19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– “Will the Acting Leader of the House make provision in the time at the disposal of the House for the resumption of the debate on the statement made by the Prime Minister on the 12th October in regard to the payment of a special subsistence allowance to Australian prisoners of war, which is item 20 on the list of Orders of the Day? The honorable member for Parkes and members of the Opposition generally, to say nothing of honorable gentlemen opposite, are most interested in this matter and are anxious that the debate should be resumed before the House rises for the Christmas recess.
– I shall bring the request made by the right honorable gentleman before the Prime Minister with a view to acceding to it.
– I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the postal services provided for the Bothwell district in Tasmania. The mail goes up on Monday and comes down on Tuesday, and there is no mail service until the following Friday when the mail again goes up, and returns on Saturday. Quite a number of ex-servicemen have settled in the district, which has now become an important area. Will the PostmasterGeneral inquire into the facilities provided for that district with a view to improving them?
– I shall be pleased to make the inquiries for which the honorable gentleman has asked, and see what can be done to meet the situation to which lie has referred.
– Press reports of statements alleged to have been made by Professor Macmahon Ball indicate that poli tical pressure was applied to interfere with his broadcasts which contradicts the statement upon this matter that was made by the Postmaster-General in reply to a question, that was addressed .to him on Wednesday. I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is prepared to make available for perusal by honorable members the correspondence that passed between Professor Macmahon Ball and the Australian Broadcasting Commission in connexion with these’ broadcasts?
– The honorable gentleman is well aware that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not subject to ministerial control. All parties in the Parliament have subscribed to that principle, and I hope that the previousGovernment acted in conformity with it, as this Government is doing. I am not aware of what Professor Macmahon Ball has stated in the press. The statement that I made to the House on Wednesday was quite correct. I thoroughly endorse the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s policy of employing a variety of commentators in order that each section of the community shall be served. Not everybody wishes to listen to only one commentator. I believe that the commission is acting properly in utilizing the services, not of one speaker, but of several for these talks on Sundays.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, relates to the. conference of representatives of this Government, the New South Wales Government, and the Joint Coal Board that it is, proposed to hold next Monday, and to the effect of the restrictive coal production policy of the New South Wales Government upon the cost of living and the security of this country. At the conference, will the Minister insist that the present policy of the New South Wales Government of stalling upon coal production shall be abandoned, and that the insuffera’ble action of that Government in restricting permits for coal production and thus carrying out the policy of the Communist leaders of the miners federal tion shall cease? - Mr: CASEY.- The conference that will be held next Monday, at which the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport and myself will meet the Minister for Mines and the Minister for Transport in the New South Wales Government, will he devoted to exploring all means of expediting and increasing the production of coal from open cuts in Hew South “Wales. We shall consider, among other things, the selection of areas that are likely to be most fruitful for the getting of open-cut coal and the pooling by the Commonwealth and New South Wales of geological information and of resources generally. I assure the honorable gentleman that the objective that he nas in mind will be energetically pursued.
Hr. DAVIES.- In the absence of the Minister for Immigration, I address my question to the Treasurer. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that at the present time many new Australians who have purchased land are unable to build houses on the land? Is he aware also that in order to obtain a housing loan from the Commonwealth Bank a prospective borrower must have a guarantor, and that it is sometimes difficult for new Australians to find guarantors because they are strangers in the localities in which they are living? In view of the fact that new Australians have been encouraged to come to this country, will the Treasurer consider the advisability of requesting the Commonwealth Bank to evolve a scheme under which new Australians may obtain housing loans from the Commonwealth Bank without guarantors?
– I shall treat the honorable gentleman’s question as though it had been placed upon the notice-paper, and supply him with an answer to it as soon as possible.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services I explain that I have received a number of letters from persons who normally receive child endowment and pensions, directing my attention to the fact that although they had forwarded the documents relevant to these payments to the appropriate department, in some cases months ago, they had not yet received payments. Is it a fact that delay has arisen as a result of the work thrown on the department because of the recently instituted endowment for the first child of each family, and also because of the recent increase of pensions generally? If that is so, would it be possible to arrange with the chairman of the Public Service Board for an increase of the staff that deals with such matters or, alternatively, if that cannot be done, for the granting of interim payments to prevent further hardship?
– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s question before the notice of the appropriate Minister with a view to having the matter remedied along the lines that he has suggested.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services indicate to the House the method of computation used to determine the degree of contribution to be made by age pensioners for their maintenance in State institutions, and will he also indicate the identity of the authority that determines the matter? By way of explanation I state that a number of such pensioners in State institutions have approached me and have told me that they believed that, in view of the recently granted increases of pensions, the institutions intend to increase their board rates by about 5s. a week.
– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s question before the notice of the appropriate Minister for appropriate answer.
– I direct to the Treasurer a question regarding a statement attributed to the Prime Minister and that has appeared in the press, wherein the Prime Minister stated that it is the intention of the Government to amend the Superannuation Act to make certain provisions in relation to the reemployment of superannuated officers. If that statement is correct, will the Treasurer inform the House when the amending legislation will be introduced and whether, when it is introduced, it is intended to include in it provision to recoup, retrospectively, the old officers of the Public Service who returned to duty during the war and thus forfeited their superannuation during the period for which they were reemployed. Those old men came back into the service at the beginning of the last war, after they had passed the age of 65 years, and as their re-employment began ten years ago it is obvious that unless something is done soon about the matter that I have mentioned they will not be here to benefit by any justice that is done to them.
– As the honorable gentleman’s question involves a matter of policy it will be dealt with in due course.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform me, in view of the continuous drift of skilled tradesmen from the building trade in the Australian Capital Territory, how many prefabricated houses will actually be erected in this territory within the next twelve months? When is the first consignment of such houses expected to arrive from overseas? Are the necessary foundations for them being prepared, and if so, where?
– I recollect having given the honorable gentleman the figures in respect of that matter, within recent weeks. However, I shall have an uptodate assessment of the position made, and shall advise him accordingly.
– I direct a question to the honorable member for Curtin concerning an item that he has placed on the notice-paper. I ask the honorable gentleman whether, in the event of his motion regarding the social advancement and protection of the aborigines not being put to a vote in this sessional period, he is prepared to persist with it on a future private members’ day. In the event of the motion being wiped off the notice-paper by prorogation is he prepared to move it again in a future session of the Parliament?
– The answer to both questions is “Yes”.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question that concerns superannuation payments to a special class of annuitants known as “ transferred State officers “. Those officers were taken over by the federal government from the States at the time of federation, and their pensions are static except for adjustments that are made by act of Parliament from time to time. Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to this matter urgently and see whether it i9 possible, before the end of the present sessional period, to grant these transferred officers increases of superannuation payments to assist them to cope with the increased cost of living?
– I promise to give consideration to the matters that have been raised by the honorable member.
– In view of the recent statements by a Minister in the New South Wales Government about the pitfalls and problems that are likely to arise in connexion with the administration of the free milk scheme, and to the effect that Queensland is not likely to share in the free distribution of milk because of the practical difficulties involved in distribution, I ask the Treasurer the two following related questions: (a) In fairness to the taxpayers of Queensland, will he consider paying the Queensland proportion of the social services tax involved to the Queensland Department of Health and Home Affairs to be used for hospitalization purposes, and (b) alternatively, in view of all the practical difficulties that would be involved, with an obvious effect on butter production, will the right honorable gentleman reconsider the proposed scheme, with a view to its abandonment ?
– The Minister for Health has been in negotiation with the State governments, including the Queensland Government, in connexion with this matter. I shall bring the honorable member’s questions to his notice.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs received official confirmation of the statements that have been attributed to President Truman at his press conference yesterday, to the effect that the United States of America would, if necessary, use the atom bomb in Korea, and that the use of any bomb is a matter for the determination of the military commanders? If not, will the Minister seek confirmation and, if possible, make a statement to the House about the matter before the termination of to-day’s proceedings? In view of the fact that the dropping of the atom bomb might easily presage the commencement of a third world war, will the Government determine what its attitude will be in the event of such a conflict occurring at an early date?
– The answer to the honorable member’s first question is “ No “. The answer to the second and third is “Yes”.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by stating that about a month ago the Prime Minister received a delegation from the New England New State Movement. I understand that the right honorable gentleman informed the delegation that he would communicate its views to Cabinet, with a view to working out how a referendum could be held in connexion with the proposal to establish new States when an existing State did not want to relinquish any of its sovereignty. Is the Treasurer in a position to inform the House of the views of Cabinet about the proposal to form new States?
– I am not in a position to give the House any information in connexion with this matter.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture relates to the difficulty that is being experienced by farmers in the Mallee in connexion with the delivery of wheat that is now being harvested. This difficulty, of course, is due to the Victorian rail strike. Is any action being taken by the Australian Wheat Board to facilitate the delivery of wheat by growers?
– I know that the honorable member for Mallee has been actively interesting himself in this matter, which concerns the capacity of the Australian Wheat Board to receive the wheat now being harvested. I have been advised by the board that the silos in the northern part of Victoria contain very little wheat, and that the board does not anticipate any difficulty in receiving wheat in that area of Victoria. A difficulty could have arisen in the Wimmera district, but the board has arranged to move by road transport the wheat from its big bin at Warracknabeal to the No. 2 bin at Murtoa. No. 1 bin at Murtoa is at present empty, and will be capable of receiving wheat. The big bin at Warracknabeal, because of the board’s action, will also be emptied and made available to receive wheat. I understand that there is no wide general problem concerning the handling of wheat in the rest of Victoria. The advice of the Australian Wheat Board to my department is that at the present time the matter is under control.
– At one time, the Commonwealth Statistician supplied to honorable members at regular intervals a summary of statistics concerning cost of living variations, the number of employees in industry, the number of employees in the Commonwealth and State public services, and the number of employees in some semi-governmental organizations. For a long time I have not received a copy of that summary, and I ask the Treasurer whether the practice of issuing summaries to honorable members has been discontinued. If it has not been discontinued, will he arrange for honorable members who have not been receiving them to be supplied with copies regularly?
– I shall give consideration to the matter raised by the honorable member. I shall inquire into the position, and remedy it if possible.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he recalls having made a promise on two occasions in answer to questions within the last few months that an excess profits tax bill and a capital issues control bill would be definitely introduced into this Parliament during the present session ? Does the right honorable gentleman also recollect a third promise that it was his intention to introduce the bills if it were physically possible to do so? Is he now in a position to say that he will carry out the promise contained in the answer to the first two questions, or is .the position still as it was when he gave his answer to the third question ? Is there any hope of the Parliament having an opportunity of debating these bills during the current session?
– I am hoping to be able to bring a capital issues bill down before the House rises. If the House goes into recess at the scheduled time, that will be difficult. Certain difficulties have arisen with respect to the drafting of the proposed legislation to impose a tax on excess profits. That matter as a whole was referred to the expert committee on taxation, which is the most appropriate body to investigate in detail a complex question of that kind. Unfortunately, the legal member of that committee died suddenly; and his demise caused considerable dislocation to plans. In evolving a tax of this kind, much research work must be undertaken in respect of not only its application to taxpayers in Australia but also its relationship to double taxation and other matters. The committee is endeavouring as far as possible to evolve a watertight measure and it is thoroughly investigating the operation of similar taxes in other countries. I am able to console -the honorable member by assuring him that although it will be impossible to introduce the relevant legislation during this period of the current session that fact will not advantage those who will come within its scope because it will be made retrospective to the 1st July last and will be based on profits of the current year or for the accounting year that the Commissioner for Taxation accepts in substitution therefor.
– As illness in the case of a great number of people throughout Australia is being prolonged, or seriously aggravated, because of the shortage of beds in hospitals, will the Treasurer, in the absence of the Minister for Health, recommend to Cabinet that a hospital allowance be paid to persons who, during illness, are unable to obtain a bed in a hospital and, therefore, are obliged to receive attention at their homes?
– I assure ‘the honorable member that the Minister for Health has the important matter to which he has referred under urgent consideration. However I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of my colleague.
– In view of the fact that it is impossible to ascertain with certainty the cause of the recent explosion that occurred in the nitro-glycerine section at the munitions establishment at Maribyrnong, will the Minister for Supply give an assurance that special steps will be taken with a. view to providing the greatest possible degree of protection for residents in that locality, the population of which is rapidly increasing, against the possibility of a serious disaster occurring in the area in the future? J”i view of the nature of the recent explosion, much anxiety exists among residents in that area. Has the Minister conferred with the civil defence section of the Department of the Interior which. I understand, deals with matters of this kind, with a view to seeing what can be done to remove what is undoubtedly a menace in that densely populated district. If not, will he have the matter investigated in order to protect the local civilian population against the possibility that I have mentioned, which, in the event of our becoming engaged in hostilities, would be most grave?
– I have not conferred with the civil defence authorities on the matter to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall consider the suggestion that he has made in that respect.
With regard to the general matter that he has raised, I point out that although it is not possible in any circumstances absolutely to prevent an accident from occurring, I assure him that everything possible will be done to prevent the recurrence of accidents of the kind that occurred recently at the munitions establishment at Maribyrnong. When replying to a question that the honorable member asked on this same matter yesterday, I pointed out that government munitions establishments have a magnificent safety record, and all honorable members, I believe, endorsed that statement. Not only will existing precautions he maintained but still further steps will be taken to prevent as far as possible a similar accident from recurring. The honorable member will understand that the Government is expanding munitions production and that, therefore, it is inevitable, in one sense, that the visk of accident will become greater. However, we have taken the utmost scientific and practical measures to ensure the greatest measure of safety. The explosion to which reference’ was made took place within a large mound which, as the honorable member probably knows, was open to the sky but surrounded by a heavy earthen wall. The mound itself was extensively damaged by the explosion, but was not destroyed, and no damage was done to anything outside it. It is only under such conditions that the process during which the accident occurred is permitted to be carried on.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House inform me whether the Government has made any progress in working out details of the profit-sharing scheme promised during the last general election campaign ? If any investigations are being made into tha’t matter, can he inform the House of the personnel of the committee, if any, that has been appointed to make them, and exactly when the Government hopes to be in a position to announce the details of the scheme?
– As the honorable gentleman’s question involves a matter of Government policy, it will be dealt with in due course.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page, through Mr. Anthony) agreed to -
Thatlea ve be given to bring in abill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States in connexion with provision- by the States of milk for school children, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. McBride, through Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the route of that part of the Port Augusta to Alice Springs railway which lies between Stirling North and Brachina.
Motion (by Mr. McBride, through Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to authorize the execution by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia, relating to the construction of a railway from Brachina to Leigh Creek North coalfield, in the State of South Australia, to provide for the construction of that railway, and for purposes connected therewith.
Motion (by Mr. McBbide, through Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in abill for an act to amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948.
Bill presented, and read afirst time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make a number of small amendments to the Nationality and Citizenship Act which was passed in 1948 and proclaimed to commence on the 26th January, 1949. During the period of almost two years since that date, experience has shown some minor amendments to be necessary, and others to be desirable. It is with those minor amendments that this bill is concerned. The proposals, although of importance to a number of individuals, do not represent any major change in the law. They are aimed at removing some disabilities which are likely to cause unwarranted hardship, and at clearing up some drafting anomalies.
The first amendment, which is contained in paragraph (a) of clause 3 of the bill, seeks, in sub-paragraph (a), to benefit certain women by excluding them from the category of “ naturalized person “ and by placing them instead in the position of Britishborn persons. One example of the disabilities of naturalized persons is that, if they take up residence outside Australia they must give annual notice of intention to retain Australian citizenship - otherwise they lose that status after seven years’ absence. It is considered that disabilities of this kind should not be imposed on two classes of women. The first class consists of those women who were natural-born British subjects, but who at some time lost British nationality - usually by marriage to aliens - and who later became naturalized in order to regain British nationality. If such women had refrained from becoming naturalized they would eventually have regained British nationality automatically, under section 27 of the Nationality and Citizenship Act, and would not now bp included in the category of “ naturalized person “. It is, of course, quite wrong that such women should be penalized for their natural desire to regain their British nationality without delay. They will be so penalized if they are left in the category of “naturalized person “.
The second class contemplated in subparagraph (b) of clause 3 (a) relates to those women who were first of all aliens, then became naturalized and later married British subjects. Such women are at present defined as “naturalized persons”. Yet other women who were aliens at birth, and married British subjects without being naturalized beforehand, are not “naturalized persons”. This means that the woman who had sufficient attachment to the status of British subject to induce her- to seek that status by naturalization, before her marriage to a British subject, is in a worse position than the woman who acquired British nationality solely by reason of her marriage. It is considered that all women who married British subjects before the commencement of the act, whether they were naturalized or not, should be in the same position - that is, that none of them should be regarded as naturalized persons, but should be treated in the same way as British-born persons.
– Has the Minister any idea of the number of women in each of the categories?
– I cannot tell the honorable member the number in each category, but an approximate guess is that 500 women are likely to be involved in both categories. That is the information that I have, but I speak subject to correction. The view taken by the Government is that, although comparatively few individuals are involved, the present arrangement bears so hardly upon them that they ought to be protected by means of the provisions of this bill. I think that the honorable member will agree with that view.
The second amendment is set out in clause 3, paragraph (b) of the bill, and it deals with the question of residence in Nauru, in relation to the provisions of the act. Under an agreement approved by the United Nations, trusteeship for the island of Nauru was conferred jointly upon the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. By arrangement, Australia has continued the actual administration of the island, which is, therefore, for all practical purposes in the same position in relation to this country as is the trusteeship territory of New Guinea. The Nationality and Citizenship Act made special provisions in relation to New Guinea. For example, residence in New Guinea may be accepted as part of the qualifying period required of applicants for citizenship. No such provision was made for Nauru, and it is considered that residence there should be acceptable in the same way as is residence in New Guinea. This result and some minor consequential changes in a number of other sections of the act will be achieved by clause 3, paragraph (b).
Clause 4 anticipates a difficulty which will arise after the 26th January, 1951. Up to that date, the Minister will have power to exempt applicants for naturalization from making a declaration of intention to apply if they are in a position to comply with all the other requirements of the act; but after the 26th January next, as the act stands, the Minister will have no power to grant naturalization unless the applicant has made a declaration of intention at least two years earlier. When the act was drafted, it was contemplated that the period between the 26th January, 1949, and the 26th January, 1951, would give sufficient time and warning to all prospective applicants, and that at the end of that period it would be possible to make the requirement a rigid one without causing hardship or injustice. Theoretically all aliens who have completed their qualifying period of five years’ residence in Australia before the 26th January next should have applied for naturalization before then, and those who will not have completed their qualifying period by that date should have made declarations of intention. But the fact of the matter is that there are thousands of aliens who have resided in Australia for more than five years but who have not applied for naturalization. It seems certain that, despite publicity which has been given to the future necessity for declarations of intention, many persons have not heard of the new requirement, and that of these there “will he a few at least to whom it will be desirable to grant naturalization without the two years delay involved in requiring a declaration to be made. For example, applicants will be found to have given meritorious service to the nation in the forces or in other spheres, and to require naturalization in order to secure the age pension. Others may require naturalization in order to join the armed or civil services. In these cases, and in other circumstances which cannot be foreseen, it will not be to the nation’s interests that the Minister should have no discretion in the matter, and that the applicants should invariably have to make a declaration and then wait for two years. Clause 4, therefore, proposes that the Minister shall have power, in special cases, to exempt the applicants from the necessity to make the declara- tion of intention. The clause will not confer any discretion upon the Minister to dispense with other requirements of the act, such as those which provide for five years’ residence, good character and knowledge of English, and it is not contemplated that the discretion which it does confer shall be exercised in any but the most exceptional circumstances.
Clause 5 of the bill aims at easing the requirements for the naturalization of alien women married to Australian citizens. Such women do not now. acquire Australian citizenship or British nationality automatically upon marriage, but it was the intention that their qualifying period of residence for naturalization should be one year, instead of the five years required of other aliens. Section 15 (4.) specifies at present that such a woman should have resided in Australia for one year “ with her husband “. The effect of the words “with her husband “ is that it has been necessary for the woman to have resided in Australia for a year after her marriage, even though she may have spent three or four years in Australia before the marriage. The new provision proposed by clause 5 omits the words “ with her husband “, so that the women in question will be eligible after one year’s residence in Australia. It also proposes that the same conditions shall apply to the widows, as well as to the wives of Australian citizens.
Finally, clause 6 of the bill is designed to eliminate the necessity for British subjects who wish to register as Australian citizens to advertise in the newspapers their intention to apply for registration. Persons who are already British subjects stand to gain very little in a monetary or other material sense from becoming Australian citizens, and we can be assured that those who apply for registration are disinterested and sincere in their approach to the matter. It is, therefore, the more desirable in their case that the requirements should not be any more irksome and expensive than is necessary. Tt is considered that advertisements in the newspapers may be dispensed with for such applicants. Honorable members will, I think, agree that there is nothing of a contentious nature in the amendments proposed in this bill, and I commend it to the House for approval.
– The Opposition offers no’ objection to this bill, and promises its active assistance in order to ensure that the legislation will pass to the Senate without any undue delay.
-Order ! The honorable member may not comment on proceedings in the Senate.
– May I not even offer our assistance?
– I thought that, as it was almost unique for us to be in the position to offer assistance at all, I should be allowed to do so. This bill contains only five proposed amendments to the 1945 act. When I introduced that legislation, I had been advised by competent officers. I believed that every point had been covered, and that we would have an act as nearly perfect as possible to deal with matters touching upon naturalization and citizenship. However, difficulties have been disclosed.
– Human frailty.
– Yes, human frailty, either on the ministerial or departmental level. At any rate, I accept full responsibility for everything that was done. I commend the officers of the Immigration Department for the attention they give to all matters that come before them in their administration of a complex act. We are now faced with the necessity to amend the act in order to protect certain classes “>f women. Prior to the introduction in Great Britain in the ‘sixties of the last century of legislation dealing with the marriage of women to foreigners, h woman did not lose her nationality on marriage. Under the act of the sixties a woman who married an alien lost her British nationality. She took the nationality of her husband automatically. I think it was the act which the previous Government passed in 1947 that gave certain rights to women to recover their British nationality, although an a–;1, which was passed in the days of the Lyons Government, while not altogether restoring their nationality, did give them all the rights of a British subject while they lived in Australia. But they were still legally regarded as aliens in their own country.
The first amendment proposed in this bill seeks to protect a woman who has been married to an alien abroad, and who has recovered her British citizenship by naturalization. The second amendment deals with another class of persons, who are at present defined as “ naturalized persons “. I think that the alterations proposed are very wise, and that the persons concerned are entitled, by every consideration of equity and justice, to receive the benefits of the act as the Government and Parliament intended it to apply in 194S.
The second amendment proposed deals with a situation which the previous Government did not consider in 194S. No question concerning Australian women who might go to the island of Nauru had arisen. I do not know how many women in Nauru are, or are likely to be, affected by the Nationality Act, and I do not know of any other territories in which Australia has a share in the administration to the extent that it has in Nauru.
– Australia shares in the sovereignty of the Solomons.
– It may well be that because of the situation that exists in the Pacific to-day and because of the inability of the United Kingdom Government to protect some of these areas, Australia might eventually share the sovereignty of other islands such as the Solomons, adjacent to New Guinea. If so, a further amendment would be required to this act.
The third amendment that has been proposed by the Minister exempts certain people from the necessity to make a declaration of intention. It gives the Minister the power to dispense with the necessity of making a declaration of intention. I see no objection to that provision although I do not like the idea of extending discretionary powers. Some discretionary provisions ought to be excised from the Immigration Act. Every act should be administered as the Parliament wants it to be administered. Discretionary powers are very often invoked for the purpose of trying to force a Minister to abandon the main provisions of an act. If the Parliament does not wish to have a particular provision administered rigidly, it should amend it.
– This is. a very narrow discretion.
– I am dealing with the question of discretion generally. According to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), this discretion will be used in a very restricted way. I think that that should be so, and the people should be entitled to benefit from the exercise of the discretionary power if they have served in the Australian forces, or are likely to do so. The exercise of this discretion will not interfere with any fundamental principles of the bill. The Minister has said that there are thousands of aliens in Australia, who have resided here for more than five years, but who have not applied for naturalization. That is one of the regrettable features of residence in this country by many aliens. I did everything that I could when I was Minister for Immigration, to make people realize the importance of applying for Australian citizenship. If a country is worth living in, and making one’s livelihood in, there is an implied obligation on residents to become citizens of it.
– Especially in view of the facilities that are available.
– Yes. Provision for the declaration of intention was introduced in order to encourage people to indicate publicly their desire to become members of the Australian community, after only twelve months’ residence and without having to wait for the expiration of the normal five-year period. Now that the Minister has raised the question of naturalization, I suggest that we might consider amending the Defence Act to introduce the American practice of permitting or requiring - whatever the provision of the relevant legislation may be - aliens to join our services by virtue of their residence in this country, and without regard to the question, debar them by virtue of their nationality. The American law provides that any person in the United States of America, whether he is an American citizen or not, may be inducted into the armed forces. He may have arrived in the United States of America only the day before. A pro vision of that kind in our legislation would not only help many new Australians to become Australian citizens, but also would certainly help our armed forces, subject of course to security officers exercising an effective check at all stages on the character of all service personnel. Furthermore, I believe that if we do amend the Defence Act, we should also adopt the American practice of treating service in the armed forces as a special qualification for naturalization. In other words, if an alien serves in our armed forces he should be permitted to become a naturalized Australian citizen in less than the five-year period now prescribed by the law.
At present, the act provides that a married woman must have resided in Australia “ with her husband “ for one year before she can seek naturalization. This legislation provides that one year’s residence in Australia shall be sufficient whether she is the wife or widow of an Australian citizen and, if a wife, whether she is residing with her husband or not.
Finally, I commend the Department of Immigration, which I had the honour to build from six officers to its present strength of approximately 5,000, including camp and field staffs, for the work it has done in the administration of the act, and upon the general satisfaction that it has given to the people of Australia, and above all to the new Australians who have come here from all over the globe in recent times. Soon, 500,000 people will have joined us since the inauguration of our new immigration policy. That acquisition of population is of decided benefit to Australia, and is a matter of satisfaction to all people of good will in this country.
.- According to the explanation of clause 4 given by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) this legislation does not reduce the qualifying period for naturalization. I believe, however, that the Government should have given some consideration to a reduction of that period, particularly for displaced persons who have come here under the Government’s immigration scheme, which is regarded. as an urgent defence plan for increasing our population. Immigrants should be encouraged to accept as soon as possible full citizenship rights and responsibilities in this country, particularly as many of them will be conscripted for service under the national service scheme which was introduced into the Parliament this week. If they are expected to undertake obligations of that kind, they should be granted the full privileges of citizenship. A qualifying period of five years is in any circumstances a long period for a person who conies to a new country to have to wait for the full rights of citizenship. Most of the unfortunate aliens who have come here have every intention of remaining here permanently. Many of them have been denied citizenship rights in their own countries for from ten to twenty years. Some of them have been stateless since the commencement of the regimes of Hitler and Stalin. Loss of citizenship rights for such a long period has caused a great gap in their lives. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the desirability of shortening the period within which they may apply for full citizenship right3 in this country. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has said that thousands of aliens have not applied for citizenship rights even though the qualification period has already expired. That may be so, but I have no doubt that most of them have made up their minds to apply for naturalization. Many aliens have already completed their contract to engage for a period of two years in the occupation to which the Government has directed them as a condition of their entry to this country, and have married and settled down and are now seeking to purchase land with a view to establishing permanent homes here. They have no intention of leaving this country. They should be given an opportunity to enjoy the privilege of full property rights. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) referred at question time to-day to the restrictions placed on those unnaturalized aliens who seek to raise funds for the purchase or construction of dwellings. These restrictions should be removed as far as it is practicable to do so. Financial institutions which lend money to unnaturalized aliens naturally take into consideration the fact that, on the face of it, they are not regarded as permanent citizens and because they do not enjoy full property rights there is a possibility that the security may fall back on their hands. If these people were granted full citizenship rights, they could borrow for home-building purposes on the same basis as can other citizens. I urge the Government to give further consideration to the desirability of shortening the qualifying period for full citizenship rights, and thus allow these people to become permanent citizens and to assume the full citizenship obligations at an earlier date than is possible under the existing law. If they are left uncertain about their status in this country many of them might decide to return to the countries from which they came.
.- I wish to support the remarks of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), which were in similar vein to communications addressed by me on several occasions to the Department of Immigration. There are many new Australians living in the electorate that I represent. . I point out to the House that some new Australians lost their lives while fighting with the Allies during the war. Although we ask such people to accept the name “New Australians”, for all practical purposes they are regarded as foreigners. I consider that action should be taken to shorten the period during which they must reside in Australia before becoming entitled to apply for naturalization. They are playing an important part in the development of this country, and many of them have already enlisted in the Australian defence forces. I admit that on enlistment and on taking the oath of allegiance they automatically become naturalized, but I consider that the period in other cases should be shortened. “We are accepting many thousands of migrants in this country and we expect them to assist us to defend the country, should the occasion arise. During World War I., there were many Russians living in the coal-mining electorate that I represent. Some of them enlisted in the armed forces and took the oath of allegiance. Upon payment of 5s., they were entitled to apply for naturalization as British subjects. I do not wish it to be thought that I am attempting to catch votes, but in my electorate there are over 12,000 new Australians. I am confident that those people love this country, that they are prepared to adopt it and that they will fight for it if necessary. The husband of a Czechoslovakian woman whom I know was killed while fighting with the Allies during the last war, but she is obliged to retain the nationality of Czechoslovakia for five years. I suggest that if we wish such people to be new and good Australians, we should be prepared to accept them as British subjects.
.- in reply- Obviously this is not the time to deal with the matters raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). There is, perhaps, a need for further examination of the qualifying period of residence, but a discussion of this bill is not the correct time for such consideration.
– I suggested that the Minister should give consideration to that matter.
– Consideration will be given to it. I point out to the honorable member that the period of residence in this country has always been five years. Most other countries specify a longer period. For instance, in Canada I think it is six years.
– Five years, I think.
– It was six years at one time. I do not know whether the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is suggesting that it has been changed. Circumstances alter cases. Although the suggestion is worth considering, this obviously is not the occasion for that consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising of a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Fadden and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize theborrowing of a sum of up to100,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in accordance with the loan agreement concluded with the bank on the 22nd August last. I propose to explain why the Government has negotiated this loan agreement, what its conditions and objectives are, and how transactions under it will be carried out.
The Government decided to raise a dollar loan to remove one of the greatest obstacles standing in the path of industrial expansion and of the general development of Australia. That obstacle was the shortage of certain types of capital equipment and plant, which are indispensable to the furtherance of development in this country, and can be obtained only in the United States and Canada. Because of the shortage of dollars in Australia and all other countries of the sterling area, we were not getting these items in sufficient quantities. The Government therefore explored the possibilities of borrowing dollars to alleviate the position and when it found that a loan on reasonable terms was available, it had no hesitation in recommending its acceptance to the Loan Council.
For the programme of immigration and development upon which Australia has embarked vast and increasing supplies of capital equipment will be necessary. We are producing much of this equipment ourselves and we will produce much more when our full resources are brought into play and industrial output is brought up to its proper level. At the same time there is a great deal of plant and equipment we cannot, or do not, produce here, and which we must get from other countries. In any case we do well under present conditions to buy abroad for developmental purposes, because in so doing we supplement our own resources, make possible a further expansion of our own local output, and help to reduce inflationary pressures. The policy of the Government, therefore, is to encourage importation of essential goods which are in short supply in Australia. Because of industrial recovery in countries overseas, especially in the United Kingdom and in Western Europe, the supply position has greatly improved. With higher export earnings and the inflow of private capital, more overseas funds have been available to us, and we have been able to draw fully on these additional easy currency supplies. However, because of the worldwide shortage of dollars which has prevailed since the war, our access to North American supplies has remained severely restricted. As honorable members know, Australia does not normally earn enough dollars to cover its dollar expenditure, and in most years we have to draw on the sterling area dollar pool for the balance. As a. counterpart to this arrangement, we have followed a common policy with the other members of the sterling area in economizing on dollar expenditure.
Following the crisis in July, 1947, when the United Kingdom attempted ‘to restore full convertibility of sterling with the dollar, and again in the middle of 1949, when there was a sudden and severe drain on the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area, restrictions’ on dollar imports were made progressively more severe until only the absolute minimum of essential supplies was being obtained from dollar sources. This situation meant, as I have said, that requirements in Australia for types of equipment and plant which have the utmost importance for industrial progress and security here were not being adequately met, and it was that crucial fact which led the Government to seek a dollar loan.
During the past year there has been a heartening improvement in the dollar position of the sterling area. This is shown in the figures for the sterling area reserves of gold and dollars. Whereas these reserves had fallen by September, 1949, to the dangerously low level of 1,340,000,000 dollars they had risen by the end of September this year to 2,756,000,000 dollars. That is to say, they had doubled in the course of twelve months. It appears that a number of influences have contributed to this result. Before devaluation of sterling in terms of the dollar in September last year, there had been a speculative movement of funds away from sterling which had helped to deplete the gold and dollar reserves. Devaluation checked this movement and in subsequent months it appear? to have been reversed to some extent. Moreover, devaluation improved very considerably the competitive position of sterling area goods, especially in those non-dollar countries with which, prior to devaluation, gold and dollar settlements had had to be made from time to time. Those settlements acted as a drain on the central gold and dollar reserves. Furthermore, the falling off in United States demand for sterling area goods in the early part of 1949 has been reversed by the revival of United States business activity which has since taken place. This revival has been strengthened by the expansion of the United States’ defence programme, which includes the stock piling of key raw materials. There has also been- a spectacular rise in the prices of dollar-earning commodities produced by the sterling area, including rubber, tin and wool. However, we cannot afford to lose sight of certain important facts. One is that the improvement in the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area has been due in no small part to the further rigorous economies put into effect by sterling area countries after the Commonwealth Conference of Finance Ministers in July, 1949. As a result of those restrictions and the stimulus given by the devaluation of sterling to dollar-saving measures, sterling area imports from the dollar area in the first six months of 1950 were running at an annual rate about 900,000,000 dollars less than that of 1948. Furthermore, the United Kingdom has continued so far to receive European Recovery Plan aid from the United States. During the twelve months that ended on the 30th September this year, the amount of aid so received was S04,000,000 dollars. In the first nine months of 1950, the gold and dollar reserves rose by 1,068,000,000 dollars. If there had been no European Recovery Plan aid in this period, and if dollar imports had been at the 1948 level, there would have been a fall in the reserves instead of a rise. For the immediate future, the dollar outlook remains uncertain. Some of the favorable influences seem likely not only to continue but also to gather momentum. The high level of business activity in the United States is being maintained, and the expansion of the defence programme will undoubtedly add further to the demand for overseas supplies.
Australia’s own position in relation to the dollar area, together with that of other raw-material producing countries in the sterling area, looks promising. The recent unprecedented rises in commodity prices, the high level of activity in the United States, and the prospect of large purchases by the United States authorities for their military requirements and for stock piling, suggest that Australia’s dollar earnings may rise sharply. There is as yet, however, no means of measuring the strength of these favorable forces, and some of them depend on policies which are still in formative stages. Moreover, there are other uncertainties in the outlook which need to be taken into account.
The future of European Recovery Plan aid to the United Kingdom, upon which so much of the recent improvement has depended, is obscure. The prices of dollar goods required by sterling area countries are rising, which means that there must be a greater dollar outlay to get the same quantity of goods. Moreover, American purchases of sterling, area products for stockpiling cannot be expected to continue indefinitely.
Perhaps the greatest uncertainty is that the effects of defence preparations in Western European countries, especially the United Kingdom, have only just begun to make themselves felt. Expanded de- fence programmes will inevitably shift resources away from export, and affect adversely not only the dollar-earning capacity of these countries but also that flow of goods to other countries which has recently proved to be such an important factor in reducing the non-dollar world’s dependence upon North American commodities. Already there are indications that Australian importers are experiencing greater difficulties in obtaining essential supplies from the United Kingdom and other European countries.
Defence commitments and stock-piling activities in ,all sterling area countries will probably entail additional dollar expenditure at high prices. Although the American military aid programme will undoubtedly assist in this direction as far- as the United Kingdom’s additional dollar costs are concerned, the application of this assistance is still under discussion. In any event, it is important to consider when and at what level the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area could be regarded as high enough to justify relaxation of controls on dollar imports.
That these reserves should reach an adequate level is important, not only to Australia and the other members of the sterling area, but also to the trade of the world as a whole. They should be at least high enough to meet at least a temporary drain upon them without the necessity arising for drastic action such as that which had to be taken in 1947 and again in 1949, because action of that kind has seriously disruptive effects on both the volume of international trade and the internal economies of the countries affected. Despite the improvement of recent months, the existing gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area in relation to the total dollar trade of the sterling area are only between one-third and one-half the normal level of pre-war times, when world trading conditions were much more stable than they are to-day.
The whole subject was reviewed at the British Commonwealth Economic and Trade Conference held in London in September last, at which Australia was represented by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). There was agreement at that meeting that, for the present, it would be necessary for all sterling area countries to maintain economy in dollar expenditure and to continue measures to earn dollars in order to rebuild the gold and dollar reserves to an adequate level. The position is, of course, being kept under close and continuous examination, and immediately the current and prospective levels of sterling area dollar earnings and reserves justify it, appropriate relaxations in the severity of dollar import restrictions will be made. But as yet it cannot be said that any new factors have emerged since last September to alter substantially the situation disclosed at the Economic and Trade Conference. It is interesting to note that a recent American survey of the world dollar problem, conducted at the request of the President of ‘the United States and presented on the 10th November, came to the conclusion that “ although the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area had reached 2.8 billion dollars in September, 1950, this was not a satisfactory level “.
Therefore, when the Government, some months ago, took its decision to borrow dollars, it was evident that there could be no general relaxation of controls on dollar imports, and although the dollar position has continued to improve since then and there are grounds for expecting that this improvement will go some way further, it would be unwise to expect that, at any rate in the immediate future, there can be any all-round easing of restrictions on dollar expenditure from current earnings.
The Government determined from the outset that any dollars raised by way of loan should be expended only on items of an indispensable kind that could not be obtained elsewhere than in North America. A careful study was made of our likely requirements for developmental plant and equipment during the next few years, and of the possible’ availability of such plant and equipment from the United Kingdom and other non-dollar sources. This list of requirements was, at the Prime Minister’s request, examined by the United Kingdom authorities in London. They confirmed that, given the rate of development desired by the Australian Government, it would in general be impracticable for Australia to obtain the listed goods from United Kingdom production or from any other easy currency sources. It was recognized that, if we were to get the goods in time to meet our needs, there was no alternative to buying them from dollar sources.
The order of requirements of essential dollar plant and equipment indicated by the Government’s survey amounted to approximately 50,000,000 dollars a year over the next five years. For obvious reasons, however, the estimates for later years were less reliable than were those for the immediate future. Moreover, the question of the method of financing in later years might require reconsideration in the light of developments in the general sterling area dollar situation. Therefore, it was decided to approach the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for an immediate loan of 100,000,000 dollars to meet requirements over the next two years. Negotiations were opened personally by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in Washington with the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was found that the bank had a very ready appreciation of Australian problems and of the special urgency of our developmental needs. Its whole attitude was sympathetic, enlightened, and far-sighted. Perhaps we may say that it is fitting that an international institution linked to the United Nations, and established specially for developing the economic resources of the world, should assist our immigration programme which, besides helping to develop Australia, is contributing materially towards easing the population problems of Western Europe.
The bank agreed in principle that a loan of 100,000,000 dollars should be provided immediately, to be available for plant and equipment required for Australia’s general developmental needs, subject to the satisfactory working out of the details of a loan agreement. In addition, the bank expressed its willingness in principle to participate in financing Australia’s development over the next five years. After three weeks of intensive but cordial negotiations between Australian officials and officials of the bank, a loan agreement was signed in Washington by the Australian Ambassador and th president of the bank on the 22nd August. Before the agreement was signed all State Premiers were consulted in their capacity as members of the Loan Council and their telegraphic approval to the raising of the loan by the Commonwealth was obtained. This approval was formally confirmed at the 64th meeting of the Loan Council held in Canberra on the 6th and 7th September. The texts of the loan agreement and the loan regulations are reproduced in the first and second schedules to the bill, and I shall refer only to the main terms of the agreement here.
The loan of 100,000,000 dollars is for a 25-year period. The amount may be drawn in United States dollars or the equivalent in other currencies. The purpose of the latter provision is to enable purchases to be made of Canadian as well as United States goods. Interest at 4J per cent, is payable half-yearly on the amount of the loan withdrawn and outstanding from time to time. This- interest charge includes the 1 per cent, commission required by the articles of agreement of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the purpose of building up the reserves of the bank, in which, of course, Australia is a shareholder. If the level of the bank’s reserves warrants it at the end of ten years from the commencement of the bank’s operations - the 25th June, 1946 - this commission charge may be reduced with respect to the outstanding portions of loans already made as well as to future loans.
A commitment charge of f per cent, is payable half-yearly on the amount of loan standing undrawn from time to time. This charge is to accrue from the effective date of the loan until the respective dates on which amounts are withdrawn - that is to say, up to the times at which we actually make drawings against the loan and from which interest at the agreed rate becomes payable on the amount of such drawings. In previous International Bank for Reconstruction and Development loans, the commitment charge was fixed at per cent. The reduction of this charge to % per cent, was . decided upon by the bank only in August last, and Australia is the first country to benefit from the reduction. Repayments of principal do not begin until after a deferment period of five years, the first principal repayment falling due on the 1st. September, 1955. Payments of interest, and principal will then be made halfyearly in accordance with an amortization schedule on a fixed annuity basis*. The final payment will fall due on the- 1st September, 1970. Once the full amount of the loan has been withdrawn by us, interest payments during the deferment period will amount to 4,250,000’ dollars, or £A.l,.897,-000 a year. Prom 1955 onwards, annual payments of interest and principal combined will amount to 7,356,000 dollars, or fA.3,280,000.
Honorable members will notice that Article IV. of the Loan Agreement sets out certain’ covenants. These covenants are standard provisions of International Bank for Reconstruction and Development loans. The first of them is known as the consultation clause. This providesfor a general exchange of information and views from time to time between the Australian Government and the bank on matters relevant to the carrying out of the Loan Agreement. In particular, it provides that if any further substantial1 external borrowing is contemplated by public authorities in Australia, the Australian Government will provide an opportunity for an exchange of views with the bank on the matter. These provisions do not, of course, limit in any way the right of the appropriate governmental or semi-governmental agencies in Australia to come to their own decisions regarding any further overseas borrowing that may be proposed. The consultation clause is simply designed to ensure that the International Bank will have an opportunity to. communicate any views that it may wish to express concerning the possible effects of any such borrowing proposals on the carrying out of the Loan Agreement.
The second covenant is known as the negative pledge clause which records the mutual intention of the Commonwealth and the bank that no other external debt shall enjoy any priority over the present loan by way of a lien on public assets. The Commonwealth undertakes that if any lien should be created on any assets of its own or of its agencies to secure an external debt, such lien shall equally and rateably secure the payment of principal and interest and other charges on the present loan. The Commonwealth also undertakes that, within the limits of its constitutional powers, it will make the undertaking effective with respect to liens on assets of the States and territories and their agencies. Honorable members will, of course, be aware that the Australian Government, which is, in practice, the sole borrowing authority on behalf of itself and the State governments, does not, as a matter of policy, give a charge over public assets as security for a loan.
The third covenant provides that principal and interest and other charges on the loan are to be paid tax free, and without restriction on the part of the Commonwealth, the States, and the territories, or any of their agencies. This does not prevent the taxation of payments on bonds issued in connexion with the loan where such bonds are beneficially owned by Commonwealth residents. The practical effect of this taxation clause is to put the International Bank loan on the same footing for taxation purposes as Australian dollar loans raised on the open market in New York.
The purpose of all three covenants is, of course, to protect the interest of the governments which are members of the International Bank and which would ultimately have to bear any losses the bank might incur as a result of its lending operations. Australia,’ as a member of the bank, has an interest in the insertion of standard clauses of this kind in all loan agreements concluded by the bank.
The terms and conditions of the Loan Agreement as a whole compare favorably with those of previous International Bank loans to other countries for comparable periods. Beyond all doubt, it is well within our capacity to meet the interest and repayment charges on this loan. I point out that during recent years there has been a remarkable reduction in the real burden of our external debt. In 1949-50 our interest payments abroad amounted to only 3 per cent. of our export proceeds as against 41 per cent. in 1930-31 and 23 per cent. in 1938-39. On this loan, the amount that we shall have to provide abroad will, at the maximum, be 7,356,000 dollars a year, equal to £A.3,280,000, and this will not only provide for interest but will repay the loan by September, 1975. Against this relatively small annual commitment we shall have the use of a great quantity of productive plant and equipment of the most vital kinds, which will undoubtedly contribute in a major way to the upbuilding of our production strength in both primary and secondary industry. I have no hesitation in saying that, in my belief, this dollar loan transaction will prove to be one of the best bargains that this country has ever made.
I shall now describe briefly the imports that are to be financed under the loan. The broad categories are -
Tractors and other agricultural equipment.
Industrial crawler tractors and earthmoving equipment.
Locomotives and rail-cars (including component parts therefor) and ancillary railway equipment.
Mining machinery and equipment.
Plant for development of productive capacity in the following industries: -
Paper making and paper working, including printing.
Glass making and working, including ceramics.
Chemical and pharmaceutical.
Boot and shoe.
Taking these categories briefly in turn, I refer, first, to tractors and other agricultural equipment. Here, the equipment to be obtained will be of great importance in increasing the production of basic foodstuffs to meet the growing needs of our own expanding population and of our traditional export markets. Our requirements of wheeled tractors are now being largely met by local production and by imports from easy currency sources. There are, however, certain types of high clearance and special duty tractors of the wheeled type which can be obtained only from the United States. Imports of wheeled tractors under the loan will be limited in the main to these specialized types. The loan will, however, make possible substantial additional imports of crawler tractors required for clearing undeveloped land. Wheeled tractors are not suitable for heavier clearing works and the additional crawler tractors needed for the development of new agricultural areas are at present available only from the United States. War service land settlement schemes and other rural development projects have, up to the present, been seriously handicapped by the lack of sufficient tractors of this type. Other types of agricultural equipment which we are not producing ourselves, and which we can buy only in America-, will also be imported under the loan.
The second category is industrial crawler tractors and earth-moving equipment. Honorable members have heard a great deal about the need for increased imports ‘of heavy and medium crawler tractors for use on essential developmental projects by both public authorities and private industry. This is a field in which American manufacturers have specialized, and although other countries, including the United Kingdom, are embarking on the manufacture of the higher powered class of crawler tractor, the United States will, for some time to come, be virtually the only source of supply. The increased flow of imports of crawler tractors under the loan will make- possible a general acceleration of public works programmes such as road building, water conservation schemes and hydro-electric projects. It will also be particularly valuable for timber-getting and other branches of private industry.
The third category takes in locomotives, railway rolling-stock, and various kinds of ancillary equipment and parts required by our railway systems throughout the Commonwealth. Since 1938-39 freight traffic on Australian railway systems has increased by some 50 per cent., and passenger traffic has increased by some 40 per cent. Little replacement of rollingstock was possible during the war years and afterwards. Even ordinary maintenance has presented the greatest difficulties because of manpower and material shortages. Every effort has been made, and must continue to be made, to put our railways on a sounder footing by increasing local production of rolling-stock and by supplementing what we can make ourselves by imports from the United Kingdom and easy currency European sources of supply. Some types of equipment are, however, available only from the United States and, in other instances, the United States is the only country that can offer deliveries quickly enough to meet our demands. It is vital to our security as well as to our economic development that the carrying capacity of our railways should be rapidly increased.
The fourth category, mining machinery and equipment, is also of vital importance. Coal is the fundamental element in Australia’s industrial economy, and machinery required to step up coal production will be given high priority among the imports to be financed under the loan. Machinery for other branches of the mining industry will also be eligible for inclusion under the loan where the machinery is of a type which cannot be obtained from non-dollar sources.
The fifth category covers plant for the development of productive capacity in major manufacturing industries in Australia. The severe restrictions imposed cn the importation of plant and equipment from North America in recent years have retarded technological _ development in many branches of Australian secondary industry. The availability of loan funds will not, of course, mean that Australian industrialists will be given licences to import whatever they may want in the way of new plant and machinery for dollar sources. They will still be required to produce evidence that the plant and machinery are needed for developmental purposes and cannot be obtained from non-dollar sources.
The loan will, however, permit a substantial increase in the rate of imports of specialized plant and equipment from the United States of America and Canada. It would be difficult to assess, in money terms, the benefits that will accrue from such imports in the way of increased output and reduced costs in the field of Australian manufacturing as a whole. The Australian Government is not itself a large user of capital plant and equipment for developmental purposes. State governmental and semi-governmental agencies are more directly concerned, but the great bulk of the goods to be imported under the loan will be used by private firms or individuals, for the purpose of expanding the output of Australian primary and secondary industries.
I shall now outline the method by which the proceeds of the loan will be made available. All the goods to be financed under the loan will be imported and distributed to users through the normal channels. There will be no departure from ordinary trade practices. The importer, having secured a licence to import goods under the loan, will be able to order them from the supplier and to pay for them through his own bank in exactly- the same way as does the holder of an ordinary dollar import licence. The Government has no intention to set up any new system of government procurement. All that is needed to meet the objectives of the loan is a procedure which will supply the Australian banking system with the dollars necessary to enable payment to be arranged for the additional goods for which licences are granted to importers. It has been decided that the best and simplest way to achieve this end within the framework of the Loan Agreement, is for the Australian banking system itself to provide, in the first instance, the dollars to cover payments falling due on goods imported under the loan programme. The Australian banks will do this in the ordinary course of business, in the same way as they have been providing dollars against dollar import licences in .the past. Schedules of dollar payments for goods imported against loan licences will then be submitted to the International Bank from time to time by the Australian Government through the Australian Consul-General in New York. These schedules, with appropriate supporting documentation, will form the basis for periodical drawings by the Commonwealth against the loan. This procedure will enable the drawings to be related directly to the actual dollar cost of eligible goods which have been paid for by Australian importers through the normal banking channels. As .each drawing against the loan is made the Consul-General will arrange for the remittance of the funds to the credit of the Commonwealth in Australia with the Commonwealth Bank’s head office in Sydney. In effect, this remittance will amount to the transfer of the dollars by the Government to the Commonwealth Bank, in exchange for a credit in Australia of an equivalent amount in Australian currency. Thus the dollar holdings of the Commonwealth Bank, which will initially have been depleted by the payments made for loan goods, will be periodically replenished.
As I have said, the Commonwealth Government will be receiving Australian currency in its bank account in Australia. The Government is not bound, under the Loan Agreement, to use these Australian currency amounts in any particular way. However, it was not the Government’s intention in approaching the International Bank to obtain finance for Australian currency expenditures. Accordingly, the bill provides that the Australian currency amounts shall be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund, and that the National Debt Commission shall be obliged to meet repayments of principal to the International Bank when they become due. In effect, therefore, the loan provides its own sinking fund. It is necessary to exempt this loan from parts of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act. Otherwise the Commonwealth Government would be obliged to pay normal Sinking Fund contributions in addition to the Australian currency amounts paid in to the Sinking Fund. The bill provides that interest payments and other charges shall be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. As the loan has been arranged to increase the availability of dollar exchange for imports of goods essential for national development purposes, it is proper that the interest charges should be borne by the community as a whole.
Progress of operations under the loan is being kept under regular review by a Dollar Loan Advisory Panel. The panel consists of representatives of the Commonwealth departments primarily interested, and its chairman is the Secretary of the Department of National Development. Reports are submitted by the panel from time to time to the Cabinet Committee on Overseas Commercial Relations, in order to keep Ministers informed and to obtain any policy directions that may be required. The issue of licences for goods under the loan has already commenced and is being expedited because of the importance of getting Australian orders for key items of equipment included in the production schedules of American manufacturers as quickly as possible. “With the gathering momentum of defence programmes, the demands on North American production are growing daily and the supply situation is rapidly tightening. Up to the 17th November this year loan licences to a total value of £A.11,200,000, or 25,000,000 dollars had been authorized, and importers to whom licences have been granted have been advised to place firm orders for the goods without delay.
As I have already mentioned, the International Bank is willing in principle to participate during the next five years in the financing of the Australian developmental programme. The president of the bank has offered, if the Government so desires, to send officials of the bank to Australia to gain a closer knowledge of our developmental programmes, and to consider with us to what extent bank participation may, in all the circumstances, be necessary and justified. The Government welcomes this offer, and although no definite date has been fixed it is expected that a visit by officials of the International Bank will be arranged early next year. In the meantime, our immediate needs for the key types of dollar plant and equipment will be covered by the 100,000,000 dollar loan, which is the subject of the bill now before the House and although, as I have said, the fact that we are obtaining additional imports of essential plant and equipment under the loan does not mean that there can be any relaxation of economy in general dollar expenditure, it does mean that one of the worst obstructions to industrial expansion in this country is being removed, and the path cleared for progress of a vital and permanent character. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States in connexion with the administration of the control of prices and rents.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Fadden and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the continuance during 1950-51 of the reimbursement of the States on the same conditions as have applied in previous years for the costs incurred by them in administering controls over prices and rents. After the States assumed responsibility for controls over prices, rents, and land sales in 1948, legislation was enacted by the previous Government to provide that the Commonwealth would reimburse the States for the costs incurred in the administration of those controls during the remainder of the financial year 1948-49. That Government also reenacted the legislation the following year to cover the position up to the 30th June, 1950.
Land sales controls have been abandoned but the States are still exercising controls over prices and rents. The present Government has agreed, on request from the States, that they should be reimbursed for the costs incurred by them in the administration of these controls. The bill, therefore, provides for an extension of the period of reimbursement to the end of the financial year 1950-51. In order that the States will not be out of pocket during the year, it is again provided that advances may be made from time to time. These advances will be conditional upon the submission of audited statements of expenditure, and these statements will form the basis of final adjustments with the States at the close of the year.
During’- the period of approximately nine months in the financial year 1948-49, when the States first assumed responsibility for the administration of these controls, the reimbursement grants amounted to £597,410.’ Similar grants during 1949-50 totalled £706,392. On the basis of estimates supplied by the States it is expected that £660,000 will be required during the current year. The decrease in the rate of expenditure by the States is mainly attributable to the abandonment of land sales control.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for a grant of financial assistance to the States in connexion with the importation of houses into Australia.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks the authority of Parliament for the payment to the governments of the States of up to £300 for each house they import into Australia, up to> a maximum of 30,000 houses. The grant is to be subject to certain conditions which I shall describe later. It is limited to theam ount needed to reduce the average cost,, erected, of the imported houses to that of comparable Australian houses. The previous Government, in October, 1949,. offered to assist States in the importation of houses by the payment of overseas, freight and duty up to the amount of £300 on each of the houses they importup to the number of 10,000. This Government extended that offer in two respects;, first, so that it was not longer limited tofreight and duty, and secondly, where previously no more than £300 could bepaid on any one house, the limit was made an overall average of £300 a house.. If the full £300 is not needed on one house or batch of houses in order to bridgethe gap between the cost of the imported house and its Australian counterpart, thapart not needed may be used to bridge thegap in some other house or batch of houseswhere the excess cost of the imported’ house is greater than £300.
The Government earlier this year sent, overseas a delegation representative of States and Commonwealth which was successful in meeting a large number of British and European housing prefabricators, and seeing their organizations. That delegation was called the Overseas Prefabricated Housing Mission. It wasaMe not only to obtain valuable firsthand knowledge of the potentialities and the standing of prefabricated house manufacturers, but also to learn the manythings that the Australian authorities seeking houses from abroad required to know. This overseas mission issued a comprehensive report stating, amongother things, that Australia could reasonably expect to be able to obtain from overseas 20,000 houses by the end of 1951 and 40,000 a year thereafter.
– Was the reportmade public?
– Yes, I sent it to variousdepartments and authorities whom I thought would be interested. It was a bulky report, and in the interests of economy I did not have it printed.
– Did that number include prefabricated houses from Austria ?
– A limited number.
– Have those negotiations fallen through?
– I had a rumour to that effect investigated and I do not believe that it is true. I shall develop that matter with the honorable member later.
What effect has the Commonwealth initiative had? When the Government made its first offer a year ago the only Australian State in which a tangible interest in the importation of prefabricated houses had been shown was Victoria, where houses had been ordered from abroad by the Victorian Railways Department and the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. As a result of the first Commonwealth- offer made by the previous Government, orders were placed by two States. During the last two months we have seen a dramatic quickening in the tempo of the States’ importation programme springing directly, I believe, from the Government’s more generous offer and from the work of the Overseas Prefabricated Housing Mission.
Let me review progress very briefly. Orders for imported houses actually placed by States pursuant to the Commonwealth offer, or in an advanced stage of negotiation, now embrace more than J 3,000 houses with an option for 6,000 more if initial contracts are satisfactorily performed; that is, 19,000 houses in all. The countries of supply are -
Preliminary negotiations are also proceeding for a further 5,000 houses. These are in apposition to 2,150 houses for the
Victorian Railways Department and the
State Electricity Commission of Victoria. I referred earlier to certain conditions that the bill imposes. These conditions are, first that the houses must be approved by the Commonwealth. This will mean, in practice, that the Commonwealth experimental building station-; must be satisfied about their structural sufficiency, durability and workmanship.
Secondly, subsidized houses are primarily to be placed in areas producing coal or steel or where activities essential for national development are carried on. They will be allotted, first, to workers engaged, in these essential activities; and subject to satisfying these primary requirements, the State housing authority will allot them on a basis of need to be agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the State. These houses will be used to attract workers to those vital basic industries on which the whole economy depends, namely, coal, steel, transport, power and water conservation. In war-time the State ensures that the labour needs of these vital industries shall be met first; but in a democracy that is not formally in a state of war men are not told where they must work; they can only be persuaded. An offer of a house that is situated near a vital industry is very persuasive in a house-hungry world. Imported houses, being prefabricated, can readily be made available where they are needed most. Overseas firms and workers who have just arrived here have as yet no roots in Australia, and are often readier than the Australian to go anywhere. Thus, imported houses lend themselves to being the shock troops of Australian housing; they have value beyond their numbers in building muscle into the Australian economy. Honorable members will note from the bill that assistance is to be made available in respect of houses that are imported by a State or the housing authority of a State. This provision will include not only the Housing Commission of each State but also such public utilities as a State may nominate. That is an appreciable widening of the subsidy provisions. The definition of “ housing authority “ is wide enough to cover public utilities of a State. They are included, first, because they carry on precisely the vital activities that I have already spoken of as being basic to the economy as a whole; and, secondly, they have resources, such as serviced sites, technical skill in engineering or architecture, and administrative facilities, in addition to those of the housing commissions, which can thus be utilized in the importation programme.
It might be helpful if I anticipate some questions that may arise in the minds of honorable members. Why do we need to import houses at all? Why can we not rely solely on Australian industry to provide the houses that we need? We must import houses because we need many more houses than we can build at present; and we need them now. Time is of the essence of the contract. Australia has undertaken an immigration programme which, in proportion to our numbers, is greater than that which has been achieved by any other country, including even the United States of America. When World War II. ended Australia was short of its needs by perhaps 150,000 houses, apart from replacement of old and unfit houses. The housebuilding industry was disorganized during the years of war. Now, five years afterwards, by great effort and the eschewing of less necessary forms of building, we are approaching a completion rate of 60,000 houses a year. Although this is 20,000 houses more than the target that was set in 1939, it still falls short by probably 30,000 houses a year of the number that is needed solely because of marriages and migration. The building industry is hampered by shortages of materials which are due basically to a shortage of coal. Even if we had sufficient materials we should still need many more building workers. These are growing pains that Australia can, and will, outgrow. The new Australians who now help to increase the demand for houses will, in due course, help us to overcome our housing problems. But that is to-morrow, what of to-day? We must not turn back the clock in immigration. A greatly increased population is indispensable to our continued existence as a nation. If we turn away immigrants now, the chance to obtain them may not come to us again. Yet, housing is the sine qua non of our immigration programme. We must have these houses now. Houses that are imported are completely equipped with all scarce fittings, and workmen to erect them arrive with them. They are thus a clear addition, and about the only clear and immedate addition that we can make, to the present flow of houses.
I shall now describe briefly the contribution that the Government has made in other ways, and is still making, towards solving the housing problem. First, it has ordered for its own purposes 2,582 houses from overseas, of which nearly 2,000 should be delivered by June and the balance by the 31st December, 1951. Of £7,000,000 provided in the Estimates for this financial year for the housing of its own employees, including service personnel, £4,000,000 is estimated to be needed for these imported houses and £3,000,000 for Australian-built houses. For war service homes the current minimum provision is £25,000,000, including £10,000,000 in the form of loans for new construction. In the current year the provision for Commonwealth advances under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement is £26,000,000. The Commonwealth is expending £11,000,000 for migrant hostels and for accommodation required under the national service scheme. Together with £1,500,000 for subsidies on imported prefabricated houses, the total Commonwealth commitment foi housing is £70,000,000 in respect of thb current financial year. The ‘Commonwealth during this financial year will build, or finance, approximately 22,000 houses, including houses to be imported by the Commonwealth itself or which qualify for subsidy under this bill. In addition, approximately 20,000 immigrant hostel beds will be provided from the sum of £11,000,000, to which I have just referred. Allowing four persons to a house, this would be the equivalent of a further 5,000 houses. In total, therefore, the Commonwealth will during this financial year build, or finance, accommodation for well over 100,000 persons, which will easily constitute a record in this sphere.
Not only has the Government been alive to the advantages of imported houses but it has also encouraged the importation of other buildings, such as, prefabricated factories, schools, hospitals and the like, and the value of these buildings amounts to approximately £4,000,000. The Government has encouraged largescale importation of building materials and fittings in short supply locally. This has included the policy of waiving or reducing, as far as is consistent with existing’ trade agreements, the customs duty on imported building materials. In February, 1950, the Commonwealth agreed in principle that, where Australian production of building materials was clearly inadequate to meet the present level of demand, protective tariff duties served no useful purpose and led to an inflation of building costs and a discouragement of imports required now for vital industrial purposes. Therefore, the Government continued, and extended, the policy of granting free entry or reducing rates of duty. As an indication of what that policy means, latest available figures indicate that the value of building materials which are being imported is now at a rate of over £30,000,000 a year. The annual figures of imports of materials for building and construction are -
The Commonwealth has encouraged overseas building and construction firms, mostly from Britain, to move their organizations, plant and workers to Australia and establish them here. Last March, the customs duty was reduced on plant and equipment brought to Australia by any firm establishing itself in thebuilding construction industry or in estate development. This concession permits the duty-free admission of plant and equipment of United Kingdom origin, provided the plant and equipment have been in the possession and use of the firm for at least six months before shipment and are to be retained in the firm’s possession and use for at least twelve months after importation. Duty concessions granted in respect of plant and equipment not of United Kingdom origin are to be consistent with the Ottawa Agreement, that is, no lower rate than 121/2 per cent. ad valorem to be applied unless the concurrence of the United Kingdom is first obtained These concessions operate until the 31st March, 1951. At present, the Commonwealth is in touch with the United Kingdom Board of Trade, seekingits concurrence in an extension of the operation of duty concessions on imported houses and building materials of other than United Kingdom origin.
The Government has given the utmost aid that it can to the building industry by the selection of migrants with suitableskills, and by their placement where they are most needed to remove the bottlenecks in our production of essential buildingmaterials and to aid in site preparation and on-site construction. Migrant labourhas been provided for brick making, steel making, forestry, mining, and transport. Amongst the arrivals in the two years- 1949 and 1950 there were some 8,000 building tradesmen. It is expected’ that in 1951 10,000 building tradesmen will arrive in Australia.
As I said earlier, the overseas mission reported that 20,000 houses should beavailable from abroad by the end of 1951 and 40,000 a year thereafter. That estimate, of course, is subject to the march of world events. The world-wide rearmament programme already threatens our supplies, affording another reason, if weneed it, to act now. Serviced sites may prove a difficulty but we may be able to get - indeed, we already are getting -help from overseas in road work and onsitework.We may have no option, if we areto make the most of the houses available, but to accept less for the present by way of services than we might be willing to accept in other circumstances.
All the houses that are being imported by housing authorities are built to theState Housing Commissions’ own plans and specifications, and will be designed for Australian conditions. They will have to be accepted by the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station as to structural soundness, durability and workmanship; they will be as comfortable and at least as well equipped as Australian houses constructed of similar materials being built by State housingauthorities. Sample houses recently erected in South Australia, to which later houses in the contract must conform, are of good standard, and the whole- appearance, both externally and in ternally, is pleasing. An Australian contractor who is erecting one of these prototypes spoke highly of the workmanship and timber. The imported house will, in general, be difficult to distinguish from an Australian one.
The contract prices accepted by States for construction and erection range from approximately £1,700 to £2,250 for a two-bedroom house. The larger houses are somewhat dearer. The South Australian Housing Trust has indicated that the sales price of its houses, each of three-bedrooms and covering an average area of 960 square feet, will be, after crediting the Commonwealth subsidy, from £1,925 to £1,950 complete including all land, fences, administration, &c. The prices vary fairly widely in different : States, due in part to the varying sizes and different materials of the houses as well as the country of supply.
An adequate flow of imported houses is dependent upon supplies from several overseas countries, including not only those where, because of favorable cost factors, prices are lower, but also others where the costs will be higher. That is why this bill proposes to average the assistance given. A greater sum than £300 a house would be needed to induce the flow from the dearer-cost countries, but if the Commonwealth were to raise the subsidy to the figure needed for them, it would be an invitation to all tenderers to raise their prices, and the States would have little motive in self-interest to resist. Averaging, whilst still limiting the Commonwealth responsibility to a maximum of £300 a house and giving in total no more than is needed to reduce the imported houses to local cost, permits assistance, where needed, of more than £300 per unit, but leaves the incentive for every State to keep each contract as low as possible. As prices now appear, the average cost of imported houses will be £300 above the cost of comparable local houses, but if it is more than £300 above, it will not be so greatly in excess as to make the Commonwealth offer ineffective. As far as we can see now, £300 will be sufficient, but not more than sufficient, to stimulate the ordering of the houses Australia needs.
It is difficult to say just when the Commonwealth will be called upon to pay the sums provided. An amount of £1,500,000 has been placed on the Estimates for the current financial year, and should prove adequate. The payment in 1951-52, it is estimated, may be £4,000,000, leaving £3,500,000 for 1952-53. Honorable members may wonder why the Parliament shouldbe asked now to provide for commitments two or three years hence. The answer is that the orders from which those payments will flow will need to be given in the immediate future. It takes . an appreciable period for on-site work to be done, and for the States to make their arrangements to call for tenders, examine them and accept the suitable ones. That is why we have to look ahead.
From the stand-point of the Australian economy as a whole, the importation of prefabricated houses is anti-inflationary and represents a great saving in man-power and materials, in comparison with locally built houses. Probably over 70 per cent. of the erected cost of a prefabricated house represents the cost of the imported components.
– Did the Minister say 70 per cent.?
– Yes. The figure varies greatly in the several States, but we believe that 70 per cent. is a fair average.
– It is about 331/3 per cent. in Victoria.
– No; that represents the cost of the overseas components. Importations of prefabricated houses reduces the pressure on the Australian building industry and on the industries producing building materials and components.
Australia must have more houses in the years immediately ahead.With all
Ave can do ourselves, there is still in these immediate years a gap between the houses we ourselves can build and those we need. This gap can be bridged at least in part by the importation from overseas of complete houses, and, so far as is possible, their erection by workers from overseas. We are making every possible effort to ensure that they will be well built, durable, comfortable and well equipped. They will be used in a special way to aid our vital industries.
The Commonwealth is importing houses for its own needs and this bill is designed to stimulate their use in the much wider field which under the Constitution belongs to the States. I believe it is well designed for the purpose, and I commend it to honorable members as a milestone in our national development.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom BURKE) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.1^5 to.2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 30th November (vide page 3437), on motion by Mr. Francis -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The provisions of this bill for the increase of both war pensions and service pensions, the removal of time limits on the eligibility for benefits of wives and children, the payment of gratuities to widows upon their remarriage, and the payment of pensions and general benefits to members who have served in operations in Korea and Malaya, have the whole-hearted support of the Opposition. This is one of the few matters on which all parties are in agreement. However, there are several points to which I wish to direct attention. The bill provides for a change in the administrative procedure so that in future, appointments of assistant commissioners will be made under the terms of the Public Service Act. What is the purpose of that provision? Under the existing law, the Minister for Repatriation is ultimately responsible for the administration of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, but very wide discretion is vested in the assistant commissioners. Thus, in practice they have a great deal of independence - perhaps too much independence in some respects. I should like the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) to explain why such a provision is contained in this bill, the primary purpose of which is to deal with other matters.
Another matter to. which I direct attention may appear to be unimportant at first glance, but it merits examination.
Clause 26 provides for an amendment of section 48 of the act, which deals with medical reports. Honorable members who are familiar with the administration of the law in relation to repatriation will appreciate the significance of medical reports. Section 48 of the act imposes upon a doctor who is to report upon any claim the obligation to state his opinion upon certain questions. Should he have any doubts on those matters, he is required to report upon the facts, state that he entertains doubts, and indicate the nature and extent of his doubts. The section now relates to compensation in respect of the death or incapacity of a member of the forces as the result of accident or some other circumstance that occurred during the period of his membership of the forces. It is to be amended by clause 26 to refer to “ war service “ instead of generally to the period of membership of the forces. That involves a narrower concept than that of the existing law. I sincerely hope that the departmental administrators are not attempting to take advantage of this occasion in order to alter the language of the act so as to reduce the scope of benefits because of rulings that have been given in the past in favour of applicants. While I was AttorneyGeneral, I had a great deal to do with disputed applications. During that period the Attorney-General’s Department repeatedly gave rulings which were broader and more favorable to the applicants than were those of the Repatriation Department. I hope that my fears are groundless, but I suspect that the intention underlying clause 26 is to narrow the field of benefits. Clause 42 (g) provides for the amendment of section 101 of the act, which contains the following sub-section : - (1a.) For the purposes of paragraph (b) of the last preceding sub-section but without affecting the generality thereof, the incapacity or death of a member shall be deemed to have arisen out of his service as a member if it was the result of an accident which happened to him while travelling directly to or from his place of employment as such member or was, in the opinion of the Commission, due to an accident occurring or to the contraction of a disease or an infection which would not have occurred or been contracted but for his being a member of the Forces or but for changes in his environment consequent upon his being such a member.
The relevant subject-matter of that subsection is membership of the forces, not any specific war service. However, clause 42 provides for the omission of the sub-section and the insertion of the following sub-section: - (1a.) For the purposes of paragraph (6) of sub-section (1.) of this section but without affecting the generality thereof, the incapacity or death of a member shall be deemed to have arisen out of his war service if it was the result of an accident that happened to him while travelling directly to or from his place of employment on war service or was, in the opinion of the Commission, due to an accident that occurred or to a disease or an infection that was contracted, and that would not have occurred or been contracted but for his being on war service or but for changes in his environment consequent upon his being on war service.
The proposed new sub-section refers generally to “ war service “, not to membership of the forces. Both of the proposed amendments to which I have referred indicate an apparent contraction of the scope of benefits for members of the forces and therefore of the liability of the department. A further provision of the same character, which will affect section 101, is included in the bill. Section 101 (1,) (d) provides that the liability of the department to pay pension does not arise until the termination of service of a member. Clause 42 now proposes that the liability shall not arise until the termination of service or the 1st July, 1951, whichever date occurs first. The purpose of that is that the service of a member of the forces shall be covered by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act until the 1st July next, but that subsequent service shall be covered only by the ordinary provisions for members of the forces generally.
I have had considerable indirect experience of the administration of the repatriation law, because of the practice, which has prevailed for a long time, of referring to the Attorney-General test cases that have arisen from applications for benefits. Frankly, my opinion is that too narrow a construction is placed upon the provisions of the repatriation law by its administrators. I can think of half a dozen cases in which the Solicitor-General gave opinions which were subsequently given effect. It should be the responsibility of the Minister to examine all cases personally. There is a .tendency to construe some of the provisions of the act in a way not sufficiently liberal. Honorable members are familiar with the provision which gives the benefit of the doubt to an applicant or appellant. Its effect is that where a doubt exists as to whether the man’s war service contributed to his disease or disability the doubt shall be resolved in his favour.
An elaborate code of liability is set out in the bill, but the success of an application depends very largely on .the way in which it is presented to the entitlement tribunal or the appeal tribunal. The Labour Government established the Commonwealth Legal Service Bureau to assist the serviceman .to put his case .before the tribunals. Difficulty was experienced because some of the officers of the Repatriation Department objected strongly to Commonwealth assistance being given to an applicant or appellant in presenting his case which, if successful, would involve the Commonwealth in further payments. However, I maintain that, unless a ?ase is put to the tribunal by a person who is familiar with the provisions of the act, and to whom the applicant can look with confidence, there is grave danger of the application failing. In hundreds of cases, the files have become enormous in size and very complex because a faulty decision was given at an early stage. I ask the Minister to encourage ex-servicemen to avail themselves of the Commonwealth Legal Service Bureau which is free to applicants, and which works in close cooperation with service organizations. Otherwise, there is a danger .that the applicant may become enmeshed in legalisms, and lose heart. The Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act, which has resulted from the efforts of many governments, is a fine piece of legislation, but it is a hard act .to administer, because of the wide discretion given to the Repatriation Commissioners. I ask the Minister to keep a close watch in order to ensure that benefits shall not be cut down. I do not suggest that the provisions of this bill will necessarily have that effect, but they might be used in that way.
.- The introduction of this measure provides one of the few opportunities which honorable members have to say something about repatriation. I offer my congratulations to tie Government for honouring still another of the promises that were made by its supporters before the general election on the 10th December last.. The people of Australia agree that the country has an obligation, not only to the men who served in the forces but also to the widows and children of those who failed to return. We are fortunate in that there are organizations which have done much to fill the gap left in homes to which the fathers did not return from service. It is the duty of the Commonwealth to ensure that the standard of living of war widows and their young children shall be equal to that which they would have enjoyed had the husband and father returned. Since I have been a member of this House I have received the friendliest co-operation from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), and in the course of my com- munity service in South Australia I have always worked in the closest association with the Repatriation Department. I know that war widows are very grateful that so much has been done for them. I have been disturbed, however, about the provision of housing for war widows, and it does not seem to me that the Commonwealth has discharged its responsibility in this respect. In South Australia, too, much has been left to the State Government. In 1917, an act was passed through the Parliament of South Australia, the purpose of which was to assist war widows *te obtain houses. Under that legislation the > State Government provided half the capital cost of a house, and the widow was able to take up residence on a rental basis, paying only 7s. 6d. a week. The property was exempt from rates and taxes for five years. A war widow, after living in a house for six months, had the right to buy it. ‘ Many of them availed themselves of the opportunity, and to-day own the freehold of their homes. South Australia has also set an example to the Commonwealth in connexion with the housing of the dependants of servicemen of the 1939-45 war. I was associated with a deputation to the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, to discuss this subject. He is an ex-member of the first Australian Imperial Force, having served in that very distinguished unit, “the 27th Battalion, which also included in its ranks our present Speaker (Mr. Archie Cameron). As a result of negotiations, an arrangement has been made with the Housing Trust in South Australia under which it has shouldered a responsibility that really belongs to the Commonwealth. There are between 60 and 70 war widows residing in housing trust houses, and the rents are 13s. 6d. for a three-roomed house and sleepout, 14s. 6d. for a four-roomed house and sleepout, and 15s. 6d. for a fiveroomed house with sleepout. I cannot help but think that if the Commonwealth authorities were to study the position in South Australia, particularly regarding war service homes, they would change their attitude towards war widows with young children, who are now regarded as o bad risk. Discussions have taken place between Government supporters and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Casey) with a view to affording relief and security to war widows, to whom the country owes so much.
I am confident that this legislation will be acclaimed throughout Australia. 1 was always distressed by the attitude of preceding governments towards women who married ex-servicemen after 193S. They and their children were debarred from participating in repatriation benefits. That provision constituted a grave reflection on the character of the women concerned. In many cases they have had to go to work to keep body and soul together and after returning from their places of employment each day they have had the responsibility of continuing to nurse their husbands. Overtures were made to the Labour Government, which was asked to ensure that this position should be corrected and that these people should at least receive a pension equal to that received by de facto wives who, provided they had lived with a civilian for three years, received a pension and also an allowance in respect of their illegitimate children. The Government now proposes to restore to a section of the community a degree of respect that has been taken from them and I am sure that that action will be widely acclaimed not only by the recipients of these payment? but also by all those who are interested in the general welfare of service personnel and their dependants.
I consider that the widow who decides to re-marry takes a step in the right direction. A war widow who wishes to accept the responsibilities of marriage again should be placed in a position to clothe and maintain herself in keeping with the position that she will occupy. The proposal to make provision for the war widow who has decided again to assume the responsibility of marriage is to be commended. I entirely agree with what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said on this point. The consideration of matters that affect the welfare of those to whom we owe so much should not be influenced by party politics. It should be the responsibility of all honorable members to do everything that they can to fulfil the obligation that we have to that gallant section of the community. I have been privileged to make contact with these people and I know something of the work that has been done by the legacy clubs which exist throughout Australia. I know the interest that those clubs have taken in the legal, health and educational problems of the war widows and what they have done to assist the children of these women to obtain suitable employment. Australia owes a lot to these people who have done so much to assist the Commonwealth to give effect to what would be the last wish of every fallen serviceman by ensuring the general welfare of those whom they left behind.
I commend the bill to the House and suggest that the Governme nt give earnest and serious consideration t.> the provision of housing for these people and to ensuring that war widows shall be placed at least on an equal footing with the widows of civilians. The Government should also ensure that as a result of the terrific sacrifice that they have made the remainder of their lives shall be made reasonably happy and comfortable and free from worry concerning the great problem of housing. I am delighted at having had the opportunity to say a few words on this bill.
.- I consider reference to a repatriation measure to be incomplete without first paying some tribute to the various soldiers’ organizations which, from the 191.4 war period to the present time, have been ever active in advancing the welfare of their members. I refer to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the limbless soldiers’ . organizations, the blinded soldiers’ organizations, the war widows’ organizations and a number of others whose work has been of a magnificent character. The pressure exercised by these organizations has had an influence and an impact on governments of all political types. I do not believe that the repatriation act would be so effective as it is to-day had it not been for the magnificent work that those organizations have done. All. the requests that they have made have not been acceded to. I do not know of any organization of any character that has had its requests granted in their entirety. However, I think that a tribute to these ex-servicemen’s organizations is well deserved and should always be paid.
Honorable members of the Opposition support this bill. We consider that it will effect a substantial improvement of ‘the existing act. We regret that the promise that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made during the general election campaign that he would appoint ‘a parliamentary committee to confer with representatives of ex-servicemen’s organizations . on this very t important matter has not been given effect. I remind honorable members that in 1942, in the very midst of the conflict that we have recently passed through, the government of the day, which was . i .led by the late John Curtin, realized that the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was due for an overhaul. In the light of the war in which Australia was engaged new circumstances had arisen and it became essential for some amendments to be made to the act, particularly in respect of the rates of pension and the class of people to whom they are paid. By virtue of that realization .and in view of the pressure exerted by the various ex-servicemen’s organizations, the then Prime Minister decided to appoint an all-party parliamentary committee which very promptly prepared what at the time was a reasonably satisfactoryreport. The present Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and ex-Senator Lamp were members of the committee and I bad the honour to be chairman of it. I believe that the government of the day adopted the report in its entirety. The parliament of the day proved itself to be a little more generous than were the recommendations of that committee. That’ was desirable, particularly as far as the payment of an extra allowance to the first child was concerned and the payment on a more generous basis of benefits to returned soldiers who suffered from tuberculosis. I take my share of responsibility for the report of that committee as I am sure the Minister for the Army would do. But running through the minds of the committee at that time may well have been the thought that, as this country was in the midst of the greatest war that mankind had ever known, had we been as generous as all of us would like to have been the Government might find itself unable to make the payments recommended, in the event of our casualties being fearfully heavy. For that reason I have always been keen to achieve at the earliest possible moment a liberalizing of the provisions of the 1943 amending act and of the allowances generally.
The Chifley Government in 1948 made some liberalizations of the pensions and allowances payable under the act. But whatever increases’ were made in rates of pensions and allowances and other repatriation benefits, under no circumstances could they have been considered adequate in view of the sacrifices that had been made by the people dealt with. Possibly that applies more particularly to war widows than to any other section of repatriatees. The woman who has been robbed of her choice of a life partner is the most deserving of any section of the people who benefit under the act. “Whilst admittedly soldiers themselves suffer it has always seemed to me that their sufferings are never of the same magnitude as are those of their former dependants whom they have left behind them. I have no doubt that the Government realizes what problems the former government had to meet in connexion with this matter. The needs of the depen- dent children of any widow, however she may have been widowed, are heavy. However, although even this legislation does not liberalize the act to the degree that most honorable members would like to see it liberalized, the Government can take some credit for having made an attempt to improve the lot of war widows. Without wishing deliberately to reflect on the Government, I say it is unfortunate that, in spite of its promise to appoint an all-party committee to deal with repatriation payments generally, it has not seen its way clear to do so. It is regrettable, too, that the introduction of this legislation has been delayed for so long. Surely six months would have been a reasonable time to allow for the Cabinet sub-committee to review the act, and for the Government to prepare this amending measure. It is now almost a year since the Government was elected, and the increases provided for in the bill will not be of the value to the recipients that they would have been had the measure been passed, six months ago. The failure of the Government to combat the rising cost of living will rob the pension increases provided for in this legislation of much of their value. In fact, they will be of no value at all before long unless bold steps are taken by the Government to stabilize the economy.
I regret that the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) marred an otherwise fine speech by criticizing the Curtin Government for not having amended the act in 1943 to extend repratriation benefits to wives and children of all ex-servicemen, regardless of the date of marriage. I do not suggest that the honorable member deliberately sought to introduce party politics into the debate, but I remind him that the original repatriation legislation, passed by an anti-Labour government, provided that only wives and children of ex-servicemen married prior to 1931 should be entitled to repatriation benefits. In other words, if an exserviceman had the good fortune to fall in love after 1931 and to marry and become the father of a family, members of that family were not entitled to repatriation benefits. That limitation remained until 1943, when, upon the recommendation of the repatriation all-party a committee of this Parliament, the time limit was brought forward to 1938. The committee held the view - and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who was a member of the committee, must accept his share of the responsibility as I do - that it was unlikely that, after 1938, many exservicemen of the first world war would be marrying. However, the returned soldiers proved gamer than we had thought, and I congratulate the Government upon the elimination by this legislation of what has become a serious anomaly. In some instances, substantial benefit will be enjoyed as the result of this liberalization. I maintain, however, that no reflection upon the Labour Administration is warranted because the anomaly has existed throughout the administration of governments of all political complexions. In addition, of course, some responsibility must be accepted by the all-party committee of 1943. 1 hope that the Government will take steps to offset the delay in the introduction of this legislation, by ensuring that the purchasing power of repatriation pensions and allowances shall be maintained, thus obviating the necessity to amend the act at frequent intervals to cope with increased living costs. I applaud those clauses of the bill which provide more generous treatment for exservicemen who have been robbed of their speech or hearing. I commend, too, those provisions which remove apparent anomalies. Particularly do I welcome the generous increases of pensions payable to war widows. I trust that the measure will have a speedy passage in order that the recipients of these increases may receive them as soon as possible.
.- I, too, congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure. Exservicemen and their dependants throughout Australia are fortunate in having as the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) a man with such a sympathetic outlook and wide experience of exservicemen’s problems as he has. I had hoped that this measure would be discussed on non-party lines, but unfortunately, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) does not seem to be able to leave party politics or the purchasing power of the fi out of any speech that he makes.
This measure has been introduced by the Government at the earliest possible moment. The entire Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act has been reviewed by a sympathetic Minister and this legislation will eliminate many anomalies. I have had experience of repatriation matters ever since 1918. When the first act waa passed, I was the secretary of a subbranch of what was then the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. The people of Australia wanted to do the right thing; by ex-servicemen and their dependants. Repatriation was something: new to this country, and the system that is now operating so efficiently is the result of the application of the principle of trial and error. Quite’ a number of anomalies in the original act soon became apparent and they were gradually eliminated. I sincerely hope that this bill will meet the wishes of the various ex-servicemen’s organizations. I believe that it will do so. The Government has approached the problems of repatriation in a forthright manner, and is endeavouring to do a good job. I am sure that all honorable members will cooperate in giving this bill a speedy passage through this House.
.- I am in complete accord with what has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), but I have one or two suggestions to make to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) through his representative in this chamber. There is no division of opinion among honorable members on what should be done for our exservicemen. There is a large number of returned servicemen in my electorate, and for years past I have dealt with many of their repatriation claims. There are still many returned men from World War I. who are not yet receiving all the repatriation benefits that they should receive. I have in mind a man who is receiving a burnt-out pension, and is now suffering from a chest complaint. He has been trying to obtain hospital treatment through the Department of Repatriation, but has been denied it because the department maintains that his chest complaint is not due to his war service. I contend that any man who served in tha military forces in either of the two world wars should have hospital treatment from the department whether his disability is due to war service or not. The man to whom I have referred is unable to follow his usual occupation because of his chest complaint. He made application to the Repatriation Commission and to the appropriate tribunal to have his disease recognized as due to war service, but, as I have said, in vain. I consider that some discretionary power should be given to the Minister to permit him to sanction hospital treatment of such people, who certainly made sacrifices for their country fin war-time.
– Can the honorable gentleman tell rae if the chest complaint towhich he has referred is tuberculosis?
– I do not know whether or not it has been diagnosed as tuberculosis, but it is at least a very severe chest complaint. If he were suffering from tuberculosis, of course, he would naturally receive a pension on that account. I consider that he should have been given hospital treatment. His is not an isolated case I am sure that the records of the Department of Repatriation will show that he contracted pneumonia in Belgium while he was undergoing very serious surgical operations there during World War I. He sought medical attention from an imperial medical officer, who told him that he must apply to his own Australian medical officer for treatment. Eventually, he was put into hospital. In order to carry out his duties to his country, he enlisted again during the last war, met with an accident, and was discharged from the forces medically unfit. Yet he still is denied the right of medicaland hospital treatment from the Department of Repatriation.
Another case that came before me recently concerns a man who is receiving a 100 per cent. disability pension. He had a very serious attack of gallstones, but the department would not recognize his complaint as being due to war service. He endeavoured to obtain hospital treatment in a public hospital in Sydney, but was unable to gain admission. He could have gone to a private hospital for an operation, but that would have cost him about sixty guineas,’ an amount that he could ill afford; so, instead, he suffered without treatment for about six or seven weeks before eventually he was successful in being admitted to Sydney Hospital, where an operation was performed on him.That man should have had hospital treatment in a repatriation hospital, but was denied such treatment.
My remarks are not intended to be in criticism of the bill, which contains many provisions that will greatly benefit exservicemen. However, there is one other matter to which I shall refer. Recently I placed before the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for reconsideration the case of a man who made an application in connexion with the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme some time ago, but met with a rejection. That young man, who is, I believe, in receipt of a 100 per cent. disability pension, decided after he had left the forces to train under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme as a chemist. As honorable members know, a small weekly allowance is paid to such trainees. It was not sufficient to permit the young man to meet his financial responsibilities. His people, unfortunately, were unable to assist him financially, so he decided to discontinue his training and to resume his former employment with the Department of Road Transport in New South Wales, for a few weeks at least. He contracted pneumonia and, after leaving hospital, decided to resume training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. He has been refused permission to resume that training. I have asked the Minister to reconsider that case because I consider that a young man who went to the war, and who is 100 per cent. incapacitated, is entitled to some consideration. The allowance of £3 5s. a week paid to trainees under the scheme is not sufficient to maintain such people and to enable them to meet their responsibilities at home, such as assistance in the upkeep of aged parents.
Those are some of the matters that I desire to bring before the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. That Minister should have some discretionary power in relation to such borderline cases as I have mentioned, of which there are not many.
A large number of men who served in World War I. are now getting on in years, and must actually be suffering from some disabilities. Generous treatment should be meted out to them by the Government.
– I rise to join the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in supporting this bill. There are many anomalies in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and also the Social Services Consolidation Act. Ever since I have been a member of the Parliament I have had representations made to me concerning some of those anomalies, and I take this opportunity to bring them under the notice of the Government.
I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on the provision that he has made for the supply of motor cars to legless and other totally incapacitated or immobilised exservicemen. Ever since I was elected I have been urging the Government to make such provision.
– The previous Government refused to do so.
– Never mind about that now. The matter has been fixed up, and the Labour party is accordingly very glad about it. I turn now to the case of an ex-soldier who is in receipt of a 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, disability pension. He lives in the highly industrialized Sta te. of New South Wales. Very often he is unable to follow his occupation because he becomes off-colour, and may become 100 per cent, incapacitated instead of 50 per cent, incapacitated. At such times he is unable to work, and the only source from which he can augment his pension of £1 15s. a week is ny means of the unemployment and sickness benefits of £1 5s. a week, which makes hi9 total weekly income, while ill, £3 a week. Employers to-day do not wish to employ a man unless he is able to work full time, so that when such a man applies to the Social Services Department for employment in an occupation in which he will perform light duties, he is usually informed that there i9 no such employment available. He may be an intermittent sufferer, and because of that is unable to fully follow his occupation.
I now wish to deal with widows .who were the dependent mothers of soldiers who lost their lives during World War II. Those widows, under this legislation, will receive a pension of £3 10s. a week, which is an increase of 10s. a week. However, a means test is applied, which permits them to earn only an additional 6s. a week, I submit that that is totally inadequate;Some of those women may be under 50’ years of age and capable of ‘being employed in industrial undertakings,, thereby assisting production. I consider that the means test in relation to such women should be liberalized and that they should be permitted to earn much more than Cs. a week with which to augment their pension. Under this proposed amendment a 50 per cent, incapacitated soldier will benefit only to the amount of approximately 8s. a week because of the increased pension rate. I consider that the ceiling rate should be raised in order to provide those ex-servicemen with an income at least equal to the basic wage;
I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister the circumstances of exservicemen who are suffering from war neurosis and to suggest that they be given special consideration. Clinics in which they may receive treatment should be established, and they should not be required to attend at a hospital or an asylum in which they would have to associate with mental patients. Some ex-servicemen’s organizations in New South Wales suggest that they should be permitted to establish their own clinics; and that they should be assisted by means of a government subsidy. Totally and permanently incapacitated ex-soldiers, who also may be neurosis cases, should, be provided with periodical rail tickets’ to enable them to travel to holiday resorts and thus enjoy a change of atmosphere or environment. Honorable members will no doubt agree that those ex-servicemen are not able to visit such places at their own expense on the pension that they receive. Hostels also could be established. - 1 agree with the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) that ex-servicemen who become ill because of complaints not associated with war disabilities should be entitled to receive treatment in military hospitals. I support the bill. ‘ ‘ -
– A matter has been raised during this debate which is not completely relevant to the bill before the House, although it is cognate to it. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) mentioned war widows, who of course are affected by this measure and also by the war service homes legislation. The situation is that any war widow, under the War Service Homes Act, is eligible to apply for a war service home, and such women make application for war service homes in considerable numbers. I have consulted the Director of War Service Homes and am able to inform the honorable member for Boothby that between 3 and 4 per cent, of the total number of war service homes erected have been built for war widows. There is also an additional privilege given to war widows and the widowed mothers of servicemen, in that the period of repayment is spread over 50 years, as distinct from 45 years in the case of other applicants for war service homes. Furthermore, if a war widow, having occupied a home either in her own right or as the wife of a living serviceman, desires to carry on the home, a compassionate provision may be invoked in her favour at the instance of the Minister concerned. Under that provision her repayments may be reduced to an entirely nominal figure. There have been several instances during my administration of the act of my having authorized reduction to a token payment of ls. a week. There are not many such cases, but there are some. I instance that in order to show that war widows, in relation to war service homes, are treated with the greatest compassion, which, of course, is entirely correct.
– I take it that that is done only where the case warrants such compassion ?
– That is so. It is done in cases of need and not as a general, rule. The war service homes administration frequently asks war widows who apply for homes, especially if they have one or no dependant, whether they would accept a single bedroom house with sleepout, which of course can be built much more cheaply than the normal house of 8$ or 10 squares. It is remarkable that very few of them desire to occupy a house of that size. Most of them ask for two ot three bedroom houses. The matter has been raised not only by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay), but also by three or four other honorable members on this side of the House who are ex-servicemen. I have mentioned those matters in order to demonstrate that war widows could not be more generously treated than they are under the War Service Homes Act without imposing an added burden not only on the taxpayers but also on the building industry. I need hardly point out that at the present time the building industry cannot carry any further burdens, without impeding the construction of homes for the community.
– There is” little that one can say about the bill except to commend it wholeheartedly. However, I desire to say something about the treatment of neurosis in ex-servicemen, because I consider that some mistaken ideas are entertained by the community concerning that condition. For instance, many wellmeaning people have advocated the establishment of special clinics for the treatment of neurosis in ex-servicemen. In that connexion I point out that the great majority of cases of neurosis are quite different from psychiatric disorders, and that neurosis is just as common in the civil population as it is in exser.vicemen. I consider that we may be doing a disservice to ex-servicemen by fostering the belief that it is a disease peculiar to them and that it is one which requires to be treated by segregating sufferers from the community and giving them special treatment. Indeed, one consequence of such segregation would undoubtedly be to aggravate the anxieties of the sufferers. I desire to make it quite clear, however, that when I refer to neurosis I do not include cases of insanity, for which the treatment is quite different. In my opinion, there is far too much talk nowadays about the need for specialized treatment for neurosis, and I think that it is time that we cleared our minds of a number of hazy notions about that disease. Neurosis is a condition of mind that may be caused by a number of factors. It should not be imagined that war service and experiences of the war years are the sole cause of that condition. As a matter of interest, I point out to honorable gentlemen that during the war years there were actually fewer cases of neurosis among the population of Great Britain than there have been in the days of peace since the war. It is common for people to imagine that neurosis is brought about only by war service, and that sufferers from that complaint require to be segregated from the community and given special treatment. In the great majority of cases of neurosis the proper treatment is not to segregate the sufferers but, on the contrary, to encourage them to maintain contact with their local medical practitioners, who can do more for them than can special institutions.
– in reply - May I say how much I appreciate the way in which the Parliament has received this measure and the high level on which the debate has been conducted ? I express particular appreciation of the response made by all honorable gentlemen to the Government’s proposal. I desire to refer briefly to several matters in connexion with the legislation. I point out that it contains nothing that will reduce or contract in any way any of the privileges enjoyed by pensioners. The whole purpose of the measure is to liberalize the benefits of the act and to correct anomalies in it. It is now 30 years since legislation was first introduced to provide for repatriation benefits, and during that period the repatriation authorities have acquired a vast store of experience and knowledge.^ The measure that has now been placed before the Parliament represents the fruit of that knowledge, and I doubt whether any administrative legislation that has ever been introduced to the Parliament is as near perfect as this measure is.
In the course of the debate, attention has been drawn to the repeal of certain provisions in the principal act which concern the appointment of repatriation commissioners. It is intended that in future the office of assistant commissioner shall only be held by a person who is employed under the provisions of the
Public Service Act. The reason for thai amendment is that it is necessary to ensure that no person shall be appointed an assistant commissioner unless he has served in the Repatriation Department and has acquired a thorough knowledge of the department’s activities. Only in that way can we ensure that the senior officers responsible for the administration of the Repatriation Department are properly qualified to discharge their duty to ensure that ex-servicemen obtain all the benefits under the act to which they are entitled.
Reference was also made in the course of the debate to the Legal Service Bureau. The legislation concerning the bureau is most complex, but I believe that its administration will be simplified in practice by the operation of this measure. Of course, there has always been the closest co-opera-,, tion between the legal service bureau and the Repatriation Department. The work performed by the bureau on behalf of ex-servicemen has been most valuable, and I express my appreciation of it. Most of the other matters mentioned in the debate will be covered by my assurance that the bill does not in any way restrict or contract any of the privileges or rights enjoyed by ex-servicemen under the existing act.
The honorable member for Boothby mentioned the important matter of providing proper housing for war widows, but I think that the remarks made by my colleague, the Minister for “Works and Housing (Mr. Casey) have clarified the position. Mention was made of the position of women who married ex-servicemen after 1931 and have since become widows. In order to put the matter in proper perspective, I shall review briefly the history of the treatment of war widows after 1931. At that time Mr. Scullin was Prime Minister, and he had to confront the many problems caused by the depression. The Premiers Plan was invoked, and under that plan all wages, salaries and pensions were substantially reduced. Mr. Scullin invited the representatives of exservicemen’s organizations to come to Canberra to discuss with him the best method of effecting a reduction of war pensions so as to cause the least hardship. It was agreed that the total expenditure upon pensions should be reduced by a certain figure. When means of effecting the reduction were considered,’ it was decided that pensions should not be paid to ex-servicemen in respect of wives married and children born, after the 30th June, 1931. When the depression ended, the Lyons Government was asked to restore pensions to their previous level, and it did so, but no provision was made for the removal of that time limit. The ex-servicemen themselves agreed that its removal should be deferred for a little longer. In 193S, ex-servicemen’s organizations requested that the time limit be removed and the Government decided to extend it to the 30th June, 1938, on the understanding that the question would not be raised again. It has been raised again and the Government has acceded to the requests that have been made to it.
I associate myself with the tribute that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) paid to ex-servicemen’s associations for the manner in which, for many years, they have- assisted this Parliament to improve legislation dealing with repatriation and war service homes. 1 believe that most of our repatriation legislation originated at meetings of subbranches, district branches and State executives of ex-servicemen’s organizations. Recommendations were forwarded to federal congresses, which discussed them and carried appropriate resolutions. Those resolutions were conveyed to the government of the day and examined by Cabinet. In many instances, they appealed to the Government, which accepted them. In that way, exservicemen outside the Parliament made recommendations to ex-servicemen in the Parliament. I join with the honorable member for Lalor in paying tribute to ex-servicemen for the manner in which, in safeguarding the interests of their colleagues, they have assisted the Parliament and given a lead to it in the improvement of repatriation legislation. T pay tribute to the honorable gentleman for bis work as chairman of the all-party parliamentary committee that was established during the last war to consider repatriation matters. He did a fair job and the committee did good work in helping to improve repatriation legislation.
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) expressed his appreciation of this measure and saw fit to pay tribute to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for the very thorough work that he is doing. I associate myself with that tribute. The Minister, as a disabled ex-serviceman, knows of the pain and anguish that are suffered by disabled ex-servicemen. His naturally sympathetic nature has become even more sympathetic as a result of his own disability. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) referred to the case of an ex-serviceman of World War I. who is “ burnt out “ and suffering from a chest complaint, but is unable to secure what he considers to be just treatment.
– He should receive hospital treatment.
– It is rather late in the day for the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) to talk about what should be done. The Labour party was in office for eight years. An ex-serviceman who applies to the repatriation authorities for assistance deals only with ex-servicemen. He goes to the Repatriation Department in the first instance and reports that he is suffering from a disability which is attributable to his war service and that he wants medical attention . and a pension. Then he is medically examined and submits a claim for a pension. When he has submitted the claim, the onus is upon the repatriation authorities to .prove that the disability from which he is suffering is not due to war service. If his claim for a pension is rejected, he can appeal to a tribunal, the members of which are exservicemen. The medical officers who examine ex-servicemen and submit reports upon them to the Repatriation Department or the appeal tribunals are all ex-servicemen and, therefore, may be expected to give other ex-servicemen every possible consideration. The onus of proof provisions have been of great assistance to ex-servicemen and, since they have been in operation, the percentage of successful appeals has increased. If the honorable member for Lang will supply the Minister for Repatriation with details of cases of which he has knowledge, I am surf that the Minister will examine them carefully and sympathetically.
I think that the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has been indulging in some confused thinking. If he submits to the Minister forRepatriation the cases that he raised in the course of this debate, I am certain that the position will be clarified. The pensioner to whom the honorable gentleman referred, who has been assessed as suffering from a 50 per cent. disability, receives a pension of £3 10s. a fortnight in respect of himself. £111s. 6d. a fortnight in respect of his wife, and11s. 6d. a fortnight in respect of any children that he has. If his incapacity increases, he can apply for an increase of his pension. If he needs hospital treatment for his disability, he can receive it at a repatriation hospital. If he goes into a hospital,he will immediately be paid a sustenance allowance equivalent to a 100 per cent. pension.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 48 agreed to.
Clause 49 (Interpretation).
Amendment (by Mr. Francis) agreed to-
That, after proposed new sub-section (5.), the following sub-section be added: - “ (6.) In sections one hundred and fourteen mid one hundred and fourteen A of this Act any reference to member of the Forces includes a reference to a deceased member of the Forces and any reference to persons who are dependent on a member of the Forces includes a reference to a person who, but for the death of a member, would have been dependent on the member.”.
Clause further verbally amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 50 to 62 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 3311), on motion by Mr. MoEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this bill. As has been explained by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), the purpose of this measure is to return to wheat-growers the tax of 2s. 2d. a bushel paid into the stabilization fund in respect of the 1947-4S crop. As the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) will recall, the 1947-48 pool was an acquisition pool. It has been claimed that the action of the Chifley Government in providing for the acquisition of the 1947-48 wheat crop was entirely unjustified. All I can say in reply to such a contention is that the proposal was supported by every State government. Honorable members and wheat-growers generally will recollect that at that time, after many years of war-time acquisition, we had just begun to enter an era of peace. The crops of 1944-45, 1945-46 and 1946-47 had been acquired and plans had to be made for the marketing and handling of wheat in the.peacetime era. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation, of which the honorable member for Riverina is a member, agreed to the continuance of the wheat stabilization plan which had been adopted as a war-time measure and supported the plan evolved by the Government: Following a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council and discussion with the federation the Chifley Government adopted a plan and submitted it to the- growers and to the State governments for acceptance or rejection. Some of the States accepted the plan with the reservation that before it should become operative it should be endorsed by a poll of growers. In the poll that was subsequently taken an affirmative vote was recorded in favour of the plan. Whilst the plan was not in the exact terms desired by the federation it represented the limit to which the Chifley Government was prepared to go. The decision that the 1947-48 pool should be a taxable pool was an integral part of the plan. It was then realized that a break between the ending of the war-time scheme and the commencement of a peacetime scheme would be very inimical to the interests of the industry. The plan was discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in August, 1947. At that conference, representatives of the States approved of the further use by the Commonwealth of its war-time powers for the acquisition of the 1947-48 crop only, and they decided to endeavour to pass complementary legislation through the State Parliaments for the marketing of the 1948-49 and subsequent crops. The conference unanimously carried the following resolution : -
This conference -
reaffirms its previous decision in respect of the need for a wheat stabilization plan for the wheat industry ;
endorses the decision to continue war-time powers for the 1947-48 crop only; and
recommends an early special meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers of Agriculture to work out a plan satisfactory to all governments.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting very wide of the bill, which deals with the repayment of certain money that has been collected by law.
– I agree, Mr. Speaker, that I have strayed from the bill in an attempt to give a brief historical survey of the facts that gave rise to this legislation. A comprehensive survey would occupy the time of this Parliament for a week. So far from being a ruthless plan, it was in fact agreed to by the sane elements in the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and by all State Premiers, irre spective of political party affiliations. It was operated so successfully by the Commonwealth that it is now possible to refund to the wheat-growers the contribution which they made to the 1947-48 pool. The present Government had nothing whatever to do with this matter, and, in providing for the repayment of the tax it is merely giving effect to a promise made by the previous Government. It is not giving to the wheat-growers a charitable hand-out, nor is it adopting a new policy; it is merely carrying out the policy which was laid down by the Chifley Government.
– The Chifley Government did not intend to repay the money to the growers.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who knows nothing about this subject, is merely trying to bait me. As proof of the intention of the Chifley Government to repay the money to the growers, I quote the following paragraphs from a press statement which I issued early in 1948 when I announced details of the scheme: -
Stabilization contributions already collected on the 1945-46 and 1946-47 crops will be distributed to growers not later than December, 1948, in proportion to their deliveries to the Wheat Board, but no further distribution from the fund will be made except when Cabinet approves in the light of the position at the time.
After dispersal of the 1945-46 year contributions, £20,000,000 will be regarded as the reasonable minimum for the fund. The scheme will be reviewed before the end of the 1951-52 season. ,
That statement clearly shows that it was the intention of the Chifley Government to return these contributions to the growers as soon as the fund became sufficiently stable. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that the fund had received large amounts from the last three wheat pools, the total collections from which amounted to £37,500,000. He also stated that a further £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 was due to be paid into the fund in respect of the 1949-50 crop. That would bring the total amount -of cash in the fund to at least £42,500,000. The Minister also stated that the amount to be collected from the 1950-51 crop would be of the order of £10,000,000. Therefore, at the end of the 1950-51 crop sales and tax collections, the wheat fund should have a cash strength of approximately £53,000,000. In 1948 the former Labour Government decided that the fund would be regarded as sufficiently strong if it had a credit balance of £20,000,000. At that time very few people considered that the fund would ever become a9 stable as it is to-day. It was not expected that the high prices then being obtained for wheat would continue for such a prolonged period. Although the Government proposes to refund to the wheat-growers only £16,400,000, the strength of the fund justifies a refund of at least £25,000,000. If a fund of £20,000,000 was considered to be adequate in 1948, that strength should be even safer now, in view of the high prices that are still being obtained for wheat. I should have preferred the Minister to be more frank about this matter. The real reason why the Government is not making a disbursement to the second oldest pool, that of 1948-49, is that it is fearful of the inflationary effect that the subsequent refund would have on the Australian economy. The wheatgrowers know that the fund is overstrong, and that the Government should distribute another £10,000,000 or £15,000,000. If Labour was in office the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) would probably describe it as a confiscatory government, and contend that it was unnecessarily withholding a vast sum of money from the wheatgrowers of Australia. The Government has followed the principle enunciated by the Chifley Government that payment should be made to the oldest pool. The Minister concluded his speech by saying -
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce this bill. I am confident that this example of the Government’s policy of providing for the welfare of Australian wheatgrowers will meet with the support of Parliament, and will be universally approved by the Australian public.
I applaud the sentiments that the Minister expressed, but at the same time I point out that had it not been for the previous Government this plan would not have been in operation. The Minister was one of Labour’s strongest opponents when the plan “was introduced. Some time ago the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), while acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture during his absence abroad, stated that, by virtue of ministerial interference with the 1947-48 wheat sales, the wheat-growers of Australia had been robbed of £3,000,000.
– Order ! I think that the honorable member’s remarks are wide of the bill.
– During the debate on the Estimates I shall have an opportunity to convey the truth of this matter to the wheat-growers of Australia. They will realize that they have received £6,500,000 above what they would have got under the Australian Wheat Board’s proposition. I support the measure before the House, and I trust that before long the Minister will introduce another bill to grant more refunds to the wheat-growers. I hope also that he will confer his blessing on the scheme that he actively opposed, but which has conferred great benefits on the wheat-growers.
.- I congratulate the Minister for having brought down this bill. I also congratulate the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for- the amicable manner in which he has expressed the support of the Opposition for this bill.” I shall be pleased if the measure is passed expeditiously. I listened with a great deal of interest, not only to the honorable member for Lalor’s speech, but also to that of the Minister. This bill is abundantly necessary, for three reasons. It is a political calamity that this tax has not been refunded earlier to the wheat-growers. I deplore, as I have done before, that the honorable member for Lalor did not, in 1948 and 1949, when he was in office, think in the terms of his words to-day, and take steps to refund this money to the wheat-growers. The honorable member for Lalor indicated, but did not say, that the tax in respect of No. 11 pool was and is invalid. This bill will restore to the producer* that which rightly belongs to them. The tax is invalid, not because I have said so, nor because the Australian Wheat Growers Federation has said so. It is invalid because of the decision of the High Court of Australia, which is the last court of appeal available to the people of this country.
– What about the Privy Council?
- Mr. Justice Rich, in his judgment, stated the position perhaps more lucidly than the other five judges, when he said -
If £X is the just price, then you cannot pay £X less a tax; you must pay £X.
For that reason, if for no other, I contend that the levying and collection of this tax was invalid. In addition to its being invalid - and goodness knows that ought to be sufficient - the imposition of this tax was a breach of faith by the Chifley Government in which the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. When, as Minister, he was introducing the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill in 1948, he said-
The Commonwealth agrees that it will not hold an excessive amount in the Fund and it will consider a refund of tax to the oldest contributing Pool whenever the financial prospects of the Fund justify it.
He agreed on the ground of invalidity to refund the tax that had been wrongly levied and collected in respect of No. 9 pool, but because his Government wanted to retain the sum of £16,000,000 and use it to the prejudice of the wheatgrowers and primary producers generally, he failed during the subsequent two. years even to consider the introduction of legislation to repeal the relevant measure. In 1948, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who was then a prominent opponent of the Labour Government’s proposals, when speaking on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, said -
Notwithstanding the terrible crop failure of 1045-46, the Labour Government withheld from wheat-growers millions of pounds actually received from export sales. It took the same action with regard to the 1046-47 and the 1947-48 crops.
We declare that that was, in our opinion, illegal, and, beyond argument, most unjust and harsh.
We moved in this Parliament two years ago to have that money repaid to the growers.
The Labour Government declared repeatedly that it would not repay this deduction but now, the High Court has shown that our claims were right, both in law and in equity and the Labour Government has to disgorge to these rightful owners £11,000,000 wrongly withheld in respect of the 1945-46 and the 1946-47 crops, but it is not to refund the £15.500,000 that it holds from the 1947-48 crop deductions, which, we are sure, is just as illegal and unjustly taken from the growers.
Surely the statements that I have just quoted demonstrate that this bill cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as a generous gesture by the Government. It would be more accurate to say that it is remedial legislation that is designed to correct a wrong that was perpetrated by the previous Government.
In addition, this tax which was levied in respect of No. 11 pool is now redundant as the result of action that the honorable member for Lalor took when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Immediately after he had introduced the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill in 1948, which was originally designed to solve all the problems of the industry, he arranged for Australia to become a party to the International Wheat Agreement, which had the effect of destroying the wheat industry stabilization scheme and rendering totally unnecessary the establishment of a stabilization fund of any description because the minimum price provided for under that agreement is higher than the guaranteed price under the stabilization scheme whilst the period of the agreement is precisely the same as that in respect of the guaranteed price. For those three reasons - invalidity, breach of faith and the’ fact that a stabilization fund of any description is now redundant - this measure is more than justified. I agree with the honorable member for Lalor that the Government, having introduced this measure to correct that wrong should, in order more fully to achieve that estimable purpose, introduce further measures to correct other wrongs that the honorable member for Lalor perpetrated against the wheat-growers when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. This money should be refunded to those to whom it rightly belongs.
– My remarks on this measure will be brief. The time must come when arguments and complaints of the kind that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) has made and which are made so continuously must be settled one way or another.
– Hear, hear!
– I say “Hear, hear!” too. Under the laws of this country nu property can be acquired from the wheatgrowers except upon terms that are just. A great case was commenced in the courts to test the validity of the arguments that the honorable member has just advanced. I understand that he was involved in the organization of that case. He is entitled to do that. However, the Australian court held that the terms of acquisition were just. What I want to put to the House about the record of the Curtin and the Chifley Governments - and I believe my observation applies also to the Menzies Government prior to the Curtin Government - is that during a period of emergency the only practical method’ of marketing the products of individual wheat-growers is through a pool. Any other method is completely impracticable, because there is no established market. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), when he was a member of the Opposition, would say from time to time, in effect, “ Well, here is a market in South America where the price is higher than that which is to be paid through the pool “. And, because of that fact the honorable member claimed that every single wheat-grower, as a matter of justice, was entitled to that price, the assumption being that every individual grower could get his wheat to the market in South America, or wherever it was claimed a higher price was obtainable.
– I have never said that. Dr. EVATT- I accept the Minister’s denial.
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the question of just terms of acquisition has nothing whatever to do with the bill.
– To some degree, the honorable member’s submission is correct. However, I allowed the previous speakers a considerable degree of latitude and I am prepared to hear the right honorable member for Barton on the aspect with which he is dealing. At the same time, J ask him to be brief.
– If you, Mr. Speaker, are prepared to give me a little latitude I shall not take extended longitude.’ The honorable member for Riverina com plained during the last general election campaign and he has complained since he has been elected to this Parliament that a wheat-grower whose property was put into the pool was robbed of that property because his wheat was not acquired on just terms. The remedy lies with the courts.
– The case is still sub judice.
– It is, but only in one sense.
– Does the right honorable member say that this matter was sub judice?
– In the legal sense, but it is not in the real sense. The High Court decided against the claim. The Privy Council was approached, but said that it had no jurisdiction in the absence of a certificate of the High Court. No application has been made to the High Court for a certificate.
– Application has been lodged for such a certificate.
– I say that the claims made politically by the honorable member are claims which are not based upon justice. The Labour Government and other governments saved the wheatgrowers from ruin by the pooling of wheat.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that the case to which the right honorable member is referring, obliquely if not directly, the Nelungaloo case, is still sub judice, and the right honorable gentleman has admitted that to a certain extent it is so. I understand that the matter has not yet been finally discharged by the Privy Council, and 1 therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is in order in referring to the case either directly or indirectly?
-If the matter is still sub judice in the sense that legal action has not been completed, then it cannot be discussed.
– I shall forget all about the legal aspect. I shall deal with the matter without any reference to the law. The wheat-growers were saved from ruin “by the system of pooling adopted by governments during the war and since. At that time there was no practical way of marketing their product except through government pools under producer control or conducted in consultation with growers. It was a socialistic scheme and it involved the use of a special instrumentality to see that justice was done to the wheat-growers. The criticism by the honorable member for Riverina of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and Mr. Scully, a previous Minister, is completely unjustified. Not one request was made by the honorable member for Lalor or Mr. Scully, in the interests of the producers of the country, that was not acceded to.
– That is not so.
– Every request made by the Minister to Cabinet was approved, and I hope that the honorable member for Riverina will realize that in pursuing this argument of injustice he is concealing the truth of the matter, which is that the producers and the wheat-growers were treated with justice and generosity by the Government of those days. If that is considered not to be so, a remedy is available in the courts of law to which I shall not further refer because of your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– I am not prepared to enter into a legal argument with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) ; but I have listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) and have read the speeches made earlier by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and I have formed the opinion that the collection of the taxes involved in this measure was illegal. That is also the general impression in wheatgrowing areas. I represent perhaps the biggest wheat-growing area in Queensland and T therefore desire to contribute some remarks to this debate. The bill before the House resembles the Wheat Tax (Repeal and Refund) Bill of 1948, which was introduced by the honorable member for Lalor when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. That bill recited that the collection of the wheat tax in respect of the 1945 and 1946 crops was illegal and the money was refunded for that reason. I remember the honorable gentleman saying that the collections for the 1947-48 pool would not be refunded. Since then, the discussions have been held which were mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina. It is extraordinary that ‘ the Minister, in introducing this bill, did not refer to illegality at all, but merely said that it was the policy of the Government to repay in rotational order the contributions of the various pools. That general statement is not likely to be satisfactory to the growers, and their confidence in government schemes must be restored. To restore that confidence, the Minister should not only pay out the money illegally held, but should commence the repayment earlier on a rotational basis. The honorable member for Lalor suggests that £25,000,000- should be repaid, but I think that the sum should be more. In reading the present Minister’s speech, made when he was in opposition in 1948, I was interested to find the following statement, which appeals to my sense of fairness : -
I refer to the principle of private ownership of property. The right of a man who plans, works, invests capital and takes the risks of production, to be allowed to enjoy the benefits of ownership of that which he has produced.
The wheat-growers have been the milking cow of the community for a long time. That milking has been done under the guise of stabilization. No one knows better than the Minister that that is true, and I recommend that he read his own second-reading speech upon the Wheat Stabilization Bill 1948, which I thought was excellent. I am sorry that in the light of that speech he has not taken earlier steps to introduce legislation which would give something more to the wheatgrowers and restore their confidence.
The position of wheat-growers in Queensland is not as- happy as that of wheat-growers in New South Wales. Queensland growers have not an exportable surplus of wheat, and the conditions existing to-day threaten them with the loss of half of their crops. If that happens we shall not have enough for ourselves. With all its great possibilities for development,
Queensland could have had a large surplus of wheat had it not ‘been for the legislation of previous governments, which restricted the efforts of the growers. When the honorable mem’ber for Lalor was introducing the 1946 wheat legislation he said -
No more than a reasonable fund is required.
The amount of money required was not stated. The fund, which stands now at £44,000,000, is surely big enough in anybody’s language. In view of the large contribution by the growers to the national economy of £35,700,000 in 1947, and the total contribution of over £100,000,000 to date, surely the Government can deal more generously with the wheat-growers and ultimately refund all the funds that it holds. I do not think a home stabilization scheme is necessary now that we have an international wheat agreement. I feel sure that if the Government will make an appropriate statement on the matter, the confidence of the growers will be restored, and a big impetus will be given to the wheat industry in Queensland. I assure the Minister that wheat growing in that State is retrogressing, because growers lack confidence in the future.
I have already stated that the large stabilization fund is not now necessary because of the International Wheat Agreement, which the preceding Government entered into and which, presumably, is supported by the present Government. We have made a considerable contribution to that, insofar as we have to accept a lower price in order to get a guaranteed price in future. Is it necessary for the wheat industry to have two stabilization schemes ? I suggest that two of them are a luxury which the industry cannot afford. The position to-day is that the industry is wholly dependent on the export price. If there is no surplus, or if the price falls to a level below thehomeconsumption price, the wheat industry will be ruined. I can only hope that the International Wheat Agreement will prove sufficiently worthwhile to give us a lasting guaranteed price. The Government apparently has sufficient confidence in that agreement. In view of the International Wheat
Agreement the guaranteed homeconsumption price, for which this fund has been established, becomes meaningless, because it does not cover the cost of production. The position in Queensland this year is grim. The repayment of some of the money in the fund would be of tremendous benefit to the growers.
Costs of production in the wheat industry have always been difficult to assess, because many ‘ growers have other interests as well as wheat, such as sheep and mixed farming. However, in the Dalby district and on the Darling Downs many of the newer farmers are engaged wholly in the production of wheat, and it is possible to arrive at the exact cost of production.
I have calculated the cost of producing a bushel of wheat on a 640-acre farm. The average yield of wheat in Queensland over the years is 18.6 bushels an acre. I ask the House to bear with me for a few moments while I give the figures that constitute the cost of production.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to this bill, which provides only for the refund of a sum of money from the Wheat Stabilization Fund. I have allowed a certain amount of latitude to each speaker in this debate, but the honorable gentleman’s remarks are not relevant to the subject under discussion.
– I am endeavouring to show the need for the payment of additional moneys from the stabilization fund, and for an increase of the home-consumption price, particularly for wheat-growers in Queensland, and I should like, if I may, to give certain figures in connexion with the cost of working a 640-acre farm. The figures given in the following table are conservative -
Assuming capital to be worth 4$ per cent., we can summarize the above as follows : -
Approximately 20 acres of a 640-acre farm would be used for fencing, roads, buildings, &c. Therefore, the cost of growing 620 acres of wheat, at an average of 18.6 bushels an acre, is £4,452, or 7s. 9d. a bushel on the farm. To that cost must be added the charge of carting the wheat to the grower’s siding, which is 4d. a bushel, bringing the total to 8s. Id. The present guaranteed price for homeconsumption is 7s. Id. for bulk and 7s. lOd. for bagged wheat. Consequently, the grower incurs a loss of approximately 3d. a bushel on the home-consumption price. Those figures prove that the grower depends solely upon the export market - the price guaranteed under the International “Wheat Agreement.
– Who compiled those figures ?
– They are my own figures.
– Where did the honorable member get them?
– I come from a wheat-growing district. I assure the House that those figures are conservative. As a matter of fact, a newcomer to the industry could not make a start on such a conservative basis. Costs are rising every day. I have allowed the grower £12 a week for management. The committee which investigated the cost of production in the wheat industry allowed him a wage of £6 10s. a week. Yet the lowest paid hand in the industry receives more than £6 10s. a week. What does the committee think growers are? The farmer is expected to be satisfied with a return of £6 10s. a week for his labour, and management of the farm, in addition to risking his capital. A guaranteed price implies some risk, but I suggest that the Government is not taking any .risk. The contributions to the fund over a period amount to more than £100,000,000. It seems to me that the Government is not dealing fairly with the wheat-growers. If the overseas price should fall, and the growers should be paid the price that has been guaranteed by the Government, they will be thrown to the wolves, as they have been in the past. I urge the Government either to increase the homeconsumption price considerably, or to make a. more substantial payment from the stabilization fund, with the ultimate objective of disbursing the whole of the moneys in it. An amount of £44,000,000 is now held in the fund. It will be reduced by £16,000,000 under this bill, but the balance of £28,000,000 will be increased by proceeds from the 1950-51 crop. All this control of the wheat-growing industry has seriously affected production in Queensland. The Scully wheat plan, as it is known, had a particularly retarding effect on the development of the industry in that State, where wheat-growers are, comparatively speaking, engaged on a large scale; that is to say, they produce more than 1,000 bags of. wheat per annum. It is the duty of the Government to encourage an increase of wheat production in Queensland, for the reasons that I have given, namely, that that State has no exportable surplus under normal conditions, and cannot even nearly meet its requirements during a period of drought such as is being experienced this year. The greatest encouragement that could be given to the growers would be the repayment of the money that rightfully belongs to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 3312), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Government has introduced this measure so as to ensure that the decision which it made earlier this year not to continue the payment of the superphosphate bounty will be enforced and manufacturers will not be able to claim bounty under the terms of the Superphosphate Bounty Act 1941. Members of the present Government parties gave no hint to the electors during the general election campaign that they intended to take the retrograde step of eliminating this subsidy, which has probably made a greater contribution than has any other subsidy to the prosperity of our agricultural industries and their capacity to increase production. Therefore, the Government has no mandate for this measure. Its members probably realized that, had they announced their intention, they would not have obtained the support that they were accorded by some primary producers at the election. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said in his speech that the bounty had outlived the purpose for which it was introduced. That purpose, of course, was to popularize the use of superphosphate as an aid to increased agricultural production. The bounty has not outlived that purpose in my opinion. Some primary producers are not yet fully conscious of the advantages that can be derived from the use of superphosphate. The Minister also said that, from a financial point of view, the primary producers no longer needed this assistance. I have always held the view that, overall, the bounty was a profitable proposition both from the point of view of the economic welfare- of the nation and from the point of view of Treasury revenue. Unquestionably, the more superphosphate our farmers use, the greater are the quantities of primary products that are transported over our railways and the larger are the taxable incomes of the producers. The whole effect of the bounty has been beneficial to the community as a whole. If we could calculate it in terms of- pounds, shillings and pence, it would be found to be one of the most desirable forms of assistance that have ever been given to agriculture in Australia. I notice that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) is nodding assent. The honorable gentleman would probably assess the value of the bounty to the community, not in terms of currency, but in terms of health based upon the nutritive qualities of the meat and the vegetable products that are raised by producers who use superphosphate. Insufficient attention is given to that, aspect of the superphosphate bounty.
The Superphosphate Bounty Act was enacted in 1941 by a Labour government. Originally, the rate of bounty was only 25s. a ton, but last year it reached the level of £2 10s. a ton in Victoria and £2 15s. a ton in Western Australia and South Australia. I confess frankly that, when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Treasury officials expressed doubts about the continuation of the bounty. I am pleased to be able to say that I convinced the Cabinet and the Treasury officials that payment of the bounty was economically justified because of its satisfactory effect upon agricultural production and the general health of the community. I am sure that the bounty would not have been abolished if the Labour party had been returned to office at the general election. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that one reason why the bounty was no longer necessary was that superphosphate had to be rationed. Why, bless my soul, superphosphate was rationed almost throughout the period of World War II., but the subsidy was maintained with the good results that I have mentioned ! Although superphosphate is not available to-day in sufficient quantities, the shortage is not nearly so severe as it was during the war. I deplore the discontinuance of the bounty. A. Labour government would not have taken this action, but the Opposition is powerless to prevent the passage of the bill because it realizes that the Government’s budget arrangements must not be destroyed. Every government must be guaranteed freedom to pursue certain essential features of its financial policy. However, I hope that the Government will change its view before the next budget is introduced, if it is still in office then. I hope that it will realize that the superphosphate bounty was the most justifiable of all subsidies and should have been continued.
.- Some of the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) should not be allowed to go unchallenged. The honorable gentleman said that a Labour government had introduced the superphosphate bounty, but he must know as well as I know that the plan for the payment of the bounty was prepared in September, 1941, before the Curtin Labour Government assumed office. The Government which was responsible for the scheme vacated office before the necessary legislation could be passed, and Mr. Scully, who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the succeeding Government, eventually introduced the legislation. He merely carried into effect the plan of the previous Government. Those are the facts, which I have confirmed by studying the Hansard records. I should be opposed to the bill if I considered that the abolition of the bounty would reduce the quantity of superphosphate that is used in Australia. Superphosphate has been a wonderful boon to this country. It has wrought a revolution in primary production. In certain favoured areas it has enabled producers to improve the carrying capacity of their land from less than one sheep to the acre to the level of three or four sheep to the acre. The land is a national asset, and superphosphate should be available to increase its fertility and carrying capacity. Unfortunately, the quantity available is limited by physical factors. The first factor is lack of manufacturing plant. A superphosphate company in New South “Wales has been trying for ten years to obtain land that is under the jurisdiction of the State Government so that its factory may be expanded. The land is situated at Newcastle, close to deep water. Up to a few weeks ago, it was still waiting for the matter to be settled. I do not know what has happened since. Another limiting factor is transport. The facilities do not exist for transporting anything like the amount of superphosphate that is needed. A man who orders superphosphate in New South Wales .to-day would be lucky to have it delivered in April or May of next year. It cannot be argued, therefore, that the removal of the bounty on superphosphate will have the effect of reducing the quantity available. In New South Wales, the bounty was £2 5s. a ton. There are twelve bags to the ton, so that the bounty amounted to about 3s. 9d. a bag. The normal top-dressing for wheat or clover paddocks is half a bag to the acre, so that the bounty was worth less than 2s. an acre. The gross return , on wool or wheat at present prices is about £10 an acre. Therefore, I cannot see how the removal of the bounty can affect the amount of superphosphate used. I suggest that the Government should do everything possible to increase the production of superphosphate in Australia. In particular, better transport facilities should be provided, and a stock-pile should be established so that requirements could be met in the event of rock supplies from overseas being cut off as the result of another war breaking out.
.- I join with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in condemning the proposal to remove the bounty on superphosphate. It is true, as the honorable member for Farrar (Mr. Fairbairn) said, that farmers generally will not feel the effect very much; but some of them, particularly ex-servicemen who are just going on the land, will be adversely affected. They will be faced with heavy costs for plant and equipment, as well as heavy capital costs for their land. In any case, the fact that farmers in general can afford to bear the additional burden is no excuse for the Government’s action. The incomes which farmers obtain are heavily taxed on a steeply graduated scale, so that those who are making big incomes would return to the- Treasury most of the superphosphate bounty. On the other hand, farmers who are just beginning would receive practically the full benefit of the bounty. That is also true of those who produce catch crops. The removal of the bounty on superphosphate will be almost immediately reflected in a higher cost of living, something which we are all trying to prevent. The Government’s action was illadvised. It seems that all major decisions taken by this Government have been directed against the men on .the land. I warn the Government and members of the Australian Country party that they cannot continue that policy, whether it be applied to wheat, wool, or any other primary product.
– Is that true of the refund of £16,000,000?
– That money was placed in a fund for the benefit of the primary producers. It was the property of the farmers, held in trust for them, and would have been repaid to them eventually.
– There was a “ Kathleen Mavourneen “ touch about it.
– One year’s contribution has already been paid.
– Order ! The honorable member must keep to the point.
– I am merely pointing out that all the major actions of this Government have been taken on the assumption that the farmers have too much money. Such a policy does not become members of the Australian Country party. They should take stock of their position.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that there was justification for the bounty on superphosphate at the time it was introduced. That may be true, but it is also true that those engaged in certain primary industries can now very well do without it. Strange as it may seem, there are some points upon which I am in agreement with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), but the policies of the Labour party and of the Liberal party seem to be dominated by consideration for the great primary industries, such as wool and wheat, and to a lesser degree, dairying. I submit that the claims of fruit and vegetable growers should not be .overlooked. In my electorate, the removal of the bounty on superphosphate has had an adverse effect on fruit and vegetable producers. In particular, citrus fruit growers have been badly hit. This industry has had a chequered career during the last twenty years. In its early stages, it endured the hardships associated with a new industry. Later, it suffered from the effects of the depression. Then, there was a boom during the last war, but at the present time, the future of the industry is uncertain, and there is a threat of over-production by 1956. Contrary to the general idea, the producers of fruit and vegetables are not particularly prosperous, and they are certainly not enjoying anything like the high prices from which wheat and wool producers are benefiting. Because of adverse seasons and floods, many fruit and vegetable growers are in a bad way. In most secondary industries, the effects of currency inflation can be passed on to the public, but the fruit-grower and vegetable grower cannot do that. At the present time they are receiving pre-war prices, although they have to pay presentday costs. In these circumstances, the removal of the bounty hits them particularly hard and, unlike the wool and wheat growers, and the dairymen, the citrus producer and the fruit and vegetable grower do not possess an export market.
The United States Government has been helping its citrus industry by paying a bounty of 1- dollar 75 cents a case on surplus crops in order to enable them to be exported to the world market. This contrasts with the removal of this bounty on superphosphate. No one would cavil at the suggestion that the producers of primary products should enjoy a price which will cover their cost of production plus a margin which will compensate for their toil and sweat. Such a figure is difficult to determine in the fruit and vegetable industry. However, some assistance such as a bounty of this nature could be given to the growers of those crops. The cost of fertilizers is taken into account in determining the guaranteed price for wheat and dairy products, but there is no guaranteed price for fruit or vegetables. Consequently, the producers of fruit and vegetables will be unfavorably treated by the withdrawal of this bounty. I expect that the wheat industry and .the dairying industry will not be so vitally affected by the withdrawal of the bounty as will the fruit and vegetable growers and the growers of small crops. It appears that the cost of this bounty, when it was operative, was about £3,750,000 per annum. The wheat industry benefited to the extent of 40 per cent, of that amount, pastoral industries 50 per cent., and the vegetable, fruit and sugar industries 10 per cent. The wheat-grower is protected by a guaranteed price which covers the cost of his fertilizer. There is no need to worry about the ability of the grazier or the fat lamb grower or the wool-grower to meet his costs. The dairying industry is not so favorably placed, but I think that it will be able to meet the increased cost which will result from the removal of the bounty. The removal of the bounty has some effect on the fruit and vegetable grower. The 10 per cent, of the bounty received by the cane-grower, the fruit-grower and the vegetable-farmer would have amounted to approximately £375,000, of which the fruit-growers and vegetable-growers would have received £155,000.
I have previously represented to the Minister that the removal of this bounty would occasion some hardship to the vegetable and fruit growers because the impact of the increased costs would not be lessened .by any guaranteed price which might cover the cost of production. It seems to me that due consideration has not been given to these small growers, whose position may have been forgotten because of the wealth which is associated with the wool and wheat industries. I request the Minister to give consideration later on to the introduction of a measure for the purpose of granting some relief to the fruit-grower and the vegetable farmer in view of the hardships that they have suffered recently as the result of the floods and seasonal difficulties. If consideration could foe extended to these growers it would be greatly appreciated and such action could assist the housewife by reducing in some small measure the price of fruit and vegetables.
– in reply - The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) have both suggested that certain sections of the primary producers are in need of a bounty. The fruit and vegetable growers, soldier settlers and new settlers have been mentioned. The fact that both honorable members overlooked was that under the Constitution, a bounty can be paid only on production. It cannot be paid to selected sections of the community.
If a bounty is to be paid in connexions with superphosphate it must be paid on-, the production of this fertilizer and therefore must benefit all users of it. Thepayment of £3,500,000 from public fundseach year in order to make £300,000 a year available to a very small section of the community would not be very sound finance. The subsidizing of the whole rural community of Australia for the purpose of aiding soldier settlers and new settlers would be a most extravagant waste. The Government had these matters in mind when the bill was being drafted. However, it had to act within the limits of the Constitution and of prudent finance. The point principally overlooked by the honorable member for Mitchell is that fruit and vegetable growers are very small users of superphosphate as a fertilizer. The principal fertilizer used by these industries is nitrogenous fertilizer - sulphate of ammonia and nitrate of soda. The Government has been subsidizing both nitrogenous fertilizers and phosphatic fertilizers and it has, for the very reasons stated by the honorable member, retained the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilizer at a cost of some- £500,000 for the current financial year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 3342), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this measure. It isfortunate indeed that the Government has agreed to make provision for the payment of this subsidy because the high price of wool will eventually have a very heavy impact on the cost of clothing in Australia. Due to the fact that a subsidy was payable over a number of years by the previous Administration, the Government has, in the Australian Wool Realization
Commission, a very good means of administering this subsidy. I hope that the Government will ensure that effective measures are taken to police the disposal price of the resultant products in their manufactured state to the people of Australia. The Chifley Government discarded bounty payments on woollen goods because it did not consider that there was a policing organization adequate to ensure that consumers would receive the benefit of the subsidy. I hope that, with the building up of the State prices organizations - a move not expected when this matter was last under consideration because of the belief that prices control would be abandoned entirely - it will be possible effectively to police the sale of woollen goods to ensure that the money provided by the Commonwealth shall be passed on to consumers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 29th November (vide page 3342), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McEwen and Mr. Fadden do prepare and bring in a bill to give effect to the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time. .
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is for the purpose of providing machinery for the recovery of any subsidy or bounty that may have been paid under the Wool Products Bounty Act 1 950, on- goods consisting of or containing wool, or manufactured or derived from wool, and exported from Australia. The bill provides for the payment of an export duty of an amount which represents the amount of subsidy or bounty paid or payable in respect of the production of the wool products of which the goods to be exported consist or which are contained in the goods or from which the goods were manufactured. It is not the intention of the Government to subsidize exports, but, as a manufacturer of wool products is not, as a rule, in a position at the time of claiming bounty, to distinguish between the goods that may be consumed locally and those that may subsequently be exported either in the form in which he has produced the goods or after some further process of manufacture, it is necessary to legislate for the recovery of any subsidy or bounty that may be contained in the goods when exported. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 3339), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this bill to pay a bounty on the production of flax canvas, which is used, of course, in the manufacture of fire hoses, tarpaulins and other similar goods. The flax industry was established in this country during the war, and has since been built up to the spinning and weaving stage. The production of flax in this country is now an economic proposition, but spinners and weavers believe that they cannot successfully compete with imported goods unless the industry receives protection or a bounty. The Government referred this matter to the Australian Tariff Board, in which I have very great faith. However, I fancy that I can read into the report of the board an expression of doubt about whether there is very great justification for assisting this industry for very long. It is true that assistance for a limited period has been recommended, and that this measure has been introduced in pursuance of that recommendation. A bounty of £60 a ton is to be paid on flax canvas and that should enable flax spinners and weavers to compete against imported flax goods. I hope that the Government will ensure, through the State prices organizations, that the bounty shall be passed on to the consuming public. This is a very important industry, otherwise I should be somewhat inclined to express doubt about the necessity for a bounty at .all. Rather than take the risk of upsetting the industry, the Opposition at this juncture supports the payment of this bounty and hopes that it will be a satisfactory method of making easy the transitional period through which the flax industry is now passing. With some reluctance and some doubts, the Opposition is prepared to support this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize, for a further period of three years, the payment of bounty on tractors of the internal combustion engine type, in capacity ratings from 10 to 55 .belt pulley horse-power, as are produced and sold in the Commonwealth. The Tractor Bounty Act was enacted in 1939 for a period of five years. In 1944 that act was extended for an additional three years and in 1947, following a further inquiry by the Tariff Board, it ‘ was extended to the 23rd October, 1950. A report has recently been furnished by the Tariff Board about the necessity for continuing to assist the production of tractors in the Commonwealth. In that report the Tariff Board has, amongst other matters, recommended continuance of bounty for another three years. The rates of bounty as recommended by the board are -
The proposed rates of bounty vary somewhat slightly from those which were previously in operation. The previous rates were -
Bounty in the immediate past has been payable on the “brake horse-power” capacity of the tractor engine, but the present bill provides for payment to be made on the basis of the “belt pulley horse-power “ of the engine. This is a much more satisfactory and more practical method of measuring the capacity of a tractor and will, I feel sure, be readily acceptable to manufacturers and users alike. Under existing provisions, payment of bounty at the full rates prescribed is restricted to such tractors in respect of which the cost of materials and parts wholly manufactured in Australia is not less than 90 per cent, of the factory cost of the tractor. Where the cost of materials and parts wholly manufactured in Australia is less than 90 per cent, of the factory cost of the tractor the rates of bounty are reduced proportionately, and where such percentage is less than 60 per cent, no bounty is payable. These provisions have as their objective the manufacture of tractors entirely from Australian materials and parts.
However, because of difficulties which are being experienced by all tractor- manufacturers in obtaining their full requirements of Australian-made materials and parts, and of the consequent need to import them at much higher prices, it is now proposed, when determining the “ factory cost “ of the tractor for bounty purposes, to exclude from that cost the cost of imported materials and parts which are admitted into the Commonwealth under by-law provisions of the Customs Tariff. This exclusion will not, however, be allowed to any extent greater than 10 per cent. of the factory cost of the tractor inclusive of the cost of all imported materials and parts, nor will it be permitted to continue when normal conditions in the Commonwealth render unnecessary the by-law admission of the materials and parts concerned. The bill appropriates for bounty payment the following amounts: -
These amounts should be sufficient to meet in full any likely claims made by the Australian tractor manufacturers. Five companies are engaged in the production in Australia of tractors within the bountiable range. The capital employed is approximately £4,000,000, and direct employment is given to approximately 2,500 persons,. of whom over 2,000 are males. Annual requirements for the next few years are estimated by the Tariff Board to be 22,000 tractor units, after which they will probably settle down to approximately 17,000 units per annum.
Production of tractors in the Commonwealth meets only a very small proportion of the Commonwealth’s total requirements, and although considerable progress has been made in the post-war years the industry is as yet too new to be regarded as fully established. A very useful industry can be built up in the Commonwealth at a net cost to the community which is low in relation to possible benefits. The alternative to bounty assistance would be the imposition of protective tariff duties, but as Australian production is as yet relatively small the imposition of protec tive duties would be costly to the principal users, who are mainly engaged in the primary industries.
The economics of this industry have been fully investigated by the Tariff Board. The general conclusions reached by the board were that the level of bounty as provided for in the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1947 was adequate without being over-generous, that it is necessary to provide assistance to several units of the local industry, and that without disturbing the general level of bounty the groupings could be varied slightly with provision being appropriately made for a higher rate of bounty on the largest tractors in the highest bounty group. This bill gives effect to those conclusions as embodied in the Tariff Board’s recommendations. Payment of bounty as proposed in this bill is for the three years’ period commencing on the 24th October, 1950, and ending on the 23rd October, 1953. The question as to what assistance should be accorded the industry beyond that period will, in due course, be the subject matter of a further inquiry by the Tariff Board.
I commend this bill as one which merits favorable consideration.
.- The Opposition supports this measure. Throughout the term of office of the previous Administration, honorable members on this side of the House were supporters of the bounty principle. We applaud the building up of this industry in Australia and we hope to see it expand. In those circumstances we support the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations - 1 950 -
No. 09 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 70 - Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists’ Union.
No. 71 - Postmaster-General’s Department State Heads of Branches Association.
No. 72 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia.
Com mon wealth Public Service Board - Appointment - Department of Defence - J. I. Serman.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1950 - No. 13 - Liquor.
House adjourned at 5.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Docs this publication increase the popularity of air travel sufficiently to compensate for its cost?
e. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 5. This publication has been produced continuously since its- first issue in’ January, 1025. by the original Qantas company. Over the last 25 years, it has proved itself a valuable publicity medium, principally for sales promotion. Qantas Empire Airways Limited operates Australia’s major international airlines and is responsible for publicizing both its services and Australia in overseas countries, and to this end, the distribution of the magazine in various parts of the world is of great value. The magazine is also used as a means of informing staff of the various operations and developments in the company’s services, and in this respect, assists in promoting a high standard of service to the travelling public. No civil servants are employed by the company. The board of Qantas Empire Airways Limited allots a sum of money each year to cover publicity advertising and public relations, which includes an allowance for the net cost of producing the magazine. In accordance with the directive received from the Commonwealth Government, the company reports to me as Minister for Civil Aviation on the operations of each fiancial year, and included with this report is a statement of all revenue and expenditure of the company
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 30th November the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked me a question concerning the omission of Townsville as a flying boat base on Trans-Oceanic Airways route to !New Guinea. I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
Qantas operated Empire boats through Townsville for some years before the war, but the company never considered it a good base. The coast there is open and, even to make it a satisfactory deep-sea port, it was considered necessary to build an expensive artificial harbour for shipping. Under good conditions, flying boats can alight outside the harbour in safety, but many occasions arise when there is a swell outside, and operations become hazardous. When these conditions arose, Qantas would alight in the harbour. The harbour is approximately 5,000 feet long by 2,500 feet wide and, though alighting and take-off can be accomplished inside the harbour, they must, because of the restricted space and the present of shipping, wharf sheds, cranes, &c, be conducted at a standard very much below what we would expect for the operation of land planes on any regular public transport service on our domestic routes. However, Trans-Oceanic Airways are against operations in the harbour, realizing ite shortcomings. During the war, the Royal Australian Air Force lost a Catalina and an Empire boat at Townsville in landing accidents outside the harbour caused by unfavorable conditions. Both accidents were accompanied by a large loss of life. In 1943, the Royal Australian Air Force put a prohibition on -Catalinas landing at Townsville, though Martin Mariners and Sunderlands operated from there until about the end of 1944, when the Mariners were moved to Cairns and the Sunderlands to Port Moresby. When Qantas resumed their services after the war, they transferred their operations to Bowen because -
1 ) the company was unwilling to use Townsville on safety grounds; (2) there was a Royal Australian Air Force base established at Bowen. This matter has been discussed with both the Royal Australian Air Force and Qantas, both .of whom agree that Townsville is an unsuitable place from which to operate large flying boats. If operations are permitted from there under all conditions, we will be accepting a standard of safety very considerably lower than wo are prepared to accept in any other regular public transport services within Australia. The present restriction is that operations shall not be conducted when there is more than a 6-in. swell. This figure has been arrived at as the result of the recommendations of a select committee consisting of representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation and the Royal Australian Air Force, which was appointed to decide the requirements for the breakwater at the proposed Botany Bay flying boat base, and is further substantiated by the recommendations of Messrs. Short Brothers, England, who considered it the safe limit for the operations of Solent boats. The Townsville Chamber of Commerce and Harbour Board have objected to the restriction of a 6-in. chop, but it is necessary to distinguish between “ chop “ and “ swell “. The former is produced by landing winds, and does not constitute a hazard, whilst the latter is usually of distant origin and results in an aircraft being thrown into the air before it is fully air-borne on .take-off. or alternatively, of making an early or late arrival on the surface of the water when landing. If Australia is to maintain the existing standards of safety, the use of Townsville as a base for flying boat operations when there is greater than a 6-in. swell, cannot be permitted. The foregoing is a fairly comprehensive statement of the position. I must emphasize, however, that the choice of alighting at Townsville lies with the airline company concerned and, in this case, Trans-Oceanic Airways has decided not to include Townsville. Townsville is well catered for with land services and has a Royal Australian Air Force unit stationed there as well.
l asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
z asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows . -
In reply to the questions asked by the honorable member for Melbourne on the9th November concerning the visit of the Marylebone cricket team to Australia, I now furnish the following information. The estimated gross cost of fees, fares and travelling allowances for the commentators employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission amounts to £2,000. Four commentators have been engaged, namely, A. McGilvray and V. Richardson for descriptions and A. G. Moyes and A. Gilligan for commentaries. The particular contracts which have been entered into with each of the commentators are regarded as -confidential to the individuals, concerned. No commentators are sent from Sydney to Perth to meet the visiting team. The need for -economy in expenditure incurred by the commission on this tour is fully appreciated and this aspect is being closely watched.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 December 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501201_reps_19_211/>.