based on the villages, and the kind of living conditions these people are used to. I do not think we should draw a line at the 17th parallel - or wherever it might be fixed on the next occasion when there are peace talks - and then simply say: “We have fixed the war situation. Now you must all be good boys, and we will again leave you to your own devices “. In this area, many peoples already have blueprints for the development of the Mekong River. If these projects brought economic development on an area basis, social progress would follow. If such development was possible in the case of the Indus River, with the dispute between India and Pakistan, it is possible here.
Let us look at what happened in the case of the European Common Market. Who would have thought that after the last war Germany and France would have been the leaders in a scheme which was to benefit every nation in their area? For once, carrots were used instead of coshes. Coshes are all that the South Vietnamese have experienced for as far back as the younger people can remember.
– Does the honorable senator accept the view that the only thing that is disturbing the equilibrium there is the aggression of the northern Communists?
– Of course. 1 said that a few moments ago when I mentioned development on the basis of the strategic hamlets. One cannot ignore the facts of the situation, but I am trying to look further ahead. In South Vietnam we have an area where we can work for development. I think of an organisation such as the World
Bank, which did splendid work and showed splendid initiative in the Indus River scheme. We have the ingredients for similar work in South Vietnam. There are the same common denominators - racial, regional and religious and an economy based on villages. There is also the common denominator of fear, which is still with the people of South Vietnam. They should be given the common denominators of something worth living for, the removal of fear and, finally, peace. I know the difficulties that must be overcome, but this is the sort of thing we should be aiming at. The situation should be handled by many nations, rather than one - the United States. It should be possible for organisations like the United Nations, the World Bank and others to deal with the situation. This would be a great ingredient in any peace talks, because it would give the Vietnamese people some hope for the future. They have never had any hope, and they are at present fighting for their very existence.
As I said last August, there is still a possibility of retrieving the situation in South Vietnam. The situation there is, after all, very similar to that which obtained in Malaya or the Philippines. In the Philippines the problem was solved by attacking the aggressors and maintaining a defensive situation in the villages for 24 hours a day. The defenders did not guard the villages during the day and knock off when the whistle blew, allowing terrorists to come down from the mountains at night. In the Philippines, while fighting the Huks, the Government forces not only protected the villages but won the confidence of the villagers, who knew that at no time could they be attacked by terrorists. At the same time, the villagers saw development going ahead. Then the former leaders of the Huk terrorists began to come back to their villages because they saw that they were coming back to a peaceful society, with land to work and a future for themselves.
We should have peace talks in the near future; I do not see any other way. We must go into the rice areas where food production is so vitally important. We must clear aggressors from those areas, establish a system of protection, and maintain that protection by night as well as by day. We then must have big thoughts about the tremendous opportunities in the Mekong River area. It has been stated that Colombo
Plan aid is valuable to the area. I am thinking in terms very much greater than those of the Colombo Plan. There must be big thinking and a lot of money must be provided. The approach must be the same as that which is bringing some sort of peace to other areas.
As I said last August, the situation in Vietnam is part of the power struggle, lt is easy to get confused on what this is about. It is part of the cold war; it is the hot section of the cold war. Some Communists believe in the truth of the old Communist theory that they can control other countries and that they finally will dominate the world. Members of the Western bloc say that that is precisely what is not to happen. We have not only to fight the Communists but also to remove some of the conditions that allow this type of struggle to take place. The economic potential of the area presents us with a unique opportunity to raise the living standards of the inhabitants. Allied to peace talks, economic development would hold out great hopes for the future. It would not only remedy the local situation but also affect the area situation. Asians are proud of being Asians. It would be very valuable indeed if they were given an opportunity to build up a bloc. A foundation might be laid for a common market, about which we hear talk from time to time.
The war must eventually come to an end. We must show that we are bringing something that is worth fighting for, which will provide a new order for those people. These innocent, humble people have suffered much as a result of causes quite apart from anything that they desire and which they would not understand. Some of them have sons fighting in both armies. They hear bombs dropping and pray that they are not dropping on their own villages. If we could not only bring about peace but also simultaneously give hope we would ensure as far as we possibly could that the innocent dead had not died in vain.
.- I should like to commence my remarks on the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) in another place by offering my congratulations to him. I read the document with the greatest interest. To my way of thinking it is completely realistic but deeply humanistic. The
Minister has made a world survey. He has looked at the situation in South East Asia and the attitudes of the Soviet Union and he has also touched upon a dread that must be in the hearts of all people, the fear of nuclear warfare. The statement places before us very clearly the responsibilities with which we are faced and the decisions which we must make. I refer the Senate to this passage -
What the United States has chosen to do in South Vietnam appears to the Australian Government as the recognition and acceptance of the great responsibilities which its own greatness has made on it.
I should like to suggest that our developing greatness brings with it great responsibilities.
Prior to World War I, Australia seemed very far away from the European disturbance, and South East Asia did not even enter into our thinking and seemed to be of no real importance to us. We felt isolated and secure. Then, during World War I, we achieved nationhood by the efforts of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses. Then came the uneasy years before World War II, but there was a gradual recognition of our part in world affairs especially in connection with the Asian countries within the Commonwealth of Nations.
In World War II, of course, we were brought into very close contact with the peoples of South East Asia in the Pacific area. Since World War II, Australia has taken an active part in supporting the United Nations agencies, in the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and in the Colombo Plan. We have taken practical steps to maintain peace and to give assistance in so many varied and important ways to developing countries. It has been suggested by some honorable Senators opposite that Australia’s contribution has not been great enough in the way of preventing discontent and a tendency towards acceptance of Communistic ideas because of low standards of living. I should like to point out that Australia’s contribution to international development and relief between the end of World War II and the end of the 1963-64 financial year amounted to £380 million. It has been said that quite a large proportion of our overseas aid has been devoted to Papua and New Guinea. Quite naturally, that is so, because the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is our first responsibility, in relation not only to the wellbeing, develop ment and standard of living of the peoples but also to their defence. So since World War II we have expended over £200 million in that Territory.
I suggest that our part in the Colombo Plan has been outstanding. Up to 30th June last year we had provided over £53 million. Not only has the Government played a part in this way but also there has been a growing awareness among the people of Australia that they should contribute to the development plans of these South East Asian countries particularly. So there has been a steadily growing contribution by active help and also by finance amounting to thousands of pounds annually through various organisations such as the Australian Red Cross, the World Council of Churches, the Catholic Bishops’ Co-odinating Committee, the Save the Children Fund, Apex, Lions, Junior” Chambers of Commerce, and the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. It is good to know, too, of the activities of Community Aid Abroad and the Overseas Services Bureau. Both of these organisations encourage and make it possible for young people to go to these countries and work side by side with their partners there in whatever piece of development they are interested in.
All of this makes a very valuable contribution indeed. One organisation which perhaps does not give so much in practical aid as it does in the way of bringing before the ordinary citizen the standards of living of these people, their needs, their histories and culture, is the Australian-Asian Association, which was instituted by Lord Casey when he was Minister for External Affairs just on eight years ago. I have been privileged to work very closely with that organisation ever since its inception, so my interest in these countries goes back quite a long way. In the December recess, my husband and I combined a holiday with an effort to deepen my knowledge of these countries. We spent six weeks going from Djakarta to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo, Karachi, New Delhi, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei and Manila. I mention’ .those cities because they have a bearing on what I want to say.
I undertook this holiday trip, not so much as a sight seeing trip, but in order to have an opportunity to meet and to talk with as many people as possible from the various countries. I was privileged to meet most able men and women. They helped to give me an insight into the difficulties with which they are confronted. Of course, the problems vary in nature and degree. I would like to pay a tribute to the courage and enthusiasm of these people. If I may, I would like especially to pay a tribute to the women Who are endeavouring to bring social services to the people. They work in a voluntary capacity and in some cases they devote their entire lives to carrying out this work. They are doing it with a deep sense of devotion, with enthusiasm and with courage. They are determined that their countries will find a way to achieve the standard of living to which we are accustomed in our country.
I do not pretend to have gained any expert knowledge of the situation from a very brief visit to each country, but I was led to hope even more fervently that the tensions and grave disturbances might not worsen and that ways and means might be found to remove the causes of them. I hope that the people who are endeavouring to lift the standard of living of the multitudes I saw thronging the cities and the countryside will continue to do so, and that the people in Australia and other countries who are assisting them towards a higher standard of living also will continue to do so.
The important question, to which the Minister devoted a great deal of his statement, is: How can they remove the causes? From Singapore on I heard firm assurances of friendship for Australia and sincere expressions of relief that the Australian Government had spoken with a sure and certain voice in support of Britain and the United States of America in their efforts to thrust back the aggressive actions being taken against freedom loving people. I heard satisfaction expressed at the fact that the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) were soon to visit the various countries.
There was a realistic recognition that South Vietnam must be helped to regain its freedom, otherwise the Chinese Communist tide will roll on and engulf the countries of South East Asia and ultimately Australia. As I have said, the people of the developing countries are following’ their own patterns of life and progress. Surely there must be some freedom of action in
South Vietnam. Again I refer, to the statement of the Minister for External Affairs. He said -
We must remember, however, that the South Vietnamese are not dealing simply with a situation of local unrest, but with a large scale campaign of assassination and terrorism directed from outside.
We all deplore the violence, destruction and dreadful loss of life involved in this struggle.
President Johnson, in a statement dated 23rd March 1965, said -
The main burden of resistance- that is, resistance to the attacks by the North Vietnamese, inspired by the Chinese Communists and assisted by them - has fallen on the people and soldiers of South Vietnam. We Americans have lost hundreds of our own men there, and we mourn them. But the free Vietnamese have lost tens of thousands, and the aggressors and their dupes have lost still more. These are the bloody costs of the conspiracy directed from the North. This is what has to be stopped.
Only two days ago we heard of the dreadful bomb attack on the United States Embassy in Saigon, in which 166 people were either injured or killed. Surely the people in South East Asia must have freedom to plan their future and to regain the security which was guaranteed to them by the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
How can we place any reliance at all upon negotiations which the North Vietnamese may enter into? The Minister for External Affairs quite rightly said that we must rely upon a responsible basis for negotiation; otherwise, what hope will the South Vietnamese have to achieve security, freedom and religious tolerance? We must assist them to the best of our ability, but, nevertheless, we hope that a way for responsible negotiations may be found. We hope that the fact finding tour of South East Asia, which is to be undertaken by Mr. Gordon Walker, will be successful and that the facts which he ascertains may be of some assistance to the people who are devoted to achieving peace for these unhappy people.
I return now to the commencement of our holiday journey. We arrived in Djakarta on 29th December. We were impressed by the throngs of people crowding the city. We saw a magnificent double roadway outside the hotel. We drove through crowded and dilapidated bazaars. There were military guards everywhere, but, nevertheless. the people in the hotel, at the airport and wherever we moved treated us with the utmost courtesy. We were invited, together with officials from the Embassy, to attend a rally on New Year’s Eve. lt took place in the smallest of the three stadiums in Djakarta.
– Was it the Bung Karno Stadium?
– lt probably was. There were about 10,000 people at the rally. The invitation was extended to us by Mrs. Subandrio. She said that the subject to be discussed that night was education, and that President Sukarno was to announce the end of illiteracy throughout Indonesia. We were told that he was also to make another important announcement regarding education. We listened to various speeches on education. When I say “ we listened “ I was able to know what was being said because one of their officials sat beside me and gave me a translation. President Sukarno dealt very briefly with education. He then attacked the foreign Press, the United States of America and Great Britain. He spoke of the threat to Indonesia and the fear of encirclement. He described Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as neo-colonialist and said that the formation of Malaysia was directed against Indonesia. President Sukarno then made the announcement that if Malaysia were admitted to the Security Council, he would withdraw Indonesia from the United Nations. He was applauded, as one would expect, at the appropriate places in his speech, but there seemed to me to be no wild enthusiasm exhibited at the end of his announcement.
The next day we drove some distance from Djakarta. When I saw the lovely countryside I felt inexpressibly sad because the money so urgently needed to develop that country, to increase its rice crops, to bring some hope of industrial development, to replant the sugar cane, and to re-establish the sugar industry was being spent on arms and military equipment. Honorable senators would know that before the war Indonesia exported a great deal of sugar but now no sugar is produced. In fact, she is importing it. I was sad that so much money was being spent by Indonesia’s rulers on arms and military equipment to enable them to carry out their aggressive attacks on Malaysia, and that it was not being devoted to the well-being of the Indonesian people who obviously are so sorely in want.
When I visited Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and learned of the Government’s wonderful plans of development in Kuala Lumpur and the very splendidly planned industrial city nearby, and the plans for other similar industrial settlements, I could not help but be stirred by the courageous attitude of these people. Those whom 1 had the privilege to meet were saddened by the attacks by Indonesia, by the fact that they needed to spend a great deal of finance on defence and by the precautions they had to take against the intrusions by Indonesian guerrilla forces along their coastline. They were saddened because they had to withdraw so much of their planned finance from the excellent developmental projects on which they were engaged. I saw no sign and heard no word that they regarded themselves in any way as a threat to Indonesia. Certainly they seemed to me to be a free people - there was no neo-colonialism about them - courageously planning their own way of life and their own future.
Referring further to the matter of confrontation, we have been told that repeatedly formal notes have been presented to the President of the Security Council reporting Indonesia’s incursions and acts of aggression. From time to time negotiations have been attempted and have failed. The Australian Government is fulfilling the aid projects under the Colombo Plan to which it is committed and has been endeavouring to keep open the door to a future wherein we may be able to live in peace with the people of Indonesia while they acknowledge the right of Malaysia and other countries to enjoy the same freedom of thought, word and action that Indonesians claim for themselves.
I endeavoured to make that point when speaking to some Indonesian people to whom I was presented and to some whom I met. There is no need to tell honorable senators of the great amount of aid that has been given to Indonesia by way of educational assistance, machinery and so on. We have done our utmost to help these people and, to repeat a phrase used by a member of the Opposition, to keep the door open.
The death of one of our Australian soldiers and the wounding of two others in the Borneo campaign against Indonesian guerrillas has brought sorrow to our hearts but a subsequent strengthening of our will that freedom must be guarded and maintained. It is difficult to keep the door open.
I support the Government in all its policies relating to all aspects of world affairs as outlined by the Minister for External Affairs, the Hon. Paul Hasluck. May I return to my opening remarks by again emphasising the humanistic nature of the document that we are now discussing in which the Minister used these words -
As a last word I return to the nature of the interest that links us and other non-Asian countries to Asia. As an Australian 1 do not want to look on our neighbours in Asia as buffer States. I see them rather as part of the structure of hope in which Australia itself, like each of them, is only one of many pillars. The structure weakens if any one of us should fall. The hope must belong not to one but to all. Hence Australian policy in respect of South Vietnam, the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, the Colombo Plan and support to Malaysia will continue firmly on the lines so clearly laid down by the Prime Minister and other spokesmen for the Government.
– During the debate on the paper that was presented by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) it has been apparent that honorable senators on both sides of the House have been asking themselves these questions: For how long will the people of Australia be permitted to pursue their democratic way of life? For how long will they be able to live in peace in view of the various problems that are facing them?
The whole history of Australia and of its citizens proves that throughout the years we have endeavoured to promote the welfare of our people by sound government and by peaceful intentions. We wish to tell the world - I think it is obvious to all - that we have no territorial ambitions. We seek peace and prosperity not only for ourselves but also for our near neighbours. It is because we have these views and ideals and are prepared to pursuethem that we view with alarm the events that are occurring in South East Asia. The people of South East Asia are our neighbours. They are people with whom we desire to live in peace and to whom we offer the hand of friendship and goodwill. They are the people to whom we gladly and willingly offer our aid and support so that they too may gain increased prosperity, peace and a government founded on democratic principles.
I believe that these people possess in themselves a latent power and that they can and must lift their standards of living. Anyone who has seen the great mass of people and the poverty which exists there must ask himself: What is the cause of this poverty? It is not as a result of anything that Australia has done. Australia can help in some ways but the effort and the reforms, if they are so necessary - I believe that they are necessary - must emanate from the people themselves. This is the crux of the problem now confronting South Vietnam.
The people of South Vietnam are fighting for their very existence. They are defending themselves against attacks and fighting armed aggression which comes from the north - from the Vietcong, the Communists, the Conformists or whatever they may call themselves. This aggression against South Vietnam from the north has gone on for years. In fact, it started in 1954 but it has been stepped up since 1962. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 April 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650401_senate_25_s28/>.