17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Me. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– As Chairman, I present the eighth interim report of the Social Security Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
Releases - Detention Camps - Awards
– The latest reports regarding the discharge of members of the Australian forces indicate that there are three categories, apart from men with five years’ service, including two years’ overseas service, namely, personnel of 35 years of age and over, personnel medically fit class B, and personnel who have had four or more years’ continuous full-time service, a portion of which has been served overseas. “Will the Minister for the Army inform the House who will have the last voice as to whether these men shall be released from the forces, and will theGovernment or the War Cabinet have the right to say whether they are specialists? Which classes of men in the Army are at present regarded as specialists?
– Frequent consultations have taken place between the CommanderinChief of the Allied Land Forces, General Sir Thomas Blarney, the Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley), the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley), and myself with regard to this and other matters associated with the discharge of men from the fighting services. There is the, fullest co-operation between the services and the Government in implementing the Government’s decision for the discharge of 54,000 men, plus an additional 10,000. Naturally, when the Army is committed to carry out operations in Borneo, New Guinea and other places, discharges cannot he made without consultation with the Army as to who are specialists and who are not. There are certain key men, in reference to whose discharge great difficulties arise, but they can be overcome, and are being overcome. The Government’s decision is being implemented, and the Army is giving full cooperation.
– With reference to the inquiry into Army detention camps, is it proposed to request the inquiring judge to issue interim reports, or is it intended to wait until a general report can be made available?
– It is hoped that Mr. Justice Reed will be able to carry on the investigation continuously until it is concluded. From my experience of his work in the past, I am sure thathe will submit a report to me, as Minister for the Army, with a minimum of delay. However, I shall have a consultation with him on the subject before he commences his inquiries, and if I find it necessary to take further action, I shall do so.
– Certain personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force, and some members of the Australian Army, have been excluded from Service awards. Ground staffs of the Royal Australian Air Force who served in Britain, including some members of air crews, are not eligible to receive what was the 1939-43 and is now the 1939-45 Star, whereas similar personnel who later served in New Guinea are eligible for that distinction as well as the Pacific Star. The differentiation is due to Britain’s definition of theatres of operations. Will the Minister for Defence confer with the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air with a view to the matter being resubmitted to the British Government, so that 2,000 men, many of whom suffered injuries, will not continue to be overlooked ?
– There has been controversy for some time between the Governments of Australia and the United Kingdom in regard to this matter, and cables have been exchanged. The Government of the United Kingdom is the defining authority in connexion with these awards. The change of Government in Britain provides a reasonable excuse for resubmission of our views. At times, I personally have held strongly the view that a purely Australian award should be conferred on our troops.
– Canada has done so.
– That is correct. I cannot commit the Government at this stage, because all considerations have to be weighed very carefully. The practice has been not to depart from the standards adopted and the methods followed in connexion with British awards. I assure the honorable member that the Government has not been idle in the matter. As it has again been raised, I shall see whether a more favorable decision can be obtained from the new Government in the United Kingdom.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs seen an item from Auckland in this morning’s Canberra Times, in which the New Zealand Minister for Supply, Mr. Sullivan, is reported as follows -
Referring to the decision to import tyres from Australia, Mr. Sullivan said that the increase in the Dominion petrol ration was based on the number of tyres available.
In view of the acute shortage of motor tyres in Australia, and the great hardships suffered by people in rural districts as a result, will the Minister discuss with the Minister for Trade and Customs the prohibition of the export of tyres from Australia except for essential military purposes ?
– Australia has exported motor tyres to New Zealand since the beginning of the war. In the first instance, New Zealand made all the tyres which were held in stock there available to the forces in adjacent islands on the understanding that the United Kingdom would replace them, but the United Kingdom was unable to do so, for reasons which we can understand. Then Australia went to the rescue, and ever since we have been helping New Zealand considerably in this regard. There has been a reciprocal arrangement between the two dominions. For instance, New Zealand has supplied us with hides and leather on most generous terms. Hides were supplied at a price which was rendered possible only because the Government ofNew Zealand subsidized its own producers. Australia manufactures motor tyres; New Zealand does not. The allocation of raw rubber is made on the basis of all Allied countries sharing in what supplies are available. Australia manufactures the tyres forNew Zealand in accordance with the allocation of rubber to New Zealand by the control authorities in Washington. I shall ask the Minister forSupply to obtain more detailed information for the honorable member if he so desires.
– In view of the most recent approaches by scientists to the problem of locating flow oil, will the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government, through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, or any other scientific body, to obtain from the United States of America or elsewhere advice, and if need be personnel, to conduct further investigations in Australia into this subject, particularly on the geological and bacteriological sides?
– As the honorable member knows, a great deal of investigation work has been done by private enterprise in the search for flow oil. The present Government and previous governments, have given assistance to prospecting companies in the islands adjacent to Australia, particularly New Guinea. In Australia itself, assistance has been given to various companies. For instance, in connexion with the operations at Lakes Entrance, the Commonwealth Government, co-operating with the Government of Victoria, has provided money for developmental work. To date, the results of those investigations have not been particularly satisfactory, but inquiries are continually being made and in one or two instances - I have in mind the project at Lakes Entrance - technicians were brought from the United States of America to assist.
– New developments have been reported on the geological side.
– Certain tests and surveys were undertaken in various parts of the Commonwealth, but I cannot say whether they have been completed. However, I am speaking only from memory regarding the general position, and I shall endeavour to obtain for the honorable member a complete answer to his question.
Passports tor Australian Appointees.
– Because of the importance of Australia living up to its obligations to assist as much as possible the activities of Unrra, will the Prime Minister say whether permits and passports have been issued to certain persons, who have been appointed to the staff of Unrra, to enable them to participate in its work overseas? (Will the right honorable gentleman make a statement on the matter before the House adjourns?
– I indicated previously, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, that certain aspects of this matter were being examined. The Government’s earlier decision had general application, and did not apply particularly to Unrra. I arranged with the Attorney-General and the Minister for Immigration to obtain a further report upon the whole subject. In the original list, some of the persons who applied for passports were described as stenographertypists, but the publicity which has since been given to this matter emphasized their qualifications as linguists. Last night, I received a report on certain matters, but am not in a position to make a statement at this stage. I shall have a further consultation with the Attorney-General and the Minister for Immigration to-morrow. In deciding to engage in a newspaper controversy, the people associated with Unrra did not make so happy a choice as they might have done. Similar cases have arisen from time to time, and the authorities concerned have previously made a point of discussing them with the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for the Interior and myself. Generally we have been able to smooth out any difficulties, although not always to the satisfaction of the people concerned. Nothing is to be gained by these people entering into a newspaper controversy. They may make their representations to the Government, which is always willing to discuss with them any of their difficulties.
– In view of the sudden and suspicious interest shown by the
Sydney Morning Herald in housing the masses, as revealed in a special housing supplement this morning, will the Minister for Works and Housing inquire whether Mr. Warwick Fairfax, principal owner of that wealthy organ, has made one or more of his palatial homes available for the families of members of the fighting forces? I understand that he has two residences: in Bellevue Hill, and other properties at Palm Beach, Camden, Leura and Castle Crag.
– I was not aware that Mr. Warwick Fairfax had so many palatial dwellings. I shall have investigations made, and supply an answer to the honorable member.
Private Secretaries’ Salaries
– Were private secretaries excluded from the recent salary increases granted to members of the Public Service on account of Saturday morning work? Have private secretaries been ordered to refund the amounts of such increases which allegedly have been paid to them? Are private secretaries in fact required to work on Saturday mornings ? Will the Government give the necessary directions to ensure that these officers, who are required to work on Saturday mornings, shall be placed on the same basis as other members of the Public Service?
– The Public Service Commissioner brought this matter to my notice about two weeks ago. He informed me that a couple of years or more ago, a salary increase, the amount of which I am not able to state at the moment, was granted to private secretaries simply because they had to work at hours convenient to those with whom they were employed. The increase was made at that stage for the specific reason that they had to work when Ministers or party leaders required them to do so. Therefore, the raising of this point about Saturday morning work to some extent cuts across the reasons given by private secretaries when that increase was granted.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement printed in the Canberra Times this morning, under a London date line, and headed. “ Queer and Sinister Happenings in Teheran”? The statement is to the effect that there is reluctance on the part of Russia to withdraw from certain territory it occupies there. In view of the gravely disquieting nature of the implications of that paragraph, can the Prime Minister make any statement calculated to allay suspicion, which might have a very serious effect upon the amicable relations of the United Nations ?
– 1 have not seen the statement. I have not read any of the morning newspapers yet, although I usually do so when Parliament is meeting so that I may know what honorable members have been talking about. I am not able to answer the honorable member in detail. Many things happen that do not immediately come to the notice of the Government, as cable messages are frequently delayed. I shall consult with the Minister for External Affairs to see whether there is any matter in which this Government ought to interest itself, and I shall then give the honorable member what information I can.
– I have received numerous inquiries from returned soldier organizations and residents in my electorate as to when it is likely that the new Repatriation Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Kenmore will be opened. Has the Minister for Repatriation any information on the point that he can give to the House?
– The honorable member for Brisbane and other Queensland members have taken a very keen interest in this matter. I am pleased to announce that the Kenmore Sanatorium was opened yesterday, and will be officially opened as soon as possible. Twelve patients have been admitted already, and the further intake will be governed by the availability of staff. Residents of Brisbane have made many helpful offers in connexion with the laying out of the grounds; one resident has promised to supply a number of plants in this connexion. An opportunity will be afforded at the official opening for every one who so desires to view the buildings and the delightful surroundings. This interest by citizens is not confined to Brisbane, but is experienced also in other places where sanatoriums have been erected. Residents of Sydney were responsible for the laying df a bowling green for the use of the patients at Turramurra Sanatorium. There is a universal desire to help in practical ways the unfortunate people who are inmates of sanatoriums, in some instances for many years.
– In view of the fact that many young women have enlisted in the Women’s Land Army, and have provided their own clothing for use in that service, will the Minister for Labour and National Service consider making a monetary grant to them on their discharge, in order to enable them to purchase a reasonable wardrobe on their return to civil life?
-I cannot say “Yes” or “No”, because the matter does not concern my department. I shall discuss it with the Treasurer and other appropriate Ministers, in order to find out whether effect can be given to the request.
– Will the Prime Minister take the necessary action with regard to the Standing Orders to afford me an opportunity, before the House rises, to submit the motion of which I have given notice this morning, expressing admiration of Mr. Churchill as Britain’s war leader?
– I do not feel disposed to give Government sanction to the introduction of that motion to-day. 1 think that honorable members should have time to think over the matter.
– It is of a political nature.
– It certainly has political implications.
– How could it be political, seeing that Mr. Churchill led a national government?
– I say frankly that the motion of which the Leader of the Australian Country party has given notice could be construed by some people as having a political complexion. From time to time, the late Prime Minister and other members of the Government have expressed their warm admiration of the work done by Mr. Churchill as Britain’s war leader; but whether this House should carry a motion about a matter which concerns another country is a matter to which I should like to give some thought.
– by leave - If Australians have learned one lesson from the Pacific war now moving to a successful conclusion, it is surely that we cannot continue to hold our island continent for ourselves and our descendants unless we greatly increase our numbers. We are but 7,000,000 people and we hold 3,000,000 square miles of this earth’s surface. Our coastline extends for 12,000. miles and our density of population is only 2.5 persons per square mile. Much of our land is situated within a rain belt of less than 10 inches per annum and this area is, therefore, largely uninhabitable. In those parts more favorably situated, much development and settlement have yet to be undertaken. Our need to undertake it is urgent and imperative if we are to survive. While the world yearns for peace and abhors war, no one can guarantee that there will be no more war. A third world war is not impossible, and after a period of fitful peace, humanity may be face to face again with the horrors of another period of total war.
It would be prudent for us, therefore, not to ignore the possibility of a further formidable challenge within the next quarter of a century to our right to hold this land. We may have only those next 25 years in which to make the best possible use of our second chance to survive. Our first requirement is additional population. We need it for reasons of defence and for the fullest expansion of our economy. We can increase out 7,000,000 by an increased birth-rate and by a policy of planned immigration within the limits of our existing legislation.
Immigration is, at best, only the counterpart of the most important phase of population building, natural increase. Any immigration policy, therefore, must be intimately related to those phases of Government policy that are directed towards stimulating the birth-rate and lowering the infant mortality rate in Australia itself. It must, further, be related to the whole social service programme of creating greater economic security and a higher standard of living, as an inducement to young Australian couples to have larger families. In this connexion, the work of the new department must and will be closely integrated with the work of the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health, and the Department of Labour and National Service.
On the other side of the picture, the department will approach its problem from the basisthat it is economically unsound to bring migrants to the country until there is continuous employment for them, and secondly, proper housing and other social amenities to help them to fit themselves quickly into the Australian way of life. In its turn, employment potential depends not merely on production, but on the development of new and expanded markets for Australian products. In this way, therefore, immigration policy is closely interwoven with the work of the new Housing Department, the Secondary Industries Commission, the Rural Industries Commission, and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. It is only by giving it its proper setting in the whole national economy that the question can be brought into a right perspective.
People who talk glibly about bringing millions of people to Australia in relatively short periods have no conception of either the physical or the economic factors that operate in an expanding population. It has been proven by hard experience over long period’s that She maximum effective population absorption capacity in any expanding country is usually somewhere about 2 per cent, of its numbers. This figure includes the net increase of population, either by the excess of births over deaths, or the excess of arrivals over departures, or a combination, of both. Two per cent, of the present Australian population is approximately 140,000. The net increase, being the excess of births over deaths, has averaged, during the las five years, approximately 70,000 a year. This would leave, therefore, a migration ceiling of 70,000 a year, assuming that the economy was fully expanded to take the maximum number. It is obvious, therefore, that any suggestion to treble or even double the population within a generation is not likely to be realized. In view of the alarming fall in the birth-rate, and the decline of the average Australian family from six children in 1875 to three children in 1925, and then to slightly over two children at present, our immediate problem will be to hold our population figures without some migration.
The Department of Immigration, accordingly, is facing its problem from a realistic basis rather than a sentimental one, and is taking all the relevant factors into consideration. We make two things clear, first to the British people, and then to other peoples who might make good Australian citizens. The one is that Australia wants, and will welcome, new healthy citizens who are determined to become good Australians by adoption. The second is that we will not mislead any intending immigrant by encouraging him to come to this country under any assisted or unassisted scheme until there is a reasonable assurance of his economic future. Any immigration plan can succeed only if it has behind it the support and the goodwill of the Australian people. These assurances, therefore, are equally important and are equally given to the workers in our Australian industries and to the Australian people generally.
In working out its detailed plans of assisted immigration, the department will need, and will seek, the assistance and the advice of the trade union movement, the Chambers of Manufactures, the Chambers of Commerce, the Primary Producers’ Organizations, and any other similar organizations whose activities have a bearing on economic development. Three matters of major importance have to be dealt with before any organized plan of . large-scale immigration is possible : -
The first of these is the demobilization, rehabilitation and re-employment of the men and women in the Australian fighting services. With this question is involved also the transfer back to their peace-time avocations of all those engaged in producing the requirements of the armed forces.
The second is the overtaking of the lag in national housing and the provision of additional houses to meet the demands of an increasing population.
The third is the provision of adequate shipping to bring new citizens to Australia under reasonably comfortable circumstances.
I give the House and the country this assurance, that no large-scale plan of immigration will be initiated by my department until these obligations are within sight of accomplishment. At the same time, I give the House, on behalf of of Government, the assurance that in view of the urgency of increasing the population of Australia, the most earnest attention is being given to every one of these most vital matters.
I think it is pertinent at this stage that I should quote the views on immigration expressed by the retiring Governor of New South Wales, Lord Wakehurst, in a national radio broadcast on the eve of his departure for England in May last -
However much immigration is welcomed in principle, we cannot expect Australians to be very keen about it unless there are jobs for all. There will, for instance, be a natural desire to make sure that every demobilized serviceman gets a job before any immigrants come in. The establishment of new industries will, however, require skilled labour to start them. We can usefully, therefore, think of immigration in terms of bringing out the man and the job together. The idea is prevalent that Australia needs immigrants primarily for the land. Actually, the British or other European farmer and agricultural worker finds it difficult to adjust himself to Australian conditions on the land. Except in well-settled districts, the environment is quite different from anything he is likely to have experienced at home. The non-industrial settler would, to my mind, find his best scope in and around the country towns. Nothing would benefit Australia more than an increase in the number of towns of about 50,000 inhabitants. It is the old story of having a large enough domestic market. A centre of population has to reach a certain size before it can support local institutions and professional and com- munity services, which- of themselves create employment.
Settlers with young families are better than the single and middle-aged. Children are indeed the best immigrants of all. The movement to bring children out to Australia seems to me deserving of every encouragement, though more organizations and training of supervisors in particular will need all the attention that can be given. It is vital that children should come out young enough to pass their school days with Australians, and to have become thoroughly assimilated to the country by the time they go out to work.
Although it is obvious that some time - and it may be any period up to two years - must elapse after the war before organized immigration can be resumed on a big scale, we do not intend to let the opportunity go by of securing the attention of possible migrants, and fostering their desire to come to Australia as soon as Australia is ready to receive them. This does not mean that there will be no migrants coming to this country until two years after the war. Persons resident in Australia who desire to bring their families here from Great Britain will be encouraged to do so, and where it can be shown that by the admission of a specified number of classified workers who cannot be procured in Australia, the result would be an actual expansion of the capacity of the internal economy to provide usef ul employment for the people already here and those brought to Australia, these people, too, will be welcome.
For the foregoing reasons, we intend to embark on an adequate publicity campaign in Britain and in other centres of potential immigration on the European continent, designed to explain to the people there our anxiety to receive them on the one hand, and the causes for the delays that are inevitable on the other. Much of the publicity in earlier migration campaigns was of a misleading nature. Those mistakes will not be repeated on this occasion. By thus dealing honestly with the possible migrant, we hope to inspire him with confidence in the bona fides of Australia and thereby increase his desire to take up life in this country.
The attraction of new residents to Australia is, however, unlikely to be an easy task. The birth-rate in Britain and European countries has been declining to an extent alarming to their governments, and we may be faced with the position that those governments will not willingly encourage their nationals to emigrate. Steady long-term decline of the birth-rate in the United Kingdom suggests a condition of danger which we can be assured the Government of the United Kingdom will take all means to combat.
So that there will be no delay in resuming organized migration when economic circumstances make it possible, negotiations have been carried on for some time between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government for the conclusion of two agreements.
The first of these is to cover free passages to Australia for British exservice men and women and their dependants, or the dependants of such British personnel as elect to be demobilized in Australia.
The second covers assisted passages to civilians in the United Kingdom who are not eligible under the free passage scheme.
Draft agreements have been prepared and approved in principle by the two governments, but there are certain important points in respect of these agreements which have still to be settled. The negotiations are proceeding, and whan all details are finally agreed upon, full particulars will be made public both here and in Britain.
The Secretary “ of State for the Dominions presented a statement on migration within the British Commonwealth to the British House of Commons in June last. A copy of it is appended to this statement (vide page 4915), but it seems apposite that I should quote its references to Australia as follows : -
As a result of correspondence and recent discussions between officials in London, agreement in principle has been reached with the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia regarding the drafting of agreements between the United Kingdom and Australian Governments to cover a free passage scheme for ex-service personnel from this country and an assisted passage scheme for civilian migrants. Details are still under discussion between the two Governments, and there are certain important points still outstanding awaiting settlement. As soon as agreements are finally concluded, a full announcement will be made. Meanwhile, it is important to make it clear that at the present time the pressure on shipping is such that any substantial movement of migrants will be impracticable for some time to come.
The conditions under which migrants from countries in Europe other than the British Commonwealth of Nations should be selected and admitted have been closely investigated by the Interdepartmental Committee, whose report is now receiving the consideration of the Government.
Pending the resumption of large-scale adult migration, the Government will take every available opportunity to facilitate the entry into Australia of accepted children from other countries. The Government has already approved in principle a plan to bring to Australia, in the first three years after the war, 50,000 orphans from Britain and other countries that have been devastated by the war. Discussions on the details of this plan are proceeding with the States, and we hope soon to reach a stage where the full possibilities of the scheme can be properly assessed. Various views have been expressed in this Parliament from time to time on the subject of child migration. The following extract from a speech delivered by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in September, 1943, epitomizes, I think, what, most honorable members of both Houses feel about it -
I believe that the young people from European countries, particularly orphans, constitute a promising source of new population for Australia, and this applies even to those from enemy countries.
While discussions with the States are proceeding the Government will continue to encourage the activities of different religious and social organizations in bringing children to Australia under various approved adoption schemes. This, like all other forms of migration, i« dependent in the first place upon the provision of shipping. But once this difficulty is surmounted, the child migrant will be welcomed particularly as children create no immediate economic problem.
Another field of possible migration, that is economically self-contained, is provided in the approach to manufacturers in Britain and other overseas countries to remove their centre of production, or a part of it, to Australia, bringing not only plant and markets, but their personnel and their families as well. The Government’s general policy is directed towards development along these lines, and the Immigration Department will associate itself with this plan as it comes to fruition.
Apart from schemes of organized and assisted British migration, the door to Australia is always open within the limits of our existing legislation to people from the various dominions, the United States of America, and from European continental countries who are sound in health and who will not become a charge on the community, to come here and make their homes. The Australian people must help newcomers to become assimilated. We have been too prone in the past to ostracize those of alien birth and then blame them for segregating themselves and forming foreign communities. It is we, not they, who are generally responsible for this condition of affairs. Fortunately, we have only three areas in Australia where non-British migrants have tended to congregate in considerable numbers. One of these is in Shepparton, Victoria, the second is in the LeetonGriffith irrigation area of New South Wales, and the third is on the northern cane-fields of Queensland. That these people can be absorbed into our community life in the course of one generation is proved by the fact that the Australianborn children of most foreignborn parents have played their part in the fighting services in the defence of Australia in this war and regard themselves as Australians, having equal citizen rights, and bearing equal national responsibilities with every other Australian.
Compared with other countries, Australia has no alien problem. Our total Italian population in Australia is to-day, 13,018, and our total German population, 1,592. In this connexion, I cannot do better than quote one further extract from the- speech by the honorable member for Warringah -
I repeat that, if we really want more, people, we must change our attitude towards immigrants from foreign countries. We must encourage such people to become Australians, and to fit into our way of life. They must not be subject to the gibe that they were originally aliens, as is often the case now, even after immigrants have been here for years. lt is of no use for us to speak of the need for migration, if we are to continue criticizing migrants and placing restrictions in their way when they come to Australia.
In the United States of America, residence, and not nationality, determines liability for service in the armed forces. Because of United States law, many draftees who were born in enemy countries were sent to fight for the defence of this country in the South-West Pacific ATea. In our terminology, they would have been regarded as “ enemy aliens “, but by’ their residence in the United States of America they earned the right to be treated on the same basis as loyal American citizens, and we have to thank them for the part they played in association with our own armed forces and othermembers of Allied units in saving this country from invasion. It may be well for Australia closely to examine this American attitude, and decide whether this may not be the proper way to treat and assimilate the newcomer.
Unfortunately, campaigns are fostered in this country from time to time on racial and religious grounds by persons who have ulterior motives to serve. The activities of such people cannot be too strongly condemned. They are antiAustralian and anti-Christian, and make not for national unity and national wellbeing but for the creation of discord and bitterness that is harmful to Australia at home and abroad.
The ‘Government is still prepared to fiiscuss with the leaders of the Opposition parties in the Parliament the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee on immigration and the terms of reference to be given to such committee.
In conclusion, I assure the House that we are approaching the problems associated with immigration with a full realization of their importance and their difficulties, but with a recognition that this question is something essential to our national welfare and something that is above all sectional interest. The accomplishment of our immigration policy will require the support of every political party in the House and of every public organization in the community. We cannot afford to fail. There is so much dependent on the success of our population policy that failure will spell national disaster. I lay on the table the following paper : - “immigration - Government Policy - Ministerial Statement, 2nd August, 1945. and move -
That the paper he printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Statement by His Majesty’s GOVERNMENT in the United Kingdom
Presented by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to Parliament by Command of His Majesty June 1945
The general attitude of the United Kingdom Government on the question of migration from the United Kingdom to other parts of the British Commonwealth has been stated in Parliament on a number of occasions. The following may be quoted.
-Will the Minister for Labour and National Service make a statement to the House for the purpose of clarifying certain points?First, are members of the Royal Australian Air Force, who are discharged as surplus from air-crew and other musterings liable for call-up by. the Army? Secondly, are they subject to direction by the manpower authorities for employment purposes? Thirdly, will they be allowed, upon discharge, a free choice to return to any kind of civil occupation, even though it is not in an essential industry?
– From time to time the War Commitments Board examines this problem and may vary its previous decisions, but the position has not been altered in any way that would affect the answers that I gave to similar questions some days ago. The manpower authorities do not interfere with the reinstatement rights of ex-service men and women to select the civil occupation in which they desire to engage. They are not subject to man-power direction, with two small exceptions. First, men who have been released to do a particular job are expected to continue with that work until it becomes less essential. Then those ex-servicemen may have their reinstatement rights implemented, even though they were temporarily deferred. Secondly, young Royal Australian Air Force trainees, the great majority of whom are under twenty years of age, will not be made available to the Army, unless they volunteer, but will be directed to do essential work. If any of them had been serving an apprenticeship before enlistment, they will be permitted to resume that training. Others, who may have commenced a university course before enlistment, may resume their studies. Generally speaking, these young men have not completed their courses of training in the Royal Australian Air Force. Many of them have served only a few months and none of them has served overseas. As I stated, they will be expected to do some essential work.
– Why not make them available to the Army?
– The present policy of War Cabinet is that they shall not be made available to the Army unless they volunteer to serve, but they may be directed to engage in essential work. However, that ruling will not interfere with any educational courses that they may have commenced before their enlistment.
– I received n communication to-day from the Southoast Queensland Graziers Association asking me to direct the attention of the Government to a serious increase of buffalo fly in that part of the State. The association claims that this problem should be treated on a national basis. The only known remedy appears to be spraying, which is not always practicable, and the pest is spreading. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done more than station one young officer in north Queensland? Has any progress been made recently with methods for combating the pest? Have scientific researches been conducted in other countries into this pest, and if so, are the results available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research? Is any remedy available other than DDT, which is only a preventive? Will the Minister establish a larger institution in southern Queensland for the purpose of combating this pest?
– I know a good deal about the buffalo fly problem and admit that it is most serious. However, the control of the pest is really a State responsibility.
– “ Passing the buck” again.
– As the honorable member knows, the Commonwealth Government has done everything possible within its constitutional powers to investigate the problem, and has made available to the State Departments of Agriculture the results of its researches. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research must confine its activities to research work, but forwards its discoveries to the State authorities who, in turn, should advise farmers and graziers. If vested interests had’ co-operated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, this pest would not have spread nearly so far south as it has done. If, originated in north-western Queensland, and it could have been confined to that area if steps had been ta.ken to prevent the transfer of stock to the eastern coastal area. There is a sparsely inhabited tract of country south of the Gulf of Carpentaria which is used very little for grazing purposes. The pest could have been stopped there. However, it eventually reached the coast as the result of the transfer of cattle from the north-west to the coastal strip. The Council for Scientific- and Industrial Research pointed out the danger at the time, but action was not taken to prevent the spread of the pest. Since it has reached the Queensland coastal area, it has extended gradually southwards. My answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is that the Commonwealth Government, through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has done and is doing everything that can be done, insofar as research will assist in solving the problem. In the final analysis, the responsibility rests with the State Departments of Agriculture.
– Yesterday the honormember for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following question : -
Has the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read an article published in the Sydney Sun of Monday last in which the writer, Mr. H. H. Cox, attacks the Minister for Commerce because of the alleged decline of pig meat production and the unsatisfactory prices for pigs? Is it not a fact that the production of pig meats has now reached a record level, and that the industry is receiving a guaranteed price for the first time in its history? Was not this price agreed upon between the Minister, as the representative of the Government, and the Australian Pig Industry Council? If these are the facts, will the Minister moke a statement and ask the Sydney Sun to give as much prominence to the correction as to the article which it published on the matter?
I have since had an opportunity to give further consideration to the honorable member’s question and to examine the statements contained in the article in the Sydney Sun. A perusal of the article reveals that Mr. Cox has, either wittingly or unwittingly, been guilty of a series of grave inaccuracies. His main charges are - (a) That a guaranteed price has been fixed’ for pig meats which has no relation to the costs of production; and (b) that the policy of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has led to a reduction in the production of pig meats. As honorable members know, the pig industry received a serious setback early in 1941 when pig prices collapsed, and an earlier government failed to take action to prevent losses to producers. The direct result of the collapse of prices was that many men abandoned pig-raising. “With the greater demand for pig products in 1942, there was an improvement of prices, but many pig-raisers, before re-entering the industry, desired some assurance that they would not be compelled to suffer another collapse of prices. As the result, the Australian Pig Industry Council, at its meeting in Melbourne on the 1st October, 1942, made the recommendation that the price of pig meats be fixed’ on the basis of S£d. per lb. for first quality baconer carcasses. Following this, a deputation from the Australian Pig Industry Council interviewed the Minister for ‘Commerce and Agriculture and submitted the council’s request to him. The Minister assured the deputation of his sympathy and promised to discuss the matter with Cabinet. Cabinet considered that it was desirable to guarantee the prices of pig meats for a period of two years, as a means of providing the necessary incentive for increased production. The matter was then referred to the Prices Commissioner, who arranged for certain prices to be embodied in the pig. meats plan. The plan, unfortunately, did not come into operation because of the disallowance by the Senate of the Meat Industry Commission Regulations.
When further National Security Regulations covering the meat industry were implemented’, the Government gave effect to the pig meats plan. This provided for a guaranteed price of 8d. per lb., for first quality baconer carcasses. On the 5th September, 1943, the guaranteed price was raised to 9d. per lb., or $d. per lb. more than that requested by the Australian Pig Industry Council. Other safeguards were provided under the plan. These were designed to protect producers from exploitation by speculators. Producers were given the right to send their stock to the nearest abattoirs, and the assurance was given that Meat Control would pay a fixed price on the hook. The -plan will continue in its present form until the 30th September, 1946. The Commonwealth has agreed to give the industry twelve months’ notice of any proposed alterations. The plan has provided a measure of stability not previously experienced by the industry. Since the original decision was made, the Government has -also provided a stock feed subsidy for pig raisers, and this has had the effect of stabilizing costs of production. Mr. Cox is equally wrong in asserting that the limited quantities of pig meats available for civilians are due to a decline of production. The fact is that, while production has reached record levels following the introduction of a system of guaranteed prices and stabilized costs, war-time demands on Australian production - particularly for the services - have risen in even greater proportion. Of the record production of 130,000 tons for 1944, no less than half - 65,000 tons - went to the services and the British Ministry of Food, pig meats being provided in substantial quantities for our own and Allied fighting services in the Pacific. The Government, in providing for the needs of the services ‘and the people of Britain, has, I believe, given expression to the wish of the Australian people that the home front must bear some share of the sacrifices which war entails. Therefore, it offers no apology for asking civilians to do with less pig meats until the end of the war, so that the men of the services, who are making the greatest sacrifices, shall be adequately fed. Despite the havoc wrought by drought, the general shortage of foodstuffs and the lowering of the weights at which baconers and porkers will be accepted, the estimated pig meat production for 1945 is only 5,000 tons below the all-time record of 130,000 tons established in 1944. That production has increased, and not declined as alleged in the article, is clearly shown by the following figures: -
Production of bacon, cured weight, for 1939-40 was 35,000 tons; for 1944, it was 52,000 tons.
The decline of production from 1940-41 to 1943 is directly attributable to the collapse of prices to which I have already referred. The increase of production for 1944 and 1945 is directly attributable to the provision by the Government of a guaranteed price. I regret that Mr. Cox failed to check the main points of his story before releasing it for publication. My regret is the deeper for the reason that he has misrepresented the actions of a colleague of mine and has conveyed an entirely false impression to the people. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has made greater efforts than any of his predecessors to provide permanent stability for the pig industry. The worth of his work has been recognized by the Australian Pig Industry Council. Those not directly associated with the pig industry have unjustly criticized his efforts. As the honorable member suggested, I shall submit a copy of this statement to the Sydney Sun, so that a correction may be made.
The following bills were returned from the Senate : -
Without amendment -
Special Annuity Bill 1945.
Matrimonial Causes Bill 1945
Wine Overseas Marketing Bill 1945.
Darwin Lands Acquisition Bill 1945.
Science and Industry Research Bill 1946.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Bill 1945.
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill 1945.
With amendments -
Superannuation Bill (No. 2) 1945.
Life Insurance Bill 1945.
Commonwealth Public Service Bill 1945.
– I have received from the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I have taken this action on account of the general position of housing throughout Australia, in both metropolitan and rural areas. The fundamental necessities of human exis-tence are food, clothing and shelter. As the result of war conditions, food is scarce, clothing has been rationed, and housing is completely inadequate for everyday needs. A critic would be unfair if he did. not appreciate the fact that the housing position in Australia is conditioned by the availability of materials and labour. The point which I desire specially to bring to the notice of the House and the country is that there has been insufficient expert consideration of the factors essential to making the best use of the inadequate resources. There has not been proper utilization of our building materials and labour supplies, there has been complete lack of co-ordination between various government departments, and there has been bureaucratic bungling, maladministration, lack of sympathy, and a general disregard of the seriousness of the position. Inadequate housing must have a detrimental effect on the community, and it will react against the Government’s immigration policy, about which we heard earlier this morning. Bad housing has had a disastrous effect upon home life in Australia. The necessity for young married couples to make their homes with parents’ frequently causes judicial separations and divorces. Many marriages have been brought to a disastrous end in this way. Obviously, unsatisfactory and unnatural housing conditions’ have also had a very detrimental effect upon the birth-rate.
I draw specific attention to the position in Queensland, as I am sure that other honorable members will deal with the circumstances in the States from which they come. I have definite evidence regarding the accommodation shortage from Tweed Heads to Cape York, or, in other words, north of the mythical “ Brisbane line “. It has been stated by persons who are competent to assess the position, that the large increase of child delinquency in Queensland is attributable in a great degree to uncongenial living conditions in substandard and crowded dwellings. The Queensland Government statistician has estimated that 33,000 new houses are required in that State. The
Director of the Bureau of Industry, Mr. Colin Clark, estimates that, taking into consideration demolition, replacement and repairs, and the need for- public and commercial buildings, the requirements in Queensland will not be satisfied before 1960.
– Is he an authority on housing?
– He is the official to whom the State Government looks for advice, and he has been given authority to issue permits for house construction. According to the available information, Commonwealth contracts have been let for the construction of 24,000 homes during the current year. That is 9,000 fewer than the estimated shortage in Queensland alone, the allocation for which is 3,500. Having regard to our experience in connexion with other contracts, a rather pessimistic view may be taken of the prospect of reaching that target. But even on that basis, a decade will have elapsed before the present leeway has been overtaken. Up to the present, two very modest building schemes have been undertaken in Queensland. The first, for which tenders were called many months ago, is for the construction of 31 wooden houses at Stafford, near Brisbane. The prices tendered were considered too high, and the work is to be carried out by day labour. Any one who has knowledge of the respective achievements under the contract and day labour systems will appreciate what that means. Day labour is the slow, hard way, involving the use of shovels and crowbars by manual effort in the digging of holes for the foundations. The second scheme was for the construction of 32 brick houses at Enoggera. The tenders for these ranged from £1,638 to £1,793 each. They were of the brick bungalow type, comparable with workers’ dwellings, and contained two and three bedrooms. Day labour is to be substituted for the contract system when the Government is able to utilize it. Figures provided in the second interim report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission indicate that, even with interest at the low rate of 3 per cent., 40 years is required to repay a loan of £1,500 with weekly instalments of 25s. The instalments cannot be made higher, because it has been shown to be uneconomic for a person to pay in rent more than one quarter of his wages. How unpractical the scheme will be can thus be seen. According to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), 500 veteran Australian soldiers will be flown and shipped from front-line operational areas to Australia, for discharge within the next fortnight. Obviously, they are family men who will need to have shelter provided’ for themselves and their families.
– The interest rate mentioned by the right honorable gentleman is too high.
– The Minister cannot trap me with such an interjection. I contend that £1,500 for a two-bedroom brick bungalow, involving the payment of 25s. a week, including interest, for a period of 40 years, is too high.
– Who makes the bricks ?
– I intend to deal with that matter.
– They are made by private enterprise, and the price charged is ridiculously high.
– Under the scheme for the release of servicemen announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), 10,000 men will have been released by the end of August and 64,000 by the end of December. In addition, it has been stated semi-officially in Brisbane, but not confirmed, that the ‘Civil Constructional Corps in Queensland will have been disbanded by September. It is estimated that between 3,000 and 4,000 Queenslanders are still in the corps, and that a large number of them will be diverted to the ‘building industry. The corps is now housed by the Government in remote parts of the continent. If it is to be disbanded, and the men are to return to their former habitat, a much greater strain will be placed on the already inadequate housing accommodation. Not yet is there in sight any orga- nization designed to cope with the demand that will be made when men are discharged from the corps. Chaotic conditions must arise if thousands of men . are released from the army and have to be provided with housing accommodation. What can we offer to these men, who have given five years of their lives in the service of their country, and now desire to re-establish themselves with their family units’? At present, all thai can be done for the Queenslanders is to take them to Stafford and show them foundations being dug with picks and shovels, although specialized earth moving equipment worth thousands of pounds is rusting all over the countryside for lack of use. They can be taken to Enoggera, and ‘ ‘ shown allotments ov which no work has been1 done because the price tendered was too high. The, can be” taken to Indooroopilly, and introduced to Mrs. G. Hamilton, who live* there with her four’ small children, in two tents, in scrub half a mile up a steep hillside off the road. The children are aged seven years, five years, three years., and fifteen months. Their father has been in the Australian Imperial Fore* for three years. The family was ejected from a comfortable home at Fairfield, b,> court order. This is what Mrs. Hamilton said in a press interview -
My children - three girls, aged seven, live, and three, and the baby fifteen months, have been here with me in the two tents for two months.
Next month the two youngest girls have to have their tonsils out. I don’t want to bring them back here. They have all ‘been, sick with colds ever since we came.
A legal assistance officer told my husband not to move from the house we were ejected from until we got instructions. We never heard from him again, and we had to get out.
Those are the conditions under which this woman and her family have to live in a civilized community. I also cite the case of the wife of a soldier who is in action in a forward” area. She is living in an over crowded house at Northgate. The damp surroundings do not suit thi health of her two young children or herself, and she has been ordered by her doctor to move elsewhere. In spite of s year’s intensive search and an excellent reference from her landlord, she cannot find a new home. When her case was referred to the State Advances Corporation, an official said that she should apply for the allotment of a home on the basis of need. Doubtless, she would then receive consideration in a couple of years, time.
The position I have described is not confined to the thickly populated industrial centres in the capital cities. The production of food, and rural housing, are unavoidably linked, in that settlers must be attracted to the land. The accommodation of the workers in such areas must comply with the requirements of the law. The housing conditions in relation to single workers and married couples on farms, as well as the farmer himself, have deteriorated deplorably, and should be given high priority. Yet slow, casual, manual methods have been adopted, and modern mechanical methods are almost completely absent. Doubtless this is due to a certain degree to the lack of co-ordination between various government departments. The secretary of the Queensland branch of the Carpenters Union, speaking in Brisbane, said that for the proposed brick houses at Enoggera no bricks were available, and the organization of the necessary brickmakers and bricklayers was so bad that it had been proposed to bring sixteen of the latter from New South Wales for one job. While this proposal was being discussed at the manpower office, the State Advances Corporation decided not to build brick houses.
The procedure adopted by the Directorate of War Organization of Industry should be exposed. It shows a dangerous bottleneck which is the despair of many home-builders. An applicant for a building permit has to lodge with the department two certified copies of each of the following: - A tender or the contractor’s estimate, a specification, and the plans. Then he has to fill in a comprehensive schedule containing over 50 items detailing the weight of nails, the number of bricks, the number of lineal feet of piping, the number of bags of plaster of paris, the number of square feet of glass, and so on. The ordinary person who builds a home is given a form to fill in and the following are some of the items printed on it, in respect of which information must be supplied: -
– The right honorable member would not start to build even a shed unless he knew the quantities of material that would be required.
– But I would not be asked to fill in a ridiculous form of this kind. I am advised by one firm that it would take a quantity surveyor at least half a day to fill in one of these forms, yet the Government talks of the conservation of man-power! I shall cite the case of Mr. H. G. Violer, ofRokebyterrace, Taringa, who has given me permission to publish it. He intends to marry shortly. I think that marriages should be encouraged. He made an application to the Directorate of War Organization of Industry in Brisbane for permission to build a house, and, after much delay, permission was refused. He then applied for a permit to build a garage. He said - “ I cannot get a house, but I have a block of land, and I can at least put . up something which will be useful if I am permitted to erect a garage in the meantime”. His prospective wife consented to live in the garage. [Extension of time granted.] After much delay he submitted an application to be permitted to build a garage as a temporary home. The dimensions were to be 22 feet by 12 feet. The following is the text of the letter which he received’: -
Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction.
City Mutual Building, 307-9 Queen-street,
Receipt of your application dated 14th June is acknowledged.
Please forward a ground plan of the proposed dwelling, and also a detailed list of all materials required.
It is suggested you obtain a written estimate of cost and specification from your building contractor, certify as to your acceptance of same and forward them to this office.
Further, submit a Statutory Declaration signed by fiancee and yourself, before a Justice of the Peace, to the effect that you will be married on a certain date.
On receipt of the above, further consideration will be given to your application.
Does the Government or anybody in this democracy approve of such tactics as those ? Hitler would not have imposed such conditions, yet honorable members opposite laugh when I bring these matters under notice. Do they intend to ignore such bureacratic tyranny as is outlined in that letter? Imagine putting a person to the expense of employing an architect to draw up plans of a garage 22 feet by 12 feet! In this case the applicant made a statutory declaration, hut if by unforeseen circumstances, such as the death of his fiancee, he could not marry by the given date, he would have committed an indictable offence. Do not honorable members opposite realize that the fear of tyranny of this kind is the reason why, at the recent referendum, the people refused to confer increased powers upon this Parliament. The people of Australia are sick and tired of governmental abuse of power. Even after going to all the trouble of supplying details on the form, the filling in of which occupies half a day, the ordinary citizen has no guarantee that he can obtain the building materials required by him. The granting of a permit does not confer the right to be supplied with materials. Man-power and woman-power are used in dealing with these long forms, but when particulars are furnished there is no guarantee that the work can be started.
– I do not say any such thing. I am talking of the abuse of power, and of the way people are pushed about. The country is in urgent need of population, and yet there is this desperate shortage of houses, particularly in the tropical parts of Australia. There is an utter lack of co-ordination between various government departments, some of which are seeking to usurp the power of Parliament, and the Government is apparently prepared to accept the situation. I do not propose to deal at length with suggestions for the mass production of houses, beyond pointing out that there are firms in Australia, and particularly in Queensland, which have, for years, specialized in making ready-cut parts for houses. Practically half the houses erected in Queensland are of this type. There are plenty of government factories and plenty of government machinery available which might be used in the manufacture of prefabricated parts for houses. I do not propose to criticize without offering constructive suggestions, and therefore I offer for the consideration of the Government the following seven proposals: -
The Government should define the responsibilities to be accepted by the Commonwealth and the States, respectively. At present, there is too much of “ passing the buck “. A potential home-builder becomes giddy going from one place to another. He goes to a State department, which tells him that it is a Commonwealth matter, and then the Commonwealth department tells him that it is % State matter. If the position were properly defined it would eliminate thu tendency to “ pass the buck “ between Commonwealth and State officials, and should ensure co-operation between all authorities in the best use of labour, manpower and technical staffs.
Either the permit system for homes up to £5,000 should be abolished, especially with regard to rural construction, or local authorities should replace the Department of War Organization of Industry for the purpose of granting building permits. Local authorities could be made a valuable adjunct to the administration, and should be used wherever possible, instead of depending upon a centralized authority such as the Department of War Organization of Industry, which is out of touch with local conditions.
The Treasurer should immediately confer with the Commissioner of Taxation with a view to the removal of sales tax and pay-roll tax in connexion with home-building. It seems ridiculous to increase the cost of a home permanently by taxation of this nature, and then to subsidize the building of it out of Commonwealth money.
Costs could also be reduced by the use of modern methods and equipment by the Government in co-operation with private enterprise. Government equipment could be used for the construction of foundations, even if the rest of the building were constructed by private enterprise. Surely it should be possible in these times to employ in the construction of foundations something more modern than a crowbar, a pick and a shovel.
The Commonwealth Disposals Commission should act in close liaison with the Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing with a view to the utilization for housing purposes of materials and heavy equipment no longer required for other government purposes.
Finally, a panel of practical men, including a builder, an architect and an engineer, under the direction of some one of the calibre of Mr. Essington Lewis, should be appointed by the Government, on the understanding that specific contracts must be completed in a given time, or their appointments would be terminated, and others appointed in their stead. Such a panel should be given absolute authority within its own sphere to enable it to overcome official “ tie-ups “, and prevent interference.
The housing problem must be tackled with boldness, and unorthodox methods used if necessary. We must get rid of official delays and obstruction and bureaucratic tyranny. The existing conditions are affecting the moral fibre of the nation, and undermining social conditions. Good housing is the foundation of industrial peace, and has much to do with achieving maximum industrial output. The position in regard to housing throughout the Commonwealth is appalling. I can produce plenty of evidence of the conditions in Queensland, and I know that conditions are nearly as bad elsewhere.
– If the suggestions of the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) were adopted they would lead to chaos. As usual, he has contented himself with the mouthing of platitudes, and with references to “ pushing people around “ and to “ bureaucratic control “. He says that there has been confusion in the administration, but he has supplied no evidence of it. It is generally recognized that the former Department of War Organization of Industry did a magnificent job under most trying conditions. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has had one of the toughest jobs in the Cabinet, and history will record - no matter what the right honorable member for Darling Downs may say - that his was an outstanding achievement. The right honorable gentleman said that quantities of machinery were rusting throughout Australia. He is letting his imagination run riot and does not know the facts. Some of the machinery in Brisbane, including bulldozers, belongs to the American authorities, and some to the Allied Works Council. But as the right honorable gentleman should know, bulldozers are useless for building purposes. As soon as any suitable machinery becomes available, it is offered to State housing authorities or municipalities. One of my first administrative acts, when I became Minister for Works and Housing, was to sign a minute empowering the Director-General of Housing to obtain trench digging equipment in order to facilitate the provision of water supply and sewerage services for new houses.
Honorable members opposite have raised this matter for party political purposes. They are endeavouring to use the distressful housing conditions in many parts of Australia as a means to make whole the shattered fragments of their party. Listening to their remarks, one might be excused for thinking that the housing problem, like a mushroom, had grown overnight. This problem originated in the early days, when private enterprise, for whom the right honorable gentleman fights so tenaciously, built tenements on small areas of land, and made big profits on the investment. If the Labour party had not enforced health and building laws, those conditions would have been perpetuated.
During the last twenty years, antiLabour governments made no attempt to provide adequate housing for the people. In 1925, in order to win an election, the Bruce-Page Government promised to provide £20,000,000 for housing. Two years later, this Parliament passed a Housing Act, but it has been a “ dead letter “ ever since. In September, 1931, the Scullin Government appointed a committee consisting of Sir Herbert Gepp, Mr. J. Gunn, Professor Brigden, Professor Giblin and others to examine proposals for a works programme, including a housing programme. When the committee submitted its report, the financial institutions, which honorable gentlemen opposite support so vigorously, refused to provide the necessary money.
In 1934, the Lyons Government promised to assist people to build homes, but did nothing. A year later, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who had studied social services in other countries, reported on the clearance of slum areas. He declared that housing conditions in Australia were so unsatisfactory that no constitutional barriers justified our failure to concern ourselves with the problem. The Government, though committed to a housing programme, did nothing to build or assist to build any homes. In 1936, the Lyons Government, despite its election pledges, said that the Commonwealth could not build houses. In 1938, the anti-Labour government of the day announced that, at that time, the Commonwealth could not possibly take part in any programme of housing, or the abolition of slum areas. In 1939, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) refused to provide funds for the housing of the people. Those are facts and honorable gentlemen opposite cannot deny them. For years, when I was >a member of the Opposition, I strongly criticized anti-Labour governments in an endeavour to compel them to provide adequate housing for the people, because labour and ample supplies of building materials were available. In New South Wales, brick kilns owned by the State Government operated at a. profit when they sold bricks at 45s. a thousand. But the friend of honorable gentlemen opposite, “Bertie” Stevens, disposed of the State brickworks to private enterprise. After that, private enterprise increased the price of bricks, and subsidized some kilns not to operate. Thus, some shareholders received dividends, although the brickworks were closed.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) once promised to provide for the man on the basic wage a house containing electrical equipment and- all modern conveniences. Even carpets were included, because the house was to have an electric carpet-sweeper.
The right honorable gentleman was going to provide a luxury house for a man earning £4 16s. or £4 18s. a week. The project was too stupid to contemplate. If honorable gentlemen opposite sincerely desire the people to be properly housed, they must be prepared for a complete revision of our economic life and standard of living, immediately Japan is defeated.
The housing problem which confronted this Government was partly a legacy from past governments - mostly non-Labour - and partly due to extreme pressure of war-time demands on our limited resources of men and materials. The crisis which arose following the entry of Japan into the war made it necessary to suspend almost entirely normal home-building, public works, and factory building. A huge programme of works was necessary for the defence of the country, and all available men and materials were transferred to it. Later, with the arrival of United States forces in this country, further works involving huge numbers of men and large quantities of materials became necessary. (Still later, we had to undertake work for the Royal Navy. All of these projects, some of which still continue, and our other war commitments, have made it impracticable for the country to embark upon a big housing programme.
The Government has made a two-point attack on the housing problem with a short-term plan and a long-term plan. First, as soon as war circumstances permitted, it diverted all available resources of man-power and- material to restarting home-building. Secondly, it has made long-term plans for the most rapid development of housing in the future. Even while the war was at its most critical period, housing work did not entirely cease. The Commonwealth War Housing Trust, up to June, 1944, provided 1,600 permanent homes, 1,600 temporary dwellings, and 49 hostels, catering for nearly 20,000 persons. Also, for the two years ended the 30th June, 1944, the Department of War Organization of Industry granted permits for the erection of 6,700 houses.
During the year ended the 30th June, 1945, 10,000 houses were commenced and 5,600 were finished. These figures include both, private and government-sponsored buildings. But for the diversion of 5,000 men and large quantities of materials to unexpected work for the Royal Navy in the early part of this year, many more of the target total of 12,000 houses, which was our target for last year, would have been commenced and some hundreds more would certainly have been finished.
For the year which commenced on the 1st July, 1945, the Government has established a target of 24,000 dwellings, half of them government-sponsored and the remainder to be privately constructed. More man-power is required in the building industry if we are to reach our targets. The Government is well aware of this, and is taking action accordingly. Sixty-four thousand service releases are to be made between now and the end of the year. A substantial proportion of this number will be employed on housing. Altogether, in the current period 21,000 workers are required for home building, including the industries producing building materials and requirements of the public utilities. The Government releases are planned to provide the technical men, building artisans and other specially skilled labour required for the industries making building materials.
Recognizing the paramount importance of housing, the Government decided recently that all housing, both government and private, should carry the very highest priority - an A2/A priority ranking second only to defence works of the highest category. Sufficient time has not elapsed yet for the effect of this decision to be felt by builders in regard to the provision of materials. Commonwealth authorities controlling the various materials have assured the Government that those required for the current year’s programme will be available, subject to the provision of man-power by means of the service releases which I have mentioned.
The Defence Committee is reviewing all service works programmes with a view to their curtailment or cessation wherever possible. A review is being made of all Army and other Commonwealth stocks of materials and any surplus stocks will be diverted to civilian use. The War Establishment Committee, -under an independent chairman, is reviewing all non-operational establishments with a view to releasing all service personnel possible. The CommonwealthStates Housing Agreement initiated bv this Government is already making and will continue to make an increasing contribution to the housing of the average wage-earner in the Commonwealth. The scheme which provides for rental rebate in approved cases may be briefly described as follows: - (1) The Commonwealth will determine the number of dwellings to be erected each year; (2) the Commonwealth will meet three-fifths of State losses and will facilitate the supply of labour and materials, supervise standards and undertake technical and other research; (3) the States will act as principals and carry out all work; (4) up to half of the houses in the programme may be for sale and the remainder for rental; and (5) dwellings will be allocated on the basis of need; 50 per cent, at present go to service and ex-service personnel.
In 1943 the Commonwealth Government established the Commonwealth Housing Commission, which made a very full review of housing conditions in Australia. The commission made a number of major recommendations including (a) the rental rebate scheme, which is the basis of the Commonwealth-State.* Housing Agreement; and (fe) the establishment of the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station. The station has already produced a number of useful suggestions. They include methods for using materials which are not in short supply, such as steel and concrete. It is expected that some of these methods will soon be put into practical use. The Commonwealth is very much alive to the need for bringing to bear upon the problems of Australia the best technical knowledge and experience available overseas. To that end it has sent an officer abroad to gain knowledge of various aspects of modern building practice. Also, action has already been taken to import sample prefabricated houses with a view to their being adapted, if possible, to suit Australian conditions. Measures are also being taken to examine the possibility of developing prefabrication, either in whole or in part, for the mass production of houses in Australia. Prefabrication is not new. Experiments have been made with various schemes in Australia. That has been done by private contractors in all States for years past. [Extension of time granted.] The Government has also decided that public bodies, banks, building societies, and private contractors, mainly those who operate on a fairly large scale with about 100 employees or more, will be given bulk premits. I admit that there may have been some bottlenecks, as the right honorable member has said, as the result of housing control being divided between three departments. However, under the new set-up, housing comes directly under myself, as Minister, and the DirectorGeneral of Works and Housing, whose ability is undoubted. He is a technical man, and is thoroughly capable of handling a task of this magnitude. The Government has taken, and will continue to take, all possible steps to use to the utmost all the available resources, and will examine all the evidence with a view to obtaining full benefit from overseas experience.
The housing position has been referred to so frequently in this House by means of questions to Ministers and in the public press, that one would think that a malign government influence is preventing the provision of the homes that are needed by the people. The facts are trigically simple. The only hindrance to housing progress is the deficiency of manpower and materials. Money does not enter into the calculations. That will be admitted by the Opposition. I have been informed by the Commonwealth housing organization that, given the necessary man-power and materials, the target set may be achieved, and possibly exceeded. The Government is examining every phase of the matter almost daily. Service departments are engaged in consultations almost weekly in connexion with the release of essential man-power, including sponsored releases for engagement in industry - technical men, carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, &c. The Government has decided that, in addition to releases already announced, including those involved in the re-organization of the forces, the sponsored releases will be as numerous as possible, specifically for employment in connexion with housing. I do not want it to be thought that the ‘Government intends to direct to specified employment the men discharged by reason of their having had five years’ service. That is not to be done. There is nothing in connexion with housing for which the Government should apologize to either the House or the country. The erection of 600 war service homes is being undertaken, and a further 400 is in reserve. The War Service Homes Commission also is empowered to apply for an additional 1,000 of the 24,000 in the housing pool. The commission obtains the necessary permits, and issues them as required.
– Will the war service homes be built through the war housing organization ?
– No. It is not intended to disturb the authority of the War Service Homes Commission, which, under the administration of Mr. Richardson, will continue to be a distinct entity and will use its own permits to build, being responsible only to me as Minister.
. -F or 35 minutes,the House has listened to the Minister for Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) trying to state a policy on behalf of the Government. In the course of his speech, he used the expression “ tragically simple “. Unfortunately, the same phrase can be used in other connexions. It is tragic that the Minister has told the House precisely nothing in relation to the Government’s policy, apart from his statement that 24,000 houses are to be built on the basis of “ needs priority “. Does he not consider that every one of those will be in that category? . He has not mentioned what considerations will weigh when releases are being made. Does the Government really understandwhat it is doing! The Minister has said that if the number of applicants exceeds the number of houses, a ballot will be taken to decide who shall have them. One can understand the absence of Government policy, in view of the fact that provision hasnot been made for the establishment of reserves of basic building materials. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) stated the Government’s policy when replying to a question based ;>n an article in the Sydney Sun. At page 3528 of Hansard, he is reported to have said -
Housing is a responsibility of the State governments. The Commonwealth Government can come into the picture only insofar as it relates to Commonwealth employees in general. [ was rather amazed by that answer, which obviously was dictated by the restricted power which the Government possesses under the Constitution, because already the Government is committed to violate the Constitution in connexion with its proposal to acquire interstate airlines. If it has a comprehensive scheme, why should it worry about its constitutional powers and, to suit its own purpose, place on the States the onus of providing houses for the people ? The Commonwealth controls the supply of man-power and the materials that are essential for building construction. It can say “go” or “ stop “ whenever it pleases, in connexion with a housing scheme.
On the 31st January, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Holloway), giving figures that had been supplied to him, said that approval had been granted for the construction of 11,461 homes in 1944-45, . only 1,288 of which had been completed. What is the use of granting approval for the building of homes unless the necessary materials are available? Man-power and materials should be released. That applies also to war service homes, 6,000 of which, we have been told, are to be built. On the 23rd May, the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Frost), in answer to a question by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), said that the Government had built, or had given assistance for the building of, only 31 war service homes. Why is there a shortage of homes, and why is the Government unable to meet the shortage? Why is the War Service Homes Department not in a position to provide ex-servicemen with the houses that they require? Even if the Government had the best of intentions, it could not carry out an adequate building programme because it has not the necessary reserves of basic materials, and has not provided the man-power needed to build up those reserves. In Western Australia there are five major brick companies which formerly employed eight units of about 40 men each, or 320 employees, and produced 1,020,000 bricks a week. Only two of those units are working to-day, and the production has been reduced to about 250,000 bricks a week. In June, 1938-39, the timber mills in Western Australia were producing 150,000,000 super, feet of timber annually, and employing 3,650 men; but in 1944-45 the production of timber was only 108,000,000 super, feet, and the number of men employed had fallen to 2,700. Forty per cent, of that timber was exported from the State. Even if bricks and other materials were available, it would be impossible to obtain all the timber required, unless green timber were put into use. In New South Wales there were 54 brickworks in 1938, and there are only 42 to-day. In Victoria 1,075 men were employed in the brick-making industry in 1938, but to-day the number is estimated at only about 200. Prior to the war, the number of men employed in timber production in Victoria was 4,174, whilst the present number is only 2,418. These key industries are vital, but the building tradesmen cannot be kept fully engaged if there is not an adequate supply of materials. In Victoria bricklayers formerly laid 800 bricks a day, but at present they lay only 200 a day, and the cost of bricklaying has increased from £2 to £8 a thousand. Australia has a population five times as great as that of New Zealand, but the number of houses erected in this country is only about one-sixth of the number built New Zealand.
– That comparison is inaccurate.
– Whilst Australis has built about 8,000 houses during the last three years, New Zealand, during that period, has erected 50,000.
The Government as’ks what should be done about the matter. I claim that housing is just as vital in Ohe preservation of our democratic standards and our way of life as is the production of munitions in the preservation of this country. As Director-<General of Munitions, Mr. Essington Lewis has done excellent work, and if Mr. Loder, as
Director-General of Works and Housing, emulates his example, I shall be satisfied.
We are dealing at present with the most combustible material which could be handled by any government. I refer to the men coming home from the war, who, on being demobilized, will have no homes. A young Australian who recently returned from New Guinea said to me, “ When I went to the war I had a wife. Now I have a wife and baby girl. I have had five years’ service and I have spent all my leave in Sydney looking for a house. I consider that I am entitled to a home. My wife is living with her mother, but I wish to have a home of my own “. Exservicemen will be forced to endure great hardships, because of the extreme shortage of homes occasioned by the Government’s lack of a positive housing policy. [Extension of time granted.’] It is essential, in the interests of the country, that a positive housing policy be adopted. Timber now required in New South Wales for building purposes is not available. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), when visiting Western Australia recently, said -
There is not enough timber now available in Australia for essential war needs. It is necessary to import 4,000,000 super, feet of timber a month. There is also a shortage of galvanized iron.
The Minister left the people under no illusions with regard to the housing problem. He pointed out that materials which were essential to the building trade had been made available to the fighting services. No provision having been made for a supply of seasoned timber, a successful housing policy cannot be carried out, until the Government puts men back into the brick and tile works and into the factories which produce fibro-plaster. Until that ‘ is done all of the promises about the immediate construction* pf 24,000 houses will dissolve into thin air. On the 31st July the following paragraph was published in the West Australian: - “Advice has been received from the Commonwealth Government that the allocation of houses to be erected under the CommonwealthStates housing agreement will be 660 for the year ending 30th June next,” said the Premier, Mr. J. C. Willcock, yesterday. The allocation for the year ended June last was 400. . . . “ The programme has not been proceeding satisfactorily, due to various causes, principally lack of material.”
The paltry allocations in Western Australia show how inadequately the problem of housing is being handled by the Government. For the quarter ended June last, there were 30 allocations to country districts and 75 to the metropolitan area. For instance, Bunbury received 6, Busselton 4, Geraldton 6, North Perth 15, Claremont 13, and Victoria Park 12. And then this Government says, “We will build 24,000 houses “ ! It is impossible to produce 24,000 houses out of blue-prints or promises. Houses can be built only out of materials, and until the materials are available, the housing programme cannot be put into effect.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– As a first essentia] to the production of more houses the Government must arrange for the immediate release of men to the key industries, such as those which produce bricks, tiles, fibro-plaster, timber, and plumbing materials. Until a reserve of materials is established the housing programme cannot be put into operation. Then, the Government -must look for another Essington Lewis to appoint to the position of Director General of Works and Housing. He must have free access to the Prime Minister, and must not be stinted of money. The production of munitions was essential in time of war, and housing is no less essential in time of peace. This is a human problem, and we are dealing with combustible human- material. If houses are not available for the men returning from service, a situation might well be created that will jeopardize our democratic institutions. The Director-General of Works and Housing must be given the right to suggest the lifting of controls so as to make available the services of architects, builders, &c, and to bring into use such materials as may be available, so that the construction of houses may begin immediately.
– Will the honorable member say what existing controls are preventing building at the present time ?
– It is a matter of obtaining the services of architects, builders, and man-power and of giving priorities for building materials. Timber should be cut and stacked now for seasoning, so that green timber will not have to be put into the houses. The Government should appoint a director who will, if necessary, be ruthless in his approach to the problem. We may have such a man in Mr. Loder - I do not know. Only by the means I have indicated, can we have a really effective housing programme. Otherwise, we shall get nothing but one statement after another, and a whole mass of blueprints piled upon the existing masses of blue-prints, while the people are still without houses.
– I am not surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) should have made the kind of speech he did, but I was surprised that the Leader of the AustralianCountry party (Mr. Fadden) should have brought this matter forward in the way he did. In the first place, the right honorable gentleman has written to me less than half a dozen letters in support of applications for building permits. This, at least, is partly because of his recognition of the difficulties confronting the Government in finding labour and materials for building, but his consideration in this respect is in marked contrast to his public attitude while discussing the problem to-day. The plain fact is that the housing shortage is due to two things: There was an acute shortage of houses before the war, and particularly when this Government came into office. Secondly, in time of war, labour and material that would have been used for building houses for the people have been diverted to war purposes. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman will shortly see a classification of the occupations of the long-service men who are being released from the forces, and he will then learn that a considerable percentage of them were, before the war, engaged in the building industry. It is obvious that men cannot be doing two things at the same time; they cannot be fighting for our freedom, and at the same time building houses. Before the war, there was labour in plenty which could have been employed in house construction, and there were materials in plenty, also, waiting for some one to organize a building programme. I have said that housing is, in the main, a State responsibility, but there is a limited sphere in which the Commonwealth can operate as a construction authority. It can build houses for its own employees, and for its ex-employees, such as ex-servicemen. There is also the Australian Capital Territory. Honorable members who have been here much longer than I have will remember thatthere has always been an acute shortage of houses in Canberra. Before the war, when labour and materials were plentiful, governments supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party, did nothing whatever to relieve that shortage. I propose to cite figures which show the production of houses before the war, the decline of production during the war because of the diversion of labour and materials, and the improvement that has recently set in. The figures are as follows : -
The target for next year is 24,000, and for the following year 50,000. We hope to increase the figure to.80,000 in the third year from now. Whilst it is true that we have passed the most difficult period, there are still obstacles in the way of obtaining building materials, and there are six main claimants for such resources as are available. There is still a certain amount of defence work to be done, including the erection of buildings. For example, it is generally known that we undertook to construct at a cost of £5,000,000 new buildings for the British naval forces stationed in Australia.
Then there is the all-important matter of housing, which must necessarily make very heavy demands on our available resources. If we are to build 24,000 houses this year - and we hope to get very near that total - it will involve an expenditure of £24,000,000, if the average cost of houses is to be £1,000. There will be no difficulty in finding money, and I express the problem in terms of money only in order to indicate conveniently the limits of man-power and resources which are available.
The third demand will be in respect of the extension of factories. If we are to put into effect our policy of full employment, we must make certain that existing factories can be enlarged, and new ones constructed where necessary, so that men will be fully employed when the war is over. Whilst it is true that the crying need is for more houses, it is not of much use to give a mau a bouse to live in unless you can also give him a job to do. Jobs can be provided only by allocating some of the available resources to the provision of factories.
We have also to consider the need for buildings for use in our reconstruction policy. Even now, thousands of men are being released from the fighting services, and with general demobilization the numbers will be very greatly increased. It will be necessary to arrange reconstruction training both for those who wish to enter industry, and for those who wish to take up professional work. On the industrial side, we shall need to provide facilities by enlarging technical schools and technical colleges all over the Commonwealth. A large sum of money must be expended in constructing buildings for reconstruction training. In the first two or three years after the war, 10,000 exservice personnel will probably require professional training at the universities. [Extension of time granted.] That will necessitate big additions to existing university buildings for the purpose of accommodating that large number of students. So, reconstruction training as a whole will make a big claim on the total building resources1 available.
Then again, programmes of building construction will be undertaken by State governments. In this matter the Com.monwealth has not exercised any control whatever. Politically, it was difficult to instruct the State governments not to make any extensions to their schools or police stations. The only control that the Commonwealth exercised over them was in an indirect manner through the Loan Council, so that the States would not make a big demand for building resources. However, the States are now beginning to put forward claims that their hospitals must be extended, and that new schools and police stations must be erected. They desire to overtake the lag in building construction that has occurred during the war. There again, we shall have a fairly big claim for building resources.
The sixth and last claimant is what 1 describe as the “miscellaneous group”. It includes claims that will be made on building resources for repairs to existing houses. During the war, the repair of houses has not been attended to adequately and, consequently, large claims will be made to overtake those arrears.
– Materials will be required for new factories.
– New factories will have to be built in order to create new avenues of employment in the post-war period. I have shown that there will be six main claimants for building resources., and, after investigation, I assess the position in this way: As a measure of manpower and materials available, there will be in the Commonwealth during the next twelve months, about £50,000,000 worth of building resources. But the demands that will be made by the six main claimants will be about three times as great as the resources. What is to be done ? Some allocation must be made as between one claimant and another. We cannot satisfy in their entirety all the claims of people who need houses. If we attempted to do so, and neglected the extension of factories and provision for reconstruction training. . we should be doing wrong. Consequently, some judgment must be exercised in allocating the total available resources between the six different claimants. We have set a target of 24^000 houses, of a total value of £24,000,000. The remainder of the £50,000,000 worth of building resources will be used for other purposes. But defence works remain to be done, additions must be made to factories, and new factories must be built for the purpose of employing people in the postwar period when they are demobilized in large numbers. Provision must be made for reconstruction training, for the requirements of State governments, and for the miscellaneous group, which includes denominational institutions that will desire to extend their existing facilities, educational and other.
The Leader of the Australian Country party criticized the system of issuing building permits. Just as a certain allocation must be made of these scarce resources between one claimant and another, so in the limited sphere of building itself, some method of selection had to be followed in order to ensure that resources for housing purposes should be allocated to the people most urgently requiring them. Accordingly, the permit system was introduced, and taken by and large, the system has resulted in the granting of building permits to those people who most required houses, and in the rejection of the claims of those who did not have such a good case. The criteria exercised in my department in granting or withholding permits covered a number of things. The first consideration was that, when an application was made for a permit, the department should consider the number of individuals to be accommodated in the new house. A married couple without any children did not have nearly so good a claim to a permit as had a married couple with a family. The limited supply of building resources available was not sufficient to provide houses for all the couples with families, let alone those who were childless. Consequently, applications made by those who did not have any children had very little chance of success. Practically all of the successful applicants were persons with families in urgent need of accommodation. Another factor which was taken into consideration was the adequacy or otherwise of the applicant’s existing accommodation. Yet another factor was the distance from his place of employment of the individual who was making application. Another important consideration was health.
The Leader of the Australian Country party criticized the withholding of a permit from a man who proposed to get married. It is perfectly obvious that since we did not have sufficient resources available to give permits to all the persons with children, an individual who was not married had not much chance. It would have been grossly unfair to all those people with large families who did not have suitable accommodation if we had granted a permit to an individual merely because he claimed that he intended to get married. The right honorable gentleman complained of my department making meticulous examinations of every application for a permit. If he had had my experience of administering this department, he would recognize that some people endeavour by every means at their disposal to evade the regulations. One individual will apply for a permit, and say that he can construct the house for £450. But when an architect examines the plan, he expresses the opinion that the building will cost £900. Another individual will say that he has the raw materials on the spot, so that labour will not be required to transport them, and that he will build the house during week-ends with the assistance of his friends. But when we investigate his statement, we find that he has only half a. dozen sticks of timber and a few sheets of second-hand iron. I tell the right honorable gentleman that it is not easy to ensure that every application is completely justified, and investigation must be undertaken in order to make certain that a claim for a permit can be fully substantiated.
The right honorable gentleman said also that this system of granting permits should be decentralized, and placed in the hands of local authorities. Let us see where that system would lead us? I have already shown that the total building resources available in the community must be allocated between six main claimants. How would we fare if each of the thousand local authorities throughout the Commonwealth made its own arrangements for allotting building permits to individuals within their districts? If each municipality were to decide the arrangements under which its housing programme should be conducted, the total building resources available for all purposes would be swallowed up. Apart from that aspect, one municipality would act more generously than another when dealing with the same kind of application. There would he no uniformity of policy regarding the granting of permits for housing.
– That system would lead to injustices.
– It would be completely inequitable. The only method of allocating building resources, when they are so scarce, is the system of granting permits to individuals on the basis of their needs.
Our target figure is 24,000 houses, of which 12,000 will be built by State housing authorities, and 12,000 by private permit. Obviously, the department will not be able to deal individually with 12,000 permits, so we propose to issue block permits to building societies and similar organizations that are interested in constructing numbers of houses rather than individual houses. That system will operate on the condition that the houses, when constructed by building societies, will be made available to the people who most urgently need them. The Leader of the Australian Country party raised this matter purely for political purposes. The shortage of houses in Australia is due to two causes. First, the inefficiency of the governments which he supported, because they failed to provide sufficient houses before the war. Secondly, the necessity for mobilizing all our resources for the prosecution of the war. Any government which was in office during this war, could not have done a better job in utilizing building resources than this Government has done, either in the allocation as between housing and the other five claimants, or in the allocation of the quantity of building resources available for housing to people under the permit system. The target programme which the Government has set, the policy which it has formulated, and the plans which it has drawn up for the utilization of all resources in the building industry will be carried out successfully within the next twelve months.
– I have listened with the greatest interest to this debate and I was immensely impressed by the case presented by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The speeches of the two Ministers were purely political efforts; they attempted to show that the housing shortage waa chiefly the result of inefficient governments in the past, although the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) himself showed that, until 1940-41, the house building requirements of Australia were being largely met at the rate of approximately 40,000 houses a year. We have heard, particularly from the newly appointed Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini), a recital, in hU usual style, of what governments did not do in the past and a little bit about what this Government proposes to do in the future. But the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and their dependants, and others who need houses, want to know what the Government intends to do now to lift them out of the deplorable conditions which are illustrated in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald. The article accompanying the picturesstates -
These are not slum pictures. Condition! pictured or described are not due to poverty. All concerned are able to pay reasonable rent for reasonable accommodation. They just cannot find it.
– Private enterprise fell down on the job.
– Those ancient shiboleths about private enterprise mean nothing to people who have no accommodation. They want to know what’ this socialistic Government will do to accommodate them in better conditions than pigs in sties. The Government has done nothing to satisfy their needs. It is all very well for Ministers and their supporters to screech and try to prevent people from criticizing them and pointing out their shortcomings, but the truth is that the Government, with all its post-war planning, has merely looked at the far-distant future while being overwhelmed by the events of to-day. The latest document on housing that I have been able to obtain from the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is a summary of recommendations, presumably made by the Housing Commission, and bearing no date. It refers to the commencement of an adequate building programme within one year of the rind of the war. That is the trouble. The
Government has been looking to the end of the war, while ignoring the picture developing before its very eyes. Another recommendation made in the summary is that permits for housing should be issued, in accordance with Government policy, by local governing authorities. Yet that is what the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction says should not be done. There are many ways in which the housing troubles of the people could be quickly alleviated.
The Government has revealed complete lack of vision and ability in failing to make use of many unoccupied military camps adjacent to the capital cities. These hutments would be much more satisfactory than the present deplorable buildings which many people are obliged to occupy. It would be better to do something practical like that now than merely to gaze into the future. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and others like him, talk about the resources that will be available in the future. He mouths all sorts of economic theories supplied to him by professors, but he gives cold comfort to the people who are suffering and offers no hope of the rapid remedying of their ills. Many Army huts could have been removed from abandoned camps in the northern areas and set up on vacant allotments in areas where the shortage of accommodation is most acute. Nothing of the sort has been done, although the work would have required very little labour. Some of the labour that is being expended now on home building, with very insignificant results, could have been employed in this way. “Was any effort made to ascertain what accommodation was available in hotels throughout Australia? Many hotels have unused accommodation because of the difficulty of securing domestic help. The Government could hire these rooms and accommodate families in them. However, its thoughts have been too much in the clouds to allow it to think of such practical things. It has been too interested in recalling the past and talking about the omissions of other governments, or in looking into the future. Apparently, it is beneath the dignity of the Government to take immediate action to handle this pressing problem. The people who are forced to live in these appalling conditions might be called the victims of invisible bombing. They have been deprived of accommodation, just as the people of Coventry and London were deprived of their houses as the result of German bombing. The Government could have taken action, in conjunction with the States, to make a survey of surplus rooms available in private houses with a view to organizing some system of voluntary billeting of civilians. One of the recommendations made by the Housing Commission was that permits for building should be given- by the local government authorities. Had that recommendation been accepted, a great deal more house construction would have been done than has been possible under the present system. In many country towns, despite the Minister’s ironical remarks about a few sticks lying on vacant properties’, there are stocks of housing materials which cannot be shipped to other places, mainly because of Government regulations, such as the one which prevents’ the removal of bricks from the northern and south coastal areas of New South Wales to Sydney. Many country residents write to this centralized Department of Postwar Reconstruction applying for permits to build homes. Some of them do not even receive the courtesy of an acknowledgment within four months. Is that efficiency? Will that encourage people who have the necessary resources to build houses? This failure to reply to letters, and the general conduct of the department, have had a very detrimental effect on the rural housing position. The Government’s long-range plan is a beautiful vision, and I hope that it can be realized. But this morning’s newspapers state that, after the war, there will be a shortage of 700,000 houses in Australia, which may take ten or fifteen years to overcome. It would be infinitely better for the Minister and his advisers to concentrate on making use of military huts, temporary accommodation in hotels, and home-billeting than to dream about the future. Thousands of people want some decent form of accommodation to-day, so that there will be no need for the newspapers to publish these shocking pictures of people living in places worse than pig-sties.
.- I have listened in this debate to two of the most irresponsible speeches ever made in this chamber. The first of them was made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who once had a glorious five and a half weeks term of office as Prime Minister. I do not blame him for the present serious housing shortage, but he and his supporters kept in office for eighteen years governments that did nothing to alleviate the position. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) told us some time ago that he resigned from the Government of which he was a member because he was dissatisfied with the efforts that it was making for the defence of the nation. If that Government was not capable of making a satisfactory effort for the defence of Australia, I fail to see how it could have been capable of doing anything to solve the housing problem. To-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald published a picture of a woman and three children in a slum apartment. The woman is the wife of a sailor who served in the war of 1914-18. The parties in Opposition to-day held the reins of government for the greater part of the period between the two wars, and had ample opportunities to provide houses for the people. Nevertheless, this serviceman of the last war is still waiting for accommodation. During the years of the financial depression, when there was plenty of timber at £1 6s. per 100 super, feet, and when bricks and labour could be easily obtained, anti-Labour governments cried that they had not money to finance the building of homes. For eighteen years the United Australia party, which is now the Liberal party, supported by the Australian Country party promised that the slum areas would be abolished and that a scheme would be instituted to enable people on small incomes to purchase their own homes. This promise was first made when Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister, and it has been repeated by his successors in every election campaign since then.
I listened to the speech made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). He may be a capable man in the business in which he wau engaged before entering this Parliament; I, too, had something to do with a yardstick, but I was engaged in th, building trade, and I say to him that, when he can produce a practical solution to this problem, I shall be prepared to listen to him. I was one of the master builders who could not secure a jot because of the “no money” policy of previous anti-Labour governments. There was nothing to stop those governments from undertaking housing programmes, because ample man-power and materials were available. I have here a copy of the second progress report of the Housing Commission. Some of the pictures published in it are very interesting. They reveal a shocking state of affairs which could have been alleviated years ago, when plenty of skilled labour was available. In the district where I live there were numerous carpenters, bricklayers and other skilled men looking for work in the days of the depression. The honorable member for Wentworth said that, nowadays, bricklayers lay 200 bricks a day. That statement is ridiculous. The average skilled man will lay from 600 to 700 bricks in one day. The only time when he would be reduced to” 200 bricks a day would be when he was working on a cornice or a difficult corner. This gentleman, who is accustomed to measuring out yards and yards of cloth in his own trade, cannot tell me anything about bricklaying or carpentering. The Housing Commission’s second progress report also divides housing accommodation into four classes - A, B, C and D. It states that B class houses are undesirable for habitation by reason of structural conditions, poor state of repair, and lack of amenities. Such houses are to be found in every State, although previous governments had plenty of opportunities to replace them with decent dwellings. Those governments of stagnation are responsible for the shocking position which exists to-day. It was a nonLabour government which, in the most dangerous days of this country’s history, ran up the white flag and walked out of office. Now the members and supporters of that Administration have the audacity to rise and tell this Government, which came into office as a minority to marshal the resources of the Commonwealth so that we might remain a free people, that it is responsible for conditions resulting from the inaction of its feeble predecessors.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
In, committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 1 - (2.) Section twenty-three of the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945 is amended by omitting sub-section (6.). (3.) The Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943, as amended by the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, is in this Act referred to as the Principal Act. (4.) The Principal Act, as amended by this Act, may be cited as the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1945.
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - In sub-clause (2.), leave out “omitting sub-section (6.) “, insert “inserting in sub-section (6.), after the word ‘ amended’, the words ‘ by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1945 and’”
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - In sub-clause (3.), leave out “, as amended by the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - Leave out subclause (4.)
. -I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
Three formal amendments have been inserted in the bill by the Senate. They were necessitated by the fact that the Re-employment and Establishment Act has not yet been proclaimed to commence. When the bill now under consideration was drafted, it was assumed that that act, which makes certain amendments to the Commonwealth Public Service Act, would come into force before this measure was discussed. This proved to be a wrong assumption.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
After Part IVc. of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted: - “ Part IVd. - Special Provisions in Relation to Certain Former State Employees. “60an. In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears -
State employee ‘ means a person appointed or employed under Division 9a of Part III. of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1945 who, immediately prior to his being so appointed or employed, was a contributor to a State Fund ;
State Public Service ‘ has the same meaning as in section eighty-one a of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1945.
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - In definition of “ State employee “,leave out “1945”, insert “ 1943, as amended by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1945.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - In definitionof “ State Public Service “, leave out “ 1945 “, insert “ 1943, as amended by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1945”.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The amendments are formal, and were necessitated by the fact that the Reestablishment and Employment Act, which provides the citation, “ Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1945 “, has not yet been proclaimed to commence. There fore, it is desirable to replace the reference to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1945, by a reference to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943, as amended by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1945, which has just been passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 (Definitions).
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - After defintion of “ trade union “, add the following new definition : - “war service’ means service withany Naval, Military or Air Forces of any part of the King’s dominions and includes any engagement in aviation as part of that service.”
Clause 5 -
Th is Act shall apply to State insurance ex- tending beyond the limits of the State concerned.
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - Leave out “This”, insert “Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, this”.
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - At end of clause add the following new sub-clauses: - “ (2.) Where the policies issued by any authority of a State carrying on life insurance business are guaranteed by the State, Division 2 of Part III. of this Act shall not apply to that authority. “ (3.) The provisions of this Act shall not ap ply to -
Clause 38- (2.) Subject to the payment and application of such sums as may be allocated as surplus in pursuance of section fifty of this Act, the assets of a statutory fund shall not, so long as the company carries on the class or classes of life insurance business in respect of which the fund was established,be available to meet any liabilities of the company other than -
liabilities referable to that class or classes of life insurance business; and
Senate’s amendment No. 4. - In sub-clause (2.), after “liabilities”, first occurring, insert “or expenses”.
Senate’s amendment No. 5. - In sub-clause (2.), paragraph (a), after “liabilities”, insert “or expenses”.
Clause 47 (Auditors).
Senate’s amendment No. 6. - At end of clause, add the following new sub-clauses: - “ (4.) An appeal shall lie to the Court or the Supreme Court of a State or Territory against any refusal of the Commissioner to approve of any person performing the functions of an auditor under this Division, or against any revocation of an approval given in respect of any person under this section. “ (5.) On any such appeal, the Court may confirm or disallow the refusal or revocation.”.
Clause 50 - (3.) If, as a result of the latest valuation made in respect of a company in pursuance of this Division, the valuation balance-sheet of any statutory fund of the company discloses that the amount of the statutory fund is greater than the amount of the liabilities of the company in respect of that fund, the company may allocate the surplus or any part of it, in any manner consistent with the pro visions of the instruments constituting the company and the articles of associationor other rules of the company:
Provided that -
in respect of the surplus derived from participating policies, the amount allocated to or for the benefit of the shareholders of the company shall not exceed twentyfive per centum of the amount allocated to or for the benefit of the owners of those policies.
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - In sub-clause (3.), paragraph (b), leave out “the surplus derived from participating policies “, insert “ that part of the surplus which is derived from participating policies registered by the company in Australia “.
Clause 79 -
Where a rate of premium is approved - by in actuary in respect of any class of policy the company shall not, except with the approval of an actuary, pay or allow in respect of any policy of that class a commission or rebate at a greater rate than the maximum rate of commission or rebate to which the first-mentioned actuary had regard when approving the rate of premium.
Senate’s amendment No. 8. - After “ actuary “, second occurring, insert “ or the Commissioner “.
Senate’s amendment No. 9. - Leave out all words after “ rebate “, first occurring, insert “ at a rate greater than -
Clause 103- (1.) In any case in which the moneys payable under any policy or policies . . . are payable to the personal representative of any deceased person . . .
Senate’s amendment No. 10. - At end of clause, add the following now sub-clause: - “ (3.) All persons to whom any such moneys arepaid shall apply those moneys in due course of administration and, if the company thinks fit, it may require those persons to give sufficient security by bond or otherwise that the moneys so paid will be so applied.’”.
Clause 109- (2.) A policy effected either before or after the commencement of this Act by the parent or a person in loco parentis of a child, whereby a company contracts to pay, on the death of the child under ten years of age, any sum of money which under sub-section (1.) of this section the company is not prohibited from contracting to pay, shall not in respect of the contract to pay that sum be deemed to be void by reason only that the person effecting the policy had not at the time the policy was effected an insurable interest in the life of the child.
Senate’s amendment No. 11. - Leave out subclause (2. ) .
Clause 120 (Effect of suicide or capital punishment on policy).
Senate’s amendment No. 12. - Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: - “ 120. A policy shall not be avoided merely on the ground that the person whose life is insured died by his own hand or act, sane or insane, or suffered capital punishment, if, upon the true construction of the policy, the company has thereby agreed to pay the sum insured in the events that have happened.”
Clause 134 (Management and operations).
Senate’s amendment No. 13. - At end of clause add the following new sub-clause: - “ (3.) The Commissioner shall not be an officer of the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office.”.
Clause 137 (Taxation).
Senate’s amendment No. 14. - Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: - “137.- (1.) Subject to this section, the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office shall not be liable to pay taxes imposed by or under any law of the Commonwealth or of any State or Territory, but that Office shall pay to the Treasurer such sums as are determined by the Treasurer to be equivalent to the amount of the taxes which it would be liable to pay if it were a company. “ (2.) The Commonwealth Government Insurance Office shall be liable to pay such stamp duties imposed by or under any law of the Commonwealth or of any State or Territory as it would be liable to pay if it were a company. “ (3.) The Commonwealth Government Insurance Office shall be liable to make such contributions as it would be liable, if it were a company, to make under any law of any State or Territory relating to fire brigades.”.
Clause 141 -
Any person may, upon payment of such fee as is prescribed, inspect at an office of the Commissioner any document furnished to the Commissioner under section fifty-two of this Act, and make a copy of, or extract from, the document.
Senate’s amendment No. 15. - After “ under “ insert “sub-section (2.) of”
Rules for Calculationof Valueof Liabilities on the Minimum Basis.
In the calculation on the Minimum Basis of the value of the aggregate liabilities of a statutory fund in respect of its policies, the following rules shall apply: - (1.) The rates of mortality used shall be rates assumed according to the following tables: -
Senate’s amendment No. 16. - In paragraph (1.) after “tables”, first occurring, insert “ or to such other tables as are prescribed “.
Senate’s amendment No. 17. - In paragraph (1.), sub-paragraph (b), leave out “A 24-29”, insert “A 1924-29”.
Rules for ascertaining the surrender value of a policy in certain cases for the purposes of Division 4 of Part TV. of this Act.
Senate’s amendment No. 18. - In Part II., paragraph (2.), sub-paragraph (a), after “ annum “ insert “ or at such other rate as is prescribed “.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The object of some of the amendments is to give effect to the promise made in this House when the bill was being discussed, that consideration would later be given to suggested amendments.
The definition of “ war service “ in clause 4 was made necessary by the amendment securedbythe honorable member for Balaclava (‘Mr. White) to clause 121. That clause prevents a company, in respect of any policy issued after the commencement of the act, from limiting the benefit if the death of the life insured occurs on war service, unless the person who effected the policy had agreed to the limitation in writing. It is desirable to make particular mention of aviation, as it is common practice for companies to have two limiting clauses in their policies, the first dealing specifically with war risks and the other with aviation risks.
The first amendment to clause 5 is consequential upon the following amendment to the clause, ‘relating to State insurance authorities. Under the first pai,t of the second amendment, if a State government life insurance office desires to transact business beyond the limits of the State concerned, it must comply substantially with the provisions of this legislation, as the ‘Commonwealth is responsible for seeing that policy owners in other States shall receive benefits not less than are secured to them by the provisions of this measure. If, however, the State office has its contracts guaranteed by the government of that State, obviously it is not necessary for it to lodge a deposit with the Treasurer. The amendment makes that clear. If a company has a separate fund for its overseas business, that fund may be subject to the provisions of the country to which it relates, and such provisions may not be consistent with the provisions of this measure. It may not be possible for the company to comply with the legislative requirements both in Australia and in the other country to which the fund relates, and as the responsibility of the Commonwealth is only to see that Australian policy owners shall be fully protected, it is provided by the second part of the amendment that any fund which does not include a liability to any Australian policy owner shall not ,be subject to the provisions of this legislation. This provision will enable the overseas company to set up a special statutory fund for Australian business, and if it does so, that fund alone will be subject to this legislation. If, however, it does not set up a separate statutory fund, but includes the Australian business in! the same fund as some foreign business, the whole of that fund will be subject to this legislation, although there might be difficulties in enforcing it in respect of the overseas business.
The amendments to clause 38 are merely to make it clear that the normal expenses of life insurance business may be paid from the statutory fund. It is obvious that this has to be so, as all the premium and interest payments go into that fund, and in many instances there would not be any other money from which to meet the expenses. It was considered that the use of the word “ liabilities” of the fund would include normal expenses, but as some doubts have arisen the opportunity is taken to set the matter right.
The amendment to clause 47 provides that an auditor has a right of appeal against any adverse decision of the commissioner regarding his qualifications to perform the functions of an auditor under this division. This amendment was moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Eadden), and the Government undertook to consider it.
The amendment to clause 50 makes it clear that the limitation on the allocation of surplus to shareholders need be applied only to that part of the surplus which is derived from Australian policy owners. The Government could hardly enforce a provision of this nature in relation to business transacted by a company outside Australia.
Clause 79 was designed to prevent a company from arbitrarily increasing its rebates on premiums in order to attract new business. At no stage does the .bill attempt to fix the rate at which agents shall be remunerated!, since this is a matter to be determined by agreement or by arbitration. As it stood, the clause could be used to enforce reductions of the present commission rates. The two amendments make it clear that any increase of commission rates must be approved by the commissioner or the company’s actuary, whilst leaving it open for a company to negotiate in the usual way for reductions of the present rate.
Clause 103 allows a company to pay claims up to £500, plus bonuses, to certain specified relatives of a deceased person, without requiring them to produce probate or letters of administration. Similar legislation is in force in all the States except New South Wales, and is found to be of great benefit in facilitating the early settlement of claims. It has been suggested, however, that the clause might lead to certain persons misapplying the policy moneys. The amending words, which are based on those in the corresponding Tasmanian .act, make it clear that the money shall be applied in due course of administration, and that the company may, if it thinks fit, obtain a bond to this effect.
Subclause 2 of clause 109, dealing with insurable interest in respect of a child’s policy, is now redundant in view of the wider provisions regarding insurable interest in clause 86.
Some doubts have arisen as to the interpretation of clause 120, particularly !he second sub-clause relating to suicides where the policy has been assigned. In view of these doubts, it is desirable to adopt simpler wording, which has been taken from the New South Wales’ and Victorian acts on the subject of suicide. In effect, the new clause states that, if the company has agreed’ to pay the sum assured in any event, it shall make that payment, notwithstanding the fact that the life insured committed; suicide or suffered capital punishment.
In the debate in this chamber, it was suggested that the commissioner might use confidential knowledge obtained from other life offices to further the business of the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office. ‘Such a practice, of course, would be quite unethical and is not contemplated. In order to make the position quite clear, however, the amendment to clause 134, which was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), provides that the /commissioner shall not be an officer of the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office..
It has been pointed out that a life insurance company is subject to taxes other than income tax. As it is desired that the Commonwealth office shall not have an undue advantage,, it is contended that that office should likewise be subject to those other taxes. The fact that some such taxes would normality be paid to a State raises a complication, as it is not desirable that a Commonwealth instrumentality should pay taxes to a State government. Therefore, although the same amount of taxes will be paid, it is provided in clause 137 that the payment shall be made to the Commonwealth
Treasurer. A similar provision is to be found in the act regulating the New South Wales Government office, all amounts which should be assessed as taxation being payable to the New South Wales Colonial Treasurer. For similar reasons, it is also provided that stamp duties and fire brigade dues shall be paid. In those cases, the sums are payable to the authorities concerned.
If the amendment to clause 141 were not made, all the correspondence that the commissioner may have with a company under sub-section 3 of section 52, regarding its returns, would become public property. This is undesirable, as the correspondence may ultimately lead to an appeal to the .court under sub-section 4 of that section. The amendment makes it clear that only the original documents returned under sub-section 2 of section 52 shall be available for inspection by the public.
The two amendments to the fourth schedule relate to the mortality tables to be used in the minimum basis for valuation. There has been an error in the quotation of a short title for the Al 924-29 table, which is now corrected. Also, as more up-to-date tables may be published, it is provided that the mortality basis may be varied by regulation.
In changing financial circumstances, it may bc desirable to vary the rate of interest, used, in calculating surrender values. The power to vary this rate of interest by regulation was contained in the Victorian acts, which are the basis of the surrender value provisions of this bill. That is the reason for the amendment of the sixth schedule.
– I should like to know whether the amendment to clause 4 agreed to by this chamber at my instigation has been modified in any way by the definition of “ war service “ inserted by the Senate.
– The amendment does no more than clarify the definition of war risk. The amendment agreed to by this chamber provided that that portion of the contract which stated that the policy would be invalidated by the death outside Australia of the insured should not have effect unless the soldier himself had stated in writing that he had seen and accepted the provision; in other words, that it had been brought to his notice.
– As I understand the position, the amendment made at the instance of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) lacked a definition of “ war service “, and the Senate’s amendment inserts it.
– Is it satisfactory?
– I think that it is. The amendment of the Senate is designed to assist the honorable gentleman. It certainly is not designed to lessen the force of his amendment in any respect.
– I accept that assurance.
– The explanation in regard to the first part of the second amendment to clause 5 is that, if a State government life insurance office desires to transact business beyond the limits of the State concerned, it must comply substantially with the provisions of this measure. What, exactly, does that mean? Who is to define “substantially”, and what is to be the formula in relation to limitations and obligations? The language is rather amibiguous, and might lead to a good deal of misunderstanding. Surely a more definite formula could be applied!
– I assure the right honorable gentleman that the amendment does not leave the matter in doubt. There is nothing vague or ambiguous about its wording. The purpose is to exempt a State government insurance office from making a deposit with the Commonwealth.
– Apropos the question raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.Fadden). Clause 5 of the bill, as it left this chamber, provided -
This Act shall apply to State insurance extendingbeyond the limits of the State concerned.
The present proposal is that that portion of the legislation which deals with deposits shall not apply to a State government life insurance office which is guaranteed by the State Government, because it is no longer necessary. The amendment seems to be reasonable.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from3.13 to 3.39 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (‘Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
In any action brought against the Commission to recover damages or compensation in respect of personal injury, the court or jury shall not find or assess nor shall judgment be given or entered for the plaintiff for any amount of money exceeding the amount following, that is to say: -
Senate’s amendment - Leave out “ In “, first occurring, insert “ Subject to the Carriage By Air Act 1935, in”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The convention for the unification of certain rules relating to international carriage by air, signed at Warsaw on the 12th October, 1929, to which the Commonwealth has acceded, and which is given effect by the Carriage by Air Act 1935, prescribes certain limitations with regard to the liability of persons engaged in international carriage in respect of personal injury sustained by passengers. The Australian National Airlines Commission may, with the approval of the Minister, undertake the operation of international airlines services. In the event of the commission so doing, there might be a conflict between clause 66 as it stands in the bill, and the provisions of the convention. The amendment is designed to avoid this conflict, and also to avoid any suggestion that might be made that the Commonwealth is not observing the provisions of the convention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported-; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 29th August, at 3 p.m.
Parliament House: Air Conditioning - Drought Relief: Attitude of Mr. A. A. Dunstan - Division of Import Procurement : Restrictions on British Goods: Bookbinders’ Cloth - Textile Industries: Training of Operatives in Queensland Woollen Mills - Buffalo Fly.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to raise a small matter which is yet of some importance to honorable members. I have been much impressed by the fact that, during the very cool weather of the last month or so, Parliament House always seems to be, on the whole, over-heated. On coming into the building from the keen air outside, one is assailed by a warm blanket of air, never very fresh. I should have thought that this warm temperature, and the condition of the atmosphere within the building, must serve to incubate germs if they are capable of incubation. The contrast between the heavy, stuffy atmosphere within the building, and the cold, sharp air outside has undoubtedly had an ill effect on the health of more than one member of the Parliament. I suggest that the matter might be investigated with a view to ensuring freshness of the atmosphere inside the building, while at the same time maintaining a reasonable temperature.
– The ventilation of Parliament House has been under consideration on a number of occasions. I understand that, from an engineering point of view, it ismost difficult to maintain an average temperature throughout the building because of the corridors, and the number of openings in the walls. There is certainly a good deal of difference between the temperature of the air in the gallery leading to the refreshment rooms, and that in the King’s Hall and the corridors. In the chamber itself there is often a considerable amount of hot air which sometimes makes things unpleasant. I shall consult with the engineer in order to see whether anything can be done during the recess to improve conditions.
– I desire to refer briefly to a matter arising from a statement which I made to this House on Friday, the 20th July, during the debate on the Drought Relief Bill. On that occasion I stated -
At least one State Premier has argued that whilst the States should retain sovereign rights in respect of agriculture, whatever assistance maybe needed should be provided by the Commonwealth. He is Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria. Prior to the Premiers’ Conference which determined that the Commonwealth and States should jointly be responsible for the provision of drought relief, Mr.Dunstan had advised the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association that, in his opinion, the only obligation that rested on the State was to provide money for droughtstricken farmers in the form of a loan. I have reason to believe that he persisted in that attitude at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers at Canberra, and was forced to modify it only because the Premiers of the other drought-affected States accepted a greater degree of responsibility. I mention this only because Mr. Dunstan has since claimed credit for the provision of drought relief.
On the 24th July, there appeared in the Border Morning Mail and, I believe, other newspapers, the following comment: -
The Premier of Victoria to-day replied to the statement in the House of Representatives by Mr. Fuller (Labour - New South Wales) that he, Mr. Fuller, had reason to believe that Mr. Dunstan persisted at the Premiers Conference in money being available to droughtstricken farmers only as a loan and not a grant. That assertion, said Mr. Dunstan, was just another example of the many wild statements made by Mr. Fuller. The official reports show the very opposite to what Mr. Fuller claimed, for he, Mr. Dunstan, had said that it will be no use making loans available to fanners because they will not be able to repay them. The money must be made available as an outright gift; otherwise farmers will leave the land and seek employment elsewhere.
Mr. Dunstan, as usual, has endeavoured to evade the issue. His technique is not new. Each time he is detected endeavouring to evade his responsibilities to rural electors he launches an attack on some one so that his shortcomings will escape notice. In order that Mr.
Dunstan shall have the evidence pinned securely on him on this occasion I quote the folio-wing paragraph from a communication directed to the Victorian Wheatgrower on the 6th September, 1944, by the Victorian Premier -
There is evidently some misunderstanding concerning the amount of ?500,000 which has been obtained from the Loan Council by the State Government for the purpose of assisting in the provision of relief for settlers. It lias been stated in the press that this sum was made available to Victoria as a grant. This is not so as the amount is purely a loan repayable by the State Government. You have suggested that my Government should provide an acreage bounty to farmers whose crops failed last season, but I have consistently contended that any provision of this nature is entirely a matter for determination by the Commonwealth.
In case any honorable member still has doubt concerning the accuracy of my assertions that whilst Mr. Dunstan was prepared to argue that the States should retain sovereign rights in respect of agriculture, whatever assistance was needed should be provided by the Commonwealth, I again quote from the Victorian Wheatgrower. In the issue of the 4th October, 1944, Mr. Dunstan is reported as having said -
It is not clear from your question whether you are suggesting that the State Government should provide an acreage bounty. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to provide financial assistance to wheatgrowers in the event of crop failure brought about .by drought.
Those two typical statements by the Victorian Premier showed that, whilst he was not prepared to assist in providing a relief grant for wheat-growers, he was prepared to add to the indebtedness of farmers “by providing loan moneys.
Let us examine his approach to the question at the Premiers Conference. Despite his protestations to the contrary, his attitude did not vary. Summarized, lt was that if the Commonwealth was prepared to provide a grant for drought relief, well and good. The State was not prepared to be a contributor to a grant. Since Mr. Dunstan has quoted official documents, let me quote a passage from the same document -
Mr. DUNSTAN ; The position is practically hopeless in those areas in Victoria which I have mentioned.
– Mr. Dunstan is proposing to ?rant loans to drought-stricken settlers.
Mr. Dunstan. ; That has always been our practice. The Constitution prevents a State from paying bounties.
Again, in a subsequent passage Mr. Dunstan said -
We shall have to use loan money to make a straight-out gift, and that is not regarded as sound finance.
Could there be a more damning indictment of the Victorian Premier, or a more revealing exposure of his unsympathetic approach to the problems of wheatgrowers? He was shamed into contributing to a free grant by more responsible Premiers.
The extracts from the Victorian Wheat-grower, and the official record of the Premiers Conference, reveal that Mr. Dunstan is no more to be trusted to-day than at any other time in his political career. They reveal that his charge that I was responsible for a wild statement is utterly false. They prove, too. that Mr. Dunstan is prepared to resort to any method to evade his genuine responsibilities to primary producers while, at the same time, continuing to pose a? their champion.
I remarked on a previous occasion thai a section of primary producers would do well to publish a pamphlet under the title of Mr. Dunstan - this man is dangerous. I am more than ever convinced that if they did so they would render a service of incalculable value to their fellow producers. Mr. Dunstan appears to me to be the direct descendant of that famouscharacter in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. Facing Both Ways. The processes of evolution, however, have wrought changes; so much so, that the Victorian Premier might well take the title of Mr. Facing AH Ways. He is a credit, neither to the party which he represents, nor to Australian parliamentary institutions.
.- With the cessation of hostilities in Europe, Great Britain is looking for an opportunity to recover its export trade, and Australia should exert every effort to assist it. Great Britain is continuing to purchase our wool clip, without questioning the price, and is now offering to sell to us goods that our people require.
Unfortunately, these efforts are being hampered by the policy of the Government. The Division of Import Procurement - a war baby - is an offspring of the Department of Trade and Customs, but in a few years it has outgrown its parent.
– It has done a good job.
– The Division of Import Procurement was necessary, when it was established, but far from being a war infant, it has become an enfant terrible. Instead of the tariff being the regulator of our trade, officials of this division decide what we shall purchase overseas. Great Britain has already shown that it can produce many lines for civilian use, and the principals of firms in Australia have been advised that these goods are available. But Australian firms cannot order direct from Great Britain; they must lodge applications with the Division of Import Procurement for permission to import the goods. This division, in Sydney, has a staff of approximately 2,000 persons. That number is unwarranted. . This week, the Government declined to permit a few women to go abroad as members of the staff of Unrra, and claimed that the shortage of womenpower in Australia justified its decision. If the man-power authorities investigated the Division of Import Procurement, they would be able to direct many members of the staff, male and female, to more essential employment. The work is not sufficient to keep all of them employed. I am satisfied that a number of them desire to be permitted to seek more profitable and better occupations.
Although this matter concerns the welfare of the Australian commercial community, no Minister appears to be interested in my remarks. Evidently, we are a socialist state, and are so bound with regulations that we are no better than serfs. Trade cannot flow properly if business is hampered by unnecessary governmental restrictions. At present, any firm in Australia, which may be the agent for a British line of goods or which may require certain goods, is not permitted to buy direct from Great Britain or any other country. The agent must place his order with, and work through the Division of Import Procurement. It deals with the application, six copies of which must be submitted, and the firm, after having been kept waiting a month or more, may receive a request for information regarding the cost of the goods. Then a cable has to be sent to England, and the Division of Import Procurement proceeds to ponder whether it will permit the importation of the goods.
A letter which. I received from the representative of the Master Printers and Allied Trades Federation of Australia illustrates the manner in which that system operates. Bookbinders cloth is an article that is manufactured in Australia in only a minor way. It is not obtainable now because the machinery that would normally make it is producing munitions. The cloth is a British production, and Australian publishers cannot make books because adequate supplies of this material cannot be obtained. An extract from the letter reads -
For nearly three years, we have strenuously endeavoured to have a larger quota of cloth imported, hut notwithstanding all our efforts and promises given by the officers of the Division of Import Procurement we are worse off to-day than ever before. Advice received from the Division of Import Procurement in February, 1944, led us to believe that 650,000 square yards of cloth would be delivered at the rate of 90,000 a month as from May of last year. Small quantities at frequent intervals are being received by the printers in Victoria.
This is how the Division of Import Procurement is obstructing business, and if it is not careful, it will create unemployment -
My company has in hand 250,000 books to print and bind, and requires 25,000 yards of cloth and is but one company of several bookbinders who are urgently awaiting cloth.
The writer adds that the company is getting “ sick and tired “ of this position. Is it any wonder? How can men, on being demobilized, be given employment in business if the Government prevents in. this manner the importation of supplies? Let us abolish a lot of these restrictions! The Division of Import Procurement was necessary in the early stages of the war, when materials were in short supply and overseas credits had. to be watched, but it is almost redundant now. Merchants should be allowed to buy freely what they needtoconducttheirbusinesses. Ifthat were done the Ministerfor PostwarReconstruction (Mr.Dedman) would be able to find positions for many ex-serviceman in private enterprise. Unless the Governmentdoes this there willbe many protests, and considerable unemployment may result. I wish that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction would listen to what I am saying. Onetalksto the desert air in this place, which has almost ceased , to be a deliberative assembly. Only about eight honorable members , are present. Presumably, the remainder are hurrying off in motor , cars or to the train. This important matter relates to providing jobs for ex-service men and women andto ensuring Australia’s future prosperity. I do notapproach it in any party spirit; I submitit in a national way. Unless departmental obstruction and bureaucratic control are removed so that we can import the materials necessary to set the wheels of enterprise revolving, our trade and commerce will be considerably hampered. The Government must face the position sooneror later, and the sooner it does so the better it will be for the nation.
Mr.FRANCIS (Moreton) [4.1] -I bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and theMinister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr.Dedman) a problem affecting the textile industry in Queensland, which I have previously raised both in this House and by means of correspondence. There are three woollen mills in my electorate. Large sums of money are being made available by the Government to provide special technical training foroperatives and administrative personnel in the woollen industry in Victoria and New South Wales, and I have asked on a number of occasions that similar provision be made for workers in the Queensland industry. Australia is a federation, and I strongly object to the Government’s neglect to provide for Queensland operatives the same f acilities as are enjoyed byVictorian and New South Wales workers. I appreciate that, as there are pnly three mills in Queensland, it would not be reasonable to ask for the allocation of an equal amount of £250,000 for the erection of buildings, plant and equipment, However, the ‘Government should provide an opportunity -for ‘Queensland workers to visit New South Wales and Victoria to undertake courses at the special schools in those States. Their travelling and living expenses shouldbe paid. At the present time, Queensland flannel and worsted materials are second to none. The men working in the three mills which I have mentioned have proved their efficiency, and they should be given every opportunity to keep abreast of new and important technical developments that have occurred in the industry. I hope that the Minister will indicate ‘before the House adjourns that a plan such asI have suggested will be implemented. It isindefensible to grant facilities to operatives in the textile industry in Victoria and New South Wales while excluding workers in the same industry in Queensland.
Early last week J asked a question in this House regardingthe menace of the buffalo fly. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction who was then acting as Minister for Commerceand Agriculture, promised that he would supply a full statement of the measures being taken to eradicate the pest. Since then, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has taken over the duties of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), during that honorable gentleman’s illness, “ and I am anxious that the matter should notbe overlooked as the result of the changeover. I want to know what steps are being taken to increase supplies of gauze and the insecticide P.P.T., which are used in the treatment of cattle against the attacks of the buffalo fly. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to make a statement on the subject before the House adjourns.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented-: -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No.117.
Commonwealth Public Service ActRegulationsStatutoryRules 1945, No. 115.
National Security Act-
National Security (general ) Regulations - Orders -
Taking possession of land, &c. (8).
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (61).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 112, 113, 116.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Return for year 1944-45.
Raw Cotton Bounty Act - Return for 1944.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for year 1944-45.
Tractor Bounty Act - Return for year 1944-45.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for year 1944-45.
Wire Netting Bounty Act - Return for year 1944-45.
House adjourned at 4.7 p.m. to Wednesday, the 29th August next, at 3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen.
Rationing: Survey of Supplies: Textiles, Tea, Sugar, Tobacco, Newsprint.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked a question regarding tea, sugar, tobacco and newsprint. He asked that consideration be given to a survey of these goods with a view to eliminating the rationing of them. The Minister for Trade and
Customshas supplied the following answer: -
The stock position of these commodities is continually under review, but, as the demand for them is still greater than the supply available, the elimination of rationing is not feasible for the time being. Relaxation of rationing, however, is effected whenever possible.
Fruit and Vegetables: Cases.
asked the M inister for the Army, upon notice -
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Forres are under-strength to the extent of 3.700 officers?
asked the Ministerfor the Army, upon notice -
Australian Forces : Strength.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.Effective strength of the forces (males), at 30th June, 1945, 558,174.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
New Guinea : Timber.
t asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Note. - The necessity of frequently dismantling, shifting and re-erecting Army mills under service conditions entails greater loss of production time than under civilian conditions. Output of Royal Australian Air Force mills fluctuates and is not continuous. Royal Australian Air Force personnel employed on sawmilling duties are so engaged only part-time and are required to perform other service duties. No details have been maintained of actual output per man per month and no reliable estimate in this connexion can bo furnished.
Unrra: Gift of Clothing from commonwealth government; Supply of Australian Woollens.
y.- On the 26th July, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) asked a question relating to a suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should make a direct donation of new clothing to be sent to people in the distressed countries of Europe.
The Government has considered the question of making a direct donation of clothing to Unrra in addition to present commitments, and though fully cognizant of the psychological value of doing so, does not consider it practicable. Supplies for the relief of liberated areas fall into two main divisions -(a) Supplies purchased by Unrra with official funds made available by various Allied countries, and in respect of which the Government of Australia has authorized the expenditure of £12,000,000; (b) Supplies made available for the national clothing collection now being made on behalf of Unrra by StateRegional Committees of the Australian Council for Unrra. An amount of £10,800,000 has already been appropriated to be spent in Australia for the purposes of Unrra, but the acute shortage of available supplies makes it difficult to meet the commitment. Government machinery has been set up by which all stocks of new clothing and other woollen goods, surplus to other existing commitments, are notified to the procurement agency of Unrra, Sydney Office, and an offer made to supply. Whilst it is possible that there may be a number of isolated instances of stocks of new woollen clothing which could be made available, the quantity is not likely to be substantial. Any gift of clothing by the Government of the kind suggested by the right honorable member, could, therefore, only be in reduction of the amount which would otherwise be supplied in accordance with existing arrangements. It would, moreover, increase the difficulty of fulfilling our present undertaking to Unrra.
– On the 18th July, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked a question concerning the distribution by Unrra of woollen goods.
Supplies for the relief of liberated areas fall into two main divisions, as follows : - (a) Supplies purchased by Unrra with official funds made available by various Allied countries, and in respect of which the Government of Australia has authorized the expenditure of £13,000,000; (b) Supplies made available for the national clothing -collection now being made on behalf of Unrra by State Regional Committees of the AustralianCouncil for Unrra.
The supply of woollen goods in Australia is subject to constant review and whenever a surplus over existing commitments becomes available, particulars are notified and an appropriate offer is made to the supplies procurement agency of the Unrra South-west Pacific Area Office, Sydney. These goods are supplied as part of the Australian contribution to Unrra, of whicha total of £10,800,000 will be spent in Australia. Textiles to the value of nearly £250,000 have already been supplied, and furtheroffers of woollen piece goods and knitting wool to the value of about £1,500,000 have been made. Australia is also making a donation of raw wool to the value of £2,750,000. In view of existing arrangements, a special goodwill shipment of the character indicated by the honorable member does not seem appropriate at present. The appeal for used clothing is in a different category. It is voluntary in character, and ‘ supplementary to the official contribution of £12,000,000 to Unrra.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 20th July, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked a question relating to the submission by applicants fornaturalization of particulars in connexion with their knowledge of the English language.
Each applicantfor naturalization is personally interrogated by a police officer, or an officer of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch or other official, who after examination, reports whether or not the applicant has an adequate knowledge of English. The Department of the
Interior (this matter is now administered -by the Department of Immigration) has always relied upon the official report for guidance as to whether an applicant for naturalization has the knowledge of English required by the Nationality Act, not on the statement of friends who certified to his character. No purpose was, therefore, served by retaining the statement in the certificates of character and it was decided, when tho forms were being reprinted, that it should ho deleted. Every applicant for naturalization, however, must, still satisfy the Minister for Immigration that he has an adequate knowledge of English before he can he granted a Certificate of Naturalization.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 August 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450802_reps_17_184/>.