17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Appointment to the Privy Council.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that this morning^ press carries the announcement that His Majesty the King has been pleased to confer on him a Privy Councillorship ? Does he also know that every honorable member of this House,.of whatever party, experiences the greatest possible personal pleasure in that announcement?
– -May I, on behalf of myself and my party, join with the Leader of the Opposition in stating that we, too, experience the greatest possible pleasure in the fact that so high an honour has been bestowed upon the right honorable gentleman, . and in congratulating him on that account ?
– I am. aware that this honour has been conferred upon me, although I was not informed until a late date that my Leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), had recommended it. I take this opportunity to express my warmest thanks for the sentiments that have been voiced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The pleasure that I have is, naturally, tinged with regret that the illness of the Prime Minister has been the cause of my having had to act in that office. I appreciate highly the great courtesy which the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country pary, the members of their parties, and the members of my own’ party have extended to me, not merely while I have been Acting Prime Minister, but also throughout my ministerial career. They have been most tolerant of my limitations, of most of which I am aware. I am deeply moved by the great kindliness that has been shown to me by the members of my own party in the absence of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde).
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping state whether there is any truth in the statement published in an Adelaide newspaper that woollen factories in that city are unable to dispose of their products to retailers, because the public has not sufficient coupons to purchase the stocks held by retailers, and that, on this account, unemployment in woollen factories is forecast?
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me yesterday, and I made inquiries in regard to it. I have been advised that, owing to an improvement of the supply position generally, there is some evidence that goods are not now moving from retailers as rapidly as they were previously, and that this is affecting the disposal of factory production. Under the arrangements made by the Rationing Commission, any retailor who, in present circumstances, is finding that his ration coupon credits are inadequate, is asked to state his case to the local representative of the commission, whereupon an adjustment will be given consideration. There is no evidence of any fear ofl unemployment in Adelaide woollen factories. As a matter of fact, one large factory is pressing strongly for additional labour to be provided’ for it.
– “Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House why the customary practice of having the
Auditor-General’s report printed and made available to members of all parties immediately upon its presentation to Parliament has not been followed this year? In view of the strong criticism by the Auditor-General of the administration of several government departments, will the Acting Prime Minister arrange for copies of the report to be made available to all members, so that they may be able to fulfil their responsibility to their electors of maintaining the closest possible scrutiny of public expenditure?
– The Anting Prime Minister, of course, did not handle the report before it was presented to the House. That is a function which devolves upon Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that I omitted to say, when tabling the report, that I had received a letter from the AuditorGeneral mentioning that, owing to difficulties experienced at the Government. Printing Office lie would submit at the earliest possible opportunity a typewritten report, which would later be followed, when conditions at the printing office would permit, by a printed report.
– The Acting Prime Minister has no doubt read in the press the caustic comment of the Auditor-General referred to by the Leader of the Australian Country party. One passage relates to money expended by the Government in the presentation of its case in the referendum campaign. The Auditor-General expresses his own view that up to the present no appropriation has been made by Parliament to cover this expenditure, and he adds -
No advice has yet been received of any intention to seek parliamentary approval tor a supplementary appropriation.
Does the Government propose to seek the approval of Parliament for a supplementary appropriation?
– I have not yet had an opportunity to peruse the report of the Auditor-General. It was presented to you, Mr. Speaker, and you presented it to the House. I merely moved that it be printed, and no copy has yet reached my office. I am aware that the report refers to certain correspondence which took place on the subject of .expenditure on the referendum campaign. Although I have not always complete confidence in legal’ opinion, I did take the precaution of. obtaining a legal opinion on this expenditure, and it supported’ my own view. I am glad that I did so.
– The Acting Prime Minister told us a few weeks ago that he always approved of lawyers when they agreed with him.
– That is so. It so happens that on this occasion they agreed with me, and so I have a great appreciation of their knowledge. I have not yet. had an opportunity to study the report; but I shall do so, and, if necessary, make >a statement.
Broadcasting of Debates
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether the Government will arrange for the broadcasting of the debates in this House? Does he know that the matter has been raised recently at Labour conferences, and that strong approval has been given to the suggestion? Does he know also that the public generally is extremely interested in the matter, and is anxious to hear debates broadcast from this chamber? Does he realize that, as honorable members, particularly those on the Government side of the House, complain of unfair treatment by the press, the broadcasting of debates would resolve members’ difficulties in that respect? Is ho aware that for some time past, parliamentary debates have been broadcast in New Zealand with great satisfaction to the members of the Parliament and to the people of that country generally?
– I understand that consideration has been given to this matter by the present and previous Governments. I am having certain inquiries made about it, because I aci not quite clear as to the conditions under which debates in the New Zealand Parliament are broadcast. The Minister for Information is interested in this matter, and I understand that he has been making some inquiries regarding it. 1 also propose to make investigations regarding the practice in New Zealand. I am not quite convinced that the public is anxious to hear the debates in this Parliament. I do not know that I, as an ordinary member of the public, was particularly anxious to hear all the debates. However, I understand that a section of the public would like an opportunity to listen to, perhaps, a limited number of the speeches made in this Parliament. As to correcting by this means unfair treatment of honorable members by the press, I think that last week, had the debates been broadcast, most of the speeches heard would have been those made by members of the Opposition.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he has yet had an opportunity to examine the script of the broadcast about the potato industry, made during the “Voice of Freedom” session over station 2SM? If so, what comment has he to offer on the statements made? Does the Minister know who constitutes the Bureau of National Affairs which sponsors these sessions?
– I shall have an investigation made, and an answer will be given later.
– by leave - I direct the attention of the Government to the very serious floods which have occurred’ on the north coast of New .South Wales, where some of the most fertile parts of the country have been inundated. The district consists for the most part of volcanic hill country, together with miles of fertile flats. It is subject to heavy flooding at intervals of ten or fifteen years, but usually the river rises gradually, and farmers are able to get their goods and stock away. On this occasion, however, the Tweed and Richmond Rivers rose so swiftly as the result of torrential rains - Murwillumbah had 21 inches in 48 hours - that the water came down like an avalanche and overwhelmed farms and townships before there was a chance to escape. In Lismore hundreds of motor cars and lorries were submerged before their owners had time to remove them. Many residents had to spend long periods on the roof tops in wind and rain, depend ing on such supplies as could be dropped to them by air. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), who flew over the district on Monday, told me this morning that it was a pitiful sight: for miles and miles there was nothing but water with the tops of houses showing through. The Tweed and Richmond Rivers districts are the most thickly populated rural areas of New South Wales; I estimate that 20,000 people have been calamitously affected by the loss of household belongings, merchants’ stores, and farmers’ plant and crops. The floods constitute a national calamity of the first order, particularly at the present time when butter production is so vital; these areas produce one-third of the butter of New South Wales. Hundreds of square miles of fertile flat land will be converted into waste, for the floods will leave a deposit of silt on the pastures which will not recover until well into the summer. Thousand’s ofl miles of fencing has been swept away, and thousands of dairy cattle and pigs have been drowned in the floods. House-holders have lost large quantities of rationed goods, in addition to valuable furniture, such as wireless sets, pianos, linoleum, sewing-machines and other irreplacable articles which will be irretrievably ruined by the water. The business people of Lismore and Murwillumbah who supply these commodities will be unable to meet the demands of the public to replace them. I ask that sympathetic attention be given to whatever legitimate requests may be made for financial assistance, along the lines of the help given to the victims of Victorian bush-fires, the Mackay cyclone, and other calamities. In addition, free fodder should be rushed to the starving stock of the devastated areas by every means of transport. I have conferred with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) who has been most sympathetic; I aus sure that he will do everything possible to assist the flood victims. As I have said, thousands of miles of fencing has been swept away, and many buildings have been unroofed. It will rest with the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) to make available ‘ supplies of barbed wire, pig wire, and galvanized iron to replace these losses. Despite the exchanges which I have had with the Minister in this House recently, I believe that he has a deep human sympathy for people in distress, and I am sure that he, too, will do whatever he oan to help these people. The calamity calls for great tolerance, and generosity on the part of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) in the allocation of coupons to enable housholders and business people to replace rationed goods which have been destroyed. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction also will be concerned, and I hope that the Minister in charge of that department will see that applications for permits and other requirements in connexion with rebuilding and repairs will be promptly dealt with, so that there will be a minimum of delay. I feel sure that the generally sympathetic attitude of the Government will ensure through all departments the doing of everything possible to assist the victims of the calamity.
– by leave - On behalf of the Government, I express the deepest sympathy with the victims of the disaster. I understand that floods have occurred or are likely in other areas, but that the one referred to by the honorable gentleman was particularly severe. Ministers controlling the various matters that he has mentioned will give consideration to them as quickly as possible. Regarding the granting of financial assistance to the victims, to-day I shall consult the Acting Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, who, I understand, is having a survey made of the position. I shall also ask the Cabinet to give consideration to the matter. The general attitude in the past has been that these visitations are mainly the responsibility of the State Government concerned, but I shall not allow that to prevent me from asking my colleagues to examine the whole picture as soon as I have obtained a report from Mr. Baddeley.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister give consideration to the repeal of the Real Estate and Land
Sales Regulations that are not needed to prevent inflationary trends, in view of the more favorable war situation, the very satisfactory response to loan appeals, and the need for homes? Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to a modified procedure regarding the obtaining of approval for property transactions from the Treasury ? The present procedure tends to cause a bottleneck, as all land sales, even those involving small blocks at small prices, must be approved. I specifically refer to transactions in which there is no conflict with the valuation made by the Valuer-General. It would simplify things if the procedure allowed automatic registration in cases where no conflict as to value is involved.
– The honorable member is no doubt aware that there has been some relaxation of the controls particularly in regard to the sale of houses. The restriction under which a sale is not approved unless possession could bo obtained has been waived. That refers, of course, to people who desire to purchase a home to live in. I remind the honor-able member that rigid control must be kept on prices. That applies even to blocks of land. We know from experience that the sale of even a small block of land at an inflated value affects not only that block but all other blocks in the vicinity. I might add that we have received very strong protests from various quarters, and, indeed, from some State Premiers, about permitting the sale of land, ‘particularly agricultural and pastoral land1, while men who are now fighting are not given an opportunity to buy owing to their absence from the country. I propose to place the subject on the agenda for the Premiers Conference. It is felt that people who are .at home and have money to invest are receiving an unfair advantage by being given an opportunity to accumulate real estate, or broad acres, when soldiers who are away fighting are not informed that such lands, or properties, are available for purchase. Consistent with the considerations I have mentioned, namely, prices and the provision of reasonable opportunities to soldiers to purchase, a relaxation of the regulations will be made as far as possible.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read, a report in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph that within the last six months 40,000 people have applied at Australia House, London, for information relating to migration to Australia, and that an official at Australia House stated that no specific plan has yet been made available with regard to migration? If that be so, will he take action to inform Australia House of the position so that prospective migrants will not be discouraged ?
– I shall arrange to have an examination of the matter raised by the honorable member. However, the Acting High Commissioner, Mr. Duncan, arrived in Australia recently, and is here at present. He is discussing migration with the Vice-President of the Executive Council and the Acting Minister for External Affairs, whilst I myself have had some conversations with him on the subject. From those conversations, I gather that reports of the kind referred to by tho honorable member are not correct. I shall examine the second point raised by the honorable member.
Withdrawal of Long-service Personnel.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister issue instructions that immediate steps be taken to ascertain the names of all soldiers who, by length of service, are eligible for release from the Army, that such soldiers be discharged forthwith unless they request their commanding officer in writing that their services be retained, and that no soldier stationed on the Australian mainland who is eligible for release is to be sent forward to combat areas prior to discharge unless at his own request in writing?
– A question was asked on this subject yesterday, and the honorable member for Parkes also raised the matter with me in a personal interview. I have discussed the matter with the Acting Minister for the Army and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who is chairman of tho War Commitments Committee. As I indicated to the House yesterday, the responsible officers are now working upon the matter on the basis indicated in my statement to the House recently. I shall not be able to give the information asked for in the form of a statement until next week. I shall keep in mind the points raised by the honorable member for New England.
– Did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read in the Sydney Morning Herald recently the following report: -
New South Wales poultry and dairying Industries would suffer disaster unless there was an early and drastic revision of the allocation of wheat imports into New South Wales and Victoria, a leading Sydney miller said last night.
He said that the industries were already crippled by n serious shortage of bran and pollard.
Wheat imports allotted to New South Wales by the Australian Wheat Board were far below the amount necessary to meet local flour requirements, he said.
The quota allotted to Victoria was far in excess of domestic requirements. “The effect of this”, he said, “is that Victoria is now becoming heavily overstocked with flour, and mills are producing additional quantities of bran and pollard, which will be retained in that State for the benefit of the local poultry and dairying industries.”
Does the Minister realize that if those allegations are true, the poultry and dairying industries of New .South Wales are being treated most unfairly? Will the Minister comment on those statements, and, if (necessary, make a proper adjustment of supplies?
– My attention has been drawn to the statements, which definitely are not correct. Allegations have been made in New South Wales that Victoria is receiving preferential treatment; but, in Victoria, allegations are made that New South Wales is enjoying preferential treatment at the expense of that State. However, the authorities responsible for the distribution of wheat make no differentiation ‘between States, and all the quotas are equitably distributed. Speaking advisedly, I believe that Victoria is not receiving greater supplies than those to which it is justly entitled. In no circumstances would I or the Australian Wheat Board, which is responsible for the distribution, make any unfair discrimination between States. The honorable member may rest assured that the distribution of wheat and mill offals is made on the most equitable basis.
– Has the Min ister for Post-war Reconstruction read in the press reports that the manufacture of motor cars has been commenced in Great Britain, and that the estimates of the new prices are from 30 to 100 per cent. higher than the pre-war prices of the vehicles? As many factors are conducive to the effective promotion of the motor-car industry in Australia, is the Minister in a position to inform the House what progress has been made in examining the offers submitted to the Government to manufacture motor vehicles here? If the Minister has no information at present, when does he expect to be able to make a definite statement to the House?
– The Government has received offers from various firms interested in the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, and about six proposals are at present in its hands. They cover a wide variety of motor cars, and must be related to the policy of the Government for the future defence requirements of this country. For that reason, all of the proposals must be examined most carefully. I am not yet in a position to make a statement to the House on the progress that has been made in examining them, but I shall do so at the earliest possible date.
Releases from the Forces.
– I address to the Acting Prime Minister the following questions. - (1) As three committees have been appointed by Cabinet torecommend the release of 50,000 service personnel, will the Government insist that the services shall grant access to the committees in order to enable them to carry out the declared policy of the Administration? (2) Does the Government intend, through those committees, to insist that high ranking and highly paid officers, acting in a bureaucratic capacity at home, shall be discharged from the services in the same proportions as the rank and. file? (3) Is it the intention of the Government vastly and rapidly to reduce government departments which did not exist before the outbreak of war, and will be of little use in future, except to cause as much public inconvenience as possible, to say nothing of the wastage of manpower, which is urgently required for rehabilitation purposes?
– Taking first the latter portion of the honorable member’s question as I have already indicated to the House, a special committee has been appointed to examine the staffing of all war-time establishments. The chairman of that committee is the Assistant Commissioner of the Public Service Board, Mr. Pinner, and another member is Mr. A. A. Fitzgerald, a well-known public accountant. The third member will be the representative of whatever department is being investigated. This committee has already commenced its work, and as it deals with each department, it will present an interim report. I shall be assisted in the consideration of these reports by my colleague the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). In regard to the committees which will investigate service departments, an independent chairman has been appointed by Cabinet in each case. Other members have to be approved by the Minister in charge of the service department concerned. I am not able to say who the members of these committees will be, with the exception of the chairmen; but I can assure the House that the Government will see that nothing shall stand in the way of a thorough investigation. I refer, of course, to non-operational establishments. Honorable members will understand that the investigations will not be extended to operational establishments. I am hopeful that the work will proceed as rapidly as possible, and that the interim reports which will be considered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), or the Acting Prime Minister, assisted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley), will be dealt with expeditiously.
Coal Reserves. mr. HARRISON.-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether the Government’s decision to set up a commission of inquiry into the coal-mining industry has resulted in fewer stoppages on the coalfields, or greater production of coal? If so, will the Minister make available some information as to how coal reserves at present compare with the reserves at the end of 1944? As reports in this morning’s press state that coal is being rushed to Sydney because the supply margin is so small, can the Minister say what other action the Government intends to take to increase coal production in New South Wales?
– So far as I can gather from the newspapers, the working of mines fluctuates daily. On some days full time is worked, and on other days no work at all is done. To obtain the exact statistics sought by the honorable member, it will be necessary for me to discuss the matter with the Coal Commissioner. I shall do that, and furnish a detailed reply to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for Labor and National Service say whether there has been any later development in connexion with the settlement of the sugar dispute in Victoria, since he last spoke on this matter?
– Unfortunately,I am not able to say that the dispute has been settled ; but negotiations are still proceeding in Melbourne.
Tobacco and Beer Issue
– When does the Acting Prime Minister propose to answer the question which appears on the noticepaper in my name regarding the issue of tobacco and beer to the conference of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions and how that issue compares with the ration to servicemen, prisoners of war, and others?
– After the honorable member had asked the question, I spoke to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who is in charge of this matter, and asked him to prepare an answer. I shall ascertain how soon it will be possible to supply an answer to the honorable gentleman.
– I move -
That intervening business be postponed until after Order of the Day No. 2, Government Business.
In order to facilitate consideration of the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1945, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has agreed to postpone submission of the motion standing in his name on to-day’s notice-paper. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) also has agreed to defer consideration of the two motions of which he has given notice. One of these motions relates to the order of precedence of Mr. Speaker, and I have discussed the matter with him personally, so that he is aware of the progress that has been made by the committee of inquiry. A conference has been held by Ministers on the subject of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) relating to the Landlord and Tenant Regulations, and the honorable gentleman has agreed to the deferment of further discussion of the motion. I have spoken to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) regarding the motion which he submitted in relation to the Economic Organization Regulations, and, although I am aware that he is not satisfied with what I said in this House when the motion was submitted, he has agreed to the postponement of further debate. I thank the honorable gentlemen concerned for their consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 13th June(vide page 3016).
Clauses 102 to 106 agreed to.
Clause 107- (J.) Subject to this Fart, loans may be “made by the Bank, through the General Banking Division, to individuals and to building societies, for the erection or purchase of homes or for the discharge of mortgages on homes. (2.) In making such loans, the Bank shall give preference to loans for the erection of homes and for the purchase of newly erected homes.
– Clause 107 is the first clause of a part which deals with housing loans, and it involves a departure from the existing law. At the present time, the business in question is done by the savings bank under section 74 of the Commonwealth Bank Act. This section provides - (1.) The Savings Bank may invest any moneys held by it -
Other paragraphs in that section also facilitate the making of advances for home-building. That power will be taken from the savings bank by this bill, as will be made clear in a later clause, and will be transferred to the general banking division. Sub-clause 1 of clause 107 states -
Subject to this Part, loans may be made by the Bank, through the General Banking Division, . to individuals and to building societies, for the erection or purchase of homes or for the discharge oi mortgages on homes.
I refer to that, first, because we ought to have clear in our minds the nature of the change that is proposed, and, secondly, because an important question arises as to whether a provision of this sort should be made through a general banking division or through a savings bank. After all, the use of savings bank money for a longterm investment of this kind on real security is a well-established practice, and I do not believe that anybody will quarrel with it. Any investment of bank money for the purpose of homebuilding, to be effective, must be a long-term investment. The home-owner requires accommodation which will not terminate in a year or two. The investment of money on long term by savings banks is,- of course, a very well recognized feature of their financial methods. It may seem, on the face, rather odd that a savings bank should borrow short - because practically the whole of its borrowing is at call - and should lend long; but in practice, and in result, over very many years it has been found completely sound for a savings bank to borrow at call and to lend its money on long term, particularly for houses’, as under the Credit Foncier schemes of the various States. That is being switched away from the Savings Bank, and into the General Banking Division, where considerations not necessarily the same may apply. I am left in some state of mental confusion as to whether it is really considered that this legislative change will produce more houses, or whether the only idea is to put up a certain amount of window dressing, in order to make it appear that housing loans now represent a special activity of the bank, whereas all that has happened is that the power to make housing loans has been taken out of the Savings Bank and put into the General Banking Division.
.- There is a definite reason for this change. Sub-clause 2 provides -
In making such loans, the Bank shall give preference to loans for the erection of homes and for the purchase of newly erected homes.
Clause 108 provides* -
Loans under this Part shall be made at the lowest practicable rates of interest.
The Government hopes that the organization to be set up will be able to reduce interest to the lowest practicable rate. If advances are obtained from the Savings Bank, the rate must be, even if only at the cost of issuance, from 1 per cent, to
H per cent, above the Tate paid to depositors in the Savings Bank. When the Commonwealth Bank is building homes in the tens of thousands that will be necessary, and repayments of advances are being made, it may be possible to charge a lower rate of interest than would have to be charged, if advances were made from Savings Bank funds only. The General Banking Division will be able to use some Savings Bank funds if it needs them, but it is hoped that that will not be necessary after the organization has been developed, but that home building may be financed completely without recourse to that means, and at the lowest practicable rate of interest.
– I cannot follow the reasoning of the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini). He says that the Government hopes to he able to mr.!:e building as cheap as possible, by using other than Savings Bank funds. I do not know what he has in mind, unless the idea be to reduce to a ridiculously uneconomic minimum the rate of interest on fixed deposits in the banks, .and to make available in the general banking structure such money at the cheapest rate. Obviously, housing is the best outlet for savings bank funds; there is no better security or spread of risk. The very foundation of savings bank operations is the utilization of the money which it obtains from the savings of the wage-earners, in the provision of shelter for the people generally, at the lowest cost. The departure from that principle in this legislation, will prove dangerous. Loans for housing, and to building societies, are more appropriate business for a savings bank than for the central bank. If the Government hopes to obtain money at a cheaper rate than that at which it can be provided by the savings bank, it must envisage the exclusion of the trading banks from the field of fixed deposits. Advances could not be made more cheaply, unless the rate of interest on fixed deposits were compulsorily reduced. What is the Government’s view of the likely result? Does it believe that the people will make fixed deposits with the general trading department, or with the savings bank at a higher rate of interest? The excuse or reason given by the Minister for the proposed change is ridiculous in the extreme. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has pointed out that, paradoxical though it may appear to be, the people are prepared to deposit their money at call, and to have it invested in long-term securities. That is made possible by the quantum of deposits in the savings banks, compared with the withdrawals. One has only to study the savings bank statistics to realize that. The total deposits in Australian savings banks were: £245,600,000 at .the 30th
June, 1939, £358,000,000 a,t the 30th June, 1943, £471,500,000 at the 30th June, 1944, and £543,201,000 at the 31st May, 1945. I repeat that there is not a better class of security than home building; the risk is spread over the whole of the continent. In addition, the psychological effect is most advantageous. The greatest factor in making for a contented family life, is the ownership or prospective ownership of a home. The Government’s departure from a ruling principle in connexion with the utilization of savings bank funds, is unwise and uneconomic. It is mistaken if it believes that cheaper money can be widely obtained. Undoubtedly the whole of the financial structure will be upset. The cheapest money available should be provided for housing, because the cost of a house has a permanent effect. If the money expended on housing carries a high rate of interest, the people’s cost of living is increased. The savings bank method of finance is the best that could possibly be adopted, because the aggregation of the individual savings of the people is available for the housing of individuals throughout the Commonwealth. This clause provides for many departures from the basic principles of a wise housing plan. I move -
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a.) For the purposes of this Part, there shall be a Housing Loans Department of the Bank, which shall be provided with separate management and with the necessary liaison to ensure a co-ordinated policy with the other departments of the Bank.”
Separate management is provided for in the bill in respect of the Rural Credits Department, the Note Issue Department, the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department, yet housing, the greatest activity which the Government can expeditiously undertake, is to form part and parcel of the general banking activities. The call for housing in Australia is loud enough to be heard by everybody. There is a most pressing need for houses and shelter throughout the Commonwealth. There should be concerted activities’ in connexion with the housing of the people, in order to provide the fundamental requisite of’ a contented family life and a protection against the introduction of foreign political doctrines. One of the best means of1 excluding foreign “ isms “ is to ensure contentment among the people, and the first fundamental of contentment is house ownership. The Government, by its method of dealing with this matter as envisaged in the bill, shows that it regards the housing problem as of only secondary importance.
I submit that a separate authority, with specialized knowledge of housing, is a more pressing necessity than the Industrial Finance Department. The housing department must be wisely financed; it can only be carried on successfully by competent employees and the support of a contented populace. Therefore, we should provide decent housing for the people, and specific and concentrated attention should be given to this pressing national problem. For that reason, no doubt, the government in 1927 introduced the Commonwealth Housing Bill, under which a specific authority was created to deal with the problem under its own management and its own charter. The operations of that authority were not included among the general activities of the Commonwealth Bank. It was established to utilize the savings of the people to the greatest possible degree. The municipal authorities were called into service as far as the countryside was concerned, and in the large cities it harnessed the friendly societies and the building societies. If the Government is sincere in its alleged desire to meet the pressing need for houses, it should at least give as much consideration to the financial activities of this aspect of public life as it has given to the Industrial Finance, the Rural Credits and the Mortgage Bank Departments. If there was ever a demand for a separate authority with a specific charter and specialized management, it is to be found in the urgent needs which arise in dealing with the housing problem.
.- I mentioned in my second-reading speech on the bill that there are reasons why a housing department should be divorced from; the other activities of the Commonwealth Bank, but I view the matter from a different aspect from that of previous speakers. We should consider the best way to deal with the man who accepts great family responsibilities. The situation is somewhat met by reductions of taxes on a family basis and by child endowment, but the whole history of. the basic wage shows that, since 1911, the cost of living has increased with every increase of that wage. In point of fact, its -actual purchasing power in relation to modern needs has decreased. I hope to illustrate an entirely new approach to the problem. We all agree that we must have population. That is no longer a matter for debate. In the ‘nineties of the last century, the number of children in the average Australian family was about 6.2, whereas to-day it is only about 2. The basic wage, if it has become effective at all, has done so merely because there are fewer mouths to feed and reduced family responsibility has been undertaken by the people. A housing scheme could be employed to benefit the people materially. As soon as we provide child endowment, the lag is, after a while, caught up, and the material benefit intended is lost owing to increases -of the cost of living. The overall effect on the individual is that the intended benefit is not derived. I suggest that more could be achieved by dropping the system of child endowment and concentrating on providing cheap houses for men with large families. Take the case of a man on the basic wage with five children - almost a miracle in these days. Surely, instead of paying him 20s. a week child endowment, and thereby helping to raise the cost of living, it would be far better to give him a house rent free until his children reach a certain specified age, after which he would begin paying rent. A glaring anomaly of the present system is that we place the heaviest burdens on people who are prepared to accept the responsibility of populating the country, while at the same time we propose to expend vast amounts of money on immigration. Why not spend this money on the provision of cheap houses so that people may be encouraged to have families? This is one purpose for which we would be justified in using national credit. If we are able to use national credit to an amount of £400,000,000 or £500,000,000 in order to save our hides in an unproductive enterprise like waging war, surely we can use it in a reasonable way on such a productive enterprise as the provision of houses, especially as we shall thereby be laying no extra burden upon the taxpayers, and the money will be returned over a long period. A properly built house will last half a century, so that there would be time enough to get back its cost even if it were at first given rent free to the man with a large family. A scheme could be worked out whereby a man with five or more children would occupy his house free of rent. Then, when the first child reached the age of sixteen years, he would begin paying rent at the rate of 5s. a week, and as each successive child reached sixteen the householder’s rent would be increased by 5s. Ct might be that the full cost of the bouse would not be returned in all circumstances, but the scheme would still be well worth while. I do not suggest that this concession should be granted to men with only one or two children, lt should be definitely reserved for those with large families. The facts do not bear out the claim that there has been any real increase in the purchasing power of the basic wage. Men and women who were born in the eighties of the last century are the old people of to-day, and statistics show that the rate of longevity has increased from 10,000 in 1,000,000 to 2-2,000. Thus, for each million of the population, there are now 12,000 more potential old-age pensioners to be provided for, a fact which must seriously affect the economy of the nation. It is evident that the basic wage in the eighties must at least have been sufficient to sustain life and permit of the rearing of healthy families. Otherwise, so many of the people who were born at that time would not now be attaining old age. It does not dispose of my suggestion to say that its acceptance would involve a departure from accepted financial methods. During the war years, we have departed from those’ methods by raising hundreds of millions of pounds in unorthodox fashion, namely by the use of the national credit, and our economy has not broken down. Therefore, there is no reason why we should not use the same method to finance a housing scheme that would be of benefit to those who stand most in need of it. It is all very well to use savings bank deposits to provide houses for the moderately well off, but the man on the basic wage, who has five or six children, cannot be expected to have much in a savings bank. I trust that the Government will see its way to give serious consideration to this proposal.- Something of the kind is necessary if we are to arrest the present decline of population.
, - This clause provides that loans may be made by the bank to individuals and building societies for the erection or purchase of homes, &c. I propose to move an amendment which will have the effect of enabling the bank to make loans also to local government authorities and to government or semi-governmental authorities which administer schemes for providing, or assisting in the provision of, dwelling-houses.
The CHAIRMAN’ (Mr. Riordan).There is already an amendment before the committee - that moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden).
– My amendment occurs earlier in the clause than does that of the Leader of the Australian Country party. The Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems found that few facilities existed in rural areas for the borrowing of money for housing purposes. A mortgage bank may deal with the problem of advancing money on broad acres. The problem of homes for country dwellers was not dealt with. It may not be generally realized that rural slums are worse than the slums in many of the metropolitan areas. Honorable members who travel regularly between Sydney and Canberra have seen from the train numbers of slum dwellings in the districts through which they pass. The Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems found that there was a great reluctance on the part of various financial institutions, including government institutions, to lend money to people in country areas. The reasons given were that it was expensive and difficult to supervise securities in such places, and that should a borrower fail to meet his obligations there might be difficulty in realizing on the security. The commission also said that in respect of small borrowers other than residents in large towns the difficulties were accentuated. This bill does not remove those difficulties. It is not sufficient to say that loans may be made to individuals through the general banking department of the Commonwealth Bank or by building societies. Individuals in country districts who require loans may be situated at some distance from a branch of the Commonwealth Bank; and, even if that be not so, the town in which the branch of the bank is situated often is far away from the bank’s head office, to which all applications for loans must be referred, and where there may be a lack of sympathy because of an absence of local knowledge. The building societies do not fill the gap, because they operate only in the larger country towns; in the villages and small towns there is a distinct lack of such facilities. We have to envisage a position in which local governing bodies, such as the South Australian Housing Trust, will be given authority to obtain loans from the Commonwealth Bank for the erection of homes for the people, or to make funds available to individuals for the building of homes.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the rate of interest charged to such bodies should be lower than to individuals?
– A provision to this effect is already contained in the bill: advances up to 90 per cent, of the value pf a dwelling may be made to building societies as against 85 per cent, to individuals. It is always cheaper to borrow money from an institution on a 90 per cent, basis than to borrow 85 per cent, and obtain the remainder on second mortgage from some other financial institution. Undoubtedly, the rate of interest would be lower. Members of the Australian Country party believe in the decentralization of government, so that country dwellers may deal with men whom they know, and who, in turn, know them. Members of local governing bodies would be personally acquainted with applicants for advances for the building of homes, and also with their properties. The clause should be widened to include local authorities, and to enable them to do the work which in other places may be done by building societies, and, in the larger towns, under the provisions of this bill. Throughout New South Wales many local governing bodies are endeavouring to have themselves brought within these building schemes, and to enter a field of activity which they have not entered before. There is evidence of that trend in the Ryde and Tamworth municipal councils. The former already has a home building programme, and the latter has purchased many acres of land on which it is proposed to erect homes in the post-war period. That is an excellent movement which should be encouraged. Not only should there be decentralization of finance, but there should also be decentralization of other activities, by giving to local governing bodies power to deal with people in their districts in ways which they cannot do at present. Such a system would ensure that advantage would be taken of local knowledge, and it would also obviate the necessity for applicants to travel, in some instances, hundreds of miles to obtain assistance from people who, because they do not understand local conditions, may be unsympathetic. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment I propose to move when the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party is withdrawn.
Amendment - by leave - temporarily withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Abbott) proposed -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “ societies “, the following words be inserted : - “ local governing authorities, or government or semi-government authorities, which administer schemes for providing or assisting in providing dwelling houses”.
– I did not hear the whole of the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), but I understand that his amendment has as its object the granting of loans to local governing bodies for the purpose of enabling them to engage in house building schemes. Previous Treasurers will know that the granting of loans to local governing bodies comes within the ambit of the Loan Council.
– Such bodies must get authority from their respective State governments.
– They may come within either the general loan programme, or the “gentleman’s agreement “ between the Commonwealth and the States. The honorable member for Now England mentioned the Hyde Municipal Council. An application by that body to borrow £50,000 came before me, as chairman of the Loan Council, a few days ago, and I have communicated with the ‘State Premiers by telegram in regard to its application. That shows that this is a matter which comes under the Loan Council.
– ‘Could not those conditions be altered under this bill?
– I do not think that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), a former Treasurer, would be agreeable to amend the Loan Council procedure which has been followed for a number of years, or the procedure under the “ gentleman’s agreement” to which I have referred. For that reason, I suggest that this clause is not an appropriate place to deal with the matter to which the honorable member for New England has referred. In any event, his amendment would require close examination before I could accept it. I cannot accept it at this stage.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) does himself an injustice in dismissing this matter so shortly, because every one agrees that the only way to overcome the acute shortage of houses is for every possible agency individually or co-operatively to get on with the job of building at the first opportunity. Before the war, the annual value of houses built in Australia was between £27,000,000 and £30,000,000. So, as few houses have been built in the six years since the war began, the war-time lag alone amounts to about £200,000,000 worth. I am, therefore, pleased that this bill provides that the Commonwealth Bank shall enter the ring to assist individuals and building societies by way of housing loans, but I regret that it does not also provide for the same assistance to be given to every other possible instrumentality such as munici pal councils, which should be able to go direct to the Commonwealth Bank or the Commonwealth Savings Bank to borrow money for housing purposes, as is provided in the Commonweath Housing Acts which this bill repeals. If ultimately there is to be argument at the Loan Council as to the money to be made available for housing purposes, it must be taken for granted that the various governments, when considering their housing commitments, will have some regard for the money provided by the Commonwealth Bank for that purpose. I see no necessity for the repeal of the Commonwealth Housing Acts, because they in no way cut across the provisions of this bill. The Commonwealth Housing Acts provide for advances to be made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank for housing purposes to prescribed Commonwealth territorial, State or municipal authorities which administer schemes for providing or assisting in providing dwelling houses. This bill provides for loans to be made only to individuals or building societies. I Suppose it would be possible for a municipality to establish a building society in order to come under the legislation, but why should it be compelled to resort to subterfuge ?
– I do not think the Local Government Act would enable a local government body to engage in subterfuge.
– The Government of New South Wales has suggested to municipalities that they form building societies in order to carry out building programmes. I do not use “ subterfuge “ in a. sinister sense. It is a simple proposition that local governing bodies should be able to obtain housing loans from the Commonwealth Bank in order to help to supply Australia’s great need. The essence of that housing problem is that, instead of there being competition amongst landlords to let houses, the competition is between people to obtain them.
– There is no money problem in meeting the housing, shortage.
– Not now, but there easily may be, because, after the war, many things will need to be done. For instance, the Minister for Transport (Mr, Ward) has stated that the standardization of railway gauges must await the relieving of the housing problem. We shall not be able to do everything at once. Housing is one of our most acute problems.
– We all know that.
– But there are other acute problems. It is therefore essential to have as many -authorities as possible building houses. Unless the amendment moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) be agreed to, the retention of the Commonwealth Housing Acts is imperative to enable local governing authorities, even State governments, to obtain from the Commonwealth Savings Bank the money they will require if they are to do their part. At least, the retention of those measures would do no harm. The question of rents enters into this matter. Only when competition is transferred from the people to the landlords will rents be economic. Uneconomic rents force up the basic wage and costs of production and depreciate the purchasing power of real wages. One reason why I am so keen on shires and municipalities playing a part in the solution of the housing problem is because the problem, extends beyond the cities and towns to the villages and farms. Because of their remoteness, farmers and villagers would find difficulty in dealing with the organization proposed in this bill, whereas a shire or a shire and municipality combined, set up as an authority entitled to borrow under this legislation, would be able to greatly improve housing conditions in rural areas. My experience of men returning from this war is that one of the greatest deterrents to their going on to the land is the lack of amenities in rural compared with city dwellings. An authority, accessible to country people, able to meet their housing needs with funds borrowed under this legislation would be able to remove many of the disabilities now associated with farm and village life. It would be able to supervise the security much more readily than could a far away authority. A municipality or a shire authority would probably build in a locality not more than 40 or 50 houses and thus would be able to keep a constant eye on them, whereas an organization building thousands of houses, as I hope will be the case in other respects under this legislation, would be at b comparative disadvantage in that respect. I urge therefore that every possible institution should be brought within the ambit of this legislation. I support not only the amendment moved by the honorable member for New England but also the amendment temporarily withdrawn by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). It is just as important to establish a separate housing department to handle housing loans as it is to establish an Industrial Finance Department of the bank. I approve the segregation of the different activities of the bank in different departments, because these activities are becoming more and more specialized in the modern world. Housing is already an acute problem.. It involves the mobilization of our available material and labour, and I am sure that economies can be effected by new methods of construction. For instance, should one contractor build from 20 to 30 houses simultaneously in the one district, he could probably reduce the cost of each house by from £100 to £150, because under such a system he could make full use of hi* plant and would’ obviate waiting time on the part of his tradesmen. I support the amendment. I approve the idea of housing loans, although I doubt the constitutionality of this legislation. The Commonwealth Housing Acts were drawn specially to obviate any possible constitutional loop-hole. For that reason they provided for housing programmes to be undertaken under agreements with the State governments rather than as a straight out undertaking by the Commonwealth. I repeat that the more institutions we have handling housing loans the better it will be for everybody, because when the number of houses increase rents will tend to fall. Thus, we shall have competition between landlords instead of competition ‘between tenants- as is the case at present.
Mir. MORGAN” (Reid) [12.7].- The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has correctly pointed out that the Commonwealth Bank has not a branch in every hamlet. It would not be practicable for the bank to do so. Therefore, we must look to local bodies, such as local governing authorities and co-operative building societies, to handle advances because they come more closely in contact with individuals in isolated centres. For that reason such bodies are better qualified to handle transactions of this kind.. This method is already being followed in New South Wales. To-day, over 300 building societies are operating throughout that State, catering for small as well as large centres. Other States, particularly Victoria, are following that example. I understand that -similar legislation is now being considered in Victoria in respect of building societies along the lines of those operating in New South Wales. Those societies are familiar with local conditions. They in-<) administered by local residents- who also know the suitability of applicants for advances. These advances are made on liberal terms. The Commonwealth Bank has already financed housing construction through such bodies in New South Wales to an amount of £2,000,000. Advances up to 90 per cent, of the value of the security can be made, and the period of repayment is usually 21 years, although in some cases it is 28 years; and the rate of interest is now 3J per cent. Recently, provision was made to permit of advances up to 100 per cent, of the value of the security. Perhaps, the rate of interest could be further reduced, but in other respects the terms offered by building societies in New South Wales must be the most liberal obtainable anywhere. In local building societies, the directors, who are local residents, know the credit worthiness of applicants. They know whether an applicant is in permanent employment, or of good character. As I have said, the Commonwealth Bank has played a very important, part in that programme, and will continue to do so. I regard this part of the bill as a complete answer to the argument adduced by the right honorable member for Cowper (‘Sir Earle Page) with respect to clause 4, which repeals the Commonwealth Housing Acts, because this scheme is more liberal than that provided under those acts. Insofar as the provision of special advances arc concerned, this part covers more particularly wage-earners. It enables the Commonwealth Bank to play its full part in our housing programme. In respect of such advances, the bank is not required to obtain a government guarantee. In addition to the government guaranteed building societies in New South Wales, steps have been taken to increase the powers of local government bodies with respect to home-building and housing finance. Under that system, the facilities advocated by the honorable member for New England will be provided in adequate measure. I repeat that directors of local building societies and members of local government bodies will be better qualified to handle applications for advances than managers of branches of the bank situated considerable distances from the areas in which applicants reside. In addition, the Rural Bank provides facilities along the lines advocated by the honorable member, and the Commonwealth Bank is already assisting that institution as well as other bodies which are better situated to handle applications in the light of local conditions. In addition, assurance societies and other financial institutions will play their part in the home-finance field. Our main problem in the immediate post-war period will be to overcome shortages of manpower and materials, but there should be no dearth of finance.
.- Although I am not in agreement with this measure generally, as it contains revolutionary financial proposals in accordance with the Government’s socialist policy, I approve this provision to make loans available to building societies and organizations as well as individuals for the purpose of building homes. Housing is our No. 1 domestic priority. Yesterday, a big protest meeting was. held in Melbourne to discuss the housing shortage, and returned soldier organizations are holding meetings to discuss the matter. Honorable members are aware of the great distress resulting from the present acute shortage of housing. That problem has been aggravated because the Government has no definite policy on housing or housing finance. For several years now it has had no finance for war service homes, whilst the Directorate of War
Organization of Industry has curtailed the construction of homes.
– Does the honorable member suggest that those restrictions were not necessary ?
– However necessary they were in the past, they are not nearly so necessary to-day. On previous occasions I have pointed out some ludicrous results arising from those restrictions. For instance, in some municipalities, a person who wishes to construct a home cannot complete the building. Out of 26,000 applications for building permits, only 13,000 have been granted. Obviously, finance is not the principal consideration.
– No one said that it was.
– But this part of the bill is to provide housing loans.
– The bill cannot provide timber, ‘bricks and other building materials.
– Money is not enough. The 26,000 people who applied for approval to erect homes, had the necessary money or could obtain financial accommodation; but unless the Government, on the administrative side, will provide the straw for the bricks, this part of the bill will be ineffective. Some facts, which do not appear to be realized, are that the building industry has supplied for the war effort proportionately more man-power than any other industry. The Master Builders Association of Victoria has issued figures showing that since the outbreak of war 63,000 male employees were diverted from the building industry to other industries.
– They were diverted to war activities.
– Since the Government began to release men from the services and various industries to enable them to resume their normal occupation, only S.6 per cent, have returned to the building industry, although 23 per cent, have returned to rural industries. Perhaps the Minister was not aware of that fact. As the figures are of general interest, I shall, with the consent of the committee, incorporate them in Hansard. The .percentage variation in the position of occupied civilian males throughout Aus tralia during the period 1939-43 was as follows : -
From the 8th November, 1943, to the 30th September, 1944, discharged service personnel returned to various industries is shown in the following table. The figures refer to “first” placements where placement has been notified by the Man Power Directorate, and excludes persons not requiring work or not yet placed. They do not represent total discharges -
– The arrival of units of the British Navy necessitated the continued use of thousands of men who normally were employed in the building industry.
– I am putting my case to the Minister as temperately as possible. The shortage of building materials is not. of recent origin.
– Does the honorable member accuse the Government of deliberately preventing the erection of homes.
– No; but the Government is not making a proper survey of the position. The honorable gentleman is Minister for Works. Does he consider that building offices in Canberra for the Prices Branch is more important than providing homes for the people?
– That building was essential for the administration of the department.
– The Prices Branch has carried on through the major .part of the war without that building, and its activities should now be slackening. This is not the occasion for expanding its accommodation. I could cite various instances of similar works in the States.
– ‘Only the most essential works are being carried out.
– The defence stores at Broadmeadows would have been most useful three years ago, but the building is being erected now only because approval for its construction was given a long while ago. Private contractors who are undertaking Government works, are employing large numbers of bricklayers, carpenters and plumbers who otherwise would he engaged in erecting homes for the people. I have many friends among builders, and they have assured me that because the housing position is so acute, they would prefer to erect homes for the people rather than fulfil government contracts. Those men are not studying pounds, shillings, and pence. From the business standpoint, government contracts suit them because their profit is assured and building materials are given first priority. When they require materials for the erection of a private dwelling, they are tripped up at every turn, because they are between the stools of the Directorate of War Organization of Industry and the Department of Supply and .Shipping. If the latter department does not approve of the making available of materials, a house cannot be built. These restrictions undeniably had some purpose and merit when they were introduced, but one of the prime duties of the Government should be to repeal them, so that the erection of homos may proceed.
– I should be very glad to repeal the restrictions if it were possible at this juncture to do so.
– Last week, I desired to promote the honorable gentleman, when I suggested that he should be made Minister for Housing instead of Minister for Works. Public works are intended to alleviate the effects of, or postpone economic depressions. We all are anxious that every person able and willing to work shall have employment and a vigorous programme of public works must be planned in advance for the purpose of preventing depressions. But any attempt to institute a big public works programme at a time when the need for houses is so acute is sheer folly.
The bill provides that the bank shall make loans to individuals on Credit Foncier terms for the erection or purchase of homes, or for the discharge of mortgages on homes. The Government proposes to adopt the system of finance which the Government Savings Bank of Victoria operated so satisfactorily before the outbreak of this war. That institution has a magnificent record in providing financial accommodation to home purchasers. If a person could deposit £80, or owned a block of land, the bank would provide the remainder of the purchase price of the dwelling, and the erection of the home was carried out by private enterprise.
Servicemen have complained to me that they are not permitted to apply for a war service home until they have been discharged from the forces. Consequently, men who are no-w being demobilized, will have a substantial advantage in securing a home compared with men who are still in uniform. I should like the Minister to inform me whether a serviceman, prior to his discharge, may make application to the Commonwealth Bank under this part for a housing loan?
– There is nothing in the bill to prevent a serviceman from doing so.
– A serviceman may apply to the Commonwealth Bank, under this part, for a housing loan, and the application will receive consideration?
– Will the widow of a serviceman he able to obtain a housing loan under this part?
– These provisions enable the granting of loans to individuals. That means every one.
– I am endeavouring to clarify the position. Is the Minister aware that similar provisions are not contained in the War Service Homes Act?
– That legislation waa passed by an anti-Labour government.
– The Government, in conducting this branch of the bank, must act generously, and endeavour to relieve the existing acute housing shortage.
– I assure the honorable member that the Government realizes the seriousness of the situation.
– I am gratified to hear it, and hope that the Government will encourage the erection of homes without delay.
– I am pleased to note that under this part, arrangements may be made for the Minister to assist in overcoming the acute shortage of housing in Australia. On this occasion, primary producers who require dwellings on their farms, should be given an opportunity to secure the benefits that are available to city dwellers. For some years> financial institutions have adopted the practice of making advances to producers in order to enable them to develop their properties, and to persons desirous of erecting homes in the suburban areas of our big cities. That was an admirable policy. But, in Queensland, at one period, the maximum average advance to a primary producer was< £600, which was intended to cover the construction of the farmbouse and the purchase of stock, whereas a city dweller, who required financial accommodation to erect a home in. the metropolitan area, would be granted an advance of about £1,200. Consequently, primary producers who began farming under those conditions, have suffered considerable hardship compared .with city dwellers, because they lack many domestic comforts. The Government should ensure that when a primary producer requires various amenities that are enjoyed as a matter of course by city dwellers, he shall be granted, the where withal to obtain, them. I am pleased to note that advances are to be made to building societies and to individuals, for the erection or purchase of homes, or for the discharge of mortgages on homes. The provision of adequate housing accommodation throughout this country will require a vast, amount of money. I noticed in the press only last week a report that the Australian Mutual Provident Society has millions of pounds which it is prepared to invest in home building, thus assisting the Government and the country to solve this immense problem, but that the high land tax on the purchase of estates would debar the society from constructing homes in competition with other organizations not similarly penalized. A vast amount of government expenditure could be saved if such mutual organizations whose funds belong to their policy-holders were per In 1 t ted to participate in home-building schemes. I understand that the society has investigated modern homeconstruction schemes overseas, including the methods of the huge Henry Kaiser organization in the United States of America. That organization, of course, is a purely private concern. It has now embarked upon an extensive housebuilding programme, which not only will relieve the Government of the United States of America of considerable expenditure, but also will assist to overtake rapidly the shortage of homes in that country. Similar facilities should be extended to organizations such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society in this country. The Kaiser organization has introduced certain features into its home building which have never been attempted in this country. Not only does it. build homes to a specification approved by the Government, fit them with every -modern appliance required by the housewife, but in addition, it issues to purchasers life insurance policies, safeguarding against the death or sickness of the bread-winner. I understand that the Kaiser system has been investigated thoroughly by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, as have similar schemes throughout the world. Whilst I commend this clause of the bill, I emphasize that by utilizing the services and the finances of mutual institutions such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Government would be able to save many millions of pounds, and would facilitate tho more rapid erection of houses. I trust that the Government will take action in this direction at once because I believe that the scheme proposed by the Australian Mutual Provident Society provides for the erection of modern homes, and the inclusion of features which may be revolutionary in home building in this country.
.- Under this clause, the Government will provide funds for the erection of houses. The money will be made available through the general banking department of the Commonwealth Bank, and also by means of loans to individuals and building organizations. However, I regard the Government’s proposal as unsatisfactory and incomplete. This country is faced with no more acut* problem than the provision of houses for the Australian people, particularly men and women who have served in the fighting forces. Only a few nights ago in a broadcast speech the Victorian Deputy Commissioner for Housing pointed out that 500,000 homes were required by the people of Australia to meet the present shortage. Quite a large number of members of the fighting forces have married within the last year or two and will require homes upon their discharge. The provisions of Part XI. of this measure will not be adequate to cope with the demand for housing, and the assistance of every available organization should be co-opted to deal with this problem. T strongly support the proposals put forward by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in regard to the use of local governing authorities, and quasi-governmental instrumentalities. These organizations should be provided with money to enable them to carry out their own housing schemes. The solution of the problem will require a thorough and complete effort by all sections of the community. Our entire national resources must be harnessed to this task. Unless that is done there will be trouble throughout the land, and the Govern ment will be the focal point of the disturbance. The provision of money alone is not adequate. The Government cannot sit back and be satisfied that everything has ‘been done by the provision of funds. If that is its attitude, it is in for a rude awakening.
During the last three years only 8,000 homes have been erected throughout this country. In 1942 the number was 1,000; in the following year it was 2,000, and last year 5,000. This progress will be entirely inadequate to cope with the Australia-wide demand for approximately 500,000 homes. The New Zealand Government has tackled this problem in the right way, and has not suspended activity during the war. It has had to deal with the same war-time problems as the Commonwealth Government, but, in the three-year period in which Australia ha3 built S,000 homes, it has built 50,000. of which 25,000 are reserved for servicemen. This Government has failed hopelessly to provide a housing scheme in any way comparable with the schemes of New Zealand, Canada and Great Britain. Although Great Britain has been besieged, and blitzed from one end to the other, its Government has not neglected the housing programme, and is now increasing its efforts to provide homes for the people. It Ls securing assistance from Norway, which is supplying prefabricated homes, and it is experimenting with the construction of aluminium and steel cottages. Its effort is whole-hearted. The mere provision of money for housing under this bill is no guarantee that houses will be built. The Government should make a more definite effort to get on with the job. Australia’s war service homes programme looks ridiculous in comparison with New Zealand’s effort on behalf of .servicemen. In the last three years, the War Service Homes Commission has built fifteen houses, of which fourteen were for soldiers who served in the war of 1914-18. Apparently, the 350,000 to 400,000 men who’ have already been discharged from the services in this war were expected to struggle for the right to occupy the remaining house.
– The figure has increased. The number is now 31.
– That does not improve the position. The Government ha* failed to initiate a housing programme for the people as a whole or for members of the fighting forces. Money alone will not provide homes. An organization must be established by the Government to provide the necessary plant, materials and man-power. “Unless this be done, we shall not achieve satisfactory results. I remind the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) that hundreds of people are obliged to live in tents, shacks and hovels to-day. They have no chance of getting homes because of the disorganization caused by the restrictions and prohibitions imposed on industry by the Government. Many thousands of ex-servicemen who have married within the last few years are. living under most unsatisfactory conditions, and many of them have young children -for whom they are anxious to establish homes. I hope that my appeals will not fall on deaf ears. Merely because clause 11 contains some inadequate provision for housing finance, the Government should not sit back and think that its job has been well done. I was very disappointed to hear the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) inform the Parliament that housing was not. a Commonwealth problem but a States problem-. He “ passed the buck “ to the States after toying with the problem for years and leading the people to believe that the Commonwealth Government was doing a very good job in trying to build houses.
– Why not be honest? He said that, constitutionally, the Commonwealth could not build houses.
– The Minister held conference after conference with representatives of the various States, and -he led the Parliament to believe that he had the blue-prints for an organization that would produce houses at the rate of thousands a year. However, he now says that the problem is one for the States, and that there will be a certain measure of co-operation.
– The honorable member could not be honest if he tried.
– That will not do at all! Did you hear what the Minister said, Mr. Chairman? He said that the honorable member for Moreton could not be honest if ho tried. He should withdraw the remark.
– I said that he could not quote honestly if he tried.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– I withdraw, but I did not say that the honorable member could not be honest. I said that he could not. quote honestly if he tried.
– The honorable gentleman said nothing of the sort.
– I withdraw.
– It was the truth.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation to withdraw that remark.
– What did I say?
– The Minister said that it was the truth.
– I said that the honorable member knew that it was the truth.
– Order ! Honora.ble members must cease interjecting.
– I hope that, after this by-play, I shall not be further interrupted. I say, without qualification or reservation, that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction led. the people to believe that he had blue-prints up his sleeve and was prepared to produce houses as soon as man-power and materials were available.
– That is quite correct.
– It is utter nonsense, because the Minister now says that housing is a matter for the States, lt is time the Government got down to the job ofl providing houses and the bureaucrats gave up using all their energies to find excuses for not building houses. The fact that clause 11 provides that money shall be made available for housing is no guarantee that houses will be built. There must be a national effort to produce houses. The bureaucrats who have been finding excuses for failure to commence a housing programme must change their policy and mass the whole of our national resources for housing purposes. The housing proposals in this hill are inadequate. The Government has- provided for the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank to continue to assist rural industries. At the present time, the department helps primary producers to market their goods in an orderly fashion. That department was established for that purpose in 1925, when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Government. The bill also provides for a Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank to provide assistance to farmers in financial difficulties, and for an Industrial Finance Department to deal with secondary industries. Having regard to the magnitude of the task of providing adequate housing in Australia, it is imperative that we should have also a housing department of the Commonwealth Bank free from any bureaucratic restrictions. If the Government established such a department, satisfactory progress would be made.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The provision which the Government proposes to make will fall far short of what is required in order to overtake the leeway in home construction. Financial provision alone will not provide homes. The Government may be satisfied that, by this means, the 500,000 homes required will be constructed, but it will learn that much more will be needed if the problem is to be solved. It is imperative that the whole of the resources of the Commonwealth should be harnessed, and that all our energies should be concentrated on the erection of homes as rapidly as possible. The Government should accept the amendment, which provides that local authorities and quasi-local authorities also should come within ., the scheme. The more instrumentalities there are constructing homes simultaneously, the greater will be the number provided.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).The first portion of the honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen to speak, I shall take my second period now. Local authorities, Starr-Bowkett societies, and other institutions associated with home construction, should be co-opted by the Government; otherwise, the problem will become one of the most serious that the nation has ever had to solve. If we are to face up to the task squarely, there must be a separate department of the Commonwealth Bank, properly organized and financed, and staffed with house-building experts. Nothing less will meet the position. I hope that the Government does not consider that it will have done all that it could do, after it has made financial provision to build homes. Materials and plant are equally essential. If we were to agree to a building programme to-morrow, the necessary supplies of bricks, timber, tiles and roofing requisites would not be available for from twelve to eighteen months. Speed, is essential. Strike after strike is occurring at Lysaghts Newcastle Works Proprietary Limited, and such difficulties will have to be surmounted if materials in the required quantities are to be provided. The problem in Great Britain is greater than in Australia. because that country has been blitzed from end to end. The world has been combed for building materials, and these are flowing in a steady stream towards Great Britain. In addition, arrangements have been made with other countries for the delivery of prefabricated houses. Nothing of that kind has been done in Australia. The. problem of man-power, too, must he tackled. Some honorable members treat the matter with levity. Meetings of protest, and processions in the capital cities, are constantly drawing attention to the acuteness of the position. The people are utterly dissatisfied with the Government’s handling of the matter. The war in Europe has come to a close, and if the struggle in the Pacific ends quickly the Government will become the object of attack, for having merely toyed with the problem. In Canberra, a new building is being erected for the Prices Branch, which ought to be reducing its activities and the strength of its personnel. Major building operations are proceeding throughout Australia. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has referred to building construction at Tottenham and Broadmeadows, the estimated cost of which is £860,000. If the materials and man-power that are being used in that connexion were diverted to house construction, much better results would be obtained. Recently, mention was made of the fact that money and materials had ‘been made available for alterations to the head-quarters, of the Communist party in Sydney. I believe that I have said sufficient to convince the Government that it does not fully appreciate the seriousness of the problem. I repeat, that financial provision alone will not ensure the building of houses; materials and man-power also must be provided.
.- Stripped of its irrelevancies, the speech of tb” honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) represented an advocacy of the nationalization of the building industry. The honorable member claimed that financial provision, alone would not be sufficient. I agree with that contention. It should be the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to make every provision for the building of homes for the workers. But I remind the honorable member and his colleagues that when referendum proposals were put to the people, designed to obtain additional powers for the Commonwealth to enable it to legislate for, among other things, the building of homes, the Opposition as a body violently opposed them, and succeeded in having them defeated’. Yet when that decision of the people is being respected and the Government is going as far as it can under the Constitution by making financial provision, the honorable member asserts that the Commonwealth should be responsible for the building of a maximum of 500,000 homes for the workers. I hope, that the provision made by the clause will be used to the greatest degree by the Commonwealth Bank. I realize fully the necessity to provide homes for the workers. The present shortage of houses is not due entirely to the Government, or to the fact that only a few houses have been built during the war period ; it has existed for from 25 to 30 years. In 1920, rents were high, and those who wished to secure a home were asked’ by supporters of honorable members opposite who owned, house property, to pay from £10 to £20 for the key. I did not hear honorable members opposite then advocating that the Commonwealth Government should relieve the shortage. The position was similar in 1930. But in .1933 and 1934, thousands of homes were available and could havebeen rented on the condition that the high rents demanded were paid. Any man whose income was sufficient to pay what was asked for a working-class homes, then had the choice of from 20 to 3f> houses in any of the capital cities. In the last few years, the unemployment problem has been solved’, because those who were without work have been put into uniform or into war industries. The workers to-day are earning sufficient to enable them to pay a reasonable rent, and because the number of houses available it not sufficient to meet demands, the Opposition loudly demands that a homebuild hig programme shall be pushed ahead rapidly. If that were done, and Australia’s war effort were detrimentally affected, those same members would cry to high heaven that the Government was unpatriotic and was not pulling its full weight. The right procedure would be to ensure the proper housing of the workers. The Government has informed the Parliament that, so far as is humanly possible in conjunction with a full war effort, homes for the workers will be provided. I trust that private capitalistic concerns which, have battened on the workers for years will be excluded from any housebuilding scheme. I wish that the Commonwealth had sufficient power not only to provide finance but also to build homes.
The honorable member for Moreton has advocated the setting up of a special department in the Commonwealth Bank, staffed with building experts. Yet, it is only a matter of days since members of the Opposition strongly claimed that there were too many housing authorities in Australia, and advocated the removal of some of them. The honorable member for Moreton may consider that his arguments are consistent, but I do not think that he will convince any one else that they are. “Whilst opposing nationalization in every form, he yet demands, in effect, that the Government shall nationalize the building industry. I should be delighted to see the Commonwealth Government building houses for the people, but immediately it began to do that the Opposition would attempt to prevent it, by invoking the constitutional limitations of the 7powers of this Parliament. The housing section of the bill does not go far enough. £ should like to see a Commonwealth authority set up for the building of homes, which should be supplied interest free to the workers. Then, they might have a chance of owning their own homes, instead of paying exorbitant rents for the rest of their Jives. This Parliament oan provide money through the Commonwealth Bank for houses, but it must depend on other authorities to build, them.
– The question before the committee is one of supreme importance. The Government and the country are faced with several complex and difficult problems. That of housing is not only of vital importance, but of extreme urgency, and with every passing clay the need for action becomes more acute. The Government has spoken from time to time about its intentions with regard to housing; this clause affords it an opportunity to do something in the matter. Recently it expressed its intention to finance the building of 20,000 houses, but. of course that would by no means overcome the difficulty for the Deputy Commissioner for Housing in Victoria is reported to have said that 225,000 houses are needed. That, includes, of course, the conversion of the slums of some of our great cities, of which the city of Sydney provides an outstanding example. These schemes are for the future: But houses are urgently needed, for both the people now in Australia and those who will return to it when the war is over. Plans and blueprints and grandiose schemes are not sufficient. We need real houses in which the people can live in comfort.
I have sought for many years to awaken the public to the importance of family life, which is the only safe .basis on which a democracy can hope to live and flourish. The present interest that the people are taking in housing affords this Parliament an opportunity to blaze the trail and set the pace. The War Service Homes Department has built or acquired 37,000 houses in the last 25 years. Many more houses are now needed in much less time. This Industrial Finance Department, which now appears on the stage for the first time is to provide some of the money for this great work. It seems to play a relatively unimportant role, but it threatens, like Aaron’s rod, to swallow up all the other rods. If we are to grapple with the housing problem in a national way, we must contemplate the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds. To build even 20,000 houses, at an average cost of £1,500 each, would absorb a large sum of money. The people require not any kind of houses, but real homes, spacious and replete with all modern conveniences, in order to reduce domestic labour to a minimum. For years I have insistently called attention to the fall of the birth-rate, a most ominous sign in the story of nations, and preceding in almost every instance their downfall. The fall of the birth-rate in Australia has been mo3t marked. Family life seems to have gone out of fashion, but if people are to rear families they must have homes. The provision of decent bornes suggests, and almost ensures, the cult of family life. All of us, irrespective of our party political beliefs, are vitally interested in the provision of proper homes for the people. Everybody seeks happiness, and a share of the bounteous harvest of modern civilization. He wants his place in the sun, and he wants hi& family to have a share in it. If family life is to flourish, he must have a home with a garden, and a place where children can play. Every home should have up-to-date cooking conveniences and a refrigerator. The provision of such conveniences should be made compulsory by law.
Under this clause the manager of the Industrial Finance Department is to make loans at the lowest practicable rate of interest, but the funds available for these loans will be determined by the Governor of the bank. I put it to honorable members that if this proposal is to be more than a placard, the funds’ which the Commonwealth Bank will make available must run into many millions of pounds. This is a big job and it has to be done now. I am not one of those who seeks to place on the shoulders of this Government responsibilities which are shared by its predecessors in office. There is an acute shortage of houses and a clamant demand that houses shall he built; but before we can build houses we must have bricks, cement, tiles, timber and a thousand other things, and we cannot conjure them out of the air. After years of talk we have nothing to show at present but plans and planners. Lack of finance is not the reason why there are insufficient houses. What is wanted is action. First of all there must be some authority powerful enough to decide the policy to be adopted, and to give effect to it. As for the materials and manpower, the release of 50,000 men from the fighting services has been decided upon, and a considerable number has already been released.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) seems to think that the war is nearly over. I am not of that opinion; but I am afraid that it will be over long before we are ready to do anything about the housing problem. The lack of materials can soon be overcome. At ihe outset of the present war we had not the necessary materials with which to fight. There is only about one ship left of the vessels we had when the war started. Two or three years before the war we destroyed and threw into the sea a number of mines which might have been useful in destroying the enemy. The war has been fought with materials made during the war. We have pro,duced such a volume of guns and other war-like equipment that we are amazed at what we have been able to do. Once there is an effective demand, backed by the money to satisfy it, we shall get the materials necessary for the building of houses. The requisite manpower must be released, while retaining adequate forces to win the war. Talking, of course, will not get over our difficulty, but I am endeavouring to deal with the matter fairly. I know that no matter what this clause contains, the Government is powerful enough to have it passed, but that will not make building materials available.
– Everybody knew that long ago.
– What everybody knows and does not do would fill a mausoleum. The Government has talked a lot about what it is going to do. Well, let it go and do something.
– Give us a chance. Let us have the bill.
– The Minister assisting the Treasurer does very well, so long as he keeps his mouth shut. Whilehe remains silent, he looks as wise as Solomon, but when he opens his mouth,, he gives himself away.
– The honorable member has exhausted his first period.
– As no other honorablemember has risen, I shall take my second period. We must do more than just build houses. We must build homes, replete with every modern convenience. The woman’s work in the home must be reduced to a minimum. A house should not be merely a place for people to live in; it should be a home in which a family can be reared. It should be the environment in which character can be moulded and the cult of family life fostered, so that children may be brought up with a sense of the responsibilities as well as the greatness of democracy. It will cost money to build such homes, but the cost of the individual home must be reduced to a minimum. At present, the cost of building is f ar too great.
– How is it to be reduced?
– I cannot say; but 1 know that houses built by governments cost too much. The cost of houses must be related to the earnings of the people.. If we build houses at such a cost that a high rent must be charged for them, then wages will be increased to meet this charge. Interest rates- must be kept as low as possible. We are paying 3^ per cent, on the money we borrow. We must not charge the occupants of the homes more than 3^ per cent., plus the actual cost of administration. There is provision in the bill for the disposal of the profits of the scheme. We do not want to make profits. We want to do some good for the community. We ought not to go into this business in order to make profits, but if we do make any, they should go back into the pool.
To sum up, there is an acute shortage of houses; action is called for - we must begin our housing programme immediately. We must build homes, spacious and convenient. Costs must be kept to a minimum, and the rate of interest which we charge home-dwellers must not exceed the rate which we pay the people for the use of their money, plus the actual cost of administration. All this will involve the expenditure of a vast amount of money, and the Government must see that the money is available. It will cost more than a million or two to build 20,000 houses.
– The cost will run into hundreds of millions of pounds eventually.
– That may be. We cannot build immediately all the houses that are required; but we ought to build between S,000 and 10,000 a year at least, and this should be the first business of the Government.
.- 1 support the Government’s proposals as set out in this clause, because I believe that every citizen is entitled to borrow, at a reasonable rate of interest, money with which to build himself a home. Honorable members opposite have talked a great deal about the need for more houses; but no one has suggested how the housing programme can be hurried.
– I suggested that more men should be released from the services for home building and for the manufacture of building materials.
– The honorable member cited some figures relating to the position in Victoria. It seems to me that an unjustifiable campaign is in progress against the Government.
– The figures I used were prepared by the Master Builders Association. They had no political signifi-
– The Deputy Director of Man-Power in South Australia has stated that there are as many persons engaged in the building trade in that State now as before the war. Recently a meeting was held in the Adelaide Town Hall under the chairmanship of the Mayor, to inaugurate what was described as the South Australian housing campaign. I am informed that about 200 people attended, and a resolution was carried. A copy of this was forwarded to me by the president, but who the president is was not disclosed. The resolution contained a lot of propaganda about the need to accelerate the building of houses; but it finished up by saying that, although they want more houses to be built, they do not wish anything to be done, even in the way of house building, that would interfere in any way with the prosecution of the war. That is the policy of the Government. If we had lost the war no one would have had a home. In the past, nothing was done to abolish slums in the city of Adelaide. In some instances, two and even three families were forced to live in one house, not because there was a shortage of houses, but because there was probably only one person in the three families who was earning enough to pay the rent. Reference has been made to various building jobs which should not have been undertaken. I have myself brought to the notice of Ministers some examples of the kind, and they have been investigated. The Government was not responsible for what was done. We have now been inf ormed that the building of homes will be given priority over everything else, so that we can be assured that something will be done. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that every one was entitled to a good home - that the laws should guarantee that, at least. I remind him that he was for a. long time in a position in which he could influence the making of laws, but he never did anything to solve the housing problem.
I have discussed with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) the shortage of timber for building, and I have suggested that if timber is not available for roofing, angle iron might be used for this purpose. I am at present investigating the cost. According to the Adelaide Advertiser of the 17th November of last year, a Gallup-poll in England revealed that a majority of people there believed that housing was the most important post-war enterprise that could be undertaken. The importance of housing was realized by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) when he was Prime Minister. But, refusing to make funds available for a rehousing plan for the people, he said -
My Government fully realizes the necessity for the provision of adequate housing for the people. Provision of housing is the responsibility of the States.
One would think that the position was different now if one believed the allegations of honorable gentlemen opposite that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), through his administration of the Directorate of War Organization of Industry, is responsible. The right honorable gentleman went on -
But the Commonwealth has always endeavoured to co-operate with the States subject to constitutional and financial limitations. [ omit nothing from the honorable gentleman’s statement. I heartily agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney that the problem is not one of finance but of men and materials, and I am utterly sick and tired of people from one end of this Commonwealth to the other “ belting “ this Government for something for which it is not responsible, ft is time that the game was played fairly and squarely, as I, at all times, try to play it. People are not merely economic units, not merely producers and consumers, but men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters. The nation is founded on the family life of the community. So that there may be family life we must provide decent homes. So let us determinedly grapple with the problem. If housing is the responsibility of the States, let the Commonwealth help them to do the job. If materials commonly regarded as essential cannot be obtained, let us discover substitutes. To put it in one sentence, Australia will be a great and prosperous nation only to the extent that its family life is made strong and secure.
One or two honorable members opposite have referred to the South Australian Housing Trust. Without question, it has done a good job and, to a degree, relieved the housing shortage, but its activities are in no way related to the decentralization to which honorable members opposite pay lip service. It has built about 1,500 homes in one area and about 200 in another, both being industrial areas. Although the houses it has built are of a fairly comfortable type, they are semi-detached^ which is objectionable in a country with plenty of land available. My final word is that, aspublic men, we should band together in? this Parliament to co-operate with the State Parliaments in order to solve this outstanding problem which is so adversely affecting the development of the country.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) on the best speech he has made in this chamber. It was an excellent contribution to the debate and was delivered with knowledge, sincerity and spirit. The number of honorable members opposite who have spoken; about the housing problem testifies to theimportance of the subject, because most of them have been silent when otherimportant provisions of this bill havebeen under discussion. In view of what adequate housing means to the lives of the people, it is necessary that every honorable member should- take the utmost interest in the subject, as we do. The purpose of the amendment moved by the honorable member for New England’ (Mr. Abbott) is, not to frustrate, but to assist the Government in the development of its housing policy. The greater the number of agencies handling this problem the earlier will it .be solved. It is not capable of easy solution. Many years will elapse before we overtake the arrears. Therefore, every efficient agency which can be invoked should ‘be invoked, whether it be a housing commission, building society, the Commonwealth Bank itself, a local government authority, as is envisaged in the amendment, or any other authority willing to come into the scheme. The amendment, if carried, would in no way embarrass the Government; rather would- it advance the Government’s plans. Other honorable members have referred to the fact that before the war there was a shortage of housing. 9
– The housing problem was acute when the Opposition parties were in power, but they did nothing.
– Efforts to make political capital out of the plight of the people do not help them. The honorable member may say, “Why did you not do this or that ? “ as often as he likes, but he ought to realize that the housing problem, whatever may be the causes - and I could cite a lot - has existed for very many years. Before the war about $40,000,000 worth of houses were built annually. Even that was not sufficient. As very few houses have been built since the war, it requires no mathematical genius to work out how seriously we are in arrears. In order to catch up those arrears and cope with normal requirements, it will be necessary for every possible agency to be employed.. I have already directed the attention of the Government to the need, in order that the groundwork may bc prepared, to release from the forces artisans of various kinds to provide skeleton staffs in all branches of the building industry, [f that be not done, and peace comes more quickly than we anticipate, there will be the utmost chaos. I remind the Government, too, that we have not only to ensure that the members of the forces shall have homes to shelter them when they have been demobilized, but also to ensure that the migrants we hope to attract from Great Britain, Scandanavia and other countries to help to render this country more secure shall not be disappointed on their arrival to find that, although they left good homes, they can have none here. In a democracy, no political party can hope to monopolize the treasury bench. The political pendulum swings. The Labour party will not always be in power. We hope and believe that its reign will end at the next general elections. Regardless of the political complexion of the party in power, however, there should be a continuous housing policy. Tt should not be a spasmodic thing, stopping and starting according to the political colour of the government. Instead of having 200,000 men employed in the various branches of the building industry as we had before the war, our objective should be 400,000 for a period of at least twenty years, in order that we may catch up the arrears, and the building industry may enjoy assured prosperity. A pre-essential of increased’ population is homes in which men and women may rear families which will ‘be a credit to the country.
The object of the amendment is to assist in the provision of homes for the people, and harness every possible authority to the home-building programme. T have in mind a project which was recently submitted to me by the municipality of Casino, which is situated in my electorate. This council, which is a progressive body, has made repeated representations to the Treasurer, through me, for permission to engage in a homebuilding scheme. The municipality has engineers, works supervisors and all the necessary staff for this purpose, but cannot obtain the Treasurer’s approval. The persons who are being denied homes at Casino are principally supporters of the Labour party. Casino is a large railway junction, and several hundred employees of the Railways Department, including engine-drivers, firemen, guards and locomotive attendants, are stationed there. Because of the housing shortage, two or three families are sharing one house, which is hardly big enough to accommodate one family. The Casino Municipality is prepared to purchase land, erect homes, provide all services and let the premises’ at cheap rentals, but all its efforts will be frustrated unless the Government will accept the amendment.
– Is that not the responsibility of the State Government?
– The municipality, if given the opportunity, will provide the homes immediately.
– I do not propose to argue about which authority has the responsibility. This chamber now has an opportunity to accept a reasonable amendment to enable local governing bodies to direct their engineers, works supervisors and other skilled staffs to build homes at thi1 lowest possible cost. As I indicated, people are living under shameful conditions at Casino, but their plight will be alleviated if the Government will accept the amendment. To date, the Treasurer has resisted every suggestion by the Opposition. He promised to examine some amendments in order to ascertain whether there was a “ nigger in the wood pile “, because what appears to be an innocent amendment may sometimes have serious possibilities. But the amendment now under consideration contains nothing sinister. It is as open as the day. Even if the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) is not prepared to accept it now, I hope that hp will examine it.
– I am examining it now.
– I do not know whether the honorable gentleman understands it. I emphasize that this problem concerns essentially the country districts. The Melbourne City Council and the Sydney City Council are not seeking this authority, because they probably have enough on their hands already. However, this authority is sought by local governing bodies in country districts, because they will be able to provide accommodation for the people.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- This morning, I indicated that this clause is related to the next provision, which provides that loans to individuals for the erection or purchase of homes shall be made at the lowest possible rate of interest. But, immediately, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who represents money-lenders and private financial institutions, objected to any proposal calculated to reduce the rate of interest. I paid great attention to the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and agreed with some of his remarks. The right honorable gentleman read us a lecture, and stated that the people must be provided with the most modern homes, equipped with all labour-saving devices, including refrigerators. The working man is, perhaps, more entitled to a home of that description than are some of the loafers in the community who “ toil not, neither do they spin”. What the right honorable gentleman omitted to explain was how a person in receipt of the basic wage of £4 16s. a week could afford to rent or purchase such a home. He declared that the rate of interest on housing loans should be the same as that paid to bondholders plus the cost of management, and insurance. Was he aware that if his suggestion were adopted, the rate of interest would be 4$ per cent, per annum?
– That is too high.
– Would any honorable member say that the type of modern home which honorable members opposite envisaged could be erected for less than £1,000? On such a dwelling, the interest charge would be £47 10s. per annum. So far, no provision has been made for furniture, electrical equipment, refrigerator and other amenities about which the Opposition has spoken so glibly. A person earning the basic wage could never afford to rent or purchase such an establishment, and honorable gentlemen opposite talk airy nonsense when they pretend that he could. Obviously, they did not have in mind the basic wage-earner. They think only of the wealthy classes that they represent. A refrigerator costs about £150.
– The honorable gentleman should ascertain the cost of a refrigerator in a dwelling erected by the Victorian Housing Trust.
– Ohe of my constituents went to Liverpool for the purpose of purchasing a refrigerator, and the price was £150.
– Black market !
– It was not a black market. Before the war, I paid £75 for a refrigerator. The honorable member for New England has shed crocodile tears about the plight of persons who are unable to obtain proper accommodation. He has urged the necessity to encourage family life, and declared) that the basic-wage earner should be able to enjoy all the amenities associated with the modern home. I guarantee that if this Government took action immediately after the war to increase the basic wage by legislation honorable members opposite would howl about political interference in economic matters. The wealthy classes, which the Opposition represents, have always used their influence to depress the wages of the workers.
– Does the Government propose to issue loans free of interest for the erection of homes?
– Throughout this discussion, the right honorable gentleman has supported the money lender and the banker, although he claims to represent primary producers, who have been “ bled “ more by financiers than by anybody else.
– I stand’ for a sound financial policy.
– ‘Does the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) believe that the mortgage interest rate on a war service home should be 4$ per cent. ?
– I favour the lowest possible rate.
– That might be 7 per cent. »
– I have in mind per cent.
– Australians will have to give to this Parliament power to provide homes for the people free of interest except what will be necessary to cover the cost of issuance. If the Commonwealth Bank were to erect 10,000 homes-
– Through the medium of the Allied Works Council?
– That inane remark is in keeping with all the honorable member’s interjections. When a few thousand homos have been built, we should not be called upon to draw upon the national credit to finance the cost of additional homes. The first homes would be the assets on which the credit would rest. Money would pour into the Commonwealth Bank weekly, as repayments were made, and those sums could be used to finance the construction of more homes.
– That is a new theory.
– The right honorable gentleman believes that the Government cannot do it. Time will prove that I am right.
– The Government will not be able to do it honestly.
– The right honorable gentleman, when in office, never attempted to build homes that persons m receipt of the basic wage could rent, or own. If he desires to assist in the introduction of a “brave new world”, he must discard the shibboleths that he has uttered during the last twenty years, and learn new ideas. The “ old order “ could not provide an ideal home-building scheme, but was responsible for the slums and hovels in which the poor people lived because they could not afford to pay high rents.
– Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will use interestfree money to build these homes?
– We have not got the power to do it to-day.
– The honorable gentleman said that he would! use interest-free money.
– The position is clear that the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank cannot build homes. They can only provide money for home-building
– The Government will provide interest-free funds?
– Let us not be mistaken. Last night the right honorable gentleman urged’ the provision of interest-free money for the primary producer. However much members of the Opposition may protest, the fact remains that they have not propounded any satisfactory scheme for home building. When the right honorable member for North Sydney was speaking of the need for building homes we tried to tie him down to a definite proposal but we found it impossible to do so. The only schemes that the Opposition favours involve obtaining money from money lenders of some description. Whether homes be built by Commonwealth, State, municipal or other authorities, interest is provided for.
– Does the Government propose to remedy that situation in this bill ?
– The Leader of the Australian Country party, like other honorable gentlemen opposite, has talked with his tongue in his cheek on this subject. I ask him how far he and his colleagues are prepared to go to provide money for home building? On the mathematics of the subject, it is obvious,, from what the right honorable member for North Sydney said, that a home costing £1,000 would involve the occupier in. the payment of £47 10s. per annum in. interest.
– That is under the Government’s scheme.
– No honorablemember opposite has suggested a scheme under which the payment of interest can be eliminated. The right honorable member for North Sydney spoke of the necessity to build homes at the lowest possible rate of interest, but under any scheme that honorable gentlemen opposite have ever propounded the occupiers of the homes that would be built, would be required to consent, during the first fifteen years or so of their occupancy, to practically the whole of their repayments being devoted to interest charges. It is obvious to everybody that to build a dwelling of four rooms and equip it with only the bare necessaries would cost £1,000 on which according to the right honorable member for North Sydney, interest payments would amount to £47 10s. per annum. One of the first post-war projects that must be put in hand m this country is the building of homes, which should be made available at the lowest possible rate of interest, but I consider that as soon as possible after the war we must recast the economic conditions of the nation.
– Socialism !
– Our economics should be refashioned so that the workers will be able to obtain a more reasonable share of the goods they produce.
– Why does not the Government “have a crack at it?” It is in a position to do so.
– The right honorable gentleman is well aware that the Government is not in a position to do so. We are aware, however, of the need for a full employment policy, but the right honorable member has been as vocal as any other honorable gentleman opposite in condemning every proposal which the Government has advanced with the object of ensuring the application of a full emil toymen t policy.
– I do not believe in quite * lot of the Minister’s theories.
– During the period that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) held Ministerial office in this country a Housing Act was placed on the statute-book.
– -We put the act there; this Government has repealed it.
– The right honorable gentleman entered this Parliament as the advocate of the new States movement, but he forgot all about that movement after his election. He was also partly responsible for placing a housing act on the statute-book, but as soon as it was put there he forgot about it, too.
– The speech just delivered by the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) has caused me to participate in this discussion. The honorable gentleman, in the course of his remarks, brought out of political refrigeration one of his choicest economic theories. So far throughout the discussion of this legislation that theory has been kept carefully in cold storage. However, the honorable gentleman has now definitely committed himself to the necessity for a policy of constructing homes by the issue of money without interest.
– I have committed myself to that policy on many occasions; apparently the honorable member for Barker has just found it out.
– For some considerable time, in fact ever since the Minister qualified for membership in, but did not actually join, the society of authors, he has had very little to say about interest-free money.
– Has the honorable member read the Minister’s book?
– I have not. Has the honorable member?
– I have. The honorable member for Barker has missed something.
– A good deal has been said in the course of this discussion about the Housing Act passed during the regime of the Government of which the right honorable member for Cowper was Treasurer. Let us review the history of the period. Honorable members will recollect that a serious depression overtook the country and, in fact, the whole world, very shortly after that measure was passed. During the depression there was no shortage of houses in Australia. Thousands of houses were without tenants.
– Thousands of people were living in shacks and tents.
– The economic condition of the country at that time was such that many thousands of people were unemployed. In Murray Bridge, in my electorate, a town in which to-day it is impossible to get a house foi love or money, 60 dwellings were unoccupied.
– About that time 1 addressed 5,000 men who were in barracks in Adelaide, at the “ dole dump “.
– I know Adelaide better than does the Minister, but I cannot recall any such locality. I tell the Minister that the failure of the Bruce-Page Government to put its housing scheme into effect was due to the economic condition of the country.
– And that was due to the deflationary policy of the Government.
– That is not so. Just as we were emerging from the depression the war started, and the whole of the man-power and material resources of the country had to be applied to the defeat of the enemy. Naturally, during the war, a shortage of housing has occurred. In the first place, normal repairs to houses became impossible and, in the second place, the building of new houses was prohibited. The next development to which I shall refer in this short historical study occurred -when the protagonists of the “ new order “ of which we have heard so much began to declare that after the war we should enter upon a period of felicity such as the world had never known. Our civilization would blossom as the rose, and everybody would have homes and would receive more money in wages than they could possibly spend. In short, the millenium was to arrive over night. Now we have come to the point of the introduction of this measure, one purpose of which is to empower the Commonwealth Bank to lend money for home building, and the declaration of tha Minister that money should be made available without interest for this purpose.
My constituency is partly metropolitan and partly rural, and I, therefore, regard this subject in a somewhat different light from that in which most other honorable members see it. In every housing scheme of which I have any knowledge, and they have included State housing projects and the War Service Homes Commission’s activities, after the last war, the tendency has been to con centrate on the building of homes in metropolitan areas, the reason being that homes constructed in such localities are regarded as providing better security than homes built in country districts. I point out, however, that any new home-building scheme which is to achieve real success must provide for decentralization. Hitherto homebuilding authorities have considered that homes built in country districts involve greater risks than homes built in metropolitan areas, but undoubtedly the time has come when decentralization of home construction must be applied, just as the time has come for the decentralization of industry. We have reached the stage in our civilization when our metropolitan areas have become almost a cancerous growth. The countryside is being denuded, of population, partly because of the centralization of industries, and partly because of the additional amenities that are available in metropolitan areas. The metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney have become hopelessly overgrown in relation, to the total population of flip respective States, and the population in the metropolitan area of Adelaide - our most noticeable example of lack of balance in population - is out of all proportion to the relatively meagre resources of that State. This situation must undoubtedly be altered. More attention must be given to the building of homes, and the provision of water and electricity in country districts.
En the statement which the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) ha? just made with so much passion, he ha? revealed that sooner or later the Labour party, which has been courting Douglas credit at one period, and at another disavowing its courtship, will have to face the issues involved. The Minister hasgone so far as to advocate the principleof interest-free money for home building. We all, of course, are aware that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) hasmade a public statement against the continued payment of interest on publicdebts. I shall not refer at any great length to that matter for no doubt you.. Mr. Chairman, would call me to order.: but it would be interesting if we could” see the intermediary links, which at present are invisible, between that policy and the proposal of the Minister for Home Security for the issue of interestfree money for home building.
.- We have just heard a most astonishing speech from the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), in which he has advocated the building of homes by the issue of interest-free credit.
– What rate of interest does the honorable member for Balaclava consider should be applied to money used for home-building?
– The Minister has not denied my statement that he has advocated the application of the Douglas credit system.
– I have done nothing of the kind.
– If the Minister is favorable to the adoption of this policy for home building, why would he not
Agree to the financing of other projects by the same method? We can now see that the policy of the Labour party is to have capital issued without interest, and to inaugurate a socialist world. Houses will not be built by such means. The Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) has said that houses cannot be built at a rent charge which the working man can pay if interest is included. I emphatically deny that. For years, the War Service Homes Commission has built homes for ex-servicemen. Does the Minister deny that the occupants of those homes are working men on low rates of pay?
– How many men did the government of which the honorable gentleman, was a Minister throw out of their homes?
– The present Government has tried to throw out of her home in Canberra the wife of a prisoner of war. The Minister should be silent on that subject. Since the last war, various Commonwealth governments have built 21,412 war-service homes. The War. Service Homes Commission has also cleared 2,967 mortgages, and has completed the purchase of 12,988 homes. Yet the Minister claims that working men cannot afford to buy homes on which interest has to be paid ! I have furnished evidence of homes having been built on behalf of, and paid for by, honest working men.
– At what rate of interest ?
– The rate of interest has varied. On account of hardship, the Lyons Government reduced the rate of interest on all war-service homes. The present Government has not acted similarly. It has been responsible for the production of only paper houses, in the form of plans. During the luncheon suspension, I inquired as to what the Treasury allocation had been to the War Service Homes Commission. The answer that I received furnishes the reason for the pitiful inactivity that we have witnessed. The vote for the year 1944-45 was £200,000. Accepting the statement of the Minister that a home could not be built for £1,000, that sum would not be sufficient to build 200 homes.
– What I said was, that nothing approaching a decent home could be built for less than that amount.
– The Government responsible for that small vote has imposed on the people of Australia higher- rates of tax than are imposed on any other country. It dissipated £7,500,000 in the attempt to produce tanks, yet not one tank built in this country has gone into action. With that money, 7,500 homes could have been built. The Government also established an aluminium factory near Wangaratta, but it has never been operated. An alcohol distillery was erected, at a cost of £3,000,000. I asked last week about the manufacture of Webley revolvers, which are worth approximately £7 each. The expenditure incurred amounts to £300,000, but only a few hundred revolvers have been pro duced. Apparently, the choice lies between a home and an unfinished revolver. Those who want homes will pay interest on them if they can secure them. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), who made a reasonable speech, claimed that housing is not an activity of the Commonwealth Government. It definitely is, because the Commonwealth is empowered by statute to provide war service homes. During this war, 31 war service homes have been built, and another 37 have been started. Recently, I read a letter which I had received from a man who had circularized all estate agents, inquiring whether they knew of a caravan or a tram-car in which he could live. He has written to me further, stating -
I am secretary of tin; Ex-Servicemen’s Housing Protest Club in Melbourne. We have had a street march of ex-servicemen, and a deputation to the Premier on housing tn 1943-44, the vote for war service homes was only £28,000, of which £25,000 was expended. Is the Government sincere when it makes such a microscopic allocation for housing?
– The “Yes” campaign which preceded the referendum cost a good, deal more.
– Had the cost of that “ Yes “ campaign been applied to housing, it would have provided 300 homes. In the year 1942-43, the vote for war service homes was £25,000, of which £22,000 was expended. That is a disgraceful! state of affairs. The department is in full flower, with architects, directors and efficient staffs.
– How many owners of mansions at Toorak have volunteered to provide accommodation for exservicemen ?
– There are useless munitions establishments, erected by the present Government, which many men would like to occupy as homes.
– The owners of many Toorak homes have voluntarily made them available to the Government.
– If the Government will, relinquish possession of those homes, they will provide housing for many people. At present, they are used as government offices, although the need for this accommodation no longer exists. The Directorate of War Organization of Industry controls private building; no person can build a home without the approval of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction. Last week, I asked that honorable gentleman whether ho would take action to ensure that the applications received by his department would be dealt with expeditiously, and he replied that he did not know of any delay. I produced the list of applications that I had sent to him, d’ating back to February, and I have now received the advice that the matter will be investigated. I had asked how many applications had been made during the war, and was informed that the number was 29,600. Those applicants have the money to build houses, and are prepared to pay whatever interest is required, yet this dictator who decides what building shall be undertaken in Australia has stated that only 13,094 persons will be allowed to build homes for themselves. The people do not want government beneficence, or interest-free loans.
– The honorable gentleman knows that even when a permit has been granted, there is no guarantee that the building can be erected.
– The prospective homebuilder #hen has to go to another department to arrange for supplies of materials. That is what is wrong with the handling of the housing position to-day. What is the use of providing that the Government shall assist housing, if a Minister with socialistic ideas can lay down the principle that houses will be built rapidly only when finance can be obtained without interest? Private enterprise will build houses if it is permitted to do so. If the money, materials and man-power that are being devoted to the erection of public buildings to-day were applied to house-building, the present difficulty would be minimized very greatly. The Government has failed miserably. All the protestations of honorable members opposite, and all the plans of the crystalgazing bureaucrats, will not produce homes. Give private enterprise a chance. The dictatorial Minister who has control of building operations should abolish some of the restrictions which hamper the people to-day. Contractors now building for the Government would willingly erect homes, and not in a slipshod fashion, if they were given the opportunity to do so. Building societies in New South Wales can provide fibrolite houses at a cost of £750. Admittedly, these have not the refrigeration and all the other modern conveniences about which the Minister has spoken, but they are places in which families can abide. Thousands, of ex-servicemen are waiting for houses, and they could be accommodated if the Government would make a greater appropriation to the War Service Homes Commission.
– We have all the money that we want. When we can expend that we shall get more.
– Why is the expenditure not greater than it is? The Government will be sorry if it does not take action. Theorizing is useless. I remind the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Frost) that, according to the figures which he gave to me last week, approximately 3,829 building allotments are held by the Government.
– Does the honorable gentleman claim that the Government should not have that land?
– Land is still being purchased.
– If the people could live in tents, gunyahs, or hollow logs, the Minister could accommodate them. Unfortunately, houses are not being built on the allotments that the Government now has. Why should allotments be bought unless the Government intends to erect houses on them ? I assure Ministers, who are unperturbed, that they will hear a clamant voice not only from the general public, but also from the servicemen who are coming out of the forces, at present only in a small stream. When servicemen are” demobilized on a grand scale, the Government will be submerged by their discontent and bitterness for not having taken action when it had the opportunity to do so.
– We have heard a good deal about housing. The honorable members for Balaclava (Mr. White) and Moreton (Mr. Francis) are well aware that house-building could not be undertaken until recently. . Every effort is now being made to proceed with the work as rapidly as possible. Those honorable members merely want to cause discontent among the nien who are being discharged from the services. The honorable member for Moreton cited what had been done in New Zealand. He knows very well that the position in that dominion is different from the position in Australia. Had we been in a similar position we, too, would have built a number of homes. The clause proposes to make money available for the building of homes, yet honorable members opposite are opposing it! Apparently, they do not want homes to be built. I should like them to show a little sincerity. They should cease their attempts to cause discontent. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made a valuable contribution to the debate. The right honorable member for North Sydney is sincere.
– And no one else is?
– The honorable member for Balaclava is not. In 1936 and 1937 there was plenty of building material available, and thousands of men were unemployed ; yet between 1936 and 1958 no applications for war service homes were considered, and that was when the honorable member for Balaclava was a member of the Government. In those years, there were thousands of good carpenters walking the streets.
– Not in 1936.
– Yes, and right up to the outbreak of this war. In one district in Tasmania the people used to say that the owners of the saw mills were only waiting for the wind to blow from the right quarter in order to set fire to it, because there were millions of feet of seasoned timber in stacks, but no market for it.
– What has that to do with the present situation?
– That was when the honorable member was in the Government. He and his colleagues were concerned only with perpetuating poverty so that cheap labour would be available. I am not going to encourage returned soldiers to apply for war service homes at the present time when there is no chance of the homes being built. In 1936-37, only twenty war service homes were erected, although there was plenty of labour and material available then. In 1937-38, 23 were built, in the following year 29, the next year 22, and during 1940-41 only two. Yet the honorable member for Balaclava poses as a hero ever anxious to advance the interests of returned soldiers. He has been riding on the backs of returned soldiers far too long. There has been much talk about the clearing of slums. I am not going to advocate the clearing of slums at the present time. We must find shelter for the people. I have given directions that buildings are not to be pulled down on lots which we buy for war service homes purposes because those buildings are needed in the present housing shortage. The department holds a great many blocks of land, and is still buying. I gave instructions that no blocks were to be sold to any one except returned soldiers. The previous Government sold some of the blocks originally purchased for war service homes. The department owns many blocks in Ryde and other parts of Sydney - between 1,500 and 2,000 altogether.
– When is it proposed to build on them?
– Homes will lie built as soon as possible.
– When is the Minister going to complete the Kenmore Sanitorium?
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has not been very helpful in that connexion, and perhaps the less he says about it the better. The honorable member for Balaclava said that private enterprise would build homes if given the chance. Only a fortnight ago, my department called tenders for the erection of a brick building which ought to cost £1,000, and the lowest tender received was £2,100. For three other jobs no tender at all was received.
– Because the Government is restricting the supply of building material.
– The honorable member will wake up one day, and realize that there is a war on.
– There is a strike on.
– The honorable member should be the last to talk of strikes. He was once a union secretary.
– I should not like to have the Minister’s political record.
– My political record will compare favorably with that of any one else, but that is more than I can say for the honorable gentleman. The honorable member for New England (Mr.
Abbott) said that he could get a refrigerator for £12. Those are the sort of refrigerators which he believes are good enough for workers and returned soldiers.
– They will be selling at that price after the war.
– We have tried to arrange for the supply of such standard equipment as refrigerators, electric ranges, and hot water services for war service homes.
– I do not think there is anything about refrigerators in the bill.
– This bill will enable the Government to provide money for the construction of homes. In 1936-37, although labour and materials were plentiful enough, there was no money, and few homes were built. Now we are taking steps to provide the money, and when labour and material become available we shall push on with our housing programme. Of course, honorable members opposite do not want us to do that. They want houses to be scarce so that their friends who own house property can obtain high rents. If they were sincere in their advocacy of cheap homes for the the people, they would support the Government’s proposals.
– It is always refreshing to hear a speech from the Minister for Repatriation and Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Frost) because, when he has finished, I invariably find that I am able to correct a number of mistakes he has made in regard to matters affecting his own department. It is well known that the War Service Homes Commission is the greatest scandal of modern times. It has 6,000 applications in hand from returned soldiers for homes, and the Government has done nothing about them. It is well to remind the Minister that, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), he admitted that 21,412 war service homes had been erected up to 1938. He made a great point of the fact that only a few war service homes were erected from 1936 onwards, but the fact is that by that time the department had satisfied the demand for homes. He said that in 1940 only two war service homes had been built, but he did not point out that, in that year, no returned soldiers from this war desired war service homes. In an attempt to make political capital out of the situation, the Minister has placed an entirely wrong interpretation on the figures. I can understand such behaviour from a rank and file supporter of the Government, but I did not expect it from a Minister. The Minister has admitted that only 31 houses have been built by his department since his Government has been in office. I recognize that, for security reasons it is not possible to disclose the number of servicemen who have been discharged, but I should say that it would be between 50,000 and 100,000. I have no doubt that the 6,000 applications already received for war service homes are a mere fraction of the number which will be received later, and yet the Minister has to admit that only 31 houses have so far been provided for returned servicemen. The actual figures are: New South Wales, 14; Victoria, 3; Queensland, 4; South Australia, 4; Western Australia, 3; and Tasmania, 3. What sort of a record is that for a Minister who dares to cast reflections on governments which were responsible for the building of more than 21,000 war service homes? Although the Minister cannot find money for the erection of war service homes, he has been able to find tens of thousands of pounds for the erection of headquarters for the Repatriation Department in every capital city in Australia. The Minister for Post:war Reconstruction can issue a permit for the expenditure of £700 for repairs to the headquarters of the Communist party- in Sydney, but would not permit an expenditure of £400 to allow a returned soldier to build a home. Those are the facts of the housing problem. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is responsible for issuing building permits, in answer to a question upon notice, acknowledged that he had granted only 13,000 of 29,600 applications for permits. All honorable members have had bitter experiences in dealing with the Directorate of War
Organization of Industry. Permits are never granted in the terms of the applications. People who want four rooms are told that only three will be allowed and. that additions may be made later. Men who, in their own time, after working hours, when they should be free to do as they like, want to build are forced to cost their labour so that it shall be added to the total cost. The Minister assisting the Treasurer has given an indication of what will happen when this bill is passed. He prates about interestfree money. The interest-free money will be an uncurbed issue of bank notes at the behest of the Labour caucus. I do not care how many blue prints are in the pigeon-holes or what plans the longhaired crystal-gazers are making in order to cope with the housing problem. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) recently gave some interesting figures showing the small numbers of men employed in the tile, brick and timber industries now, as compared with before the war. The first practical contribution to the solution of this problem will be the return to the key industries that supply building materials of the men needed to build up stocks against the time when this or some other government shall decide to allow home-building to proceed. The platitudes in this clause will contribute nothing to the solution of the problem.
.- The exaggerations and inaccuracies of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) cap all the wild statements made about this matter by honorable gentlemen opposite. The honorable member referred to war service homes. I remind him that the antiLabour Government that reigned after the last war provided war service homes which are the most jerry-built houses ever erected in Australia.
– They are. The evidence is the houses themselves. A similar government was responsible for the eviction of thousands of returned soldiers from the very homes that had been built for them. Honorable members opposite have reflected on the administration of the Minister in charge of War
Service Homes (Mr. Frost). I answer them by citing the fact that throughout Australia he has provided hospitals for the wounded and sick of this war. Honorable members opposite have offered no solution of the ‘housing problem. All they have done is to continue the bickering and propaganda that has characterised their speeches throughout this debate. The provisions in this clause are a real attempt to solve the problem, because advances will be made to members of the Australian community to enable them to build homes. The honorable member for Wentworth tried to couple the Communist party with the Labour party by referring to a permit to expend money on Communist headquarters in Sydney, but in South Australia the Communist party headquarters are in premises owned by probably the most conservative family in the State, one member of which is a tory member of the Legislative Council. So, in South Australia, at least, if the Communist party is linked with any other political party, it is linked with the Liberal party.
Mr. L. Wright, a man qualified to speak on the matter of housing, is reported in the South Australian press as having said -
From 1912 to 1922 the marriage rate mutually of South .Australia was 2,400 couples mid the house-building average 1,020, which meant that about one-third of those couples did not wish .to build. For the next decade, marriages averaged 2,900 annually, nearly 2,000 houses being built yearly. During ISIU2-42, the marriage average jumped to 4,700 « year, the average of houses built being only 1,000. By 1939, there were 5,000 homes in tho metropolitan area not fi:t for human habitation.
A Labour government was not in power then. There was no shortage of labour and material. Yet honorable gentlemen apposite have the audacity to criticize this Government for the housing shortage when it is concentrating on meeting the greatest crisis that this country has ever encountered. Mr. Wright continued - lt was not because of war-time but an accumulated shortage nf homes that made the ,total 25,000.
With the aid of this Government, the people will ‘be able to house themselves.
We are making every effort to ensure that men and materials shall be released when not required for war purposes, in order that people who through no fault of their own are homeless or inadequately housed shall have their needs met.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), in a confused speech, stated that the only obstacle to the erection of homes was the lack of labour and materials.
– That is true.
– lt is not true. Some people in my electorate have the necessary materials and are prepared to erect their own homes, but under the regulations, they are debarred from doing so. I shall cite an instance to prove my contention. This week, a young man wrote to me stating that he had built for himself a shack, the cost of which slighly exceeded the maximum of £25 prescribed in the regulations. Although this structure had been erected in the country, a government inspector discovered it, and now the young man is being taken to task for having committed a breach of the regulations. He informed me that he had collected the necessary materials over a period, of two years, during which he had built the shack in his spare time. So the Government does harass a person when he endeavours to provide accommodation for himself.
The Government lacks resolution in dealing with the housing problems. For example, the Repatriation Department has first priority “in acquiring building materials and securing labour, but for more than twelve months the Minister has been making excuses for the delay in completing the sanatorium at Kenmore for servicemen suffering from tuberculosis. These unfortunate individuals are still accommodated in a general repatriation hospital, which lacks the facilities required for their treatment and comfort.
The acute housing shortage is one of the most serious disabilities suffered by the Australian people. Of course, the same disability is suffered in other countries, but their governments are making sirenuous endeavours to solve the problem.
The Commonwealth Government does not appear to have the will to do so. Our timber mills are working to full capacity, and the timber is going somewhere, but not into the construction of homes. Since the outbreak of war, great buildings have been erected for military purposes, and some of them are now empty. The timber which was used in their construction could now be utilized for the erection of thousands of homes, if the Government intended to provide reasonable comfort for people who are now suffering severe privations. By a slow process, men will be released from the services to engage in the building and other industries. If they are demobilized as slowly as were the men who were released to assist primary producers, Heaven knows when the building industry will obtain the labour that it so urgently requires! Before the trees have been felled and taken to the mills, and the wood has been properly seasoned, a year will have passed, and the building programme will not have been accelerated. Members of the Opposition require more than the assurance given by the Minister for Repatriation. He did not encourage us to believe that the housing problem would be solved within a reasonable time, but arrogantly dismissed any charge that he was responsible for the present indolent policy. I am gratified to see that the bill provides for housing loans, and hope that the interest rate on soldiers’ homes will not exceed 2 per cent.
.- This part is one of the most valuable portions of the bill. The housing problem which now confronts the Government would face any other government in office in the Commonwealth at this period. It i3 all very well for honorable members to ask, “ Why does not the Government build houses for the people? “ The fact is that we cannot make bricks withoutstraw, and we cannot build houses unless we have the necessary man-power and materials. Frankly, we have to take a practical view of the matter. All members including those of the Opposition, know that when Australia was threatened with invasion, a tremendous strain was placed upon man-power and resources in the building industry. We were committed to the expenditure of tens of millions of pounds for the purpose of erecting buildings and installations in order to provide facilities and accommodation for Australian troops in the north, and for American troops who came to this country. Had we employed the man-power and materials in a selfish manner to build houses for the accommodation of our own people, Australia might long since have been invaded.
The strain on man-power and building materials has not yet eased. We now have the responsibility to provide accommodation for the units of the British Navy operating in the Pacific. In this matter, we already have commitments amounting to £5,000,000 for building materials alone to provide proper accommodation for men of the British Navy. Despite the housing shortage, does any honorable gentleman opposite contend that we should refuse point blank to provide that accommodation for the British Navy?
– .Certainly not. But the Government is wasting man-power and building materials in other directions.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) admits that the Government should not refuse to provide that accommodation for the British Navy, and he should realize that the contracts totalling £5,000,000 will absorb all the building materials and man-power available at the present time.
– The Government is wasting man-power and materials in every State.
– The honorable member cannot have his cake and eat it. We must either provide that service for the British Navy, as we did for our American Allies - and I remind the honorable gentleman that it was a very strong feature in preventing the invasion of Australia - or we must refuse to do so. We are accepting the services of the British Navy, which has made demands for indispensable buildings. We may either accept or refuse our obligations.
– We all agree on that point.
– So long as we all are agreed upon it, I can pass to my second point, namely, that the resources of thi3 country in man-power and materials will be absorbed for a considerable time in meeting the demands of the British Navy. Let us examine the housing problem generally. More than S00,000 persons are in the Australian forces, and most of them are not in need of the accommodation that they required in peace-time. Many thousands of young married couples have temporarily given up their homes. Yesterday, the honorable mem.ber for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) mentioned that many young men, who owned homes, were serving in the forces, and had let their dwellings during the period of their service. Their wives had returned to live with their parents. I. emphasize that fact in order to show that hundreds of thousands of men. and women now in the forces no longer need permanent civil accommodation. Despite the fact that building has been restricted during the war, the number of new buildings has been greater than the number of demolitions. Therefore, the position to-day is that we have more housing accommodation in Australia than we had before the outbreak of war, and fewer people actually require it. The conclusion to be drawn is that prior to the war thu anti-Labour Government then in office had precious little policy for home building. The present Government did not cause the housing shortage, but inherited the problem from its predecessors. This is evidence of the deplorable condition of building accommodation before the war. If that inference is not acceptable; the only other conclusion is that the accommodation available before the war was adequate only because people did not have enough money to pay rent so as to enable each family to live in a home, and so were herded together. Today, however, people are earning reasonable wages, and are able to “ spread “ themselves. I emphasize that the housing shortage is not caused by the war, because fewer people in Australia actually need accommodation than before the war.
I do not know whether this clause is being used as a. propaganda medium regarding housing, or whether honorable gentlemen opposite are opposed to it. I propose to examine the clause. lt reads - (1.) Subject to this Part, loans may be made by the Bank, through the General Banking Division, to individuals and to building societies, for the erection or purchase of homes -
Does any honorable member object to that?
– No, we support it.
– By a process of elimination, I shall discover what honorable members opposite have been talking about all day. The sub-clause continues - or for the discharge of mortgages on homes.
Does any honorable member object to that? Strong objection may be raised by certain private banks and money lenders to that sub-clause, because it will be competent for the Commonwealth Bank, under this provision, to pay off mortgages or advance money against mortgages, and reduce the rate of interest. Honorable members opposite should not forget that tens of thousands of workers in Australia. are paying interest rates as high as 7 per cent, on loans on homes which they are purchasing. Under this clause, the Commonwealth Bank will be able to take over those mortgages at a much lower rate of interest. Does any one, other than money lenders and private banks which are profiting by this usury, object to that provision? Subclause 2 reads’ -
In making such loans, the Bank shall give preference to loans for the erection of homes and for the purchase of newly-erected homes.
My only regret is that the words “ newly erected homes “ have been inserted in this sub-clause, because the policy of the bank should be to give exclusive preference to home builders. I do not believe that the Commonwealth Bank should be permitted to become the instrument for providing property owners with money for the purchase of slums that people are compelled to live in. All the money that is made available through the bank for housing should be devoted to the construction of new homes1. The clause provides that money shall be made available at the lowest practicable rates of interest. Does any honorable member object to that? No doubt, silence gives consent.
– The silence is in obedience, no doubt, to the frequent ruling of the honorable gentleman that interjections are out of order.
– For the time being, I have put aside the authority that, sometimes, I am privileged to exercise. A study of the clause causes me to wonder why honorable members opposite have felt it necessary to spend the whole day in this discussion. I cannot believe that they are opposed’ to any of the provisions to which I have referred. They surely, believe that the Wank should bc permitted to lend money to enable building societies and individuals to build homes, and to enable mortgages at, say, 7 per cent., to be redeemed if a lower rate of interest is available. I take it that they are not opposed to the erection of homes, and to the provision of money for the purpose at the lowest possible rates of interest. Why. then, are they opposing the clause?
– If the honorable member for Dalley had been present throughout the discussion, he would have realized that an amendment has been made.
– I regard this as one of the most valuable parts of1 the bill, and I am astonished at the controversy that has raged about it. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) said that the timber mills are working at high pressure, and he asked what became of the timber they produced. I have had a long experience of the timber trade. I know that the mills are not able to produce sufficient timber to meet our present requirements. It is fantastic, in our present circumstances, that the honorable gentleman should have made such remarks. If there is a shortage of housing in Australia, as I believe there is, it is due to one or both of two causes: First, the lamentable lack of: policy of previous Commonwealth and State governments, and, secondly, to the inability in the past of people to obtain loans for housing purposes. The passage of this bill will correct both of those troubles.
– Like the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), I am at a loss to understand why this discussion has lasted throughout the day. If the Government had accepted my amendment, progress would have been made. I point out that acceptance of my amendment would broaden the scope of the bill, contribute to decentralization of home-building, and assist materially to overtake the housing shortage in city, suburban and countryareas. I am astonished that the Government would not accept the amendment.
.- If honorable members opposite sincerely desired an effective home-building programme to be applied without delay they would facilitate the passage of this bill. The purpose of the provisions which we are now considering is to make money available to Commonwealth, State, local government and semi-government bodies for housing purposes. As the honorable member for Dalley has pointed out, it has been impossible for the Government, during the war, to make available the necessary man-power and materials for home-building. Almost as soon as the Government assumed office the country became threatened by immediate invasion owing to the entry of Japan into the war. The first duty of the Ministry, therefore, was to take all possible steps to defend our shores. Its administration proved effective in that regard. The war is not yet over, and it is impossible to make man-power and building materials available for home-building at present because of our commitments to the Imperial Government. Many troops have come to this country from overseas, and I am sure that every honorable member would agree that we are under obligation to accommodate them to the best of our ability. However, the speedy passage of the bill would enable the Government to proceed with its plans for home-building on a big scale immediately the necessary resources become available. A good deal has been said during this discussion about war service homes. I have heard that subject discussed on many occasions since I became a member of the Parliament in 1934. At that time anti-Labour parties governed the country. The then honorable member for Calare, Mr. Thorby, was Minister, in charge of War Service Homes and. the present honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was Minister for Trade and Customs. The present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) also held ministerial office for a time. But what happened in those days with regard to the construction of war service homes and the administration of the department? The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) has made some remarks on that subject from time to time, and the charge has been made that some honorable gentlemen opposite have tried to ride on the backs of the returned soldiers.
– I ride on nobody’s back ; I say what I think.
– Nevertheless, there is a good deal of truth in the statement that some honorable members opposite have endeavoured to ride on the backs of returned soldiers. I would advise them against such practices. I have had a good deal to do with returned soldiers and I know how they feel on the subject. What did honorable gentlemen opposite do in regard to war service homes? The answer is that they evicted many occupants of such homes. On the 9th October, 1935, I asked the then Minister for War Service Homes how many returned soldiers had been evicted from war service homes during the previous three or four years. The reply I received was that in 1932-33 the evictions had been 68.
– I am sure that the word “ evicted “ was not used. The houses were made available to other returned soldiers.
– In 1933-34, 127 men had received eviction orders from the courts of New South Wales, and in 1934-35 the number was 121.
– They were not evicted.
– These returned soldiers were the subjects of ejectment orders issued by the courts of New South Wales. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that the servicemen who will return to civil life after this war shall be able to obtain homes under conditions which will render quite unnecessary the issue of ejectment orders. The intention of this Government is to make war service homes available under conditions which will render it possible for the men ultimately to own their homes. Under the administration of previous governments many returned men paid to the War Service Homes Commission amounts much in excess of their original indebtedness, but they still owe more than they have paid. I have had the opportunity recently to inspect, in the office of the Deputy Commissioner of War Service Homes in Sydney, the plans of war service homes which it is proposed to build, and I have also obtained information of estimated costs. Houses which, prior to the war, could be built for £900, cost, to-day, £500 or £600 extra. No ex-serviceman on the basic wage could afford to pay such a high price. The department has wisely decided not to construct homes for ex-servicemen except at a reasonable cost. Nothing should be done until the requisite building materials are available in sufficient quantity to enable operations to proceed uninterruptedly. I read in the daily press recently of negotiations with the Government of Russia for the supply of building timber to this country. A large quantity of the building timber that is available in Europe and Russia will be used for the construction of buildings to replace those demolished during the war. The members of the Cabinet who held office in 1933, 1934, and 1935 were responsible for the eviction of a large number of servicemen, and should be the last to take about evictions by the present Government. When other honorable members who sit on this side, and I, were in Opposition, and appealed to the Government to save those men and their families from eviction, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) did not intervene on their behalf. I hope that this will he the last occasion on which honorable members opposite will raise this subject.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Abbott’s amendment), be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J. F.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Fadden) put -
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a) For the purposes of this Part, there shall be a Housing Loans Department of the Bank which shall be provided with separate management and with the necessary liaison to ensure a co-ordinated policy with the other Departments of the Bank.”
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 108 to 114 agreed to.
The amount of a loan under this Division shall not exceed eighty-five per centum of the value (as determined by the Bank) of the estate or interest in land on which the loan is secured, or One thousand two hundred and fifty pounds, whichever is the less.
.- I move -
That the word “eighty-five” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ ninety “.
I propose to move later that the words “ two hundred and fifty pounds “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ eight hundred “. The original Commonwealth Housing Act provided for a maximum advance of £1,800, and building costs are substantially higher now than they were then. It may be said that the average cost of building allotments in the cities is between £5 and £6 a foot, so that the cost of an allotment with a 60 ft. frontage would be between £300 and £360. If this amount is subtracted from the advance of £1,250, about £900 is left with which to erect the building, and only a very small house can be erected for that amount now. I am anxious that families in Australia shall tend to increase. If that is to occur, it will be necessary to build houses with enough bedrooms to provide for the children as they come along. This scheme should provide for persons with incomes between £400 and £600, people who have commitments for which those on low incomes are not responsible. Every one who has spoken during this debate has emphasized the need for reducing housing costs. Some have said that dwellings should be built with interest-free money and fitted with all modern conveniences. During the last few months I have seen many of the tenders sent in to the Directorate of War Organization of Industry, and it is the exception for a tender for a dwelling house to be less than £1,000, even for a floor space of only 900 square feet. When space for a 7 ft. verandah is taken off 900 square feet, there is not much left for bedroom, living-room, &e. There is one good point in this bill, namely, that there is no income qualification as is provided in some of the State housing acts. Every one, no matter what his income, may avail himself of the provisions of this measure.
– ‘Careful consideration was given by Cabinet to the point raised by the right honorable member. It is expected that, to begin with, at any rate, the homes built under this provision will be for those in the lower income groups, and the Government believes that the amount fixed in this clause will be sufficient. I point out that although loans up to only 85 par cent, of the value of asset may be made to individuals, loans to the value of 90per cent, may be made to societies.
.- The amendment of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is a very reasonable one. The Government must be aware that costs of labour and materials! have increased greatly. The present limits imposed in the bill will have the effect of limiting the activities of this department of the bank. Statistics prepared by the Master Builders Association show that a timber frame dwelling which cost £730 in 1934 would cost £1,035 in 1944. A brick dwelling which cost £960 in 1934 would now cost £1,365, an increase of 40 per cent. The cost of building materials has increased by 77.98 per cent. We must, accept the fact that workers’ are now receiving higher wages, and, in addition, have the advantage of child endowment and other beneficent provisions of the kind. If necessary, the Government should postpone consideration of this clause until it has had time to give it more thought. - When the price of the building allotment is taken into consideration, it will be found that a very small amount will be left with which to erect a dwelling. The conference of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in Sydney is talking of the need for a new basic wage. There is nothing static about the basic wage. I do not say whether it should be higher or lower, but I agree that it must be adjusted to meet existing circumstances. We cannot escape the fact that the costs of materials and labour together have increased by 40 per cent.
.- I support the amendment, because I believe that the Government would take into consideration the tremendous increase of building costs which has taken place during recent years. We must also remember that local authorities in the capital cities have fixed building standards to .which new buildings must conform. They will not permit the erection of a building which may be regarded as a slum dwelling a few years hence. They specify that the building must have so much floor space, that it must cost so much, and must be of a certain type, according to the locality in which it is erected. Our aim should be to allow a man to build a house to suit the needs of his family, and cost should not be the determining factor. I believe that it would be reasonable to fix the maximum amount of the advance at £1,800.
– We shall have a look at that proposal.
– I support the amendment of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). If it was right to fix a maximum advance of £1,S00 in 1927, the maximum now should certainly be .more than £1,250, having regard to the increase of costs. The State Advances Corporation of Queensland has compiled figures which show that a standard, up-to-date worker’s home which cost £558 in 1927-28, when the cost index was 101, would cost £550 in 1938-39, when the relative cost index was 100. The latest available figures show that the cost would be £770, with an index figure of 140. There has been an increase of £220 in the cost of building a worker’s home, and an increase of 40 per cent. in the index figure. That factor should be taken into consideration in fixing the maximum amount that may be borrowed under this clause. The Commonwealth Housing Act provides -
That the maximum amount which may be lent by the Authority to any person shall be One thousand eight hundred pounds, and shall be ninety per centum of the valuation made, by or on behalf of the Authority, of the property in respect of which the loan is made.
That provision is wise. The Government should not confine its consideration to people in the lower ranges of income. A housing scheme emanating from the National Parliament should be truly national. Men earning fixed incomes of,say, £1,000 have fixed responsibilities, and they should not be excluded. I support both the 90 per cent. advance and the £1,800 limit proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (Sir Earle Page’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J. F. RIORDAN.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That the words “ two hundred and fifty “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ eight hundred “.
I do not wish to amplify my previous statements, except to say that during this war no one in the community has been hit more heavily by rising prices than has the family man with an income of from £400 to £800 a year.
– I support the amendment. The effect of the limitation ofthis clause will be to limit the size of families or the comforts that families of more than two may have in their homes. The Government has said that due consideration was given to this proposition and that it was decided that it should apply only to people on lower incomes, but I suggest that if the Commonwealth Bank is to give the service that it is supposed to give, it will extend its benefits to all sections of the community. If it is objected that those on lower incomes cannot afford to pay as much as £1,800 for a house, I suggest to the Government that men prepared to assume the responsibility of parenthood to a greater degree than others are endowed with sufficient sense of duty to assume greater financial burdens. As their families grow the parents generally receive some help from them. Above all the wife needs more of the home comforts that can be provided by a better type of building than do other women. If the Government condemns men who must have space to accommodate their families to poor dwellings, it will do a disservice to those prepared to assume the responsibilities of parenthood. So I ask the Government to reconsider its decision in the interests of those who in the future will be Australia’s greatest bulwark.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Sir Earle Page’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. RIORDAN.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
A mortgage given as security for repayment of a loan under this Division shall provide for the payment of monthly or, at the option of the Bank, quarterly, instalments of principal and interest and for the payment, at the end of the period of the loan, of the balance (if any) then outstanding.
– I move -
That after the word “ quarterly “ the following words be inserted : - “ or annual “.
Some primary producers derive their annual incomefrom a single crop. For example, a wheat-grower harvests his crop, and a pastoralist receives payment for his wool-clip only once a year. Consequently, it is desirable that they should be permitted to make only one payment annually in the reduction of their loans. The clause provides that instalments of principal and interest shall be paid monthly ox, at the option of the bank, quarterly. The amendment will permit the bank, where it considers the circumstances warrant, to allow reductions of the principal and the payment of interest by annual instalments.
.- Speaking to an earlier clause, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) read an extract from Hansard relating to evictions of returned soldiers during the regime of the Lyons Government. As the honorable member misrepresented the position, I propose to correct it by reading the complete passage.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order! The honorable member will not be in order in replying now to a speech made by an honorable member on a previous clause.
– Then I shall make a personal explanation. Although this matter does not concern me personally
– If the matter does not concern the honorable member personally, he is not entitled to make a personal explanation.
– The matter does concern me indirectly.
– But does it concern the honorable member personally?
– Yes, in this sense, that the honorable member for Lang said that the Government of which I was a member evicted large numbers of returned soldiers. The honorable member read a part of a question which he had asked in October, 1935, but he did not give the full facts to the committee.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Balaclava stated that he desired to make a personal explanation on a matter that did not affect him personally. I should like to know whether he is in order in doing so?
– The Chair is listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava. So far, he is in order.
– I said that the remarks of the honorable member for Lang affected me indirectly. The honorable member stated that the Lyons Government had evicted large numbers of returned soldiers from their homes and that he had obtained the information by asking how many returned soldiers were evicted in 1932-33, 1933-34, and 1934-35, and how many prosecutions were made? The answer was given by the then Minister, in charge of War Service Homes, Mr. Thorby.
– 1 rise to order. The honorable member for Balaclava does not appeal- to be making a personal explanation as provided for in the Standing Orders. He said that the matter concerned him only indirectly. I suggest that the honorable gentleman, in order to be entitled” to make a personal explanation, should declare that the matter concerns him directly. The answer which he was about to read from Hansard was given by a former Minister, Mr. Thorby, and the honorable member was involved in the matter only because he happened to be a member of that Government. Consequently, I submit that his remarks are not within the scope of a personal explanation.
– The point of order is sustained. The honorable member for Balaclava is not making a personal explanation.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I was a Minister in October, 19-35-
– Order! This -particular matter does not concern the honorable member for Moreton.
– But it does.
– I ask the honors able member to resume his seat.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, because I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Lang. He made an attack on me.
– This matter does not personally concern the honorable member.
– It does.
– The Chair has heard sufficient. I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I rise to order.
– Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava will resume his seat. The Chair has heard sufficient, while the points of order were being taken, to indicate that neither the honorable member for Moreton nor the honorable member for Balaclava has been misrepresented in any way. They should make their replies to the point raised by the honorable member for Lang in general debate:
– I rise to order. The remarks of the honorable member for Lang were an attack on the honorable member for Moreton and myself. I should like to know when I shall be permitted to reply to them.
– In debate.
.- I desire to point out that the statement made earlier by the honorable member for Lang was entirely incorrect.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Moreton justified, when speaking on this clause, in replying to a speech made by an honorable member on a previous clause?
– The honorable member for Moreton must confine his remarks to the subject of this clause, namely, “loans repayable by periodical instalments “. He will not be in order in replying to the remarks made by an honorable member on a previous clause.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that you said that I could reply in debate to the statement of the honorable member for Lang.
– In which debate?
– Order! The honorable member has heard my ruling.
– I rise to order. The matter of evictions surely arises when a mortgage is given as security for the repayment of a loan for the purchase of a home. If the terms of the mortgage are not complied with, the borrower may be evicted from the premises.
– This clause deals with loans repayable by periodical instalments, and the matter raised by the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Moreton has nothing to do with this provision.
– Under this clause, honorable members should be permitted to discuss the penalties and remedies that may be applied by the bank if loans repayable by periodical instalments are not met when they fall due. Therefore, I cannot understand why we are not permitted to discuss evictions. So long as the loans are repaid by instalments in accordance with the contracts, no difficulty will arise. The trouble occurs in all commercial undertakings when a party to a contract is not able to fulfil the terms. The Commonwealth Bank will be able to apply specific remedies when the contracts are not complied with in the spirit and the letter. If the terms of a contract are not fulfilled, one of the remedies of which the bank may avail itself will, possibly, be the eviction of the purchaser. Does the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) contend that, in the event of the non-payment of instalments, the purchaser will not be evicted? Unless the Minister is prepared to place such a guarantee in the bill, any declaration that he may make to that effect will notbe worth the breath that he exhales in giving the assurance. That is the position. When this clause becomes law its effect will be determined, not by the assurances of the Minister in this chamber but by the interpretation that the court places on it.
In the absence of such an assurance, the matter of eviction as a remedy for the failure of the purchaser to fulfil the terms of the contract automatically arises. And any question of evictions from homes financed by the Commonwealth Bank must automatically come within the scope of this discussion. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who considered that he had been misrepre sented earlier, was debarred by the Chairman’s ruling from correcting, at this stage, any wrong impression that may have been created in the minds of honorable members. In my opinion, he should be entitled to discuss the manner in which evictions have been effected in the past, in order to erect barriers, if possible, to prevent a recurrence of them in the future.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I ask, Mr. Chairman, whether I shall be in order in moving an amendment to provide that in the event of default in the payment of instalments of interest and principal no eviction order may be issued except by the approval of the Minister in charge of War Service Homes?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).An amendment by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is already before the committee.
– Then I take it that I may move my amendment at a later stage.
Declaration of Urgency.
.- I declare that the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1945 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the remainder of the committee stage, until 3.15 p.m. to-morrow.
For the remaining stages, until 3.30 p.m. to-morrow.
– I protest against this bill being declared urgent, and also against the very limited time for discussion proposed’ by the Treasurer (Mr.Chifley). The bill cannot be regarded as urgent, for it will not be necessary for the Government to apply its provisions until after the war. We all know that during the war the Government has ample power under the National Security Act and its general defence power to do anything that it desires to do. The application of the “guillotine” to the Reestablishment and Employment Bill deprived us of the opportunity of considering many of its important clauses. We were informed, on that occasion, that the Government desired the bill to be passed quickly because of its importance, and also because it wished to proceed with other important measures. We learned subsequently that those measures related to the financial structure of the nation, the nationalization of industry, and the like, matters which cannot properly be considered as urgent.
-Order! The honorable member may deal only with the proposed allotment of time.
– I protest strongly against the very limited time that the Government is proposing for the consideration of the remaining clauses of the bill, many of which deal with subjects of great significance. There would have been no need whatever for this action had the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) given the committee the explanations to which it was properly entitled on the various clauses of the bill. The honorable gentleman treated the committee in a most cavalier fashion. I do not exonerate the Treasurer from blame in this connexion, for he has been conspicuous by his absence during a great part of the time that the bill has been before honorable members. Government supporters have failed to offer any constructive criticism.
– Order! The honorable member must confine himself to the motion.
– I desire to discuss many of the remaining clauses of the bill, but I shall be deprived of the opportunity to do so. I refuse to forgo, without protest, my right as a member of this Parliament to discuss the business that is submitted to honorable members. I request that there be afforded to me, and to all honorable members, their full rights under the Standing Orders.
.- I also protest against the application of the “guillotine”. Many important aspects of this bill still await our consideration, but it will be impossible for us to discuss them within the limits of the time set out in the motion. This Parliament is losing the characteristics of a deliberative assembly. Ministers have taken up so much time in howling, screeching and shouting that we have been deprived of reasonable opportunity for debate. Many of the remarks made consisted of insults.
– Where has the honorable member been all the week?
– I have taken my part in the discussions. I protest strongly against the denial to me of the opportunity to reply to statements that have been made by the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, the Treasurer, and, in particular, the honorable member for Lang.
– Order! The honorable member may not, at this stage, discuss earlier proceedings.
– Misquotations have been made from Hansard, though I shall not say at what stage.
– I am aware, sir, that you were present in committee at the time I have in mind. If this Parliament is to continue to ‘he considered a democratic institution honorable members should be given full opportunity to voice their opinions. I have the utmost contempt for some honorable members, yet I at least listen to them. There are government supporters who have important contributions to make to the debate from time to time. For example, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) made a most useful contribution to-day. Other government supporters merely indulge in abuse and will not attempt to counter factual arguments. That is not how a democratic Parliament should work. The time proposed to be allotted will be quite inadequate for the consideration of legislation which contains elements that may lead to the destruction of the financial fabric of this country, and will have tremendous repercussions upon trade and employment. The discussion is to be curtailed when it ought to be lengthened ; a little more time would have enabled honorable members to discuss the matter thoroughly.
– We commenced our proceedings to-day by tendering to our friend the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the most hearty congratulations upon his elevation to the Privy Council, and he has repaid us by introducing the “ guillotine “ immediately after dinner. I did not believe that the right honorable gentleman would be guilty of such conduct. But we have to take things as we find them. We realize that he has a docile and obedient majority, every member of which will vote for his motion.
The bill is divided into fourteen parts. Without the application of the “ guillotine “, we have reached Part XI., which consists of three divisions, two of which have been completed. Therefore, although the progress so far may appear to have been slow, it has not been so slow as to justify the application of the “ guillotine “ at this stage. The debate up to now would have been curtailed considerably could we have obtained satisfactory explanations from the Minister in charge of the bill in committee. Part XII. of the bill deals with the Commonwealth Savings Bank. With great respect, I contend that no Commonwealth institution touches the general body of the community more closely and intimately than does the Commonwealth Savings Bank, unless it be the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, because its branches are spread over the whole of the continent, and practically every person is in some degree a shareholder in it. Consequently, there is every justification for the Opposition, should it so desire - I do not say that it would - to occupy the House for a whole day in dealing with the Government’s proposals in relation to the Savings Bank. In addition, there are proposals in relation to the service of the Commonwealth Bank. We could devote quite a lot of time to the consideration of the future of those who will belong to that service, which will be greatly augmented by the operation of those parts of the bill to which the committee already has assented.
– It never could be augmented enough.
– The honorable gentleman is giving information - for the first time. The last part has the comprehensive title “ Miscellaneous which, like ‘ the blessed word “ Mesopotamia “, covers a lot of things and could give rise to a very important debate. The time allotted by the Government is entirely insufficient. I repeat that the bill would have been passed before now could we have obtained the explanations to which, as Opposition members, we are entitled.
– The honorable member is transgressing my ruling.
– We are working under the tutelage of one of the great masters of English in this chamber, whose chief, explanation is: “The clause means what it says “. Whilst that may be brief, concise, and understandable, it certainly is not conducive to the speedy passage of legislation through a House constituted as, unfortunately, this House has been since the 21st August, 1943, Therefore, it is all the more necessary that the Government should be fairly generous towards the Opposition. Government supporters occupy their share of the time devoted to debate, except when they are in the unhappy position of not being able to say what they want to say. I am afraid that many of my friends opposite find themselves in that unfortunate position.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I can understand the reason for the lightheartedness and: indifference of honorable members opposite, because we have not seen much of them during the committee stage of the bill. In fact, I seriously question whether ten of them have taken the trouble to read the bill since it was introduced. This is a very large piece of, legislation. In ordinary circumstances, at least seven of its parts would each constitute a bill. We dealt yesterday with the Industrial Finance Department.
Mr. SPEAKER.Order ! The honorahle member cannot deal with what is past. The only question before the Chair is, whether the time allotted for the remaining clauses of the bill’ is sufficient.
-I merely point out that parts have been introduced each of which, normally, would constitute a separate measure. Therefore, I claim that the Government cannot adopt the attitude that the Opposition has been obstructive. We have endeavoured, seriously and conscientiously, to analyse the clauses as they have come before us. I challenge the Government to point to any portion of the bill, the passage of which has been delayed unreasonably.
– The honorable member is challenging not only the Government hut also my ruling.
– This measure differs from others that have preceded it, inasmuch as the Government may do all that it contemplates doing under the authority conferred by the remaining clauses, by exercising the powers conferred on it by National Security Regulations. That has been its course of action ever since it has been in office. There is no constitutional bar to its continued use of those powers until a considerable time after the war with Japan has terminated. Therefore, it cannot be argued that great urgency justifies the application of the “ guillotine “. The object of adopting that course is merely to stifle justifiable, constructive, and analytical consideration by members of the Opposition, who have given a great deal more thought to the matter than has been given by honorable members who support the curtailment of debate.
Question put -
That the motion(vide page 3104) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 3103).
.- I wish to move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (2.) In the event of default in payment of any such instalment of Interest and principal a borrower shall not be evicted from his premises except on the approval of the Minister, and in no case by any method adopted at any time by the War Service Homes Commission.”
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).The amendment is not relevant to clause 116, which deals with the repayment of loans by periodical instalments.It has nothing to do with penalties.
– I rise to a point of order. Before this bill was declared an urgent measure I read that amendment to the committee, and asked whether.it was in order. You said that it would be in order as soon as a previous amendment had been disposed of.
– My ruling was that the honorable member would not be in order in moving the amendment because there was another amendment before the committee. I gave no ruling on the merit of his proposed amendment.
– This clause relates to mortgages taken by the Commonwealth Bank. I submit that if mortgages are taken, there must be provision for penalties if repayment is not made in the terms of the mortgage.
– I have already ruled that, as the clause deals only with periodical repayments of loans, the proposed amendment is not in order.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 117 (Power to insure homes).
– This provision’ represents a departure from recognized banking principles. The clause provides that the Commonwealth Bank may undertake the insurance of any home in respect of which a loan is made. I cart understand that the bank should insist on the insurance of assets upon which it has advanced money, but I cannot admit that there is any reason for sotting up a new section within the bank to handle such insurance. The Government has on the notice-paper legislation to empower it to enter the life insurance field. I have no doubt that it will also arrange to insure against burglary, accident, and marine risks. Now, in this measure, by which it seeks to nationalize banking and industry, the Government proposes to set up an insurance branch of the Commonwealth Bank. This, I have no doubt, is the fore-runner of a general move for the nationalization of all insurance, and I am opposed to it. The volume of business which would be transacted through this insurance section would not be great enough to secure it against a major loss. Legislation has been passed in the States requiring the establishment of a fund by insurance companies to meet heavy losses, but there is no provision in this bill to guard against such losses. Therefore, the proposal is Unsound, unless the Government proposes to meet losses by the printing of unlimited numbers of bank notes. The Government should keep out of insurance. When we were informed that the Government proposed to enter the field of life insurance, I wondered how long it would -be before it invaded other fields also. We now learn that it pro* poses to set up a brokerage section of the Industrial Finance Department which will have authority to buy and sell shares. Under the clause we are now considering the Commonwealth Bank will be authorized to insure houses and other property affected by the provisions of the bill. I ask the Assistant Treasurer to say whether or not that is the intention of the Government? If he remains silent, we can only assume that it is.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has been displaying his usual ignorance of affairs, so I must correct him. He said that no banking institution had undertaken insurance business. Evidently, he failed to receive his instructions on this clause, and decided to proceed on his own limited knowledge. An insurance scheme of this nature has been operated by the State Savings Bank of Victoria for many years. It is provided by law that where a loan is obtained under the Credit Foncier system, or under the Housing and Reclamation Act, the person obtaining the advance must insure the premises with the State Savings Bank. I do not think that any honorable member will accuse the Victorian Government of being socialistic. Clause 117 is a necessary provision which will protect the assets of the bank, and at the same time protect the pockets of borrowers. Under the Victorian State Savings Bank insurance scheme, premiums are lower and benefits higher than under any other scheme provided by the insurance companies of Australia.
.- It is all very well to have an assurance from the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), that because an insurance scheme has been operated successfully by the State Savings Bank of Victoria, a similar one can be operated Successfully by the Commonwealth Government. I am a Victorian, too, and I have great admiration for the Victorian State Savings Bank, but I see no reason why power should be given to the ‘Commonwealth Bank, which is to be controlled, not by commissioners, as is the’ case in Victoria, but by the Treasurer, to undertake the insurance of homes in respect of which loans have .been made. I do not say that insurance should not be taken out. That is a necessary provision, but if the Government’s proposal will involve the setting up of a new department to administer insurance business, it can result only in a further waste of the taxpayers’ money. My remarks are not directed particularly against the present Government. All governments have proved to be notoriously inefficient in the control of business enterprises.
– That is not true.
– Give me one instance to the contrary.
– There is the Post Office.
– The Post Office is a public utility which in every country is conducted by the nation. The Minister may as well say, “ Why don’t you have the defence forces under private control?”.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to return to the clause.
– I was answering the Minister for Information. I repeat that experience has shown that when governments enter business inefficiency results.
– That is all “ boloney “.
– I do not quite know what that term connotes to the honorable member’s mind. This Government expended £7,500,000 in trying to build a tank. No private company would ever have done that.
– Order ! Again I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the clause.
– I was citing examples of the failure of governmental enterprises in support of my general statement that government enterprises are inefficient. One has only to remember the failure of all the ventures into business made by the Government of Queensland, with the resultant great loss to the people of that State.
– What about the Australian Commonwealth line of steamers!
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection. That ie another example of the failure of government enterprise.
– An anti-Labour government disposed of those vessels.
– Order ! This clause deals with insurance; I ask the honorable member for Balaclava to confine his remarks to it.
– With due deference, Mr. Chairman, my remarks are relevant. I am citing examples in support of my contention that there is no need for the Government to enter into competition with efficient organizations already operating. My opposition to governmental enterprises is not directed only at this Government; it applies to all governments. Governments should keep out of business operations as much as possible. The insurance companies of Australia are well founded. The Australian Mutual Provident Society and other insurance companies are beneficial organizations with most comprehensive machinery operating throughout Australia. They are the greatest contributors to Commonwealth loans. How does the Government expect them to ‘be enthusiastic about a new tax-free organization to be set up in competition with them. The clause is unnecessary and should be struck out, unless it be made optional for the purchaser of a home under the Commonwealth housing scheme to insure with the bank or with existing organizations.
.- I am amazed at the attitude of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) towards this clause. Here we have a proposition that the Commonwealth Bank, a government bank, shall make loans to enable people to build homes. Yet he would deny it the right to insure its own risks. Does he desire that it shall lend money ad lib and take all the risks without insurance, or is his objection to the fact that it will insure its own risks ? Does the honorable member know any private bank which would lead money for building purposes unless the borrower took out an insurance policy to cover the risk to the bank? Of course not. His main objection to this clause is on behalf of the private insurance companies. . The honorable gentleman was both a supporter and a member of a government under which the “War Service Homes Commission insured its own homes. He probably knows that the cost of insurance to the purchasers was 50 per cent, less than would have been charged by a private insurance company. There are three burdens on the home builder: First, the initial cost; second, the interest, which continues until the contract ends; and, third, insurance. The honorable member has already raised a strong objection to the provisions of this bill enabling the Commonwealth Bank to take up mortgages and lend to the mortgagors money at a lower rate of interest. Now he objects to the Commonwealth Bank insurance office - that is what it amounts to - doing precisely the same thing as the War Service Homes Commission did, with the concurrence of the Government of which for years the was either a supporter or a Minister. The honorable gentleman cannot find both merit and demerit in precisely ihe same practice.
– This clause proposes other things than that.
– It does not. It says -
The Bank may undertake the insurance of any home in respect of which a loan is made under this Division.
That means that it can insure only the homes against which it has advanced money.
– The same as with the war service homes.
– Precisely. The War Service Home3 Commission does not insure other than the homes that it has built and in which it has a financial interest. If the Commonwealth Bank’s insuring its own risks is socialization, so is the War Service Homes Commission’s insuring its own risks; but I never heard the honorable member, when he was on this side of the chamber, say that the War Service Homes Commission’s insurance activities were socialism. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. Was he, on this side, a socialistic tiger which now changes its stripes because it *has gone into the jungle of the Opposition? The honorable gentleman’s arguments fall flat. He had better try to find a new set. He is scared that the insurance burden on home-builders will be reduced as he was scared that the operations of the Mortgage Bank Department would reduce the interest burden on primary producers.
The honorable member for Balaclava asked whether I would give some instances of success of government insurance enterprises. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) instanced the success of the State Savings Bank of Victoria in reducing insurance rates to its .borrowers by insuring its own risks. In respect of workers’ compensation the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales reduced insurance charges to one-third of those charged by private companies. The War Service Homes Commission provides insurance at 50 per cent, of the rates that private insurance companies charge. The honorable gentleman’s argument is in shreds. Like the honorable member for Wentwortb, the honorable member for Balaclava, when on this side, was in favour of a government ‘department, the War Service Homes Commission, insuring its own risks, but, in Opposition, he, too, is a tiger which has lost its socialistic stripes. He is now trying to obstruct the passage of something that will be beneficial to the people about whom he talks so much, those who need homes, and on whom the greatest burdens are interest and insurance. Both, of these charges this Government, by means of this legislation, will reduce.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11S to 125 agreed to.
Clause 126- .
The Savings Bank shall be managed by the Governor.
– I move -
That the words ‘* the Governor “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “a Commission composed of a Chief Commissioner and two other Commissioners “.
I am not going to debate this matter, because to do so would he merely to repeat the arguments that I have already put. I believe that the Savings Bank, like the Commonwealth Bank itself, should be under the control of a board, because, for the reasons that I have stated at some length, I believe in the corporate responsibility of” a board. Whatever strength that argument possessed in relation to the Commonwealth Bank, it possesses more in relation to the Savings Bank. The Savings Bank is an institution in which, from the point of view of the depositor, utter safety is of the first importance. For those reasons I believe that there should be a board of commissioners. It is quite true that in the existing act there is provision for a board of commissioners. In section 58 provision is made that until the appointment of the commission, the Savings Bank shall be managed by the board of the Commonwealth Bank. The board of the Commonwealth Bank has conducted the Savings Bank, but, on the taking of certain steps under that section, a special board of commissioners for the Savings Bank would be set up. To say any more would be merely to repeat myself, and I have no desire to do that, because other matters need to be discussed before the consideration of this bill in committee is completed. But, in brief, my submission to the committee is that we should have a board of commissioners to control the Savings Bank. If that view is acceptable, my amendment will be carried. I rather suspect that, it will not. But if it were, it would be necessary to follow it by consequential provisions such as those which appear in the existing act.
– Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I have no intention of repeating what the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and I said in our secondreading speeches, when outlining the policy of the Government regarding this matter. On the grounds put forward at that stage, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
.’ - I support the observations made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Original act provided that the Savings Bank should be managed by a commissioner composed of a chief commissioner and two other commissioners. That provision has never been given effect, because the general administration, management and control of the Commonwealth Bank was undertaken by a properly constituted board. The bill has abolished that board. Having regard to the fact that the activities of the Commonwealth Bank have been so widened by this legislation, some form of independent control must be preserved over a savings bank. It is custodian or trustee of the savings of hundreds of thousands of persons in the low income groups, who are prudent enough to bank as much of their weekly earnings as they can in order to provide for the future. They are endeavouring to make themselves independent of lie old-age pension and social services generally. Their thrift should be encouraged, and their savings should be safeguarded by prudent trusteeship.
The bill provides that the Commonwealth Bank shall extend its activities, quite apart from its original function as a central bank, for the purposes of the General Banking Division, the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department, the Industrial Finance Dcpartment, and housing loans. The funds of those departments will be supplemented from the Savings Bank. In fact, no limit will be placed upon the use of the funds of the Savings Bank. The Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department, for example, may avail themselves without limit of the funds of the Savings Bank. That being so, honorable members should ensure that the funds of the Savings Bank shall be adequately safeguarded by providing for a prudent trusteeship by a commission, such as I have described. That provision was re-enacted in 1924 and 1943.
– But it was never given effect.
– The occasion to utilize it did not arise, because .of the existence of the Commonwealth Bank Board, which was independent of political control by the Treasurer, caucus, and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. Now, the Government has removed that independent control by placing the administration of the extended activities of the Commonwealth
Bank under the Governor. When the bank is placed under political control, the savings of the small wage-earners must be safeguarded. They would not be prepared to deposit their money in a politically controlled institution. The Parliament must honour its obligations to hundreds of thousands of small depositors by placing the Savings Bank under the control of an independent commission.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 127 to 133 agreed to.
The net profits of the Savings Bank in each year shall be dealt with as follows: -
one-half shall be placed to the credit of a fund to be called the Savings Bank Reserve Fund; and
one-half shall be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund.
.- I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added: - (2.) The Savings Bank Reserve Fund shall be available for the payment of any liabilities of the Savings Bank “.
This provision appeared in the original act, and I should like the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) to explain why it was omitted from the bill. The Savings Bank is the department in which deposits are made principally by the lower income groups, and we should not do anything to sap their confidence in the institution. This amendment, if carried, will assure an added protection for their deposits. Under this bill, the funds of the Savings Bank may be used, without limit, for the purposes of the Mortgage Bank Department, the Rural Credits Department and the Industrial Finance Department, some of which introduce less secure methods than normal banking practice.
– Does not the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) propose to explain why this important safeguard for the protection of depositors’ funds has been deleted from the original act? The act wisely provides the honest safeguard that the Savings Bank Reserve Fund shall be available for the payment of any liabilities of the Savings Bank. That provision was inserted for obvious reasons. Why has it been removed ? Is the Government apathetic regarding the security of the deposits of wage-earners? The committee is entitled to an explanation.
– This provision, which appeared in the act, has been omitted from the bill because the Government’s legal advisers consider that, technically, it is unnecessary. They contend that the funds of the bank are guaranteed. Does the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr, Fadden) suggest that there is any reason to believe that the funds of the Savings Bank are not thoroughly secured by this bill? The clause deals with the allocation of the profits of the Savings Bank. One half will be placed to the credit of the Savings Bank Reserve Fund, and the other half will be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund.
– The proposed amendment appeared in the original act in 1911. The Government’s legal advisers have been asleep for a long time if they have only just discovered that the provision is unnecessary.
– This is not the first time that an act has been amended, by the deletion of certain sections. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Maranoa is unnecessary, because the Savings Bank Reserve Fund will be liable for the payment of any liabilities of the Savings Bank.
– Every one of the decisions of the Government’s legal advisors has been upset recently.
– The Government accepts the opinion of its legal advisers, and cannot agree to the amendment.
.- -A misunderstanding has arisen regarding the purpose of a reserve fund. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) must be aware that the provision that the “ Savings Bank Reserve Fund shall be available for the payment of any liabilities of the Savings Bank “. which appears in the original act, is redundant. The reserve fund shown in the balance-sheet is the excess of assets over capital and liabilities. Any balance remaining is regarded as a reserve fund and may be held’ in one of two ways - either in the ordinary capital assets of the business, or by investment in specific assets. But it is true, as the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) said, that the reserves are at all times available for the payment of the debts or obligations of the bank. The money may be held in fixed assets, which are not immediately available to meet liabilities, or in completely liquid or current assets. As I stated, this provision in the act was redundant, and honorable gentlemen opposite have suggested on previous occasions that redundant sections should be deleted from acts. There is no foundation for the fears that honorable gentlemen opposite have expressed. The money will be available for use, whether the amendment is agreed to or not.
– But the funds can be used for the Industrial Finance Department’s business.
– That is beside the point. The reserves will be represented by assets; they will be shown in the balance-sheet; and they will be available to meet the obligations of the bank to depositors and others.
– If the Grown Law authorities have expressed the view that the reserves would be available, there does not seem to be much difference of opinion between us, but we all know that on occasions the opinion of the Crown .Law authorities has proved to be unsound.. For that reason I ask the Minister to accept the amendment and thus make assurance doubly sure.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 135 to 151 agreed, to.
Clause 152 - (l.) The Bank shall appoint such officers as are necessary for the efficient conduct of the business of the Bank.
.- This clause introduces the part of the bill that relates to examinations for and appointments to the Commonwealth Bank service. I desire to know whether all service personnel will be considered in the making of those appointments. The policy of the Government provides for a big expansion of the Common wealth Bank service, and the men and women who at present are absent on national service should be considered in the making of the many appointments that will be necessary in the process of that expansion. I know that many former bank employees who are now members .of air crew and ground staff of the Royal Australian Air Force, aged between IS and 32 years, will be looking for positions in banks after the war. Will the Minister for Home Security give me an assurance that they will be considered under these provisions?
– I give the honorable member an assurance that all service personnel, especially former bank employees, will be considered in the making of appointments. They all are covered by the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Bill.
– What about sub-clause 2 of clause 135 of that bill, which enables the Government to make any alteration it desires during the war without reference to the Parliament?
– The interjection of the honorable member for Banker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is pertinent.
– And any alteration so made will continue to operate after the war.
– That makes no difference to the assurance that I have given the honorable member for Balaclava.
– In my opinion the assurance is not worth anything, in view of the fact that the Government will have the power to alter the provisions qf the Re-establishment and Employment Bill without reference to the Parliament. It must be remembered that steps are now being taken to expand the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. Consequently, many new officers will be required. 1 am informed that out of 14,000 persons employed by the private banks more than 9,000 men and 1,300 women enlisted. The future of all these individuals will be jeopardized by the pas sage of this legislation. It is the declared policy of the Labour party to close the private banks. Their business may disappear slowly at first, but if honorable gentleman opposite have their way, it will disappear none the less surely. What is to be done for the employees who will thereby lose their positions? Side by side with its policy of strangling the private banks, the Government is applying a policy of extension of the Commonwealth Bank which must result in the opening of many new branches. Under the rationalization agreement between the private banks and the Government earlier in the war, 500 country branches of the private banks were closed. They are still closed and many of them are likely to remain closed permanently. That must be the result of the opening of new branches of the Commonwealth Bank in country towns. The Commonwealth Bank is engaging in a process of infiltration. When the 9,000 men and 1,300 women in the services who were formerlv employed by the private banks return from the war, they will find that the positions which many of them previously occupied no longer exist. In order to set the position out clearly, I direct the attention of honorable members to clause 37 of the bill-
The Bank may, with the approval of the Treasurer, enter into an arrangement with any other bank for the transfer to the Bank, upon such terms and conditions as are agreed upon between the Bank and that other bank, of the whole or any part of the assets, liabilities and business of that other bank.
Sub-clause 3 of clause .155 reads - (3.) Where the Bank enters into an arrangement under section thirty-seven of this Act, or tho Savings Bank enters into an arrangement under section one hundred and twenty-four of this Act, the Bank may appoint to the Service of the Bank officers of the body corporate or savings bank with which the arrangement is made although they have not passed a prescribed entrance examination.
It appears to me, therefore, that even if the Commonwealth Bank enters into an agreement with a private bank for the transfer of its business, the position of the private bank’s officers will be left in doubt. Such officers will probably have to submit to a prescribed examination before they can obtain an appointment with the Commonwealth Bank. There does not seem to be any specific provision for the transfer of the staffs of private banks which make agreements with the Commonwealth Bank. If the trading banks are slowly strangled, there will be no need for action in that regard. The same considerations will operate in connexion with the amalgamation of other savings banks with the Commonwealth Savings Bank, for which provision is made in clause 124. Honorable members opposite may claim that the Commonwealth Bank ultimately will absorb these men. Already, that bank has branches established in most country towns, and it is taking steps to establish branches in others. How is it ‘ likely that these men, many of whom formerly occupied key positions in trading banks, will be absorbed, seeing that most of the key positions in the Commonwealth Bank will be filled already? Even if some of them could be absorbed, the mere fact that they probably would not bo given the positions which they formerly occupied in the trading banks would destroy the whole of their incentive to increase their efficiency. They entered the service of a bank at an early age, and by promotion reached a high status. They have had specialized bank training. Now they are to be prejudiced and are not likely to have any incentive to improve themselves. Their specialized bank training will not have fitted them for employment in any other occupation. Realizing the position, the Bank Officers Association approached Ministers and government members for an assurance that consideration would be given to the men whom it represents, and that their rights would be protected. The knowledge of banking procedure possessed by these men has enabled them to assess the legal implications of the bill, and they are not satisfied that the right of reemployment is protected to any degree. I shall quote the assurances that were given by some honorable members opposite to the appeal that was made to them.
– The reading of that correspondence will constitute a distinct breach of confidence.
– These telegrams have been published in the official organ of the Bank Officers Association and are consequently public property.
– The honorable member proposes to read a private letter from an honorable member.
– The honorable gentleman is quibbling. I should not have read these communications had they not been published and thus become public property. Let us see how honorable members opposite will stand up to the assurances which they gave to the Bank Officers Association. This telegram was sent to all Commonwealth Ministers and Labour members of the House of Representatives^ -
Interstate conference of bank officers representing all associations appeals to you on heli alf of 20,000 members of bank officers’ unions including 8,000 servicemen to take steps to protect their interests when banking legislation is being considered.
Senator Aylett replied; lu reply to your telegram I am quite satisfied that the protection of the interests of bank officers will be safeguarded in any bank legislation by the present Government.
They are not being protected; the Bank Officers Association claims that they are to be sacrificed. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) replied -
Your representations behalf bank officers will receive full consideration when draft banking legislation is under consideration by government.
What consideration have these officers received? None whatever from honorable members opposite who pledged themselves to see that it would be given. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) replied -
Received telegram redirected from Canberra concerning position of bank officers under proposed banking reform legislation. Have noted your comments and you may be assured that the Commonwealth Government is closely watching the position and will take whatever action is necessary to prevent any worker in the banking industry suffering any hardship as result the amended legislation.
The Minister, in his best manner, said, “ We will protect the workers “. The Bank Officers Association says, “ How are you going to protect the workers? .Stand up to your obligations and show to us the consideration to which we, as workers and unionists, are entitled “.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The depths of political putridity were plumbed when the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) quoted confidential communications to an organization. I assure the Bank Officers Association - which, incidentally, wrote to members of my party but not to members of the parties opposite; or, if it did, no replies from those parties have been published - that it will not receive replies to further communications which seek to preserve its vested interests. I have been a member of this Parliament for a long time, and have not previously had the experience of an organization which, having written to the members of a political party seeking an expression of their views or their support for any legislation that was to come before the Parliament, sank so low as to divulge to members of opposing political parties the replies it had received.
– That is very odd. In my experience of politics, those answers are always printed.
– That has been my experience also.
– I do not know whether the Bank Officers Association wrote to members of the Opposition. It certainly did not write to me to inform me of the views held by members of the Opposition. Had it done so, its correspondence would have been put in the waste-paper basket, and not used in the putrid fashion employed to-night. I believe that I am right in saying that that organization wrote only to Government members. Apparently, it supplied to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, either openly or covertly, the replies which it had received from’ Government members, stating their attitude to this bill.
– The honorable gentleman is making a mountain out of a mole hill.
– Mention of mountains leads me to remark that the honorable gentleman always reminds me of a man mountain. He is huge in size; he rumbles; and he produces nothing but small white mice. I so far forgot myself as to interject during the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth.
– Put on a halo !
– Already there is enough trouble about halos in the State from which the honorable gentleman comes. Within five minutes, the estimate of the honorable member for Wentworth of the number of! positions that would be prejudiced by this clause, dropped from 14,000 to 9,000. I was prompted to ask him what had become of the other 5,000.
– I said that 14,000 were employed, and that 9,000 had enlisted. The honorable gentleman should listen.
– The honorable gentleman fears that the provisions of the bill will restrict the operations of private banks and, therefore, the volume of employment offered by them. That is a fair statement of his argument. He has not supplied any data in support of the contention that the restriction of private banking will not result in an increase of the personnel of the Commonwealth Bank. If business be taken from the private hanks, it must go to the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member has not proved to the satisfaction of the committee that the transfer of business from the private banks to the Commonwealth Bank will not have the effect of maintaining the volume of employment in the banking system. That, of course, is purely speculative. The honorable member has sought to prove that there are 14,000 - or 9,000- employees whose positions in private banking institutions will be prejudiced.
– The honorable gentleman should state the matter correctly. I said that, of the 14,000 employees of the trading banks, 9,000 had enlisted. If the honorable gentleman cannot understand that statement when I make it verbally, I shall put it in writing and post it to him.
– The honorable gentleman will not have a stamp left to put on a letter to me when he has posted all his apologies for, and explanations of, his attitude towards this bill to his constituents. The idea that, because the Commonwealth Bank is to be placed on a fully competitive basis, there will necessarily be less employment in the banking industry, is purely speculative. During a time of war, labour-saving devices are invented and employed in industry. I have not yet heard honorable members opposite refer to the number of persons in private industries who have been displaced because of the advances that have been made by science. What has become of their eloquence?
– In a country town, the number of banks was reduced from five to one.
– I shall deal with that interjection when I have finished with the point that I am now considering. I have not yet heard honorable members opposite protest that, because of the application of science to industry during a time of war, the displacement of labour due to speeding up is not desirable. They have shown no concern on that account. But when they believe that the Commonwealth Bank, unburdened of its fetters and able to operate against private banks on a really competitive basis, will capture some of the business of those institutions and thereby leave them with fewer employees whilst increasing its own capacity to provide employment, they profess to be greatly perturbed. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) lives in what may be described as a rural area, most of the residents in which are in debt to the banks, and he is naturally perturbed.
– The honorable member for Moreton represents one of the wealthiest ruraldistricts in Australia.
– What I have said applies also to the district represented by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden).
– It does not.
– I am dealing with the objection that one branch of the Commonwealth Bank is taking the place of five branches of other banks. If that is happening, then it is a. very good thing for the clients of the banks.
– There will be surplus employees.
– The private banks have in the past justified the charging of exorbitant rates of interest on the ground that they have overhead charges to meet. If the number of branches in any country town, or indeed, all over Australia, can be reduced by four-fifths, it should be possible to reduce overhead costs by that proportion, and this should be reflected in lower rates of interest.
– ‘This is a magnificent case for “Big business”.
– How can it encourage big business? Honorable members opposite have argued that this legislation will result in the Commonwealth Bank strangling big business.
– Who said that?
– The honorable
– 1 said that it would strangle the banks.
– If it is found possible after the war for one bank in a country town to do what five banks were doing before, the clients of the banks will be justified in demanding a reduction of interest rates. High rates of interest have been justified by the private banks because of the overhead charges involved in maintaining the numerous branches which have been proved redundant during the war. The volume of money passing through the banks has never been greater than during the war. Therefore, if this business can be handled in country towns by one-fifth of the prewar number of branches, the reduced volume of business which may be expected after the war will not require a greater number of branches to attend to it.
– Then why open a second butcher shop at Portland?
– The honorable member seems to be unable to get his mind above butcher shops.
– I rise to a point of order. Have the remarks of the honorable member anything to do with the clause, which provides that the bank shall appoint such officers as are necessary for the conduct of business? The speech of the honorable member would be more appropriate on the motion for the second reading of the bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The ‘honorable member’s remarks are relevant.
– The burden of interest falls more heavily upon the primary producers than upon any other section of the community; yet one of their representatives in this chamber hastold us that during the war it has been possible for one bank in a country town to handle the business formerly done by five.
– That did not come from, a primary producer.
– It came from the honorable member for Moreton. If one section of the Opposition repudiatesthe other I cannot help it. The argument of the honorable member for Wentworth was paltry, and its purpose was to hold up the passage of the bill. He does not know how many employees of private banks will be displaced.
– I intended to make my remarks later, but two things have encouraged me to make some of them now. The first is that the Speaker of the House (Mr. Rosevear) has chosen to become an active partisan-
– As he is entitled to do.
– For reasons about which I can only speculate. The second is that the Speaker, availing himself of the provisions of the Standing Orders,, has delivered an argument which, in a general sense, is academic. He has set out to prove, apparently to his own satisfaction, that it is a very good thing that five banks should be converted into one. By the same reasoning, it must be a good thing for five stores in a country town to be converted into one. Indeed, I have never heard put so .succinctly the case for the amalgamation of business in a few hands. It is extremely interesting to listen to such arguments from a gentleman who professes a socialistic philosophy, unless he proposes to take the last logical step and say : “ Of course, I do not believe in little business. Of course, I believe that all this stuff that my colleagues talk about looking after the interests . of little business is so much cackle. What I want is one big business, which I ?an then nationalize at one hit “. I will not pursue this academic argument because Mr. Speaker-
– Not Mr. Speaker - the honorable member for Dalley.
– Yes, the honorable member for Dalley. I want to bring the honorable member for Dalley and his colleagues back to the real point which will emerge if the honorable member for Dalley will give himself the pleasure of reading the bill and, in particular, of reading clause 155. In this bill there are two clauses pursuant to which banks may be absorbed. One is clause 37, which is as follows: -
The bank may, with the approval of the Treasurer, enter into an arrangement with any other bank for the transfer to the Bank, upon such terms and conditions as are agreed upon between the Bank and that other bank, of the whole or any part of the assets liabilities and business of that other bank.
Similarly, in clause 124, there is provision for absorbing a savings bank into the business of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The bank officers will not be interested in academic ideas as to the merits of one kind of business or another. He will have a. very human interest in his job, to which the honorable member for Dalley is supremely indifferent, judging by his speech. When a bank has been absorbed by the Commonwealth Bank, what is to happen to the employees?
– The same as happens to the employees of other businesses that are absorbed.
– I will answer my own question, because interjections are most disorderly. This bill, which will be the law when it becomes an act, says that where the Commonwealth Bank absorbs another bank it may appoint to its service the officers of the bank that has been absorbed. It “ may “ do so. Figures have been cited to show that thousands of persons are employed by the trading banks, and of those thousands, a large .percentage are at this moment engaged in war service. To those persons the Government, this lover of the people, whose heart bleeds, technically, at any rate, for the workers, does not say, “If your bank is taken over we will take you into the service of the Commonwealth Bank “. Not at all. It says that it “ may “ do so.
– It will do so.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) now becomes the defender and champion of the Government. Indeed, he makes a pronouncement. He says that the Govern ment will take over these employees. I can call that bluff very easily. I propose to move an amendment to provide that the Commonwealth Bank must take into its services persons employed by the banks which it takes over. I wonder whether the honorable member for Hume will vote for that amendment.
– Will the right honorable member do as much for the employees of every other private industry?
– -The honorable member for Dalley must not think that I came down in the last shower: I have repeatedly argued with, better men than he. There is a simple way in which to test these fine theories, and the bank officers of Australia will be interested to see what happens to my amendment. Will the Commonwealth Bank be told by the Government and its docile supporters that it must employ all the present employees of the banks which are to be absorbed ? Or is it going to say, “ Oh, no ! we cannot do that “.
– More political control.
– The Minister has been admirable in the last hour because he has been silent. The moment he interjects everything just goes to pieces. The Minister has invited political control by introducing a bill for an act of Parliament in which political control is the cardinal principle. It is Parliament’s responsibility to ensure that the right things shall go into the act, and, if Parliament passes a bill which says that there is no obligation to employ the employees of the bank that is absorbed by the Commonwealth Bank-
– Which bank is going to be absorbed ?
– No bank is to be absorbed.
– I must take the interjections one at a time. The honorable member for Dalley asks, “Which bank is going to be absorbed ? “ The answer is quite easy. I do not know.
– Then the right honorable gentleman’s argument falls to the ground.
– On the contrary. If the honorable member will be a little less impetuous and read the bill-
– I have read it.
– Had the honorable member read it thoroughly, he would have found that this Government, of which he is a one-eyed supporter at all times-
– Exactly !
– He would know that this Government in two clauses in this very bill is taking power to absorb the trading banks.
– Under certain conditions.
– I do not care what the conditions are. I should insult the Government if I suggested that it was taking power to do something that it had no intention of doing. I do not know which bank is to be absorbed. All I know is that the Government is going to absorb one or two of them, or it is wasting more time than usual.
– What else is the right honorable gentleman going to tell the bank officers?
– I cannot tell them any more than this bill tells them, and what the bill tells them is that if their bank is absorbed the Commonwealth Bank will be under no obligation to absorb them. It tells them, “You may, with luck, find yourself a servant of the Commonwealth Bank, or without any luck, out in the street “. That is the doctrine put by this Government before the bank officials in the trading banks. These, taking men alone, number 13,913, of whom 63.1 per cent, are on war service.
– Next time they are in the Arbitration Court they will brief the right honorable gentleman.
– If I am briefed, even to appear for the honorable member, I hope I shall be able to make a more convincing case than the rubbish to which I have listened from the Government side during this discussion in committee.
.- The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) did little to help the case of the Bank Officers Association, and his closing remark ill-became a man holding the rather exalted position of Leader of the Opposition. I did not like the attitude of his deputy (Mr. Harrison). I thought it rather in bad taste, but I do not share the view of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rose vear) that the Bank Officers Association was guilty of a misdemeanour in publishing the letters it received.
– I did not say that. I was referring to the use of those letters in this chamber.
– Yes, the offence was committed by the honorable member for Wentworth in reading the letters. The officials of the association had to re-assure the members who are scattered all over Australia. We have been in close contact with the association and, contrary to the view expressed by the honorable member, the major fear of the bank officers is that their superannuation rights will be endangered, either by their being absorbed by the expanded Commonwealth Bank or by the private banks (finding that their services can be dispensed with because of the bank’s curtailed operations. Their major fear is that, in those circumstances, all that they will get at the termination of their services with the private banks will be the return of their contributions to the superannuation funds, perhaps plus a nominal amount of interest. The representations that they have made to the Government aT* directed at ensuring that their superannuation rights shall be safeguarded. I do not propose to read the letters published in the Western Australian Banker which was sent to me by officers of that association following our inestigations and subsequent interview with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). All I need do is say that they fear the safety of the deferred pay represented by their contributions to the superannuation funds of the associated banks should they transfer to the Commonwealth Bank. My great interest is to see the Commonwealth Bank expand, for I believe that the progress of this nation is bound up with the progress of the national banks. The only trained officers available to the Commonwealth Bank to cope with, its expanded activities are employed by the private banks. Clause 160 provides means by which they may transfer to the employ of the Commonwealth Bank. Since the war there has been no recruiting to the staffs of the private banks, or the Commonwealth Bank, and I have no doubt that they wil be able to absorb in their normal business, even if it does not expand, all bank officers now in the forces. The Commonwealth Bank will have to offer a real inducement to the officers of trading banks to transfer to its employ. My interest is to ensure that the Commonwealth Bank whose policy will be directed at securing the prosperity of Australia shall have all the staff it needs to carry out its task. The Government has safeguarded, and will safeguard, the rights of the employees of private banking institutions. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was rather melodramatic when he referred to the effect of this legislation on the prospects of bank officials. The private banking officials and their families have experienced both booms and slumps, and no doubt have asked themselves the reasons for these periodical fluctuations. They are probably firmly convinced that monetary causes are not entirely unrelated to the booms and slumps which have characterized the world’s economy. These bank officials are as interested as other people in avoiding these fluctuations in the future, and therefore will welcome the passage of this bill. As the years pass they will realize that, far from their prospects being jeopardized by it, their interests will be protected.
– I thought that I should have been able to say all that I wanted to say on my first approach to this clause, but the usual courtesy was not extended to me by no less a person than Mr. Speaker, who left the chair-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order ! The honorable member may not refer in committee to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) as “ Mr. Speaker “.
– I have no objection to the honorable gentleman in his capacity as member for Dalley taking part in party politics. No doubt he had good and sufficient reasons for doing so.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause before the Chair.
– I am doing so. The honorable member for Dalley attacked; me in this chamber when you were not present, and I take this opportunity to defend myself. I did not ask that the scathing statements of the honorable member be withdrawn because I want to prove that my actions have been legitimate and can be supported by quotations from The Banker. I shall read some telegrams sent by honorable members on the opposite side to the Bank Officers Association, which had asked them to look after the interests of bank officers during the passage of this bill. The honorable member for Dalley claimed that I had acted in a way contrary to custom in that I had revealed the contents of confidential communications. I refer the honorable member to page 10 of the February issue of The Banker, which is the official organ of the United Bank Officers Association, and is registered at the General Post Office, Sydney, for transmission through the post as a newspaper. I shall quote from the replies of the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), Senator Courtice, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) and others.
– The publication referred to is a public document.
– I also refer the honorable member for Dalley to the March issue of The Banker, in which a further crop of answers appeared. They also are public. I offer to lay these publications on the table so that honorable members may see in them the answers of Labour men to the request by bank officers that their interests be protected. My action in so doing differs considerably from that of some honorable members in relation to confidential documents from which they have quoted from time to time, and extracts from which appear in Hansard. They have taken letters that were not addressed to them and have quoted from them. The answers reveal the attitude of honorable members opposite towards bank officers. The first that I shall quote was sent by Miss McCook on behalf of yourself, Mr. Chairman. I take it that
Miss McCook is your secretary. The telegram reads -
Your telegram Mr. Riordan absent from Brisbane will give every consideration request contained in your telegram.
You, Mr. Chairman, no doubt advised your secretary to -send that telegram. What consideration have you given to the members of the Bank Officers Association? The reply of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who claims always to have the interests of unionists and workers at heart, and is never tired of prating of what he has done for them, was as follows : -
I am ill receipt of your telegram of the 17th instant concerning the provisions of the proposed banking legislation and will give your representations earnest consideration.
That is another instance of lip service by the Minister for Information. On the 20th February, Mr. Card sent the following communication to all Labour members of the Senate and House of Representatives : -
It will be greatly appreciated if you will be kind enough to inform the members of my organization through me whether in your opinion the proposed banking legislation full details of which I understand have now been placed before caucus is likely to curtail the activities of trading banks to the extent that the employment of bank officers will be adversely affected. As bank officers are greatly perturbed an early reply will be appreciated. If your reply is likely to be delayed will you please state when your advice may be expected.
All that the bank officers wished to know was whether their positions would be adversely . affected. I emphasize that members of caucus had had the bill explained’ to them and should have known its effect on the bank officers. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) exercised typical Scotch caution when he replied -
Reference your telegram even date. I do not feel it is appropriate for me as a Minister to express an opinion on effects of legislation sponsored by a colleague. Have therefore referred your telegram to Treasurer for reply to you direct.
– Did he send the telegram marked “Collect”?
– The reply of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) also was cautious. It was as follows: -
Your wire received only Treasurer or Prime Minister is competent to make statements on ‘banking legislation.
– He “ passed the buck “.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) replied -
Regret not in position to advise likely effect of banking legislation on members of your organization.
Although the bill had been explained to members of caucus, the honorable member knew nothing about it and was unable to express an opinion. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) said’ -
The effect of the legislation referred to in your statement can only be determined after its application.
In order to place beyond any reasonable, doubt the intentions of the Government regarding the employees of the private trading banks, the honorable gentleman added -
If it should be necessary, I will be pleased to render aid .to your members if they desire to transfer their employment.
Do honorable members require any further evidence as to the intentions of the Government towards the employees of the private trading banks? Of course, the effects of the legislation will be determined after its application ! These unfortunate men will be unemployed, and the Government, which is pledged to safeguard the welfare of trade unionists, is neglecting their interests. The honorable gentleman had the temerity to say -
I will he pleased to render aid to your members if they desire to transfer their employment.
That is precisely what it means; and the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is also the Acting AttorneyGeneral, should know the meaning of words. I have here a pamphlet issued by the Australian Labour party in Victoria, and signed by D. L. MacNamara, as general secretary. It is entitled, “ Make the Commonwealth Bank the Nation’s Bank “. The pamphlet purports to describe the Government’s policy on banking. Referring to staffs, it says -
As the Commonwealth Bank expands, additional s.taff will be recruited from the trained officers of the private banks. The existing staffs of these banks will be progressively absorbed, thus avoiding unemployment and dislocation.
That is the policy, and I do not find fault with it. But what is the Government doing to implement it? If the
Government proposes to take control of the private trading (banks, it should find employment for their staffs. True, the Vice-President of the Executive Council said. -
I will be pleased to render aid to your members if they desire to transfer their employment.
Other honorable members opposite rendered lip service by stating that they would give full consideration to the representations, and see that the interests of the bank officers were not overlooked. They knew that the staffs of the private trading banks would have no redress. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), whom we .know better as Mr. Speaker, joined issue in this matter. He was possibly more cautious than any other honorable member opposite. Perhaps in his capacity as Mr. Speaker, he did not receive a telegram. If he did, he was too old a war horse to commit himself, because the records do not show that he replied to the telegram. He referred to my action in a statement as ill-advised as the majority of the misrepresentations in his speech, every one of which had to be corrected. I am prepared to lay upon the table of the House, the February and March issues of The Banker, which contain the telegrams and replies. They are registered at the General Post Office as newspapers and are public documents. The honorable gentleman, as Speaker, should know the forms of this House, and should be man enough to apologize for the scathing attack that he made on me. He said that I had plumbed new depths of putridity. Evidently for a reason, he has descended from the Speaker’s chair for the purpose of engaging in party politics. He would have been better advised to exercise more restraint in his remarks. I accepted his earlier criticism, but then he descended to personal abuse. On one occasion, as Mr. Speaker, he did- not reprimand a Minister who quoted from a confidential document. But when I read passages from a public document, he endeavoured to traduce me. As Mr. Speaker, he should observe the forms of decency in this chamber.
.- During this long discussion on banking, I have been impressed by the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) ; but I was disappointed with the remarks with which he concluded his latest speech to the committee. Honorable members opposite have expressed the fear that officials of the private trading banks will be without employment as the effects of this bill are felt. When the Commonwealth Bank was established, its employees were drawn from nearly every other financial institution in the Commonwealth, and I am confident that when the Commonwealth Bank expands its activities in accordance with the provisions of the bill, bank officials will have employment. Workers in industry are fearful when new machinery is placed in the factories, that it will displace many employees. But I have yet to learn that any anti-Labour government has ever taken up the cudgels on their behalf. When hostilities cease, industry in Australia will expand, and that will necessitate an increase of banking facilities. There should be no unemployment. Like the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) I have made known my desire regarding the employees of the private trading banks. My firm opinion is that with the passing of this legislation, we shall be able to employ the staffs of the private trading banks. This bill will bring about the emancipation of the people of Australia as a whole. When we have achieved that objective, employment will be offering for every person who is able and willing to work.
.- I am more than pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has participated in this discussion. He entered it because the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) had experienced a very torrid time on previous clauses. But the right honorable gentleman throughout his speech was just putting up a man of straw which he could knock over to his own complete satisfaction. The whole burden of his speech was that the bill contains provision for the Government to take over the private banks. What he very studiously avoided were the reasons for which the Government could take over private banks. The bill very clearly provides an arrangement - if I might put it in the briefest terms - whereby the Commonwealth Bank can take over other banks when they are unstable, or are unable to carry on.
– That is not true. The honorable member is confusing this bill with the Banking Bill. If he gives himself the pleasure of reading clause 37 he will find that there is no such condition attached to the bill at all.
– The right honorable gentleman ranged over the whole gamut of the Government’s banking proposals.
– Again the honorable gentleman is inaccurate. I shall deal with the Banking Bill in due course.
– If the right honorable gentleman had not made a speech, and was not supported by other honorable members opposite, he would not be able to carry out his threat that the Government would not get the Bank Bill through.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– The right honorable gentleman did nothing less than to build up a man of straw. He said that the private banks were going to be absorbed, and, consequently, there would be unemployment; and dealing with that point, he put up a better argument than any honorable member on this side could adduce in favour of a national bank. If he sincerely holds that view, he admits that there is a degree of instability in the private banks which would justify the Commonwealth Bank taking them over. If he does not admit that, he does not admit anything. But if we accept his proposition that the private banks are sound and solid and have no need to be taken over by the Commonwealth Bank, then the whole basis of his argument is destroyed, because in that case no banks will be absorbed and, consequently, no unemployment will be caused for the reasons he predicted. He said that my heart bleeds for the workers, and I take it from his speech that his heart also bleeds for the workers. I have never heard the right honorable gentleman, or any other honorable member opposite, protest against the introduction of adding machines which displaced employees in private banks. Were honorable members suddenly struck dumb at that time? What the right honorable gentleman is concerned about is that if there is an unstable bank the Commonwealth will take it over, but there is no guarantee that the Commonwealth Bank will absorb the employees of that bank. His concern is for the employees of unstable private banks. Where was his concern when men were being displaced in private banks by women at half rates? Where was his concern when all the mechanical devices were introduced which displaced so many bank employees? And he holds over the Government the dire threat that he is going to move an amendment which will compel the Commonwealth Bank to burden itself with redundant employees. He proposes to move an amendment that the Commonwealth Bank must absorb all the employees ,of private banks who are displaced as the result of competition from the Commonwealth Bank, or by the absorption of private banks by the Commonwealth Bank. Where does the right honorable gentleman “get ofl””? He has been silent when bank employees have been displaced by mechanical devices; and I remind him and the honorable member for Wentworth that during the war the application of science and invention to industry at an increased tempo has speeded up production and displaced employees. Is the right honorable gentleman going to demand of all employers that because they have a more efficient machine after the war they must replace the employees who have been displaced ? Of course not. He is not going to burden private employers with excessive, or redundant, employees ; but he does propose to impose the same condition upon the Commonwealth Bank. And if that is not sabotage of a national institution I do not know what sabotage is. If the right honorable gentleman representing a vast body of public opinion in the Commonwealth believes that a national institution should be burdened with redundant employees because it is found that the banking system is overmanned, which overmanning must have involved charging customers of private banks high interest rates, let him say so straight out.
But he was stung to-night into vituperation against me because I spoke in committee. The Speaker has the right to speak as a private member in committee when he wishes to do so. There are abundant precedents for my doing so.
– They are being added to.
– Of course. I represent electors, the great majority of whom have suffered as the result of the domination by the private banks over the . Government in this country; and should T neglect, to speak on their behalf I should fail in my duty to the people I represent. The whole effect of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was to set up a man of straw. If we refute his argument that the private banks will be absorbed by the Commonwealth Bank, we destroy the whole of his argument in his second.reading speech that the private banks were the backbone of the banking system. For the sake of winning a paltry argument on a single clause of the bill, he has destroyed inferentially the conception that he endeavoured to build up in the minds of the people of Australia that the private banks are the backbone of the banking system in order to have a * go “ at the Speaker-
– No, not the Speaker, but the honorable member for Dalley.
– He drew a red herring across the trail in order to win a paltry argument. The honorable member for Wentworth endeavoured to bolster up his case by reading confidential d documents-
– I rise to order. The honorable member said that I read out confidential documents. I did not do so. I am prepared to lay those documents on the table, and thus expose his lying statement.
– The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– I advise the honorable member for Wentworth that his threat to lay the documents on the table is ill conceived. Those documents will be valuable in the future, because it is the last time that any Labour man will share his confidence with members of that organization at the risk of having such confidences bandied around this chamber.
I suggest that the honorable member’ should preserve that copy-
– Any one can buy’ dozens of them at book-stalls.
– Because it willbe the last original. I should not like to be misunderstood. 1 am not” making a threat against that publication ; but I do not think that in future any member of the Labour party will be fool enough to make any communications of a political nature to the organization which prints that paper.
– That is not what the honorable member said previously.
– That is what I meant.
– The honorable member accused the Deputy Leader of the Opposition ofl having revealed the contents of a confidential document.
– If, as the honorable member for Moreton argued, in wartime when there is much more money available throughout the community than in ordinary times, and therefore the need for banks is greater, the banking business of this country can be carried on with fewer branches, as has been the case in the past few years, surely, the same thing can be done in time ofl peace. No honorable member opposite will deny that the existence of redundant banks or branches of banks, means that the banking system has to bear unnecessary costs which, of course, are passed on to customers of the banks, in the form of interest charges. If we eliminate permanently the branches that have been closed during the war,’ the costs of banking will Iks reduced, and there will not be any reason why there should not be a reduction of interest rates throughout the Commonwealth.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that my argument that the elimination of redundant branches of banks must inevitably lead to the provision of cheaper money for the people showed that I was in favour of big business. I say, unashamedly and openly, that I am in flavour of big business; but the big business which I have in mind is the Commonwealth Bank. I hope I shall live to see that institution the only bank in this country.
– We have heard two speeches “to-night from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). The first reminded me of the roaring of a lion, but the second reminds me more of a sound that one hears on the plains at night, the howling of a dingo. Let us examine the accusation made by the honorable member for Dalley that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) had disclosed to this committee the contents of a confidential document, and, in so doing, had plumbed the depths of putridity. Frequently, I receive letters and telegrams from associations and from individuals. These communications are sent to me so that I may disclose to the people who are entitled to know these things, my views, as a public man, on public questions. There would be no point in expressing my views to an organization or individual by a telegram or letter, unless that communication was for publication and public use. That, in fact, is the reason for seeking my views. Recently, a man in my electorate who looks after the interests of the Douglas Credit organization, and to whom I had expressed certain views in correspondence, wrote to me and asked if I had any objection to publication of that correspondence. I said that I had no objection, provided- that two conditions were observed. The first was that any letter which I had sent should be published in full, without alteration or elimination; and the second was that I should not be involved in any expense. Every time any honorable member sends a letter to a constituent, to a local government body, or to some public organization, the purpose is to commit the writer publicly to certain views.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Barker does not answer many letters.
– I do, but if I do not choose to answer a letter I take responsibility for that just as I take full responsibility for refusing at election times to answer the question, “Do you consider that the salary of a member of Parliament should be such and such ?” The attack by the honorable member for Dalley upon the honorable member for Wentworth to-night, is with out precedent in this chamber, and I hope that it is a precedent which will not be followed. In answering an interjection by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) the honorable member for
Dalley built up a huge castle in Spain, but it had a sandy foundation. He argued that if, as he claimed, the honorable member for Moreton had said, four out of five bank branches had been closed in a particular country town during the war, that proved that one bank could handle all the work. If that argument be accepted, why not carry it a little farther and say that in a town, in the electorate of Dalley, for instance, instead of there being three or four butcher shops, there should be only one, thus saving overhead expenses and running costs? The honorable member might go even farther and argue that by closing some hotels, it would be possible to sell cheaper beer ; but I should like to hear him put that argument up to the Liquor Employees Federation or to the Licensed Victuallers Association. They might even send him a telegram about it. On the subject of overhead expenses, of course, in view of the publication of certain information to-day, one can regard the honorable member for Dalley as quite an authority. It appears to me - and I think that even you, Mr. Chairman, will pardon this remark - that to-night we have witnessed” the entry of another honorable member for a right honorable race in which only one can succeed’. The others will be “also-rans”. It is not hard to guess why this unusual amount of heat was imported into this debate, and why such an unusual twist was given to the little bit of white metal placed on the anvil by the honorable member for Dalley. The Bank Officers Association is a minor matter. What the honorable member for Dalley sought to do was to impress his powers of leadership and oratory on honorable members opposite, just as a caterpillar spins a silken envelope around itself and later emerges as a butterfly. I was “tickled pink” at one stage while you, Mr. Chairman, were unavoidably absent from the chair. My mind went back a few years to a time when I sat on the other side of the chamber. I observed the smiling, benign countenance of an exmember of the Lang party, at the table in charge of the bill; another ex-member of tie Lang party in the chair; a third ex-member of the .Lang party - one who, above :all others, was preferred, to have his portrait hung in the King’s Hall, in the .person of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) - -arguing most valiantly and vociferously from the seat of a private member; and a further exmember of the Lang party, who was not in the Parliament at that time, assisting him - at least, I hope that he was - from his bench. All these things gave me greatly to wonder. If ever the honorable member for Dalley comes face to face with impartiality, one of them will perish.
.- When this clause was called, I said that I intended to move an amendment that in all appointments the principle of preference to ex-servicemen shall be observed. I was -assured by ‘the Minister at the table that,that matter -was covered by the Re-establishment and Employment Bill. T -pointed out that many men in the services, -particularly members of air crews, were bank employees prior to -their enlistment, and that, with the reorganization of the -services, some of ‘them will want to return to that employment. The Government’s -policy of expanding the branches of the Commonwealth Hank, to the detriment of the private banks, will have the effect of closing the avenues of employment of many of these men. I was content to- accept the assurance of th Minister that they would be cared for. But since the honorable :member for Dalley (.Mr. Rosevear), . from the floor of the chamber, in a very subtle argument has said that the Commonwealth Bank will not be burdened with .redundant employees, and has expressed the hope “that he will live to see the day when only one bank will operate in Australia, it would appear that small mercy will be shown to .men .who belong to the Bank Officers Association. The honorable member for Dalley threatened that association for having dared to publish in its journal opinions in regard to this legislation that had been communicated to it by Government members. I do not intend that any of these -men shall run a risk, .if that can be avoided by an amendment. The Government can either accept or reject it. At least, we shall then know where it .stands. I’ therefore move -
Th at the following new -sub-clause be added: - “ (4.) In all appointments the principle of preference to ex-service men and women shall bo observed “.
– We have been treated to the quaint spectacle of the .Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) expressing pious horror at the prospect of -big business injuring the interests of small business, and his Deputy (Mr. Harrison) posturing as the champion of. trade unions and wageearners. I take no exception to the Deputy Leader of the .Opposition having quoted from the correspondence published .in the journal of the Bank Officers Association. .The reply which I ;sent .to that body was not private. But I do take strong exception to his attempt to make the committee believe that the federal union of the private trading bank employees is .seeking any .amendments whatever to this legislation. “He made that statement .several times. -He claimed that the federal union of the private bank employees was disappointed that the Government had not given .effect to its wish that certain amendments should be embodied in this legislation, and .said that there were amendments which it wished to .have. inserted,. I .believe that he is so completely ignorant of trade unionism in this country that he does not even know the name of the union which is the federal .representative of trading bank employees, or of one official of that union. He cannot cite one amendment which the union requires to have embodied in this legislation. The Leader of the Opposition, however, has stated that he will move an amendment to provide that the Commonwealth Bank must take over all employees displaced from private trading bank employment, and .has challenged’ members on the Government side as to how they will rote on it. I, having had the most ^complete liaison with that federal union in this matter from, the commencement of “the discussion.’, will vote against the amendment without the slightest compunction.
I suggest that the right honorable gentlemancannot mention one responsible officerof that organization who believes that such an amendment would be practicable or could properly be inserted in this legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 153 and 154 agreed to.
Re-establishment in Employment of Mr. Edward Dymond - Australian Army: Releases.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 25th May, during the de- bate on the Re-establishment and Employment Bill, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) made certain statements concerning the reestablishment in employment of a Mr. Edward Dymond, who served with the imperial forces in the war of 1914-18 and with the Australian forces in the present war. The honorable member’s statement was to the effect that there had been delay in placing Mr. Dymond in employment, that the employment was unsuitable, and that he had been refused assistance to find another position. I promised that I would investigate the complaint. The ex-soldier referred to undoubtedly earned certain distinction during his service in the Great War, in which he was a quartermaster-sergeant of the Royal Army Medical Corps of the British Army. I do not intend to dispute the decorations he is said to have won, but desire to make it quite clear that my department deals with each case on its merits, and ex-members of the forces who have received decorations becauseof their service cannot be treated differently from many thousands of others who have had honorable service but have not been awarded decorations. The ex-soldier referred to by the honorable member enlisted in the British Army on the 26th August, 1908, at the age of 23 years and six months and had dis tinguished service until his demobilization on the 17th April, 1920. The British authorities granted him a small pension for disabilities caused by rheumatism and deafness, but rejected his claim in respect of ear, nose and throat sepsis and deflected nasal septum. This pension was cancelled on the 21st August, 1923. His service documents described his occupation at the time of his enlistment as “ Plumber : qualifications - cook, nursing “. On the 6th June, 1940, he enlisted in the Australian Military Forces and gave his age as 44 years. According to the age given at the time of enlistment in the British Army, he would actually have been 55 years and four months when he joined the Australian Military Forces. He was discharged at his own request on the 12th March, 1941, to join the Royal Australian Air Force. Incidentally, during the whole of this nine months’ service with the Australian Military Forces he was employed as a cook. He then enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on the 13th March, 1941, giving his age as 45 years and six months, whereas his real age at that time would have been 56 years and one month. He was mustered cook on enlistment and was subseqnently discharged on the 2nd December, 1944, medically unfit, suffering from arteriosclerosis with hypertension, but these disabilities could not be accepted by the Repatriation Commission as arising out of his war service.
The honorable member for Moreton has mentioned that the ex-soldier was offered a job in the American forces, but was advised that he could not accept it because the department- presumably man-power - wanted to give him another job. It is indeed difficult to reconcile such a statement with the fact that the Returned ‘Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia made application to my department on behalf of Dymond on the 2nd February, 1945, for the acceptance of hernia as a pensionable disability. It appears that on making his application to join the civilian staff of the American forces he was found to be suffering from this disability and was rejected. On the 4th December, 1944, he lodged an application through the rehabilitation section of the Man Power Directorate for unemployment sustenance, and this was paid by my department, from the 4th December, 1944, to the 4th March, 1945.
On the 30th March, 1945, the manpower authorities advised the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation that Dymond had exhausted thirteen weeks’ unemployment allowance, and that there was no employment suitable to his age and disabilities, although he had, during the period of his unemployment, diligently endeavoured to obtain work by his own personal efforts. In view of this, my department granted an extension of the allowance from the 5th March, 1945. On the 23rd March, 194’5, the man-power officials advised that Dymond had commenced employment on that date as cook at the Clayfield Private Convalescent Home and sustenance was cancelled from the date of commencing work. However, on the 17th April, 1945, a further application was lodged for employment and sustenance, and inquiries elicited that he had worked for about one month when he was discharged, his services not being satisfactory, in that he was indolent, and intemperate. In view of this report the rehabilitation section of the Man Power Directorate was unable to recommend further payment of sustenance, and the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation being in agreement, Dymond’s application was declined. Notwithstanding what has been reported regarding this man’s circumstances, there is no record of his ever having made any complaints to my department about his work at the convalescent hospital, and his statement about losing his employment through a breakdown in health is not substantiated by the evidence.
– I directed a question to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to-day regarding the release of members of the Australian Imperial Force who had fought overseas and had given more than five years’ service. I stressed the necessity for the release of those men as soon as possible. Every honorable member, irrespective of his political views, was, I think, greatly disappointed with the reply furnished by the Acting Prime Minister. I do not know whether he realizes the urgent need for the release of these men. He said that he would make a statement on the matter next week, but already two weeks have passed since his previous statement, which was made on the 1st June. In reply to a question which was then asked, he said that special releases were to be commenced as soon as possible on a graduated scale to be approved. This is not a matter which has been raised only in the last week or two, but it has been brought to the attention of Parliament on several occasions during the past few months. During the period in which it has been referred to. members of the Australian Imperial Force were largely engaged in training in North Queensland, and the work of reconstructing the battalions which had received a severe handling in the New Guinea campaign was in progress. When the announcement of the proposed release was made, it brought, hope, not only to the veterans themselves, but to all of their relatives and friends in Australia.
Since that announcement was made a fortnight ago, many members of the Australian Imperial Force have, I understand, been sent to battle areas. That is a shocking thing, when we consider that these men have already given five years’ service. They are the men who enlisted at the beginning of the war and offered their lives for the protection of Australia, first from the Germans and then from the Japanese. They fought in the campaigns of North Africa and in the blistering heat of the Libyan desert. Many of them took part in the disastrous campaign in Greece, to whose assistance they went for the honour of the British Empire. Many of them served in Crete, where they were rescued under the most desperate conditions. After their battles in the North African and Mediterranean campaigns, they were brought back to take part in the defence of Australia. I think that everybody will admit that the morale of the military forces of this country* at that time was at a low ebb. Judging’ by Mr. Barry’s report on the position in Papua at that time, we owe a debt to the men of the Australian Imperial Force, and should recognize the effect that their return to this country had on the morale of our troops generally and on the people of Australia. I said in 1942, and my statement has been substantiated by Mr. Barry, that it was a crying shame that untrained lads of eighteen year”, who. iri many oases, did not know how to handle a rifle; were sent to Papua at that time and thrown into the firing line. No wonder there was criticism of the morale of the troops. It is ridiculous to say that the veterans of the Australian Imperial Force cannot be spared from the divisions which are fighting’ at present in Borneo and New Guinea. Ministers interjecting from the front bench do not know anything about soldiering. They have never fought with’ arms. They have never done anything, but sling mud. It is only fourteen days’ ago’ that the Acting- Prime Minister said, iri effect’, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. For what you have done to save the country in its hour of danger, you will now be released from further service “. We do not want a repetition of what happened to Lieutenant Derrick, V.C., D.C.M. The Government should keep faith with these men, and’ should honour the promise of the Acting Prime Minister. Now, only fourteen days after he gave his promise, these men are being flung into the battle line without having been given an opportunity to obtain their release. They and their relatives rejoiced when they read the announcement of the Acting Prime Minister. They are the bravest of the brave, and are entitled to fair treatment. Instead of receiving it, however, they have had their legs pulled. I know the Acting Prime Minister too well to believe that he has dishonoured his promise, but somebody has blundered badly. When a decision is made by War Cabinet, the military authorities should heed it. An immediate order should be given by the Government to the High Command, whether to the AdjutantGeneral or the Commander-in-Chief, that men entitled to discharge are not to bc sent into battle but to be discharged, unless they apply in writing to their commanding officers to remain in the forces. Men. serving in the north, who are entitled to discharge, should be automatically discharged unless they apply in writing to their commanding officers to remain in the Army. Even then there should be a medical inspection to’ see that they are physically and psychologically fit for further campaigning. The people of Australia will not be satisfied until the Acting Prime
Minister guarantees that that .will be done.
.- I support the- appeal of the honorable member for New- England (Mr. Abbott). I raised this matter in 1943, and since then I have asked many times that long service men should be released. During the last war, men who had served for four years were given Anzac leave, which, meant that they were returned to Australia. What we are now asking for is the rule in New Zealand and in the United States of America. If a soldier of the- United- States of America elects to- stay on after the prescribed period, he may do so at increased pay. I put it to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) some time ago that long service men be given the option of taking their discharge or staying on, and I think he favoured the idea. The same concession should apply to men of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy. Since the Acting Prime Minister has made a promise, it should be acted upon quickly. Only to-day, I received letters from, the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) and from the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) refusing applications for the release of men with five years’ service. They were the usual stereotyped replies saying that the applications had been carefully considered, but were not approved. An order should be issued immediately to the heads of the services directing them to arrange for the release of men in their commands who have had five years’ service, if the men desire it, and arrangements should be made for their relief.
– The Government’s decision is definite and mandatory.
– Then, apparently, it is not being acted upon, because the release of men with strong claims is still being refused. I refer to men who have served in the Middle East, in Greece, Crete, and New Guinea in combatant units-. The same applies to members of the Air Force who enlisted in 1940, and have already completed five years’ service. A process of re-organization is going on in the three services at the present time as honorable members know. Mr. Slater, M.L.A., is chairman of the committee which is inquiring into the re-organization of the
Air force. I exhort the Government to give immediate effect to the promise of the Acting Prime Minister. The present situation is causing great heart-burning among servicemen and their relatives. Those who are too proud to take their release, and prefer to go on fighting, should be given increased pay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes -
Costal purposes - Moe, Victoria.
National Security Act-
National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Order - No. 80.
House adjourned : at 11.18 p.m.
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
t asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the number of persons, exclusive of those serving with the forces, employed on investigation staffs, within the Commonwealth Administration and attached to each of the following sections: - (i) Prices Control; (ii) Rationing; (iii) Landlord and Tenant Regulations; (iv) Import and Export Supervision ; (v) Liquid Fuel, &c, Control: (vi) Posts and Telegraphs; (vii) B road casting; (viii) Censorship; (ix) Taxation; (x) Peace Officers; (xi) Commonwealth Security Service (exclusive of Peace Officers) ; and (xii) Commonwealth Investigation Branch ?
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
r asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government propose to introduce a bill to control the sale of land, goods, chattels or shares on time payment?
– It is not the practice to make statements on Government policy in reply to questions.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
On how many pounds of butter was -
y. - The information is being obtained but delay will ensue because of work involved.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450614_reps_17_183/>.