25th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 3 p.m.
The Clerk__ I have to announce that because of absence overseas the President (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) is unable to attend the sitting of the Senate this day. In accordance with Standing Order No. 29. the Chairman of Committees will take the chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: Will the Postmaster-General inform me what the cost was of transporting television equipment and several technicians in their three motor vehicles from Sydney to Canberra and from Canberra back to Sydney on or about the 1 6th or 1 7th instant to televise the Treasurer for ten minutes after he had delivered his Budget speech?
– I will seek the information from the Postmaster-General and will inform the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Has his attention been drawn to a letter from one John A. Campbell of Adelaide, published in last night’s “ Adelaide News “, to the effect that the Minister recently opened a science block presented to an allegedly wealthy school in Melbourne and asking why the Adelaide Girls’ High School was not eligible for such a grant? Can the Minister state whether the Adelaide Girls’ High School is eligible for such a grant? Can he state what moneys the Government of South Australia has received in recent years for the building of science blocks and the provision of science teaching equipment in State high schools in South Australia? Can he state whether the Government of South Australia has so used the money and in what localities? If none has been used at the Adelaide Girls’ High School, does the Minister know of any reason why?
– Yes, I have seen the article referred to. The short answer to the honorable senator’s question is that the Adelaide Girls’ High School is eligible for a grant for a science block to be built at Commonwealth Government expense, as is every other high school in South Australia, and, indeed, as is every school in South Australia whose pupils have a demonstrated need for such a block. The selection of the high schools to be provided with these science blocks first - all of them being eligible - is a matter for the State Government concerned. If the Adelaide Girls’ High School has not yet received a grant for a science block, that is because the State Government has rated other high schools as of higher priority. We have provided to South Australia for State high schools some $1,500,000 so far, of which the State has expended $1,250,000 and is spending the other $250,000 now. The number of schools helped is 28, with another five being helped at the moment. They range all over the State and include the Adelaide Boys’ High School, the Whyalla Technical School and the Renmark High School.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Will the Minister for the Army inspect a drinking mug issued to a member of the Forces and a knife, fork and spoon issued to another member recently at Brighton camp in Tasmania? 1 produce all these articles now to the Senate and I shall be prepared to make them available to the Minister. Will the Minister inquire whether these articles are typical of those issued at the Brighton camp? Will he take urgent steps to see that there is no repetition of the issue of the articles in such a grossly offensive condition?
– I shall convey the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for the Army but I should think it would be more important to make sure that there is something available to put into the mug and to see there is something upon which a member of the Forces can use the knife and fork. I have used mugs in the condition of that displayed by the honorable senator over a period of years. It would be difficult to find an enamel mug used in the Services which was not damaged in one way or another.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. What navigation aids are to be installed north of Cairns up to and including Thursday Island, and west of Cairns as far as and including Normanton and Karumba?
– It is my recollection that a question on navigation aids in the north was asked in the previous sessional period. However, I can inform the honorable senator that the Minister for Civil Aviation has advised me that the Department proposes to instal a nondirectional beacon, or N.D.B., distance measuring equipment, or D.M.E., and night landing facilities at Weipa and a nondirectional beacon and night landing facilities at Horn Island. It is planned to have all these facilities in operation in .1967. There is already a non-directional beacon and a communications unit at Normanton.
– My question is directed to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Am I to take it from the Minister’s answer to Senator Laught that a science block grant is not given to any school in any State unless the grant is first recommended by the State Government concerned? Has this practice been followed ever since the Government introduced grants for science blocks?
– No, the position is not exactly as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested. A sum of money is available for science blocks for State high schools in any State. The amount is worked out on methods that have already been explained to the Senate. The money having been made available for science teaching blocks and equipment in State high schools, the priority in which the money will be given to the State schools is left to the State Government concerned to decide. The State Governments do not approach the Commonwealth Government with an announcement that they recommend a grant to a particular school and want us to agree to it. Sums of money are made available by the Commonwealth for State schools and the States select the priorities under which the money will be provided to individual schools.
– Does that affect other than State schools?
– No, only State schools.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Last weekend the Sydney Press contained comments about a proposed new building at Neutral Bay on the Sydney waterfront for the Department of Customs and Excise. It was stated that the building would be offensive in many ways. Will the Minister inform the Senate on this proposal?
– I saw the comments in the Sydney Press in relation to the Customs building at Neutral Bay. I have had prepared a full explanation in relation to it. It is a matter for you, Mr. Deputy President, to determine whether I may give that explanation as an answer to the honorable senator’s question or whether 1 should present the explanation in the form of a ministerial statement immediately question time has concluded.
– How comprehensive is the explanation?
– The honorable senator is asking a supplementary question to the question which 1 have not yet answered.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I suggest to the Minister for Customs and Excise that he present his explanation as a ministerial statement.
– Very well. I will deal with this matter by way of ministerial statement as soon as question time is over.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It refers to the statement in the “ Austraiian Financial Review “ of yesterday’s date that Morocco is seeking 1.4 million tons of wheat following droughts, and hopes to get this wheat from the United States of America and France, because supplies from her traditional sources, Australia and Canada, are unlikely to be forthcoming in quantity. The reason given for that statement is the drought in Australia and heavy sales to non-traditional customers. I ask the Minister: ls it correct that the huge sales to Communist China have affected our capacity to supply traditional customers? Would not the Minister agree that it is an urgent and far-sighted policy for Australia to take the opportunity to diversify her wheat markets?
– I have no personal knowledge of the facts as related by Senator McManus. I will convey the question that he has asked to the Minister for Primary Industry. However, I would not think that there had been large sales of wheat to China from this season’s crop. As the honorable senator will know, until rain fell during the last fortnight or so the prospects of a reasonable crop in those areas that suffered from drought last year were far from bright. Now that these good rains have fallen over quite a large area of the wheat growing country in New South Wales, conditions are much brighter. Conditions in the other States also are favorable and it appears that we shall have a reasonable wheat harvest, particularly when we take into consideration that a record acreage has been sown in New South Wales and very large acreages have been sown in the other States. I agree with the honorable senator that we should diversify our sales instead of selling our wheat to only a few countries. Indeed, the Australian Wheat Board has been very keen in this regard over the years.
– I ask the Minister for Supply: Is he in a position to make a statement as to the outcome of the discussions on the European Launcher Development Organisation that he attended in Paris? What is the present position of that project?
– The subject that the honorable senator raises is a very wide one. I. should like to give consideration to making a prepared statement to the Senate on the matter. The negotiations regarding E.L.D.O. took place over a number of weeks. The decisions of the conference itself were more favorable to Australia than is perhaps widely known. But we failed to gain the base that we were seeking at Darwin. As I have said, 1 should like to give consideration to presenting a statement on the matter to the Senate. I thank the honorable senator for raising the subject. I will give attention to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, ls the Minister aware that the Liberal Party candidate for the Australian Capital Territory, Mr. R. W. Rowell, stated in a recent telecast that the next areas of conflict in the Asian area would be Thailand and Laos? Could the Minister advise whether Mr. Rowell is an accredited and official spokesman for the Liberal Party and the Government? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate when Australian troops are likely to be committed in this area, and the number of troops to be so committed?
– The candidate for the Australian Capital Territory to whom the honorable senator attributes those remarks was speaking no doubt in his own right as a candidate in expressing the beliefs that he holds. Surely, in spite of the circumstances that we see at the present time the honorable senator is not suggesting that individual candida:es speak for a government?
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Having regard to the prominence given to the news in relation to a certain honorable member in another place over the weekend, I ask whether the Minister can tell us the constitution of the body that imposes a restriction upon a member of parliament in another place precluding him from retaining his membership of a body called the Defend Australian Committee, a body whose name does not imply to me any subversive proclivities. I would like-
– Mr. Deputy President, 1 raise a point of order. I suggest that the matter that is being raised by Senator Wright is outside the jurisdiction of the Minister, is not within the jurisdiction of his Department and is not within the province of this Parliament.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr. Deputy President, I submit to you that the prestige of this Parliament and the freedom of judgment and speech of every member of this Parliament, be he on the floor of this chamber or another, are of the most vital importance to and are the responsibility of every member of the Parliament.
– Mr. Deputy President, may I raise a further point of order?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! Senator Wright has the call.
– I submit, therefore, that it is most pertinent that the public and the Parliament, representing the public, should be advised of the constitution of the body that imposes limitations on the membership of an association of a member of the Parliament.
– Mr. Deputy President, I believe that my point is a perfectly valid one. You will recall that the President, ‘Sir Alister McMullin, has repeatedly stated that he does not want senators, when they are asking questions-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The point of order is not upheld. I call Senator Wright.
– I ask the Minister whether he can give the Senate any information about the constitution of the body that imposes on a member of the Parliament this restriction on his freedom of association, leading to his exclusion, we anticipate, from one of the major parties in the Parliament tomorrow.
– I suggest that, in order ‘to get all the facts correctly in proper detail,, the honorable gentleman put the question on the notice paper.
– Would the Minister representing the Prime Minister explain the statement made by the Prime Minister regarding the future of the employees and staff of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority? Does the Prime Minister’s statement mean that the Commonwealth Government will finance or assist to finance proposals desired by the States, or does it imply that he regards the future of this great organisation as being primarily the States’ responsibility? Is the
Government not aware of the urgent need for national development, such as water conservation in this dry continent? Has the Government no plans to harness the water resources of the nation which are waiting to be conserved and channelled for irrigation? Would not the Minister agree that the urgency of such work justifies maintaining the men and equipment of the Snowy Mountains Authority as a Federal responsibility?
– I thought the statement made by the Prime Minister was quite clear. I would have thought that the honorable senator, had he read it closely, would understand it quite easily. It started out by saying that the responsibility for the continuity of the work of the Snowy Mountains Authority would be a matter for the States, which would be consulted to see what schemes they could provide, if they wished to do so, for the use of the Authority. This is pretty clear. I believe that in this instance it is appropriate for the Commonwealth to discuss with the States what problems they have, what problems they would like to place before the Authority and to what extent they wish to do so. Then the extent to which we should keep the Authority in existence can be decided.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise give the Senate any information regarding the action taken at airports by his departmental officers to detect and prevent the entry into Australia by air of narcotic and other prohibited drugs?
– The procedures adopted ‘by my Department in the detection of offences against the customs law are very comprehensive. I would not want to stand up in my place and give a complete answer on all the procedures and techniques that are employed. All I can say in answer to the question is that a very rigid and severe code is applied in co-operation and collaboration with the other departments, and in particular with the quarantine officers of the Department of Health. I do not think that question time lends itself to an explanation of the procedures which are adopted at points of entry in relation to the supervision of narcotics or, in fact, other prohibited imports.
- Mr. Deputy President, I want to ask you on what basis and by what right you rejected my point of order a moment ago before I had a chance to put it before you and the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I do not have to give a reason for rejecting a point of order.
– Under the Standing Orders, Senator Toohey may move a motion of disagreement with your ruling, Mr. Deputy President.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, concerns the motor vehicle industry. 1 ask: ls it a fact, as reported in the Press, that Federal Cabinet does not regard with undue concern recent retrenchments in the motor vehicle industry caused by falling sales? ls the Minister aware of current retrenchments in three important vehicle manufacturing plants and of rumours that retrenchments could become Australia wide unless sales are stimulated? Will the Minister urgently recommend discussion of these developments with representatives of the industry?
– The matter of full employment is, of course, always of great concern to the Government, and has been so over the years, lt is because of the great importance that the Government places on full employment that the Government’s record over the last 16 years has been so good, lt will, continue to be so. I do not think that any of us can view, without some concern, the fact that at present there is an indication of some retrenchments in the motor vehicle industry. But it is a very volatile industry. I notice that it is down today and up tomorrow. I would not like to make a judgment yet on what the Press says about a particular set of circumstances. Let us have a look at the matter and judge it when we have more facts before us. They will show whether this trend is temporary - as I believe it to be - or whether it indicates a future recession in the motor vehicle industry. I do not think it does.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is supplementary to the question asked by Senator Fitzgerald concerning the recent statement of the Prime Minister, which expressed some reservation about the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The Minister, in his reply to the honorable senator, referred to the need to ascertain the views of the States on this question. I ask: Does the Commonwealth Government itself believe that the Snowy Mountains Authority has a future after 1972? If so, is it not about time that the Government was taking steps to make effective plans for that future?
– I have nothing to add either to what I said to Senator Fitzgerald or to the statement made by the Prime Minister. Senator Cohen says that he reads some reservations in the statement. He must be guided by his own intelligence as to what he reads into a statement or does not read into it. Speaking for myself and for the Government. I think that if there is any future for the Snowy Mountains Authority, it is largely bound up with the amount of work which we find needs to be done and can be done. This is the reason why we will consult with the States.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry noted a claim made in the editorial of the “ Australian Financial Review “ of 29th August 1966 under the heading “ Unhappy Freight Deal “ that the Governmentsubsidised freight negotiating body - the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee - had failed adequately to discharge its function of ensuring proper examination and control of overseas shipping freight charges to the detriment of a number of export industries? It was also claimed that, through the Committee’s failure to examine other available sources than Conference Line ships, mounting freight charges were damaging Australian export industry. If these assertions are found to be correct, will the Minister take steps to withdraw both recognition and subsidy from the Committee and set up a new authority competent to guard Australian export interests in the field of shipping freights rates?
– The Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee has been sitting for many years to deal with the matter of freight charges. As I understand the position the Committee comprises representatives of exporters and growers, who confer on shipping matters. In this case, after long conferences, the Committee has decided to increase freight charges by 6i per cent. Speaking as a Tasmanian, I should say that to my State, to which freights are really important, the result is disappointing. Nevertheless, the Committee has done sterling work over the years in arranging freight charges. Therefore I believe that we just have to accept the position as it is found.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware of the hardship being caused to aged ex-servicemen and war widows who are chronically ill and are unable to be accommodated in repatriation general hospitals where there is no provision for such long term patients? Is it not a fact that these people must seek admission in C class hospitals, where the fees charged are so high that a patient is “ not left with even the price of a postage stamp “, as one Repatriation official put it to me? In view of the cost to the Government of subsidising C class hospitals, would the Minister consider the establishment of such hospitals to be administered by his Department, so that ex-servicemen and war widows may spend their declining days without loss of human dignity?
– The question of aged war widows and ex-servicemen referred to by the honorable senator was of considerable concern to the Repatriation Department long before I came into the portfolio. The assistance and treatment of geriatric patients are two of our bugbears. We do not have enough facilities to treat such patients in the manner in which we would like to treat them. I cannot hold out very much hope to the honorable senator. I would like the position to improve very much in the near future. We certainly have been looking at it, and will continue to look at it.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services by pointing out that on 1 6th April 1962 the then Prime Minister made a statement relating to the employment of physically handicapped persons in the Commonwealth Public Service, following the recommendations of the Boyer report. The Department of Social Services is doing a splendid job in training physically handicapped people for gainful employment. Would the Minister inform me whether the spirit of the Boyer recommendations is being observed by various Government Departments? If not, will the Minister ensure that a reminder of this Government’s decision is sent to all Commonwealth Public Service inspectors and Commonwealth departmental heads in each State?
– I shall be very pleased to bring before the notice of the Minister for Social Services the points raised by the honorable senator. As the honorable senator hinted in his question, the work being done by the rehabiliation section of the Department of Social Services is making it possible for very many people to continue in the form of employment they desire. I am very conscious of the comments contained in the Boyer report and I will be very pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question before the Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. As some three years have elapsed since Australia ordered the F.111 or T.F.X. bomber, I ask: When are we likely to get this aircraft? How much will it cost?
– As the honorable senator knows, there has been delay, first, in deciding upon certain improvements that were found to be necessary for this aircraft. The delivery times have been given to me, but I have not got them in my mind at the moment. I shall inquire for the honorable senator. I assure him that this is still regarded as being a very fine aircraft and that we are lucky to be getting it.
– 1 direct to the Acting Minister for External Affairs, who is also Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, a question which refers to reports of the public humiliation of university professors and teachers in Communist China during the recent purge, when professors were forced to wear placards with insulting inscriptions and teachers were compelled to sit in the gutter while being admonished. 1 ask: Has the Minister received any public protests or other protests from those academics in Australian universities who are always active and vocal in protesting a’bout alleged breaches of academic freedom in countries which are not Communist?
– So far I have not received any protests at all in relation to this matter from any academics in Australia.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry the following questions: Is the Minister aware that tallow is used in the manufacture of munitions? Has the Department of Trade and Industry issued a licence for tallow to be exported to North Vietnam? If so, what quantities were exported to that country in the years 1963-64, 1964-65 and 1965-66? Are any licences for the export of tallow to North Vietnam still current?
– I understand that no tallow is being exported to North Vietnam at the present time. I make that statement off the cuff. If the honorable senator wants complete details and documentation, he should put his question on the notice paper. I shall then get the information for him.
(Question Nu. 889.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following reply has been furnished -
DEFERRED APPLICATIONS FOR TELEPHONE SERVICES IN NEW SOUTH WALES FEDERAL ELECTORAL DIVISIONS.
Definition. - Deferred Applications - Those applications where service cannot be offered pending major extensions of plant.
(Question No. 922.)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The following information was supplied to the Attorney-General by the Minister for External Affairs -
(Question No. 923.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers -
Taylor recommended that heaters should be provided in kitchens but no similar recommendation was made in respect of bedrooms. The Canberra Resthouse is presently equipped with two heaters in the kitchen and an additional five in the dining room. The power supply to the building, which is loaded at present to its maximum capacity, is to be converted in the near future to three phase operation and whilst these alterations are in progress, consideration will be given to adding a heater at floor level in the kitchen or dining room to assist the drying of clothing and footwear. As the matter stands, the question of fitting strip heaters in bedrooms is one for decision by the New South Wales authorities.
Motion by Senator Henty - by leave - agreed to -
That during the absence of the President the Chairman of Committees shall on each sitting day take the chair of the Senate as Deputy President and may during such absence perform the duties and exercise the authority of the President in relation to all proceedings of the Senate and to proceedings of standing and joint statutory committees to which the President is appointed.
– For the information of honorable senators I lay on the table the text of the undermentioned treaties to which Australia has become a party by signature -
I also lay on the table for the information of honorable senators the texts of the undermentioned treaties to which Australia is considering becoming a party by ratification, acceptance or accession -
– by leave - The Department plans to replace the existing boatshed at Neutral Bay with a new structure to provide Preventive Officer accommodation. The existing building was provided as an emergency wartime measure in . 1944, and was transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force on 30th June 1952, and to the Department of Customs and Excise for use as a boatshed and preventive Officer accommodation on 3 1st May 1963. It is of fibro-cement construction and has always been regarded as a sub-standard and unsightly building. It is impossible to modify the building to provide for recent increases in Preventive Officer staff.
The new building will be of two storeys and of attractive brick and glass construction, 142 ft. long and 44 ft. 7 ins. wide at the widest part. The main portion of the building will be approximately 10 ft. below the top of the cliff face and a small area to provide an entrance to the stairs will be approximately 4 ft. above the top of the cliff face. The building will provide nonresidential accommodation for the Preventive Officers. The gross floor space is 8,600 square feet, and includes the following facilities: Ablution and locker area, store and strong room, office accommodation, briefing and training room, radio control room and an amenities area. The building is due for completion on 14th August 1967.
As an ancillary to the main project, it is intended to re-surface the existing right of way and landscape the surrounding area. A large attractive Moreton Bay fig tree will be left intact. A new marina to accommodate four departmental launches has already been completed, and this will enable the ultimate removal of many of the existing unsightly piles which have been in existence for 13 years. The revised estimates by the Department of Works of the cost of these works are $238,000. The Department of Works forwarded a copy of the plans to the local Council on 6th July 1966, and the Department of Works awarded the contract for construction of the building earlier this month.
– by leave - Some Press publicity has recently been given to the availability in Australian shops of replica pistols. I have examined a number of these replicas and have received advice from police experts that one imported model, the “ Chief’s Special “ revolver, is capable of being converted, without much difficulty, to fire a shot. Accordingly,I have prohibited its importation under the provisions of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations relating to goods which are of a dangerous character and a menace to the community. The other imported models which have come under notice are not capable of being converted to fire a shot nor are they pistols as defined in the Regulations; and, as similar replicas of Australian manufacture are also on sale. I have no alternative but to release them.
In reaching this decision I am mindful of the requirement of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which specifies that restrictions on imported goods shall not be any more stringent than those applied to similar products of domestic manufacture. I would, of course, be willing to review my decision if all State Governments legislated to prohibit the manufacture and sale of these articles. I have in my office a number of these replica pistols, including one of Australian manufacture. Honorable senators who are interested are invited to inspect them.
– by leave - In his Budget Speech, my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) referred to the fact that dwelling construction had made some recovery. He indicated that the Government would do all it could to see that activity in the home building industry continued to rise. As it was not possible for him to go into the matter fully in his Budget Speech, he has asked me to refer in more detail to the contribution we propose to make to home building in the 1966-67 Budget. I also wish to comment on some recent developments in the home building industry and on the prospects for builders and home seekers in this new financial year.
Although the great majority of Australians enjoy a relatively high standard of housing, the Government regards the availability of sufficient homes of an adequate standard, where and when they are needed, as being a basic requirement for Australia’s development. We wish to see a gradual and continuing expansion in the production of cottages and flats, and also in the output of the materials, fittings and furnishings that go into a home.
A record amount of $120 million is to be advanced to the States this year under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. When account is also taken of the special allocation of $15 million for housing, approved by the Australian Loan Council last March, the average monthly rate of advances available to the States under the Housing Agreement during the 15 months from April 1966 to June 1967 will be about 25 per cent, higher than the monthly rate during the first nine months of 1965-66. In addition, some States will also receive matching and supplementary advances for the construction of homes for married servicemen. These are expected to amount to more than $8 million. This demonstrates clearly the Commonwealth’s willingness to continue to provide substantial assistance to housing needs in the States.
But this is only part of the Commonwealth’s direct contribution to housing in the current financial year. At least. $58 million is expected to be advanced to eligible ex-servicemen under the War Service Homes Scheme. An amount of $9 million is being provided for capital grants of up to two-thirds of the cost of aged persons homes built by private charitable organisations. In addition, the Commonwealth plans to spend, or advance, for hous ing purposes in its Territories, a further amount of £17,500,000 this year. We also expect to pay out close to $13 million as home savings grants. This is all direct financing by the Commonwealth.
Of course, we do not know precisely the amount of finance that the lending institution and other private lenders will make available for housing purposes in 1966-67. This will be the result of many private decisions. However, housing loan approvals by savings banks, which represent about half the total institutional lending for housing purposes, rose by $25 million to $324 million last year. Most of this increase occurred in the first half of 1966. In its annual report for 1965-66 the Reserve Bank refers to a lag in drawings against these loan approvals.
In 1965-66 aggregate finance approvals for new housing by the major institutional lenders, which include trading banks, savings banks, major life offices, the War Service Homes Division and some building and housing societies, rose by about I per cent. Savings bank lending for new housing showed a significant rise but some other groups showed decreases.
In addition to the very substantial increase in the rate of savings bank lending during the second half of 1965-66, the trading banks, which lend approximately half as much as the savings banks, increased the volume of their new lending for housing during this period. Housing loans outstanding rose quite sharply in the closing months of the year as the increased rate of approvals began to reflect in drawings. At the same time the savings banks were asked to put an emphasis on new rather than existing housing. The Government thinks it is appropriate that savings banks, as the largest contributors to the financing of private housing, should continue to expand their lending for housing broadly in proportion to the growth in our housing needs.
The Reserve Bank has reported that during 1965-66, repayments of existing housing loans rose strongly. Repayments will continue to rise, and the expected growth in incomes in the current financial year should make possible some accelerated repayments. So that, even if savings banks deposits were to rise no more rapidly than in the past 12 months - this is not a forecast - we confidently expect the savings banks to make a larger gross contribution to the financing of private homes than they did in the 12 months just passed.
We must not overlook that our trading banks, savings banks and insurance companies also play a significant part in investing funds with authorities for purposes other than housing but associated with the growth of this country. Water, sewerage, roads, footpaths, gas and electricity are usual concomitants to residential expansion.
Representatives of permanent building societies have informed my Department that they are reasonably satisfied with the progress they are making in attracting increased deposits from the public, and that they welcome the security offered for high ratio loans by insuring them with the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The knowledge that a large proportion of their loans is insured is assisting them to attract new money into home building. In some States co-operative housing societies recently have experienced difficulties in attracting sizable private advances in order to form new societies. My hope is that they will continue in their efforts to persuade institutional lenders with funds to invest, especially those who have not yet invested in housing mortgages, to do so. There is, therefore, every prospect that more private finance will be available for housing in 1966-67 than in the year just ended.
We wish to see sufficient cottages and flats available to meet the needs of newly formed families and of single persons looking for a home. As my colleague, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman), announced last week, we are planning a continued high rate of immigration, and these immigrants must be housed. There is nothing more discouraging to people arriving in Australia than to find housing difficult to obtain. I am also hopeful that the community will be able to provide better accommodation for a number of our elderly citizens, mostly elderly ladies, paying a high rent for accommodation that all too frequently is unsatisfactory. Homes must also be provided to replace many that will be demolished.
At the present time, the building industry as a whole is relatively fully employed. However, in some States, the pressures on it are not quite as great as they were a year ago. The number of persons working on jobs carried out by builders of new dwellings reached a peak of about 75,500 in March .1965. In March this year, the number had dropped to 69,500, but quite a number of those who had been engaged in home building had transferred to other types of building. With the possibility of some easing in the recent high level of private non-dwelling construction, there should toe the opportunity for some engaged in the latter type of construction to transfer back to home building. However, defence building will continue to expand.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer commented that dwelling construction has made some recovery. The number of houses and flats commenced during recent months reveals a definite rising trend. In the last quarter of 1965, the seasonally adjusted rate of commencement of new dwellings was only slightly in excess of 100,000 per annum. In the March quarter this year commencements were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 105,000 and in the June quarter they had risen to an annual rate of more than 1 10,000. During the June quarter this year almost 20.900 new cottages were commenced. This was 770 more than in the June quarter last year, and was the highest quarterly figure in. cottage commencements since the September quarter 1964. The number of flats commenced in the June quarter 1966 was almost 7,000. Although this was some 1,130 fewer than in the June quarter last year, it represents a substantial improvement on flat commencements in the two preceding quarters.
It is expected that in the coming months the level of commencements will rise further. For one thing, we can be reasonably certain that there will be an increase in the number of public authority commencements in view of the substantially increased flow of funds to housing authorities in the States and Territories. But in this country where approximately 85 per cent, of dwelling commencements are the result of private enterprise decisions, there must always be some element of uncertainty as to how many cottages and flats will be commenced next quarter and more uncertainty about activity in the quarter after that. We want to see more dwellings commenced in 1966-67 than were com- menced last year. We are confident we will achieve this, but we will watch the developing situation with particular care. All this highlights the need for adequate investigation and reporting facilities. We intend to develop improved facilities so that the Government may be as completely informed as possible on housing developments, and so that home builders and lenders for housing purposes may also be better informed. My Department hopes to be able to provide all those interested in housing with up to date information on what has happened in satisfying housing needs, the level of home building and the availability of housing finance, and to provide this information for the main regions in each State. We see the climate for home building as being set fair, in the sense that we expect to see more homes built this financial year than last. If our expectations show signs of not being fulfilled, we will do whatever we can to achieve them.
Debate resumed from 24th August (vide page 61), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy President, this Bill provides for amendments to the Customs Tariffs 1966 and deals with the duties which were collected prior to 30th June last, and subsequent to the passage of the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) which was passed earlier this year, lt contains 12 schedules relating to various commodities. Some have been dealt with as a result of recommendations by the Tariff Board; others have been the subject of recommendations by the Special Advisory Authority. Another amendment deals with the duty free admission of a wide range of hand made products of the cottage industries of less developed countries.
The First Schedule incorporates changes consequent upon the decision of the Government on the report of the Tariff Board on bonded fibre fabrics and articles made of bonded fibre fabrics. The adoption of the recommendation reduces the tariff from 20 per cent, to 15 per cent. In my opinion, the Senate should always view recommendations for reductions of tariffs with a certain degree of pleasure and interest. According to the report of the Tariff Board, at the time of the last inquiry bonded fibre fabrics were used mainly for interlinings in the manufacture of wearing apparel, but since that time the variety of uses for them has increased and their potential is still being developed. As a matter of interest and to enable the Senate to understand the nature of this industry, 1 point out that the Brussels tariff nomenclature describes bonded fibre fabrics in this way: They are made by forming, by carding or otherwise, a sheet consisting of one or more webs of textile fibres. The fibres are then assembled by means of a bonding substance or by selfadhesion, or by gluing or bonding by heat treatment with artificial resin in powder form.
During the inquiry reference was made to the previous Tariff Board report and the fact that when it was presented Lantor of Australia Pty. Ltd. appeared lo be the cheapest and only substantial Australian producer of bonded fibre fabrics. Incidentally, this company established itself in Tasmania in conjuction with Tootal Ltd., which manufactures quite a wide range of wearing apparel. Lantor of Australia Pty. Ltd. has been quite successful. It is very pleasing to find that this company, which was encouraged to come to Tasmania, not only has been able to develop this industry but has reached the stage where the amount of assistance that it needs in the form of tariff protection can be reduced on the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
The total number of employees engaged in production by the manufacturers represented at the inquiry was difficult lo ascertain because of overlapping in the various branches of the manufacture of bonded fibre fabrics and other products. The total number of employees is in the vicinity of 50, and they are mostly adult males. An amount of $1,200,000 is involved. The manufacturers have earned satisfactory returns on funds in recent years, and the profit levels of two of them have been quite high. Labour represents only a small part of the factory costs since this is a mechanised process. In its recommendations the Tariff Board said that it considered that this was an industry that had got over the early teething difficulties that often confront a new industry being established in
Australia. The Opposition supports the amendment which will give legislative effect to the report and recommendations of the Tariff Board on bonded fibre fabrics.
The First Schedule also proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff 1933-65, which came into operation on 1st July 1965 and which has based on the Brussels Nomenclature. The changes are of a machinery nature. We on this side of the chamber offer no opposition to them. 1 would like to say a few words on the Sixth Schedule, which relates to the decision io admit handicrafts from less developed countries. The decision is in line with the general policy of Australia. We are faced wilh a moral responsibility to give assistance, wherever possible, in encouraging trade between the less developed countries. The handicrafts or cottage industries in many of these countries have been handed down from generation to generation. They are exclusive to certain countries. They cannot be copied because the gift or the art has been handed down traditionally. The handicrafts appeal to people in the richer countries because the articles are exclusive to a particular country. 1 believe, that this is just a small way in which we can show that we wish to import goods from and to trade with the less developed countries.
My comments on the Seventh Schedule, which deals with glassware, are different in substance from the comments that I made on bonded fibre fabrics. As most honorable senators know, the production of glass in Australia has quite a history. Previously I referred to the Brussels Nomenclature. An international situation arose in Brussels between Belgium and Australia when. Australia decided to give preference to the Australian manufacturers of glass. I understand that there were reprisals and that Belgium drastically cut down its imports of Australian wool. However, time has gone by and the glass manufacturing industry has become a very substantial part of our economy. The matter recently under close scrutiny by the Tariff Board related to heat resisting glassware. The production of this particular type of glassware from basic local raw materials is confined in Australia to- a company known as Crown Crystal Glass, which is a subsidiary of Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd. A.C.I, is a very powerful organisation in this country. Another company produces a commodity known as Corning ware. It is a very popular type of heat resisting ware, but the basic materials are imported from the United States. The Corning Glass Works Co. is basically a United States company. The bulk of the goods that are under consideration in this amendment are made of heat resisting glassware for cooking purposes. But other table, kitchen,, toilet and office types of glassware, such as coffee percolators, servers and mixing bowls, may also be made from this same heat resisting glass.
– The heat resisting material does not always work, either.
– I understand that pyrex ware, -which is an Australian made commodity, has a different base. It is made from basic Australian commodities. Evidently there is a process, still unknown to the Australian glass industry, which gives Corning ware its particular heat resisting property. However, that is a matter that will have to be worked out later on. The Tariff Board recommended that the glass industry be given support for a three year period.
Turning to the question of the employment that is created by the glass industry, separate employment figures are not available for the heat resisting glass ware section of the industry because labour is employed interchangeably on all glass production. The company told the Tariff Board that the total number of employees fell from 1,500 in J 961 to 1,100 in 1964 and that in April of that year 623 people were employed in the production of glass. So we see a considerable fall in the number of people employed in the industry, which no doubt is due also to improved manufacturing techniques involving the use of mechanical means.
The Tariff Board made certain recommendations. Among them it said -
Crown Class, the applicant company, is the sole local manufacturer of heat resisting glassware from borosilicate glass (pyrex) . . .
The evidence indicate that Crown Glass is experiencing serious competition from imports. a downward trend in sales was very marked prior to the imposition of temporary duties, but there is evidence that sales returns have subsequently improved marginally, mainly as a result of price increases.
This is an important matter that should receive the consideration of the Senate.
Production levels have not improved. The company emphasised that in the glassware industry in particular, the key to reduced costs is increased throughput. lt appears that the Tariff Board was faced with a problem: lt was able to assist the company with a high tariff protection, but this would also give an opportunity to the company to raise prices, rather than increase its production and develop more efficient techniques. This is a matter that should be continually watched, by the Tariff Board and those people in authority who recommend matters for investigation by the Board. A compromise should be made so as to grant assistance to a company to enable it to become established, while at the same time requiring it to put its profits back into the company so that it might be placed on a sound economic footing and might eliminate the higher costs that sometimes accrue to consumers following the granting of tariff protection.
The Tariff Board has suggested that the production by Crown Glass of heat resisting glassware should be reviewed in three year’s time as part of a complete review of the company’s production. Mr. Cossar, a member of the Board, offered a dissenting opinion. I think some of his remarks are very germane to the point that I have been making. This report states Mr. Cossar’s reasons for dissenting, as follows:
Despite- the magnitude of the duties recommended there is no evidence that they are likely to provide effective protection or result in improvement in the competitive position of this division of Crown Glass.
Mr. Cossar was referring to the recommendation of his colleagues to protect heat resisting glassware falling within Tariff Item 70.13, by increasing the present substantive duties of 40 per cent. General and 12i per cent. Preferential to 60 per cent. General and 50 per cent. Preferential. The report continued -
This assessment is strongly supported by the fact that despite the existence of temporary duties which, together with the substantive duties, range in ad valorem terms from 55 per cent, to 130 per cent. General and from 30 per cent, to 60 per cent. Preferential and which have been in force since May 1964 . . . sales returns have subsequently improved marginally mainly as a result of price increases. Production levels have not improved. The main import competition is from a high labour cost country, the United States of America, and the local industry benefits con siderably from natural protection due to the fragile nature of goods incurring high freight and packing costs. Tn many cases the landed duty free cost is 45 per cent, above the f.o.b.
The minority report went on to say that the increased duties would permit the company to increase prices and thus improve profitability. The question of the degree of protection to be afforded the production of heat resisting glassware, the report states, is complicated by the absence of any cost comparisons with the United States of America, the unreliability of the price comparisons that could be made and the existence of local excess capacity. The report continued -
However, the evidence does not, in Mr. Cossar’s opinion, lead to the conclusions that this division of Crown Glass is at present soundly based, and, even with the duties recommended, is reasonably assured of success.
Mr. Cossar supported the recommendation that the existing substantive duties be retained for three years with a view to removal of assistance should they still prove inadequate. Although it may be argued that the granting of increased protection could assist Crown Glass until improvement in its competitive position emerges as a result of rationalised production, Mr. Cossar does not agree - and this is a most important point - that consumers should be called upon further to underwrite the production of heat resisting glass. He said that Crown Glass is a part of the industrial complex of Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd. which could reasonably be expected to assist its subsidiary in improving its competitive position. We are fairly well aware of the range of uses for glassware, from humble milk bottles, medicine bottles and beer bottles, right through the whole field of containers.
Having such a splendid economic position because of its practical management, A.C.I, should be bearing its proportion of the cost of nurturing its subsidiary industries to a stage of efficiency, without using them as a separate entity to apply to the Tariff Board for increased protection. A.C.I, is fortunate to have received assistance from the Tariff Board on a basis of three years’ probation. I hope that the company will take heed of Mr. Cossar’s warnings and will assist its subsidiary to improve its throughput, build up its own sales and try to reach the standard of imported Corningware
There is no doubt about the quality of Corningware. I had some articles of Corn.ingware given to me as a wedding present. It is a very good product. The Australian industry will have to smarten up in order to hold its own with Corningware without tariff protection. I think it is an important point that housewives should not be called upon to subsidise anything but efficiency in an industry which is increasing its employment of skilled and unskilled Australians, or using basic local materials that in turn create employment. Such a company should, at the same time, improve the qualities of its products to match those of its overseas rivals. ] turn now to deal with a report of the Special Advisory Authority on stainless steel and hoop and strip steel. Some honorable senators will remember that during World War II Australia was placed in a very difficult position because of its dependence on imported stainless steel and hoop and strip steel, lt was of great importance for the industry to be established here. The Special Advisory Authority has gone thoroughly into the workings of the Commonwealth Steel Co. Ltd. That company is the sole manufacturer of stainless steel in Australia. It claimed that since 1961-62 the Australian demand for stainless steel had doubled, but that over the same period its share of the market had fallen from 67 per cent, to 35 per cent. It was stated that the increase in imports had come principally from Japan where a substantially increased capacity in excess of domestic requirements had been installed. We have been assured by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) and by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) who represents him in the Senate, that the Japanese trade agreement would not act adversely against Australian interests. Information submitted to the Special Advisory Authority showed that the Japanese were offering stainless steel at prices which were well below those of the Australian commodity and that the users of this commodity who had been obtaining their supplies from Commonwealth Steel Co. Ltd. for a considerable period were now turning to imports purely because of the lower price. It was stated that the company had already been forced to make some reductions in output a-nd because of this it was, at the time of the inquiry, operating at a loss. It was thus not in a position to make any further price reductions to meet overseas competition. Because of lack of forward orders the company was faced with the necessity to curtail production further, which would result in the dismissal of many of its skilled employees and have a disastrous effect on cost of production. The alternative, which was adopted, was to maintain production and build up stocks. In the absence of further protection these stocks will, because of overseas prices, be extremely difficult to sell.
A temporary duty of $448 per ton less 40 per cent, of the f.o.b. price is to be imposed on hoop and strip steel, and on plate and sheet steel a temporary duty of $448 per ton less 471 per cent, of the f.o.b. price is to be imposed. These temporary duties are lo be in addition to normal duties. Representatives of British, Canadian and United States suppliers to the Australian market maintained that the present difficulties of the Australian manufacturers were due principally to low priced imports from Japan. Sir Frank Meere said that his inquiries had shown that imports of stainless steel were being made at a price with which Comsteel, under its existing protection, could not compete. This situation calls for a revision of this particular section of the Japanese Trade Agreement to ensure that this industry is sustained, because of its importance in the provision of employment, to the maintenance of a balanced economy and for defence purposes. The company in question showed a potential for development in its formative stages, when a measure of protection was given to it. Now it seems that it could be put out of business because of Japanese competition. I hope the Minister will have something to say in his reply about steps the Government intends to take to alleviate the plight of Commonwealth Steel Co. Ltd.
I have just dealt with the Eighth Schedule and the Ninth Schedule to the Bill. The Tenth Schedule removes duties applied to concentrated citrus fruit juices and syrups and substitutes merely an appropriate rate of duty on unconcentrated citrus fruit juices. Evidently there is a differentiation between unconcentrated citrus fruit juices and concentrated fruit juices. Apparently this is a matter for arbitration by the customs authorities, and it is more or less left in their hands to apply the tariff alterations.
The Eleventh Schedule and the Twelfth Schedule relate to hot water bags, which have been the subject of investigation. The manufacture of hot water bags in Australia has been carried out mainly by a company which supplies to two of the biggest chain stores which operate in this country. Strong competition is being experienced from imports from Czechoslovakia. The reports that are available show that some dumping has taken place. In his second reading speech, the Minister said - the Tariff Board found that some imported hot water bags have been dumped in Australia. 1 have taken the necessary steps to ensure that any imports at dumped prices are subject to appropriate anti-dumping duties.
In addition to these Schedules, there is to be a change relating to section 25 of the Customs Tariff 1966. This is a rather complicated change relating to electrical goods. When dealing with this matter the Minister said -
Section 25 provides, inter alia, that where goods arc composed of separate articles the duty may, by direction of the Minister, be ascertained as if the articles had been imported separately. The idea of separate articles may be Cully factual as in the case of a canteen of cutlery or more or less notional as in the case of a radio set where the valves would seem to be clearly separate articles but the capacitors and resistors arguably less so.
This provision will give some scope to departmental officers. When the duty applicable to goods taken as a whole is greater or less than the duty applicable to the component parts, the level of duty payable may not always be equitable. In that event, the protection that is to be incorporated in the legislation under section 25 may be used to restore the intention of the Tariff.
Speaking generally, the Bill now before us deals with important segments of industry. The Tariff Board and the Special Advisory Authority can be commended for the diligence that they have applied to preparing for the Minister and the Parliament the very elaborate and impressive background of information that we have. Although tariff and customs matters can be boring, in view of the tremendous amount of revenue that is raised by this means the Senate should have before it in some detail the matters that call for consideration.
It is in that light that I have expanded upon some of the matters before us. To my mind, they are important. Having examined them, we offer the support of the Opposition to the measure.
– in reply - I am grateful to Senator O’Byrne for his comprehensive coverage of the Bill. As the honorable senator has said, because of their very nature customs bills are fairly uninteresting. I am grateful to him for covering the broad sweep of the proposals that were outlined in my second reading speech. 1 do not wish to go over them again, except to refer to the proposal for the duty free entry of goods from less developed countries. These goods are the products of local domestic industries, and not necessarily of the main industries of the countries concerned. This is an aspect of Australian trade and customs policy of which I think we can all be proud. We are setting about providing for the duty free entry of goods from over 100 countries. They are all specialised goods, and this measure will assist those countries to build up their economies, govern themselves efficiently, and provide stability in their financial and economic structures. These developments, in turn will assist in improving the way of life of those countries and ultimately in preserving the peace of the world.
Senator O’Byrne referred to the case of the Crown Glass company. He covered the dissenting report of Mr. Cossar in relation to the item. He acknowledged that the Tariff Board had said that in this section of the glass industry there was not a strong case for a tariff review. The Board, in a majority decision, told the company that it would be given three years notice to put its house in, order in relation to this item. The only difference between the majority decision and the dissenting opinion was that the latter suggested that while three years notice should be given, the duty should be left as it stood. I think this was the only difference between the members of the Board. If a section of the industry is put on notice - let us be clear that this is only a modest section - to try to stabilise the economics of production, one may as well go the full distance and give encouragement to improve the position. This is fundamental to the principle of tariff making. Australia is a young country. We have to get industries and we must give them protection to enable them to stabilise and stand on their own feet. Progressively, provided all things are equal and the industries are not subject to external competition with which they cannot cope, they are able to improve their position and become economic.
All that happened in this instance was that a majority of the members of the Tariff Board decided that this section of the glass industry should get a concessional rate of duty as an incentive and encouragement, but it was warned to do better, as this provision would be revieved in three years. The dissenting member of the Board recommended that the duty should be left as it was and that the industry should be given notice that it was in difficulty.
– Would the Minister say that the industry would be prevented from increasing its price because of this?
– One could have a price increase and increased duty. The two things are not necessarily incompatible. That is the situation in this case. The only other matter to which I wish to refer relates to the steel industry. Senator O’Byrne directed attention to the report of the Special Advisory Authority. He asked what the Government was going to do to protect the Australian industry. The answer is to be found in the Bill itself. The Australian industry, being put at a disadvantage, sought the assistance of the Special Advisory Authority to get a temporary duty. The Authority, having examined the matter, recommended additional temporary protection. That having been done as a holding measure, the broader sweep of the industry is referred to the Tariff Board for examination. During the period the matter is being examined, which naturally will be considerable, the holding measure remains and conserves the position of the industry. I have an extract from the Vernon Committee’s Report to which I think it is proper I should refer. It reads -
It must be recognised that action taken on the advice of the S.A.A. is a holding action and not a substitute for the subsequent more considered inquiry by the Tariff Board.
– What is the S.A.A.?
– The Special Advisory Authority, Sir Frank Meere. The report continues -
The S.A.A. deals with an emergency and its action is dictated by this fact, not by the long term future of the industry or production under review. The Board on the other hand must be concerned with the question whether any increased protection, let alone protection on the terms recommended for the emergency by the S.A.A., is warranted, having regard to the principles of tariff making which it has evolved around the concept of economic and efficient.
I think that we can all accept this in the broad as a profound comment on tariff making. In this instance, the steel industry was being injured by imports from Japan and sought protection from the Authority. It has received holding protection from the Authority, pending a full scale, broader sweep investigation by the Tariff Board.
I am grateful to the honorable senator for his co-operation in expediting the passage of the Bill. Many of the schedules provide for the adjustment’ of various items, having regard to the introduction of the Brussels Nomenclature. The main points were dealt with by him. We dealt with concentrates, which is one of the significant items. We have already discussed aid to less developed countries and some reports of the Special Advisory Authority to hold the line and protect a particular Australian industry pending a further broad examination of that industry by the Tariff Board having regard to the long term future on the Australian economic scene.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 24th August (vide page 63), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a Bill to give the Treasurer authority to borrow $120 million for the purpose of advances to the States in the current financial year in accordance with the provisions of the Housing Agreement Act 1966. As the Bill seeks to raise money for housing, the Opposition does not oppose it, but our intention was, and still is, to criticise the Government for its lack of effective action in housing. This afternoon we were faced with an unprecedented happening in that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) sought leave to make and did in fact make a statement on housing just before this Bill was due to be debated and the Opposition was due to present its case. The Minister’s statement did no more than distort the position. It compared what the Government is doing in relation to housing construction at present with what was done in the worst month of last year in that respect, with the intention of suggesting that the Government is really doing something about housing. We consider that the Minister’s statement can be described only as election propaganda. There will be little opportunity, if any, to have a debate on it before the end of the session. We could make an effective reply to the statement if it were debated, but we have not used the forms of the House which would permit of a debate and enable us to make our reply, because we think that, in all probability, the debate would not take place during this session. So, in our view, it is essential to discuss the matter while we are considering the measure which is before the Senate now.
– Why could not the honorable senator move in the way to which he has referred?
– The Government has control of the business of the Senate, and it is most unlikely that the Government would allow a reply to be made before the session ends and the general election is held. We are using the means available to us to make some reply promptly to the Minister’s statement; otherwise, the statement may be presented to the electors in such a way that they will be unaware of the method used to distort the housing position in Australia and to attempt to support the claim that the Government has done in this matter what it promised to do at previous elections.
The Senate will remember that the Government, after the big shock it received in 1961, approached the electors in 1963 with more success, on the basis of a promise to do something about housing and to establish a Department of Housing under the control of a Minister for Housing. If the Minister and the Department were to achieve anything, it must have been to increase the rate of house building in Australia. That has not been achieved. With all respect to the Minister, we can say only that the activities of the Department have been a hopeless failure. This is not a criticism of the Minister, who is given control of a Department because the Department itself must rely on the finance that the Treasurer authorises that Department to raise.
During the Budget debate last year 1 was critical of the attitude of the Government, which reported a reduction in the rate of housing construction but said there was no need for alarm because it was anticipated that the slack of employment in the housing work force would be taken up as a result of more industrial expansion over a period. My criticism then was to the effect that industrial expansion came first and that houses were provided only when no other work was available for the building force. The Minister for Housing, in a ministerial statement on housing finance on 1 6th March of this year, said -
We need more and more homes for the increasing number of young people reaching marriageable age and also for the rising flow of migrants, many of whom come as family groups or are young people who will soon marry. There is nothing more discouraging to people arriving in Australia than to find housing difficult to obtain. From another standpoint, building construction is one of our largest industries and probably the most pervasive of all in that it goes on practically everywhere. It may not be generally realised that these days, as nearly as can be estimated, expenditure on dwellings, including alterations and additions, runs at close upon $1,000 million a year.
The Minister recognised the importance of housing for migrants and for young people. She went on to say -
The Government believes that dwelling construction ought to be kept up to the highest practicable level; by which I mean practicable in relation to the resources of labour, materials and equipment available at any time, lt is no use trying to push things beyond that point; in fact it would be foolish because all you would get would be delays in construction, rising costs, and a drain of resources from other important activities.
There the Minister was justifying the insufficiency of housing construction on the ground that, in the Government’s view, it would be folly to increase it, because such an increase would increase building costs and drain resources from other industries. I drew attention to that statement also when the Loan (Housing) Bill 1966 was being debated here on 21st April of this year. A similar statement was made in the Budget debate last year. The excuse then was that housing requirements at that time could not be met because of shortages of labour and materials, but those shortages do not exist today. The Minister, in her statement this afternoon, said -
At the present time, the building industry as a whole is relatively fully employed. However, in some States, the pressures on it are not quite as great as they were a year ago. The number of persons working on jobs carried out by builders of new dwellings reached a peak of about 75.500 in March 1965. In March this year the number had dropped to 69,500, but quite a number of those who had been engaged in home building had transferred to other types of building. With the possibility of some easing in the recent high level of private-non-dwelling construction, there should be the opportunity for some engaged in the latter type of construction to transfer back to home building.
I want to say, as one who has been associated with the building trades unions, that there is uncertainty in the building trade at the present time. There is unemployment between contracts, between jobs. In South Australia, to my knowledge, there are large numbers of building construction workers unemployed. But here we find the Minister, who has used the non-availability of builders as an excuse for not meeting the requirements of housing construction in previous years, taking as a matter going to the credit of the Government the fact that 6,000 building workers are now being transferred to other employment. Surely the Government stands indicted for permitting 6,000 qualified building workers to transfer to other employment from an occupation which, according to the Minister for Housing, is essential for the development of Australia and for the encouragement of immigration.
The Minister has admitted that we have not kept pace with past requirements and proposals for increased building construction in the future, lt was easy for the Government when it could use the excuse that labour and materials for housing were not available but now, when we have an abundance of labour and materials, 6,000 skilled workers have been allowed to drift from the building industry which has been retarded in the past. The Minister for Housing believes she is administering a worthy department which deserves recognition but it is evident that the Department should be more careful before making statements on these matters.
The Press in South Australia, and probably in other parts of the Commonwealth, recently carried an advertisement by a building firm in West Germany which sought 100 bricklayers for a contract in West Germany. The bricklayers’ union in South Australia wrote to the contractor stating that subject to the wages and conditions being acceptable, it could supply 100 bricklayers to work in West Germany. It is a remarkable situation when we bring migrants out to work in an industry where they cannot be employed and then permit them to seek engagements in a country from which we brought them. A number of bricklayers have applied for employment but it is not certain whether they will go to West Germany or not. The point is that they cannot find employment in South Australia and despite the statements by the Minister for Housing, building construction in Australia is declining.
I am obliged to the Housing Industry Research Committee of Victoria for statistics relating to Australian housing approvals which were published in the July issue of the Committee’s bulletin. These figures show that Australian approvals for total houses and flats from January to the end of May 1966 were 8 per cent, lower than in the corresponding five months of 1965. This decline has occurred at a time when there has been an abundance of labour and materials and the building industry has considerable capacity for construction. The figures show that the position is better in some States than in others. Approvals for total houses and flats declined between January and May this year by 16.7 per cent, in New South Wales and South Australia and by 18.6 per cent, in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory combined. Figures were down in Tasmania by 9.3 per cent, and in Victoria by 2.3 per cent, but they were up by 6.3 per cent, in Queensland and 7.3 per cent, in Western Australia. I find that the figures improved in Western Australia and Queensland because of mining developments in the Queensland coalfields and the alumina industry in Queensland and because of mining development in Western Australia. Homes are bui’lt Where these industries are developed.
Generally there has been a decline in Australia of 8 per cent, in the first five months of 1966; yet the Minister for Housing has claimed an improvement in bousing by comparing certain months with December 1965 when building figures were ait their lowest. This is not an honest calculation on the Minister’s part. It is all very well for her to make this statement for the electors who do not know the facts and have no right of reply to her. The Reserve Bank of Australia states at page 8 of its annual report dated 30th June 1966-
In 1964-65, rising activity in construction of flats had offset some decline in housing commencements but flat commencements subsequently fell off sharply and this, coupled with a continuing fall in house commencements, produced quite a substantial decline in total dwelling commencements during the first half of 1965-66. Following policy action to increase the availability of funds for housing, this downward trend was checked. Commencements for the year as a whole reached 107,000, slightly less than in 1963-64 and some 10,000 less than in 1964-65.
Therefore, the overall construction was 10,000 less., than in the previous year; yet the Minister has claimed achievements by the Government in the field of housing. We have been told in the second reading speech and in the ministerial statement presented today that the Government is providing $120 million which is a record for housing and some $18 million more than was approved by the Australian Loan Council for the last financial year, lt is acknowledged that some $15 million was subsequently approved for last year, making this year’s figures in excess of last year’s Loan Council figures by some $3 million. But the Minister did not state that the provision for war service homes this year is to be reduced by $12 million and so actually the money made available by the Commonwealth for housing construction this year is less than it was in previous years. The Minister stated that the grant for housing this year was a record. The ministerial statement also announced that war service homes expenditure was additional expenditure for housing whereas in fact the Commonwealth Government proposes to spend less on housing than it did last year.
– How does the number of applications for war service homes this year compare with last year?
– The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) stated in his Budget speech that there would be a reduction of $12 million in the provision for war service -homes this year because applications were falling off. He said it was now possible to meet the demand with less expenditure.
– Does not that show that the demand has been adequately met over the past years?
– Senator Wright overlooks the whole point of the argument. The Treasurer’s statement shows that the demand for war service homes is getting Jess and the demand has been met but while there is a smaller group of people without war service homes entitlement coming on, there is a new generation of marriagable age which is not being supplied with suitable homes. It is only a question of transferring from one entitlement to another.
– That is an argument that is worth listening to if the honorable senator can make it. But what has been the trend in the other field, namely, the number of houses supplied?
– Let me put it this way; I do not think that there is an acute shortage in every State of the Commonwealth today. New ‘houses are being constructed at the present time. Some new houses are unoccupied and cannot bc sold. A number of people are living in substandard housing. The accommodation of some families is sub-standard because they are sharing houses. The standard would be reasonable possibly if a house were occupied by one family only. But they are substandard because they are occupied by a number of families at this time. The number of people living under these conditions is increasing. Returns from State Housing Commissions show increased waiting lists. These lists are filled with the names of people awaiting both rental and low deposit purchase accommodation. I do not know what other figures are available in this regard to show whether this is the trend, and that the housing needs of the people are being met.
But it cannot be claimed that the housing needs of the people are being met during a period when we have an increased adult population because of migration and also because of the greater number of people who are reaching the age when they need a home. These people represent the increased adult population following the rise in the birthrate after the depression years. But we are building fewer homes. As 1 have said, home construction is down by 8 per cent, on the figures for last year. In the first five months of this year, as the report of the Reserve Bank of Australia points out, .10,000 fewer units were constructed.
The Minister for Housing, in her statement this afternoon, pointed to the needs of the people and expressed the hope that the savings banks would make a bigger contribution to housing finance. I do not hope that my remarks will be regarded as placing me in the position of defending the private hanks, but 1 would say that there are limits to what the private banks can do and what they are prepared to do. This is determined to a great degree by, and depends upon, what the Government permits them to do. We expect the private banks to increase this year their contributions for the financing of private home construction while this is used for propaganda purposes. But is it recognised that at the Government’s request the private banks declined to increase their finance for home building in the first half of last year? The savings banks were prepared to do this.
If we look at page 14 of the Report of the Reserve Bank of Australia, we find this statement -
Mousing loan approvals by savings banks, which normally account for something approaching half of the total institutional housing lending, rose by S26 million. Most of this increase occurred in the second half of the year in response to the Reserve Bank’s request for a higher level of housing lending. However, with repayments of existing loans continuing to rise strongly, and with, as usual, a lag in drawings against loan approvals, the increase in savings bank housing loans outstanding was actually $14 million less than in 1964-65. The outstandings of other groups of housing lenders seem unlikely to have risen sufficiently to compensate for this.
Aggregate finance approvals for new housing by the major institutional lenders rose by about 1 per cent, and the number of loans approved showed little change. Savings bank lending for new housing showed a significant rise but some other groups showed decreases.
We find that the loans approved by major lending institutions as finance for new dwellings in 1963-64 was 50,800; in 1964- 65 it was 49,300; and in 1965-66 it was 49,000. So, a small decline has taken place in the number of loans approved each year. The amount of finance provided for new dwellings in 1963-64 was $327.3 million; in 1964-65 it was $327.6 million; and in 1965-66 it was $330 million.
While the amount of finance that has been provided in this period by lending institutions has increased, a slight reduction has occurred in the number of loans approved, so an increased amount has been lent on each new dwelling. In her statement this afternoon, the Minister for Housing commented that an increase of 1 per cent, had been achieved in the private lending for homes in the financial year 1965-66. The additional $3 million provided this year will not build additional homes. This amount represents only the increase that has taken place in the cost of housing this year compared with the cost last year, if we overlook the fact that $12 million less is to be used in respect of war service homes.
It is further reported in the Report of the Reserve Bank of Australia -
Early in 1965-66, when evidence of a slowing down in housing activity was accumulating, the Bank had discussions with savings banks about the availability of finance for housing over the year. The savings banks expressed confidence that, despite a lower rate of growth in their deposits, they would be able to maintain a high level of housing loan approvals. However, housing commencements continued to decline and, to help offset the downward trend, the Bank later requested the savings banks to lift their rates of housing lending and the Commonwealth Government made a supplementary allocation to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
There we see the influence of the Reserve Bank on the savings banks.
I wish to correct a statement that I made when the Senate was debating the Housing Agreement Bill 1966 in March of this year. I was under the impression that the $24 million made available at the end of last year was released by the Reserve Bank. In fact, it represented further borrowings from the savings banks following the request of the Commonwealth Government that some impetus be given to housing. At page 19 of the Report of the Reserve Bank it is reported that -
Special arrangements had been made around the close of 1964/63 for banks to undertake lending for drought purposes outside the general policy of restraint. These arrangements were continued during 1965/66. From early in 1964/65, banks had also been asked to favour lending for purposes which would aid production rather than add to consumption and to avoid lending for possibly speculative purposes. Subsequently, they had been asked to refrain from adding to pressure on the construction industry, particularly from commercial building projects. In 1965/66 they were requested to continue this general policy but, from about September, they were specially asked to maintain their lending for housing and to be discouraging in dealing with applications for finance which was likely to be associated with speculative stock building, particularly of imported goods.
The Minister for Housing said in her statement today that the savings banks are not doing sufficient for housing and that they should do more. At the request of the government instrumentality, the savings banks restricted their lendings for the first half of the last financial year and discouraged spending for housing in the latter part of the year. Now we see a condemnation of the savings banks by the Minister for Housing. Some of these banks have carried out the policy of the Government and they are to be blamed for the lack of finance at the present time for housing.
– Where does that condemnation appear? I do not want to interrupt the honorable senator. I thought he would have the passage readily available.
– It is very difficult to refer to a statement that was made only just before I began to speak. That statement says -
In 196S-66 aggregate finance approvals for new housing by the major institutional lenders, which include trading banks, savings banks, major life offices, the War Service Homes Division and some building and housing societies, rose by about one per cent.
As I have shown from the figures given by the Reserve Bank, that increase would meet only the increase in the cost of building. The Statement continues -
Savings bank lending for new housing showed a significant rise but some other groups showed decreases.
In addition to the very substantial increase in the rate of savings bank lending during the second half of 1965-66, the trading banks, which lend approximately half as much as the savings banks, increased the volume of their new lending for housing during this period. Housing loans outstanding rose quite sharply in the closing months of the year as the increased rate of approvals began to reflect in drawings. At the same time the savings banks were asked to put an emphasis on new rather than existing housing.
The Government thinks it is appropriate that savings banks, as the largest contributors to the financing of private housing, should continue to expand their lending for housing broadly in proportion to the growth in our housing needs.
There is the belief of the Minister that the savings banks should expand their lending for housing in accordance with housing needs.
– Yes. It was only the expression that the honorable senator used - condemnation - that I did not understand.
– Perhaps that was an unfortunate word to use. The whole point is that the Government is saying that today the banks have a responsibility to increase their lending. Although, during a period of decline in constructions, they may have assisted in the decline, they did that at the request of the Reserve Bank. So any criticism of the savings banks or any suggestion in the Minister’s statement that they are not doing sufficient to meet the wishes of the Commonwealth is unfortunate. I quote the following from page 21 of the Reserve Bank report -
At the end of June 1966 housing loan outstandings of savings banks subject’ to the Banking (Savings Banks) Regulations represented 24.0 per cent, of their deposits, compared with 22.4 per cent, at June 1965. Holdings of liquid assets and public sector securities accounted for 75 per cent, of the June 1966 deposits of these banks, some 10 per cent, above the minimum required under the Regulations.
Early in 1965-66. in consultations wilh the Bank about the availability of finance for housing, it had been agreed thai the savings banks would aim to maintain a steady and substantial volume of lending, notwithstanding the possibility that the lower rate of growth in their deposits would continue. As the year progressed and dwelling commencements continued to follow a declining trend, the Bank considered it appropriate for the concentration of savings bank funds in housing to be increased for a time t’o assist in offsetting this downward trend. Accordingly, it asked all savings banks to explore the possibility that some further housing finance, additional to the high level of approvals already being maintained, might be made available over the remainder of the financial year, with an emphasis on new rather than existing housing.
The savings banks responded quickly and effectively to this request. Their aggregate approvals for the year reached the record total of $324 million, some 9 per cent, higher than in 1964-65.
Housing loans outstanding rose quite sharply in the closing months of the year as the increased rale of approvals began to reflect in drawings.
Last year the savings banks increased their lending for housing by about 9 per cent, to 24 per cent, of their deposits. Yet now the Minister says that the Government expects them to do more this year. I am informed that, under the Banking Act, they are entitled to lend for all purposes only 35 per cent, of their deposits and that they must retain the other 65 per cent. A savings bank is taking a big risk if it lends somewhere near 35 per cent, of its deposits on long terms because savings fluctuate from day to day and if there is a call on a bank and it cannot recall moneys it is in breach of the Act and, I believe, liable to a fine of 52,000 a day.
Mr. R. B. Cameron, the Director of the Australian Bankers Association Research Directorate, in correcting a statement that I had made in the Parliament, included in his letter to me the following comments on the position of the savings banks -
Savings Bank funds are, then, the source of the additional $24 million for housing.
This amount was not released from the Reserve Bank, as I had claimed. His comments continued -
Prior to the Governor’s request, the savings banks were unable to lift their rate of lending for housing because the Reserve Bank had, under its Banking Act powers, asked them to contain the rate of their lending, lt is this factor of Reserve Bank “ restraint “ which is currently, and has been for some considerable time, influencing the level of lending for housing by savings banks, rather than the rate of growth of deposits, the “ 65/35 “ investment pattern regulations, the level of repayments or banks* own policies.
The Government boasts of giving a record amount to the States for housing. The closing paragraph of the Minister’s second reading speech, which I think is in phraseology similar to that used in the statement that was made this afternoon, reads -
The amount of $120,000,000 to be provided in the current financial year sets a new record, lt demonstrates clearly the Commonwealth’s willingness to continue to provide substantial assistance towards the housing needs of the States.
Here we see the generosity of the Commonwealth in increasing its advances to the States to meet their housing needs whilst at the same time determining, by its Banking Regulations and its Reserve Bank direc tions, advice, etc., what will be provided from private sources. As has been pointed out, when the banks have not the opportunity to lend for housing because of the requirements of the Commonwealth, they usually lend for other purposes, such as the financing of local government and other institutions. That may assist the Government. It makes money available for the Commonwealth to lend to the States under the Housing Agreement. So we have reached the stage where the Government has power over private lending for housing. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth must accept full responsibility for housing at the present time. Simply by increasing, to a record level, the amount of money that one department will spend, while at the same time taking $12 million away from another department, and placing a restriction on lending by the banks, we do not increase the number of houses available in the States. In fact, the number could decline. We have seen that even with the $15 million that was made available in March, the housing position is only now beginning to improve.
Newly constructed houses are available for occupancy today. They have been unoccupied for six months and the paint is beginning to peel off them. But there is a steady stream of people waiting at banks for loans which the banks are not in a position to advance. As labour and materials are available at the present time, the solution to the housing problem fs finance. Finance for housing is made available from time to time as a result of a decision of the Treasury. The part that the Department of Housing plays in the construction of houses I do not know.
An article appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 3rd February 1966 dealing with the reasons why houses are constructed but not occupied. The article was written by Robert Coleman, who is well known for his comments in this field. He said -
Researchers say land prices have risen by 360 per cent, in the Melbourne metropolitan area since 1952, and that the cost of average-priced homes has gone up by 84 per cent, in the sama period.
When commenting on the position of a person trying to raise money to purchase a house, he said -
He is stopped by two common rules in bank lending: One, his own equity in the property must be 20 to 25 per cent.
Two. his repayments (including those on any second mortgage) must not exceed one-quarter of his total income before deductions. And for this purpose overtime and money earned by his wife don t usually count.
The executive director of the Housing Industry Association, Mr. C. H. Bennett, says that a breadwinner earning below £28 a week has a real struggle to finance a home. lt is necessary for a person to find £1,500 to buy a block of land and £3,500 to construct a house. The banks’ lending policy is that a man requires a 20 to 25 per cent, equity in this property and, of course, he cannot commit himself on repayments in excess of one-quarter of his income. People in the lower income group have.no chance of meeting this requirement, and some in the higher income bracket are finding it difficult.
– Which banks insist on a 25 per cent, equity?
– That is what Robert Coleman said regarding the common rules in bank lending.
– -ls that with the aid of the Government housing finance insurance?
– The way in which the Government housing finance insurance operates in South Australia is that a person arranges his own first mortgage and the Government finance is used for bridging the gap between the first mortgage and the second mortgage. A loan arranged through an agency of the Government such as the South Australian Housing Trust, would not require security.
– Can the honorable senator give me this information? Do we still confine this Government housing finance insurance to banks, building societies and life assurance companies?
– I do not know. 1 would suggest that the honorable senator ask the Minister. The point that I am making is that if the Government does not make more money available, it is not making more homes available.
– f thought the honorable senator was insisting on the amount of the equity and that the Government’s insurance scheme was reducing the equity.
– Apparently the banks are still insisting on the equity at the present time. The housing loans insurance scheme may have been designed to provide for a greater proportion of loans, but if the banks advance larger loans and do not’ insist on the 20 to 25 per cent, equity provision, this means that while larger loans are made available there is a smaller number of them, unless there is an increase in bank deposits. As 1 have said, banks are permitted to lend up to 35 per cent, of their deposits. They must have reserves, which they cannot lend out, in case of drawings on long term loans.
When the Government asked the banks, in the latter half of last year, to make more money availa’ble for housing, they went to the extent that was possible in accordance with the Government’s wishes. But if they were to advance larger loans for housing, although that might meet the requirements of a section of the people on the lower incomes, it would reduce the number of loans available and the number of houses that could be built.
Before concluding I. want to refer to one further point in the statement of the Minister for Housing this afternoon. Towards the end of the statement she said -
But in this country where approximately 85 per cent, of dwelling commencements are the result of private enterprise decisions, there must always be some element of uncertainty as to how many cottages and flats will be commenced next quarter and more uncertainty about activity in the quarter after that. We want to see more dwellings commenced in 1966-67 than were commenced last year. We are confident we will achieve this, but we will walch the developing situation with particular care.
All this highlights the need for adequate investigation and reporting facilities. We intend to develop improved facilities so that the Government may be as completely informed as possible on housing developments, and so that home builders and lenders for housing purposes may also be belter informed. My Department hopes to be able to provide all those interested in housing wilh up to date information on what has happened in satisfying housing needs, . . .
The Minister is saying that although the Department of Housing was established in December 1963, it still does not know what is going on in the industry and it cannot predict what is going to happen. The Minister says, in effect: “ Despite the fact that we are saying that banks should lend money for housing, which they have agreed to do, and when they should lend it, at this stage we have decided to try to find out what is going to happen tomorrow.” ls not this an indictment of the Government’s activities in the .past? This is supported by an article written by John O’Hara, the State political correspondent of the “Sydney Morning Herald”, which appeared in that newspaper on 12th January 1966. Mr. O’Hara referred to the failure of the Commonwealth to assess the trend of the housing industry. He wrote -
But this failure is so typical. When one looks back, one sees the incredible assessments of. past years. Take the supposedly scientific analysis of Australia’s housing needs made by the Commonwealth Department of National Development in 19.56. It is sufficient to say that, whereas this analysis showed 53,450 dwellings would be required in Australia in 1959, in actual fact, 84,158 were built. The prediction for 1960 was 55,000 yet actual construction was 90,021. On the basis of this analysis, the Commonwealth Government argued in ensuing years that there was no real housing shortage in Australia
Wilh a record of inability behind it, only now does the Government set out to tackle the housing problem. At the time of the signing of the last Housing Agreement, the Opposition suggested that a full inquiry should be conducted into housing. Following such an inquiry, the Commonwealth Government could suggest to savings banks, and possibly to trading banks, how their lending activities should be directed to assist the economy. How does the Government determine whether assistance should be granted to a mining company which wants to establish a town in the north west of Western Australia or in outback Queensland?
How can the Government fail to realise the importance of an inquiry into housing at a time when it is concerned with the lack of housing and when the Minister fully appreciates the need to provide adequate homes? In every capital city at present homes by the dozens are unoccupied and up for sale. They cannot be sold because people do not have the money to buy them. Lack of manpower and materials was used as an excuse in previous years, but it can no longer be used truthfully. What is the Commonwealth doing lo ensure that the 6,000 workers who have left the housing industry - as stated by the Minister this afternoon - will return to the building industry?
The Opposition does not oppose this legislation because it provides for money to be allocated to the States for housing. Such a measure receives our support. However, we offer the comment that the amounts are insufficient. The housing industry is in a terrible muddle. It is ailing at present. The Government, rather than conduct an inquiry to rectify the position, is content to put out statements containing political propaganda to justify the existence of a department which, on its record, cannot justify its costly existence over the period for which it has been operating.
[5.34J. - in reply - I thank the Opposition for supporting this legislation to provide for payment to the States of $120 million for housing in accordance with the Housing Agreement of 1966. I have been interested to hear the points raised by Senator Cavanagh and I shall refer to one or two of them because 1 believe they may be of interest to honorable senators. Senator Cavanagh referred to the waiting lists of State housing authorities and said that they are indicative of the overall housing shortage in Australia today. I cannot and do not believe that those waiting lists are completely indicative of the overall housing situation in Australia. The number of dwellings being completed in Australia add more dwellings to our housing stock each year than the new demands for housing being generated by- the new families formed by marriage and the migrant family groups that arrive in Australia during the year. There is sufficient margin to allow for the demolition, of old buildings and also to provide a rising housing standard by a reduction of the number of homes being shared. I think that these are important considerations.
This is not to say that sections of the community such as low income group families and single aged pensioners are not facing very real hardship in obtaining adequate accommodation. These people must look to the State housing authorities for assistance. Because the Commonwealth Government is concerned at the housing needs of low income groups, it provides assistance to the States by way of advances at a concessional rate of interest under the Housing Agreement. This money is used to provide housing for rental and for sale on moderate terms. In this debate we must not fail to recognise this very important factor. 1 agree with Senator Cavanagh that the rate of commencements of new buildings has declined during 1965-66 from the very high figures achieved in 1964-65. But I remind Senator Cavanagh and all honorable senators that when the decline became evident, the Commonwealth Government took effective action to provide more finance to boost home building throughout Australia. Surely this is an important consideration.
Following a request by the Reserve Bank late last year, savings banks increased their ram oi lending lor housing during the ms six months of 1966 by at least %14 million above the rale they had been lending during the last six months of 1965. Added funds were thus available for housing purposes. Early this year, the Loan Council on the initiative of the Commonwealth increased last year’s borrowing programme by a further $15 million, all of which was allocated to the States for housing needs in accordance with the Housing Agreement. The action of the banks and of the Commonwealth are producing effects which are pleasing to note. 1 shall cite them for honorable senators. Whereas in the last quarter of 1965, the seasonally adjusted rate of commencements of new dwellings was only slightly in excess of 100,000 per annum, commencements in the first quarter of this year were running at the seasonally adjusted rate of 105,000 per annum; in the June quarter the rate of commencements had risen to more than 110,000 per annum. Surely these figures speak for themselves and reflect the interest and the actions of the Commonwealth Government in the very important field of housing.
In the statement 1 made this afternoon I said that there is every reason to believe that the level of commencements will rise further in the coming months. This is the result we desire because we believe in the importance of providing adequate housing for our people. Senator Cavanagh also referred to the employment situation in the building industry. I say to the honorable senator that the employment situation in the building industry overall is generally satisfactory, although it. has eased somewhat since July 1965. The employment position is not quite as satisfactory in New South Wales and is slightly less satisfactory in South Australia. The decline in dwelling commencements has been greater relatively in South Australia than for Australia as a whole. But between 1961 and 1965 more homes were built in South Australia and Queensland per 100 increase in the population than in any other State. These are important figures. The South Australian Premier has suggested to his State Parliament that technological factors have contributed to the employment situation. Whatever the causes arc, there are heartening signs that homebuilding is starting to pick up again in South Australia, and we expect employment to rise also.
Figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in the three months ended in July 1966 dwelling approvals in South Australia exceeded the figure for the same three months last year whereas the figures for Australia as a whole had not quite recovered to the level of the same three months last year. As I said earlier this afternoon, I believe that we will see an improvement. We will watch the situation very carefully.
I should like to refer now to the paragraph in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) to which Senator Cavanagh referred. The honorable senator quoted the paragraph only in part. I do not mind his drawing from the paragraph, but in fairness to honorable senators he should have quoted the whole paragraph. He reminded the Senate that a sum of $58 million had been set down for war service homes and he said that this would be S 1 2 million less than for last year. But he did not go on to say that the reason why the sum is less is that applications for advances have fallen and that there is now no waiting list. Time and time again in this chamber I have heard the cry about the waiting period for war service homes. Senators on both sides have been concerned about the matter. Now there is no waiting period, but the honorable senator omitted this very important point. The Treasurer said -
If applications through the year prove to be more than now expected, additional funds will be provided.
Senator Cavanagh omitted that portion too.
– It changes the whole sense.
– Of course it does. The record should be set straight. As a responsible Government, we realise our responsibility in this sphere of homebuilding.
– Mr. Deputy President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do noi want to enter into a controversy but only to stale that I did not quote from the Budget Speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon). I said that there was to be a reduction of $12 million in the allocation for war service homes. Senator Wright asked, by way of interjection, what was the reason. I replied, as “ Hansard” will show, that, as was stated by the Treasurer, applications have been satisfied. There was no intention on my part to misquote the Treasurer, and in fact I did not misquote what he said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24th August (vide page 69), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy President, I think it has been agreed that this Bill and the Bill to amend the International Monetary Agreements Act should be taken together and that the debate on both Bills should proceed simultaneously.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The two Bills deal with amendments to the International Monetary Agreements Act and the International Finance “Corporation Act. They are designed to give legislative authority, so far as this Parliament is concerned, to alterations of the Articles of Agreement of both the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, shortly known as the World Bank, and the International Finance Corporation, which is, as honorable senators will recall, an affiliate of the World Bank. The substance of the matter was put, I think quite succinctly, in the second reading speech of the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) when he said that these amendments will enable the International Finance Corporation to supplement its existing resources by borrowing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. That means that the International Finance Corporation will be entitled to have, in addition to the funds which it acquires from contributions by the member nations of the Fund, recourse by arrangement to the resources of the World Bank. Saving the Senate the time taken by the Minister in recapitulating the history of the matter, I merely say that the net result is that there will be available to the International Finance Corporation funds to make available to borrowers which were not previously available to the Corporation.
The Minister said, quite properly, that two alternatives had been open to the Governors and Executive Directors of the two bodies concerned, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. He went on to say -
One alternative was for the Bank itself, with ils much larger resources, to take over the role of making loans direct to private enterprises without Government guarantees. The second alternative . . . which was the one that was ultimately adopted -
. was Cor the Bank to make some of its resources available to the International Finance Corporation, which . . . was brought into existence specifically to supplement the activities of the Bank by investing without Government guarantee in productive private enterprise. lt is not my intention tonight to deal with this matter in any technical way. The amendments that have been effected to the Articles, both of the International Finance Corporation and of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, have been referred to in detail by the Minister and it does not appear to me to carry this debate any further to particularise them again and to invite the attention of honorable senators to the precise provisions. They are important and the Opposition supports them. We support them because we have, from the inception of both the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, given our blessing to the work of international financial development, that is to say, to the contribution that is being made by these international development agencies to the work primarily of assisting in the development of the so-called under developed, or undeveloped, or developing countries. For my part, I prefer to think of them as “ poorer “ countries, compared with the much richer countries which are the donor nations in this kind of situation, in which the pressing needs of undeveloped communities are attended to. so far as it is practicable, by the nations that have the financial capacity to deal with them.
We in the Australian Labour Party have always given our blessing to the work of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association, because they have aims that square very largely with what we think to be important in the area of international economic planning. We have, in our Party’s policy, insisted that Australia should aim at channelling international aid as far as possible through international agencies and should encourage other nations to do likewise. We have also had it as a primary plank of our platform *or many years that Australia should contribute 1 per cent, of her national income to less developed nations and should encourage and match increasing contributions by other more developed nations.
– ls the honorable senator able to put before the Senate any programme of the Corporation’s achievements?
– lt is not my function to perform what one might properly expect from the Minister. In introducing this legislation he has undertaken the responsibility of answering questions on the Government’s approach to the matter. I will not undertake any responsibility at all for answering questions during the course of the debate, but I want to put before the Senate some considerations which seem to me to be particularly important when we are dealing with this kind of material. We as a Senate are not specifically equipped to tease out every implication in this legislation from a technical point of view. I do not think that anything in this debate turns on precise matters as to how the Articles of Agreement were amended. The particular point that 1 want to develop in the course of my remarks is whether, in spite of the splendid achievements of bodies such as the World Bank and it sister agencies and affiliated agencies, we are in fact winning the race and achieving the sort of purposes that these high minded and very worthy organisations set out to achieve. In other words, when one looks at the situation of the developing countries, the under developed countries, the less fortunate or under privileged countries - call them what you like - are we catching up or are we merely falling further behind, because the problem is getting bigger and we are not really able to cope with it?
– Do I understand the honorable senator to mean: Are we gaining the people’s minds?
– I am not speaking of the minds only; I am speaking also of their bodies. I am thinking of the proposition so clearly enunciated in the report of the Vernon Committee, that the rich nations were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. Indeed, I want to refer particularly to some of the things that the Vernon Committee said in a very studied and, I suggest, mature contribution on this particular aspect of the large problem with which it had to deal. The Committee made plain that not only were the rich countries getting richer and the poor getting poorer, but also, in terms of the world’s exports, the share of the so called developing countries had declined from approximately one third round about 1950 to a little more than one fifth by 1965. That is a very serious matter because it means that, however well intentioned were the efforts of the international development agencies, they were in fact failing to bridge the gap. The quarry was getting further ahead; we were not catching up with it. I hope m the course of my remarks to present some material which will suggest that we need to pull our socks up a great deal higher if we are ever to hope to achieve real successes in the field of international development.
That is the broad picture against which we should look at this problem. The aims of the organisations are unexceptionable. Indeed, we in Australia have ourselves had recourse to the great resources of the World Bank, which, at the invitation of the Government, undertook a survey of the economy of Papua-New Guinea and produced a report which not only the Government but all serious students of these problems will find extremely valuable. That report was presented to honorable senators sometime in 1965. The mission set up by the World Bank to investigate the New Guinea problem produced a development plan which, if it has not yet been adopted by the Government, I hope will be adopted in broad outline at some stage. At any rate, it sets some kind of standard by which the future needs of the Territory can be judged, and that is a matter of great importance to this National Parliament. For that reason alone, the work done by the special mission on the Papua-New Guinea survey deserves the serious attention of all members of this Parliament. The aims of the parent organisation are such that it is difficult to withhold a full measure of support.
The problem that we all have when dealing with statistics is that they can tell so many different stories. We read in the report of the Bank itself, and in the Minister’s speech, that the annual expenditure of the Bank is now in the region of S9.5 billion. That sounds an extraordinarily large sum. One is inclined to bc impressed by the mere mention of figures of that magnitude, but I suggest to the Senate in all seriousness that talking in billions merely conceals the hard and unpleasant realities beneath the surface. As I have said iti relation to what was put forward by the Vernon Committee, however great the achievement, the need is much bigger.
I would like to turn to some of the specific matters put by the Vernon Committee in its report, lt referred, incidentally, to the great importance of Australia as a trading nation. We now rank twelfth or thirteenth amongst the world’s trading nations. We rank higher than India, for example - and
India is the largest trader among the less developed countries. We are in some kind of middle zone position, as the Committee put it, between the developing countries and the developed countries. We have some of the characteristics of the more mature economies, or more independent economies, and we have some of the characteristics of the less developed economies. The Vernon Committee went on to sound a warning that there were certain dangers for Australia in attempting to occupy the middle zone position, because in the end we would be regarded by ‘the underdeveloped countries as possessing a “ have “ economy rather than a “ have not “ economy. At paragraph 1 2.86 of its report the Vernon Committee dealt with the position of Australia and its trading policy, especially in relation to the underdeveloped countries. After all, in these Bills we are dealing with provisions concerning Australia’s contribution to international bodies which are attempting to solve the problems I am now dealing with. The Committee stated -
The gap between low income and high income countries is both large and increasing. About twothirds of the world’s population, receiving probably less than 20 per cent, of the world’s income, are in the low income countries. Population increase in many of the poorer countries is at a high rate and adds to the difficulty of raising incomes per head.
I want to say something about the problem of the rapid increase in population in countries such as India, unmatched by a corresponding increase in economic resources. I will come to that shortly. The Vernon Committee said further -
Although aware that they must solve the internal problems hampering their efforts to develop economically, most of the poorer countries are restricted in their economic programmes by lack of trade. The share of developing countries in world exports decreased steadily from nearly onethird in 1950 to only slightly more than one-fifth in 1962.
The Committee then said -
The increase in the import requirements of developing countries, which is very large in respect of capital goods and materials, has not been matched by a commensurate increase in export earnings.
Finally, on this subject, the Committee said -
There is increasing recognition by both developed and less developed countries that, unless measures are taken to improve trade prospects, the : accent will be on increased aid-
That is aid, not trade - because the import needs of the poorer countries, given any significant internal growth, will increase and the gap between imports and exports will increase rather than decrease under present conditions of trade.
That, to me, is a very clear warning that we are not necessarily succeeding, in the international agencies, in the very high minded and high purpose tasks which the agencies set themselves. It is obvious that some caution is necessary when looking at the record of achievement. This view is supported by the comments of the World Bank in its 1964-65 annual report. The Bank went to some pains to indicate that we had to keep our feet on the ground in assessing the measure of progress that has been, made in this field of international aid and international development. In its report the Bank said, among other things -
While the data are still incomplete, the evidence so far available indicates that financial assistance from developed countries (including the Sino-Soviet countries) to developing countries directly and to international development institutions, after a substantial rise in the latter part of the 1950’s, has increased little over the past four years. The amount of assistance from these countries, net of capital repayments, has now reached $9.5 billion a year; it has come mostly from public sources.
It appears from what follows in the Bank’s comments that this is regarded very substantially less than the sum which could be used by the developing countries. There is always the question, of course, of the donee countries - the aided countries - being in a position to make proper and responsible use of the aid, but the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development leaves no doubt that, in its view, a great deal more needs to be done. The report goes on -
A preliminary Bank inquiry, carried out country by country and based on the judgment and experience of the Bunk’s country specialists and area economists, suggests that the developing countries could effectively use, on the average over the next five years, some $3 billion to $4 billion more of external capital per year than has been provided in the recent past.
What does that mean? It means that something between a third and one half of the annual budget of the Bank could properly and successfully be spent in those countries. In other words. S9.5 billion is not enough. They need another $3 billion to $4 billion a year in order to meet their current needs and what they could properly digest. The Bank goes on to say that ultimately the pressure from the underdeveloped countries is going to be on the public funds of the donor countries rather than on private capital, lt is put in this way -
The World Bank group and other international organisations, as well as development finance companies within the developing countries themselves, are making strenuous efforts to encourage and enlarge the flow of private capital into the less developed countries.
I pause to say that this is the particular area in which the International Finance Corporation operates. The World Bank report continues -
There is no doubt that this flow can be expected to increase above the levels recorded in the recent past, thereby accelerating the pace of development and relieving the pressure on public funds. For the present, however, it must be recognised that for some time to come the increasing needs of the less developed countries for external capital will probably have to be covered mainly by official flows originating in the developed countries and channelled through bilateral agencies or international financial institutions. Meanwhile, the official flows, through their help in creating stronger economic structures in the developing countries, both widen the outlets for private investment and multiply the productive contribution it can make.
Finally, the report states -
For developing countries, where dependence on foreign finance is substantial and expected to last for a very long period, where yields on investment and the marginal savings ratios are relatively low, and where export prospects are uncertain, low interest rates or long grace and amortisation periods are needed in varying degrees.
I take these comments of the World Bank to be a sober reminder that the task is enormous and that what is being done, however valuable and important it may be, has to be measured against the needs. Otherwise, we are not talking in relevant or meaningful fashion about the subject matter at all. Merely to speak of large amounts of aid does not help us to appreciate the situation unless we are fully seised of what the total needs are.
I look at the situation in this way: The demographers tell us that the world population now is roughly three thousand million. By the turn of the century, in 34 years, it will be six thousand million. Take the position of a country like India where the increase in population each year is roughly equal to the population of Australia and where the natural killers of population such as disease, infant mortality and a dozen other scourges are on the decline. Between 1951 and 1961 the estimated increase in the population of India fell 30 million short of the actual increase. When we consider these facts, it is obvious that we are in the presence of a problem of vast dimensions. I have had an opportunity of looking at a book by a gentleman named Ronald Segal entitled “The Crisis of India” which was published in recent months. He discusses some of the statistical material related to this problem and states -
The 1951 census registered a population of 359,220,000 and the Government Planning Commission in New Delhi sieved its statistics to estimate that the population would grow during the fifties - roughly the period of the First and Second Five Year Plans - at an annual rate of 1.2 per cent. By 1960-1, therefore, it was supposed, India’s population would total 408,000,000. Instead, the 1961 census registered a population of 439,235,000 or an annual growth rate of 2.15 per cent. There were over 30,000,000 more mouths to feed than the government had been lead by its experts to expect.
I seem to remember that in the last few weeks the food production per capita in India was shown to be less than it was 30 years ago. I have not seen the figure verified in an official source but that is the statement that was given as fact. In India alone, the problem is enormous. We have to look at this total problem as it appears to the experts and study it in terms of the next 20 or 30 years. We have to ask ourselves whether we are doing enough. Is what is being done by the international agencies enough, however important it may be? I do not claim - nor, I think would any member of the Opposition claim - to have all the answers to these questions. It is not something for which we can hit the Australian Government over the head because of any particular dereliction of duty or failure. But there arc serious questions that have to be asked by people who deal responsibly with the kind of problem raised in this legislation.
I want to do no more than to commend the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation for the work they do; and to stress the critical importance of that work and the importance of thinking big about this sort of problem because unless we are prepared to work hard and understand what the needs are, we. will never know whether what we are doing is solving a problem or merely making a worthwhile contribution to the alleviation of human misery and despair. The developing countries are proud countries. They are not just going to want hand-outs from countries like Australia or from the World Bank. They are concerned to develop as time goes by a sense of independence. They will not want strings, political or economic, attached to any kind of assistance they get from the developed countries. They are going to want to take their place in the world community. They will need every scrap of assistance that Australia and similar fortunate countries can give them. With those remarks I indicate the support the Opposition is giving to these Bills but I would remind the Senate that many unsolved problems are still left for serious discussion.
.- I rise chiefly to acknowledge my indebtedness to Senator Cohen for his lucid and thought provoking speech. It is good to have a maturely balanced summary of worldwide considerations with regard to a matter which has the best wishes of all honorable senators. But as Senator Cohen has said, if the plan is to be fruitful, it has to be implemented by some practicable proposition. We live in a terribly stirring age. In the previous era a poet whose centenary is being celebrated and who was more revered 50 years ago than now wrote these lines -
The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread, Go make them wilh your living, And mark them with your dead!
Having acknowledged very sincerely my indebtedness to Senator Cohen for his speech, 1 desire to say that we should not consider that we are transplanted’ to a new sphere. The plan under consideration is only a development 50 years on. It is the same process; we are building the roads and the ports with our living. I hope that fewer of our dead will mark them. But it has to be understood, in the era of de-colonialisation and terrifically dissipated independence, that financial contributions, which represent people’s work in the main, will be given for development only where it is utilised with responsibility by the recipient.
I rise only to make those points. The problem is not new. It takes on new dimensions. But we who can be expected to succour this cause must receive acknowledgment of the fact that even these new independent countries in which development is to be undertaken with this finance, have a recognition of their responsibilities.
– I thank the Opposition for supporting this measure. It is a matter of some regret that the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), who is in charge of this Bill, has had to leave the Senate to attend a Cabinet meeting. Therefore, 1 am given the task of seeing this Bill through the Committee stage. I hope that the Committee will give a speedy passage to the Bill just as the Senate has given a speedy passage to the second reading stage.
It is a matter of some pride indeed that Australia took the initiative in leading the fight for the under developed countries. This fight started in 1961, I think, when I was a delegate to the United Nations. A tribute has been paid to Australia for its part, which was due largely to the initiative of our Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). Although Australia can be regarded as one of the rich countries, it - is still under developed, but we feel that our decision to make contributions is the correct one to take. It is also an indication that we are prepared and indeed willing to assist the less fortunate of the under developed countries.
I wish to refer briefly to the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Supply in which we find that although our quota has been approximately $US 533 million and we have paid$US53.3 million, only, we have been able to borrow more than $US400 million already. Therefore, although we did not embark on this plan with any thought of a monetary advantage to ourselves, we have received so far quite considerable monetary advantages under the Agreements that we have been discussing tonight. Senator Cohen, in speaking for the Opposition, mentioned that we expect the population of the world to be approximately 6,000 million by the turn of the century. This information only served to emphasise the importance of Australia as a producer of food, not only for its own people but also for the many other people. It is one of the tragedies of the world today that we have not sufficient food to satisfy the needs of the people who are in want. The Government is very glad indeed to find the Opposition supporting it on this measure.I express the hope once again that the Bill will enjoy a speedy passage through Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 24th August (vide page 69) on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 25th August (vide page 144), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Senate take note of the following papers -
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1966-67.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the Year Ending 30th June 1967.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the Year Ending 30 June 1967.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the Year Ending 30th June 1967.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1966.
Upon which Senator Willesee had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ the Senate condemns the Budget because: -
It fails to recognise the injustices wrought upon wage earners because real wages have fallen as prices have risen faster than wages.
It makes inadequate adjustments to Social Service payments.
It fails to recognise the serious crisis in education.
It does not acknowledge the lack of confidence on the part of the business community in the future growth of the economy. 5.It does not recognise the need of further basic development, public and private, in addition to the need for adequate defence, and that balanced development can only take place by active encouragement to Australian industry and cooperation with the States.
It does nothing to relieve our dependence on a high rate of foreign investment to finance the deficit in our balance of payments.”
– Before the debate was adjourned last Thursday, I made several observations in support of the amendment that has been moved by Senator Willesee. Our criticism is not so much of what is in the Budget as of what is lacking in it in relation to the living standards of the community as a whole. 1 referred to sales tax. I endeavoured to relate the health of the nation and the effect of sales tax on sporting goods. In 1950 the rate of sales tax on sporting goods - I am including footballs, cricket bats and balls, golf balls and clubs and things of that nature - was 8 per cent. It zoomed up to 33 per cent, in September 1951. In 1952 it came down to 20 per cent. In 1953 it was reduced to 12½ per cent. The significant feature is that since 1953 no attempt has been made to reduce the sales tax on sporting goods to the rate of 84 per cent, that applied in 1950. I believe that, with all the talk about the health of the nation, this is a field of taxation in which a lot of good could be done.
As a matter of fact, the situation has been aggravated because Slazengers (Australia) Pty. Ltd. and a number of other sporting equipment manufacturers have increased the prices of their products. I believe that a reduction in this tax would be a practical way of improving health standards. I do not think there is any need for me to go into the statistics on recruits who are rejected from time to time by the various Services, but, in my opinion, this is a matter of grave concern. When we deal with the estimates of the Department of Health I will have a few other pertinent comments to make. I instance the sales tax on sporting goods as a field in which I believe there could have been long overdue reform.
In the Budget there are references to health services. It is all very nice to talk about assisting to some degree some of the people who have chronic ailments, but when the national health scheme was launched Sir Earle Page pledged a 90 per cent reimbursement of medical costs in respect of various illnesses from which people might suffer. However, there is a gross uncertainty in this matter. Usually the hospital and medical benefits funds can say that a particular table does not meet a particular case completely. That is the sort of anomoly that exists. We could go into a lengthy discussion on the cost per capita of the Australian national health scheme compared with that of the British and New Zealand schemes, but I believe that a false sense of security is created when the major funds bring out new schedules and say: “These schedules will meet all the various contingencies.” Of course, they do not. People get a great shock when they find that the gap between the payment and the benefit grows larger all the time. Whatever arguments are advanced about the social services schemes of other countries, 1 believe that in the final analysis, as ill health obviously will catch up with all of us at some time in our lives, it is better to have overall protection than a short term or perhaps mythical cover.
The plain fact of the matter is that the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) could bear down considerably harder on a number of the funds. It is not a question of legislation or High Court challenges.It is simply a matter of calling a conference of representatives of all of the funds and telling them that the Government is not completely satisfied with their, more or less worship of massive reserves. If the funds were simply told: “ You have a choice. You may either lower the premium cost to the contributor or give him larger benefits “, I think we would find that, witha mere threat, a number of these funds would smartly come to heel. There is always a delay of 12 months before we can obtain the balance sheets of these funds.
I know that some people say that people are not forced to belong to these funds. But I think the result of failure to join is a pretty high price to pay for individual freedom. Whilst members of the Government Parties argue that they do not believe in the form of democratic Socialism that we espouse, indirect pressures apply. If there was the same individual membership protection as the industrial registrar applies to the trade union movement, I think these hospital and medical benefits funds would disgorge some of the reserves that they have hidden. I developed this theme in my initial speech in the Senate last year. I received a letter from one of the funds claiming that 1 was a little harsh. It is still as difficult to obtain up to date balance sheets from them. When I roam around the capital cities of Australia 1 find that they certainly have first class, towering buildings from which they operate. I am not suggesting that they should operate from some back street, but I think it is a case of putting first things first. In most organisations the members arc consulted on a proposed building programme, but the contributors to the average medical and hospital benefits fund are not consulted on such matters. I want to make it very clear that my criticism is directed as such organisations. I am not referring to the friendly societies in general.
I refer now to housing. I wish to refer to some figures contained in a building trades journal. People may argue that a certain number of houses are being constructed; but the point is that the Commonwealth and State housing authorities build only 12,000 dwellings a year whereas the number of applicants for government houses remains constant at 82,000 a year. Obviously, if 70,000 families or 280,000 people are applying for Federal or State housing authority homes each year and are not getting them, this is a problem that will always be with us. People might say that if we overcome the housing lag completely we might have unemployment in the building industry. That gets me back to the original problem; namely, where the Government’s responsibility ends. We dc not advocate individual regimentation for the sake of regimentation; we advocate the greatest good for the greatest number. In regard to the evils of monopoly capitalism - I think members of the Country Party in particular will agree with me here - of what value to the community is the continued spiral in the number of service stations in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne? We all know that a service station operator is on a treadmill. He must have a teenage family to help him operate his petrol pumps and to make a few pounds over the basic wage. With all due respect for the personal problems of the operators, in my opinion the diversion of building materials into the building of service stations for the oil companies is entirely wrong.
To take the matter a little further, a similar situation exists in relation to palatial establishments such as the Chevron Hotel in Sydney. 1 agree that for the tourist industry we have to have modern hotels and motels. But if the Commonwealth and the States do not direct the flow of capital at times, it will go into luxury industries. In a country such as Australia, with our unachieved targets in the fields of water conservation, hospital facilities and education, a better order of priorities should be adopted.
I know the Government’s dilemma. There is not the slightest doubt that if it tangled with the oil companies about their rights it would be told something like what a sometime United States Defence Secretary - a man by the name of Wilson - said: “ What is good for the General Motors Corporation is good for the United Stales “. The reaction of the people of that country to that statement brought him up wilh a jerk and made him see just what his responsibilities were. 1 know that in this modern state, whether members of the present Government parties happen to be in office or whether we are in office, we have public relations teams churning out material. Whether it is done by an oil company or by the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., the company says it knows what is right and it is not our place to reason why.
I believe that these are disturbing features. At some time or other the Government has to grapple with the problem and tell these big concerns that what is decided in their board rooms is not necessarily the policy of this Commonwealth. Of course, this could lead to a collision course at times, but I think there is not the slightest doubt that this matter has to be brought home to these big concerns. I know that on occasions the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) has had to move in on some of the big concerns and indicate to them that their policy was not in the best interests of Australia. My only regret is that some of the militancy that he has exhibited on those occasions was not applied in relation to our iron ore deposits and was not carried into other fields of Australia’s economy.
These things are happening in a year in which we are told that despite the drought, we have had further overseas investment in Australia. But, of course, the test to be applied is whether we are getting the best terms possible. We hear all the threats of Communism. We know that South America is crying out for economic reform. Some honorable senators probably have read in the Press about a visit by Senator Robert Kennedy to the tin mines in Bolivia. In that country pitched battles have taken place between the Army and the miners. When Senator Kennedy came up to the pit head he said: “ If I stayed down in that mine any length of time you would find me right in the vanguard of the miners’ struggle “.
The amazing thing is that people say: “ If the Government puts a pistol at the head of these overseas companies, it is going to frighten industrial investment capital away from Australia “. Overseas companies are investing in South America because there happen to be there, certain minerals which provide a reasonable return, notwithstanding the industrial turbulence. Whether we are dealing with projects at Mount lsa or with uranium mines, there is a tendency to grab the first offer that comes along rather than to stall a little. 1 know that many other factors are involved, when we compare the political stability of Australia with that of South America, but foreign investment is reasonably safe. The Opposition believes that in the final analysis, we are the loser in some of the taxation agreements we have with other countries. It is time that there was a review of the situation.
While .1 am dealing with the subject of industrial peace, I heard other speakers refer to the question of the North West Cape Naval Communication Station. When there was a controversy concerning Australia’s sovereignty, the Opposition made it abundantly clear that it had certain views on equal partnership in the operation of the base. We were told of what could have happened if legislation had not been sponsored by the Government. We were told that everything in the garden was lovely. I have here an article which appeared in the “ Age “ of 25th August. I notice that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) referred to what he termed the unfortunate events that had arisen in relation to the lag in payments to contractors and subcontractors. I know that discussions on this subject took place between the Australian and United States Governments. But the point I want to emphasise concerns the question of double standards. I am sure that if we had a comparable situation, brought about by industrial upheavals, which resulted in delay and financial impositions on Australian contractors and subcontractors, a royal commission would be appointed and there would be implication that the Australian Council of Trade Unions had been taken over by extreme left wing thought. We may take the matter even further. I wonder what would have happened if any of our newspapers had been under industrial seige for four or five weeks, as has happened with at least one of the New York newspapers. We would have been told: “ Well, the millenium is here. The Kremlin has taken over “. Things of that sort would have been said. If we can be objective in relation to genuine differences of opinion about the outstanding debts at the North West Cape Naval Communication Station, 1 hope that when legitimate industrial disputes occur people will not feel that the revolution is here or that the Bastille is falling again. 1 notice that the article in the “ Age “ dealing with the economic problems at the North West Cape Communication Station is very small compared with articles dealing with industrial issues that arise from time to time. We believe, and 1 think it is agreed, that in a country like Australia, which is still in the frontier stage, there is always a need for vision.
One of the things that concerns me is that we still impose a petrol tax. We know that there is a gap between the amount that goes back to the States for road construction and the amount retained by the Commonwealth Treasury. I would not mind if we were going to emulate President Johnson with his planned land-water act. I do not want to develop this theme unduly. We notice that under the Federal system, a State can take a project to a certain stage. It may bc backed by a private group. Then there is a gap. Somebody says: “ We stop here “, whereas in Washington and Ottawa, with many projects they move in and bridge the gap. The point I am making is that under the land-water legislation of the United States, revenue from the gasoline taps, the disposal of surplus material and services of that kind, goes into a fund. If that were done in Australia, people could see something positive being done. Funds could be used, say, for the restoration of an historic property in Tasmania or Western Australia or for some other project in one of the more populous States. We would find that with the establishment of such a fund, people would feel that something was being done.
Unfortunately, we find that far too often suggestions in this field are stillborn due to the fact that we are shackled with Constitutional impediments. Some honorable senators probably would say, in relation to money for such things as national park projects: “ The Premiers have not always come out and asked for it because they feel that if they ask for it in this field they will miss out somewhere else “. I was always under the impression that the Commonwealth Government and its advisers, under the system of Federation that we have, took a more detached and objective view. I feel that in this regard it should not be necessary to wait for the States to ask for something to be done. In some fields the Commonwealth should supply the incentive. In a host of matters, that could be so if there was legislation in Australia similar to that which established the land-water fund in America. There would be money from the revenue raised by the petrol tax and one or two other levies that are imposed by the Commonwealth Government.
Senator Lawrie referred to the question of Manus Island. I want to elaborate on the basis of the offer made by the United States. First, the United States was to be given joint user rights but was not committed to maintain any forces on Manus Island; secondly, it was to be given the right to deny the use of the facilities to any third party, including British Commonwealth countries; thirdly, it was to be given the right at any time during 99 years to operate the base if it thought desirable; fourthly, it was to be given the right to prevent, except with its consent, the establishment of any other base in the mandated territory; and fifthly, it was to be given the right to deny, except with its consent, the use of the base by the United Nations Security Council. That was the broad basis of the offer that was put to Australia.
I think I indicated in my earlier submissions that at the termination of World War II and in the early postwar period, there was a tendency in many countries to reduce taxation, so it would have been a mammoth task, having accepted that offer. The significant point is that following that suggestion, discussions took place between Mr. Bevan, the British Foreign Minister, and Mr. Byrnes, the United States Secretary of State. By 1947 the United States was forced to reduce its naval estimates by $600 million. It is obvious that the peace time economy of the United States of America was based as was Australia’s economy. In the final analysis, so far as Manus Island was concerned, it would not have mattered which Government was :n power. With the problems to be faced at that time it was quite obvious that the Australian economy would not have been able to meet the costs to be incurred at Manus Island. Quite a lot of the material there was subsequently sold to Formosan interests. The dry dock facilities were overrated. It is true that, to some degree, long range strategic considerations were involved, but as I pointed out in this chamber recently, the Australian Government of that time consulted with Lord Montgomery and other leading strategists of World War II. I suggest that a myth has been created about Manus Island.
Any government has to rely to a large degree on its Defence Council. I am indebted to an early post war Minister for Defence - Mr. John Dedman - for information on the chapter of events. I have heard Government supporters refer to the Brisbane Line as a tissue of lies and as being a complete distortion of facts. I do not quarrel with that view at this stage, but if that view applies correctly to the Brisbane Line, it applies with equal force to some of the history of Manus Island.
I believe that much can be done in a budget to stabilise the economy. I refer to social services and to stabilisation of the prices of basic foodstuffs, and also to the elimination of sales tax on a number of goods. Those components are conspicuous by their absence from the Budget. 1 believe that the Treasury could have shown considerably more imagination in those fields. For that reason I wholeheartedly support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Willesee).
– I support the motion for the printing of the Budget Papers and oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition. The Budget covers appropriations over a wide area and is indicative of the important place of Australia in the world. Last year our exports totalled $2,640 million, which represented a rise of 43 per cent, over the previous five years. During that time the resources of Australia have been strengthened. Of course, prices have risen over the last five years, but according to the information given in the Budget - which I accept - prices have risen by only 9 per cent, during that period. Admittedly, in recent months there has been a build up of trouble that has caused a readjustment in the manufacture of motor vehicles, The drought in New South Wales and Queensland has had an effect on consumer demand. However, all in all, the last year has been a period of great development -in Australia.
I refer particularly to metals and minerals. Last year, exports of bauxite - the base material for the aluminium industry - rose from $7.2 million to $10.8 million. Iron ore exports have risen from $64 million to $96 million. Mining production in Australia has risen from $598 million to $670 million. In spite of the drought effects in two important primary producing States, there has been a compensating increase in exports of minerals and metals. I believe that the weight has greatly been taken off the sheep’s back. For the last 150 years Australia has been virtually riding on the sheep’s back, but now I detect that because of increases in the value of manufactured goods, primary products, metals and minerals, the responsibility to earn the export income of Australia has been partially taken off the back of the sheep. This is very important, because Australia’s expenses have increased astronomically. For example, our defence bill this year is $1,000 million, which represents a rise of 90 per cent, since 1963-64. Our defence expenditure is incurred with a view to increasing our security and so that we can honour our treaty obligations. lt is of great importance to Australia that we should be prepared to carry out our treaty obligations under A.N.Z.U.S. and as a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation.
Our proposed defence expenditure of $1,000 million indicates our desire to carry out those obligations. However, our greatest security lies in economic security, and to this aspect the Government is paying attention. It appears to me from my reading of the Budget Papers that the Treasury has paid great attention to the building up of our population. It has ensured that the immigration programme should not fail through lack of financial support. The additional support given to assist the bringing out to Australia of migrants is very much appreciated. It is a fine thing that a migrant is entitled to the age pension and other social service benefits without the necessity of becoming naturalised. The Government has adopted a humanitarian point of view for which it is to be commended. It has shown great interest in the enlargement of our industrial capacity which, in itself, makes for greater economic security. The Government has proved its interest by providing funds for research in industry.
Later in my speech I wish to talk at some length on the question of freight charges on our exports. I believe that something very drastic will have to be done about continuous increases in freight charges on our export cargoes. Improvements in our standards of education are of great economic importance. I shall also refer to that aspect later in my speech. The Commonwealth Government realises that it is at the centre of a federation. I consider that it has paid great attention in the Budget to the allocation of finances to the States both as grants and as loans. Controversies always arise at Premiers’ Conferences. The State Premiers come to Canberra during June or July to discuss with the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) at Premiers’ Conferences questions affecting the States. The Australian Loan Council, it will be recalled, consists of the six States, each with one vote, and the Commonwealth which has two votes. So the States really control the Loan Council when it comes to votes. The Premiers return to their respective States, each in his turn speaking to the Press in his State and proclaiming how well he has done in Canberra. That was what happened when the South Australian Premier returned on the last occasion. He made a statement to the Press in Adelaide. 1 saw nothing wrong with it. He said that he had had a hard battle but that he had achieved good results in regard to loan moneys.
It is interesting to note that the papers that were circulated with the Budget reveal /hat the grants made to the States this year amounted to $92 per head in New South Wales, in Victoria $84. in Queensland $115, in South Australia $120, in Western Australia $199 and in Tasmania $185. It will be seen that the grants per head to each of the smaller States were larger than the amounts that the larger States received. That shows a great and proper interest on the part of the Commonwealth in the welfare of the States.
– There are fewer people in those States.
– Yes, but Western Australia did not do too badly in getting $199 per head, whereas Victoria got only $84 per head.
– The people in Victoria have not far to go.
– But there are a lot of people to look after. The last figures available to me show that the borrowing programme for State works and housing provided New South Wales with $69 per head, Victoria $77, Queensland $88, South Australia S94, Western Australia $92 and Tasmania $139. The Commonwealth has been most real in connection with the borrowing programme for State works and housing. It must be remembered that the Commonwealth underwrites these loans and that, if it cannot raise the money or cause the money to be raised on the normal loan market, then it has to pay the balance out of its own revenue. Whereas over the whole of Australia at the present time the average of Commonwealth payments to the States is $106 per head, 15 years ago the amount made available was $38 per head. Whereas 15 years ago the borrowing for State works and housing averaged $55 per head, now it averages $80.
Many speeches have been made in this chamber on the Budget. As 1 understood his speech, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) indicated that taxation should be increased. I do not agree with that suggestion. If taxation had been increased in this Budget, then there would have been a lack of incentive for people to increase their output. The Treasurer did a signally fine thing in drawing up the Budget, with vastly increased expenditure, without increasing taxation. He acknowledged the needs of pensioners by raising the pension to the extent he did. I believe that the Australian community has accepted the fact that defence has been provided for. that taxation has not been increased, and that the pensioners have received an increased pension.
I leave the Budget there and now concentrate on something that ought to be raised in this Parliament. I. believe that a strong call should go out for the general economy of the resources of this nation. In other words, we should quietly make what wc have do more work- and produce more results. If necessary, we should spend a little money to accumulate those greater results. I refer with great enthusiasm to a speech that was made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), the most junior member of the Ministry, when he addressed the annual Army exercise at Duntroon earlier in August. There were present senior Australian and overseas Service and government department officers to mark the commencement of the annual Army Chief of the General Staff exercise. Mr. Fraser pointed out that the raising of the present Vietnam force had entailed a much greater effort than anything else that the Army had done’ since the end of the last World War. He led un to the importance of the presence of the Army in Vietnam and showed that, after security had been established, reconstruction and development could properly be achieved. Tn his concluding remarks he said that the current build-up in defence had involved much greater resources than had ever before been made available to the armed forces in peacetime. He added that while on the one hand the nation must accept the burdens and responsibilities of providing adequate defence, on the other it is incumbent upon the armed forces to use those resources as economically as possible. He continued -
The whole Army must see that capital resources are well maintained and properly used and not in any sense wasted. Great care must be taken to preserve and prolong the life of equipment. We owe it to the people of Australia to see that this is done. We should take a second look at every expenditure to see that we get the best value for our money and that non-essential expenditure is avoided.
I hope that this clarion call goes through all the departments, coming as it does from the most junior member of the Ministry. I hope the senior Ministers will heed what the Minister for the Army has said. Let us not wait until the Auditor-General or the Public Accounts Committee reports adversely on waste, particularly in Federal Government. State Government and local government spheres.
I now pass to the subject of education. I shall refer to this only shortly. I was quite interested recently when I went to Queensland and studied at first hand the tele-lecture system that has been inaugurated by the University of Queensland in conjunction with the Postmaster-General’s Department. A pilot experiment has just been completed by the department at the University of Queensland which deals with external studies. The experiment covered three hours per evening on nine consecutive Mondays during the second term, lt involved on each evening a straight lecture on first year English, a discussion period on first year Education, and a foreign language discussion period in which German was taken. The lectures were delivered in the University lecture theatre and a seminar room.
Three country centres were involved: Gympie, Maryborough and Bundaberg, which are respectively 93 miles, 137 miles and 186 miles from the university. Students throughout the network and those at the university were able to listen, ask questions, and discuss aspects of the lecture or seminar topic with each other and with the lecturer or discussion leader at the university. I understand that there were about 50 students in those three Queensland towns north of Brisbane, and one or two students living many miles from those towns were connected by single line telephone. External students who participated unanimously acclaimed this as the most outstanding achievement made over many years in bringing them into closer contact with their university teachers and in providing them with considerably improved methods of communication with the university.
The costs are not great. As is well known, the capacity of the trunk lines of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has increased enormously. We have from time to time heard in this Senate that the capacity between the main capital cities - that would include the intermediate places - has increased up to 100 times. So there is excess capacity, especially in the evening period, in the trunk line services. 1 understand that the Department charges only the normal trunk line rates for the use of the lines and that the non-recurrent costs of installation arc minimal. The rooms in which the 15, 20 or 30 students sit in the country towns are usually high school rooms which are there in any case and not being used in the evening.
This system involves no additional staff at a university but it would make real lectures for external students of Australian universities who at present have to get by as best they can with typed notes. I understand that the normal pass rate of external students is fairly low, round about 20 per cent., and that the pass rate of students enjoying this tele-lecture system could well reach 50 per cent. I was also interested to learn that the Cambridge University had sent a cable to the University of Queensland seeking full details of this experiment, which was conducted as recently as last month. So the word of this tele-lecture system has spread. T put it to the Government that what the University of Queensland has done in this pilot system could well be studied at the top educational level, because I envisage that in my own State students at Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla - all virtually on the one line, on which we are spending £8 million at present to connect Adelaide with Perth - could be participants in lectures. The great thing to remember is that this puts no extra tax on the lecturer himself. All that he does is to deliver his lecture in the normal way, write on the blackboard, swing his arms around, or do anything else that he likes, because his voice is picked up by a microphone hanging round his neck.
A student at a country centre, I understand, can press a button and communicate with the lecturer, asking a question and getting an answer.
– Is this at secondary schools?
– This is at the tertiary level, at the University of Queensland. It is only an experiment which was conducted in those three cities, but the reports from the students that I read at the University of Queensland indicated that they were thoroughly satisfied and that it had brought a great lift to their studies to have this verbal contact with the lecturer. The point that I make is that it involves no further expenditure on lecturers. They are giving their lectures in any event, with students in front of them, but the system makes the lecture so much more real to external students, and this is most important. As we know, the question of quotas is likely to raise its head very, very soon. I suggest that this may be one way of overcoming this problem. If there is not at a university accommodation for students to be lectured to, it may be possible, by means of the telephone system, to have tele-lectures. I should like Senator Gorton, as Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, to have this idea examined. If it is good enough for the Cambridge University to send a cable, it should be looked at by the Commonwealth. By doing this we could be saving the resources of the Commonwealth. If we make a lecturer’s voice go to four places instead of one place we shall be making the money we spend do more work for us. In line with what Mr. Fraser said with regard to Army equipment, I put this idea of tele-lecturing as a means of saving the resources of the Commonwealth- and improving educational standards, especially for those students who live in the country. We want decentralisation, yet at this point of time we are not able to service with adequate lectures those country students who desire to do university external studies. This may be one important way of doing this.
I want to conclude on what I consider to be one of the vital questions of this age, namely, the cost of sea freights on Australian exports and imports. We read at the weekend that shipping companies and ex porters had agreed on an average increase of 6.4 per cent, in shipping freights from Australia to Britain, which will add about $4.5 million to the yearly cost of freight on Australian goods sent to Europe and the United Kingdom. To be added, of course, is the cost of bringing goods from Europe and the United Kingdom to Australia. The average increase was sought by the shipping companies on the basis of an already agreed formula. In other words, this formula had been agreed, they set the accountants to work, and the accountants came up with the result. Even though this is the average, the rates for refrigerated cargoes will rise by 10 per cent.
– Who agreed on this?
– The shipping companies and the exporters. 1 understand that the representatives of the exporters and the representatives of the shipping companies had already agreed on a formula which had been going for some years, and the accountants came up with this result. The problem is that it has been agreed to by the exporters and the shipowners, and the primary producer will have to pay, because he will get a lower net return for the goods that he exports. The report puts the matter in this way -
Many people have been concerned at the rise in sea freights. We in this chamber all received the other day the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for the year ended 30th June 1965. I would like to comment that it seems somewhat disgraceful that it is not until 14 months after the end of the period with which the report deals that honorable senators receive copies of the report. This delay makes it rather difficult for any of us who are carrying out research on these matters to be up to date with our figures. Having said that, I want to mention some of the figures contained in the report.
There was a substantial overall deterioration in the handling of overseas general cargo, and interstate general cargo would have shown the same trend but for the increase in container traffic, due especially to the operations of the “ Kooringa “ on the Melbourne to Fremantle run. With regard to the turnround of vessels, the number of days in port in 1961-62 for the combined average of overseas and interstate shipping with non-bulk cargoes was 3.9. In other words, 3.9 days was spent in each port of call. In 1962-63, the figure was 4.5; in 1963-64, it was 5; and in 1964-65, it was 5.4. In regard to time wasted, if I may use those words, there was a deterioration of almost 50 per cent, in four years. It would appear that the use of the containerisation methods already proved by the “ Kooringa “ is something at which we should all have a good look, with regard to overseas and interstate freights. I understand that Australia exports annually about $230 worth of produce per head and imports about $250 worth. We are, by any standard, a very large exporting and importing country. We are probably more dependent upon shipping than are most other countries, and freights have gone up. There has been an increase of about 100 per cent, in the freight on wheat and bulk cargoes since 1949. 1 understand that the freight charged annually by the shipping companies on exports and imports is about $600 million. The freight on imports last year was greater than the return from our second largest export earner, wheat. So the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) convened a conference on containerisation, which was held in Canberra between 9th May and 12th May of this year. 1 was privileged, on raising this matter with the Department of Trade and Industry, to be shown some of the statements that Were made at that conference. One of the most impressive was that made by Mr. Meeske the representative in Australia of the Matson Line. As is well known, that is a company registered in the United States of America. Its ships travel mostly between the West Coast of the United States and Hawaii some of them going on to New Zealand and Australia. In the 1940’s the Matson Line decided to embark upon a vigorous research programme in regard to cargo handling, and it invested, as a follow-up to its research, $47 million over a six-year period in the development of a containerised freight system. Conventional vessels were converted and others were built or purchased. Thousands of related container handling items, including giant shore side cranes and special container over-the-road chassis, were bought. By 1958 the Matson Line was about to carry out the transition of conventional cargo handling methods to containerisation on the West Coast-Hawaii trade. The advantages of (his system are, of course, fairly obvious.
The method of containerised cargo handling is that the goods are packed into containers measuring 24 ft. by 8 ft. by 8 ft. 6 in. The containers are all of a standard size. They are lowered into the ship and are held in cells in the hold and also on the deck. The containers are moved in and out of the vessel by cranes on the wharves. As a container is taken out of the hold another, containing goods to be sent away, is put in its place. These special facilities enable the containers to take such items as printer’s ink, chemicals and lubricating oils, and even cattle have been containerised. The effects of developments between 1947 and 1962 are clearly shown in the following figures. There were 11 freight increases, equal to 126 per cent, on 1947 rates, up to 1962, when this system became fully operative. Since 1962 there has been no increase. In fact, there has been a reduction of 9.8 per cent, in freight rates. We in Australia have had increases in freights almost every year, but increases have been stopped by the Matson Line on its service from the West Coast of America to Hawaii as from 1962, and since then there has been a decrease of 9.8 per cent, in freight rates. The situation now is that a ship of from 16,000 tons to 18,000 tons is turned round in 17 hours, instead of, as previously, four or five days or more. The Matson company has always been an efficient company, but in the past it never got the turnround time down lower than from four to five days. Now the turnround is achieved in 17 hours. Since the operation started the Matson company has been operating seven ships, compared with the previous 16 conventional vessels. Those seven ships are doing 140 per cent, more work than the original 16.
One might ask whether we have done anything about this in Australia. My inquiries indicate that Associated Steamships Pty. Ltd., a company formed between the Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd and Mcllwraith McEachern Ltd., has joined the powerful United Kingdom group, Overseas Containers Ltd., and that the Australian company and the United Kingdom company are working out the whole question of container facilities in Australia. Associated Steamships Pty. Ltd. already has terminals in Fremantle and Melbourne, and their ship, the “ Kooringa “, is, I understand, in Melbourne every alternate Monday. It goes to Fremantle and back again and is absolutely regular, lt is in port only one day and it is six. days at sea. It has given great service with the regularity of its transport of containers.
The great advantage of containers is that the goods are packed possibly many miles from the wharf. They can be assembled in an area near the wharf or they can be packed in an orchard, a jam factory or a canning factory. At Kyabram in Victoria, tinned fruit is packed in containers. It is then taken to Port Melbourne and loaded on the “ Kooringa “. The containers are taken off in Fremantle and the Perth warehouse draws direct from the containers the cargo that has not been touched by hand since it was put in the containers at Kyabram. The great loss from pilfering and damage is thereby averted. The regularity of the service appeals greatly to shippers.
The overseas trade is now in course of development. In Melbourne and Sydney, the respective harbour authorities are directing attention to overseas shipments in containers. I believe certain discussions are taking place in Sydney as to whether a new container wharf should be built in Botany Bay. Honorable senators will appreciate that an essential feature of the container system is that there be a marshalling yard on flat ground, in many cases quite close to the wharf area. I understand that the ground in the traditional wharf area of Sydney is largely built upon and there are not big areas available. So in New South Wales the question of the use of an area at Botany Bay is important.
I want to stress that the large ships it is proposed to use on the overseas trade, possibly of 30,000, 40,000 or 50,000 tons, will be in port only a day or two at most. This means that ports will not require such lengthy wharfage as is required at present when ships stay in port for five or six days. I predict that even though our export and import tonnage could double in the next 15 years, the length of wharfage required will not necessarily double if the containerisation system is used. In other words, great savings could be effected by the States if they study now this question of containerisation because, from reports from overseas that I have read, this system is on us now and will be with us in three years time. We have to adapt ourselves to it.
The State Governments, in particular, must adapt themselves to the system, particularly in relation to their expenditure on wharves for overseas cargoes. A number of Departments will have to participate in the new system. 1 have given thought to some of them. For example, the Australian National Line and our Department of Shipping and Transport will have to give some thought to this development. Some responsible Ministers have indicated their great interest in the possibility of an Australian national shipping line operating overseas. Only recently, the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) did so at Whyalla in South Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) referred to the possibility of Australian ships going overseas. If we are to have an overseas shipping line, the carriage of cargo in containers might tend to dispel the objections of Senator Wright. I did not hear what he said by way of muttered interjection but I understand that he is rather opposed to an Australian shipping line operated by the Government engaging in overseas trade. I know the reasons why Senator Wright deprecates the idea.
The Department of Primary Industry will have to do a lot of research into this matter because the whole system of inspection of cargoes will have to be reviewed. Inspection will have to take place in a different manner and in a different place from the current inspections. The inspection might have to take place in the country many miles from the traditional place of. inspection* The Department of Customs and Excise will have to organise a technique to deal with containerised cargoes. The unlocking of the containers will not take place at the wharf as happens now with a man’s bag or with cargo. The customs man could well have to be at the point of destination of the containerised cargo. The Australian railways system will have to do some thinking on this matter because as 1 understand the system and how it is practised in the United States of America, the goods are railed 1,000 miles or more in containers which might finish up in Hawaii. They might be loaded in Milwaukee many miles from San Francisco. Consequently, the Australian railways system will have to be equipped to carry these containers. This will not be very difficult for the Commonwealth Railways because already to their credit they have been carrying a lot of containerised cargo with pick-a-back trucks.
The States will have to give much consideration to the laws of the road such as the length of vehicles that are allowed to pass along certain State highways. Some containers are 24 feet long and will have to be carried on the back of. a semitrailer. That will make the whole vehicle fairly long. The States will have to adapt their laws to permit vehicles to carry containers.
I hope the responsible Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry, will be encouraged to initiate a series of studies of containerisation. The Minister has already made a start with an excellent conference. According to the minutes, the main contribution to the conference was made by Mr. Meeske of the Matson Line. The contributions of others at the conference were not so significant, but six months have elapsed and current reading indicates that the idea is developing. The “ Kooringa “ is successfully working the small service between Melbourne and Fremantle. This is a matter of great importance to Australia and I mention it at Budget time as one method of saving dramatically some of the $600 million worth of freight that is involved now in Australia’s exports and imports.
Obviously, the number of days a ship is at sea rather than in port is of great importance to the running of Australian shipping, much of which is conducted at the present time by the Government.
I even put it to you this way, Sir: The question of containerisation could well be a matter for a select committee of the Senate to inquire into. Containerisation will come to us very quickly. It affects so many aspects of Australian life so close to the Senate. It affects the whole question of State expenditure for the next few years with reSpect to wharves. It affects the whole question of
Australian and overseas shipping. 1 believe that this matter could well be viewed by a. select committee of the Senate. I would like the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who is at the table, to convey these ideas to the Minister.
If this Budget is to succeed, it will not succeed because of the amount of money that we are spending in this way or that way. If the Budget is to succeed in enabling the economy to function, it will succeed largely by the ideas of economy whether in defence, shipping or education. I have had time to mention only these three diverse subjects this evening. I really think that the Government should look at the economical uses of the resources of this country. 1. submit as a strong matter for Senate consideration this whole question of freights with particular reference to containerisation.
Senator BENN (Queensland) [9.53 1.- In the early part of this year, an application was made by several industrial unions for an increase in the Commonwealth basic wage because of the higher cost of living. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission subsequently dealt with the application. As a matter of fact the Commission sat for 41 days in dealing with the case. It heard evidence, and listened to arguments in favour of and also against an increase in the basic wage. When it had completed its hearing, the Commission spent three weeks considering the evidence and the arguments that had been placed before it. Then it made its decision. The Commission decided that the basic wage would be increased by $2 a week.
I do not profess to be a Judge of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But 1 am able to follow the advice that is submitted to everybody in the community by the Commonwealth Stastician in respect of increased prices and I know something about the Consumer Price Index. When I was speaking on an appropriation bill which was before the Senate last May, I think, I said that the Commonwealth basic wage would be increased by no less a sum than $2 per week. I was not guessing when I made that statement. Now, I want to point out to you, Mr. Deputy President, and to honorable senators, that there are threats of strikes all over the Commonwealth at the present time. We have seen in the past 12 months or so strikes by groups who never before contemplated the necessity for striking in order to obtain some wage justice.
First, the native police in Papua and New Guinea went on strike and then the nurses in the same Territory went on strike for more wages. At the moment the secondary school teachers in Victoria are threatening to go on strike because of the inadequacy of their remuneration. The secondary school teachers in Queensland are threatening to strike against the Government because of their low wages, and because of the requirement served on them to teach so many children in accommodation that is not satisfactory. In New South Wales, nurses in some hospitals are threatening to go on strike because of their salary grievances. Only last week we read that Aborigines employed on some of the pastoral properties in the north were actually on strike in protest against the low wages paid to them. I could quote other cases. I remember the technicians employed by some of the air companies in Australia threatening to go on strike and so hold up aircraft until their wages were adjusted to what they considered would be a fair and reasonable level.
This is the situation that confronts the Commonwealth at the present time. I am alarmed that the Government is not in the slightest degree disturbed about it. The Government is not one bit uneasy as to what will happen. It is not making an endeavour to correct the situation. Perhaps it is inviting mass strikes for some purpose or other. Last Friday’s edition of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ contained some news relating to a statement made by the President of the New South Wales Industrial Commission. The paper reported what the judge allegedly said about a threat made in a decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission about the basic wage. The President of the New South Wales Industrial Commission appeared to be concerned about what the Commonwealth Commission intended to do. I have here a copy of the decision handed down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The part that concerned the New South Wales judge was this -
We have indicated in our reasons the extent to which we favour the employers proposal for conversion of the wage structure to the basis of a single wage but have decided to defer the question of implimentation pending further consideration of the present .structure of marginal rates and further argument.
For a number of years, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has declared basic wages. Each wage when it is declared appears in a determination. But when the wages of persons whose employment is governed by a Commonwealth award are to be calculated, allowances for certain purposes have to be added to the basic wage. This situation has been in existence ever since the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has operated. The President of the New South Wales Industrial Commission, it would appear to me anyway, feels that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has not done the right thing in departing from the practice of the past. The Commonwealth Commission has indicated that it will fix a composite wage, that is, a basic wage plus allowances. This is known as a total wage. Personally, I see no cause for alarm in what the Commission has done at all. What it proposes to do has been done in Queensland by the former Queensland Industrial Court and now the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of Queensland since 1916. Under Queensland industrial awards one wage has always been fixed for all employees, lt consists of the basic wage, the allowances that are payable for skills and other allowances that creep in. So there does not appear to be any real threat to social justice in the future.
His Honour also stated, rather remarkably, that the Commission acted in an unscientific manner in fixing wages. I do not know precisely what His Honour meant by the word “ unscientific “. It can be stated as a positive fact that there has never been a scientific method of fixing wages. As far as I can see, there never will be. But something is done towards giving social justice. This question is not a new one. It has been debated and fully discussed over the years. The basic wage that operates in the Commonwealth sphere and in the State spheres is ingrained into our way of life. We are accustomed to the basic wage hearings and to new basic wages being declared from time to time. Queensland declares its own basic wage independently of the Commonwealth. Other States are not as advanced as Queensland. Victoria is a very backward State industrially. It relies on what is termed the Commonwealth basic wage. For years it followed an antiquated system known as the wages board system.
Towards the end of the last century Sir Samuel Griffith was Premier of Queensland. A suburb of Canberra is named after him. He was a man of great thought. In 1890 he introduced a bill - I am not sure whether he introduced it on behalf of the party that he represented or whether it was a private bill - in respect of the natural law relating to the acquisition of property. Among the clauses of the Bill were these remarkable provisions -
The natural and proper measure of wages is such a sum as is a fair immediate recompense for the labour for which they are paid, having regard to its character and duration; but it can never be taken at a less sum than such as is sufficient to maintain the labourer and his family in a state of health and reasonable comfort. lt is the duty of the State to make provision by positive law for securing the proper distribution of the net products of labour in accordance with the principles hereby declared.
If I were to speak for the next two hours, I could not say anything better or stronger than that in favour of a basic wage. Right back in 1890, Sir Samuel Griffith, apparently, laid the foundation of the basic wage. From time to time various questions have arisen about the methods of fixing the basic wage, such as who should fix it and whether laymen should be appointed because they have certain skills and knowledge of industry or whether judges should always decide these serious questions. These questions arise in the various States. It is rather remarkable that the following passage appears at page 1001 of the Western Australian “ Hansard “ for 1900 -
The duty of the judges is to administer justice, according to law, to decide upon the legal rights and duties of litigants, according to the established rules of law and of legal evidence and procedure. By this Bill it is proposed that the judges shall assist in the decision of disputes between workmen and their employers, not as to their mutual rights and obligations under contracts of service or at Common Law, but rather as to what ought to be their relation to each other, according to the principles of natural justice, or of expediency, or political economy . . . The judges have devoted their lives to the study and practice of the law, and they do not profess to have made a study of those innumerable social and economical questions which will arise in the near future in disputes between capital and labour.
There was one expression of opinion. But a contrary opinion was expressed by another judge whose name is very familiar to all Australians. I refer to Mr. Justice Higgins. When he was a member of the Commonwealth Parliament he said this in a debate -
Although I have the utmost respect for my confreres in the legal profession, I am sure that their minds, if they are in full work, are so occupied with their daily business, that they pay less attention to economic and industrial subjects than do the members of any other class in the community, and their sympathies naturally tend towards what I may call the bourgeois ideal. I think the reason why lawyers are chosen in England is that the best arbitrations have been conducted by men who are prominent in public life . . . Besides, there is something in the legal training which tends to make a man impartial; to make him apt to look at questions as he would look at mathematical problems, and to desire to find the right answer without regard to consequences.
The man who said that was later appointed a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. He made some famous decisions. When we are dealing with the basic wage and questions by the President of the New South Wales Industrial Commission about a matter in the Commonwealth sphere, it is rather interesting to go back over history and to see that today it is difficult to introduce anything new in relation to the fixation of wages and working conditions. Sir Alfred Deakin was a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. In 1903 he made a speech from which I quote the following -
The attainment in some measure, and possibly in a rude fashion, of social justice is as absolutely essential as material prosperity. Permanent prosperity can only be based upon institutions which are cemented by social justice. Under the influence of a sense of injustice, of inequality, unfairness, and helplessness, the working population of the world cannot be expected to submit to their lot. There must’ be held out to them the prospect of betterment and advancement for the individual, the family and the class, as well as for the nation as a whole. We do not desire to see a pyramid like that of Egypt reared on the abject misery, ignorance and helplessness of the masses. We feel that the object of our culture and many of the objects of our Government are concerned as a fundamental condition with the wellbeing of the masses of the people.
In other words, wages should be fixed for those in employment at a level which will allow them to be good citizens. People should be able to be admitted to the communal life of this country. If any honorable senator has had the opportunity of visiting countries where this is not possible, he will fully understand every word that was spoken by Alfred Deakin in 1903.
When the first industrial law of the Commonwealth was introduced, when the first industrial court was established and when the first basic wage of 7s. per day was fixed, we did not have full employment. We had empty employment. We had almost mass unemployment. Today we say we have full employment. Nearly all of the time there are some people out of work, but that happens perhaps in any society. The Government, notwithstanding this fact” that is before it all the time and the fact that there are constant hold ups in industry for some reason or other, has not taken any legal or administrative action to cope with the new situation.
I think Mr. Justice O’Connor was the first president of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, in 1906, when dealing with the question of wages, he said - 1here must also be added something for the increased cost of living in Australia, not only by reason of the higher cost of some of life’s necessities but also by reason of the increased comfort of living and the higher standard of social conditions which the general sense of the community in Australia allows to those who live by labour.
Today the industrial unions make applications to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for increased wages because of higher living costs. But while an application is being heard, as happened recently when the Commission took 41 days to hear the application and three weeks to reach a decision, prices increase. Those increases are not taken into account in the decision that is given. There is nothing added for increased prices in the period when the application is being heard. This position is continuing and no attempt is being made to correct it.
If the unions today wished to act in a logical manner they could apply to have their wages increased by applying for a decrease in living costs - a decrease in the prices of the necessities of life. I want to be clear in this matter. The union claim for a higher wage is always based on price increases in the previous 12 months. To be logical, the unions should apply for a decrease in living costs, which would increase their wages.
– How would they apply for a decrease in living costs?
– That is the 40 dollar question. It has to be answered. We have to deal with the question of the fixation of prices. If the Commonwealth Government had any regard for the future of the Commonwealth, the economy and the welfare of the people, it would agree to have a referendum submitted to the people tomorrow seeking authority to have prices fixed by the Commonwealth. The States fix prices today but they do not care twopence whether or not they exercise the power because it is not politic to do so. How can the Commonwealth continue to ignore this question when such evidence is staring it in the face all the time? 1 shall now give some evidence which indicates the problem which confronts the Commonwealth. In 1922 the Queensland basic wage was £4 per week. Today it is £16 7s. per week. I will not go over all the other rates, but in that period there were 43 increases in the basic wage. They did not substantially increase the real wage; they only increased the wage to correspond with rising prices. So today the Commonwealth is faced with a constant increase in prices: I know what happens. If you go around the retail shops immediately after an increase in wages has been gazetted and has become operative, you will find expert shop assistants checking the price lists. They have a consultation with the manager of the shop and the prices are increased by one cent here and two cents there for all goods that are sold in the shop. They recoup and perhaps more than recoup themselves at the end of the week in respect of the additional wages they have to pay. They could even make a profit out of the transaction. That is the position which confronts the Government. How much longer can the Commonwealth Government face up to this situation?
Senator Laught, who preceded me in the debate, referred to the commodities that we export to other countries. If we are going to export manufactured goods to other countries, we have to consider the question of our costs of production, and labour is one of the items that have to be considered. The Government is allowing prices to take the basic wage up to the sky. This is the Government’s responsibility.
If it does not do anything about the matter, I just cannot help it. But if it wants to see what could happen if prices were fixed, Jet us go back to the period during the Second World War. It might be thought that that would be a time when prices would soar, but let me show what happened in that period. Let us take the period from 1941 to 1943. In 1941 the basic wage was £4 9s. per week and in 1943 it was £4 17s. per week, an increase of 8s. over a number of years. Now it is being increased each year at the rate of $2 per week. It will not be long before it is increased by $3 per week.
Sentor Ridley. - The basic wage even went down1 s. per week for one year during the war years.
– Of course, a Labour Government was in office then, and there were other factors operating, too. The Harvester case resulted in the first basic wage being handed down. I think that Mr. Justice Biggins dealt with it. At that time he said -
As wages are the means of obtaining commodities surely the State, in stipulating for fair and reasonable remuneration for the employees, means that the wages shall be sufficient to provide these things, and clothing and conditions of frugal comfort estimated by current human standards.
This, then, is the primarytest, thetest which I shall apply in ascertaining the minimum wage that can be treated as fair and reasonable in the case of unskilled labourers.
Mr. Justice Higgins then fixed a basic wage of 7s. a day or £2 2s. a week. The comment was made last week that wages are not fixed scientifically. Of course they are not. It is impossible scientifically to fix wages. Wage fixing involves so many factors which cannot be fathomed. It cannot be brought within a science. Social justice must be considered and everybody has a different concept of what is social justice.
Different systems of wage fixing have been tried. The C series all items index is probably well known to everybody. It operated at a time when ladies wore cashmere stockings. Fashions of that style have gone out a long time ago, but the system remains in operation. It is remarkable to look back and see what has happened over the years. In 1919 Mr. William Morris Hughes delivered a policy speech on behalf of the Nationalist Party which was the name then of the present Liberal Party.
– When was that?
– In 1919. Mr. Hughes delivered his policy speech in Bendigo. He said -
The cause of much of the industrial unrest, which is like fuel to the fires of Bolshevism and direct action, arises from the real wage of the worker - that is to say, the things he can buy with the money he receives. This real wage decreases with an increase in the cost of living. Once it is admitted that it is in the interests of the community that such a wage should be paid as will enable a man to marry and bring up children in decent, wholesome conditions - and that point has been settled long ago - it seems obvious that we must devise better machinery for ensuring the payment of such a wage than at present exists. Means must be found which will ensure that the minimum wage shall be adjusted automatically with the cost of living, so that within the limits of the minimum wage at least the sovereign
That is the equivalent of $2 today - shall always purchase the same amount of the necessaries of life.
Mr. Hughes gave effect to that promise. He was returned as Prime Minister and in 1921 the C series all items index was brought into operation. It operated until 1953. I say, as a humble person, that it was a very good system while it lasted. Today the consumer price index operates and I do not think that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission takes much notice of it.I said a short time ago that the Government is not conscious that we are in a new era, entirely different from that which existed when wage fixation was introduced in Australia. Living costs are not static. We have to face facts when we are dealing with this question.
We are a meat eating people. I believe that the price of meat will continue to increase. I cannot foresee any decrease in the price of meat within the next three of four years, for several reasons. First, the herds are depleted. The overseas market has increased. The local market is increasing every year because of the numbers of migrants arriving here. Another 100,000 mouths have to be fed with good nutritious Australian beef. At the present time stock for the slaughter yards bring prices up to £80 a head in Queensland. By the time they are slaughtered and the meat is processed and put on the market in edible condition, it means that the purchaser has to pay a pretty high price for meat. I cannot see that the price of meat will diminish within the next three or four years. Ordinarily a bullock is kept until it is four years old and then sold for slaughtering purposes. At present bullocks are being sold at an age of a little over 18 months. This practice will continue because of the shortage of funds of graziers and farmers.
Since the Budget was introduced I. have had a good look at it. I always think that the best way to test a Budget is to sit down and prepare your own Budget and then compare it with the official Budget to see how incorrect is the Treasurer. I engaged in that pleasant exercise this year. Expenditures were all right. One can estimate them fairly accurately. Of course, 1 thought there would be an increase because of the basic wage increase. Other factors kept coming into my mind. When T got around to farm incomes 1 said: “ I can’t go any further because many people engaged in the dairy industry in Queensland and New South Wales will not pay any income tax for the next four or five years “. So 1 eliminated that section. One is entitled to take that step when preparing a budget as a private citizen. Then came the question of the sugar growers, who are almost on the dole. Sugar has never been at a lower price in the history of the industry. What should one do about that? Should one leave the people in the sugar industry right out of calculations? And so it went on.
There was a big fall in the production of wheal last year. When that happens, of course, it means that the wheatgrowers may not be required to pay income tax. At present, complaints are being made about the decline in sales of motor vehicles. Of course sales of motor vehicles have fallen, and will continue to fall, because the main purchasers of motor vehicles in ordinary years are the people on the land. Because of the destruction caused by the drought, they are not in a financial position to buy new cars and it is unlikely that they will be able to do so for two or three years.
I examined the Budget and I said: “ The Treasurer has my sympathy. Undoubtedly the Treasurer must introduce a drought Budget. If he can provide funds for the primary producers to increase their output so as to allow them to return to a firm financial position, Australia will once more be in the happy position of being able to meet all its commitments.” I was a member of this Parliament in 1953 when the Treasurer at that time - a Queenslander - introduced a budget in which he reduced income tax by 12i per cent. Company taxation was reduced from 7s. in the £1 to 6s. in the £1 . The excise payable on beer and spirits was reduced. Excise payable on a bottle of whisky was reduced by 3s. 6d. to 10s. a bottle. Sales tax was reduced, amongst other things.
I am speaking at present with an intimate knowledge of Queensland conditions and of what I have seen in New South Wales. I flew home last weekend to Brisbane. I have never seen the country between Sydney and Brisbane looking worse than it is at the present time. 1 do not know how the farmers in the area around Casino are getting on under the present conditions. I believe they must get some financial assistance from the Commonwealth if they are to become once more substantial taxpayers.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to take a few minutes of the Senate’s time tonight rather than wait until tomorrow evening, when we- will adjourn at a later hour. I propose to refer to injustices that are occurring and to ask for some consideration to be given to those who are affected. This is one of the occasions on which I rise believing that there is nothing that the Federal Parliament can do. However, when injustices do occur, I believe that it is necessary for somebody to speak out in an effort to have them rectified. I refer to injustices that are perpetrated in the name of justice.
One is saddened by the fact that some weeks ago a young fellow took a gun for the purpose of shooting the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) at a meeting at Mosman in Sydney and today was sentenced to life imprisonment for what he did. I do not suppose one could complain if the lad was sane and his intention was to kill somebody. But it has been the belief of the
Leader of. the Opposition that this act was committed by a lad with a diseased mind who had no personal grudge against him but who did what he did for the purpose of making a name for himself. It was disclosed in court today that this lad’s belief was that, like Oswald in the United States of America, he himself would be shot immediately. As the Leader of the Opposition has said tonight, he tried to console the mother of the lad. It would seem that some inquiry should be conducted into whether the lad was sane at the time of this occurrence, whether psychiatric treatment would not bc the best form of treatment to give him, and whether he could not be cured and restored to society as a useful member of it.
That is not the main purpose for my rising tonight. I am more concerned about events in Adelaide, where there has been a series of prosecutions for shoplifting. Early in August when a magistrate had a number of shoplifters before him, he said that the prevalence of the offence would necessitate more severe penalties in the future. After finding the defendants guilty, he adjourned the cases for 24 hours for the purpose of considering the penalty to be awarded. This meant that those concerned had to stay in- gaol overnight and come before the bench on the next day. They were either fined or let out on a bond. I repeat that the magistrate said that more severe penalties would bc imposed in the future. He purposely adjourned the hearing overnight, keeping the defendants in gaol, to indicate that future offenders could expect gaol sentences.
Following upon this case there has been a series of prosecutions for shoplifting. The Adelaide “News” of 19th August contains a report about several people being prosecuted. The report states -
In a further case, the magistrate, in fining a first offender $60 for shoplifting, sa>id that if the offence had occurred during the past few days, following a warning in the Magistrate’s Court last week, he would certainly have been under the painful necessity of ordering her to gaol.
The Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of 27th August contains a report about a number of offenders who were prosecuted for similar offences after the magistrate gave the original warning. This report deals with eight women and three men who were gaoled on admitted charges of shoplifting. After mentioning the name of a married woman of North Adelaide, the report states that she was gaoled for seven days for having stolen a packet of cheese valued at 19 cents belonging to Tom The Cheap Grocer Pty. Ltd. at North Adelaide on 23rd August. The Press contains reports of 53 prosecutions in one week. Breaches are being detected at the rate of nine a day.
An investigation of these cases shows that most of the people concerned are first offenders. Most of them are women who have lived an honest and trustworthy life without any record of crime. This raises the question: Why is this happening to otherwise honest and decent citizens? Why are they in the position of receiving gaol sentences for shoplifting at a particular shop? Most of the offences are committed at a firm called Tom The Cheap, which is known in South Australia as Tom The Gaoler and which is thought to be backed by the Customs Credit organisation and the Bank of New South Wales. This firm displays goods in a self service shop and invites members of the public to serve themselves and take the goods away - of course, after having paid for them on their way out. However, some customers take one or two small articles and endeavour to conceal them.
Mr. Seaman, the President of the Retail Storekeepers’ Association in Adelaide, is reported in the Press as having said -
Although it must be more difficult to detect
I he professional than the amateur, increases in prosecutions in the past few weeks show detection methods are successful.
The report adds -
Mr. Seaman said at present there were no plans for shopkeepers and retailers to combine and compile a dossier of so-called first offenders.
This method was used in Sydney to detect people who were let off with a warning by the shopkeeper. If second offenders claimed it was their first offence, a check of the dossier verified or denied such claims.
In Adelaide, more than 53 people were prosecuted last week for shoplifting offences. Police and magistrates have expressed alarm.
Mr. Seaman said higher penalties, increased publicity, and better detection methods would act as a deterrent to would-be shoplifters.
Otherwise honest people are being sent to gaol because they have been detected in the act of shoplifting. I do not condone the offence. But I ask these questions: First, why are these offences being committed by otherwise honest people? Secondly, is gaoling the best method of stopping the breaches? The number of cases that are occurring shows that gaoling is not a deterrent. Many of those who have been charged and who have been sent to gaol are otherwise highly respectable people. One case involves a highly respectable family that I know personally. I had no hesitation in assisting them with a bond. I know the money will be returned; there is nothing dishonest about the people concerned. I asked the mother why she committed the offence. She replied: “ I was just there. I don’t know. I had no intention of doing it, but it happened.” The current method of displaying goods is placing an irresistible temptation in the way of women. This sort of thing could not happen in our time because grocers had a counter and the goods were served from shelves behind the counter. But because Tom the Cheap finds that it is more economical and more profitable to dispense with shop assistants and to let people wander around the stores, irresistible temptation is turning honest people into criminals.
How are we to overcome this? If a jury were deciding these cases, no 12 citizens would convict and thereby gaol an offender. Knowing the temptation that was placed in the path of the shopper, they would possibly convict and a nominal fine would be the penalty. We see a humanitarian attitude in New South Wales, whereby the first offender is let off by the shopkeeper with a caution. The fact of detection is possibly sufficient to frighten the offender and he does not offend again, but in South Australia, for a first offence of stealing something worth 15c, in future a person is to be sent to gaol, and Mr. Seaman, President of the Retail Shopkeepers Association, is proud of this protection that we have in South Australia.
As I said earlier, I visited the home of the one of the persons involved in a shoplifting offence, and I sought the father’s reaction. I said: “ How did they take it at work?” He said: “All too good. Most of my workmates were sympathetic, and the rest were silent. I would much rather they had been more critical.” His wife, who was an honest loving mother previously, feels that she has let her family down. She will possibly have an inferiority complex for the rest of her life and not be the proud, devoted mother that she previously was. The upset in the mental attitude of the children is deplorable. The mother, who nursed, looked after and attended to .hem, whom they loved and honoured, met the same fate as the criminal lad down the street who had been up for breaking and entering, rape or some other offence. The prevalence of shoplifting is the reason for the harsher penalty. If the mother had broken and entered, an offence which is not so prevalent, as a first offender she could have got off under the probationary provisions applying to first offenders. I spoke to the kiddies to find what their reaction was. There is no one more cruel than a young child. When the kids go to school, the other children refer to their mother who spent a period in gaol. I asked one of the children: “ What about the Sunday school?” She said: “ I could not go there again. What would the teacher say?” That is the attitude.
There has been a corruption of the life of the whole family for the simple reason that Tom the Cheap finds it necessary, convenient or profitable to dispense with shop assistants with the result that people wander round a store and take the goods they want, while he improves the method of detection. Magistrates, following a lead, try to stop shoplifting by imposing severer penalties, on each occasion making unpleasantness for a South Australian family.
I suppose that in all cases one could find some injustice. I do not for a moment condone offences of this sort. I just ask those who are responsible for administering the law not to see just the black side on each occasion when someone happens to take something from a store. I acknowledge that necessity knows no law, but in this case it is not necessity. There is just an irresistible temptation placed before honest people to which they succumb, and then there is corruption of the whole family, while courts make it profitable for prosecutions to proceed at the present rate, in the hope that severe penalties will be a deterrent. I hope that we can at least let those people who have fallen victim to this irresistible temptation know that there is someone in Australia who does not consider that they are, as the court would by its sentences have us believe, part of the criminal element of Australia.
– First, I should like to say that this is the first intimationI have had of the punishment meted out to that misguided youth who attacked the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I should like to take this opportunity of saying that 1 am quite sure that there is no one in this Senate who did not view that action against the Leader of the Opposition with the greatest abhorrence and regret. I should also like to point out to Senator Cavanagh that according to this afternoon’s newspapers this youth was examined and his mental state was found to be such that he was capable of knowing what he was doing. While this may seem a heavy punishment, I for one feel that unless a heavy punishment had been meted out in this case it may have led to other such occurrences.
The other matter raised by Senator Cavanagh is symptomatic of (he attitude of a large proportion of the Australian people whereby the wrongdoer gets more sympathy than the person who is wronged. We have had case after case of thuggery, brutality and assault, and when the person who is responsible comes up for trial the sympathy so often seems to swing round to him from the one who suffered the injury. In regard to the victim the attitude seems to be that it is his bad luck. We have a magistrate in New South Wales who has practically rid the coast of various offences because he has been tough.
– What about some of the company directors?
– I am not speaking of company directors. I am afraid that in the case of many people this treatment is the only answer. I strongly deprecate the criticism by the honorable senator of a certain trader in South Australia. I do not know the man. I do not suppose I had heard his name before it was raised tonight.I think it is quite wrong to criticise him because of his methods of trading. Obviously, according to the honorable senator, this man is relying on the honesty of the people with whom he is dealing. Apparently he has set out to meet their convenience. When certain people succumb to temptation, he is criticised for putting temptation in their way. I do not think that one can keep these people from succumbing to temptation. This is one of the cases with which society is faced and, regrettable though it is, too much sympathy is expressed today for the wrongdoer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 August 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660830_senate_25_s32/>.