13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H.Mackay) tookthechair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Petitions presented concerning the conditions of the aborigines of Australia, and suggesting measures for their amelioration from -
The president and officers of the Methodist Conference, South Australia; the presidentand officers of the Church of Christ Conference, South Australia; and the president and officers of the Girl Guides Association, South Australia (Presented by Mr. McBride).
The president and officers of the Australian Labour Party of South Australia, and tho president and officers of the South Australian Alliance (Presented by Mr. Makin).
The Load Bishop of Adelaide, and Synod of South Australia ; the moderator and officers of the Presbyterian Assembly of South Australia; and the president and officers of the Workers’ Educational Association, South Australia (Presented by Mr. Price).
The president and officers of the Baptist Union, South Australia; the president and officers of the Christian Endeavour Union, South Australia; the president and officers of the Women’sChristian Temperance Union of South Australia; and the chairman and secretary of theCongregational Union, South Australia (Presented by Mr. Cameron).
His Grace the Archbishop of Adelaide, Dr. Spence; the president and secretary of the Prisoners’ Aid Association of South Australia; and the president and officers of the House-wives’ Association of South Australia (Presented by Mr. Stacey).
That the petitions be received.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in. a position to make the promised statement on the assistance that the Government proposes to render to the wheat industry?
– I do not intend to make any statement in regard to the wheat industry until I move the second reading of the bill embodying the Government’s proposals.
– When will thatmeasure be introduced?
-The drafting of the measure presents difficulties, but it is hoped that it will be ready for presentation either on Thursday, or at anyrate, before the Bouse adjourns over the weekend.
– by leave - On the 24th November, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) appealed to me to protect the settlers in the Gulf country of the Northern Territory from attacks by aborigines. In view of the honorable member’s statements, the Administrator was asked to advise whether he bad received any requests for protection from settlers in the Gulf district or the Roper River district, and to ascertain whether the police in the districts in question had received such requests.
Advice has now been received from the Administrator that no requests for protection have been made by settlers in the districts mentioned. The Roper River police journal discloses that no requests were received by the officer at that station ; andSergeant Bridgland, who is stationed at, Borroloola and is in charge of the district, has not been asked to provide protection.
The constable at Roper River reported on the 23rd September that natives at Mainoru Station had been fighting amongst themselves, and recommended more frequent patrols in that district as otherwise the aborigines were likely to get out of hand. The police from Maranboy, after patrolling the Mainoru country, reported on the 3rd October that everything was quiet. Arrangements have been made for this district to be regularly patrolled.
The Administrator adds that Sergeant Bridgland, who was stationed at Roper
River for many years, ridicules the idea that the settlers in that district are liable to attack from theCaledon Bay tribes.
– Is the Minister for Commerce yet in a position to make a statement concerning the negotiations that have taken place between the High Commissioner for Australia in London and the Belgian Government?
– These negotiations are still proceeding, consequently I am unable to make a statement on the matter at this stage.
– The Hansard report of my speech on the motion of the Prime Minister on Friday -
That Standing Order No. 70 (11 o’clock rule)be suspended until the end of the year- contains an interjection by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), which reads -
The honorable member is never hero during all-night sittings.
I did not hear that interjection. Had I done so, I should have accurately described the honorable member who made it.
– Why not do so now?
– Because the result might be to terminate my speech abruptly. I wish to say that the statement of the honorable member is incorrect. If he will take the trouble to peruse the records of the parliamentary debates, I think he will find that on no fewer than four occasions I have been suspended from the sittings of the House between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. That happened while this Parliament sat in Melbourne, and before the honorable gentleman was a member of it. If he will also consult the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) he will learn that, during the life of the last Parliament, I joined with that honorable gentleman and other members of the then Opposition, including the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), in an all-night fight against tariff proposals of the last Government. I remember the honorable member for Warringah on that occasion telling me at half-past four o-clock in the morning that he felt too ill to go on. After that he had an illness.
– Why not deal with the sittings in Canberra?
– I am coming to that. I have examined the Votes and Proceedings of this House during the period of this Parliament, and the records so far as my votes are concerned disclose the following information : - On the 4th March, 1932, the House rose at 5.3 a.m., and my name is recorded in all votes. On the 24th May, the House rose at 3.18 a.m., and on that occasion I evidently was absent. On the 23rd September, the House rose at 2.20 a.m., and my name is recorded in all votes. On the 30th September the House rose at 1 a.m., and no votes were recorded. On the 21st October the House rose at 7 a.m., and ray name is recorded in all votes. On the 27th October the House rose at 1.7 a.m., and my name is recorded in all votes. On the 28th October, the House rose at 7.49 a.m., and my name is recorded in all votes. On the 11th November, the House rose at 2.11 a.m., and no votes were recorded. On the17th November, when the House rose at . 12.4 a.m., I did not vote. On the 25th November, the House rose at 2.1 a.m., and no votes were recorded. On the 6th May, 3933, the House rose at 1.54 a.m., and my name is recorded in all votes.
– Cannot the honorable member summarize this information?
– The honorable member’s request is reasonable, but as. there are so many occasions when statements cannot be disproved, I am taking this opportunity to disprove fully the accusation of the honorable member for Herbert.
On the 25th May, the House rose at 4.26 a.m., and my name is recorded in all votes. On the 26th May, the House rose at 3.58 a.m., but no votes were recorded after midnight. On the 20th October, the House rose at12.40 p.m. the following day, and my name is not recorded in the votes taken between 12 midnight and 8 a.m.
– The honorable member was in bed.
– I may have been. Any sensible man would have been in bed at that hour of the night.
On the 26th October, the House rose at 1.40 a.m., and my name is recorded in all votes. On the 10th November, when the House rose at 1.53 a.m., I did not vote after midnight. On the 16th and 17th November, when the House rose at 3.45 p.m., I did not vote between midnight and 8 a.m. On the 24th November, the House rose at 12.35 a.m., and no votes were recorded. On several occasions I have not been present at all night sittings, and I ask no mercy from honorable members because of that, but I might explain that on the 1st June last upon my arrival home after two long sittings in the House I was stricken and unable to move for a fortnight. I was confined to my bed for a month. That is one of the reasons ‘why I am careful in respect of my attendance at all night sittings, but when vital issues are before honorable members and my strength will permit me I shall always be found in my place in this House, but I hope that the Government will not test my strength or that of any honorable member more than is necessary in that regard. Why should I be singled out for attack? If honorable members care to examine the records of the House, they will find that at every all night sitting, at least twenty honorable members have not been present to record their votes.
– I have received the following telegram from the secretary of the Timber Merchants of Brisbane : -
Definite experience that removal of primage from New Zealand pine causing loss of Sydney trade in Queensland pine.
In view of the seriousness of this position will the Minister for Trade and Customs take the necessary action to re-institute the primage on New Zealand pine with a view to safeguarding the interests of the Queensland pine industry ?
– I do not agree with the honorable member that a serious position exists. I have with me a newspaper cuttingcontaining the following statement from the State Forests Service with respect to the Queensland timber industry : -
Log trade for the last financial year was nearly twice as great as that for the previous two years.
Under the trade agreement with New Zealand, the Commonwealth Government was unable to obtain all that it wanted, and, of course, New Zealand was in a similar position,but the Government thought that the agreement would at least preserve the Australian trade with that dominion. There is no doubt that it will lead to greater reciprocal trade. I have received expressions of satisfaction from both New Zealand and Australia as to the benefits that are likely to accrue, and already New Zealand merchants have placed orders in New South Wales for £100,000 worth of sleepers.
– When will the agreement become operative ?
– The New Zealand Order in Council and the Australian Proclamation have now been signed, and the agreement will operate on the 1st December next.
– The complaint that I made related to an injustice to the pine industry, and the Minister has replied with a reference to sleepers of hardwood. I ask the honorable gentleman whether he will take the necessary steps to restore the primage duty to protect the pine industry of Queensland ?
– Primage is not a protective duty. I am afraid I cannot give the honorable member any promise of the kind he desires.
– Has the Minister ascertained the prices of wheatand bread in New Zealand, and, if so, will he make the information available to the House ?
– I promised the honorable member when he asked this question previously that I wouldobtain the information that he desired,andsteps have been taken to do so. I have not yet ascertained the price of wheat in New Zealand, but I can supply the honorable gentleman with the price of flour and bread there.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether the Government has yet come to a decision as to whether it will ‘accept the variation in the terms of the River Murray Waters Agreement to provide for the construction of certain new works including weirs on the lower Mumimbidgee ?
– I shall furnish the honorable member with this information as soon as possible.
– Has the Government yet bad an opportunity to consider the report of the Tariff Board on Oregon and will it lay the report upon the table before the Christinas recess?
– The Government has not yet had time to consider this report and I cannot say what will be done with it until it has been considered.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral please see that application forms for invalid and old-age pensions are made available in all post offices for the convenience of intending applicants?
– That is a matter for the Treasury. I suggest that the honorable member direct bis question to the Treasurer.
– I call the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that application forms are not ‘available in certain post offices in the Reid electorate, and ask him to give an undertaking that they will be made available in every post office throughout the Commonwealth.
– I am afraid that I cannot give the honorable member such an undertaking, but I shall give consideration to his request.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, in view of the slackness in the Australian cottonspinning mills, and the fact that it is reported that one mill has put off 300 hands, he will take action to expedite the submission of the Tariff Board’s report on this subject?
– The honorable member knows that successive governments have attempted to assist the cotton industry by helping both the growers and the cotton-spinners. He also knows that the two branches of the industry have not worked in harmony, cotton having sometimes to be imported. The difficulties of the cotton-spinners have been inquired into by the Tariff Board, but its report is not yet available. These mills are fully protected in respect of the principal lines they produce, but requests have been made for duties on some other lines at present admitted under departmental by-law. It is regrettable that certain employees have been dismissed from the mill to which the honorable member has referred, but this is due to circumstances of trade and not to any neglect of action by the Commonwealth Government. I regret that the press in reporting the reply I gave to questions by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) on Friday last on this subject, made me speak of propaganda from cotton-mills. As a matter of fact, I referred to propaganda by only one cottonmill. Other mills have sent their deputations to the Government, and have accepted the assurance given, that action will be taken as soon as the Tariff Board’s report is received.,
– A fortnight ago I asked the Postmaster-General whether he would have inquiries made in his department in South Australia to see whether additional painting work could be put in hand to assist the unemployed. I ask him now whether action has been taken in that way?
– I made inquiries as promised, and found that a considerable amount of painting work had been put in hand, but I shall see whether additional steps can be taken to accelerate the work.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether it is the intention of the Government to build a sloop for the navy at an early date. If so, will he arrange with the Minister for the Interior for the work to be done at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and, if possible, secure there-employment of the nucleus staff retained at the dockyard for some years but recently displaced under the new arrangement?
– An amount of £200,000 has been provided on the Estimates for the building of a sloop. The fullest inquiries are being made by the department to ascertain where the work can best be done, but no final decision has yet been made. I promise the honorable member that I will bring his representations under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
– Will the interests of the nucleus staff be considered ?
M r. FRANCIS.- Yes.
The following papers were presented : -
Sugar Agreement - Second Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for year ended 31st August, 1933.
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 125.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 126.
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong - Attorney-
General) [3.29]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Government hopes that the approval of Parliament to the agreement in the schedule of this bill will bring to an end what I am afraid we must admit has been one of the most unfortunate chapters in the history of land settlement in Australia. I shall briefly outline the circumstances which have led to the preparation of the agreement now submitted for approval.
On the 31st May, 1922, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Empire Settlement Act which provided for financial and other cooperation between the United Kingdom and the dominions in schemes to assist migrants from the United Kingdom to settle in the dominions. Following upon the passage of that act, an agreement was entered into between the Governments of the
United Kingdom and the Commonwealth ; and in its turn, the Commonwealth Government entered into agreements with certain of the States, including one with the Victorian.Government, with which the proposed legislation is directly concerned.
It is necessary first to consider the relations of the three governments which are concerned in this matter. In the first place, the British Government encouraged and facilitated the recruiting operations in London for intending settlers from England, helped towards their selection - I do not suggest that the selection was made in any sense by that Government - and co-operated with the Commonwealth in a passage money agreement under which reduced fares were provided for migrants, the contributions being met in part by the Government of the United Kingdom, and in part by the Government of the Commonwealth. The British Government also helped to bear a proportion of the interest payable by the Government of Victoria upon the money spent in the development of approved schemes, the Commonwealth Government also bearing a proportion of the interest liability. The result was that during the first ten years in which the scheme was to operate, the Victorian Government received loan money at a rate of interest varying from one to one and two-thirds per cent., and, accordingly, was in a position to obtain very real advantages in connexion with the settlement and development of the State. The British Government further helped by making contributions towards the losses that were incurred by the States in making advances for stock and equipment, and assisted towards the capital cost and main tenance of the Elcho Training Farm at Lara, in Victoria.
It will be seen, therefore, that the British Government gave very active and real assistance in helping to settle these settlers. The Commonwealth Government, did not take any action in relation to their actual settlement in Australia, but it was agreed that it should do the recruiting work for all States in Great Britain, and should arrange for transport. Assisted by the British Government, it raised loans and made the necessary money available to Victoriaat a low rate of interest, and it also made interest payments to investors pending the contribution from the British Government of one-third of the interest money. It co-operated financially with the Victorian Government in giving assistance to various auxiliary bodies for the reception and welfare of migrants, and, generally, acted as an intermediary between the British and Victorian Governments in all matters relating to the scheme.
The Commonwealth contribution to Victoria for the first ten years amounts to £171,240. In an agreement made between the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments, as part of the whole coordinated scheme, the Victorian Government was responsible for the actual settling of approved settlers upon the land.
– It was a contribution by way of a reduction of interest and in other ways for the purpose of helping the general scheme of migration. The Victorian Government controlling the land was responsible for what was actually done in relation to each settler after he arrived in the State. As I have explained, the settler was selected on the other side of the world, the Commonwealth Government, by agreement, undertaking the work of recruiting and selection. But as the Victorian Government was particularly interested in seeing that this work was well done, it sought and obtained the approval of the Commonwealth Government to send its own special representative to London. It supplied the intending settlers with information and vested its representative with authority to cooperate with the Commonwealth Government in the selection of settlers. It also provided literature, which the Commonwealth Government distributed in London and elsewhere.
– It was very misleading literature.
– I shall deal with that. The Victorian Government made requisitions from time to time for the number of settlers that it desired. The migrants were all selected in accordance with these express requisitions. The selection was made in accordance with the principles asked for by the State, and, as was reported by a royal commission which subsequently investigated the subject, the Victorian Government, through its representatives, approved of all the migrants selected by the Commonwealth Government.
The Victorian Government received the migrants on. arrival, trained them, and sent them to acquire experience on the land, or allocated blocks to them, immediately on their arrival as in its discretion it thought proper and as the circumstances and capacity of the migrants showed to be desirable. It was the responsibility of that Government to carry out to the individual settler whatever obligations had been undertaken under the joint scheme. Supervision was provided upon the blocks by the Victorian Government.
It will, therefore, be seen that, in general, the Commonwealth Government was to control the overseas end of the scheme with, however, the important circumstance that an officer specially selected by the Victorian Government conducted the recruiting of settlers in Great Britain, and that a large proportion of the pamphlets and literature used in connexion with the scheme was either directly prepared by the Government of Victoria or obtained from it. Having assumed full responsibility for the treatment of the settlers in Victoria according to any promises that had been made and that were relevant to the position of the settler, the Victorian Government undertook, in an agreement with the Government of the Commonwealth - and I think that this summarizes the position - “to treat the settlers fairly in all respects,” and to provide them with farms upon a satisfactory basis.
Unfortunately, as is well known to honorable members, the subsequent history of the scheme, at least from 1926 onwards, is one of a volume of growing complaints by settlers, directed to the Victorian Government, the British Government and its representatives in Australia from time to time, and, in smaller measure, to the Government of the Commonwealth. Between 1926, when it may fairly be said that the complaints began, and 1931. the various Commonwealth Governments which were in office made repeated efforts to obtain satisfaction with respect to those claims from successive Victorian Governments. Eventually, after much correspondence and negotiation, and the making of many requests by and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the then Premier of Victoria, Mr. E. J. Hogan, on the 14th May, 1930, wrote as follows : -
This Government is quite willing to meet all its obligations in regard to the men now on land under the terms of the 1922-1923 agreement, and it is prepared to submit the cases of nien with a definite grievance to a tribunal comprised of a representative each from the British. Commonwealth and Victorian Governments, with a chairman to be mutually agreed upon, and to abide by the finding of such tribunal.
It is considered that this tribunal, by making a thorough investigation into each individual’s complaints, and also if desired an inspection of li is farm, would offer the best method of satisfactorily determining these complaints. Genuine grievances would be relieved and false statements exposed.
A tribunal, or a body of inquiry, was appointed, though not constituted precisely in the manner originally suggested by the Premier of Victoria. On the 9th December, 1930, the Government of Victoria appointed a royal commission, the commissioners being : - His Honour Chief Judge Dethridge, of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, as chairman, and Messrs. Olive McPherson, W. B. Mcleod. The commission made a most exhaustive examination of all matters referred to it, but, owing to certain unavoidable interruptions, as well as to the enormous amount of detailed work involved, the report was furnished only on the 2lst March last. The commission dealt with the cases of 311 settlers who had complained, and its report is very sad reading. It found that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the complaints were justified, and, in particular, the commission found as follows : -
The commission said in its report -
But making all allowances, Ave think that the State should not have allowed migrants, to whom it owed a special obligation of protection, to be settled on the blocks allocated to the complainants. Even the best of them were unsuitable for migrants with little or no farming experiences . . .
– Were any of those blocks improved?
– Some had been occupied before by other persons, and were in part improved. The commission in its general conclusions as to the obligation of the State of Victoria - it was not asked to report on the responsibility of other authorities - expressed the view that the migrants, not being parties to the agreements, had no contractual rights, but that there were special circumstances in nearly every case which gave them a just claim on the State for the fulfilment of the agreements, insofar as the State undertook to confer benefits upon persons iu the position of the complainants.
After the issue of this report protracted negotiations took place between the Governments of the Commonwealth and of Victoria, the object of which was to provide a scheme for the re-settlement where possible of the complainants, and for the payment of compensation in such cases where re-settlement Avas not practicable. The problem was particularly difficult and involved, because every case presented peculiar features; and, in devising a general scheme, it was necessary to give such consideration as was practicable to varying individual circumstances. Eventually, a tentative agreement which appears at the end of the schedule of the bill, was arrived at between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Victoria. It is important to understand that this tentative agreement provides essentially for a re-settlement scheme. The compensation provisions are merely incidental to the main scheme which is directed towards the really satisfactory settlement upon the land, even at this late stage, of as many settlers as possible. This must not be viewed merely as a proposal to pay £100,000 to the settlers. It is an attempt, upon a con- sidered basis, to review the settlement of each migrant, and, wherever possible, to givehim the option of continuing as a settler upon the terms of the tentative agreement. The Government of Victoria is prepared to make substantial adjustments by writing off the capital indebtedness, or by the resettlement of migrants on other land in the case of those who desire to continue farming in Victoria. It is estimated that this will cost the State of Victoria £350,000.
The Government of Victoria, however, claims that the Commonwealth Government should accept responsibility for the whole amount of any monetary compensation to be paid to the settlers, and bases its claim upon the finding of the commission - “ that misleading propaganda, and misleading statements were made in Britain “ for the purpose of obtaining settlers.
To this proposal the attitude of the Commonwealth Government needs to be defined. I shall not deal in detail with all the basic arguments for the . Commonwealth, because the agreement, which the House is asked to approve, provides for the submission of certain matters to arbitration. While it is certainly proper for me to give a general indication of the attitude of the Commonwealth, I take the view that this is not the place or the occasion to develop fully its contentions in reply to the claim made by Victoria. Indeed, it would be improper for me to do so. It may be stated, however, that the Commonwealth Government maintains that the Commonwealth has fulfilled all its obligations under the migration agreements which were originally made by the Bruce-Page Administration.
The Government of the Commonwealth had agreed with the Governments of the United Kingdom and Victoria to see that certain sums were provided for expenditure by the States, and to bear a portion of the interest charges upon such expenditure. These obligations undoubtedly were fulfilled. The Commonwealth Government had also agreed to carry out the recruitment and selection of the number of migrants desired. In doing that, it used material supplied by the Government of the State as wellas other material.
Although the Victorian Government had its own officers in England, it at no time offered any objection to the methods of recruiting adopted, and accepted every migrant sent out to Victoria, well knowing the conditions under which they had been obtained. Thirdly, the Commonwealth Government, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, had necessarily, definitely, and advisedly, been excluded from any participation in the actual settlement of any migrant in Victoria. The Government of Victoria always took the stand, as did every State Government under assisted migration and soldier settlement schemes, that the Commonwealth was not to interfere with what was done by the States.
-Similar agreements were made with other States, were they not?
– Yes, but similar difficulties have not arisen, or if they have, they have been solved in the case of the other States.
– But the Commonwealth Government acquiesced in the representations made by Victoria.
– That is not disputed.
– Not only acquiesced in them, but also formulated and distributed them.
– Victoria knew precisely the nature of the obligations that were entered into with migrants in Great Britain, and in the light of that knowledge undertook to receive and to settle those migrants.
I have said that the Commonwealth was definitely excluded from any action in relation to land settlement in Victoria. There are cogent reasons for this exclusion. The land is the property of the States, and not of the Commonwealth. Dual control, as the Victorian Government informed the Commonwealth Government at one stage, could not be admitted. I think that I am right in saying that when, after the war, repatriation schemes were being considered, and the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) tried hard to obtain some degree of federal control, co-operation, supervision, or even advice, in relation to soldier settlement, the States wouldhave none of it, but insisted that they themselves should handle the matter. The Commonwealth was, therefore, excluded from all the acts, matters, and things, in relation to which default had actually been established. It, however, had undertaken with the British Government that it would make arrangements to see that Victoria carried out its main obligation - to settle the migrants fairly. When complaints came in, theCommonwealth Government used all possible influence, and even pressure, for several years, to induce the Government of Victoria to carry out what were alleged to be - and, as the finding of the Commission shows, were in substance - the obligations of that Government.
– Were the complaints made by individual settlers?
– They were made by individual settlers, mainly to the Closer Settlement Board of Victoria, with which body the migrants dealt. The Commonwealth has never had any dealing with, and has had no power to do anything in relation to, any settler who complained of, let us say, insufficient training or supervision, unsuitable land, or too small an area.
– And rightly so.
– I think so, too. But the honorable member can see the position that has now developed. The Commonwealth Government could not go beyond what it; had undertaken, namely, to do its best to get the Government of Victoria to carry out the terms of its agreement. When I speak of the Government of Victoria, I speak of past governments. In one sense, this is not the responsibility of the present Government of that State ; past administrations are responsible for what was done and what was left undone.
– Nor is it a responsibility of the government which preceded the present Administration.
– That is so. But all evil things pass by unfaltering succession from one Government to another, and whatever these responsibilities are, they, in fairness and equity, rest upon the Governments of Victoria and the Commonwealth to-day. When pressure was brought to bear by the Commonwealth Government upon the Government of Victoria, as it was continuously, the reply of the Government of Victoria was, in effect, “ This is our business” The report of the royal commission gives the results in the case of these particular settlers.
This matter had to be considered by the last Commonwealth Government, which was led by my right honorable friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held on the 20th February, 1930, the right honorable gentleman said -
Underthe £34,000,000 agreement, the Commonwealth Government has a definite and serious responsibilityto the British Government in respect of the satisfactory settlement of assisted migrants who come to Australia. The agreements with the States, although providing for the division of this responsibility, do not in any way absolve the Commonwealth Government from its obligations to the British Government. In every case the British Government looks to the Commonwealth Government to honour its compact, although the whole of the machinery of settlement lies in the hands of the respective State Governments.
That, I consider, is a very fair statement of the position. As it implies, the Commonwealth Government has had no relation and no responsibility to the migrants themselves; the State deals, and always has dealt, with the settlers, and it was never intended that the Commonwealth should have anything to do with them. But as the right honorable gentleman said, the Commonwealth Government was under an obligation to the British Government to do its best to see that Victoria carried out the agreement. Successive Commonwealth Governments have used every means to attain this objective.
In view of all the facts that I have stated, the Government is of the opinion that it is responsible neither legally nor morally for the provision of monetary compensation, as is claimed by the Government of the State of Victoria. But, although, in its view, it has discharged its full responsibility under the agreements, it is, nevertheless, most concerned, as have been all Commonwealth Governments, for the reputation of Australia as a whole. It recognizes that, in the eyes of people overseas, who are not likely to draw fine distinctions between the wording of legal enactments, that reputation was inevitably, and with some justice, involved in the satisfactory settlement of the problem which we are now considering. Thus, while not prepared to consider the matter on the basis of legal right or obligation, the Government recognizes that that is not the only point of view which is relevant to such a case, and for that reason has agreed, subject to parliamentary approval, to provide a sum of money for immediate distribution among settlers in accordance with an agreed formula, and then to submit to arbitration the question of how much of such money shall be repaid to the Commonwealth by the State of Victoria. Honorable members are now asked to ratify that agreement. The sum of £100,000, to which reference is made in the agreement, and in the body of the bill, represents an estimate of the amount that will be required to make payments to settlers in accordance with the terms of a. tentative scheme, which for the information of honorable members is printed at the end of the schedule to the bill. This scheme has been agreed upon by the Governments of the Commonwealth and Victoria, and has been approved as satisfactoryin the circumstances by the British Government. Honorable members may have noticed that a statement in the House of Commons on the 9th instant was reported in the press as follows : -
Replying in the House of Commons to a question by Sir Gorge Hamilton, whether he was aware that the terms of settlement for distressed settlers in Victoria were not acceptable to the settlers, the Under-Secretary for the Dominions, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, said that he recognized that they were not acceptable to some settlers, hut, after careful consideration, the Dominions Secretary, Mr. Thomas, had reached the conclusion that in all the circumstances the settlement was a reasonable adjustment of a very difficult matter.
I do not submit it to this House as anything more than that. It is anticipated that, the amount of £100,000 which the Parliament is now asked to appropriate will be sufficient for the purposes of the tentative scheme. The Government, however, has undertaken that, if the obligations under that scheme should require greater provision - which all concerned think is very unlikely - it will ask Parliament to appropriate upon similar terms whatever additional amount may he necessary for the fulfilment of any obligations - using that term in a general sense - which may be found by the Arbi trator, under the arbitration agreement, to rest upon the Commonwealth.
– Is the Government of Victoria to pay anything?
– The sum of £350,000 is the estimate of that Government of what it is paying. This scheme deals, first, with settlers who are no longer in occupation of their blocks, although under it they have the option of receiving a monetary grant. The basis of that grant appears in paragraph 3. The payment is £200 for a single man or widower without children, and £300 for a married man or widower with children, with an additional £50 for each son or unmarried daughter who is not self-supporting, and came to Australia with the settler, or has been born since; provided that a widow will stand in the place of her husband for the purpose of the scheme, and that in any case the maximum payment in respect of any one settler is £500. In the case of settlers who have left Australia, exchange is to be paid on amounts sent to them. In addition, a special fund of £8,000 is to be provided for the purpose of discharging pressing personal debts of settlers. The allocation of that money is to be determined by an assessor to be appointed under the scheme. He is to act in consultation with the president of the Settlers Association.
– That allocation is in respect of debts owing not to the Crown of Victoria, but to trades people and others ?
– It applies to pressing personal debts. Settlers no longer in occupation are not only to have the option of receiving that money, but are also to be discharged from all liability to the Government in respect of their blocks. Settlers still in. occupation, if they so choose, may accept the monetary grant upon the basis that I have outlined, and be released from all liabilities. They may walk off their blocks free from any debts to the Government, and receive the monetary grant, and assistance in one way and another which I have mentioned. But if a settler does not exercise that option, and, accordingly, remains in occupation of his block, then his case will be considered by an assessor to he appointed by agreement between the three Governments concerned. That assessor is to work upon the basis of the findings of the royal commission in the case of each settler. There willnot be a new inquiry into each individual case; but where the royal commission has, for example, found that the area of land is too small, that finding is to be accepted, and is not to be further inquired into. Where it has been found that the land is unsuitable for settlement that finding is to be accepted as the basis of the action of the assessor.
– Have all the cases involved been considered?
– Yes, with the exception of four or five cases which I understand have not been heard before the royal commission, but in any event those cases are now being covered. The assessor is to act in co-operation with Mr. Clive McPherson who was a member of the royal commission, and is now the chairman of the Closer Settlement Board. That gentleman possesses the confidence of all parties. The assessorshall, in the case of those who remain on their blocks, review first the suitability for settlement of the men themselves; and if it be decided, after consultation with Mr. McPherson, that any particular individual really has no hope of succeeding as a farmer, he will have the option of taking the grant upon the basis mentioned. In respect of the balance of the settlers the assessor will then determine whether they have living areas.
– If the assessor determines that a certain settler is unsuited to the occupation, is that settler bound to leave his block?
– He may be treated as ifhe had exercised the option. Of course, he may remain on his block subject to the ordinary provisions of the law, provided that he accepts the liabilities upon it. He is not to be forced off his block, but from a practical point of view it is unlikely that he will remain on it without taking the benefits of the scheme.
Then there is an inquiry into whether the settler has a living area. If it is found that he has not, the area is to be increased, or, where possible, a transfer is to be made to other suitable land. Should neither course be possible, the settler may take the grant; but, in any case, when the assessor and Mr.
McPherson have fully considered the case of a settler in relation to a living area he is once again given the option of accepting a monetary grant. A settler does not at the outset have to make up his mind as to what ho intends to do. If the amount which is offered to him by way of recompense is not satisfactory, he has the option of refusing it, and, if he thinks it worth his while, of remaining on his block without any grant; but that, of course, is not likely.
-Should the assessor determine that it is not in the best interests of a settler that he should remain on his block, and the settler insists on remaining upon it, what would be the position ?
– The position would be so hopelessly involved that it would be impossible for the settler to continue long on the block even under the modified scheme to which I am about to refer.
– He would not be freed from his liabilities?
– That is so, and his position wouldbe almost hopeless.
Mr.gibson. - A living area at the time a settler first occupied his block, and a living area to-day, are two different things.
– Quite so. A settler who continueson his blockwill receive all the benefits which have been conferred upon all other settlers under the Victorian Closer Settlement Act. Under that act, for the next four years, the position is that actually a settler is not required to pay more than he can afford to pay. Very generous provision is made to enable him to carry on during the next four years, so far as all his outgoings are concerned, and at the end of that period, there is to be a review or re-assessment of the capital liability on the block. That is a particularly generous modification of the law in Victoria.
– And, meanwhile, no unpaid interest will be added to his capital debt.
– He will benefit by a writing off of capital liability of his property.
– What is the rate of interest on advances made to the settlers?
– I do not know the rate of interest provided by the Victorian law, but I can obtain that information for the honorable member. A settler who remains on his block will also receive the benefit of a special writing off of capital value. He will receive, not only a review of the position under the Closer Settlement Act of 1932, but also a special additional compensatory writing off of capital liability equal to that which he could have drawn in cash under the compensation provisions of the present scheme, except that £100 will be paid to him immediately in cash.
These proposals which have been made do not in any way diminish any legal rights which any settler has. If any settler believes that he will be better advised to stay where he is, and to pursue legal remedies, there is nothing in this legislation or in similar legislation passed by the State of Victoria which will alter or prejudice the position.
– Can he have it both ways ?
– Are there settlers who have made no complaint?
– Very few. Out of about 400 settlers, 311 have made complaints, and a tremendous proportion of those complaints have been found to be justified. These proposals do not amount to a compulsory scheme. Settlers may accept the proposals voluntarily, or they may refuse them, in which case they are at liberty, if they are so advised, to institute legal proceedings against any person or any government which is under a liability to them. If a settler accepts this offer, he will be asked to sign a receipt in full satisfaction of all claims. It is not proposed that he should be at liberty to accept this compensation and also to litigate the question. Using the words of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), it is not proposed that he shall “ have it both ways.” He is at liberty to refuse the offer and to rest upon his rights, whatever they may be if he considers that to be the preferable course of action.
There is a further agreement, which is the main agreement in the bill, and appears first in the schedule, which provides for a reference to the arbitration of Mr. Langer Owen, of the question whether it is fair and just that the Commonwealth should bear any portion, and, if any portion, what proportion, of the cost of the monetary grant. Mr. Langer Owen has generously offered to act in this matter without any fee or remuneration, and I wish to express the appreciation of the Governments for his generous action. The agreement for arbitration sets out that theCommonwealth has provided an amount of £100,000 for this purpose, and provides that the arbitrator shall determine the question, notwithstanding the fact that the agreements to which I have referred confer no rights upon the settlers themselves. The arbitrator is also required to accept the findings of the royal commission in the case of individual settlers, and to take into consideration the actions of the two Governments and their officers, and also any further evidence which either party may desire to bring before him. He willthen determine whether, in all the circumstances, it is fair and just that the Commonwealth should bear any proportion of this responsibility.
– Will not the payment of £100,000 to the Victorian Government before the arbitrator makes his decision prejudice the Commonwealth’s claim of no liability?
– It is expressly agreed that the action of the Commonwealth is no admission of any liability whatever.
– It is not a tacit admission?
– If the arbitrator decides that the whole of the amount was not due, would there be a refund ?
– Yes. The agreement for arbitration recites that “ a difference has arisen between the Commonwealth and the State as to whether there is any duty upon the Commonwealth to contribute any portion “ of the amount.
– Legal or otherwise?
– The words are “ any duty”. It is, therefore, quite plain that the matter has not been prejudged. There is to be arbitration upon the question as to whether the Commonwealth Government is under any liability at all, and the Governmenthas become a party to the agreement only on the basis that arbitration shall take place.
– Both governments have agreed to this.
– Yes, and the Victorian Parliament has passed the bill; but it is provided that it shall not be binding until, first, the Commonwealth Parliament has duly appropriated the sum of £100,000 for the purpose of the agreement - which this Parliament is now asked to do - and, secondly, the Parliament of the State has passed an act approving of the agreement authorizing the payment by the State to the Commonwealth of such an amount as Mr. Langer Owen may determine may be paid by the State to the Commonwealth. I assure honorable members that the drafting of the agreement does not give away the Commonwealth’s case - I am prepared to accept that degree of personal responsibility. It should be recognized that the total sum of money involved is £450,000 in respect of about 311 settlers. Some of this money represents irrecoverable liability. A good deal of it would not, upon any reasonable view, be recoverable by the State from the settlers. At the same time it is felt that the contribution made by the Government of Victoria, together with the provisional contribution by the Commonwealth Government, represents a not ungenerous recognition of the rights of the settlers concerned.
– The Government of Victoria, I take it, has to pay £350,000, but will get the land back.
– It is entitled to get the land back, except in. the case of settlers continuing on the land. Such settlers will, thereafter, be subject to such obligations as the law of Victoria provides.
– How much will the settlers receive, individually, in cash from the Victorian Government?
– The maximum amount is £500.
– I thought that that was the Commonwealth contribution.
– Victoria does not, in the first instance, provide any cash. It provides the generous terms of the Closer Settlement Act 1932, and also the special provisions for the writing off of liabilitiesIn tho case of settlers who go off the land, the liabilities will be completely written off, and in the case of those who remain on the land the liabilities will be written off to the extent of the monetary compensation, £100 of which will be paid in cash.
It is recognized that the formula sot out in the tentative agreement is not perfect. Many settlers will be disappointed over the amount of compensation they will receive, but others will consider that they will do better under this provision than otherwise. In the opinion of not only the Commonwealth Government, but also, I may fairly say, the Government of the United Kingdom, the formula represents an honest attempt to arrive at a reasonable solution of a very difficult problem. What is still more important is that it arrives at this solution in the shortest possible time. Any other method of assessing compensation would naturally involve further long and almost heart-breaking delays. The Commonwealth Government is of the opinion that this matter has already dragged on far too long. The adoption of any other than the formula method of granting compensation would inevitably necessitate further additional detailed investigations, and the settlers themselves in letters sent by them through their legal representative to the Premier of Victoria and to either the Prime Minister or myself, asked particularly, at one stage of the negotiations - I think it was early in Juno - -that no tribunal should be set up for the allocation of the amount. 1 am aware that statements which would bear a different complexion have been made since then, but at that time the settlers asked that no tribunal should be set up. The Commonwealth Government is prepared to adopt tho “promptest possible means of compensating the settlers, and that method is now proposed.
Honorable members who have followed the debates in the Victorian Parliament on this subject will know that serious obstacles have faced the Victorian Government in dealing with the matter, because the settlers concerned are not the only ones who have been unfortunate and have failed, nor are they the only persons in the Commonwealth who are at present in straits. While I admit that the Victorian Government has had to face grave difficulties, and make it clear that the Commonwealth Government disclaims any real responsibility in the matter, I appeal to honorable members to take the larger and longer point of view, and to regard the action taken by the Commonwealth Government as fair, reasonable, and necessary in the interests and reputation of Australia, though it is not likely to be satisfactory to everybody concerned. The Government acknowledges neither a legalnor a moral obligation in this matter; but, upon the basis of humanity and in the interests of the good name of Australia, recommends honorable members to approve of the agreement and the appropriation of the specified sum of money for the purpose of giving effect to it. It will depend upon the decision of the arbitrator whether any duty rests upon the Commonwealth to bear this liability of £100,000, with, possibly, some further amount, though I think that is improbable. The Commonwealth Government proposes to argue before the arbitrator that no responsibility of any description rests upon it to bear any part of the cost of compensation to these settlers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 24th November, (vide page 5023).
War Services Payable outof Revenue.
Proposed vote, £1,011,500.
– This proposed vote is of considerable importance to every honorable member, for I suppose there is not an electorate in the Commonwealth from which representations are not made, from time to time, in regard to the activities of the Government which this amount is intended to cover, particularly in regard to war service homes. An enormous amount of money has been expended by the Government through this department following upon appropriations under this heading from year to year.
It is natural that the War Service Homes Commissioner should endeavour to oblige occupants of war service homes to meet their original commitments, although in many cases circumstances have arisen which have made this impossible. Various governments have realized that changed conditions have occurred, and attempts have been made in many ways to lighten the burden of occupiers of war service homes and to adjust the payments to suit the new circumstances. In framing the regulations necessary to administer our war service homes legislation, it has naturally’ been necessary to allow a measure of discretion to those whose duty it is to administer the law. It will be appreciated, I am sure, that rules and regulations laid down to meet the original circumstances of particular cases become inequitable when circumstances change as they have done during the last few years. This goes to show the necessity for allowing a greater measure of discretion in the administration of the law. I, therefore, hope that it will be understood that any complaints are made with the object of causing the Government to act. as reasonably as possible in all cases brought under its notice. It should not be necessary for me to stress the fact that the country isunder a special obligation to these men who have suffered so much for it, and whose disabilities in many cases prevent their obtaining employment in the open market.
I first wish to bring forward a complaint to the effect that the Deputy Commissioner of War Service Homes has gone to theextent of making inquiries from an employer regarding the amount of wages earned by the occupant of a war service home. According to my informant the returned soldier concerned was called upon to handle the assets of his employer during the course of his duties, and when the official pressed his inquiries the employer began to feel uneasy, and thought, perhaps, that his employee was in embarrassed financial circumstances, and might be tempted to use the employer’s funds to meet his commitments to the department and elsewhere. Consequently the ill-advised inquiries that were made by the department brought about the dismissal of the employee, whichwas a most serious matter for him. Perhaps the department can justify its action, but it is obvious that discretion should be observed in these cases.
– If the honorable member will give me the name of the person concerned, I shall give him the facts.
– I shall do so. My next complaint relates to the occupant of a war service home in a country district who arranged to sign a document for the surrender and release of his contract. The complaint is couched in these terms -
In thecase of a re-sale after the original purchaser has agreed to a release from the contract,he isstillheld responsible for the difference between the two prices. In some cases when one is released from his contract he is not then liable for any arrears or other charges, but in these cases you will note the difference.
A letter from theWar Service Homes Commissioner, after stating that the keys of the property must he handed over without prejudice, and outlining the powers available to the commission under the contract, including that of re-sale, concludes with the words -
In which event you would be held liable for any loss occasioned thereby.
It would appear that if any loss occurs between the handing over of the property and itsre-disposal by the department, the original occupant is held responsible for that loss.
– It would be interesting to know what would happen if the transaction operated the other way.
– As the department has no desire to do him an injustice, every returned man gets the full equity in his war service home.
– A considerable time might elapse before the department is able to effect a re-sale; and the point is that, having discharged his responsibility under the contract, the original purchaser should not be called upon to meet any further liability.
I should next like to know whether, after an occupant of a war service home has arranged to meet current payments and is honoring that agreement, the department is entitled to endeavour to effect a re-sale of that property. The case that I have in mind is that of a lady whose returned soldier husband has died, and who, although she may have been in arrears in her payments in the past, arranged with the department for current and future payments and was keeping to that agreement. As the house is near the seaside the department may perhaps have thought that, as the summer months were approaching, it would be an excellent opportunity to effect a sale and so rid itself of the purchaser who had been temporarily unable to meet her payments. This lady received visits from a number of persons in possession of orders from the department authorizing them to inspect the property with a view to its purchase. I do not think that that should have been done.
– I know that it is not done. The policy of the Government is to do everything possible to keep occupants in war service homes. If a person is keeping to his or her agreement that is all that the department asks.
– I appreciate that point, but I also see the other side. I admit that this woman was not able to meet her committments in the past and she may not have made up all of the back payments.
– If she resumed her payments and paid something off the arrears she would be entitled to remain in possession until 1935.
– I assume that she was complying with the requirements of the agreement into which she entered with the department. I take it that the answer to my question is that if the occupant of a war service home is meeting the requirements of the department, irrespective of any past lapses, it is not withinthe province of the department to attempt to effect the sale of that property?
– My answer is that every case is treated on its merits.
– That reply seems to indicate that my contention is true. The financial position of occupiers of war service homes may be constantly changing. If members of the family happen to be employed there is no difficulty in meeting payments, but, during periods of unemployment, they fall into arrears. Perhaps something of that kind happened in the case I have cited.
– In the case to which the honorable member has referred the occupier is a tenant, not a purchaser.
– The honorable member has not stated the full facts of the case.
– I could not give any more particulars without disclosing the name of the occupier, and I do not think that I would be justified in doing that. After all, these people are entitled to some privacy. I should like the Minister in Charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Francis), to state definitely whether, irrespective of what arrears there may be, if the occupier of a war service home is at the present time meeting his current obligations, the department will attempt to sell the property over his head.
– As I have said, in the case to which the honorable member refers, the occupier is a tenant, not a purchaser. I have been supplied with the facts by my department.
– I imagine that the department must have furnished the Minister with wrong information.
– If the honorable member will give me the name of the occupier, I shall check the case with the facts as supplied to me.
– I shall do so, and if the department can do anything to meet the situation I shall be pleased.
– I support the submission of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that if the occupier of a war service home falls into arrears in his payments because of unemployment, but is at the moment ableto meet his current commitments, he should not be turned out of his home.
– I can assure the honorable member that that is never done. Everything possible is done to keep the occupant in possession.
– Another point is that, when a person is released by mutual agreement from a contract which he entered into in respect to a war service home, he should not be responsible for the payment of interest between the date of the agreement and the time a sale of the property is effected.
– That is not done, either. In such cases, the former occupant is responsible for interest only up to the date of the agreement.
– There is an agreement in the possession of an honorable member of this House which seems to indicate that the contrary is true.
I desire to pay a tribute to Mr.Rolland, the Deputy Commissioner for War Ser vice Homes in Adelaide, for the helpful and sympathetic way in which he deals with the affairs of his department. I have had to interview him on a number of occasions in regard to the occupiers of war service homes who, because of unemployment, have fallen into arrears with their payments, and I have always received a most sympathetic hearing from him. We are fortunate in having in Adelaide a man who can appreciate the difficulties of those occupying war service homes, and who has always displayed a willingness to help them. Even when he has not been able to give the relief sought, he has convinced the applicant of the justice of the department’s attitude. Praise is also due to Mr. Petersen, the permanent, head of the department, who has proved himself a friend to the occupiers of war service homes. He has rendered splendid service in his department, and has earned the gratitude and appreciation of those who have had to deal with him.
The time has arrived when there should be a re-appraisement of the capital value of certain of the war service homes. In some instances, the occupiers have been unemployed for periods varying from one to four years, and it has been impossible forthem to keep up their payments. When those arrears are added to the original capital value, the total represents an amount often greatly in excess of the market value of the property. If the occupiers were concerned only with their pecuniary interests, it would pay them not to stay in the places, but sometimes, for sentimental reasons, they are reluctant to leave their homes if it can possibly be avoided. I do not say that it is unfair to add arrears to the capital, but, when, because of protracted unemployment, the occupier has fallen seriously into arrears, something should be done to lighten his burden.
– Was not the interest rate recently reduced by½ per cent.?
– Yes, but that is of little use to those who owe rent for long periods. The property should either be revalued, or there should be a considerable remission of the amount in arrears. Ultimately, some such adjustment will have to be made, not only in respect to war service homes, but also in respect to all contractual obligations entered into before the depression.
– Can the honorable member mention any other housing scheme in which such a writing down has taken place?
– Representations have been made for a similar form of relief under the housing scheme instituted by the State Savings Bank of South Australia. If the suggestion be agreed to, the principle should then be applied to the housing schemes conducted by the CreditFoncier Department of the State Savings Bank of Victoria, and by the Commonwealth Government. If we are to recover from the depression that principle will also have to be extended to the primary producers, and at the same time a system will have to be instituted for the writing down of debts.
.- In Victoria, as in the other States, there are many war service homes, the total number being 6,000, of which only 47 are unoccupied. There are many of these homes in my district, and my experience has been that the department always treated the tenants or occupiers with great liberality. Few cases have been brought under my notice in which the occupiers have any real ground for complaint.
I understand that the War Service Homes Commission has a special scheme of insurance, and I should like the Minister administering War Service Homes (Mr. Francis) to explain the nature of it.
There is another matter that demands prompt attention. Some years ago, the department fixed a price per foot for land, beyond which it was not prepared to go, with the result that the areas on which war service homes could be erected were restricted. That has had an unfortunate effect upon a number of municipalities, who now have to deal with arrears of rates. I have received communications on this subject from the Preston City Council, the Northcote City Council, the Shire of Heidelberg, and a. couple of other municipalities that are not in my electorate. Land in the inner municipalities of Melbourne was too valuable to be used for the purposes of war service homes; consequently, those municipalities are not affected. ‘I he arrears in the case of thecity of Preston, however, amount to £2,525. The Minister will probably say, as he has said before, that the municipality itself is partly at fault for not having collected the rates.
– I certainly shall say that.
– I shall prove that the honorable gentleman is wrong. As a matter of fact, the various municipalities make every effort to collect outstanding rates. It has to be admitted that, at the present time, not only occupiers of war service homes, but also ratepayers generally, are in arrears with their payments. Who, in these times of depression, would care to be a member of a municipal council that has instructed its officers to issue summonses against ratepayers who are unable to meet their liabilities ? War service homes differ from ordinary dwellings, in that the municipality cannot claim against a new occu- pier, as it could if the dwellingwere privately-owned instead of being owned by the Government. The Government ought not to seek concessions that are not available to private individuals.
– The State Savings Bank in South Australia pays rates in certain cases.
– The Federal Government will have to be induced to do the same.
– It has done so in certain cases.
– Except in the case of ownership by the Government, the liability for rates rests on the property, and the claim for its discharge may be made at any time. The War Service Homes Commission guarantees the payment of only one year’s rates, and that is not satisfactory. Preston is not a wealthy municipality, as is Melbourne, Fitzroyor Colli ngwood, in which the land was too valuable, or the arrears available too small for war service homes purposes. The War Service Homes Commission is deserving of commendation for having made provision in regard to not only the price of the land but also its area. I speak on behalf of not only the municipalities that I have named, but also municipalities generally throughout the Commonwealth, when I say that, except in isolated cases where the land is being used exclusively for public purposes - in which case no payment is expected- the Commonwealth should pay the rates. In the city of Northcote, which is quite as well-off as Preston and has a population that is larger by 10,000 persons, the arrears of rates amount to £306. The position of other municipalities is quite as bad as that of Preston. Unless they are able to collect the rates due to them, they will not be able to carry on. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will give earnest consideration to the matter.
When one pays a suitable tribute to Government officials who courteously discharge their duties, one is sometimes reminded that a member of Parliament may expect to receive such treatment. That, however, does not deter me from either commending where I consider that commendation is deserved, or condemning where, in my opinion, condemnation is warranted. I have in mind a friend who resides in the city in which I am domiciled, who offered himself for war service, was accepted, and upon returning to Australia migrated to Western Australia, where he made arrangements for the purchase of a war service home. Although ho was a trier, he was unfortunate enough to fail in business. A prominent Melbourne solicitor sent to him a notice to assign his interest in the war service home. I placed the matter before Mr. Petersen, whose knowledge in regard to war service homes in Western Australia astonished me. He sent for this man, whose equity in the property was fairly considerable, with the result that, instead of losing the whole of it, he will probably receive from £200 to £300 when it is disposed of. Assistance of this character is worthy of commendation.
.- Last year, the Minister administering War Service Homes (Mr. Francis) stated that the policy of the Government provided that the occupant of a war service home who was out of work would notbe deprived of it. So faras I have been able to ascertain, there has been no case in my electorate in which that policyhas not been carried out. A number of cases of hardship have been referred to me by letter, but inquiry has shown that very reasonable treatment has been meted out by the department, and in one or two cases the position has rather been that of the occupant not having done a fair thing by the commission. I believe that the Australian people as a whole may be well satisfied with the wonderful benefits of the scheme of housing made available to returned soldiers.
There are one or two other points upon which I desire information. I notice that this year the staff of the Repatriation Department has been increased fairly substantially. The number of typists is now 21, compared with 14 last year; the number of assistants has increased from 12 to 30; and there are 7 messengers instead of 5. There is a total increase of 27 officers involving an additional salary appropriation of nearly £4,000. The committee has been given no indication of the services that demand such an increase.
In connexion with war pensions, provision is made for a principalmedical officer at £1,308 a year, and for 26 medical officers whose salaries total £23,821 a year. In another section of the Estimates, there is provision for an additional expenditure of £14,071, on medical examinations. It is difficult to understand how an estimate can be so accurately made as to amount to £14,071. As there is apparently a large medical staff to deal with all the States, I should like to know what is the reason for’ this extra provision.
The sum of £7,336 is setdown for appropriation for the fares and expenses of war pensioners whose pensions are under review. That is quite reasonable ; in such circumstances, no government could do otherwise. There is, however, one consideration that the Government and the Repatriation Commission should not overlook. It is not always convenient for a. pensioner to attend at a definitely named place at a stated time. The commission should ascertain whether a, pensioner’s duties prevent his being present when his pension is being reviewed. Cases of this nature have come under my notice recently, and I am pleased to say that in one of them the commission met the wishes of the pensioner. I bring the matter before the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Marr), in the hope that the convenience of war pensioners will be studied, and hardship avoided.
The sum of £4,315 is being made available this year in connexion with temporary and casual employees on the war memorial museum. That seems a large amount, and I should like the Minister to furnish an explanation of it.
.- I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), that a further attempt should be made to assist the occupants of war service homes by a scaling-down of capital charges on these properties. The report of the War Service Homes Commissioner of this year discloses the fact that up to date 1,765 war service homes have reverted to the Government. Many of these homes have reverted to the Government because of the serious position in industry to-day. Thousands of returned soldiers contracted to purchase war service homes at a time when work was plentiful and wages were much higher than they are now. They could not foresee the conditions that have since arisen, and, as a result, even men in full-time employment have found it impossible to meet their obligations, and have been forced to allow their homes to revert to the Government. The position is worse for men who are either in rationed employment or have no employment at all. Of the 1,765 reverted homes, 1,375 are occupied by tenants who are paying rent. It is remarkable that the department should be prepared to let these reverted homes to tenants at a rental ranging from 10s. to 15s. per week, although it sought to impose considerably higher charges upon the original occupiers. One would think that the department would be more lenient to the original occupiers, in view of their straitened circumstances, than to people who desire to rent reverted homes. The commission, in its report, says -
Endeavours to obtain purchasers for reverted homes have been continued. A general disinclination to enter into long-term engagements on account of the unsettled conditions, and the absence of a fixed basis of value, have unfortunately exerted a considerable influence. Notwithstanding these facts 157 homes were disposed of.
Despite the fact that prospective tenants are unwilling to enter into long-term contracts on account of unsettled conditions, and despite the fact that land values have fallen considerably, the department is still asking the present occupiers of war service homes to carry out their original obligations. The report continues -
There is no doubt that many homes could be sold at “ bargain “ prices.
The commission isnot prepared to sell these homes at bargain prices or to reduce the charges against the original purchasers, but it is prepared to let them at bargain prices.
– We are trying to preserve the equity of the soldier purchaser.
– There is no equity in these homes.
– Equities are being paid out regularly to returned soldiers.
– It will be interesting to learn from the Minister administering War Service Homes (Mr. Francis), when he makes his reply, actually how many equities have been paid out. If the department were asked why it is prepared to let homes at a rental of from 10s. to 15s. a week it would contend that it had to take into consideration the state of the property market. Unfortunately, it is not prepared to follow that line of reasoning in order to give some relief or redress to those who contracted in better times to purchase homes but are now unable to carry out their obligations. The report continues -
It is not proposed, however, to sacrifice such homes at the present time when it is reasonable to expect that conditions will improve considerably in the not distant future.
In the meantime, hundreds of these reverted homes are going to rack and ruin as the result of vandalism. Instead of reducing the charges against the original occupiers, the department is allowing reverted homes to remain empty and to be the prey of vandals. In this way, hundreds of pounds’ worth of damage is being done, which must ultimately be charged against the equity of the home. It would have been much better to allow the original occupiers to remain in their homes as caretakers until such time as the Government could find purchasers for them. The report continues -
When prosperity returns the problem of reverted homes will solve itself.
We want to know how long prosperity will be delayed and how much longer the present occupiers of the homes will be called upon to meet commitments, which it is utterly impossible for them to meet at the present time. The report continues -
Criticismhas been directed at the commission because of damage to several vacant homes. Having regard to the number of unemployed, including juveniles,it is not surprising that some persons should look upon fences and outbuildings as available for firewood, &c., but it is difficult to ascribe a reason for the wanton damage caused to the interior walls. As an illustration, in one home the plaster was disfigured and a heavy lintel removed from its position in the structure and placed on the floor.
This criticism is nothing new. Nearly eighteen months ago I brought before the notice of honorable members the condition of the homes in the Belmore settlement, in New South Wales.
– It may interest the honorable member to know that, since the 23rd October, 21 houses in the Belmore district have been let at current rentals.
– The conditions in the Belmore settlement are rapidly becoming worse, and some two months ago, attention was called to it at a returned soldiers conference in Sydney. I brought the matter under the notice of the Minister, and he requested me to obtain further information. The following is the report of that conference as it appeared in the Sun: -
Declarations that war service homes were rapidly advancing from a state of dilapidation to a state of ruin were made at the Returned Soldiers Conference to-day.
The cause of this, said Mr. A. K. Flack (Belmore), was the eviction of unemployed “ diggers “ and the inability of the department to secure other tenants. “In my area,” he said, “there are 60 war service homes empty and broken. There is not a window in any one of them.
People have been known to have entered them and carried off stoves, baths, and whatever else they can get hold of.”
Congress decided that the action of the War Service Homes Commissioner in ejecting occupants be condemned, and that action be taken to secure redress for those who are ejected through no fault of their own.
On the motion that the commission be asked to re-appraise the values of war service homes, a delegate quoted the case of a “ digger “ who had paid off all but £200 of the capital value of his home when he lost his job. If the house were sold to-day it would return less than £300 of the original purchase price, and yet the man was threatened with dispossession because he could not pay interest on the outstanding £200.
In order to obtain the further information asked for by the Minister, I wrote to Mr. Flack, who made the charges at the returned soldiers conference, and who, on the 29th October, replied as follows : -
In response to your request for the number and condition of empty war service homes in Belmore North, I have much pleasure in forwarding you the same as per list -
The general condition of these houses is shocking. In 75 per cent. of them every window has been broken, doors forced open, stolen, or else smashed. In a few cases every available fitting has been removed, including stoves and bars. Fences have been taken, and, in one case, No. 16 Boronia-street, the whole fence on one side has been removed. Tiles from the roofs have been displaced and taken. One could easily say. that it would cost anything from £20 to £100 to put these places in a habitable position again. Just what the conditions of those at Belmore South are I cannot say, but, from information, they are apparently on a par with those of Belmore North. The reason that so many are empty is due to the fact that - (1) The monthly commitments have not been adjusted in accordance with the drastic cuts in both Federal and State basic wage; (2) the still high train fares on both ordinary and weekly tickets. The Federal Government has given to date 1 per cent. off the interest, which is totally inadequate in view of the fact that wages have dropped 30 per cent.
The position in the Belmore district is definitely worse now than it was eighteen months ago, when in this area the abandoned homes were situated as follows : -
This shows a total of 27 abandoned homes eighteen mouths ago as against a total of 70 in the same area on the 29th October of this year. It is not sound practice for the Government to evict people from these cottages, even though they pay no rent, for empty cottages, always fall into disrepair more rapidly than do occupied cottages.
The Minister has spoken about the equity occupiers of war service homes have in their dwellings. It is extremely doubtful whether the cottages to which I am now referring could be sold for 75 per cent, of their original price. If to that amount were added the cost, of reconditioning them, there would be no equity whatever left for the original occupiers.
The arrears of payments are also greater now than last year. The following table gives the arrears in payments in 1932 and 1933:-
The Commissioner reports as follows in this connexion : -
Deducting the arrears which have been capitalized, the sum outstanding amounts to 3.04 per cent. These figures do not include the instalments owing to the State Bank of South Australia.
I have not been able to find any statement in the report indicating the amount of such arrears owing to the bank. The percentage of arrears has gradually increased since 1928-29 in the following way:-
Those figures show conclusively that the ability of the occupiers of war service homes to meet their commitments has definitely fallen away, despite, the reduction of interest rates.
The manner of computing the basis on which repayments are to be made is also, in. my opinion, unfair, and needs reconsideration. The committee of inquiry recommended that tho basis of repayment should be 20 per cent, of the earnings of the occupiers. I point out that occupiers of war service homes in New South Wales have to pay 5 per cent, of their earnings in wages tax, and those occupiers who are in the Public Service have also to pay superannuation contributions. I feel quite satisfied that, when 20 per cent, was fixed as a reasonable basis for determining repayments, it was not intended that no allowance should bo made for wages tax. I ask that this be taken into consideration, and adjustments made accordingly.
Replying still further to the Minister’s references to the equity which war’ service homes’ occupiers have in their properties, I direct attention to a case, brought under my notice only yesterday, of a. war service home occupier, who was sued in the District Court, in Sydney, under regrettable circumstances. This man had occupied a home in Canterbury, for which he had contracted to pay £768. At that time he had a wife and five children. Subsequently, his wife died, and soon afterwards he lost one of his children through an unfortunate accident. He then decided that it would be in the best interests of the children for him to move into another district. As he did not owe a penny on the property, he handed the keys back to the Deputy War Service Homes Commissioner, explained the circumstances, and left the house. Recently, on returning from a fortnight’s holiday, he went to draw his pay, and was handed about £4 instead of the £8 which he expected. He subsequently discovered that the department had garnisheed half his wages. I have his account-book here, and also the statement of claim in the District Court. The claim is set out in the following way : -
balance due should be £47 13s. 2d. On examination of the account book I find that this soldier paid to the department, before the 28th June, 1932, an amount of £383 15s. 5d., although the department gave him credit for only £329 13s. 5d. I understand that the explanation of that discrepancy is that there may have been other charges for insurance, &c. On the back of the bookI find that reference is made to an amount of £50 for insurance, but even if that amount be added to the £329 13s. 5d. the man has paid more than the department has given him credit for. In all the circumstances I submit that the department had no right whatever to garnishee this man’s wages.
– I suppose he appeared in court?
– No, he did not. Action was apparently taken while he was on his holidays. That is not the only case of the kind that I could cite.
It is said sometimes that returned soldiers “ take down “ the department. I invite the consideration of honorable members to a case which has been “ hanging fire “ for some years, showing that the department sometimes “ takes down “ the ex-soldiers. When I last spoke to the aggrieved person in this particular case, he told me that a settlement had not yet been reached. The circumstances in this case relate to a property which developed such a serious fault that the front foundations collapsed and the side walls cracked. The department repaired the house but the returned soldier then in occupation of it refused to continue his occupancy. The department thereupon sold the house as a sound structure to another returned soldier who now lives in it, but did not reveal to him that the faults to which I have referred had developed. The occupier discovered this later. The department would not give him any information as to the original cost of the house. He ascertained subsequently from the original occupier that the contract price for a sound building was £1,140, yet the department charged the present, occupier £1,276 for it, or £136 more than the original cost. In view of all the circumstances the present occupier has endeavoured for years to have the property revalued, but has not been successful. I have in my possession a letter from the Minister which refuses an application for a revaluation and also a request for particulars as to the original cost. I ask whether the department is justified in selling a returned soldier a property of this kind without revealing to him all the circumstances associated with it. This man is seeking, not to shirk his contract, but to obtain equitable treatment.
– Now that the house has been repaired it should be sound.
– But it has developed the same faults again. Yet all that the department is willing to do is to allow the occupier £40 towards the cost of repairing it.
– Will the honorable member give me the name of the soldier concerned so that I may reply to the charges that have been made?
– The Minister has the name and all the particulars. In circumstances such as these it is futile for the honorable gentleman to talk about a returned soldier’s equity in his war service home. I should like the Minister to disclose the number of cases out of the 157 sales made in which returned soldiers had any equity and also the amount of the equity in each case. The Assistant Minister knows that even if these homes were in firstclass condition they would not to-day command their original contract prices.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The administration of the War Service Homes Department is not at all Satisfactory, particularly in view of the statements that, have been made repeatedly by the Minister administering War Service Homes (Mr. Francis) that no genuine returned soldier would be evicted if his arrears were due to unemployment. I know that that promise has not been honoured, and have dozens of cases to prove that it has been broken. I shall mention one in particular, that of E. W. Schubert, who, after he had received a war pension for eight or nine years, was informed by the Repatriation Department that his injuries were not due to war service, and had his pension cancelled. I brought the case of this man beforethe Minister who kindly promised that he would go into the business thoroughly. With all due respect to the honorable gentleman, I do not think that he forms his own conclusions on these matters, but that his department does that for him. While he appears to display every sympathy when a case is put to him personally, the letter which he eventually writes on the subject bears the hallmark of a callous department. I am confident that the opinions then expressed are those of his understrappers, and not his.
– I deal with each case personally, and dictate every letter that I send out after having thoroughly investigated the matter.
– Sometimes I think that the honorable gentleman does so ; at other times I do not. His letters certainly do not bear out his promises. Schubert has now had his war pension restored, the payments being made retrospective over a number of years, and he is continuing his payments to the War Service Homes Department. This is the man that the Minister was prepared to have evicted according to the instructions that he received from his departmental officers. The honorable gentleman’s letter on the subject reads -
With reference to your further representations on behalf of Mr. E. W. Schubert, of 26 George-street, Cessnock, I desire to inform you that in October, 1020, the War Service Homes Commission made available a loan of £414, the present instalment being £2 6s. 9d., or 10s. 9d. per week. The account is in arrears to the extent of £12111s.1d., representing instalments over a period of 46 months. In addition, rates to the extent of £54 are outstanding. Recently the purchaser was interviewed in regard to the heavy arrears, when he stated that his appeal in respect of a war pension which had previously been cancelled had been disallowed on 19th August last. He added that a further appeal had been lodged on6th September, and if this were declined he would appeal again. The purchaser’s present income is a pension of 17s. 6d. weekly, and his dependants include wife and one child under sixteen years of age. The facts of the case show that the purchaser will not be able to complete the contract he has entered into, and that being the case it is considered that Mr. Schubert should vacate the home. The commission has allowed him full opportunity to appeal in connexion with his war pension, and now that the appeal has not met with success the commission is reluctantly com pelled to consider the case in the light of the facts available. The extent of the arrears shows the assistance which has been rendered to Mr. Schubert, and I regret, therefore, that unless he can submit a proposal to pay at least15s. per week vacation of the premises will be necessary. In this regard I would mention that recently the purchaser stated that a married son had discussed with him a proposal to pay a sum of £1 per week, and that he intended to make a further request in the matter.
Yours faithfully, ( Signed ) Jos. Francis,
Minister administering War Service Homes.
Just fancy the Minister demanding 15s. a week from an invalid pensioner with a pension of 17s. 6d. a week, and threatening to compel him to vacate the property if he fails to comply with the demand.
– It is made plain in the letter that 15s. a week would have to be paid, otherwise the man would be evicted, which is quite contrary to the promises that were made by the honorable gentleman. It would appear that “ The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” It is time that the honorable gentleman took a definite stand, and demonstrated that he does not intend to be dictated to by those who administer his department.
Repeatedly the Minister has said that the Government has not evicted any returned soldier whose arrears of payment arc due to unemployment. I shall prove that that is not correct. Mr. Amos, of Kurri Kurri, who has seven children, received a threatening letter from the department stating that action would be taken against him if he did not hand over the keys of his war service home. Many of these persons are sensitive and would do anything to avoid the objectionable publicity of being hailed before a court; consequently, they leave their homes and forfeit their equity in them. While the assurance of the Minister that the Government does not evict may be literally true, it is a fact that his department does everything that is humanly possible to force these people to leave their homes. I have definite cases here to prove what I say. Many occupants have received form L17 which states that unless the occupant vacates the dwelling within fourteen days, application will be made to the court for the necessary warrant to enter the dwelling. People vacate their homes rather than defend such threatened action. Yet the Minister says that they have left voluntarily and of their own accord.
Returned men were told originally thai the war service homes scheme was a material expression of gratitude on the part of the country for services rendered, and that induced many who in ordinary circumstances would not have dreamt of acquiring a home to purchase a war service home. They then found that exacting building standards had to be observed, and that fees, amounting to as much as £35, had to be paid for supervision by government architects. I scarcely like to say that there has been neglect on the part of the architects, but it appears to be a fact that contractors have made disproportionate profits out of these homes, the foundations of some of which are distinctly shoddy. Many a returned soldier now finds that this gesture by a grateful country has left him with a millstone about his neck for life. Mr. A. A. Baker, of 32 Sunderlandstreet, Mayfield, contracted to pay £’775 for a war service home, and repaid £404 of that amount, portion of the allocation by the department being, interest, £215 12s. 7d. ; insurance, £11 lis. 6d. ; and payment of principal, £176. He still owes £60.1 7s. 7d. I admit that he was not a returned soldier, but he was a good citizen, and had every right to receive reasonable treatment in accordance with the promises that were made to him when he purchased the home after its returned soldier buyer had been evicted. Another man contracted to buy a war service home which was to cost £795. He paid instalments at the rate of £1 4s. a week for six years, making a total repayment of £275, but. still owes £750 on it. He desires to vacate tlie home, but the personal covenant which he has signed prevents his doing so. He knows that if he lets the house it is very likely that the occupant will not be able to pay the rent because of unemployment. I know of a person at Kurri Kurri who, in order to save his war service home, rented it and himself went and lived in an old shack! The department should give sympathetic cell.sideration to these cases, and not enforce the conditions of the personal covenant, which was signed by many who did not realize to what they were committing themselves.
The Minister has said that he will give consideration to the representations made by reputable returned soldier organizations. I think that the War Service Homes Purchasers Association of New South Wales comes within that category. That organization has asked that capital values be re-appraised, and payments adjusted accordingly. It has also asked that 110 returned soldier, or widow of a returned soldier, be evicted from a home if unable to keep up payments because of unemployment, rationing or sickness. A request has also been made regarding the capitalization of arrears. Recently, I was a member of a deputation which waited on the Deputy Commissioner for War Service Homes, in Sydney, and that gentleman promised that he would look into the matters brought before him, and sympathetically consider our request. Subsequently, the Minister, in a newspaper statement, denied that the Deputy Commissioner had given any such reply. Thereupon, I conferred with the mayor of Cessnock, who was also a member of the deputation, and he confirmed my interpretation of what took place. The returned soldiers5 organizations have asked that, upon the death of a purchaser, the contract be transferred to his widow. I know of one case in which a widow, at Adamstown, after the death of her husband, was pestered by the department for the key of the house, although she was lying sick in the Newcastle Hospital. When I protested to the Minister he informed me that the woman had decided to leave the home. That is all the satisfaction that I received, or that the woman herself received. Probably she realized that, if she did not leave of her own accord, legal proceedings would be taken against her.
Many returned soldiers have found that, the war service homes which they purchased have become an intolerable burden to them. Some are government servants, whose salaries were reduced during the depression by over 20 per cent., whereas the rate of interest on their mortgages was reduced by only½ per cent. Moreover, the rate of interest on any bank deposit they might have was reduced by 1¼ per cent. In New South Wales, the Commonwealth Government shelters behind the personal covenant, of the Mortgages Act. I claim that the interest on mortgages should be reduced in accordance with the fall in wages. Property values have fallen within the last few years by as much as 50 per cent., yet the Government, is exacting from the returned soldiers the full contract price agreed upon during a period of inflated values. I do not believe that returned soldiers will sit still much longer, and watch their unemployed comrades evicted from their homes. For my part, I should like the Government to give the homes to the returned soldiers, because nothing we could do would be too much to show our appreciation of the sacrifices they made. I ask the Government to take action along the lines suggested,without waiting for the report of the commissioners in 1935.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to8 p.m.
.- I have not many war service homes in my electorate, and evidently occupants of them are doing very well, because I have received no complaints from them. I have been impressed, however, with the remarks of the honorable members for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and Hunter (Mr. James), who, to my mind, have made out a strong case that demands an answer. The honorable member for Dalley has stated that in one case the department accepted without demur, the keys of the property.
– That is not correct.
– Later, this purchaser was summoned, but, failing to realize the significance of the document did not ‘appear in court, and in his absence half of his wages were garnisheed in favour of the department. He first knew that he had been summoned when, upon returning from holidays, he received £4 instead of £8. The account book issued by the department shows that his total payments amounted to £383, while the summons sets out that he had paid only £329 13s. 5d., and that he still owed £377.
– I shall be pleased if the honorable member will allow me to examine those figures.
– With the permission of the honorable memberfor Dalley, I shall do so.
– The honorable member has my permission.
– The difference between the amount shown in the account bookand that which appears on the summons is so considerable as to demand an explanation. Maybe insurance has been added.
– The honorable member is not acquainted with the facts.
– I have an undoubted right to join with other honorable members in complaining of an injustice. I am an ex-president of the Ballarat Returned Soldiers League, and have always taken a very keen interest in anything which affects returned soldiers. No matter who the Minister may be, I shall always expose injustices. An investigation may prove that, in this case, the Minister administering War Service Homes (Mr. Francis) is in’ the right, but it is incumbent upon him to explain the discrepancy between the two sets of figures.
It has also been stated that the first occupant, vacated the premises because of defective construction, and that the department, having effected repairs, charged the second occupant £136 more than the original contract price. Action of that sort is unscrupulous and dishonest. The additional price may have been paid by the second occupant because he was unaware of the defect that had earlier been disclosed.
– That is not so.
– If it is true that the department insisted upon an additional £136, it acted most unfairly.
– That is not the case.
– Having listened to the honorable member for Dalley, and studied the figures, I am. inclined to believe that it is true.
The honorable member for Hunter quoted from a letter to show that a returned soldier who was in receipt of an invalid pension had had an application for a war pension rejected, and before his appeal against the rejection had been decided was threatened with eviction from a war service home because he could not discharge his arrears. In no part of Australia will action of that sort be tolerated by returned soldiers. This unfortunate man must have been badly wounded to receive an invalid pension. It is a dastardly case which demands an inquiry. It is of no use our saying that no one who is unemployed will be evicted from a war service home if it can be proved that a man who is in receipt of only l7s. 6d. a week from an invalid pension is threatened with eviction. I can hardly credit that such things occur. I do not know of any Government that would be guilty of so inhumane an act.
– Has the honorable member any case of which he can speak at first hand?
Mr.McGRATH.- No, but I am taking part in this debate as a returned soldier, because I want returned soldiers to be given fair play. I do not hear many complaints in Victoria, but members on both sides of the chamber have voiced serious complaints concerning the administration in New South Wales, and there is genuine fear that the Minister is paying too much heed to the representations of the officials. I trust that that is not correct. I am deeply hurt that such happenings as these should occur under our eyes, especially as we have been told that no one who is unemployed will be evicted from a war service home. I hope that the Minister has a satisfactory answer to make.
– I wish first to make a few observations concerning the honorable member (Mr. McGrath) who has just resumed his seat. The honorable member prefaced his remarks with the statement that he had little or no complaints to make, because everything was going well in his electorate, and then proceeded to deal with a ease of which he has absolutely no kuowledge. I gave him the assurance that I should reply to the complaint that had been made by the honorable member for Dalley, and suggested that it would be advisable for him, in justice to myself and to the committee, to hear what I had to say before he made any observations. I propose to reply more fully than I usually do to the complaints that have been made to-day.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) began his speech in a most temperate manner. His colleagues, however, did not follow the example that he set them. The honorable member referred to an employee of the department, the occupier of a war service home, who lost bis position because he was not paying his way. I asked to be furnished with the name of the gentleman, so that I could investigate the case, and have since discussed the matter with that honorable member, bur. he is unable to supply me with the name.
– I can give the district but not the name of the man.
– I have seen a statement signed by a person living in North Sydney who says that he had heard that the case was that of an occupier of a war service home in Ryde.
Mr.Beasley. - It is the case of an officer of the War Service Homes Purchases Branch.
– That is the sort of evidence on which the honorable member launched his attack. He does not know the name of the returned soldier, yet is prepared to charge the department with having acted unjustly. Is that the fort of evidence on which honorable members should be asked to form the opinion that the department is not properly discharging its responsibilities? Apparently the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) is willing to accept such evidence. I am particularly anxious to ensure that the utmost sympathy should characterize the administration of the department in the present difficult times. As a returned soldier myself, I definitely adopt the role of counsel for returned soldiers, and do my utmost to obtain for them the greatest measure of assistance. In no case is final action taken until I have gone through the files. I work, not four or five hours a day, but very many hours, in an effort to help returned soldiers, and consider that the submission of evidence of this nature is not fair to the Government, the department, or myself.
The honorable member next referred to a case in which, he suggested, the Government had cancelled a contract and had then chased the returned soldier to recover loss on the resale of the property. The case that he cited was that of a civilian, not a returned soldier. I am indebted to the honorable member for having handed me the file. I shall read from it an extract from the department’s letter.
– Do not read more than is necessary; I approached the matter fairly.
– I wish to make it clear that this is the case of a civilian, and not of a returned soldier. The second paragraph of the letter reads -
As at the date of the execution of the release referred to, your obligations in respect of the subject property would cease, but you would remain responsible for arrears of instalments to the date of the release.
That is the man’s full obligation. He has lived in the home, and enjoyed .all its advantages. The letter continues -
The question of repayments would be reviewed periodically having regard to the circumstances. You would also be responsible to the Municipal Council for municipal rates.
If the position of a soldier purchaser is hopeless and he wishes to vacate the home, it is in his interests and also tb ( interests of the department, that he should be released of his responsibility and be allowed to vacate by consent. But -in such cases we require the occupant to pay his arrears.
The honorable member also referred to the case of an occupier of a home, which, he alleged, the department was endeavouring to sell “ over a woman’s head “. He tried to lead honorable members to believe that this woman was a purchaser of a home and that, although she was in arrears some little time ago, she was now in a position to make some payment, yet the department was endeavouring to sell the house while she was still in occupation. The fact is that this particular person is a tenant and not a purchaser.
– From whom is she renting the home?
– From the War Service Homes Department. The house is a war service home, and was originally purchased by her husband. She expressed a wish to stay in the house as a tenant until it was sold, so long as her equity in it was preserved.
– That statement of the Assistant Minister is absolutely wrong, because this person is not willing that the house should be sold.
– She is not the purchaser of the home.
– Did she make application to purchase the home, and was her application refused ?
– So far as I know that is not the case.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has accepted my definite assurance, by interjection, that the department is not requiring persons who surrender their homes to pay anything more than the arrears at the time of vacation. I was pleased to hear the honorable member’s appreciation of the work of Mr. Petersen, the Commissioner, and of the officers of the department in South Australia. I know of no other group of officers who carry out their duties more conscientiously and sympathetically than do the officers of the War Service Homes Department. They have a difficult task to supervise work in connexion with 29,000 homes at a time like this. It is hard to satisfy everybody, but the officers are carrying out the policy of the Government, and giving the returned soldier purchasers every possible concession.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis) referred to several cases, more particularly in respect of arrears of rates. He said that some years ago the Government would not purchase land’ above a certain value for the purposes of erecting a war service home. It is obvious that since the maximum advance for a home is £800, no great sum could be expended in the purchase of land if the returned soldier purchaser were to be provided with a decent home. The department, therefore, fixed a definite limit for the cost of the land. With regard to rates, in 1924 an agreement was arrived at between the municipalities of Australia and the War Service Homes Commission concerning the collection of rates. This agreement was submitted to the councils, and, I tnderatand, was with- out exception, adopted. Brief particulars of the scheme are -
Contract of Sale Cases. - (a) When a home reverts and a previous occupant is not available the commission will pay one year’s rates; (6) When the previous occupant is available and the council shows the commission that it has endeavoured to collect rates from the purchaser, but without success, the commission will pay one year’s rates.
Mortgage Cases. - When a home reverts the commission pays all rates.
Tenancy Cases. - When a home reverts and a tenant is placed in the property, the commisssion pays rates during the period of the tenant’s occupancy.
Other Charges. - When a home reverts other charges such as road-making &c, arc paid.
These proposals were contingent upon all municipalities taking proper action to’ collect outstanding rates from purchasers and borrowers, as both classes are, under their contracts and mortgages, liable for the payment of rates and other outgoings. Some municipalities, however, in a number of cases which have come to the commission’s notice have not taken adequate steps to collect outstanding rates, and in several instances a municipality has been informed of the legal position and of the fact that the purchaser was in a position to pay rates, and was subject to garnishee. Only recently in Sydney several cases arose in which the purchasers were Commonwealth Government servants, who were subject to garnishee, and were in a position to meet all their obligations, yet had been permitted to accumulate a large debt for rates. In the municipality of Preston, in the Batman electorate, the rates in arrears amount to £2,200. In Northcote they amount to only £306. There are a large number of war service homes in both of those suburbs, and the figures relating to the arrears of rates indicate that one council has taken proper steps to collect rates, while the other has not. When a municipality, in the Hobart district, complained to the department about arrears of rates the department suggested that it should appoint an officer to make a special effort to collect them. It acted upon the suggestion and within a short time collected £7,000 of outstanding rates. The collection of rates is a matter not for the Government, but for the municipalities themselves; and I am certain that, if the municipalities took proper steps to collect rates, there would be little cause for complaint. The agreement was made in 1924 and the department has assiduously honoured it.
– Was it agreed to by all the municipalities ?
– Yes. The honorable member also referred to the question of insurance. The department has a comprehensive insurance policy, which covers important risks not covered by the ordinary insurance companies. Its rates are 50 per cent, lower than those charged by private insurance companies. It insures against damage by fire, explosion, thunderbolt, earthquake, riot, civil commotion, strikes, labour disturbances, burglaries, and house-breaking, including any attempt thereat, air-craft, and bursting of boilers, hot water pipes or heating apparatus. Those risks are covered, and also damage by flood or tempest, including storms. The basis rates are ls. per cent, for brick residences and 3s. per cent, for timber residences, plus ls. for each policy. With the exception of Queensland, all States issue comprehensive policies, excluding flood and tempest damage. Their rates are respectively -
The minimum premiums are 20s. and 40s. respectively. In Queensland the rates for insurance against fire damage are: brick 2s. per cent., and timber 5s. 4d. per cent. ; insurance against damage by explosion, riots, civil commotion and burglary may also be arranged if additional premiums are paid. The War Service Homes Department carries its own risk and at the present time the surplus in the insurance fund is £193,368, hut this fund is required as a reserve to meet claims in respect of the total of the insurances equalling £19,224,833.
The question of sewerage has also been referred to and the conditions governing the granting of further loans, subject to the availability of funds, to provide sewerage facilities, are -
The commission has made arrangements with all sewerage authorities to extend this service to homes where the purchasers have received the maximum loan of £800, provided that the conditions are complied with.
– Supposing that the payments are not up to date ?
– In that case the purchaser would not be permitted to incur any further obligation, but so soon as he was in a position to meet the initial expenditure involved, the home could be connected with the sewerage system.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) stated that he had no complaints from the occupiers of war service homes in his electorate, and he paid a special tribute to the officers of the department for the sympathy that they had extended to the soldier occupauts. For his remarks I am exceedingly grateful.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) raised certain questions which I shall deal with in greater detail. He made special reference to the difficult position of the purchasers of war service homes in the Belmore district on the outskirts of Sydney. Many homes in that district have reverted to the Government, to some extent on account of many of the occupants wishing to reside nearer the city. The department has made special efforts to meet this difficulty and as the result the homes have been placed on a much more satisfactory basis than that existing in the case of homes built by public companies. The department has had the loyal and enthusiastic co-operation of the police in its efforts to overcome the problem of vandalism which exists, more particularly in the Belmore district. It has received numerous reports from police officials and from its own officers, many of whom have not confined their activities to ordinary hours, but have conducted investigations and inspections at various times of the day and night in order to detect those responsible for the vandalism. Special police officers have also been detailed to undertake this work, and occupiers of adjoining homes have been requested to assist the department. Moreover, notices have been posted on all unoccupied houses intimating that a reward will be paid to any one giving information leading to the conviction of persons found guilty of having damaged the property of the commission. Residents in the Belmore group are also rendering assistance by giving information which may be useful to the department, and in most cases the information received is to the effect that youths are responsible. Some time ago, I personally inspected these properties in company with the Deputy Commissioner, departmental officers and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow) .
– Why did not the Assistant Minister notify the member for the district?
– I made the visit to the Anzac Rifle Range.
M r. Gander. - Why did not the Minister let me know that he intended to make an inspection ?
– The honorable member was not available. I reduced the time I had allowed for the Anzac Rifle Range by some hours, which gave me an opportunity to inspect some of the properties which had been damaged. During the inspection, I noticed a house from which some roofing tiles had been removed and scattered over the ground. I asked the occupier of a house near by if he knew when the tiles had been removed. He said that he believed that they had been removed the day before by some young men or boys. When I asked him if he could identify those responsible, he said that his eyesight was defective and, therefore, could not give any information. The departmental officers and the police have done everything possible to prevent vandalism, and I am pleased to say that quite recently, as the result of a successful prosecution, the position has improved. 1 pay tribute to the untiring energy displayed by departmental officers and the police in trying to prevent damage of this nature.
Since the budget was introduced last October there has been such a revival of trade in New South Wales that, in the Belmore district alone, no fewer than 21 Avar service homes, which were previously unoccupied, have been let. I do not think that there is another district in the Commonwealth where the position in that respect is more favorable.
The honorable member for Dalley also asked the nature of the assistance being afforded to occupiers of war service homes. Shortly after the Government assumed office, it found that there was no definite Government policy to meet the case of returned soldier occupants of war service homes who were experiencing difficulty in meeting their obligations owing to reduced incomes, and it decided to appoint a committee consisting of returned soldiers to examine the whole problem, and to report to it. That committee submitted a report in which it recommended that the occupiers of war service homes should pay only according to their ability to do so. For instance, a returned soldier occupant in receipt of less than the basic wage was required to pay a certain amount per week according to the amount he received. Many are complying with that condition, and while they continue to do so will not be interfered with by the commission, providing they have a reasonable prospect of completing the purchase. Occupants whose wages have been reduced are required to pay 20 per cent, of their wages. It was laid down in the Harvester award that a person should pay as rent 23 per cent, of his income, but that percentage has been reduced by the commission to 20 per cent., thus allowing the occupier the difference of 3 per cent, to assist him in paying for necessary repairs, rates and taxes.
– He has also to pay a wage tax of 5 per cent.
– That is the result of legislation passed by the Lang Government in New South Wales which the honorable member supported. The difficulty experienced in connexion with war service homes in New South Wales was accentuated during the regime of the Lang Government, and the records show that the number of homes in that State which have reverted to the commission is practically the same as for all the other States combined. Where an occupier is in arrears in instalments on his home, the amount may be capitalized, and where these instalments are to be repaid in 10, 20 or 25 years, the period for repayment may be increased to 45 years. As a result of this provision, in many cases the weekly payments have been reduced by as much, as 50 per cent. For instance, an occupier who was liable to pay £4 2s. is now paying only £2 ls. a month. In consequence of the general reduction of 22^ per cent, in interest rates, the Scullin Government reduced the rate of interest by i per cent., and this Government proposes to further reduce the rate by an additional i per cent, as from the 1st January next.
– What about the re-sale of a home?
– I have experienced difficulty in locating particular cases referred to without the mention of names, but I have before me the particulars of a case - at Concord in the electorate of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) to whom I wrote on the 9th September, 1922, as follows: -
I would invite attention to my letters of 7th June and 18th July last, in which full particulars regarding this ease are included.
It is necessary to mention that- took occupancy of the property on 30th July, ]02fi, iis a tenant.
On the 17th September, after this man had occupied the property as a tenant for two months, he wrote offering to purchase it for the sum of £1,276, and agreeing to lodge £100 as a deposit. He agreed to purchase the dwelling as it then stood. Matters proceeded smoothly until recently when he complained of defects in the building. He is still occupying the dwelling, but he now asks the department to make a substantial reduction of the purchase price. The commission has agreed to have the property examined, and tho repairs, which it is estimated will cost £40, will be effected by the commission.
– Was he aware of defects in the property?
– It has been occupied since 1926.
– I have heard of the complaint for twelve months, hut could not identify the case.
– This occurred in 1926, and is resurrected only now.
– Is the occupant a returned soldier ?
– That does not matter; he is entitled to fair treatment. The offer made by this man in 1926 was accepted, and he has continued to occupy the home. The department is quite willing to help him by providing £40 to repair the home and make him happy and contented.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. J ames) mentioned the case of Mr. A. A. Baker, of Mayfield, who, I understand, is not a returned soldier, but purchased the house as a civilian. This man owns several other houses, and is in arrears to the extent of £163 9s. on the war service home. Surely the department cannot be expected to view his inability to pay with indifference? The court decided that in view of the arrears that were due, he should vacate the home.
The honorable member also referred to the case of Mr. W. Amos, and would have the committee believe that he is a returned soldier who is out of work, and who has been instructed by the department to vacate his war service home.
– Was the house built for Amos, or transferred to him ?
– In 1925, Amos arranged to purchase a war service home valued at £510, the terms providing for a deposit of £25, and monthly payments at the rate of £3 4s. 6d. In February, 1932, Amos was £117 16s.8d. in arrears, which had accumulated over a period of 35 months, his last payment of £1 10s. having been made in September, 1930. He was earning £2 15s. 6d. a week, and was in receipt of 10s. weekly for child endowment, making his total income £3 5s. 6d. Under the Government scheme, which provides for pro rata payments, this returned soldier should have paid 12s. 6d. a week, but he has refused to pay anything. For several years the department has urged him to pay the 12s. 6d. a week, but he has refused to do so. Finally he vacated the home. In minut ing the papers, I indicated that Amos should be urged to meet his pro rata payments, otherwise he would force the commission to take final action. Amos is not unemployed, as was suggested by the honorable member for Hunter.
Mr. E. W. Schubert obtained a loan of £414, his instalments in 1932 being £2 6s. 9d. a month, or 10s. 9d. a week. His account was then in arrears to the extent of £12111s.1d., representing instalments over a period of 46 months, in addition to which rates amounting to £54 were outstanding. The purchaser was interviewed in regard to the heavy arrears, and he stated that he was appealing in respect of a war pension which had previously been cancelled. His appeal was disallowed on the 19th August, 1932. Mr. Schubert is in receipt of an invalid pension of 17s .6d. a week, but his obligation to the War Service Homes Commission in connexion with current payments and arrears is 15s. a week. The department has pointed out that it is impossible for him to pay that amount out of an income of 17s. 6d., and has asked him to consider the advisability of voluntarily vacating the home. He would be much more comfortable and secure if he occupied a room at a cost within the limit of his income. The commission hoped that he would adopt a reasonable attitude, for it did not wish to exercise its powers if amicable arrangements could be made. The honorable member for Hunter endeavoured to make the committee believe that the commission was hounding the man.
The honorable member referred to another ease, also at Mayfield, of a person who obtained a loan of £763 in December, 1927. His liability on the 31st May, 1932, was £81716s. 3d., and he vacated the house on the 13th July, 1932, leaving arrears of £136 9s. 6d. This man was receiving a wage of £3 10s. 6d. and child endowment amounting to £1 5s. a week, making a total weekly income of £4 15s. 6d. He was given every opportunity to pay, but did not do so. On the 29th June, 1932, he stated-
With reference to your quittal notice I have decided that I will quit the said property on 13th July, 1932. This cancels all previous letters.
He vacated the property and his contract with the department was cancelled.
The honorable member for Hunter mentioned the case of a man who previously lived at Southern-street, Waratah, and was employed by the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited at an average wage of £3 18s. 9d. a week. He was paying nothing on his house, and voluntarily vacated it.
In all these instances the returned soldier was in receipt of a definite income, and would not pay the small amount that was required of him. I assure the committee that my promise still stands that a returned man who is in arrears because of unemployment will not be subject to final action provided he has a reasonable prospect of completing the purchase.
– The honorable member advanced a lame excuse in connexion with Schubert.
– My reply was that the statement made by the honorable member for Hunter was not in accordance with fact. Schubert had an income of 17s. 6d. a week and an obligation of 15s.. a week. The department simply pointed out to him that it was impossible for him to meet that obligation. He is still in the home, and he was asked to consider the matter.
The honorable member for Hunter referred to a press statement to the effect that the Deputy Commissioner for War Service Homes in New South Wales had informed a deputation that was introduced by the honor. able member to that official that he would recommend a reduction in the values of war service homes in the mining area. .Such a statement was not made.
– Was the honorable member at the deputation?
– No, but I have satisfactory evidence on the subject. When that statement and my denial appeared in the press, Mr. G. Hynd, president of the Cessnock sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, wrote the following letter to me : -
You may remember that yow granted me an interview towards the end of last month - when I was in Sydney attending tlie Annual Congress of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia - in connexion with matter handed to me re F. V. McCannMy report to my sub-branch re same, coupled with my impressions of the problems you have to meet and your courteous attitude, was received as satisfactory. At that interview I mentioned that you were to be visited by Alderman J. Shakespeare (Mayor of Cessnock) who had some trouble in connexion with the sewerage of his war service home, and that he had been granted authority to act on behalf of the sub-branch in anything appertaining to war service homes. At that time I did not know that he was to be accompanied by a member of the Federal Parliament, or that the subsequent report of proceedings would appear in the press. At a meeting at which Mr. Shakespeare’s report was submitted I expressed regret at the statement appearing in the press, and which had produced the inevitable denial from the Minister. Mr. Shakespeare assured me that he was not responsible for the publication of the statement and paid tribute to the good hearing you gave him.
While we, as a league, appreciate fully the efforts of members of parliament on our behalf, we are not at all desirous that you or your fellow-officers of the ‘commission should be embarrassed, and so I hope that you will take the view that neither Mr. Shakespeare or the Cessnock sub-branch are blameworthy in respect to this matter.
That, statement was not issued by the Deputy Commissioner for War Service Homes or by the Mayor of Cessnock ; nor did it come from the president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia.
– Mr. Shakespeare does not say that it was not true, but only that he was not responsible.
– The Minister said that no representations were made before this year in connexion with the Concord case.
– This matter was first brought to my notice about 1932.
– I have a letter and a reply from the department two months after the contract was signed in 1926. Will the Minister deny that?
– I deny nothing. I am desirous only of giving the facts to the committee. Honorable members should not lose sight of the fact that in these times this is a difficult department to administer. Scattered all over Australia there are 29,000 war service homes, many of whose owners, although in distressed circumstances, arc making a noble effort to pay their way. Until the financial depression struck ‘ Australia, the arrears in respect of war service homes payments was only about 1 per cent.; it is now a little over 4 per cent. Other departments of state have arrears of interest payments substantially more than the arrears in respect of war service homes. Most of the purchasers of these homes are doing their best to meet their obligations, and the department is doing everything possible to help them. If the cases which have been mentioned to-day were analysed it would be found that the men concerned could pay, but refused to do so. In saying that, 1 do not wish it to be thought that I am complaining that a majority of the purchasers of war service homes are not doing their best to meet their obligations. I know the difficulties confronting many of these men, and the sacrifices they are making to keep up their payments. The Government desires to help such men, and asks only that they will pay according to their means. If they will do that, their payments will be accepted in full discharge of their obligations at the moment. The position will be reviewed in 1935, when we hope that conditions generally will have improved.
.- One wouders whether an attempt is being made to establish civilian.3, rather- than returned soldiers, in war service homes, and also whether the £21,000,000 expended on war service homes had any connexion with the timber contracts and the changes of policy from time to time. In certain timber contracts in Queeusland the trees were bought up to the first branch, notwithstanding that every bushman knows that the best part of a tree is above the first branch. Some of the biggest scandals in connexion with war service homes occurred in my electorate. In order that the department should not be robbed by paying too much for land, I submitted to it ISO allotments in good positions belonging to the State Government, but the department would not accept them. ‘ Instead it bought swampy land at exorbitant prices, and built homes many of which were not fit to live in.
– The honorable member is referring to what took place many years ago. He should confine his remarks to the expenditure covered by these Estimates. *
– In order to be fair to the present Government, I was endeavouring to show that the administration of war service homes has been wrong from the beginning. Some of the homes built for returned soldiers practically tumbled down before they were twelve months old. In other cases, brick step3 fell away, and cracks almost big enough to take a man’s arm appeared in the walls. The purchasers are expected to pay for such buildings. A good deal has been said about, the transference of homes from one person to another. When a war service home was transferred from one soldier purchaser to another, the new purchaser had to pay the full value of the home; and although the first purchaser might have paid as much as £300 in respect of it, he had no equity in the home at all. When the policy was changed, building material of all kinds was sold at about one-fifth its value to men who afterwards became contractors for the building of other homes.
– The honorable member must deal with the Estimates for the present year.
– These happenings account for part of the £21,000,000 expended on war service homes.
The CHAIRM AN.- That expenditure is not now before the committee.
– From the beginning, the administration of war service homes has been unfair to the returned soldiers who agreed to purchase them. These properties have never been revalued although the value of private properties has fallen. In order that these nien may have some equity in the homes * which they are purchasing, a revaluation of war service homes should take place. It is futile for the Government to say that men are not being turned out of their homes. The other day, I mentioned a man who lost his home while he was seeking work elsewhere in order to pay for it. He lost the £400 he had paid to the department, and a further £200 which he had expended on improvements. I do not blame the present Government for all that is wrong because the administration of war service homes has been bad from the beginning. The Government, which boasts that prosperity has returned, should do something for these returned soldiers who have set out to buy homes for themselves.
.- I regret that the Minister did not clear up the case to which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) referred. I understand that after the property was sold, the new purchaser discovered that he had been debited with £140 more than the original cost. The Minister avoided that issue. He ought not to have done so because an important principle is involved. It is not fair that a man who risked his life in the service of his country should pay £140 more than the cost of the home he buys merely in order that the Government may recoup itself for other losses. I am concerned with this case because of the large number of war service homes in my electorate, and also because I am tired of dealing with the department and the Minister in connexion with their administration. The control of war service homes has developed into a large real estate business. The department is demanding its pound of flesh all the time.
– Is the honorable member relating his own experience with the department ?
– Yes. I mention this case because I tried to get the particulars concerning it.
– The honorable member studied the files with me.
– I have never seen the papers. The statements made here tonight ought to convince the Minister that the department does not treat these returned soldiers as generously as he imagines it does.
– This is a civilian transaction.
– Why did not the Minister tell us that before? This case has been under consideration for twelve months, and should be cleared up. Soldiers who have agreed to purchase war service homes, consider that they should be placed on the same basis as returned soldier farmers. For several years past every soldier on a farm has had the right to apply for a revaluation of his property, but no such right has been extended to the occupiers of war service homes, nor is there any provision for reducing the capital value. The committee which inquired into the administration of the War Service Homes Department made the following recommendation: -
Having regard to the fact that considerate treatment has been accorded purchasers and borrowers for the past three years, we have fixed the 30th June, 1935, as the- date to which this concession should operate, lt is more or less an arbitrary date, but it has been arrived at by intelligent discussion, and, of course, is capable of extension if the Government at that date considers fit. Our recommendation, therefore, is that where the reduced monthly instalments payable in consequence of any extension of the period of any contract of sale or mortgage exceeds 20 per centum of a purchaser’s or borrower’s income, such reduced monthly instalment be further reduced, for a period extending to the 30th June, 1935.
Nineteen hundred and thirty-five is a long way off, but scores of returned’ soldiers are receiving notices to leave their homes. The Minister stated that they were not being evicted, but that is not true, because notice after notice has been sent to them. Only the other day a returned soldier told me that- he was being threatened by the department with prosecution, and he asked me what he should do. I told him to take up his repayments, but, in the meantime, the Crown Law Department had loaded him with a further £3 for costs. The Minister, no doubt, will say that the costs are added by the law department, not by the department which he administers, and that, no doubt, is true j nevertheless it is unfair that these charges should be piled up against men who have risked their lives at the Front in the service of their country. When a man gets into arrears to the extent of £120 or more, the department says that there is no hope of his retrieving his position, and he is told to get out. An officer of the department tells him that if he takes the matter to court, the magistrate will merely make an eviction order against him, and so, in the end, he has to leave his home. I know of one man who, because he was persistently pressed for payment, resorted to money lenders, and got into their debt to the amount of £65 in addition to what he ow,ed to the War Service Homes Department. In the end he had to give up his home, and it has since been vacant for about twelve months. He sent his wife hack to her parents, and he, himself, is camping out.
The treatment of the widows of returned soldiers by the department is unsatisfactory. I should not like to have it on my soul that I turned out of her home the widow of a returned soldier who died, perhaps, as the result of injuries received in the service of his country.
– What does the honorable member think of those who would take her furniture from her?
– I do not think much of them either. One of the greatest curses of the present day is the private money lender who robs the people, but, unfortunately, there is no law to prevent him. I know one widow of a returned soldier who, out of her pension of 15s. a week, continued to pay 5s. a week on the home she had occupied with her husband. Her position was becoming worse and worse all the time, until, in the end, the accumulated arrears amounted to more than £150.
– Does the honorable member suggest that occupiers of war service homes should not, in any circumstances, be asked to leave?
– No ; but I say that more sympathetic treatment should be accorded to the widows of returned soldiers. In one case that came under my notice a widow had been ordered to quit her home after the matter had been carried as far as the Minister. She sought my advice, and I told her, as she was nearing the age to 60, to remain in occupation of the home until her 60th birthday. She was then able to draw the old-age pension in addition to her widow’s pension, the two together amounting to 30s. a week. She then left the war service home, and rented another house. I appeal to the Government to give serious consideration to the requests of honorable members for more sympathetic administration by the department. Every other section of the community can obtain some relief. Farmers of all kinds receive benefits and concessions, and only the other day the banana industry obtained a grant of £5,000 for publicity purposes. There are thousands of returned soldiers out of work through no fault of their own, and the payments of most of these men on their homes have fallen into arrears. By sending out eviction notices the department is causing much distress, and is driving men to do things which merely result in their getting deeper into debt.
– Recently, when honorable members asked that there should be as few all-night sittings as possible, I said that I would not limit the discussion on the Estimates. When I made that statement I thought that reasonable progress would be made, but we are really making very little progress at all. We are not considering another branch of the legislature, the members of which are waiting around hoping that some work may be provided for them. We in this chamber are taking more time than is necessary. If to-morrow is devoted to the discussion of the Estimates, we shall by then have spent as much time on them this year as has been spent during the last four years combined, namely, ten full sittings. No one can charge the Government with not having allowed plenty of time for a discussion. I remind honorable members that the Estimates make provision for certain payments which cannot be made until the Estimates are approved. For instance, the apple and pear growers cannot even make arrangements for the purchase of cases in which to send their fruit overseas.
– But the returned soldiers are being evicted from their homes.
– These growers are waiting for Parliament to approve certain grants and from that stand-point I appeal to honorable members to make a little more progress than we have been making. Very important matters have yet to be dealt with before Parliament adjourns for the Christmas vacation. There are, for example, the Bankruptcy Bill, the completion of the consideration of the Customs Tariff, the legislation which will be introduced during the current week to afford relief to wheat-growers, amending legislation dealing with pensions, the Migrant Settlement Agreement Bill, incidental formal legislation arising from the budget, the Silver Production Agreement Bill of which notice was given during the last few hours, and legislation dealing with butter. These are some of the more important matters that must be disposed of.
– The honorable member should have called Parliament together earlier. The power was in his hands.
– Sections of the community are looking for relief whilst we are filling the pages of Hansard.
– And men willbe put out of work immediately Parliament goes into recess.
– The argument of the honorable member is not worth replying to. I say advisedly that if more rapid progress is not made to-night, I shall reconsider my attitude in regard to the discussion on the Estimates, especially as by to-morrow ten sittings of this House will have been devoted to their consideration.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable gentleman is not discussing the item before the Chair.
– The honorable member must realize, as do all who have been members of this House for many years, that it is not unusual for the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House or the committee in respect of the business that Parliament will be asked to consider, and I know of no occasion upon which objection has been taken to such a statement.
– I am merely urging the committee to expedite the consideration of the Estimates. If sufficient progress is not made to-night, I shall have to consider the advisableness of applying the guillotine to the remainder of the Estimates.
.- I listened with close attention to the remarks of the Minister administering the War Service Homes Department (Mr. Francis). He has endeavoured to make it appear that the administration of the department is so sympathetic that nobody can cavil at it. But, either the Minister or his officers must accept blame for the errors of the department. I do not care upon whose shoulders that blame falls. The first case to which I will refer is one at Parkes. Both the Minister and his officers know this case very well. I do not suggest that the War Service Homes Commission was not justified in pressing this occupant of one of its homes to meet his obligations. The salient facts to which I desire to call attention are that he had been in occupation of this home from the 17th May, 1925, till
August, 1933, and during that time had paid to the department £349 18s.1d. But he had been subjected to considerable rationing of his employment ; his war pension had been reduced by one-half ; owing to sickness in the family, he had paid heavy medical expenses and, consequently, had had greatly to curtail his living expenses. In addition, his family had increased from none to four, and most of its members had experienced a great deal of sickness. I am advised that on the 14th July last the War Service Homes Commissioner served upon this returned soldier an eviction notice. On the same day, all officers who had been accustomed to receive payments from him on behalf of the Commissioner, were instructed to refuse to accept any further payments. This meant that he was not allowed to pay into the local post office any amount that he might have been able to pay. When the matter was brought under my notice I immediately got in touch with the Commissioner, as the Minister was absent in Queensland at the time. I appealed to one of the superior officers of the department, both orally and by letter, to stay the execution of the eviction order, because of representations that had been made to me by the secretary of the Returned Soldiers League in Parkes- a gentleman whose word can always be accepted without question.
– He says that he got the letter which you say he did not get.
– I have in my possession the complete file relating to this matter, which comprises some 70 communications. I have a copy of every letter written by me, by the department, and by the secretary of the Returned Soldiers League, but I have no record of the communication to which the Minister refers. Everybody denies knowledge of it. In my efforts to avoid the eviction order being executed, I made a special trip to Parkes, where I ascertained that the home in which this ex-soldier lived was maintained in exceptionally good order, and that he and his wife were very anxious to remain in possession. They explained ‘ their commitments, and a qualified accountant in the person of the secretary of the Returned Soldiers League carefully checked their statements. As the result of his investigation, he assured me that for the time being, it was impossible for this man to pay more than £2 12s. a month to the War Service Homes Commission. Yet the department was demanding the payment of 16s. lid. a week, an amount which had been arrived at by the application of some stereotyped * formula, under which no allowance was made for the extraordinary conditions this man, had been required to meet. At Parkes I collected £2 10s. from him, which I handed to the Deputy Commissioner as a further evidence of the anxiety of this soldier to meet his obligations. I also arranged with the occupant that he should meet his commitments to the commission fortnightly instead1 of monthly, so that the greatest possible amount* might be in the hands of the War Service Homes Commissioner at the earliest possible moment. This man also agreed to pay 5s. a week off the arrears of his rates, which had accumulated. Whilst all these things were happening I was the recipient of a further cheque in reduction of his indebtedness, and was able to assure the department that I would get him back to a solvent position if in lieu of the 16s. lid. a week it demanded, it would accept 30s. a fortnight until the 31st December. The secretary of the league was, however, informed that the department was not concerned about the payment of rates - that that matter had nothing to do with it. I take the greatest possible exception to this statement. Then I was informed by the Minister “ It will be seen, therefore, having regard to the facts I have mentioned, that the commission has not been ungenerous in its treatment of Mr.- , and that your criticism is not justified “. After I had done everything in my power to help this returned soldier and to safeguard the interests of the department, it proceeded to execute the eviction order, and I was notified by telephone that a sergeant of police was on the verandah of the home endeavouring to give effect to the order. Thus, the commission loaded this ex-soldier with an additional expenditure of £10 by way of unnecessary legal costs. The Minister has stated that the department has closely co-operated with the police.
– I said in protecting war service homes.
– I accept the Minister’s statement. I heard him say that the department received the enthusiastic cooperation of the police.
– In upholding the law, and protecting war service homes from vandals.
– I may add that the Minister has also received the enthusiastic co-operation of the police in carrying out eviction orders. If the department uses the local police for all the dirty work, why did it not enlist their services to ensure that the first notice sent out was delivered into the hands of the occupant? This man lived in a long street in a large town, and three families having the same name resided in that street. The letter might easily have been delivered to the wrong house. I have the authority of the ex-soldier, his wife, and the secretary of the local branch of the soldiers’ league, for saying that the earlier communication was not delivered to this man. I asked the commissioner whether the letter had been registered when posted, and was informed that he did not think so. Did the department act fairly in sending out an unregistered letter, threatening a man with eviction, when, by the payment of an extra 3d., delivery to the addressee would have been assured? I am very upset over the manner in which the Minister and the department have handled this case. As a member of this Parliament, I consider myself entitled to courtesy from the Minister, because I gave him and his officers ‘a personal assurance that the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League and I were doing everything, possible to bring this purchaser up to the mark with regard to his financial commitments. But for the wide publicity which I gave to the case, this ex-soldier, like five other occupants of war service homes in Parkes, would have been evicted. I could give the Minister the names of civilian occupants of war service homes whose rents amount to 10s. and 12s. 6d. a week. The man whose case I am now presenting, when faced with rationed employment, sickness and a heavy reduction of his war pension, was threatened with eviction, although the difference between the amount demanded by the department and the sum which I offered on his behalf, was only1s.11d. a week. I asked the Minister to take immediate steps to prevent further action by the department for the eviction of this occupant, who had paid £349 off the cost of the home, and, after having occupied it for eight years, was only £51 in arrears. Those arrears had accrued during the most severe period of the depression, during which probably nearly every member of this Parliament experienced some financial difficulty. I have been dealing with only one phase of this department’s administration, which the Minister has endeavoured plausibly to justify. I have had sufficient experience of government officers to know that they can frame harsh orders in a manner to which no exception can well be taken, but without doubt the only inference that could reasonably be drawn from the department’s letter was that it threatened straight-out eviction.
– The honorable member is placing his own construction upon it.
– I could do so in much more forcible language than I. have employed.
I shall now deal with a case of another kind. A returned soldier started occupation of a war service home in 1919, but in 1921 obtained employment in Canberra. Immediately he received this work, he paid up all his arrears and leased the premises to another person, the rent being paid to the department by his agent. Subsequently, he became unemployed, and let the cottage to the widow of an ex-soldier for 10s. a week, but he got into arrears with his payments to the amount of £63. During this time, he renewed the water pipes and replaced the guttering of the house. He also let a contract for the installation of electric light, and defrayed the cost of all these improvements out of his own pocket. He arranged to pay up the arrears at the rate of 10s. a month; but, without notice, the commission, in April, 1932, took the property out of the hands of the agent, and informed the ex-soldier that it had taken possession. The house was then empty, and was considerably damaged by vandals. He recently received a letter from the War Service Homes Commission, notifying its intention to proceed against him for the recovery of outstanding arrears. The letter from the commission is marked “ J 54,57,” and is dated the 7th August, 1933.
– We do not turn these men out of their homes.
– In this case, the departmental officers took the keys out of the agent’s hands, and that is equivalent to taking possession of the premises. In any case, the tenant moved from the house, but if the department had left him in possession, it would have received a better deal. All it now has is the partly demolished building which has depreciated in value probably much more than if the department had allowed the occupant to do a fair thing. The department took a mean advantage of this man. It did not even approach the owner of the premises, but went to his agent, and did exactly as was done in the case of a widow at Earlwood. In this instance, the department endeavoured to induce the lady to leave her home. Her husband, who was gassed in France, died several years after his return to Australia, and he left her with three delicate children. Subsequently, the widow met with an accident as the result of which she lost a leg. The commission sent somebody to persuade her to try to earn her own living on a farm near Liverpool. Many things that happen in the administration of war service homes will not bear much investigation. I have never attempted to shield an officer who was in the wrong, but it is easy for a Minister to gloss over difficulties such as those to which I have referred.
– The honorable member has been in Parliament for two years. He has raised the case of one ex-soldier who has been in permanent employment, yet he speaks of mal-administration !
– I call it vicious administration. The commissioners would not give way, although the amount in dispute was only1s.11d. a week, and they said that they were not concerned whether an occupant had paid his shire rates. The Minister was not justified in sending the police to this man’s home.
– The honorable member is making this a personal matter.
– Not at all, but I take a personal interest in any case in which a constituent of mine has been treated in this way. The matter, as I have already indicated, was thoroughly investigated by the local branch of the soldiers’ league, and I am justified in ventilating it. The Minister has remarked that I have referred to the position of only one ex-soldier, but I have always tried to avoid dealing with individual cases. I endeavour to deal with these matters on broad principles. The Minister cannot deny that in a previous debate on war service homes, I mentioned several disabilities, and appealed to him to regard the reduction of interest rates as the soundest method of providing financial relief to purchasers.
– I then replied to the honorable member, but he has not since taken up my challenge in regard to a woman who supposedly was charged £200 more than the value of the home.
– I did not mention either £200 or any other figure.
– I have looked it up
– -I challenge the Minister to prove his statement by a quotation from Hansard. I directed his attention to statements that had been submitted to me by war service homes purchasers’ associations, and passed on his replies to those bodies. The majority of the cases were not in my electorate, in which there are few war service homes. But I am not concerned only with cases that are in my electorate. Immediately I took tho matter up publicly, I was furnished with a,batch of letters from purchasers of war service homes, and from widows of soldiers who were purchasers, but as these cases were being handled by members for the divisions concerned, I did not usurp their function, nor overload the department with correspondence. But I do level against the Minister and his officers the charge of having been ungenerous in the specific case in my electorate to which I have referred.
– The committee has listened this evening to a series of very strong accusations against the War Service Homes Administration. I have received the best treatment it was possible to obtain from both the War Service Homes Commission and the Repatriation’ Department, although I have not agreed with some of the decisions that have gone against me.
I wish to say a word on behalf of the staffs of both organizations. These organizations were established shortly after the termination of the war, about fifteen years ago, the male officials comprising returned soldiers, while to the hospital staffs and other female positions were appointed returned nurses and the relatives of ex-soldiers. It Avas thought by all that the period of appointment would be short; therefore, these staffs were given a definitely temporary basis, which did not provide for some of the advantages that are enjoyed by the Public Service generally. It now appears, however, that for various reasons, including the unexpectedly greater toll taken by Avar service of the health of returned soldiers, and the loss of occupations caused by the depression, which have compelled many to fall back upon pensions and to undergo hospital treatment, the work of the Repatriation Department, as well as of the War Service Homes Commission, has considerably increased, and in certain directions is likely to continue for possibly another 25 or 30 years; because the activities of the Repatriation Department embrace hospital treatment, the payment of Avar pensions, and the education of Avar orphans. The staffs of both of these organizations, are now fairly well stabilized, and their work is practically identical with that of permanent officers of the Public Service. I am informed that in a Cabinet minute the Bruce-Page Government provided that those employed would be continued in their employment until such time as the activities of the department ceased; and that if, in the course of time, the activities of the Repatriation Commission were transferred to other departments, the officers necessary to carry on the work of repatriation to its completion would be transferred to those departments. That seems to give further point to my suggestion that this work is practically permanent. Being temporary employees, however. the staffs of these two organizations differ from the Public Service in that they are not eligible for long-service leave. As fifteen years have elapsed since many officers of the Repatriation Department were first employed, they are approaching the time when through age or disability, they will have to retire, but they will not be entitled to the furlough which in the Public Service they would enjoy after twenty years of service. Some of them have already reached, or are approaching, the age of 65 years, and for that reason I ask the Government to consider the matter fairly promptly. Others who entered the department suffering some minor disability which at the time was not sufficient to affect their work, are now beginning to feel the effects of it, with the result that their work is no longer efficient. As permanent employees they would receive a proportion of their long-service leave, but that is not available to them. Those who are too old to engage in commercial pursuits face a rather bleak future, which would not be theirs had they entered commercial employment, in which it is now the practice to assist old employees out of a provident or benevolent fund. I am informed that, on an average salary of between £250 and £300 a year, the cost would probably not exceed £2,000 a year at the present time, and at no time would add very greatly to the burden of the Commonwealth. I have learned from other sources that the immediate cost would be less than that which I have mentioned. I ask the Minister to urge the fairness of treating these long-service temporary employees on a basis similar to that of members of the Public Service, who at the expiration of twenty years have the benefit of long-service leave or of payment in lieu thereof.
– Unlike the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), I have over 2,000 soldier purchasers of war service homes in my electorate. As a matter of fact two or three garden groups of these homes have been established there. When complaints are made to me I make a practice of dealing direct with the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis), the chairman (Mr. Peterson), or the other members of the commission, and in 99 out of 100 cases I receive satisfaction ; but that does not mean that the purchasers have no complaints; undoubtedly they have many just complaints. As a member of the Scullin Government I was temporarily associated with the work of the War Service Homes Commission, and I know that before the depression purchasers had a wonderful record, only about one per cent, of them being in arrears in respect of their obligations. Taking into consideration what they have done since the depression they have’ still a wonderful record. Many of the purchasers beautified their homes by making improvements and laying down gardens and lawns, - lattice work, &c, and those who are now financially embarrassed consider that they should he freed from their obligations and allowed to continue in their homes as tenants. They cannot understand why a war service home purchaser, who has improved his home and probably reared two or three children in it, should be forced toleave it and a civilian be allowed tooccupy it at a rental considerably lower than the charges imposed upon the* original occupier by way of principal and1 interest, insurance and maintenance charges. They ask that the returned soldier occupant should be allowed to remain in the home and to pay a rental based on the present day market value of the property, a concession which is extended to the new tenants who have taken over the properties after the soldiers have been forced by economic pressure to vacate them. I know that the Minister will say that the civilian tenant who is charged a low rental continues his occupancy only at the pleasure of the department, and may be called upon to vacate the premises at any time. But the returned soldier purchaser is prepared to becomes a tenant under the conditions applying to civilian occupiers. I urge the Minister to give favorable consideration to this request.
-last the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) to table or in some way make available the papers relating to the case at Concord which he mentioned to-day. I have no wish to deal with that case in detail at this stage.
– I shall arrange a date as early as practicable on which the honorable member may examine the file in detail with me.
– I shall be much obliged if the Assistant Minister will do that.
.- With other honorable members I enter my protest against the Government’s treatment of the purchasers of war service homes. I lay the blame for the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs not upon the officers of the department, but upon the Government alone. In order that those honorable members who have criticized the Government on account of the maladministration of war service homes may be given an opportunity to express by vote their apparent displeasure I move -
That the amount be reduced by £1.
That amendment, if carried, is to be taken as an instruction to the Government to make provision for, first, a reappraisement without limitation of the capital value of war service homes ; secondly, the suspension of the interest on repayments while the owner of a home is unemployed or suffering from other financial disabilities; and thirdly, sewerage connexions by the commission where and when the main sewers are available, the cost to be capitalized by the commission. The districts of Bankstown and Canterbury are being connected with the sewerage system, and the purchasers of war service -homes in those localities have represented to me that as 85 per cent, of them cannot afford the expense of the connexion, the Government should carry out this work on their behalf. The Minister administrating “War Service Homes (Mr. Francis) has stated that the War Service Homes Commission has had the co-operation of the .police.
– I said that the department had the co-operation of the police in protecting the property of the Government against vandalism.
– I was surprised to hear that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) had stated that there had been no trouble with respect to war service homes in the district of Goulburn.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister said that the honorable member had made a statement to that effect.
– The Assistant Minister made a mistake.
– Recently a lady interviewed me, and intimated that she was about to be evicted from a war service home. I said, “ That cannot be true ; you have no risk of being evicted.” She replied, “I have received a notification to the effect that I have to vacate the home by next Wednesday; otherwise I shall be evicted.” .1 assured her that the Minister had stated on the floor of the House that not one soldier purchaser would be evicted from his home.
– Provided that he paid what he could afford to pay.
– I told this woman to go home and to rest assured that no eviction would take place. I immediately communicated with the War Service Homes Commission, and was informed that an eviction order had been issued for the following Wednesday. I protested that the Minister had informed me and other honorable members that there was no intention to evict soldier purchasers from their homes. However, this woman was evicted by the commission, with the co-operation of the police. I then sent the following telegram to the Minister who was in Melbourne : -
Your department intends to proceed with eviction order on - Tuesday case Kentwell, Mons-street, Lidcombe, returned soldier purchaser, wife, five children. In view of your statement in the House that no purchaser soldier would be evicted, strongly request you direct order be withdrawn.
In reply I received the following telegram from the Assistant Minister’s private secretary: -
Your telegram 14th instant re war service home Kentwell received and is being submitted to Minister.
I received no further communication from the Minister, but later met him at the federal members’ rooms, Sydney. Again I put the facts before him and urged him to withdraw the eviction order. But he was adamant. He took no notice of what I said, and declared that the eviction order must be enforced. I then telegraphed to the Lidcombe Returned Soldiers Association advising that body of the Minister’s decision. I should add that prior to my interview with the Minister arrangements had been made for a meeting of soldier purchasers of war service homes on the Sunday preceding the day fixed for the eviction. That meeting was attended by between 300 and 400 purchasers who greatly resented that such drastic action should be taken by a government that commanded the support of 32 soldier members, men who had fought side by side on the fields of Flanders or had climbed the cliffs of Gallipoli, and shed their blood at Lone Pine. I was informed that the income of the Kentwell family was £2 15s. a week. But this included 15s. a week family endowment, for which the people have to thank Mr. J. T. Lang. This sum is payable to the mother of the children, and therefore, cannot properly be added to the husband’s war pension. When the depression set in the husband, realizing that there was no prospect of securing work in Lidcombe, took with him his eldest son, a lad of sixteen, to the Yass district fossicking for gold; so he had no knowledge of what was happening. As I arrived at Kentwell’s house before the time fixed for the eviction, I know exactly what took place. The unfortunate mother was ill in bed at the time, and under the care of the local doctor, who declared that if she were evicted it would be at the risk of the War Service Homes Commission. But the Minister was not satisfied. He sent one of his officers to interview her in her bedroom. This man asked her if she would be able to get out in a fortnight. I intervened, pointing out that he could not ask a sick woman to do that, and he said that he did not think it was right. He left without taking action. But the department had not finished with the business. The Minister sent out another doctor from Sydney, who examined the woman, and the officials asked her if she would be able to get up in a fortnight. She replied - “No; I will not leave it.” I again pleaded with the Minister not to proceed with this eviction, telling him that, if the department took action, 2,000 returned soldiers would make trouble. I knew that if it came to a fight, these men would not allow their women folk to be thrown out of their homes into the streets. In this matter the Minister has placed me in a false position, because I had assured the returned soldiers association in my district that no soldier purchasers would be evicted. At length the fatal day arrived. The Minister planted hid cohorts in a paddock down near the abattoirs and sent along the first contingent backed up by the police. Marching into the woman’s home they picked up every stick of furniture and threw it into the street. Photographs were taken of the furniture piled up in the street, and I think that copies have been sent to all the Ministers. This is definite proof that the Government has evicted soldier purchasers from their homes. I should like the Minister to tell the committee how many summonses have been sent out to soldier purchasers during the last twelve months, and how many purchasers have been evicted from their homes?
Another case that has come to my notice relates to a returned soldier at Granville. The secretary of the Granville and Merrylands Branch of the War Service Homes Purchasers’ Association has written to me about this matter as follows : -
I have been instructed by the committee of the above association to write and ask for your assistance in the case of Mrs.- , Granville, who has been unable to obtain the old-age pension. Mrs.- is a widow of a returned soldier living in a war service home. The Commissioner will not alter the contract to her. name. At the same time the Pensions Department refuses her a pension because she will not sign over the property to them. Mrs. - said shecould not sign the property over when she did not know if it belonged to her or the Commissioners. I understand that there is only £272 owing on this property, and I see no reason why the contract should not be made in Mrs.- ‘s favour as the rent is 12s. 6d. a week and she has her married daughter living with her.
This unfortunate man was wounded at Gallipoli, and on his return to Australia undertook to purchase a war service borne. He paid off a portion of the principal, and when he died, was owing £272. When his widow applied for an old-age pension, the department said that it could not be granted until she signed over her interest in the home which the War Service Homes Commission says she does not own. Before I ‘ have finished with this case I shall see that she gets the home and a pension too. At Merrylands there are about eight empty war service homes on one estate, from which the windows and doors have been removed, and the roofing tiles damaged. After the occupier of a war service home situated at 43 Malvernavenue, Merrylands, had been evicted, and the house had been empty for some time, the department spent £68 on repairs to the property, and then let it at 12s. 6d. a week. The commission paid rates and taxes, and then intimated that it was prepared to sell the place for £600, while the occupier of an adjoining war service home is paying instalments on a similar house which is valued at £800. Apparently, the department will evict occupiers of war service homes, spend £68 to renovate them, and then let them for 12s. 6d. a week. There are 32 returned soldier members of this House, and I appeal to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), the latest recruit, to assist his comrades who are calling for his help. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said that he . would stand by the returned soldiers.
– So I do.
– Then the Minister should support the amendment, and thus assist to alleviate the sufferings, of these unfortunate people.
– Some of the cases will not stand investigation.
– The Minister did not suggest an investigation into the affairs of those with whom he fought overseas. He said’, “ We are brothers. We shall fight side by side, and when we get back to Australia arid you are in trouble I will help you “. If the Minister wishes to assist those men he should support the amendment I have moved, and which I sincerely trust will be carried.
– I propose to reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) who moved the amendment. It is tragic that the time of the committee should be occupied by a burlesque on the disabilities suffered by soldiers when prosecuting the late war.
– I rise to a point of order.
– The honorable member was continually smiling while the debate was proceeding.
– The statement of the Minister is a reflection upon proceedings in this Parliament and should be withdrawn.
– The Minister should withdraw and apologize.
– I have already called the Minister to order.
– The case mentioned by the honorable member for Reid is similar to many others, and concerns the final action against a widow from a war service home. The honorable member quoted statements I have made from time to time regarding the institution of final action, and I can only repeat that I am doing all in my power to prevent evictions. The Government has accepted the recommendation of the soldiers’ committee that no evictions shall occur while occupants pay instalments according to their ability to pay. In the case mentioned by the honorable member for Reid, the occupant has an actual income of £3 a week. It is the practice of the department to make a deduction of 5s. a week in respect of each child in excess of three. This is done in order to compare each income with the basic wage which applies to a man, his wife, and three children. Applying this practice in the case referred to, the net income for departmental purposes is £2 15s. a week. All that the department is asking in this .case is that a nominal amount of 8s. a week shall be paid. The arrears now amount to £174, and this amount has been accumulating over a long period of year’s.
– The committee which recommended the basis of payment consisted of returned soldiers?
– Yes. The chairman was the nominee of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and some of the other members of the committee were occupiers of war service homes. There were approximately 413,000 enlistments and 60,000 soldiers made the supreme sacrifice, and of the remainder, about one in every ten is an occupier of a war service home, while the balance, in common with other taxpayers, are helping to make up the deficiencies of those who have defaulted in their payments. The person mentioned by the honorable member for Reid is £174 in arrears, and notices sent from time to time have been ignored.
The policy of the Government is clear, and based on the recommendation of the committee of inquiry, the only variation being the addition of a series of explanatory statements which made the recommendations of the committee clearer and more generous to the returned soldier occupants of war service homes. I am sure that after hearing the facts the committee will view these matters differently. All these extraordinary statements about serving in the trenches and marching in cohorts on a defenceless woman are out of place, and unfair to returned soldiers. I expected to receive helpful criticism from honorable members, but from most of those who have spoken there has been none. This is a most difficult department to administer, and I know how its officers are striving to help returned soldier occupants of war service homes ; they certainly do not limit their working hours to those prescribed for the Public Service. I know, too, that many returned soldiers who feel despondent regarding the future, come along for advice, and are brought to the right frame of mind to go ahead and win out ; and there is scarcely one who has not done his utmost to do so. The officers of the department have done a good job, and I am happy to defend them, and to take this opportunity of publicly expressing appreciation of their good work. I certainly would not defend any one who was unworthy.
I have promised to reply briefly to the case submitted by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), concerning a man named Ryan, at Concord. The original occupant of this house was dissatisfied with it.
– Because it was not to his liking, and the department considered that it was not as sound as a war service home designed for a returned soldier should he.
– Does the honorable gentleman admit that the foundations were cracked, and that a wall had collapsed ?
– I admit nothing. As. a result of the house being unsatisfactory to that returned soldier, the department purchased another piece of land for him on which it built a house which he has since occupied, to his complete satisfaction. The first house, which was built many years ago, was let to another man who, after occupying it for two months and finding it to his liking, wrote the letters which I have already read to the committee. He made an offer of a certain amount for the house.
– Is he a returned soldier?
– I have discovered that he is.
– The honorable gentleman told me that he was not.
– I said in reply to the honorable member that it was a civilian transaction. I have since ascertained that he is an ex-soldier, but that fact has no bearing on the case. This man said that the house suited him, and after he was told that the department did not consider it a suitable house for a returned soldier, he said that he would take it under civilian conditions. He bought the house and has since occupied it, but has urged that there should be a reduction of its price. However, there was a definite offer and acceptance of a contract. The man complains that certain things in the home are not as they ought to be, and after making a careful examination the department has offered to pay £40 to put it in first-class condition. The price that the department received from this man, plus that for the house on the new site, simply squares the ledger, and the department does not make a sou profit on the transaction.
– The department charged this man £140 more than it paid for the house.
– The man made an offer for the house which was accepted, and the two transactions simply balances the ledger.
– The honorable gentleman said-
– The debate cannot be carried on if honorable members try to argue the matter with the Minister and among themselves. The Minister is making a statement in which every honorable member is interested, and must not be interrupted.
– I shall now reply to the case that was mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and, strangely enough, taken up by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who knew nothing about it, It has been suggested that the amount which a certain ex-soldier was asked to pay did not agree with the figures which appear in the records of the department. I assure the committee that I have consulted the Crown Solicitor on the subject, who has issued a statement, and also an officer of the War Service Homes Commission who is familiar with the accounts ledger of the department. Neither the honorable member for Dalley, nor the honorable member for Ballarat, made any allowance for an amount of £52 17s. 6d. which had to be deducted to meet insurance premiums, fees, &c. If that amount is deducted, the accounts balance.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) seems aggrieved because the case of a man at Parkes was not dealt with just as he desired. The soldier concerned in this instance is a permanent employee of the Public Service, and is in receipt of a weekly wage of about £4 9s. 8d.
– The honorable member pointed out that the man was rationed.
– He was in arrears with his payments to an amount of about £50, and although letters were sent, to him asking him to make some offer to clear off his indebtedness, he did not reply to them. The department thereupon took action to obtain payment in accordance with the instructions issued to it to do so in the case of occupiers of war service homes who are in receipt of full wages and do not pay their instalments.
– Are those letters registered ?
– All such letters are now sent by registered post. This man cannot claim that the letter did not reach him, because the secretary of the local branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, in a letter to the department, stated that the purchaser had received a notice giving him until the 9th August, 1933, to pay the amount owing or vacate the premises. It is clear that the man received the letter, and then consulted the local branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. Do honorable members think that men in permanent positions and in receipt of regular wages should be allowed to evade payment ? The honorable member for Calare would have us believe that the department is in a state of chaos. He has been a member of this chamber for two years, yet this is the first case of its kind that he has. brought up.
– Was this man turned out of his home because he owed about £50 ?
– He was never turned out of his home; he is still in it. He is now paying his instalments regularly. The honorable member for Calare also said that he had not previously referred to the case of any widow of a returned soldier who had contracted to buy a war service home. I refer the ‘ honorable gentleman to Hansard, volume 137, page 3289, which contains a report of a speech which he delivered on the 1st December, 1932. On that occasion he said -
I quite appreciate the concessions which the Government is offering to the soldier home purchaser.
– Is the Minister Hn order in quoting Hansard of this Parliament?
– The honorable gentleman’s speech continued -
It would give the soldier home purchaser genuine relief if a drastic reduction were made in his interest rate. Even if we extended the term of repayment to 100 years, it would not affect to any great extent the weekly or fortnightly payments. I am in favour of the extension of the period of . repayments to 50 years in the case of the widow of a returned soldier home purchaser.
I remind the honorable member that since 1923 our legislation has provided that where the soldier purchaser of a war service home dies, his widow may have the term of repayment extended to 50 years in the case of a brick home. The honorable gentleman’s speech continued -
I have been informed that when a soldier purchaser dies, his widow is not given the full credit for the payments that he has made on the home. In other words, his equity in full is not passed on to his widow.
– I ask the Minister not to continue reading from this session’s debates.
– The honorable member went on to say that he knew of a widow who had been charged £200 more for a war service home than was owing on it when her husband died. On that occasion I interjected - and I have repeated the statement on several occasions since then - that if he could point to a case of a war widow who had been charged £200, or, indeed, any sum in excess of the book value of the home, having regard to the balance due at the time of her husband’s death, I would immediately refund the £200. I made that statement in 1932, and I repeat it to-day. The offer stands until the 31st December next. I submit that the accusations levelled against the administration are unfair, and I hope that I have heard the last of such allegations.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) referred to the increased staff of the War Service Homes Department, and the provision therefor in these Estimates. When the committee ‘ of inquiry bi ought in its report on war service homes, and recommended the liberal concessions to which I have referred, there was in existence an agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Commissioner of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. The Commissioners of the State Savings Bank acted in that State on behalf of the Commonwealth, and were under an obligation to refund to the Commonwealth interest on the money lent, and the principal as well, over a period of years. We asked them to state the terms on which they would grant to soldier occupiers of war service homes the concessions which the Commonwealth had granted, and were informed in reply that they were giving the most generous treatment possible, but could not extend to them the liberal terms which the Commonwealth proposed to give. They explained that they had their own Credit Foncier scheme under which a number of returned soldiers had obtained advances, and that if concessions were given to the purchasers of war service homes they would have to be given all round. They pointed out that the Victorian authority was a financial institution, and had to proceed along sound financial lines, whereas the Commonwealth Government had behind it the backing of the whole country. They offered to keep the war service homes winch had reverted to them, and to pay the Commonwealth Government in full for them, if the Commonwealth would take over the administration of the remaining war service homes in Victoria. Their offer was accepted by the Commonwealth and they paid us in round figures about £200,000 for those homes which they retained, while those on which the occupants had met all their payments were handed back to us. In order to administer them it was necessary to appoint an increased staff, but I am pleased to say that they are now being administered at a saving of £10,000 a year as compared with what we were paying “to the commissioners of the State Savings Bank of Victoria.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) raised a subject in which I had a particular interest ; that is the granting to the staff of the Service Homes Commission of long service leave similar to that - enjoyed by members of the Public Service. The Government has considered this matter very carefully, hut I regret that it is not possible to accede to the proposal. This matter was also considered by previous governments, but the request was not acceded to.
The point raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) is important, and, at first sight, his request seems reasonable. Honorable members must realize, however, that the function of the War Service Homes Commission is to enable soldiers to purchase homes. In other words, its business is to sell homes, not to let them. If a soldier is unwilling to proceed with the purchase of a home, or if, through circumstances over which he has no control, he is unable to do so, the department has no alternative but to take possession and dispose .of the property as soon as possible. Even if he were allowed to remain on while paying rent, he would have no security of tenure, because the department would be required to sell the property to any one who made a reasonable offer for it, and the occupier would then have to leave. I ask honorable members to accept my assurance that everything possible is being done for the occupiers of war service homes. No good purpose can he served by accepting the amendment of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), and I ask honorable members to vote against it.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Fenton) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– I shall not be more than a few moments.
– In that case I do not’ press my motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– The Minister in charge of war service homes (Mr. Francis) took exception to what he describes as the extravagant way in which certain honorable members on this side of the House had stated cases in respect to war service homes. The fact is that the Minister, in his reply, misrepresented the position entirely. The man residing at Concord, whose case I mentioned, I have known as a personal friend for many years. The Minister said that the first soldier who had occupied the home, a man named Turner, left it because it was unsatisfactory, and when I asked in what way it was unsatisfactory the Minister gave no information. The truth of the matter is that the foundations of the house collapsed in front, and the side walls cracked. The department repaired the place, but the occupier refused to live in it any longer, so the department relieved him of his contract, and gave him another house. The Minister wrongly stated at first that the second purchaser was not a soldier, and that he had, in any case, been warned not to take the place.
– I said that he had bought it under civilian conditions.
– He tried to find out the price which the first occupier had been charged, and, though the Minister has said that he had no right to the information, he eventually obtained it from other sources. The Minister told the committee just now that this matter had been lying dormant since 1926, hut I have here correspondence written on the subject by the second occupier and also the department’s reply within two months of his going into the house, when he discovered a recurrence of the trouble for which the first occupier had been released from his contract. The second occupier purchased - the place in September, and two months later he wrote the following letter to the War Service Homes Commission : -
I have recently purchased through the department a home under the rent-purchase system. Since occupation of same I have dis covered some very serious defects which are duc to nothing else but faulty construction and bad supervision. Cracks have made their appearance at different places. This, in the opinion of an expert builder, is the fault of bad foundations; apart from that the price, £1,276) is out of all proportion to existing values in the same area. I can furnish proof by the certificate of a reputable valuator that the top price of same is £1,000, no more. I had a conversation with a person who informs me that Mr. Turner, whom the department built the house for in the first place, was so dissatisfied that he made application for release from his liabilities, and that lie was granted same. I now make representations for a substantial reduction of the price charged me, that is £1,270. This amount is really very excessive.
An Honorable Member. - What was the date of that?
– It was the 8th of November, 1926, two months after the contract was signed. The Minister deliberately attempted to make it appear that this matter had only just been wakened up. Is that letter, the letter of a man who had been warned of the condition of the property he was about to purchase ?
– He is still there.
– It is no defence for the Minister .to say he is still there. If he vacated the property without the consent of the department, the Minister would hound him for the rest of his life. I have here a reply of the department dated the 10th November, 1926, in which it acknowledges the receipt of this man’s complaints. I am also in possession of letters showing that he made further representations in 1930, and 1932 through his local member. The Minister carefully avoided telling us the nature of the defects which actuated the first occupant of the property in his desire to get away from his contract. The department sold the second soldier occupant a pig in a poke, but the Minister would have honorable members believe that one of its officers warned Him not to purchase the home, and not to pay £1,200 for it. What is the department’s defence? Apparently it is that in the process of removing the first occupant to another property, a loss was sustained’, and the man who subsequently entered into possession of the cottage was required to make good that loss. These facts cannot be disputed. The reason why the first occupant of the building desired to vacate it was because of the collapse of its foundations. The second man who entered into possession was a returned soldier. The Minister deliberately attempted to mislead the committee by interjecting whilst the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) was speaking, that it was a civilian contract.
– He had not his notes then, I suppose.
– The first time I spoke I said that I was not in a position to say whether the second occupant was a returned soldier or not. But when I interjected whilst the honorable member for Barton was speaking,I had ascertained that the occupier of the home vacated by Turner was a returned soldier who had been told that because of its defects he could not get the home as a returned soldier, but that he could buy it as a civilian. He elected to purchase it as a civilian some two months later.
– In regard to the other case in which the wages of the occupant of a war service home were garnisheed, here is the statement of claim.
Motion (by Mr. Fenton) put.
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the amount be reduced by £1 (Mr. Gander’s amendment) - put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The application of the closure prevented the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) suggesting an alteration of his amendment.
– Why worry about him?
– Because I wish to make the position of my party clear. I was not prepared to vote for a reappraisement of war service homes immediately, but I agreed that this was a proper subject for investigation by a committee. I hold that view, and the members of the Opposition support me, that when a period that may be regarded as stable is reached we shall probably have to consider the subject of re-appraisement. The stand that I took as a Minister was that capital values should not be assessed in abnormal periods, but that in those times consideration should be given only to the annual or monthly payments. We are more concerned at the present time with those occupants who cannot afford to meet their obligations, and lenient treatment should be extended to them. I support the suggestion that those whose unfortunate financial position renders them unable to meet their commitments should not be evicted.
– That is the policy which the Government is applying.
– I understand that, generally speaking, the Government has adopted that policy, although differences of opinion have arisen in certain cases. It seems reasonable that expenditure incurred on sewerage works should be paid for by the commission, and added to the capital value of the property, instead of being specifically charged to the purchaser.
– Under the law we cannot allow the capital cost to exceed £800.
– Then it is time an alteration of law was contemplated. Consideration of the subject of the reappraisement of these homes will have to be faced, but the matter requires further investigation before a definite decision is reached. If the gag had not been applied the Opposition would have sought to amend the amendment by the addition of the words “ and that a committee be appointed to investigate the subject of re-appraisement “.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote put, and agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- During some exciting happenings at an earlier stage of the sitting, I was guilty of describing certain action by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) in a manner which I fully realize was not parliamentary, and I certainly did not employ the word I used in its literal sense.
I regret its use, and, in withdrawing it, apologize to the honorable member, to whose speeches I always listen with the utmost interest.
. - I take this opportunity to protest against the action of Government supporters in curtailing the discussion on an item of the Estimates in relation to the Repatriation Commission.
– The honorable member cannot refer in the House to happenings in committee.
– Would I be in order in referring to the action of a Government supporter in moving “ That the question be now put?”
– The honorable member would not be in order in referring to that matter.
– I wish to enter my emphatic protest against the action of the supporters of the Government in taking the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. I waited patiently in this chamber for an opportunity to deal with the case of a returned soldier which I wished to bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Marr) but I was prevented from doing so because of the action taken by Government supporters to stifle discussion. I am at all times willing to expedite the business of the House, but unless the Government changes its methods and allows honorable members a reasonable opportunity to ventilate the grievances of returned soldiers, I shall not hesitate to oppose the Government by every means at my disposal so that matters may be discussed, even though that may mean many late sittings. I am deeply interested in many returned soldiers who are now smarting under certain injustices and who have a right to have their grievances ventilated in this chamber, and I regret very much the action taken this evening to stifle any further discussion on this matter.
.- I accept the apology of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman). I did not take his statement seriously knowing that it was made in the heat of debate.
– I regret that the honorable member for Cook (Mr.
Riley) missed an opportunity to ventilate the grievance of a certain returned soldier, but I would remind him that had he risen before other honorable members rose to speak a second time, he would have received the call from the Chair. The honorable member criticized the action of a private member in moving “ that the question be now put,” but that action was entirely in tune with the wishes of the Government. I remind the honorable member for Cook that the private member referred to only took a leaf out of his own hook, because I have a vivid recollection when a member of the Scullin Government, of the honorable member for Cook moving a similar motion. The precedent that he then established has been followed by another honorable member to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 11.46 p.m.
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
y asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Willhe supplythe following information: -
The names of the stations for teaching naval cadets ?
The cost per year of such stations asa college sinceinauguration ?
The number of cadets or studentseach year ?
The number of instructors, tutors, officials, &c., employed there each year?
The number of cadets who have graduated through the full course?
The number of graduates in the employment of the Common wealth?
The number of graduates who were killed during the Great War?
The total cost of the college, including all charges to date?
The number of years a cadet takes to complete the course?
The age of admission of a cadet, and the length of the course?
The annual per capita cost of training naval cadets?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information: -
The names of the stations for teaching military cadets?
The cost per year of such stations as a college since inauguration ?
The number of cadets or students each year?
The number of instructors, tutors, officials, &c., employed there each year?
The number of cadets who have graduated through the full course?
The number of graduates in the employment of the Commonwealth?
The number of graduates who were killed during the Great War?
The total cost of the college including all charges to date?
The number of years a cadet takes to complete the course?
The age of the admission of a cadet, and the length of the course?
The annualpercapita cost of training military cadets?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Note. - These figures include not only civilian and military instructors, but also cooks, stewards, kitchenmen, pantrymen, storemen, motor drivers, mechanics, groundsmen and clerks, &c.
Eleven employed in Commonwealth Public Service who d id not complete full course for graduation.
en asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
s. - Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be given as soon as possible to questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) in regard to invalid and old-age pensions.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Dairy Council -
Wales; G. W. Gordon, New South Wales; P. J. Holdenson, Victoria; J. Rankin, Victoria; J. Proud, Victoria; W. T. Harris, Queensland; T. F. Plunkett, M.L.A., Queensland; H. T. Anderson, Queensland,E. H. Fromen, South Australia; W. J. Corrigan, Western Australia; M. C. Holmes, Tasmania.
Representing co-operative butter and cheese factories -
Representing proprietary butter and cheese factories -
P.J. Holdenson and H.E.Handbury, Victoria.
Representing persons engaged us sellers of dairy produce out of the Common wealth -
Charles Wilson, Victoria.
Commonwealth Government representative -
Clive McPherson, C.B.E.
Assistance to Farmers.
s. - On the 11th October, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron) askedme the following question, without notice -
Seeing that the full amount of the subsidy of £250,000, which was made available last year to enable producers other than wheatgrowers to purchase superphosphates was not absorbed, will the Government give an undertaking to supplement the unexpended balance to make the amount equal to last year’s grant?
I desire to inform the honorable member that consideration has been given to his representations in connexion with this matter. It is not at present possible to ascertain what balance, if any, will be available from the sum of £250,000 which was provided under Part VII. of the Financial Belief Act 1932. Claims amounting to approximately £100,000 have already been met, and many claims are at present under investigation. Moreover, as claims may be submitted up to the 15th December next in respect of any fertilizer used prior to 30th November, it is expected by the Department of Commerce that many more claims will yet be received. There is no provision in the budget for the current financial year for a continuance of this assistance.
s. - On the 23rd November, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331128_reps_13_142/>.