20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, and it concerns the prisoners captured by the Communists during the Korean fighting and held in China. Can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether reports are coming in from the Australians who are prisoners of war ? Is ho in a position to tell the House anything about their conditions and about the means of communication with them by their relatives? Has the Minister any positive suggestion - to make following upon his recent statement in the House which may help in obtaining the release of theBe prisoners of war from captivity?
– I understand the right honorable gentleman’s question to refer solely to Australian prisoners of war in enemy hands in Korea. I have no information on whether we are in actual communication with our own prisoners of war, but I shall certainly obtain the fullest information about the subject for the right honorable member. I am not aware whether the later part of his question dealt with negotiations. He. will be aware from the press and the radio that on Sunday a series of proposals which I believe to be of firstclass importance were put to the Communist negotiators, and it has been publicly reported that they were rejected.
– Were they based on the Mexican proposals?
– Not precisely. I am not yet at liberty to give details of the proposals, because I understand that they have not been released in. detail by the United Nations negotiators. However, I hope that before long I shall be in a position to tell the House and the right honorable member what the proposals were. When I do so, I believe that all honorable members will be abundantly convinced that the United Nations negotiators have gone to the extreme limit of negotiations and proposals, bearing in mind that the United Nations does not propose to drive the prisoners of war in our handsback into enemy hands at the point of the bayonet. I believe that it is essential that everything that has been done in recent times in this matter shall be made clear and demonstrably apparent to the world, particularly before the next meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Within a short time I hope to be able to inform the House of the nature of these latest proposals, and to state whether it is a fact that they were almost immediately rejected by the Communists.
– Will the Minister for the Army confer with his colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, whom he represents in this House, with a view to abolishing the power residing within the Repatriation Act which enables certain officials of the Repatriation Department to investigate the private lives of war widows? Will he treat this as a matter of urgency and advise the House of the result of his investigation at the earliest moment?
– I have, as is my practice, already conferred with the Minister for Repatriation on all the matters raised during the debate on the repatriation measure recently before the House. I have discussed those matters at considerable length, and have directed that particular attention should be given to the matters raised by the honorable member and others during the debate that I have referred to. They are at present under the consideration of the Minister for Repatriation.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Has the Government issued instructions that all repatriation cases shall be re-examined by the Repatriation Department? If so, was that action prompted by recent increases of repatriation benefits that have been made by the Parliament? Will the Minister state how many repatriation cases have been examined during the past three months, and how many of the cases examined have been re-assessed ? What amount has been saved by the Government because of reductions of pensions?
– It is not possible for me to have that information available immediately. I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Repatriation and ask him for a reply.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether, in view of the reported promising results of the aerial survey of the uranium-bearing area in the Northern Territory, which indicate that the belt will probably be the most extensive in the world, the Government has made any definite decision in respect of railway construction in northern Australia as an instrument of development, particularly in relation to the standardization of the Port Augusta to Alice Springs line, the completion of the north-south line, and the construction of a line from the Barkly Tableland into Queensland.
– All aspects of railway development in the Northern’ Territory are at present under consideration by a committee of Cabinet. In that consideration, regard is being paid not only to the situation set up by the discovery of uranium but also to the developmental needs of the north in general. Our consideration of railway development is also being linked with consideration of harbour development.
– The question that I wish to ask the Minister for Health concerns the inability of medical practitioners to obtain anti-distemper serum for use on dogs. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether, if his further investigations have proved to him that an amendment of the Victorian veterinary law is required before medical practitioners may immunize dogs with anti-distemper serum, he will, in the event of such an amendment being made, ensure that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories shall make adequate supplies of the serum available to medical practitioners?
– This matter is ultimately governed by the State law and, if the State law is amended, this Government will be able to consider the matter in the light of the views expressed by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that little useful training is given to national service trainees who serve their term of training with the Royal Australian Air Force. In view of the fact that valuable educational training is lost by trainees during their national service training period, will the Minister outline the programme of specific training that is given to trainees, and typical assignments to which they are allotted, in order to abate the slander that has been circulated by ex-trainees and others?
– I do not agree that little useful training is given to national service trainees. On the contrary, I believe that they receive a great deal of technical training of a high order which qualifies them for technical jobs in their post-training life. However, if the honorable gentleman wishes me to do so, I shall provide him with a detailed outline of the training syllabus of national service trainees so that he may be satisfied of the inaccuracy of the statements he has heard.
– In view of the apparent success of the first use of the airborne scintillometer for the discovery of uranium in the Northern Territory, can the Minister for Air tell the House anything further about co-operation between the Royal Australian Air Force and other authorities in prospecting for uranium by aerial means, particularly in relation to the use of light aircraft and helicopters ?
– I am greatly indebted to the honorable member, who supplied me with two articles on the subject of aerial prospecting by scintillometer from helicopters. I took the matter up with my department and ascertained that already a Douglas D.C.3 and an Auster had been allotted for aerial prospecting and that consideration was being given to the allotment of a helicopter in order to complement the work of those two machines. I am pleased to be able to say that this morning I signed an order to authorize the use of a helicopter for this very important task.
– The question that I ask the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General arises from representations that I addressed to the PostmasterGeneral several weeks ago but on which a final reply does not yet seem to have been given. Will the Australian Broadcasting Commission record special features of the lilac time festival which, exceeding ‘all other festivals, will next week make the city of Goulburn a crowded centre of dramatic and artistic entertainment ?
– I shall take the matter up with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture follows from representations that I made recently when I sought his assistance to obtain delivery, on a high priority, of certain steel supplies, which were not readily available for Cresco Fertilizers (Western Australia) Limited in Western Australia. The company requires the steel in connexion with the conversion of its plant from sulphur-burning to pyritesburning. Can the Minister inform me whether any action has been taken in that matter? Can he also state the position regarding supplies of those materials ?
– Following the representations made by the honorable member for Moore, and requests from Cresco Fertilizers (Western Australia) Limited on this important subject, the appropriate officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Division of Industrial Development have co-operated in malting requests to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited that it take special steps to provide the company with the essential steel necessary for the conversion of its superphosphate manufacturing plant from sulphur-burning to pyrites-burning, using pyrites obtained from local sources. I am glad to say that there has been a general recognition of the importance and urgency of this matter. I understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will commence a special rolling of steel to-morrow, and that there will be a shipment to Western Australia within the next two or three weeks.
– Is it the intention of the Treasurer to fix a limit to the rate of interest to be paid on money invested in Commonwealth loans, and loans raised, or to be raised, by semigovernmental authorities, and to publish the amount of the limit fixed, or to be fixed, for a period of years, for the information of the public? If it is not .his intention at present to fix a limit to the rates of interest payable on such loans, will he ask the Government to give the matter consideration with a view to making an early announcement on the position in order to reduce the existing unwillingness on the part of the people to subscribe to such loans, and thereby relieve anxiety on this matter of serious public importance ?
– As I have stated on previous occasions^ the fixation of interest rates on Commonwealth loans and on semi-governmental borrowings is a matter entirely for the Australian Loan Council.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Government is represented on the Australian Loan Council by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, each of whom has a voice and a vote on the council, and whether the Prime Minister has a casting vote also when the voting is equal. If these are facts, can the Treasurer inform the House of the Government’s attitude during the last two years to the progressive increases of interest rates for public loans during that period ?
– The honorable gentleman’s statements are not facts. The Prime Minister is not a member of the Australian Loan Council. He has neither a deliberate vote nor a casting vote on it. Further, the States have a preponderance of voting strength on the council. Still further, as I have said so often, that it is becoming tedious, the pro.ceedingings of the Australian Loan Council are, and have always been, held in camera and are confidential.
– Can the Treasurer inform me whether the Government has received a report from the committee which it has appointed to inquire into costs of production in the sugar industry? If the report has been received, can the Treasurer state whether the committee has recommended an increase in the price of sugar in accordance with the increase in the costs of production? Is the Government delaying action on the matter? If his answer to the last of my questions is in the affiramative, will he state the grounds for the delay?
– The Government has received a report from the committee which it appointed to inquire into the economics of the sugar industry with a view to arriving at a decision on the price in future. The Government has not yet considered the report.
– In view of the longcontinued delay, from March to September, in the presentation of the Sugar Industry Committee’s report and in view of the consequent loss to the sugar industry which is admitted to be £1,000,000, will the Treasurer give an assurance that Cabinet will give early attention to this matter.
– Despite the dates mentioned by the honorable member in order to indicate delay, the report of the Sugar Industry Committee was not presented to Cabinet until the end of last week. It is a very extensive and informative report, and we shall have to consider it from every possible angle. It will be dealt with by Cabinet as expeditiously as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is he aware that the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, at Granville, in New South Wales-
– Order ! Is this question addressed to a Minister representing a Minister in the Senate ?
– Then the question should be placed on the notice-paper.
Mi-. MORGAN.- May I ask the Treasurer-
– Order ! If the question relates to a matter within the jurisdiction of the Minister for National Development, obviously the Treasurer is not in a position to give an answer.
– If the Treasurer is not in a position to answer this question, the Government should resign.
– Order !
– It is a matter which should be known to all members of the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member is supposed to be asking a question and not telling the Government something that it should know.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he is aware of the fact that the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, Granville, has given notice of dismissal to 479 employees?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is giving information.
– I am asking the right honorable gentleman if he knows the position.
– Order ! It is not a proper question.
– I wish to ask whether the Australian Government approves of this action? If not, will the Government which has a controlling interest and is represented on the board of the company take steps to countermand the dismissals and ensure that the company, which is engaged in the production of vital rolling stock, is kept going to capacity? Is the curtailment of the company’s activities a prelude to the disposal of the undertaking to private enterprise?
– Order ! The question would have been in order if the honorable member had eliminated the first part of it. The latter part is in order.
– The Government is at present considering the matter with the object of remedying it. The position has been aggravated by the .action of the New South Wales Government in withdrawing orders from the company.
– Does the Minister for Social Services know from official sources the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit at the present time’* If he does know will he tell the House what the number is?
– I have not the figures for last week, as they were made up only last Friday afternoon. The approximate figure is 26,000.
– -Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service tell the House how many vacancies for employment are registered with the department at present?
– I have no information beyond the figures that were published in a press statement sometime ago, but I shall obtain the latest figures and supply them to the honorable member.
– I wish to ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relating to the Government’s scheme for the provision of houses for new entrants to the coal-mining industry. Is it a fact that in order to attract new nien into the mining industry, an offer of housing accommodation was made to any person who was prepared to go into the industry to work? Is it a fact that a number of men who accepted the offer and went into the mines have now been informed that it is regretted that because of a change of circumstances, the scheme conducted by the Department of Labour and National Service under which men were recruited for employment in the mines with housing accommodation provided, has now been suspended? In view of the fact that a number of men who left other jobs to go into the mines have now been stranded because the Government broke its promise, will the Minister renew the scheme until all the men who were promised houses have been found accommodation ?
– It is true that men were attracted to the coal-mining industry with certain promises of accommodation. I am not aware of any change of policy in that respect but I shall ascertain the exact position and convey the information to the honorable member.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer in the absence of the Prime Minister, relates to a forthcoming conference about accumulated stocks of coal in New South Wales which will be convened by the Joint Coal Board, and at which I think the Commonwealth will be represented. At the conference, will consideration be given to the poor quality of the coal that has been exported from New South Wales to the southern States, with a view to ascertaining whether, in future, poor quality coal can be screened or cleansed so that those States will be able to secure good quality coal for use upon their railways and in their industrial operations?
– I promise the honorable gentleman that I shall bring his observations, suggestions and criticisms to the notice of the appropriate Minister.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Health following submissions that I have made to him with regard to an industrial hospital scheme that has operated throughout the coal-fields district for more than 40 years. I have a telegram that has been sent to me on behalf of the Kurri Kurri Hospital. It states: “Please ask
Minister for Health^- “
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not read the telegram.
– Very well, I shall not do so. I ask the Minister whether he has considered the scheme in operation at the Cessnock Hospital, to which I have directed his attention, wilh a view to deciding whether he will give his approval to a similar scheme to cover all contributors to industrial hospital schemes?
– The Government is giving close consideration to the suggestions which the honorable gentleman has made about mining areas generally. Next Sunday week, a senior officer of the Department of Health and myself will visit Newcastle and the Hunter River area to discuss those suggestions with interested parties.
– Can the Minister for Health inform me whether he has received a request from the New South Wales Government, or other authorities, for postponement of the operation of the hospital benefits scheme in New South Wales until the end of this year? Does the Minister know that there are literally thousands of people who are unaware of how, or where, they should apply for membership of an approved society? Is the Minister also aware that in Newcastle only the hospital fund of the Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited has yet sought registration as an approved society under the scheme? In view of this fact, how does the Minister expect people to join approved societies? If he is not able to postpone the commencement of operation of the scheme in New South Wales, will he give consideration to the payment, until the end of the year of the full Commonwealth subsidy to patients in hospitals in that State, so as to give them sufficient time to become members of approved societies?
– It is about three years since the proposal for a hospital benefits scheme was first put before the
Australian people and the State governments. During that time probably half the people of Australia ha ve taken the wise precaution of insuring themselves. I do not think, therefore, that the New South Wales Government will ask this Government to postpone the scheme. It is entirely a matter for the New South Wales Government to take its own action in regard to the matter.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister, I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that, at the end of this week, the Prime Minister will address a secret meeting in the Assembly Hall, Sydney, admission to which will be by special written invitation? Is it also a fact that persons who have been invited to attend the meeting are being submitted to a security check? Is the right honorable gentleman able to furnish any information about the purposes of the meeting, and the nature of the address that the Prime Minister will deliver? Is one of the subjects that will be discussed the furtherance of a campaign to unload an extremely unpopular Treasurer of the Commonwealth ?
– I know nothing of the insinuations, dirty as they are, that have been made by the honorable member. I shall see whether I can arrange for him to attend the secret meeting to which he has referred. If he did attend it, the proceedings would not remain secret for very long.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply been directed to a recent statement in which a large purchase of armchairs by the Commonwealth was criticized? For what purpose were the chairs purchased? Do they represent fair and reasonable value for the money expended upon them?
– I have seen a report on this matter. It gave a false impression of public servants lolling back in luxurious ease. The facts of the matter are that tenders were invited for the supply of about 30,000 chairs for army camps. They were tubular chairs, with canvas bottoms and backs. It could hardly be said that they come within the category of armchairs, as was suggested in. the statement. I think that the successful tenderer undertook to supply the chairs at a price of 50s. each. They were bought after competitive tenders had been invited and, in the circumstances, constituted a good purchase.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Ministers who will represent Australia at the forthcoming conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London will take the opportunity to inform the British Government of the very widespread feeling in Australia that the time is long past for the continued summoning of Australian Ministers to London for conference^, and suggest that such conferences be held alternately in the capita] cities of the various Commonwealth countries. Will they also at the same time bring under the notice of the British Prime Minister the expectation of the Australian people that sometime, somehow, a British Prime Minister will take an opportunity to obtain first hand knowledge of Australia.
– I promise to bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will indicate the matters that are to be discussed at the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers that is to be held in the near future in London. Will such matters be of vital economic importance to this country? If so, will ho say why he, as Treasurer, in which capacity he is responsible for the financial policy of the Government, has not been included in the Australian delegation that will attend that conference?
– The matters that will be considered at the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers will include trade relations, development, and economic and fiscal subjects that relate to the welfare of countries within the sterling area generally. The conference has been called by the British Prime Minister.
Despite any implication that the honorable member may have endeavoured to convey in his question, .it will not be necessary for the Treasurer to attend it.
– Will the Minister for Territories say whether it is correct that a meeting, which was held on the 3rd September, 1951 under the chairmanship of the Minister himself, decided to form a native welfare council that was to be composed of the State Ministers concerned with native welfare and was to be presided over by the Commonwealth Minister for Territories? Was the 1952 meeting of that council held in Canberra yesterday? Will the Minister inform the House whether the only State Minister to attend the meeting was from Queensland and that he refused to participate in the proceedings because the meeting was not properly constituted, a quorum not being present? If no StateMinisters participated in the meeting, did it proceed and, if so, how does the Minister reconcile the part he played as chairman with the text of the resolution of last year under which this body was created ?
– The answer to each of the first two questions that the honorable member has asked is “ Yes “. The position is that invitations were sent to State Ministers responsible for native welfare to attend the meeting this year, and acceptances were received from them. As a result of the decision of this Parliament to meet on Fridays it became necessary to change the date of the meeting of the Native Welfare Council from the Friday to the following Monday. Following that alteration, Ministers from certain- States advised me in writing that they were unable to attend on the new date and they asked whether senior officials might represent them.
– Which States ?
– New South Wales and South Australia. I accepted the possibility of their being represented by their senior officials and the meeting was summoned. The Minister from Queensland took the view, which was an individual view, that he could not sit in conference with officials even if such officials had been nominated by their respective Ministers to represent them. He did not participate in the conference but he left his senior official to participate, I assume, on his behalf. The meeting proceeded and did useful work and achieved useful results. To-day, I have written to each of the State Ministers concerned and have put before them two questions. I asked in my first question whether, in their view, the council can be constituted by officials nominated by the Ministers concerned. In my second question I asked whether they would state their views with respect to the exact status of the meeting that was held yesterday. Pending any decisions that those Ministers may make, I offer the view that, possibly, we can regard yesterday’s meeting as being in the nature of a meeting of a committee of the council and that that committee’s findings may be confirmed in due course by the Ministers concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Some days ago I asked the Minister whether there was any substance in the report that the natives on the Arnhem Land aboriginal reserve were short of food, and were compelled to spear cattle on pastoral properties in order to provide food for themselves and families. Have inquiries been made into the report?
– After the honorable member had drawn attention to this matter by question, I attempted to trace the source of the statement. I found that the source was a newspaper correspondent’s report to the effect that 200 cattle had been killed and that the natives who had killed them were starving. Immediately an investigation was set on foot by the Northern Territory administration, and a patrol officer and a police constable made separate visits to the area concerned. They also interviewed the owner of the station where the cattle were supposed to have been speared. The owner of the station has no complaint whatever about the spearing of cattle. The patrol officer and the constable in their separate investigations found that the story was not simply an exaggeration ; it was a complete fabrication. The patrol officer found that the natives in that area were in good health. The total number of natives found in the locality was 21. In that area there was an abundance of local game for food supplies, and although it may have been that at some earlier date about four cattle had been speared - and there was not proof of that - there was certainly no truth whatever in the story that had been circulated.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration yet able to say how many Italian unemployed immigrants have been brought from Bonegilla to the Australian Capital Territory, and what employment has been found for them?
– I do not recollect whether the question that the honorable member asked on this subject previously was addressed to me or to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and Rational Service. In any event, the matter strictly comes under the administration of my colleague with whom I shall confer about it and supply an answer to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Mr. McColm having asked a question.
– The question is out of order.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give the House any information about the funds held by the Joint Organization from wool profits, and whether there is any indication that a decision will soon be given by the High Court in the Poulton case?
– A further distribution of profits, particularly to those who have left the wool industry, is awaiting the decision of the High Court in what is known as the Poulton case. The High Court has completed the hearing of the caseand we are now awaiting judgment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the. Army. In view of the Army regulations, mentioned so frequently last week by the Minister, that men more than 55 years of age have to be retired from the Australian Regular Army, will he advise why many of these men were signed up during the past twelve months for a further three years ? Will he honour the Government’s obligations to these men, and allow them to complete their service according to the contracts entered into with the military authorities?
– I think that I made it clear that the Defence Act and the regulations made thereunder require members of the services to require members of the services to retire, according to rank, when they reach a certain age. The retiring age for non-commissioned officers and other ranks is 55 years.
– At what age does a general have to retire?
– At 90.
– No general is as old, if childishness is any indication of age, as the honorable member for East Sydney., A major-general is required to retira at the age of 57 years. The act must be carried out.
– The men that I have spoken about have been signed up for three years.
– The honorable member’s information is incorrect. No engagement permits the overriding of the Defence Act and regulations.
– I ask you a question, Mr. Speaker. It has been the practice for you to order the ringing of the bells on occasions when your attention has been directed to the state of the House and when, upon the making of a count, it has been disclosed that a quorum was not present. However, on a number of recent occasions you have not followed this procedure, but have adjourned the House without ordering that the bells be rung to ascertain whether a quorum can be formed. Would you therefore make a statement clarifying the matter?
– When the House meets for the transaction of public business, and before prayers are read, my first duty - and one that I always carry out - is to ascertain whether a quorum has been formed. When the business of the day has been completed and the Minister has moved “ That the House do now adjourn “, no further business can be transacted, and it is the custom to allow the debate on that motion to deal with matters which are not relevant to the motion before the Chair. So, placing the first process in reverse, I think that as soon as the House decides, by failing to keep a quorum, that it is no longer interested, the proper thing to do is to terminate the sitting. That I have done, and that I propose to do. If the House, or the honorable member or any of his friends, wish to have a vote on this matter, I am prepared to make a definite ruling tomorrow or any .other day that suits them, and then the matter will be open to discussion and decision by the House itself.
– Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council advise the House of the number of occasions on which the question “ That the question be now put “ has been moved and put on behalf of the present Government?
– The honorable gentleman asked me this question on another occasion. The answer that I gave to him then is the answer that I give to him now.
Attacks on SIR Arthur Fadden, M.P.
– Has the Treasurer heard of an allegation made by some farmers who were burnt out in the. bush fires of last summer that, despite recent legislation introduced by this Government, income tax is taking from 25 per cent, to 68 per cent, of their insurance reimbursements? Will the right honorable gentleman ask the Treasury to prepare a statement upon the matter so that honorable members may know whether the allegation is correct?
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN. I am not conversant with the allegation to which the honorable gentleman has referred. ‘ I shall look into the matter, and ascertain whether the report for which he has asked can be prepared.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN McPherson (Treasurer). by leave I make this statement not only on my own behalf but also on behalf of the Government.
The Sydney Sunday Telegraph of Sunday, the 28th September, accuses me of deliberate dishonesty in statements made by me to this Parliament in connexion with an amendment of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act, which this House dealt with last week. By implication, the same newspaper has held it out to its reading public that, by blindly following recommendations made to me by the Commissioner of Taxation, I have become the vehicle for giving legislative expression to unbalanced and harsh principles of taxation designed to penalize taxpayers? generally. In the same edition, the newspaper accuses the Commissioner of Taxation of flouting an interpretation of the income tax law by the High Court of Australia by deliberately issuing assessments which he knew to be in conflict with the finding of the High Court.’
Because of the attack which has been made on my integrity, and because the reputation of the Commissioner of Taxation has been impugned and he has no means of defending his reputation, I deem it necessary to set out for the information of this Parliament, and for the information of the public generally, the facts of the case under notice, and to indicate precisely the Government’s feelings in regard to the matter. Before I deal with the attack made on the proposed legislative enactments, it may be convenient to deal with that part of the statement which attacks the good faith of the Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. P. S. McGovern, who has been statutorily appointed to administer the taxing laws of the nation. As a preliminary to the examination of the accusations made, it is necessary briefly to explain the provisions of the act round which discussion is centred.
Section 36 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act falls within the group of sections, beginning with section 25 and ending with section 47, which forms the code for determining what is income for the purpose of the act. The division contains four subdivisions - A, B, C and D. Subdivision B provides the code for ascertaining the assessable income so far as trading stock is concerned. Section 36, in particular, deals with the position where trading stock of a business is disposed of otherwise than by sale in the normal course of trading. The section is designed to ensure that the value of any trading stock disposed of in circumstances which would not otherwise bring it within the definition of assessable income shall be brought within the definition. Such circumstances could be, for instance, where trading stock is disposed of by gift, or where it forms a part of a transaction in which assets other than trading stock, together with trading stock, are disposed of in one contract and no separate value is assigned to the trading stock.
As may well be realized, the section covers a wide variety of transactions ranging from simple disposals of single articles to the wholesale disposal of all the assets of a business for the purpose of putting an end to it. One type of transaction amongst thousands, but not an unimportant one, to which the section was thought to relate is the value to be assigned to assets being trading stock which is transferred when a change takes place in the constitution of a partnership, or when a partnership is formed and trading assets are transferred to it by a person who previously employed those trading assets in a business conducted by him as a sole trader. For purposes which are relevant to this discussion, the section has remained in its present form for at least sixteen years, since this Parliament passed the consolidated Income Tax Assessment Act in 1936. In the acts which preceded that act, sections similar in purport appeared.
For approximately ten years prior to November, 1951, the practice of the Commissioner of Taxation was to regard a change in the constitution of a partnership, or the transfer to a partnership of trading assets by a person who retained an interest in those assets as a partner in a partnership, as constituting a disposal of assets within the meaning of section 36 and, consequently, requiring the market value of the said trading assets to be included in the assessable income of the person so disposing of the assets and consequentially allowing a deduction to the person acquiring the property. This practice received some sanction from a decision given by the
Board of Review in the year 1942, which concerned the case in which a taxpayer, having been a partner in a pastoral business, became the sole possessor of the business. The board in this case said, inter alia -
The Board was unable, on the evidence, to determine the true nature of the transactions involved in the termination of the partnership. It considered, however, that it waa immaterial whether the taxpayer purchased his partner’s interest or the partnership assets. In either event, there was a disposal of the livestock and the case was governed by section 36(1) which reads as follows : -
Subject to this section, where the whole or any part of the assets of a business carried on by a taxpayer is disposed of by sale or otherwise howsoever, whether for the purpose of putting an end to the business or any part thereof or not, and the assets disposed of include any property being trading stock, standing or growing ‘ crops or cropstools, the value of that property shall he included in his assessable income, and any person acquiring that property shall be deemed to have purchased it at the amount of that value.
This decision has been published in volume 10, Taxation Board of Review Decisions, case 17.
In a number of other cases which have been before Boards of Review on occasions subsequent to the foregoing, the board confirmed its view that, where there was a change in the constitution of a partnership, there was a disposal of the assets. One such case has been published for general information in volume 12 of Taxation Board of Review Decisions, case 70. In this case a partnership was dissolved by the death of one of the former partners. The deceased partner’s interest was acquired by the surviving partner at an agreed valuation pursuant to the provisions of the partnership agreement. One of the questions was whether there had been a disposal by the partnership within the meaning of sections 36 and 59, and on this aspect of the case the report of the Board of Review says, in paragraph 12 -
In the course of his argument for the taxpayer, Mr. C contended that there had not been any disposal by the partnership to B. This contention evidently rested on the use of the word “succeed”* in clause 17 of the partnership agreement, and can be shortly dismissed. The simple fact is that, on the death of A, all the business assets which until then had belonged to the partnership became the property of B. What else was this but a disposal! We have no doubt that any such transaction - whether it be called “ an instantaneous act oi conveyance “ (Mr. O’s expression ) or a “ succession “ - is covered by the phrase “ disposal by sale or otherwise howsoever” (section 36) and is also a disposal for the purposes of section 59.
On this question, although section 36 or the relevant sections which preceded it had been under judicial consideration on a number of occasions, there had been no judicial pronouncement on this particular point, and no appeal was made from the decisions of the Board of Review in the cases quoted. On the 5th November, 1951, however, the Pull High Court of Australia, in the case of Rose- v. Commissioner of Taxation, 84 C.L.R. 118, allowed the appeal of the taxpayer against an assessment made in conformity with the practice described in the foregoing on the ground that, in the existing circumstances, there was a free -transfer of an undivided fractional interest in trading stock being live-stock. In this case, a pastoralist had taken his two sons into partnership on the basis that the three partners should share equally in the capital and profits of the business. He had transferred to the partnership assets, including live-stock, which he had formerly utilized in a business conducted by him as a sole trader.
Copies of the judgment of the Full High Court were received by the Commissioner of Taxation in Canberra on the 15th November, 1951. As the judgment was contrary to a practice which, as stated, had been in operation for more than ten years, it became necessary to examine thoroughly its implications, both in regard to section 36 and section 59. This examination was put in hand immediately with a view to issuing amended instructions for the making of assessments of transferors in which the circumstances were present and for determining the amounts to be allowed as deductions to transferees in similar circumstances. On the 14th February, 1952, the Commissioner of Taxation, in a circular instruction, advised his deputy commissioners throughout Australia of the facts of the case decided by the Full High Court of Australia and the terms of the judgment, and instructed them to change the departmental procedure to accord with the judgment of the court. The precise terms of the commissioner’s direction as contained in the circular memorandum are as follows: -
The Full Court decided inter aiia, that the formation of a partnership, which included the taxpayer, was a transaction falling outside sections 3C (1.) and 59 (2.) and that a consequent investing of the three partners with property in the assets of the business belonging to the taxpayer did not involve a disposition of those assets within those sections.
The judgment should be applied to all other cases where section 36 has been treated as applicable to the creation of a partnership consisting of the taxpayer and others, where the taxpayer has protected his rights by lodging a formal objection on similar grounds and, if the objection has been determined a request for reference to a Board of Review ulan appeal to a court.
Where similar circumstances exist, the decision should be applied to future assessments, the closing stock value in the assessment of the individual to be the opening stock value for the assessment of the partnership in pursuance of section 29 of the act.
These are the facts concerning the actions of the Commissioner of Taxation following judgment of the court. They are readily ascertainable by the newspaper concerned. Instead of attempting to ascertain the facts, however, it chose to pose, for the consideration of its readers, spurious assumptions of acts of malpractice deliberately taken by this statutory officer, and, from these spurious assumptions, invited the reading public to deduce that the commissioner had deliberately over-assessed a large number of taxpayers in the hope that he might persuade the Government to amend the law and so prevent the taxpayers from recovering the tax so over-assessed.
It will be clear, from the statement of facts that I have given, that no taxpayer who has received an assessment made prior to the date of the court’s judgment, or subsequent thereto, and up to the 14th February, 1952, who had protected his rights by objection or appeal, can, or will be, affected by the amending legislation, because of the direction of the Commissioner that those cases be brought to finality in accordance with the court’s decision. It will be equally clear that all taxpayers who had not been assessed on incomes of the year ended the 30th June. 1951, before the 14th February, 1952, will have been assessed since that date in accordance with the judgment of th, court. The only taxpayer who could possibly be affected adversely by the legislation so. far as the income year ended the 30th June, 1951, is concerned, is a taxpayer who, by the time the amendments receive the Royal Assent, will not have lodged his return based on income of the year ended the 30th June, 1951. I should not think that even this newspaper would have the temerity to attempt to blame the Commissioner of Taxation for any adverse effect which may accrue to a taxpayer who, some thirteen months after the statutory final date for lodgment has failed to lodge his return. In view of the foregoing, the attack made on the reputation ofthe Commissioner of Taxation has been revealed as a scandalous and baseless charge for which there is not a tittle of evidence in support. It should be exposed for what it is - a brutal attempt to intimidate a public official in the performance of an onerous duty.
– It was an attack upon the Treasurer and the Government.
– We may proceed now to examine the attack made on my own honesty in connexion with the amendments which this Parliament debated last week.
– This will be good.
– The Treasurer will need his nylon suit now.
– Oh, be your age !
– Order ! Will the Treasurer resume his seat for a few moments. We are dealing with a serious matter. The House unanimously granted the Treasurer leave to make a statement, and it is only courtesy that he should be heard in silence.
– It is necessary to recall that for a number of years representations have been made that the practice of assessing the transferer on the market value of live-stock upon the formation or dissolution of a partnership has reacted harshly on the person concerned, for the reason that there was no actual cash receipt out of which the tax assessed could be paid. It was usually represented that these partnership formations, for the most part, occurred when a father in advancing years desired to take sons into partnership with him in primary industry and to give them some incentive to repay them for years of work for him. No actual cash was involved because, as a rule, the sons had no resources in cash. In deference to these representations, I referred the. question to the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation on the 21st August, 1950, for consideration and recommendation. The terms of my reference were as follows: -
ReferenceNo. 20. - Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1949, Part III., Division 2:Sub- divisionB: Trading Stock(Provisions other than those relating to Livestock).
Whether it is necessary or desirable that any provisionof Subdivision B of Division 2 of Part III. of the Income Tax Assessment Act1936-1949, other than the provisions relating specifically to livestock, should be amended or repealed, or any new provision enacted, with a view to the removal of anomalies, the clarification of the statutory provisions, or the simplification of administrative procedure in connexion therewith.
Attached hereto is an appendix comprising representations which have been received in regard to the above subject.
If the Committee considers that any amendment of the law is necessary in order to achieve the objectives mentioned, drafts of the proposed legislation would be appreciated.
I direct particular attention to the date of this reference - the 21st August, 1950. Strong representations had been made to me immediately preceding this reference that great hardship was being inflicted upon certain taxpayers by the operation of the law. When I informed the persons who made those representations that I intended to refer the matter to the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, they claimed that delays would be occasioned in obtaining relief, and that the hardship of which they complained would be unredressed. They consequently urged me to amend the law at once to operate from the 1st July, 1950. Because I believed that the solution of this problem was not easy, I would not agree to that request, but I promised that if the report of he Commonwealth Committee on Taxation were favorable to an amendment of the law, I would use my best endeavours to have the adjustment dated from the 1st July, 1950.
After inviting interested parties to place their views before it, and after hearing the evidence of persons who responded to their invitation, the committee made a first report in the matter on the 13th August, 1951. Whilst this report was under consideration, theFull High Court dealt with the question as hereinbefore explained. The reference is 84 C.L.R. 118. In view of the judgment of the court, it was considered desirable to ask the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation to reexamine the question to see to what extent, if at all, the recommendations contained in their original report might be varied on account of the judgment of the High Court. Accordingly, the Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) on the 29th December, 1951, during my absence asked the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation to consider the matter further and furnish another report. This further report was received by me on the 3rd April, 1952. Both of those reports were tabled by me in this Parliament on the 12th August, 1952, and are available for the information of any person interested in understanding the subject.
So far as is relevant to the subject under discussion, the committee’s recommendation in its first report was as follows : -
Summary of Recommendations.
The following is a summary of the recommendations made in this report: -
That section 36 (1.)be amended on the lines of the draft shown so that it applies to the disposal of trading stock, etc., by any means, and for any purpose, with the exception of a disposition in the ordinary course of business.
That section 36 should continue to apply to the disposal of live-stock in accordance with the amended draft provisions recommended in paragraph 34. for ordinary trading stock (paragraph 40).
That no exception from the provisions of section 30 be made where a primary producer retires from business: (paragraph 45.)
That section 36 be amended so that the dissolution of a partnership, or a variation of the members constituting a partnership, should be regarded as a” sale “, but that in order to avoid the taxing of unrealized profits, opportunity should be given for the basis of valuation of trading stock, as existing in the partnership, to be retained except where there is a complete change of interests.
That the amended provision apply also upon the formation of a partnership.
The committee’s reply to the request for further examination after the judgment of the High Court states, inter alia: -
An examination of the amending legislation that was dealt with by this House last week will reveal that the Government has amended the law as recommended by the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, except as regards two features. The first is that the committee made no recommendation that the amendment should be retrospective, whereas the amendment has been mads retrospective to the 1st July, 1950, in accordance with the promise that I made and to which I have referred earlier. The second is that the option given to transferor and transferee to agree upon a basis for valuation other than market value, according to the recommendation of the committee, would have applied in all cases, however small or, fictitious the interest retained by the transferor might be. In the view of the Government, the option should be available only where the interest retained by the transferor is a reasonable minimum. In the case decided by the Full High Court of Australia, the interest retained by the transferor was 33$ per cent. In the legislation which the Government has introduced, the option is available to parties where the retained interest of the transferor is 25 per cent, or greater.
It will be clear from the record that I have set out of the commissioner’s directions regarding assessments based on income of the year ended the 30th June, 1951, that the retrospective application of the amendments to cover income of the vear ended the 30th June, 1951, can adversely affect no taxpayer whose return will be in the hands of the commissioner in reasonable time to permit an assessment to be made prior to the date on which the amending legislation receives royal assent. In respect of this year of income, therefore, it can operate only to confer an advantage on the taxpayers concerned. It cannot, and will not, adversely affect taxpayers whose assess ments were made by the Commissioner of Taxation on the old basis, but who have protected their legal 2’ights by objection and appeal. It is intended, however, to confer an advantage in any case in which an assessment may have been made on the old basis, but in which the legal rights to get the benefit of the judgment of the Full High Court of Australia may not have been protected, by giving the parties concerned an opportunity to agree together to defer the payment of tax until such time as actual realization of profit is achieved by sale.
In respect of assessments based on the . income of the year ended 30th June, 1952, the circumstances are different. It should be acknowledged at once that assessments, where the facts are similar to those under discussion, will be subjected to the amending legislation and will have to be made in accordance therewith. In those circumstances, the right of mutual agreement will be available. This, the critics argue, is retrospective taxation, which is sufficient to brand its sponsor as dishonest. In the past year or two, there has been a great deal of public discussion on the question as to what constitutes retrospective taxation. I believe that, in formulating its financial policy for the financial year for which tax is payable, no government can be accused of imposing tax retrospectively if it makes no change that affects any year of income prior to the year of income upon which future assessments are to be made. There is no more retrospectivity in amending the basis of ascertaining taxable income than there is in determining the rate to be applied to the income of the base year for the purpose of calculating the tax for the financial year, but, even if it were necessary to concede that the determination of the basis for calculating the taxable income of a financial year on a date subsequent to the close of the income year constitutes retrospective application or action inconsistent with the principle of pay-as-you-earn, the case made against this particular amending legislation is flimsy in the extreme. As has been pointed out, in all known cases, the affected persons are in close family relationship. Usually a father and sons or daughters, or a husband and wife, are the people concerned. To argue that such persons will find difficulty in agreeing amongst themselves, if they desire to avoid the consequences of the amending legislation, is to deal in unrealities. To base charges of dishonesty and deliberate double-dealing on such evidence appears to warrant no other term than “ complete irresponsibility “.
It remains to say a word or two in justification of the qualification that the option to avoid payment of tax on the market value of trading stock transferred should be given only in cases where there is a retention by one of the parties of an interest of not less than 25 per cent. To have an appreciation of this matter, it is necessary to realize that this subject is not so much a matter of revenue as of equitable treatment between parties to contracts. The principle at stake is that, in the case of the sale of trading stock, the amount upon which the vendor is taxed ought to be the amount- which the purchaser receives as a deduction in the year of purchase. If a vendor is to be permitted to divest himself of trading stock, for the cost of which, or the cost of production of which, he has had a deduction against assessable income, without incurring liability to tax, it would not be claimed, I should think, that the purchaser of that trading stock should also be allowed a deduction of its real worth. The amendment gives the parties the right to get together and determine the matter for themselves. If there were no restriction on the interest retention of the transferor, it is obvious that the concession would be abused, and cases in which there was a virtual disposition of the whole of the assets could be brought within the concessional provisions, simply by the vendor retaining an infinitesimal interest in the trading stock transferred.
The newspaper that I have referred to - the sausage wrapper - has tediously repeated that I have imposed heavier taxation whilst pretending to grant concessions. The taxation measures that I have introduced have never been held out as anything more than measures to effect necessary reforms to simplify the system, to prevent evasion and, at the same time, to grant concessions. The Government believes that the amendments are necessary amendments, and that the consequences which it is sought to show will flow from them will not eventuate. I deeply resent the scurrilous attack that has been made upon my integrity on such unfounded and flimsy pretexts. I tell the House without hesitation that I believe them to have their origin in spleen engendered in the writers because of their failures in the past to divert me and the Government of which I am a member from policies which they believe to be inimical to their private interests, and to intimidate both the Government and myself in relation to future reforms that may he necessary.
– by leave - I do not pretend that I followed in detail-
– Is the right honorable gentleman speaking for the newspaper ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) must not interject.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to resume his seat. When the House is prepared to grant a courteous hearing to the right honorable gentleman, we shall proceed with the business. If honorable members will insist upon making interjections, I may have to take action against them.
– The first point thatI wish to make is that the discussion upon which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fad den) has embarked is, as far as the amendment of the law is concerned, highly technical. I think I am right in saying that, although both the provisions to which reference has been made were contained in the measure that was passed by this House, their merits were not discussed by honorable gentlemen on either side of the chamber. There was unanimous acceptance of them. If any new points have arisen about anomalies or alleged injustices under the taxation laws, they can be discussed later. I understand that, at present, the bill is in another place. Therefore, I do not want to say anything further about that matter.
I feel, however, that one or two other matters should be made clear. The present Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. McGovern, like his predecessors, is a loyal servant of the Commonwealth, under whatever government is in power. The Commissioner of Taxation is not a public servant in the ordinary sense of the term. He is an officer whose duty is to administer the taxation laws and to bring certain matters to the attention of the government. The political responsibility for taxation measures rests upon the government of the day and upon the parliament which adopts’ that government’s proposals. I do not think it is necessary at this stage to say more about that matter than that the two gentlemen who held the office of Commissioner of Taxation during the very long period of office of Mr. Chifley were loyal servants of the parliament rather than of the government. I am perfectly certain that that is the position now.
Let me come a little closer to the real point. No one has criticized the Treasurer more strongly and more vehemently than have honorable members on this side of the House. The right honorable gentleman has considered it to be his duty, or the Government has considered it to be its duty, to raise taxes to a height never before reached in this country; but that is not his personal responsibility. Everybody knows that the right honorable gentleman has worked himself almost to a standstill in the service of the Government. When the Treasurer does these things, he doesnot act personally or in isolation from the Government. The statement that he has made shows clearly that what was done in this instance reflected, not his own opinions or those of his officers, hut the considered view of the Government, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then acting as Treasurer. Therefore, an attack upon the Treasurer personally seems to be completely unjustified.
I do not want to say anything more about the technical merits of the case, but I direct the attention of the right honorable gentleman to one point upon which I hope his opinion does not differ from mine. I think that, in connexion with taxation measures, for a long period there has been a tendency for all governments, when a case has been decided against them in a court, to attempt, almost as a matter of course, to reverse the decision in the Parliament, and to make the operation of the provision in question retrospective to some degree, if not completely. I believe the Treasurer will agree that that is a trend that should be watched carefully. That is the only other point of public interest to which I think I should refer now. I am obliged to the House for the opportunity that it has given me to say that, in these matters, the Treasurer acts, not as an individual, but on behalf of the Government. The Prime Minister and the other members of the Government must accept responsibility for everything that is good and evil in our taxation system.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month he given to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), the honorable members for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and Fisher (Mr. Adermann). owing to their absence from Australia.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to-
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable members for Dalley (Mr.Rosevear) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), on the ground of ill health; and to the honorable members for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) and Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), owing to their absence from Australia.
Bill presented by Mr. Beale. and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to make four amendments to the Nationality and Citizenship Act. The first and most important of them follows from the Government’s decision last year to permit aliens to enlist in the Army. The proposal contained in clause 2 is that the period of residence required as a prerequisite to naturalization should be shortened in respect of aliens who have voluntarily enlisted for service overseas in the defence forces of Australia or of another British Commonwealth country. It is, I believe, unnecessary for me to speak at any great length in order to justify such an amendment. There could be no better demonstration that any alien could give of his allegiance to the Crown and to Australia than enlistment for military service, at home or abroad, in defence of his adopted homeland. Loyalty is the first essential for the conferment of Australian citizenship and British nationality, and it is clearly desirable that naturalization should be granted justas soon as the Minister can be assured of the applicant’s readiness and ability to assume the responsibilities of citizenship.
The bill, therefore, proposes that, when an alien has voluntarily enlisted for full-time service at home or abroad, each four weeks of such service should be equivalent, for naturalization purposes, to eight weeks’ residence in Australia. In other words, from the moment when the person concerned is enlisted, any further period for which he would normally have to wait for naturalization is reduced by one-half. In the case of members of the Citizen Military Forces who have volunteered for service abroad, but whose service is part-time only, each four weeks after enlistment is to be equivalent to five weeks’ residence in Australia; that is, from the date of enlistment their waiting period for naturalization will be reduced by one-fifth.
It is proposed that these concessions should be available irrespective of the area in which service is actually performed. The reason for this is that members of the defence forces who volunteer for service both at home and abroad have no control over the decision on where they shall in fact serve. It would be unfair to penalize a member of the forces who, although prepared to serve overseas, does not get the opportunity to do so.
The concessions are to be available in respect of past as well as future service, but, in the case of service in the forces of a British country other than Australia, the concession will apply only to service within the eight years preceding the application for naturalization.
The other three amendments proposed are minor ones, although explanation of them will take some time.
Section 16 (1) (a) of the act provides that a person, who is granted a certificate of naturalization shall be an Australian citizen as from the date upon which he takes, “ in the prescribed manner “, an oath of allegiance. The words “ in the prescribed manner “ have been found to be unnecessary, and the Government’s legal advisers have recommended that they be eliminated.
– I wonder why they were put in the legislation originally?
– The honorable member has something there, but we all know these things happen. The act itself indicates, in section 41, the persons before whom the oath of allegiance should be taken. The same section also provides that the taking of the oath may be accompanied by proceedings that will impress on applicants the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. The act also gives the precise wording of the oath of allegiance. It is undesirable that any other aspects of the ceremonies at which oaths are taken should be prescribed by regulation, since the kind of ceremony which may be appropriate at one time and place may be quite unsuitable at another. It is much to be preferred that detailed procedure should be capable of alteration without constant amendments to statutory rules. It is clear, therefore, that the words are redundant. More over, their retention might give rise to the belief that the Parliament intended other matters to be prescribed by regulation, and that until such matters are prescribed any oaths of allegiance taken will be ineffective. It is, accordingly, desirable that the words be omitted, and clause 3 of the bill will achieve this. [Quorum formed.]
The next amendment, which is provided for by clause 4, is designed to exempt aliens under 21 years of age from the necessity to advertise in the newspapers their intention to apply for naturalization. Newspaper advertisements are considered to be unnecessary in the case of minors, and it is desirable that young applicants be spared any needless expense in becoming citizens.
The last amendment, contained in clause 5, seeks to remove an anomaly from section 48 of the act, which deals with the surrender of certificates of registration or naturalization in cases where the holders have been deprived of their citizenship by order of the Minister. At present, surrender may be demanded “ on or before “ the date upon which the deprivation order takes effect. It is more convenient and reasonable to demand surrender after the order becomes effective, and accordingly it is proposed to amend section 48 so as to enable the surrender of such certificates to be demanded at any time.
None of the matters covered by the bill are considered to be contentious, and I commend it to the House for approval.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leavebe given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the construction of a railway from Stirling North to Brachina, in the State of South Australia, and for other purposes.
Debate resumed from the 26th September (vide page 2249), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved, by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted “.
.- The Labour party, operating through the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), has moved as an amendment, that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted. I understand that that action means that, although both the Labour party and the honorable member for Melbourne agree that Commonwealth funds should be provided for housing, they disagree with some of the methods of implementation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I object to the socialist method of undertaking housing programmes. The socialists believe in the principle of State housing or construction by governments. The honorable member for Melbourne emphasized the need to provide finance for housing at very low rates of interest. T object to the housing system that the Chifley Government introduced, because the results that have been achieved, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, under that system, under which government instrumentalities are responsible for construction, have been pathetic. Members of the Australian Labour party have endeavoured to make party political capital out of the passionate desire of people to own their homes. At present, whilst 30,000 additional houses annually are needed to meet requirements in New South Wales, the housing commission in that State is capable of constructing only 3,500 houses a year. The system under which State commissions are responsible for the construction of housing has produced in New South Wales and Queensland a black market, involving the hoarding of materials, with the result that private enterprise, which, normally, could make a tremendous contribution in this field and cut down costs, has been completely frustrated. In consequence of these factors, together with the recurrence of strikes in the building trades, at least 300,000 additional houses are required to meet immediate needs throughout the Commonwealth. To-day, two and three families are frequently to be found living in the same house. Such people find it impossible to obtain a good home. In discussing financial measures of this kind, the Parliament frequently loses sight of the social significance of this problem. The provision of adequate housing is a means of promoting a better way of life in the community by consolidating the family unit, which, in all British countries, is a basic social institution. Social investigators, such as Durkheim, in France, and Clifford Shaw and Dr. Cavan, in Chicago, have reported that the incidence of crime and child delinquency is most pronounced in slum areas, and that infantile mortality and the death-rate are highest in sub-standard housing areas. On this point, I quote the fallowing extracts from a report that was made by the Cumberland County Council in New South Wales following its investigation of this problem in 1947 :-
Due largely to bad neighbourhoods, insufficient recreation facilities and poor housing, child delinquency and infantile mortality are higher than elsewhere and crime is more prevalent. The general death-rate, according to a recent official survey, is 16.8. 16.2 and 15.2 in three different slum localities, compared with the average for metropolitan Sydney of 11.2 per 1,000 of population. Infantile mortality in the same three areas was 64.5, 61.6 and 60.2, compared with the metropolitan average of 36.9 per 1,000. One area, representing 7 per cent, of the total metropolitan population, recorded over 30 per cent, of ex-nuptial births.
The rate of infantile mortality in slum areas was found to be approximately double that in ordinary suburban areas.
– That is another reason why the Australian Government should make more money available for housing.
– I propose to demonstrate that the provision of additional finance for housing construction under the present system would only worsen the present situation. The report to which I have referred continued -
Delinquency is also very much higher, rising to 2.50, 1.99 and 1.45 per 1,000 population in three different sub-standard areas, compared with .06, .07 and .03 in three typical outer suburbs.
Child delinquency is 40 per cent, higher in slum areas than it is in salubrious outer suburbs, of which several are situated in my electorate. Investigations by police have indicated that housing is one of the main causes of the increase in crime in recent years. Therefore, all honorable members will support any proposal that is designed to provide adequate housing, including that which is embodied in this measure, although Government supporters are opposed to the socialistic system of construction which, unfortunately, is to- be continued. However, adequate and proper housing goes to the core of our existence as a stable civilized community. Under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement this Government has the responsibility of providing finance for housing schemes that are supervised by State instrumentalities. At the same time, we must be ‘concerned about the way in which money that is made available under measures of this kind is actually expended. I deplore the state of affairs in Queensland that was revealed in the statement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made recently in respect of housing construction under that agreement. Abundant evidence of the fact that money is being wasted in housing programmes exists also in New South Wales. Although the housing commission in that State was established ten years ago, it had constructed only 17,065 houses at the 30th June, 1951. The New South Wales Government has paraded that fact as being one of its greatest achievements, but that figure has no real significance when it is considered in relation to actual housing requirements in that State and the contribution that private enterprise could have made to the provision of adequate housing had it not been prevented by the commission from doing so. The 17,065 houses that were constructed by the commission since its inception represents about only half of that State’s annual requirements. In recent years the Housing Commission in New South Wales has enjoyed a priority in obtaining building materials that have been in short supply. Contractors, who were not working for it, were denied supplies of such materials and, consequently, their work was held up. Prior to 1940, when private enterprise made its normal contribution in this field, it took on the average only three months to complete the construction of a house. Shortly after the commission was estab- lished, the completion of a house took eighteen months, or six times longer. The administrative costs of the commission are very high. Originally, such costs worked out at an average of £1,000 for each house that the commission constructed. In 1951-52, the commission completed 3,842 houses and “flats at a total cost of £888,26S, or an average cost of £231 in respect of administration alone for each structure that was completed. Thus, that commission has been largely responsible for a high cost of building in New South Wales,
Despite the costliness of its administration, the commission has not promoted efficiency. In October, 1949, the Minister for Housing in New South Wales, Mr. Olive Evatt, found himself involved in a scandal that arose around the commission and about which he, personally, knew nothing. At that time, it was revealed that of twelve houses that the commission constructed on the Archbold estate, five ‘ were allocated to public servants. When I was speaking in this chamber on a similar measure last year, I pointed out that housing represented 82 per cent, of all building construction in New South Wales and that, in consequence, building played an important part in the maintenance of employment. Some economists have ascribed to house construction a major role in the business cycle theory. In 1933, 47 per cent, of workers in the building trades in Australia were unemployed, and even in 1939 16 per cent, of workers in those trades were unemployed. Corresponding figures for 1933 are not available for New South Wales, but in 1939 approximately 10,000 men, or 16 per cent, of the total number of employees, were unemployed in the building trades in that State. In these circumstances, the trade unions have been extremely wary of increasing the number of tradesmen and have strongly resisted the admission to such trades of large numbers of trainees under the reconstruction training scheme. It has been estimated that six men, including those engaged in building and ancillary trades, are required, to complete the construction of an average house within one year. It has been said that it takes 52 man-weeks for on-the-site workers to build a house. It generally takes another 51 man-weeks to carry out all the operations connected with coal, steel, bricks, timber, transport and so on that enter into the cost of a house. If the building industry should suffer a check, immediately an enormous number of men would be thrown out of work. In New South Wales, and these figures can be multiplied by two and a half to give the Commonwealth , figures, 55,000 men were found to be engaged in the building industry recently, as compared with 26,000 in 1946. Therefore, honorable members will appreciate the magnitude of the impact on employment if the building industry should decline. Building houses occupies 80 per cent, of the people who are engaged in all classes of building. [Quorum formed.’] Most of the large Labour-governed States of Australia, particularly Queensland and New South Wales, have let down the people, and the Australian Government, because of their socialist system of housing. Recent figures show that the number’ of houses built in New South Wales increased by only 22 per cent, on the 1939 figures, but that in Victoria, which was not governed by a Labour government from 1939 to 1952, except for about five days, the number of houses built increased by 130 per cent. This is more than five times the percentage increase in New South Wales. In Queensland the number of houses built increased by 47 per cent. Therefore, I believe that honorable members will agree that the Labour party, merely to get some party political advantage, has battened on the passionate desire of the people to obtain homes. The Labour Government policy in New South Wales has resulted in only 62 more dwellings per 10,000 of population than existed in 1939, but in Victoria 95 additional dwellings per 10,000 of population have been built. In Queensland only 85 houses per 10,000 of population have been built. The rate of construction of dwellings in New South Wales has increased since 1939 by 21 per cent, while in the remainder of Australia, including South Australia, which is the star State in this matter, the rate of construction has increased by 110 per cent. Under the socialist system, New South Wales erected only 62 homes per 10,000 of population whereas throughout the remainder of Australia the number erected was 82 per 10,000 of population.
Our cost inflation in connexion with building has been caused by the Communist activity in the trade unions, and by bottlenecks in the supply of coal and steel. Mr. Matthews, the New South Wales Minister for Housing, told me a 3hort time ago that the bottleneck in the production of houses in that State was partly caused by a shortage of coal and steel, which in turn was caused by Communists who knew that if they could cause misery and distress throughout the community they would have a better chance to overthrow our democratic regime. The reduced efficiency of our building labour has been due to Communist influence and to the inflationary finance of Labour governments. If a Labour government assumed control of Australia, it would, as indicated by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the budget, use treasury-bills to further inflate the currency. That, of course, would make our housing position much worse.
– Is not this Government using treasury-bills ?
– This Government deplores the fact that it has to use treasury-bills. It has had to take this action because inflationary finance was used so widely by the preceding Labour Government. The New South Wales Government has spoken with pride of the number of houses in that State that are under construction. That Government did not advertise the fact that, until recently, the average time occupied in completing a house in that State was eighteen months. The New South Wales Government started too many homes and finished too few. It was a common sight to see hundreds of homes in New South Wales in a half -completed condition. In many cases the timber studs had been left standing, in the weather for months and were badly stained by rust marks caused by the nails. There were brick homes half finished, on which the roof timbers had stood for months, but which could not be completed because of the shortage of tiles. In 1939 it cost between £700 and £800 to build a home, but until quite recently a worker i-ould not buy a home for les3 than £8,500 or £4,000. Under the Labour party’s inflationary finance system it soon became apparent that workers could not afford to buy their own homes, and the system has collapsed under its own weight. The Labour system of building houses has definitely collapsed because of Communist influence in the unions and because of inflationary finance. This Government has remedied many material shortages, but, even so, costs have not yet settled down. Builders are trying to reduce costs as much as possible, building workers are trying to increase their output and business concerns supplying raw materials are also trying to cope with cost inflation. When it is realized that in one year 42s. a 100 super, feet has been added to the cost of our local hardwood by basic wage increases alone, it will be seen how difficult it is to deal with this matter of cost inflation. How can we expect a worker to buy a house under these conditions?
Some State housing commission costs have been reduced, but these reductions have mainly taken place because the States have not paid the market price for the land that they resumed from private owners, and because’ they have hoarded building materials at the expense of private home builders. I suggest that such extremely unfair measures have been adopted by State Labour governments in a desperate attempt to keep costs down. Assuming a cost index of 100 in 1939, in December, 1951, the cost index was 36S. Therefore, from 1939, when houses were being built by private enterprise, to December, 1951, when houses were being built under the socialist system, costs increased more than three and’ a half times. The first check to the rising cost of housing occurred in 1951, when this Government .introduced its policy of restricting credit. That is directly the reverse of the socialist policy. Black markets in building materials have already practically disappeared, as L believe even the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) will agree. Material shortages have been greatly reduced, and labour and materials have been made available to complete houses. We all have great hopes that building
Ifr. Jeff Hate. costs have turned downward. Indeed, the cost of housing must be reduced if democracy is to survive in this country. We all remember what Mr. Dedman, a previous member for Corio, said in this Parliament. He said that every home-owner was a little capitalist. That matter was treated so seriously that I believe there was a case in the courts about it. The supporters of the Government believe that every person should have the opportunity of owning his own home, and that the cost of building should be such as to enable them to own their own dwellings. Under the socialist system of housing in New South Wales, only one-sixth of the people who need homes have been housed. The lucky people who obtained houses through ballots have been almost as lucky as those who have won the State lottery. That is, of course, if their homes happen to be well built and not badly erected as some of the Queensland houses are.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The Labour party’s attitude to this measure is not motivated by any opposition to the principles of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In fact, a Labour government introduced that agreement, and I hope that in 1956 another Labour government will renew it. Despite what has been said by honorable members on the Government side, I consider that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been a signal success. It provides for the building of houses for rental and also for sale.
– It does not.
– I say categorically that it provides for houses both for rental and for ownership. It is possible for a person to buy a home that is covered by the provisions of this agreement, and later I shall quote the relevant passage from the relevant report to prove that. It has been said that this agreement is not fair to private enterprise, but anybody who has made a study of housing matters during the last twenty years realizes that because of the failure of private enterprise to house the people the various State housing commissions were established. Later, of course, their obligations were taken over by the Commonwealth. After the depression in the early 1930’s private enterprise . found it unprofitable to build homes for rental. In the 1930’s, if the people of Victoria had had to wait for private enterprise to build homes for rental they would still be living in tents. A Victorian Country party government in the 1930’s, backed by the Labour party, recognized that unless the State did something to house the people housing would remain in a very primitive state. Consequently, the Housing Commission of Victoria was established. Similar organizations were formed in other States about the same time. Later, the obligations incurred by those authorities became so great that the State governments were, unable to provide them with the necessary finance. The Commonwealth Labour Governmentin the ‘forties appreciated the difficulties of the States and brought into operation the housing agreement for the purposes of which this bill will provide finance for the next twelve months. The Opposition objects, not to the purpose of the bill, but to the amount of financial assistance for which it provides. So much work needs to be done that the amount would be hopelessly inadequate. Furthermore, the interest rate of 4^ per cent., for which the bill provides, is far too high.
Statistics demonstrate the value of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in Victoria. The Housing Commission in that State constructed only 1,300 houses at a cost of £1,250,000 d urine the first five years of its operations. However, since the agreement has been in force, 16,000 houses have been constructed at a cost of £41,000,000. That great increase demonstrates the necessity for Commonwealth financial aid for State housing programmes. The attitude of this Government is difficult to understand. -It offers no encouragement to men who want to stand on their own feet and borrow money for the purpose of building houses. They experience the utmost difficulty in obtaining assistance from any financial institution. The trading banks throughout Australia provide money on terms that are not attractive to home-builders. Government supporters argue that the housing agreement cuts across the operations of private enterprise, but the private financial institutions, under the credit policy that has been implemented by this Government, lend money only on terms that are unsuitable to private house-builders. The usual advance offered by a trading bank to-day, if a sympathetic bank manager oan be found, is limited to 60. per cent, of the valuation of the security offered. For example, a person who wants to borrow £3,000 must provide £2,000 on his own account. That is well nigh impossible for the potential small house-builder in present circumstances.
The Government’s financial policy has resulted in a drastic restriction of credit for the purposes of building. My statements are confirmed by an article that was published in the March issue of Bata. the official journal of the Builders and Allied Trades Association. That article stated -
Total finance made available for building by the Commonwealth Bank, trading banks, life assurance offices and other sources in !Mew South Wales, hae declined from £4-,000.000 ir, March, 1!I50, to an estimated £1,300,000 foi this month.
With this two-thirds reduction in the flow of money into building it is obvious the industry’s financial shoe is beginning to pinch.
Those facts demonstrate beyond doubt that, notwithstanding the verbal support, of private enterprise by Government supporters, the terms of the housing agreement at present restrict the enterprise of individuals who wish to build their own houses. The situation may be illustrated by reference to the cost of building a house of ten squares. Prior to 1940, a house of that area cost £2,000 and the prospective builder could obtain a bank advance of as much as 90 pei cent, of that amount. In other words, he was required to provide a deposit of only £200. To-day, a house of ten squares costs £3,000. Under the housing agreement, the maximum advance payable for the construction of such a house is only £2,250, or 75 per cent, of the total sum. That is one reason why the Opposition wants the bill to be redrafted. The Government has ignored the great increase of housing costs. The same position applied in relation to war service homes until last year, when, in response to public clamour and the representations of honorable members from all parties, who spoke on behalf of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and other interested organizations, the Government increased the maximum amount that could be borrowed by applicants for war service homes to £2,750. The Opposition now contends that a similar figure should be fixed under the terms of the housing agreement.
I am particularly interested in that clause of the agreement that relates to the purchase of houses because, like every member of the Labour party, I wholeheartedly support the principle of home ownership. We consider that members of the working class should be given every encouragement to purchase their homes. Pride of possession must be known in order to be appreciated. The honorable member for Bennelong said earlier by interjection that the bill had nothing to do with the sale of houses. For his edification I shall quote frOm clause 14’ of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement -
The Housing Commission of Victoria has taken advantage of that provision in order to sell houses to tenants. I refer the honorable member for Bennelong also to the twelfth annual report of the commission for 1949-50, which is the latest report .available in the Parliamentary Library. It includes the following passage, which proves the truth of my statement : -
Sale of Houses.
All houses erected by the Commission since December, 1943, are subject to the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. Some discussion with the Commonwealth Government was essential before the State Government’s proposal could be adopted that houses should lie sold at approximately the average (per type) of costs since 1943.
However, the Commonwealth Government has agreed to this proposal subject to Victoria undertaking to carry the risk of losses.
That contradicts the assertion of the honorable member for Bennelong. The report continues -
Iai the year ended 30th June, 1900, some progress (hut less than hoped) was made towards the sale of a number of houses. Many difficulties, some peculiar to the times, have combined’ to slow down this function of the Commission
Under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement costs must be known before a house may be sold. Due to the difficulty in getting such works as roads, paths, and drains completed, costs frequently are not available for a considerable time after tenants are installed.
Further obstacles connected with the compulsory acquisition of land, the consequential delays in obtaining- paper titles, and Titles’ Office requisitions involving further surveys frequently result in much loss of time.
Surely even the .honorable member for Bennelong will revise his opinion and acknowledge that tenants can purchase their homes under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Furthermore, Facts and Figures, No. 31, an official publication of the News and Information Bureau, contains the following passage: -
To June 30th last about 1,200 Agreement houses had been sold to tenants, none below capital cost.
That is further proof of the accuracy of my claim. However, I consider that the number of 1,200 was inadequate.
The Labour party would like every tenant to be in a position to buy his home. The rate of house construction to-day is far too slow, and the situation is desperate. We have not overtaken the lag that occurred during the war, and it has become obvious that the orthodox approach to the problem caused by the housing shortage is ineffective. The Government should make a bold and courageous approach to the problem. Hundreds of thousands of Australians who rent houses have not the slightest, prospect, under present conditions, of possessing their own homes. That fact is to be deprecated. At least 75 per cent, of persons who rent houses to-day would purchase them if the proper facilities were made available to them. The inability of tenants to purchase their houses causes mass frustration and is bad for industrial and national’ morale. Therefore, the bill should be re-drafted along the lines that I shall suggest. First, it should provide for a low deposit. Because of the present high cost of living, a worker has very little money to set aside towards a deposit on> a house after he has bought the necessaries of life. He needs at least £1,000 before he can pay a deposit on a suitable house under present conditions. That amount should be reduced. Secondly, a very low rate of interest should be charged. Under the terms of the bill, interest on loans will be payable at the rate of 4- per cent: This is too high. For example, employees of the Commonwealth Bank can obtain building loans at 2i per cent. That is a laudable arrangement, and I consider that it should apply to everybody throughout Australia. Thirdly, every home purchaser should be secure in the knowledge that, in sickness or unemployment, he will not lose his home. During the economic depression tens of thousands of Australian citizens los_t the homes that they had been trying to purchase and, incidentally, lost their life’s savings! There was no means by which their interests could be protected until they found work.
Provision should be made, as a part of our social security scheme, to ensure that, on the death of a home purchaser, liability in respect of the transaction shall be automatically discharged. That would increase interest in home building. The number of houses needed throughout Australia could not be assessed accurately, but I believe that the total must be at least 300,000. I base that approximation on my experience in the electorate of Batman. People come to me week after week to ask for help to obtain homes of some kind. Unfortunately, under present conditions, the prospect of overtaking the shortage is becoming increasingly remote. Ever since the end of “World War II., the housing needs of the people, because of the increasing population,, have far exceeded the rate of home construction. Approximately 67,400 dwellings were completed in 1950-51. According to building journals that I have read, at least 75,000 cottages should be built each year in order to meet current requirements. As the rate of construction is below that figure, the lag is not being overtaken. It is. safe to say that 90,000 dwellings should be erected each year in order to overtake the lag and to satisfy the demand for accommodation.
That figure does not take into account the shortage which accumulated during the last war, and the most distressing feature of housing - the number of structures that should be demolished, because of their unhealthy state, and slum clearance. Recently I visited a number of houses in a residential suburb of Melbourne and I was absolutely appalled to see the conditions under which large numbers of people are compelled to live at’ the present time. Of course, the reason why many dwellings are not being demolished is that the occupants would not be able to find alternative accommodation. The Housing Commission of Victoria,, whilst it serves demolition notices on the owners of properties, does not insist upon the execution of the orders. It would be most cruel to do so, in the present circumstances, because the occupants of the condemned dwellings would not be able to find alternative accommodation. However, while the people are permitted to live in those homes, their health is deteriorating. The conditions under which some people are compelled to live are enough to make one’s heart bleed.
Clause 3 of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that a State shall ensure that it has adequate legislative authority to enable it to control slum clearance. In my opinion, this bill should make provision for that phase of the housing programme. This work has been delayed because of the housing shortage and lack of finance. The States have not been able to provide sufficient money to build houses for newly married couples and for persons who live under the appalling conditions to which I referred a few moments ago. The Commonwealth should make a determined effort to assist each State to embark upon at least a phase of its slum clearance programme. It is difficult to understand why the present Government has applied its credit restriction policy to home building. The honorable member for Macarthur attempted to explain the Government’s decision in that respect by stating that, under present conditions, the construction of homes was inflationary. For the life of me, I cannot understand the logic of that argument. In the building of houses, the production of the asset precedes the actual expenditure. When a person builds a house, he creates an asset that will endure for many years. lt is not an article that will be consumed and pass into a state of nothingness in a short period. The terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement assess the life of a house at 53 years. Consequently, a house is an asset against the expenditure, whether the construction be financed by treasury-bills or loan moneys. The dwelling is a tangible asset, which is rent-producing. When a house is under construction, the builder is not paid in advance. He receives payment only after the “ production “ has taken place. The provision of finance for home building does not increase the inflationary pressures. The money is not created before the asset is established. I have already emphasized that the asset is not of a temporary nature. Everybody knows that the life of a house is much longer than 53 years. Housing, by its very nature, is a constructive, enduring asset. I ask the Government to heed that remark, particularly in view of the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Macarthur that a housing programme is inflationary, and, therefore, should be restricted. I cannot understand the logic of such a contention, when the asset will endure, and yield rent for many years.
I shall now make a few comments about the housing of a section of the community who are not in a position to do much for themselves. In the remarks that I am about to ma’ke, I shall not indict the present Government. The criticism, for this bad condition of affairs should be borne by successive governments, Commonwealth and State. We are an aging population. The number of persons who live beyond the age of 65 years is increasing annually. Consequently, the problem of providing accommodation for elderly folk is becoming increasingly difficult. At present, the only organizations which make any real attempt to house elderly people are church institutions and certain charitable bodies, which have achieved wonders, but their scope is limited by lack of finance. Many age pensioners are living in slum dwellings, because they cannot afford a better standard of accommodation. They are too independent by nature to enter an institution. Incidentally, the number of institutions that can accept elderly persons is all too few. Consequently, the elderly folk live in slum dwellings, and under such conditions the sunset of their lives is bleak and cold. The solution appears to lie in the adoption, on a large scale, of schemes which have been put into operation by voluntary organizations. Each elderly couple is housed in a small cottage unit containing a bedroom, a sitting-room, a bathroom and a verandah. A cottage of this type gives privacy and comfort, and the tenants have their own garden strips. To each group of cottages there is a central building which contains a communal dining room, kitchen, laundry and accommodation for the staff. Hostel accommodation is provided for single pensioners. A deviation, perhaps, may be made from that pattern by providing, not a separate building for each elderly couple, but a number of selfcontained flatettes under the one roof. Accommodation of that type was provided recently in a Melbourne suburb for elderly folk, but the principle of allowing the tenants to have their own selfcontained living quarters was retained.
Surely the Commonwealth and the States, by a combined effort, can hammer out a scheme under which adequate provision may be made for elderly persons. For too long have we left that responsibility to public-spirited citizens and organizations, which do not possess the resources to enable them to undertake such i task on a large scale. In Victoria, the housing commission is obviously the authority to perform this work. Church organizations, friendly societies and other institutions have done an excellent job, but they cannot be expected to shoulder what is after all the obligation of the nation.
The Housing Commission of Victoria has achieved remarkable results in other respects. To date, it has housed 17,265 families, and has completed cottages at the rate of 57 a week. I should like it to devote its energies to housing the kinds of person to whom I have referred. Some criticism has been directed at the commission, because of the high rents which it charges for its new houses. In my opinion, such criticism is unjustified. 1 shall relate my remarks on this subject with the statement made earlier by the honorable member for Macarthur. After all, the high cost of housing to-day is due, in the main, to the failure of this Government to control the inflationary spiral. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his supporters promised the people, during the general election campaign in 1949, that if they were returned to office, they would control inflation. The Government has not honoured that promise, and housing costs have increased apace in accordance with the general uplift of prices everywhere.
I shall show how the cost of housing has increased since this Government has been in office. In the period from 1947 to 1949, the Housing Commission of Victoria completed the construction of 4,500 dwellings at an average cost of £2,200. In the period from 1949 to 1951, the commission completed 5,000 cottages at an average cost of £3,300. Since 194’9, the rent of a cottage with three bedrooms has increased by 52 per cent. That inordinate increases is passed on to the tenant by way of increased rent, and inflicts great hardship on him, and effectively prevents a person from purchasing his cottage. Whatever else we do, we should encourage home ownership by every practical means. The first step that the Government should take in order to give effect to that objective is to reduce the interest rate to 2-J per cent, or even 2 per cent. That would have a two-fold effect. Some years ago, the Housing Commission of Victoria estimated that when the interest rate was 4 per cent., the interest charge was approximately two-thirds of the economic rent; and that when the interest rate was reduced to 3-J per cent, the interest charge was only one-half the economic rent. In other words, if the interest rate falls, the rent is reduced. It should be generally conceded that if the average family is compelled to pay more than 25 per cent, of its income in interest charges, and the repayment of the purchase price of a cottage, its standard of living must he reduced undesirably in some way. If the Government would take the progressive and courageous step to reduce interest rates to 2 per cent, or 2i per cent., its policy would have the approbation of every section of the community, and might cancel the many political sins which it has committed during the last two and a half years. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to adopt the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne, and recast the bill. A reduction of interest rates, and the granting of long-term credit, would give a definite stimulus to citizens to purchase their homes. Under present conditions, the average citizen is prevented, by the high interest bill, from owning a dwelling.
– J am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this bill. I have not had the experience of housing conditions in States other than South Australia, and, therefore, I am not able to speak with the same authority as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) have spoken on this subject. Incidentally, I refer to the speech of the honorable member for Lilley with considerable alarm, because he produced the most disturbing evidence of the unsatisfactory scheme in Queensland. I hope that the Government will. accede to his request that a committee be appointed to inquire, if not into the whole ramifications of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, then at least into the inefficiency that is apparent under the scheme in Queensland.
The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, was a signatory to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in 1945, but the Government of that State has never participated in the agreement. When the agreement was formulated, the State Bank and the Savings Bank of South Australia and certain other institutions provided finance for home building. The South Australian Housing Trust was established in 1937 as the result of the acceptance by the State Parliament of a private member’s bill introduced by the honorable member for .Sturt in the House of Assembly, Mr. Hogben. I pay a tribute to Mr. Hogben for his vision, application, study and effort in bringing the trust into existence. The principal purpose of the. trust is similar to that of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, namely, to provide a home, with all the necessary conveniences, within the financial capacity of a low-wage earner. The act provided that the complete purchase price should not exceed £450. That amount included the cost of the land, sewer, light, road and kerbs. The rate of interest was 4 per cent., and the rent payable was 12s. 6d. a week. A family with an overall income in excess of £4 10s. a. week was disqualified from obtaining the tenancy of a cottage erected by the trust. An analysis of the weekly rent was as follows: - Interest 6s. 5 1/2 d., sinking fund 5d., repairs and maintenance 2s. 4d., rates and taxes 2s. l£d., and administration and bad debts ls. 2d., making a total of 12s. 6d. The housing trust was able to enter into contracts with builders who were familiar with its methods and procedures. The builders had specialist knowledge of the type of houses required and so little has been done on the open tender market. Mr. E. E. Marshall, a builder who was originally associated with the trust, completed 473 permanent homes in 1951. All the agreements contain a rise and fall clause which operates to the satisfaction of both parties. It is different from the cost plus system that operates in other building .schemes, and covers basic costs, hours, and rates of pay. From time to time adjustments are made in accordance with figures that are submitted to the trust. In 1950-51, the last year for which figures are available, the trust erected 3,057 houses in South Australia, including 1,968 permanent structures and 1,089 of the emergency type. By comparison, 3,273 houses were built in New South Wales in the same year, 2,699 in Victoria and 907 in Queensland. In Western Australia, the State which compares most closely with South Australia for efficiency, standard prices and costs, 1,269 houses were built. Of the permanent dwellings that were erected in South Australia,, 473 were in the metropolitan area and 178 in the rural districts. Soldier and other ex-service settlers were provided with 143 completed houses, and 103 homes were in the course of constructon for applicants in the same category. In addition, the trust provided finance for 750 war service homes. It is ironical, therefore, that the trust was excluded, as a provider of houses for ex-servicemen, by the legislation passed by this Parliament, which limited to £2,000 the advance for homes that had already been erected. That exclusion was a major dis-service to ex-servicemen, but South Australia could not be singled out for special treatment because any legislation that is passed by this Parliament must have a Commonwealth application.
The War Service Homes Division should study the activities of the South Australian Housing Trust and the type of houses that it has erected. The cost in New South Wales is at least 50 per cent, higher than that of similar houses built by the trust in South Australia. The latest report on the trust’s activities that has been published in the press stated that it had: completed 389 houses in August, 1952. That was 127 more than the number completed in July. The results reflect credit on the trust. The principle that is followed in the allocationof houses is almost identical with that adopted under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Houses are allotted on a needs basis and also in consideration of war service. Under the Commonwealth scheme, 50 per cent, of the houses go to ex-servicemen and 50 per cent, to civilians. In 1937 the initial rent was 12s. 6d. a week, but the charges have been adjusted since then in accordance with the rise in costs. In 1950-51, the charge for a house in South Australia on a rental basis was 27s, a week for three rooms, 303. a week for four rooms, 32s. 6d. for five rooms and 36s. for six rooms. Those charges related to the metropolitan area. In the same period, the trust had applications for 3,207 houses to.be purchased, 3,212 for rental and 2,794 for emergency housing.
I believe that every endeavour should be made to make finance available to those who are willing and eager to buy houses. I believe in home ownership, and I am sure that all honorable members on this side of the House agree with that principle. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) spoke in glowing terms of the enormous number of houses that had been sold in Victoria, according to his claim. I do not wish to reflect on the achievements of the Victorian authorities, but the records show that although 14,544 houses were built in that State under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement up to the 29th February last, only 91 of them had been sold. Victoria is not a good example of the encouragement of home ownership under the Commonwealth and State housing scheme.
The South Australian Housing Trust has done important work in assisting contractors and builders to import building materials that were in short supply to a total value of £221,800. Advised and encouraged by the Australian Government, it ordered from Germany and Great Britain 3,824 prefabricated houses. The South Australian Government will honour the contracts that it has placed overseas, and those houses will be delivered and erected at a cost of £2,400 to £2,500 within a radius of 100 miles of the metropolitan area. At present, the Australian Government will advance only £1,500 to those who wish to buy one of those houses, and the applicants have great difficulty in financing the balance of £900. The Government should re-examine the credit restrictions in order to determine whether larger advances could be made for the financing of the homes which it encouraged the South Australian Government to buy. In 1950-51 expenditure on the maintenance of houses built by the trust totalled £34,478. Bates and taxes amounted to £42,915 and insurance to £6,607. The trust carries its own insurance risk, and the amount to the credit of insurance reserve now amounts to £23,000. In addition, the excess of income over expenditure in 1950-51 was £34,586. Although individual costs cannot be clearly defined because they are related to the locality where the house is built, the average cost of a five-roomed house in South Australia, is between £1,980 and £2,300. Figures that I have obtained indicate that 16,160 houses have been erected in New South Wales and advances under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement have totalled £34,185,000. Since its inception, the South Australian Housing Trust has erected 10,221 houses and advances by the South Australian Government have totalled £10,775,000. The figures for South Australia, therefore, compare more than favorably with those of New South Wales.
On the 26th August last, a statement by the chairman of the trust, Mr. J. P. Cartledge, was published in the Adelaide Advertiser with regard to the absorption by big contractors of recent basic wage increases. That action is typical of South Australia. The tolerance and understanding that exists there between employers and employees is an example to all other States. When negotiations for new quantity surveys were in progress, certain building contractors decided that they would consult their employees. As a result of a round-table conference, B. Brimblecombe and Sons Limited, M. G. Wood Limited, ‘ and Combe and Kramer Limited agreed to absorb the previous two basic wage rises totalling 13s. That meant a saving of £75 on the cost of every house that was built. The builders were under no obligation to absorb the increases, as they were covered by the rise and fall clause. However, the employees agreed that they would do a little more and the employers agreed to take a little less. In addition to its other responsibilities, the trust is charged with rent control in South Australia. Between 1943 and 1951, it considered and adjusted 24,092 cases. My limited experience and the inquiries that I have been able to make indicate to me that no other organization in Australia is doing a better or more economical job than is being done by the trust. The South Australian Government sets a high standard in housing at a low cost. It, also has done great work for ex-servicemen. If any investigations are to be made, I suggest that the organization in South Australia and its achievements should be studied. The Australian Government and the people will benefit if the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement can be remodelled on modern lines.
I emphasize that the sooner the Government abolishes day labour and the cost plus system and reverts to the old contract system the better. I believe the Minister has taken a courageous stand on this matter and I congratulate him. Honorable members on this side of the House will support him in any move to assist private enterprise, and to abolish day labour and the iniquitous cost-plus system. The agreement was an airy dream of the Labour party. On paper it looked wonderful, but it has turned out to be hopless for Australia as a whole. I believe that the Australian Government should limit its interest in the building of houses to finance. Let it make the money available through the banks or other organizations to individuals who want to buy homes. It should end its housing responsibilities there. It should not be milked for maintenance over a long period. It is my intention therefore, to oppose the amendment.
.- The purpose of the legislation is to authorize the raising of loan money totalling £30,000,000 in order to finance advances to certain States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945 for the financial year 1952-53. According to the Minister, the amount to be made available will be limited by the amount that will be provided through the Australian Loan Council. The Australian Government will decide how much the States should get. That was- never intended under the agreement. This restriction of the allocation of money to the .States is contrary to both the letter and spirit of the principal act and of the agreement. The act was passed after a report had been made by the Commonwealth Housing Commission. That body was established in war-time by a Labour government. It conducted a comprehensive survey of the housing position throughout Australia, and made recommendations about how the lag in housing prior to and during the war could he overcome and the demands of the postwar period could be met. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement 1945 was intended to implement those recommendations. It formed a part of the programmes of post-war reconstruction and social security of the Curtin Government and of the Chifley Government. It was intended, in effect, to make amends, as far as was possible, for the neglect and short-sightedness of past administrations, especially during the depression period.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in 1945, Mr. Dedman, in introducing the measure, said that it was intended to provide the means by which a fullscale attack could be made upon one of the worst of our social evils, to mete out a measure of social justice to people who had been neglected in the pre-war depression days - he referred to those who, in the past, had been condemned to live in sub-standard houses or in depressed slum areas - and to the service men and women, war workers and others who had made great sacrifices to achieve victory in World War I. and World War LT., and to cope with the requirements of the large number of migrants who would be invited to come here. In 1945, the commission reported that Australia was then short of 350,000 houses, and that it had estimated that, in addition, 400,000 houses would be required to meet postwar needs. It stated that 750,000 houses would be required over a period of ten years. A target was fixed of 70,000 houses a year, to be constructed by both governmental authorities and private builders. Mr. Dedman pointed out that, naturally, it would take a little time to reach that target, because the process of gearing-up to a full-scale programme would be delayed by the neglect of technical training and the disorganization of the building trades during the war and the depression. He said it was expected that the target figure of 70,000 houses a year would be reached by the 30th June, 1948.
The government of the day embarked courageously and vigorously upon that programme. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was intended to encourage the States to do their share of the work, and to undertake housing projects that ordinarily would not be undertaken by private enterprise. Under the agreement, the States were required to do the physical work and the administration, and the Commonwealth undertook to help with over-all planning, research into modern methods of construction, and the provision of finance. The only limitations were to be those imposed by the availability of materials and labour. The States, especially New South Wales, embarked upon their part of the undertaking with vigour and enthusiasm. The record of New South Wales in housing is most creditable, as is evidenced by the rows and rows of houses that have been built in the suburbs of the cities and in the country centres, and by the modern flats, community shopping centres and other buildings. Honorable members opposite have referred to the record of the Housing Commission of New South Wales, but they have cited inaccurate figures. Let me refer the House to a passage from a quarterly review of the progress of the commission. lt relates to the ‘ quarterly period that ended on the 30th September, 1950, and is as follows : -
Although the establishment of the Housing Commission was provided for by the Housing Act 194.1, it was not until after the end of the war in August, 1945, that it was possible for a home construction programme on any extensive scale to bo undertaken. During the quarter ended 30th September, 1950, therefore, the Commission completed its first five years of what might be termed “ effective operation “.
As at 30th September, 1950, the position in regard to the construction programme of the Housing Commission and its sponsored organizations was as follows: -
The combined programme for the Housing Commission and its sponsored organizations, involved at 30th September, 1950, a total of 34,419 permanent units and 3,007 temporary units. This figure does not include a further 6,445 permanent Housing Commission dwellings sited for early erection, so that the overall programme of the Commission and its sponsored organizations at present involves a total of 44,471 dwelling units.
The Commission is still doing everything in its power to increase the rate of .building throughout the State, with special emphasis on country towns where it is evident that an unsatisfied housing need exists which can only be overcome by the erection of Government homes.
That is a different picture from that which was painted by honorable members opposite. The target set by the Commonwealth had almost been reached when the Chifley Government was defeated. The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics has published the following figures, which show the number of houses that have been completed’ in this country since 1946. They are as follows : -
In the quarterly period that ended in September, 1951, 1S,343 houses were completed ; in the quarter that ended in. December, 1951, 20,651; and in the quarter that ended in March, 1952, 18,312. If we assume that the figure for the quarter that ended in June, 1952, is similar to that for the previous quarter, the total number of houses that had been built at the end of last financial year was about 341,000. Assuming also that building construction is continuing at the previous rate, by the end of this month 350,000 houses will have been constructed during the post-war period, or since the agreement became operative.
– By governmental authorities ?
– By both private and governmental instrumentalities. That figure represents only the total number of houses that were required at the end of the war. We have, in effect, only caught up with the lag that existed then. We have done nothing to meet the housing requirements of the post-war period, which the Commonwealth Housing Commission estimated to be 400,000 houses. On the commission’s findings, we are short of 400,000 houses. On a modest estimate, another 100,000 houses are required to house the 500,000 or 600,000 immigrants who have come to this country. Therefore, 500,000 houses are still required to overtake the pre-war shortage and to meet post-war requirements, despite the fact that only three years remain of the ten-year period envisaged by the commission. That figure does not take necessary slum clearances into account. To cope with the plan that was outlined, we should have to build approximately 170,000 houses a year for three years. The peak of house construction was reached in March, 1951, when the annual rate of construction was 84,370, but since then the rate appears to have decreased. If construction had proceeded at the rate for March, 1951, the target might have been reached, but, on present indications, it seems that, as a result of the credit restriction policy of this Government, the rate will taper off, and that at the end of the ten-year period we shall still be short of 400,000 or 500,000 houses.
The Commonwealth, by not providing the finance that the States need to enable them to go ahead with their housing programme, has committed a breach of both the letter and the- spirit of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Clause 6 (1.) of that agreement states -
The Commonwealth will advance to each State the monies heretofore expended in the carrying out of a housing’ project or projects and the monies that shall be hereafter required for the carrying out of the States’ housing projects as notified to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth from time to time pursuant to clause 7.
Clause 7 (1.) reads -
Bach State shall at least fourteen days before the first days of January, March, June and September in each year notify the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of all housing projects which it proposes to commence in the ensuing period of three months.
All that is required of the States is that, at the beginning of each quarter, they shall notify the Commonwealth of their requirements. The agreement does not provide for any restriction of finance at all. Finance is to be limited only by what the States propose to undertake.
– The Commonwealth is supposed to meet the requirements of the States?
– Yes. It has been contended by the Minister for Housing in New South Wales that the Commonwealth has a legal obligation in this connexion, apart altogether from the moral aspect of the matter. Clause S of the agreement states -
The Commonwealth shall use its best endeavours to enable the States to obtain supplies of building materials and labour required by the States for the carrying out of their housing projects.
The Commonwealth is under an obligation, not only to provide finance but also to assist the States to obtain necessary materials and labour. Surely it can do that under present circumstances. There should be no difficulty about finance, or about materials and labour. There are over 100,000 unemployed people in Australia to-day. According to statistics compiled by the Commonwealth Employment Service, in my electorate and in areas adjoining it over 4,000 people are unemployed, and many more people are being dismissed from their employment daily. There is no labour shortage in this country.
The firm of Van Dyke Brothers has a factory at Villawood, in Sydney, which manufactures prefabricated houses. At one time, it employed 300 or 400 people, and had a potential output of 50 houses a week. It had contracts with the New South Wales Housing Commission and with the Commonwealth.. As a result of the credit restriction policy of this Government, which has curtailed the housing activities of the States, that factory has closed down almost completely. Only 100 yards from it is the site of one of the housing projects to which the New South Wales Housing Commission referred in its annual report for the year ended on the 30th June, 1948. The project involves the construction of over 800 homes, and. the establishment of a modern community settlement, with model houses and all conveniences and facilities such as shops, schools, a sports oval and even churches. It is one of the finest housing projects ever planned, and I think it is the first of its kind in this country. It had actually been started, and a number of homes had already been constructed, but work on it has had to stop.
Yet practically across the street from that project is the finest prefabricated housing factory in Australia, which is capable of turning out 50 houses a week for the completion of the project. I say that the Commonwealth has completely failed to discharge its responsibilities under the agreement. After all, the New South Wales Housing Commission has shown its earnestness about tackling the housing problem. Some years ago the present New South Wales Minister for Housing, Mr. Clive Evatt, told me, when he was appointed to that portfolio, that the New South Wales Housing Commission had enough work for 50 years, not only in relation to the building of individual homes but also in relation to the replacement of houses that had been and would be demolished f or the purposes of slum clearance. Mr. Evatt is the one Minister for Housing who is really trying to do something about slum clearance. He has shown his bona fides in relation to slum clearance, and has proved himself to be a man of action when it comes to getting something done about it. Recently I asked Mm what was the New South Wales Government’s attitude regarding the restriction of these projects and I received from him a letter dated the 22nd September which, in part, read as follows: -
Twelve (12) months ago, without prior advice and in complete disregard of its obligations under the Commonwealth & State Housing Agreement, the Federal Government arbitrarily reduced the cash allocation to the Housing Commission of New South Wales for its construction programme under the Agreement from the £14m. sought to £8,514,000 for 1951-52.
Such action was utterly incomprehensible as it could never have been contemplated that the Federal authorities would attempt to restrict finance for such vital and essential work. It was certainly never envisaged that that Government would fail to meet its obligations under Clause 6 of the Housing Agreement which requires it to finance housing works undertaken by the States in accordance with their obligations under the Agreement.
The position then was that the Government of this State was anxious and willing to meet its obligations both under the Agreement and to the unfortunate citizens of the State who were in urgent need of improved housing; the federal Government, however, with complete disregard for the housing plight of thousands of decent citizens and without previous warning chose to repudiate its very definite obligations under the Housing Agreement.
The result of such gross repudiation, which was quite illegal,’ was the creation of a Scandalous situation in which the Housing Commission felt itself obliged to refrain from entering into new contracts from November last, was unable to honour its undertakings to local firms and overseas organizations established to a large extent in the interests of the Government’s housing programme, and was required to determine contracts wherever this could be done without legal implications.
Yet this Government professes to believe in the sanctity of contracts. The letter continues -
Such steps were forced upon the State housing authority by a Government which some little time previously had urged the State to expand its building programme in the interest of national development.
This then was the intolerable position when the Commission was required in March last to submit its financial requirements for its activities under the Commonwealth & State Housing Agreement for the year 1952-53. This estimate, which had regard to commitments in respect of works under constructions and the urgent necessity to enter into contracts for the erection of additional homes, was £17,190,000.
Despite a decision of the Loan Council covering an overall loan programme of £247im., the Federal Government was prepared to support such programme to the extent of £180m. only and an expenditure by New South Wales of £8,800,000 during 1952-53 for housing under the Commonwealth & State Housing Agreement.
This decision of the Federal Government meant that, not only would it not be possible for further contracts to be let by the New South Wales Housing Commission, but that a further reduction of the programme in hand and to which the Commission was already committed might well be necessary with tragic consequences for all concerned.
Although more recently the Federal Government has announced that a further sum of £3. 3m. is to be made available to New South Wales for housing under the Agreement during 1952-53, this additional money is in respect of a special programme in “ key “ areas where the dwellings to be erected will assist industry and undertakings of national importance. No provision whatsoever has been made for additional housing in many other areas where there is an acute housing need nor will it be .practicable, having regard to the financial limitations imposed, to initiate a building programme to provide for the erection of dwellings during 1953-54 where the need is, as a result of the credit restrictions policy of the Federal Government becoming even more acute.
Although the limited “ special “ programme will now get under way, the normal programme of the Housing Commission is fast coming to a complete stop as homes under construction are completed. There is. therefore, every possibility that the normal State housing programme will come to a standstill before the end of this financial year unless the Federal Government accepts its financial responsibilities under the Housing Agreement and provides additional finance to which the State has every entitlement and which is required to meet the programme that has been planned. ft is estimated that the nett result of the Federal Government’s repudiation of its financial obligations under the Agreement has been the loss of «t least 8,000 homes which, had finance been provided as required, would have been the subject of contract. No doubt a number of these would have already been completed and a large proportion would be under construction.
With some 43,000 eligible applicants to the Housing Commission awaiting homes and applications increasing each week, the position is intolerable.
The letter goes on to quote a certain legal authority to support the contention that the Commonwealth is hound to carry out this clause of the agreement. The Commonwealth Housing Commission to which I have already referred, made a scathing indictment regarding the past neglect of the evil of slums. Mr. Dedman, who was Minister in charge of housing matters at that time, had this to say about slums -
To our discredit there has not been to date a full-scale attack on our slums. In a recent preliminary war-time survey, undertaken by the States at the instance of the Commonwealth Government, it was shown that no fewer than 235,000 Australian families are living in dwellings which -need replacement, and the number is steadily growing.
The Commonwealth Housing Commission said in relation to the same matter -
We consider it essential that in Australia the governments should accept responsibility for ensuring adequate housing of the people, especially those in the lower income group.
Again New South Wales has done a splendid job in that connexion. The New South Wales Housing Commission has constructed fine new blocks of flats throughout the Sydney metropolitan area. The commission constructed at Kirribilli one block that contains 300 home units. Other fine blocks of flats have been constructed at Redfern, Erskineville and Surry Hills, whilst still others are in course of construction.
Work on those still under construction has to be brought to a standstill as a result of the actions of this Government.
Slum clearance has never been really tackled in Australia except in New South Wales, where a fine job has been done by Mr. Evatt. There is no real limitation of the Commonwealth obligations in this regard, and certainly there should be no difficulty about providing the necessary finance. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) made a remark about treasury-bills. There is no need to issue treasury-bills to finance the provision of housing for the people. Such finance can be provided in the ordinary way that government or private banking finance is provided. As a matter of fact, under the housing agreement the activities of the States are restricted, particularly in regard to the disposal of houses. Although a period of 53 years is ordinarily allowed for the repayment of amounts advanced for the building of houses, under that agreement the State has to repay to the ‘Commonwealth the money advanced to it immediately it has disposed of the houses the building of which was financed by the loan. It seems to be ridiculous to provide that the States shall repay such advances and then have to come cap in hand to the Commonwealth each year for more loan moneys for housing purposes. I put it to the Minister for Works and Housing that some simple business method should be used in connexion with the provision of housing finance for the States, such as is used by private building contractors. Honorable members opposite are always referring to the benefits of private enterprise. Why not utilize ordinary business methods and banking practice in regard to the financing of these State undertakings? Why not allow the Commonwealth Bank to do the whole job of financing these State housing projects by an issue of special credits? Why not, for instance, allot the New South Wales Housing Commission a credit limit of, say, £100,000,000, and, as it lets out contracts for the building of houses, advance the sum necessary for it to pay its contractors when payment to them becomes due? The sums lent would be repaid as the houses were disposed of. There would then be no need for the
States to come cap in hand to the Commonwealth or to the Australian Loan Council for further moneys every year.
The Commonwealth Bank could operate such a scheme with its present machinery. If necessary, it could finance a housing programme to cost £1,000,000,000. There is no reason why the bank, with its facilities, could not advance those moneys to the State housing, authorities at a moderate rate of interest, say 1 per- cent, or 2 per cent. The administrative cost of lending such money is only about one half of 1 per cent., as was shown by the London Economist some time ago. The Commonwealth Bank does not have to pay taxes or meet any of the other liabilities that other banking concerns have to meet. It could advance the moneys at 1 per cent, interest, which would enable the State housing authorities to finance the construction of homes and charge interest of 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, on resale over a reasonable period.
The Labour party stands for the principle of individual home ownership that was laid down under the Curtin and Chifley Governments. The adoption of the method I have suggested would facilitate provision of finance for homes without the necessity of all this cumbersome machinery that comes into operation each year to enable the Commonwealth to advance moneys to the States. After all, housing is the key to all prosperity. It is fundamental to our economy, and is based on a primary urge. All activity centres in the home, just as with other primitive species it centres in the nest. We seem to have forgotten the real function of money and now, instead of money being the servant of mankind men have become the slaves of money. Primitive people, long before the introduction of modern construction methods, never had monetary troubles in relation to the construction of their homes. If the Commonwealth Bank were allowed to function as a true people’s bank there would be no real trouble about financing the construction of houses in Australia.
The Government is interested in the financing of house building, but there are also other organizations in the community that are trying to do their share in that regard. The honorable member for Bennelong might have something to say about what the Government intends to do to assist not only private enterprise, but also co-operative building societies, in relation to the construction of houses to meet the urgent needs of the people. The difficulties that beset co-operative building societies were outlined recently when a deputation saw the Treasurer. Those difficulties apply particularly to such societies in New South Wales and Victoria, because the people in those States have been encouraged by State and Federal governments to form cooperative building societies in order to help solve the housing problem. I have not time to read to the House La detail all the activities of these societies, but they were set out in the communication honorable members received from the general secretary on behalf of the Board of Co-operative Building Societies.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members opposite have been making heavy weather in this debate in an attempt to explain away the inherent weaknesses of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, whilst at the same time they have been asserting that they are in favour of individual home ownership. First, I take to task the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), with whom I exchanged a few words while he was speaking. I denied that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement makes provision in any shape or form for home ownership. I substantiate that statement by quoting the recital to the agreement, which reads -
Whereas at Conferences of Commonweal ti i and State Ministers held during the months of August, 1944, and August, 1945, proposals were agreed upon relating to the carrying out of rental housing projects by the States:
And whereas the Commonwealth proposes to assist the States in the carrying out of the rental housing projects by making contributions to the States towards meeting any losses that may be incurred .by a State in the administration of the rental housing projects:
Clause 3 of the agreement, which deals with the machinery to be set up by the States, relates particularly to “ rental housing projects under this agreement “.
The honorable member for Batman directed attention to clause 14 of the agreement which he claimed enabled a State to sell a dwelling. That provision does not mean that the agreement encourages home ownership because subclause (2) of the same clause provides that-
The State shall pay to the Commonwealth the full purchase price of the dwelling payable by the purchaser.
The effect of that provision is that if a State sells a house that has been constructed under this agreement, it must pay the whole of the purchase price to the Australian Government, whereas if a State let such a house it would retain the money spent in respect of such a dwelling. I repeat that this agreement, inherently, contains no provision that encourages home ownership. The agreement, in every respect, was formulated by the Chifley socialist Government with the idea of achieving the socialists’ long-term objective of the socialized state. There can be no doubt that at the time the agreement was made, members of the Australian Labour party believed, as they still believe, in the principle of government ownership and control of property. That is consistent with their idea that there should always be a mobile labour force available to the government. The objective of this socialist agreement was to make houses available on a rental basis so as to enable Labour governments in this Parliament, and also Labour State governments, to use the agreement as a party political instrument in the disposition of a certain proportion of the population. For instance, we have the spectacle of 320 flats, the biggest project yet to be undertaken under this agreement, being constructed at North Sydney at a cost of approximately £1,250,000. About 1,000 people willbe living in those flats in a relatively small area. The New South Wales Labour Government undertook that project in a desperate effort to make North Sydney a safe Labour electorate. A similar policy is being pursued in many other areas. In my electorate, on land that the State Government resumed from a company in which my brother and I are interested, and for which it has not, paid us although it made the resumption six years ago, cottages have been constructed under this agreement. Incidentally, “ Jackie “ Ferguson, who is an important personage in the Australian Labour party, is renting one of those cottages. I mention those facts in order to indicate how State Labour governments are acting under this agreement to bestow party political patronage and to make certain electorates safe for Labour. Every honorable member knows that that is being done in a general way, particularly in Queensland where the State Labour Government is using this agreement as a party political weapon.
The terms of the agreement itself indicate that it deals with the construction of houses as rental propositions and does not in any way encourage tenants to purchase houses. The rental formula is extraordinary. It is based on the idea that a tenant should not be obliged to pay in rent more than one-fifth of his income. But the rent is not determined in relation to the cost of the house. The agreement provides that losses that are incurred in this respect should be borne in the ratio of three-fifths by the Australian Government and two-fifths by the State Government. Already a loss of approximately £500,000 has been incurred in that way, and, having regard to present economic conditions, that loss could easily be increased to colossal proportions. I am suggesting that it is improper for the Government to fix rents on a basis not related in any way to the cost of the dwellings. Probably, the Government should provide a straight-out rental subsidy, but, in all circumstances, the rent should be determined in relation to the cost of the dwelling. Otherwise, the rental subsidy could be manipulated in all sorts of ways. This agreement is to remain in force for a period of 53 years, but although sub-clause. (3.) of clause 6 provides that each advance made under it should bear interest “ at a rate not exceeding that payable in respect of the long-term Commonwealth public loan last raised prior to the date of the advance”, the rate of interest payable on advances made under this agreement is still at 3 per cent. I trust that the agreement will not remain in force for the full period of 53 years. Fortunately, the agreement provides that either party may withdraw from it after the expiration of a period of notice of twelve months of that intention. Later, I shall make certain suggestions in that respect.
Only four of the States are now parties to this agreement. South Australia has never been a party to it, and, as the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) has pointed out, that State has a better record than has any other State in the provision of houses both for renting and for sale. Although I do not agree with certain aspects of the policy of the housing authority in that State, it should be said to the credit of that body that at least half of the houses that it constructs are made available to purchasers. In New South Wales, up to the 30th June last, approximately 20,000 houses had been constructed under this agreement, but of that number only 452 or 2.5 per cent, had been sold. As at the same date, approximately 16,000 houses had been constructed in Victoria and only 91 or .6- per cent, had been sold, and in Queensland, approximately 5,000 houses had been constructed and 222, or, approximately 5 per cent., had been sold, whereas in Western Australia where, as in South Australia, a Liberal Government is in office, approximately 6,000 houses had been constructed and of that number 2,350 or 42 per cent, had been sold. The numbers of houses that have been constructed under this agreement and have been sold in States in which a Labour Government is in office reveal the insincerity of members of the Australian Labour party when they claim that they advocate home ownership. Those figures show that such Governments are not utilizing this agreement as a means of encouraging home ownership. It is anticipated that under this measure an additional 8,000 houses will be constructed during the current financial year and that that will increase the total number to ‘be constructed under this agreement to 57,000. That means that under this agreement at least 250,000 persons will be tenants of governments in this country. Including the sum of £30,000,000 that is to be advanced to the States under this measure, the sum of £141,009,000 will have been expended under this agreement. As Tasmania has re-paid all advances that have been made to it under this agreement, and other States have repaid for properties sold, a net sum of approximately £133,000,000 will remain owing to the Australian Government. In relation to the total number of houses that have been constructed in each State, the numbers constructed in the respective States under this agreement represents the following percentages: - New South Wales 17 per cent., Victoria 16 per cent., Queensland 7 per cent., Western Australia 26 per cent. It will be seen that New South Wales is lagging seriously in the provision of houses. From 1939 to 1951 the rate of construction of houses and flats had increased in the various States as follows: - New South Wales 22 per cent., Tasmania 462 per cent., Australian Capital Territory 307 per cent., South Australia 132 per cent., Victoria 130 per cent., Western Australia 82 per cent, and Queensland 47 per cent.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner recess I was discussing the measure now before the House, which is known as the Loan (Housing) Bill 1952. This bill provides that the Treasurer may raise, by way of loan, £30,000,000 to be used by the States for housing purposes. We must provide this money for the States because we are bound by an agreement entered into by the Chifley Government. We must raise the money because we must honour that agreement. I have pointed out that the agreement itself has a detrimental effect on home ownership, its whole emphasis being on the fostering of a tenant community. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has moved an amendment to this bill to the effect that it should be withdrawn and redrafted. No reason has been given for the moving of that amendment by the honorable member for Melbourne or by any Opposition speakers. Presumably the amendment is designed to obtain more money for the States, but honorable members opposite realize that an amendment plainly stating that intention would be out of order as it would have the effect of increasing the financial appropriations that the House has recently been discussing. I do not know whether the honorable member for Melbourne realizes that if the amendment is carried the State governments will be deprived of any support at all for their housing programmes. I have come to the conclusion that the Opposition’s amendment is insincere or facetious or plainly obstructive. That being so, it is quite plain that no honorable member can genuinely support the amendment. To-day the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) said that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement encouraged the States, as well as private enterprise, to do their best towards providing homes for the people. The agreement does no such thing. As a matter of fact it has prevented private enterprise from providing the homes for the people that it could have provided with the same physical resources that have been used under this agreement by the State instrumentalities.
The honorable member for Reid also said that the Commonwealth was breaking its agreement with the States because it was not providing for housing more than £30,000,000 out of loan moneys. That is quite plainly untrue. The facts are that this money has been allocated by the Australian Loan Council, and the majority of the votes exercised in that council are exercised by State Premiers. The State Premiers who are participants in this agreement voted themselves £247,000,000, in which they included £30,000,000 for housing. When the Commonwealth told the States that it could not guarantee more than £180,000,000 of loan money, the Premiers themselves reduced the allocation for housing to £21,500,000. The Australian Government has voluntarily given the States an additional £8,500,000 to increase the total sum for housing to £30,000,000. That sum will be provided through the measure now before the House. Therefore, the statements made to-day by honorable members opposite about the Commonwealth withholding money are all eyewash. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is bad in principle and it has been the means of providing fewer houses for the people than could have been pro- videdif the agreement had never existed. Because of the agreement, materials have been locked away from the use of private builders during the activities of the States under this scheme. In addition, the States, acting through their various housing instrumentalities, have confiscated lands and robbed thousands of owners of their proper value. The Opposition seems to approve of such activities on the part of State governments, especially when one considers the New South Wales Labour Government’s resumption programmes. The overhead costs of the state housing organizations are exorbitant, and their methods have induced inefficiency and, in some instances, a certain amount of corruption. The agreement, and the States’ activities under it, has certainly produced political manipulation.
I believe that this Government should, as soon as it can, give twelve months notice of the cancellation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and then replace it with another scheme in which the emphasis will be upon home ownership for all the people of Australia. I suggest the way to attain that end is to provide money at a low interest rate. I consider that we should have a national housing policy that will enable every Australian to own his own home. That is the direction in which we should be going as a National Government, and not in the direction of making Australia a nation of tenants. Australia should be made a nation of home owners. I suggest to the Government that it should try to achieve that objective by creating a national housing fund which would be segregated from all other forms of national finance, and which would be watertight and sacrosanct from financial manipulation. It should be designed a3 a permanent and continuing function of our expanding Australian economy. From this fund should flow money to enable people to own their own homes, and the money should be supplied at a low rate of interest. I suggest that about 2£ per cent, would be a satisfactory rate of interest to charge on loans from the national housing fund for the purpose of building homes. I also suggest that the repayments from the people who borrow through the various instrumentalities should flow back to that fund and thus provide a continuous snowballing volume of money for the promotion of home ownership. That is the broad outline of the policy that I believe should be put into force as early as possible. There is no doubt that the problem of housing is one of the most important that any government can face, particularly the government of a young and growing country. No government in any country of the world has has ever properly attacked the problem of .housing. It is evident to-day in most of the countries of Europe, in the United Kingdom and everywhere else, that not sufficient emphasis has been placed on home ownership. I suggest that it is not financially impossible for the majority of the people, even those in the low wage group, to own their own homes. Housing development is a permanent part of our national growth, and the shortage of housing is the greatest of our social problems.
In a free democracy, and a society of the type that the Government stands for, home ownership is the stoutest bulwark against communism, and the socialism that many honorable members opposite stand for. It is no wonder that the Labour party wants to perpetuate and increase a tenant community. I believe that home ownership is the best foundation on which to build family life, and a sound family life is the nucleus of a great nation. It is within the family that the ideals of a nation are developed and nurtured, and the encouragement of large and healthy families is a part of our social programme that can be secured through a vigorous policy of home ownership. No Government need be afraid of such a policy. Home ownership creates a responsible citizenship, which is largely lacking in this country at the present time. The policies of the Opposition have a tendency to create ah element of irresponsible citizenship among the people. Home ownership increases responsibility and makes better citizens. Contrary to the provisions of the Commonwealth and State housingagreement, the people should be free to choose where they shall live and to choose what sort of a home they want to live in. They should be able to plan their own homes. The women of Australia, who spend most of the time in the home, and who make the homes what they should be, should have some say in what is provided in the homes. There is no need for any government, whether it be Federal or State, to carry out the actual physical operations of constructing homes. Its function should be limited to providing cheap money. Cheap money is the plain and ready method of fostering home ownership. The people can be housed without government building at all, and without the expensive overhead expenses that government building always entails.
The people should be given the opportunity to build their own homes. Private enterprise can do the job - the whole matter revolves around the availability of the money. I realize that certain conditions would have to attach to any loans from a national housing fund, because it would not be proper for such money to be used’ for investment, speculation or for other business activity to make profits. Without going into the details of those conditions now, I say that I believe that a scheme can be developed to enable people to purchase their own homes and to pay for them within a reasonable period of their .lifetime. I appreciate that at the present time the cost structure, not only in housing but also in all other industries, has become so unwieldy that prices are almost beyond the reach of buyers. I suggest that eventually the cost structure will be reduced, if we can only make people understand that our production per manhour must increase. I know that the cost structure is largely dependent upon general economic conditions, but at present materials for home building are in full supply and it would be a shame if, because of our present conditions, production of building materials were reduced or did not continue to expand. One of the reasons for the high cost of building during recent years has been the shortage of materials, which has greatly increased overhead costs. The same comment may be made about the availability of skilled labour. The Opposition has been largely responsible for our neglect to train sufficient labour. Immediately after the last war ended the Chifley Government allowed certain unions to interfere with the proper training of building operatives. The Building Workers Industrial Union was Communist-inspired and took a great part in preventing thousands of young men from being trained as building tradesmen. At that time money was freely available and high wages then attracted young men away from the building industry into unskilled jobs. Therefore, in spite of our present economic conditions, there is a great shortage of certain skilled tradesmen in the building field. This Government might well do something further about the training of young men, and also older men, in order to establish a great army of building tradesmen. The most effective way to reduce building costs is to foster active competition. There is nothing like competition in trades of this type to cause a lowering of costs. The building trade to-day is lagging because of financial stringency. This Government is blamed from time to time for credit restrictions, but it is not this Government that is restricting credit. It has made more money available for the building of houses than has any other government in Australia’s history. Honorable members opposite appear to be sceptical, but the truth can be easily proved. Since 1950, this ‘ Government has made available more money for the building of war service homes, than was provided by all governments in the preceding 30 years. That statement cannot be successfully contradicted. It has also made money available through building societies and in other ways for house construction.
The financial stringency is not the fault of this Government. Surely honorable members opposite do not expect the Government, or the Commonwealth Bank, to be the sole provider of money for home-building throughout Australia. Funds could be released and building work stimulated by the removal of certain controls. The banks and the insurance companies have exhausted their capacity to lend money for homebuilding, but the savings banks still hold a vast sum of money which, if certain controls were abolished, would start to flow. That money could not be released into a better channel than that which is provided by the building trade. The Government should give serious attention to these facts. It must not allow the building trade to continue to languish. Action is needed, and I believe that the Government will act at the earliest possible opportunity. It is not responsible for the fact that the building trade has lagged. The present situation has been caused by factors that are beyond its control. The building trade is the greatest provider of employment in any country, and, if it be allowed to languish, unemployment will result.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his so-called “Report to the Nation” from Brisbane on the 15th July last, complained to the people of Australia that his Government had suffered from critics united in the work of destruction. Strange words to come from the Prime Minister, who has been responsible for the total destruction of our national economy! The Prime Minister went on to say -
We have those critics on the Opposition benches in Parliament, but they are without one constructive idea to contribute to the national welfare.
I accept the Prime Minister’s implied challenge to produce a constructive idea. I shall place before him and his colleagues a very constructive idea which should provide them with much food for thought. From one end of Australia to the other to-day, the cry goes up from a suffering people, “What is this Government going to do about home-building ? “ Airy promises and flowery speeches by the Prime Minister do not keep the rain off couples who live in tin shanties. We hear many promises by the Prime Minister that the Government will act in the near future. We know, of course, what he promised to do three years ago. He is the man of broken promises.
Statistics show that 350,000 houses are needed in this country if we are to catch up with the accommodation shortage. An immediate start must be made to meet the demand for homes. Research officers of the Liberal party have estimated that about 400,000 persons in New South
Wales urgently need new homes. At one time, a young couple without capital could rent a house, hut now they must live with relatives, or rent a room at a high figure. So much for the arguments of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who, of course, is in business as an estate agent. The Government expects young Australian couples to rear families in such rooms. This problem could be solved by starting at once to build the 350,000 houses that are needed. The time is opportune because we have plenty of labour, both skilled and unskilled, and plenty of materials. This businessman’s Government complains that we are short of money. Let us issue treasury-bills, build homes and let the cost go hang! We should provide houses for our people and make them comfortable and secure for the future. The cost of building 350,000 houses, at an average of, say, £3,000 each, would be £1,000,000,000.
– Is that all?
– That is all, and £1,000,000,000 would not be too much to expend for the housing in comfort of the ex-servicemen who fought in World War II, for the right to have homes for their wives and children. No amount would be too great to provide in order to guarantee the welfare of the community. The Government and its supporters, if they were asked to spend £1,000,000,000 on destruction, would say that the proposal was quite OK.
We must have a well-conceived housing plan. We need men who can organize, and who know what they want to do and how to do it. The plan should be spread over ten years, so that our annual expenditure would be £100,000,000. We should make use of central bank credit, as we have done in the past. We financed our war effort by raising internal loans and releasing bank credit. What was wrong with that procedure then? Nothing! There should be nothing wrong with it now. The investment would provide u3 with a gilt-edged security against communism and all such threats to our security. Happiness in the home, security for the future, and the’ pride of home.ownership would constitute the strongest possible bulwark against the menace of communism, about which the Prime Minister talks so glibly. Let the Government get down to work and prove its sincerity. Arrangements could be made between it and the State governments, under the terms of the present housing agreement, for the financing and administration of the programme. We hear a great deal of bunk talked on the subject of finance. We are told that we cannot do this and that we cannot do that because of the lack of funds, but I suggest that, if the guided weapons project were to cost £1,000,000,000, the Government would say “ Press on with the task at all cost3 “. Let us press on with the task of providing an asset that will be of benefit to the community, conducive to the health and general welfare of young Australians, and a guarantee of security for children yet to be born.
The State governments could make use of their present organizations in order to carry out the building programmes. Crown lands could be used. Blocks of land should not be bought from speculators at high prices. We know what i3 happening at present in the field of real estate. We do not have to be told by the honorable member for Bennelong about profiteering, notwithstanding his intimate knowledge of the real estate business. I could tell him something of what is happening in the electorate that I represent. Certain approaches were made to me recently by a gentleman in the same line of business, for a slight consideration. The States should requisition all bricks, timber, tiles, cement, metal and sand, all of which are in ready supply at present. Building materials should not be allowed to pay through the hands of private speculator*. The co-operation of the building trader employees would be guaranteed. Details could be hammered out to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.
– Would they guarantee to do a good day’s work each day?
– These men did all the work that was necessary to provide the houses that we already have in Australia. If the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) ever does a hard day’s work, he will be competent to ask such a question. A plan spread over ten year3 would be acceptable to all parties. Their sole concern would be to build houses. Nothing else would matter. No obstructions would be placed in the way of the scheme by the trade union movement, from which all necessary man-power would be drawn and which always has been motivated by practical patriotism. Strict supervision of private building would be essential in order to prevent profiteering and the black-marketing of materials and labour. Having in mind the events of the last two and a half years, we should ban all private building except on the condition that the owners should reside on their property for at least five years. That would be death to the speculator.
We must acknowledge, if we look the facts squarely in the face, that we are in a dangerous situation. Therefore, we must not over-emphasize the importance of costs. We are involved in a grave emergency, and we should act accordingly. No time should be lost. We should ban all luxury building, which is not necessary in a critical time like the present. The wealthy should not be allowed to own two or three homes in different areas while producers, artisans and tradesmen, including ex-servicemen of World War II., live in tents, shanties, huts, galvanizediron sheds and dingy, damp and evilsmelling rooms with only the barest conveniences. Mothers should not be expected to rear families under such conditions. Never mind looking at the profit motive ! Let us be wide in our vision! Let us set about the task of making our people secure ! In order to do so, we must place a ban on “ spec “ builders for a period of ten years. When this matter is examined in its true perspective, the House will agree that the “ spec “ builder is the cause of the tragic position in which the average home-seeker and his family are placed to-day. The unscrupulous “ spec “ builders are the real cause of black marketing in building materials and labour, and the evil of the key money racket. Wherever one goes, the key money racket is rampant. So much money must be paid for the key before a person is even permitted to inspect a cottage that he desires to purchase. Members of the Real Estate
Institute are loud in their condemnation of the New South Wales Labour Government, although it is the only government in Australia that has tackled the key money racket. Let the Real Estate Insitute police its own members with a view to stamping out this evil in the community.
The. unmerciful exploitation of persons who are urgently in need of houses is tragic. Heaven only knows when it will stop. The fact cannot be denied that the “ spec “ builder is the originator of the blueprint for misery and despair. He sells his jerry-built houses to the unwary on all sorts of terms, the implications of which the confused victim most of the time fails to realize until it is too late, and he is in the trap. Are honorable members aware of the snide methods adopted by the “spec” builder? The purchaser pays a small deposit. A first and second mortgage are arranged through building societies and money lenders. Then the unhappy victim is completely in the net. If, because of sickness or unemployment, the purchaser is unable to pay the weekly instalments, the mortgagee forecloses, and the unfortunate family is evicted from the premises and is faced with ruin. That completes the sorry picture of the housing situation. Let honorable members make no mistake about the position. Unemployment and sickness are prevalent to-day, and the conditions that I have described are real. Even our ex-servicemen are not regarded as exceptions to the rule by these unscrupulous people who batten on the desperate need and consequent gullibility of unfortunate home seekers. Many an ex-servicman has known all his possessions, including the money he saved while he was on active service, his deferred pay and the war gratuity, to disappear into the maw of the hungry individual who describes himself as the real estate agent. He relieves the homeless all right. He relieves them of the only money that they possess. That fact cannot be disputed.
As I have stated, “ spec “ builders are a blot on our economy. The Government must take steps to put this plan in operation by immediatelyconferring with the Premiers of the States and taking action as quickly as possible to alleviate this tragic situation. Let there be no half measures ! An all-out drive is needed in this matter. Imagine the effect of the plan on the unemployment situation. Approximately 100,000 persons are out of work to-day. They would be absorbed in industry if the Government were to undertake a huge building programme. This is a real plan of action, not a professor’s plan. Men would not be set to work shifting sandhills or removing grass from the streets, as was the case during the depression of the early 1930’s. Let us have a constructive plan for home building.
Imagine the effects of such a plan on the economic situation in general. All the unemployed would be set to work again, and the effect of the renewed activity in the building trades on allied industries would create a position of buoyancy throughout the community. No longer would people fear unemployment. The fear that there will be no pay envelope on Friday night is the cause of many illnesses in the home. The mother worries a great deal when she thinks that the husband will not bring home a pay packet at the end of the week. The effect of the plan on the building trades would be to create a buoyancy that would ensure a return to theChifley Government’s programme of work for all, a programme of full employment and, what is more, the certainty of 52 pay envelopes a year. Prosperity, happiness and security would once more be in evidence. Australia would regain the happy position that existed prior to the advent of this calamitous Government, whose supporters look on helplessly while the ship of state drifts speedily on to the rocks. Yet in the Flinders by-election campaign this evening the Prime Minister will tell the people what the Opposition are doing to stop his Government from acting in the best interests of Australia!
Another important effect of the implementation of this plan on the life of our people would be to create a brighter future, and stimulate recruiting for the armed forces which, as is commonly known, is in the doldrums at the present time. That is understandable, because the people do not trust this Government.
They view with suspicion any plan that it formulates. Let us try to rehabilitate the country, and stimulate recruiting-
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to discuss housing.
Mr.CURTIN.- One of the effects of the adoption of my plan would be the stimulation of recruiting.
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss recruiting on this bill.
Mr.CURTIN. - An ex-serviceman must have a house for the accommodation of his family and himself.
– Order !
Mr.CURTIN. - From time to time the Government boasts of its achievements in expensive advertisements in the press. It is well known that the Government is writhing in its political death struggles, and must keep the press “ on side “ with huge advertisements. That amounts to a bribe, or, should we say, the price of silence. The Government does not want the press to hurl any criticism against its pathetic attempts to govern.
– Order! Will the honorable member relate his remarks to housing?
– I am trying to develop that theme. Many ex-servicemen in my electorate are homeless. They have expressed the fear that should theGovernment persist with its present policy regarding housing, they will not know how to plan their future. This Government governs spasmodically - by fits and starts. The most terrifying aspect of the housing situation is the flagrant breach of the law by the Menzies Government which has flagrantly repudiated its obligations under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Clause 6 of that agreement obliges the Commonwealth to provide essential funds for housing, but illegally and stubbornly, it refuses to do so. The Government should be brought to book on this matter, and it will be brought to book. A fortnight hence the electors of Flinders will pass judgment upon it, for its lack of appreciation of the welfare of the people. The Government should be compelled to honour its obligation under the Commonwealth and State Housing
Agreement. Its policy of repudiation has already cost the State of New South Wales 8,000 homes. Clause 6 of the agreement reads as follows: -
The Commonwealth will advance to each State the moneys heretofore expended in the carrying out of a housing project or projects and the moneys that shallbe hereafter required-
That is important - for the carrying out of the State’s housing projects as notified to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth from time to time . . .
This Government has flagrantly broken that clause, with the result that the Government of New South Wales has been forced to dismiss hundreds of men, who had been constantly employed on the erection of high-class homes for the people. The Government should review the whole situation. A state of emergency should be declared, and home building should be given No. 1 priority in our defence measures. An amount of £100,000,000 should be allocated annually for a period of ten years for the housing programme, and houses should be constructed as quickly as possible. The tremendous strain that is imposed upon the homeless has reduced them almost to breaking point. Let us build a watertight bulkhead against the menace of communism in our community! The Government’s campaign against the Communists has died a natural death. The Government is more concerned with sidestepping, by subterfuge, its obligations under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. However, a vigorous housing programme would provide a watertight bulkhead against the menace of communism in Australia, and would bring prosperity, happiness and comfort to our good citizens by giving them what every person should have as a right - a home. Australia is our country. We all should have a stake in our country, in the form of a home. Young ex-servicemen and other members of the community must have homes if they are to rear their families in comfort and security. Let the Government act at once ! That is my challenge to the Prime Minister. We await eagerly his reply. It will be a test of the right honorable gentleman’s sincerity. We have almost ceased to expect any sincerity from himbut perhaps at the eleventh hour he will give some consideration to my plea and will provide homes for the people. Now is the time to act. The Opposition will give all possible cooperation to the Government if it brings in a measure thatwill conform to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and eliminate private enterprise with its profiteering and speculation. The building of houses should be left to the governments of the different States. It can be done. We can build happy homes and, in them, rear healthy contented children to promote the welfare of sunny Australia.
.- Naturally I am at variance with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) on many points that he has raised, but at least I endorse his wish that the electors ofFlinders are listening to this debate. If his words mean anything, they mean that he favours the complete nationalization of the building industry. The honorable member is not only an extremely vocal member of the Opposition but also a distinguished one, and I assume that he speaks for the Opposition on this matter. He has shown the lack of understanding of the problem that is fairly general among honorable members on the Opposition side by dealing with many matters that are, in fact, entirely within the province of the governments of the sovereign States. Under the Constitution, the Australian Government has no power to deal with those matters. The very act that the House is discussing by inference to-night illustrates that point itself. However, I wish to pay some attention to one matter to which the honorable member for Watson has referred. He spoke at length and with emotion on the question of housing for ex-servicemen, but entirely ignored the facts of the situation. When the Labour Government was in office its best effort in building or acquiring homes for exservicemen yielded 6,000 dwellings in one year. This Government has provided between 15,000 and 16,000 houses annually since it has been in office. The average number of dwellings that was provided each year over the 30 years before this Government came to office was 1,800. This Government’s yearly average is well over 14.000. If the honorable member wants to make comparisons on the acceptance of responsibilities to those who have served Australia, this Government is quite willing to accept that challenge and rest on its record.
The honorable member showed that he has not entirely escaped the influence of other claimants on the Opposition side of the treasury bench when he advocated the issue of treasury-bills and central bank credit to overcome the difficulties, real and imaginery, with which he believes the country to be confronted. Joining in the bid for power and leadership in his own party, he even exceeded the optimistic estimate of his leader that, treasury-bills totalling £300,000,000 should be issued, and advocated the issue of £1,000,000,000 for housing alone. That is a nice round figure and no doubt the honorable member for Watson selected it for that reason, but any person who has any knowledge of finance from the office boy handling the cashbox upwards, knows that the issue of £1,000,000,000 of treasury-bills . would create the most devastating inflation that this or any other country has known. If the honorable member and his party wish- to bring this country to that condition, they should be honest enough to say so.
The honorable member referred at length to unempolyment. On this point also I direct the attention of honorable members to the actual situation. On page 2,271 of Hansard dated the 13th May, 1947, the Labour Minister for Social Services of that day, the late member for Melbourne Ports, Mr. Holloway, stated that the total expenditure on unemployment benefits in April, 1947, was £75,168. I am informed that the total now is about £26,000. The honorable member for Watson has spoken for his party on the socialization of the building industry. He said that his scheme would involve an expenditure of £1,000,000,000. As a matter of fact, this Government is providing about £60,000.000 for the construction of houses this year including £28,000,000 in round1 figures for war service homes1, £S0,0O0,00O for the States and the balance through various authorities. There is a very wide difference between the £60,000,000 that the Government is raising and spending this year and the £1,000,000,000 mentioned by the honorable member for Watson. He referred to another matter as applying to Sydney, and although I do not know the circumstances in Sydney, I am conversant with the position in Melbourne. He advocated the building of houses on Crown lands. So far as I know, the only Crown lands in the vicinity of Melbourne where transport and other facilities are available is parkland. Apparently the policy of the socialist Labour party is to socialize land as well as buildings.
All honorable members will agree that the family is the fundamental unit of society. In a democratic community, home ownership and the security that it brings to the family is essential. Even the honorable member for Watson has expressed that sentiment in somewhat different words. He did not suggest home ownership and the attention of the house might be directed to that distinction between his views and mine. Before dealing in detail with the problem that is being debated, I invite honorable members to consider the causes of the problem, for some of the solutions of our problems are probably contained in them. Those honorable members who are able to cast their minds back to the early years of this century know that the housing problem did not exist then. *No one suggested in those days that the Government should commandeer materials or build hundreds of thousands of houses. The supply of dwellings, by and large, was adequate for those who wanted them. The problem developed after World War I. and it grew a little worse in the depression. The third and final step which brought us to the present stage was the setting up of various State instrumentalities under a system of controls, restrictions and planning. Controls have never produced anything in the history of this or any other country. All -they do is to restrict and, basically, that is the reason why we face the situation that we have to-day. The honorable member for Watson has estimated that 350,000 dwellings are needed. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) placed the total at 50O,00a. There is discrepancy between all estimates’ of housing needs, but obviously a problem exists. I invite the honorable member to consider what has happened as a result of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who speaks with far greater knowledge of this matter than many honorable members, pointed to the real crux of the situation when he said that this agreement was designed to build homes for rental. So far as I know, there has been no quarrel with that statement on the part of the Opposition, although there have been some references, the sincerity of which is open to question, to a desire for home ownership. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was entered into by the State governments with full knowledge of the consequences and with full understanding that it was n. plan designed to create a vast government monopoly of rented houses. It is sufficient, without unduly wearying the House with figures, to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Bennelong on that point. At the end of last year, the Victorian Housing Commission had built about 14,500 houses, of which it had sold 91. The percentage of houses sold was .06, or roughly one in ISO. I have been led to believe that, in that respect, the position in New South Wales is even worse than in Victoria.
Those figures, which cannot be challenged, prove beyond all doubt that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has led only to houses being built for the purposes of rental. Honorable members from Victoria know that many people who desire to buy their houses, which have been built by the State Housing Commission, are not permitted to do so. The refusals have been based upon all kinds of legal pretexts and trivialities, but the blunt truth is that those people are not permitted to buy their houses and to enjoy the security that home ownership gives, because the scheme is not designed to enable them to do so. Let me repeat that only 91 of the 14,500 houses built by the Victorian Housing Commission have been sold. If there be any explanation of that other than the one that I have advanced, I shall be interested to hear it.
The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), who is acknowledged to be honest and sincere, spoke with some feeling and force about the rise of land prices in Melbourne, and of the effect of the rise upon the cost of houses. I do not dispute what the honorable gentleman said. I agree with him upon that matter. The truth is that a scheme somewhat like that suggested by the honorable member for Watson is in operation in the capital cities of this country. In Melbourne, thousands of blocks of land have been acquired by the State Housing Commission, but no houses have yet been built upon them. As fairly reasonable and intelligent citizens, we know that the effect of that policy has been consistently to force up the price of land, and to involve people who build their own houses in additional expense.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) referred to certain events in Queensland. I am happy to say that, as far as my knowledge extends, we have no problems of that kind in Victoria. But we are faced with the problem of housing settlements that have been established, partly at least for political reasons. Consequently, the residents of those settlements have been denied the facilities and amenities that they would enjoy under a free economy. They have been denied transport facilities, an adequate water supply, proper streets and roads, and, in some instances, a sewerage system. The honorable member for Watson is an ardent and enthusiastic planner. If those settlements are an example of planning, let us forget about the theory of planning and look at its practical effect upon the community. I could take honorable members to a thousand places in Melbourne which are examples of the bad effects of planning.
– Do they build any Nissen huts there?
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has reminded me of a matter to which I intend to direct the attention of the House. Under the auspices of a State planning, building and rental authority, financed with money provided by the Commonwealth and established to deal with a housing situation with which, it was claimed, private enterprise could not deal, we have created in Victoria, and are perpetrating there, one of the greatest blots upon the history of this country. I refer to the emergency housing settlement at “Watsonia. In 1947, army huts in that camp were handed over to the State Government for use as temporary and emergency accommodation. Despite the efforts of the Army authorities and the ‘Commonwealth, there are still about 40 families there. Until this Government decided to use part of the Watsonia camp again for defence purposes, over 240 families were living there in squalor, and in conditions that would not be believed by any one who had not seen them. Decent, honest citizens who could not get a house from the Housing Commission were dumped there with the lost and the damned. One woman who has three young children told me that she could not leave the camp because she was frightened to leave her children there unattended. Until this Government decided to make a move and to apply pressure to the real rulers of Victoria at the time-
– Who are they now?
– There is some element of doubt about it at the moment, but at the time of which I am speaking they were the colleagues of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) in the Victorian Parliament. After pressure had been applied to them, an agreement was reached, and some of the unfortunate people in the camp were placed in happier surroundings.
It has been suggested that this Government has fallen down on the job of making money available to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Let me state the facts of the matter. They are contained in the annual report of the Auditor-General. Under this agreement, the Commonwealth advanced to the States £21,640,000 in 1950-51, and £26,547,000 in 1951-52, an increase of approximately £5,000,000. This year, it is proposed to make available £30,000,000, or about £4,000,000 more than last year. Those facts do not justify any criticism of the Government based on its advances to the States. The honorable member for Watson said that the New South Wales Government was doing a very good job under the agree ment. Let me refer him to page 75 of the annual report of the Auditor-General, on which the following passage appears : -
The Auditor-General for the State of New South Wales gave qualified certificates on the financial statements of the Housing Commission for New South Wales for the year ended 30th June, 1951. These indicated that the terms of the Commonwealth and State -Housing Agreement have not been observed in respect of fixation of rentals of dwellings and capital cost of dwellings which have been sold.
We have been told that New South Wales is the premier State of the Commonwealth. Representatives of that State in this Parliament have charged this Government with not discharging its obligations to it. But the Auditor-General has pointed out that the Labour Government of New South Wales is breaking the terms of an agreement which it conspired - I use the word advisedly - with a Labour government in this Parliament to rivet on the necks of the Australian people. That agreement has brought into existence a rental scheme which, as the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has said, must lead inevitably to a state of affairs in which the lives of over 500,000 people will be dominated by a political party, and in which the security and home life of those people, and all that they have worked and toiled for, could be shattered in a day or two if the honorable member for Watson ever succeeded to the treasury bench. The unchallengable facts that I have presented prove that, although the agreement has not been satisfactory in all aspects, the amendment moved by the Opposition is empty and futile.
.- The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) chided the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) for quoting the policy of the Labour party upon housing. He stated that our policy was to socialize everything connected with housing. Let me remind the honorable gentleman that our policy is to provide a Credit Foncier system for the purpose of providing advances for home ownership through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Bank. At the last general election, the late leader of our party, Mr. Chifley, reiterated that policy, and said that if the Labour party was returned to power it would increase the size of the loans made to people who required money to build their own houses, and would reduce the interest charged upon such loans. That statement is somewhat in accord with what the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) said, but, of course,- the honorable gentleman talked with his tongue in his cheek, because he advocated something that is the very opposite of what the Government is doing. He suggested that we should scrap the present scheme and substitute for it a home ownership scheme, under which cheap money would be available to the people. That is the policy of the Labour party. We believe that money provided for workers to build their own houses should not be the plaything of big investors. We believe that money made available for that purpose should be subject to the lowest possible rate of interest, and that it should not be exploited by monopoly capitalists.
The bill is designed to give authority to the States to borrow £30,000,000 for housing purposes during the financial year 1952-53. It is well known that, at the last meeting of the Loan Council, the State Premiers asked for £47,000,000 for that purpose. That figure was based upon the materials and the labour force that were available. They found their plans frustrated at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, the decisions of which forced them to cut their proposed expenditure on housing by about half, with the result that the economy of the States is now unsound. I believe that this hill represents also a repudiation of the Government’s own professed policy, as outlined by the Prime Minister during the 1949 general election campaign. In his 1949 policy speech he said, in respect of housing -
Except in relation to Territories and War Service Homes, the direct responsibility for housing is with the State Governments, but the Commonwealth must accept large obligations of assistance.
I say that it has failed to meet its obligations. He went on to say -
There is already a Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement. We will seek its amendment so as to permit and aid (families) to own their own homes.
The Government has not done much more than talk about housing. In what way does this bill honour the promise that the Prime Minister made? He vent on to say -
We will attack the basic causes of underproduction and excessive cost. While shortages continue, we will facilitate the entry of selected imported building materials; and will also review the incidence of sud imposts as Sales Tax on home fittings and furniture.
In another part of his policy speech he talked about raising a loan of £250,000,000 to do various things in relation to national development, one of which, he said, was -
The construction of groups of workers* homes in seasonal labour areas.
This Government has not taken the first step towards honouring that promise. The bill is a serious repudiation of the Government’s own policy. As the States claim, it is also a violation of clause 6 (1.) of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which reads -
The responsibility of the States is to acquire the land for the houses and build them, and then the bill comes to the Commonwealth to be paid. It is the Commonwealth’s responsibility to ensure that the money that is required to build the number of homes necessary is provided, and that the amount of money that the States ask for at the Australian Loan Council meeting for this particular purpose is raised. Last year, the New South Wales Government asked for £14,000,000 in order to carry out its house construction programme and to keep the work force engaged in the building industry employed to the full. It obtained ‘ only £8,000,000. So in 1951-52 the Commonwealth repudiated is responsibility. This year, the New South Wales Government estimated that it required £17,000,000 to complete its housing projects and employ to the full the work force engaged in the building industry. That amount has been reduced to £12,000,000, or by almost one-third. The repercussions of that reduction are now being felt in New South Wales, where trained artisans are looking for work, and extend beyond the actual building industry to the industries that supply building materials. They will also extend to the Herne Bay housing settlement in my electorate, which is the biggest emergency housing settlement in Australia. It houses 1,400 families, some of which have to stay there for long periods. The effect of the bill which reduces the amount of money available to New South “Wales for housing, will be that many of those people will be sen,tenced to an even longer period in that settlement.
New South Wales planned to build this year 8,000 homes to house 40,000 people. The reduction of its loan allocation from £17,000,000 to £12,000,000 will mean that it will have to reduce its housing target by 29 per cent., and instead of building 8,000 homes to house 40,000 people it will be able to build only 5,680 homes to house 2S,400 people. ,So 11,800 people who could otherwise expect to obtain homes this year will be disappointed.
About 400,000 more houses are needed in Australia.
– That is a guess.
– I would not say that. I think the honorable member will find that that figure is recorded in statistics.
– Is is mentioned in the Governor-General’s speech.
– That would be the approximate lag. If it be assumed that a home costs £2,500, which is about the minimum cost of a home to-day, the contention of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) that a sum of £3,000,000.000 is necessary to overtake the housing lag would be correct. The amount to be provided by this bill is a fleabite compared to the amount necessary.
The Commonwealth Bank report shows that for this year an amount of £5,600,000 is to be provided for home building under the credit foncier system, whilst cooperative building societies approved by the bank will expend £8,500,000 on the building of houses. It is estimated that in addition to those . expenditures private builders working on overdrafts from the general banking division, will expend £5,200,000. These amounts with the £30,000,000 to be provided under this bill bring the estimated expenditure on housing in the Commonwealth this year to about £50,000,000. That expenditure will not overtake the housing lag, which increases every year. There are about 60,000 marriages annually in Australia, so that thousands of new houses are needed for newly married couples in addition to the houses needed by people who now lack them.
I turn again to the housing settlement at Herne Bay, the largest of its kind in Australia. That settlement was originally built by the Americans during the war as a cottage hospital, and was converted by the New South Wales Government to accommodate homeless people. It accommodates bush fire victims and people who have been evicted from their homes through no fault of their own. No one is there of his own choosing. It was the only place where people could be accommodated when they found themselves homeless. A number of people in that settlement are very happy about the place, because the New South Wales Government has certainly done all it could under all the circumstances to make it as attractive as possible. The people there live a community life, but are happy in their minds because up till now they have known that they would be there foi- only a specified period. There are about 6,000 or 7,000 people in the settlement which has two schools, one a public and the other a convent, which have between them 1,000 pupils. The average stay in the settlement is three years according to size of family. Because of this Government’s restriction on housing finance many of these people will be sentenced to a longer period in that settlement.
– The honorable member says “ sentenced “, but he said that they were happy there.
– Happy insofar as it is better to live in that settlement than to live under a bridge, or in a tent or a tin hut. Through no fault of the Labour Government in New South Wales, but actually as a result of “ landlordism “, many people were left without homes and the New South Wales Labour Government did the best it could by accommodating them in emergency housing centres. In fact, that Government has done a very good job in the matter of providing homes for the people. There are 3,000 New South Wales Housing Commission homes in my electorate, which provide accommodation for about 14,000 people. I have not yet received one complaint from any family about the kind of home that has been provided for it. The people are pleased with their homes, and from visits that I have made to some of them I am sure that they have every reason to be pleased with them. It is certainly to the credit of the New South Wales Government that it has built comfortable homes for those people. Proper shelter is an elementary requirement of a family. The primary desire of a husband and wife is to own a home. Consequently, the obligation rests upon the Government to provide every opportunity to citizens to acquire ownership of a home. Such a policy would provide the best incentive to our people to increase the national birthrate. The sum of £30,000,000 that is being made available for housing purposes under this measure is totally inadequate. The Government is failing to discharge its responsibility in this matter. Ownership of a home is a family’s first step to security. Home ownership is also the basis of national social security. If we desire to rid the community of communism and to safeguard the best interests of the nation, we must provide every opportunity to the people to acquire their own homes. That is a national responsibility, but this Government is letting down the nation in that respect. It appears to be more concerned about passing the buck to the States on the plea that it is unable to make more finance available for this purpose. Housing should be given the’ highest priority. During World War II., when our existence as a nation was at stake, our people readily subscribed to Commonwealth loans in order to finance our war effort. The importance of the provision of adequate housing is almost equal to that of the effective defence of this country.
I support the amendment. The Government should withdraw the bill and sub- stitute for it another measure that will deal adequately with this problem. I am confident that the people of Australia would subscribe generously to any loan that the Government floated specifically for the purpose of financing housing programmes. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) made a similar suggestion in relation to the provision of finance for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. Such a loan would be over- subscribed if the Government approached this matter in the right way and if it were worthy of the confidence of the people. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) pointed out that deposits in savings banks in this country had reached a record height. They now exceed £850,000,000. Most of that money belongs to workers who, if they were asked to do so, would lend a proportion of it specifically for the purpose of financing the provision of adequate housing for their fellow workers at a reasonably low rate of interest. If the Australian Labour party were in office, it would follow that course; and I am certain that it would succeed. The Government should withdraw the bill and substitute for it a measure that would be more in conformity with the requirements of this problem.
.- The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of a loan of £30,000,000 for the purpose of financing advances to the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia for the provision of houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I remind the House of that purpose because members of the Opposition have indulged in distortions in this debate. They have claimed that the Government is not facing up to the problem of providing adequate housing. This amount of £30,000,000 is nearly £3,500,000 more than the sum that was advanced for housing purposes during last financial year. Therefore the charge of honorable members opposite that the Government is not measuring up to its responsibilities in this matter is groundless. If any fault in the present position is to be attributed to the operation of the Commonwealth and State housing agreement, it cannot be laid at the door of this Government. Successive governments have provided a total of £111,000,000 to the States for housing purposes since the agreement came into operation seven years ago.
– But the purchasing power of the £1 to-day is much less than it was seven years ago.
– The cause of the decline of the purchasing power of the £1 must be attributed directly to the policy of the Chifley Government * Quorum formed.’]* Under this agreement 47,000 houses had been constructed up to the 30th June last; and at that date 11,000 more houses were under construction. During last financial year, 8,766 houses were completed under this agreement and one-third of that number was provided in country areas. I remind members of the Opposition, who have scathingly criticized the Government in this matter, that this bill authorizes the raising of a loan for housing purposes. Consequently, the proposal embodied in the measure was discussed by the Australian Loan Council. I point out that whereas that body agreed that an amount of only £21,821,000 should be allocated for housing purposes, this Government on its own initiative, because it realizes the urgent need to maintain the economy of the building industry, is taking steps to increase that sum to £30,000,000. The Government is fully alive to its responsibilities in this matter, and is attacking this task with vigour. Some members of the Opposition, particularly the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), claimed that it was doing practically nothing in this sphere. On the contrary, it has effected a remarkable improvement in the provision of materials basic to the building trades. It has succeeded in ways in which members of the Opposition claim that a non-Labour government could never succeed. For instance, this Government has been able to peg building costs and to provide for the construction of houses millions in addition to the sum that the Australian Loan Council deemed to be necessary for this purpose. The Government’s action in providing nearly £3,500,000 more than the sum that was expended on housing last financial year is no mean feat. Of * course, members of the Opposition envy the Government because when they were in office they were unable to achieve anything like that result. In addition to the financial provision that is being made for housing under this measure, the Government is providing many millions of pounds for the construction of war service homes, houses for immigrants and also houses in the territories under its control. In all, it is providing this financial year the sum of £60,000,000 for housing purposes. That is a feat which no Labour government has ever been able to emulate. As all of this finance will be made available by the taxpayers, every honorable member as he should do in respect of governmental expenditure under every other heading, should scrutinize the manner in which this money is expended.
I emphasize the factors that are essential to any sound housing programmes. The houses that are provided should be of sound construction; the cost of them should be as low as possible; they should provide adequate room space ; they should be built on adequate areas and in healthy locations with a naturally uplifting environment; community amenities and civic domestic services should be made available in all housing settlements ; and, finally - in this respect the greatest divergence exists between the views of members of the Australian Labour party and those of Government supporters - any scheme under which houses are provided should offer every opportunity to tenants to purchase them. Housing is a national problem because it is probably one of the greatest problems that confront individual families. Nothing contributes to the national welfare to a greater degree than does healthy family life, which derives its strength mainly from home ownership. The greater the degree to which opportunities for home ownership are provided, the nearer we shall get to a healthy and contented community. I observe with apprehension the manner in which many persons are saddling themselves with debt as a result of the present high cost of constructing, or purchasing, houses. Such a burden must remain a threat to healthy family life. Consequently, the “ Government must do everything in its power to reduce costs of construction in order to enable every citizen, who desires to own a home, to do so. If a Government, which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) supported were in office, it would ensure, as far as possible, that it owned every house so that it would be able to crack the whip and direct the workers to reside in whatever area that it determined.
Let us consider now whether the essentials that I have enumerated may be found in our housing schemes. I have visited many parts of Australia, and I have found that where the Commonwealth has direct control over housing projects some of those essentials are missing. However, I greatly regret that where the States have complete control still more of the essentials are missing. In many cases the States have not shouldered their responsibilities. In the beginning of this debate the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) referred to the scandalous state of affairs in the Zillmere housing settlement in Queensland. It should be noted that houses have been built there under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The honorable member for Lilley made an important, suggestion that a royal commission should be appointed to investigate thoroughly the settlement at Zillmere, and I fully support his proposal. I suggest that a royal commission should be appointed by this Government because, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) well knows, it is impossible to prevent the truth from being ascertained by such a commission. We should make sure that if a royal commission be appointed to enquire into housing conditions, it should be appointed in such a way that nobody can dodge its authority. Let us now consider the essentials that I have mentioned in connexion with the Zillmere housing settlement. Are the buildings of sound construction? The officers of the Department of National Development forwarded a report to the Parliament which is available’ to all honorable members. They have reported that the standard of workmanship in many houses, particularly the early ones, is very poor. Honorable members should remember that these officers have no axes to grind and that when they say that the standard of workmanship in many houses, especially the early ones is very poor, it can be considered that their comment is very mild and that they are speaking in a more gentlemanly fashion than I would. It is scandalous that any people, particularly those in tropical areas, should have to live in houses for which they pay £3 2s. 6d. or £3 5s. a week rent, whose workmanship is of particularly poor quality.
The report also stated that there had been inadequate supervision of the contracts by the Queensland .Housing Commission which had control of the construction of the houses at the settlement. It is obvious that those conditions must have been worse than the officers reported, be- cause they made their inspections towards the end of the construction of the houses, but even so they reported that inadequate supervision had been maintained. The honorable member for Lilley presented complete proof to this House, and that proof is now embodied in Hansard, that the Queensland Government had inadequately supervised the contracts in connexion with the erection of the houses at the Zillmere settlement. The report of the Commonwealth officers also stated that many of the criticisms of a wide range of items were substantiated. The items were - poor method of fixing the roofs, low quality of the timber in the ceilings, cracking of the asbestos cement ceiling linings, walls badly erected, floors out of level, rooms out of square, substandard joinery and defective painting. In fact the officers reported that there was a doubt whether in one major element the houses had been built according to the drawings and specifications that were approved as part of the arrangements under which the Government agreed to subsidize the cost of the houses to the extent of £300. In other words these houses were jerry-built. That is another indictment of the Queensland Labour Government. It is one more scandal of the many scandals that have swirledaround that government during the last thirty years or so that, it has been in office.
– -Rubbish i
– It is all very well for the honorable member for East Sydney to laugh at what I am saying, other honorable members do not laugh at facts. No government outside the countries surrounded by the Iron Curtain has such repressive legislation on its statute-book as has the Queensland Labour Government. Another essential that I have mentioned is that the cost of houses should be low. The Commonwealth is already committed to very heavy expenditure. There were 886 houses in the Zillmere contract, and the Commonwealth is required to pay £300 in respect of each house. Eight hundred and fifty have already been erected and to date the Commonwealth has paid £255,000 for jerry-built houses. A point to be considered is whether the Queensland Labour Government is entitled to receive that money, having regard to the nature of the houses that have been erected at Zillmere. The Commonwealth Experimental Building Station is the authority that has certified to the construction of these houses, and the Minister has arranged with the Queensland Housing Commission for this authority to make a further investigation. No doubt we shall hear more in this House about the scandalous state of affairs in the field of housing in Queensland. The Minister in charge of this housing settlement at Zillmere is Mr. Hilton. That gentleman disregarded the advice of the Australian Government and went overseas on his own account to investigate housing matters. He and his Government alone are responsible foi’ conditions at the Zillmere housing settlement. I do not doubt that that is the reason for his present ill health. The Australian Government will have to bear a tremendous financial burden under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement because it has to foot the bill for the next 52 or 53 years in respect of deterioration, and the consequent reduction of capital value of these houses. That that cost will be very great has been clearly demonstrated by the honorable member for Lilley who has told honorable members that the houses are already in a bad state of repair although many of them were completed less than twelve months ago. Mr. Hilton said that as a result of his inquiries he discovered that the responsibility for repairs lay with the contractors who are working at the settlement. He said that he had tied them to a contract under which they had to effect repairs for three months. However, I have been reliably informed that at 3.55 p.m. to-day a photographer from the Brisbane Courier-Mail visited the Zillmere housing settlement and photographed a gang of men from the repair section of the Queensland Housing Commission who had just been effecting repairs to a house at the Zillmere housing settlement, and were loading their truck preparatory to taking their departure.
– The truck was branded “ Queensland Housing Commission
– I believe that the truck was so marked. Honorable members all realize that healthy conditions in any housing community are of vital importance. They are most important in the Zillmere housing settlement where there are many young children. Large numbers of children are to be found in any new housing community, and their health should be of paramount importance. It is of vital importance that our children should all grow up in an environment that is as healthy as it is possible to make it. Pull advantage should be taken of trees and plants and everything else provided by nature. As’ well as natural advantages the children should be provided with all the amenities within our power to supply, and no words in the English language can adequately condemn a government or any other authority which allows disease-carrying organisms in places where children can have easy contact with -them. Such conditions may cause the death of children or may ruin their lives through causing serious illness in childhood. It is a solemn responsibility of parents, local government authorities, State governments and the Australian Government itself to ensure that our children shall grow up in healthy conditions. I have before me a photograph that the honorable member for Lilley presented to this House last week. I shall send it back to the library after I have displayed it again to honorable members. I hope that every honorable member will view this photograph and will try to imagine that what is shown by it indicates what is happening in a place where young children are growing up. In this photograph honorable members can see a pump pumping sewage from a cess-pit into a tank on the back of a motor truck. That motor truck is standing in the middle of a street. I have another photograph which is too small for honorable members to see from their seats, but I shall display it to them personally later. The truck shown in the photograph is standing in the centre of the Zillmere housing settlement and a pump is pumping sewage from a cess-pit into a tank on the truck. After loading, the truck proceeded down the street a certain distance and then the pump was put into reverse and the sewage pumped into an open gutter from which it was allowed to run into a drain. Then the sewage passed underground until it reached the corner of the street when it flowed into an open drain alongside the roadway and filtered into a paddock close to houses. There the sewage lies - a stinking cess-pit breeding microorganisms that endanger the health of every person in the community. It is so close to Brisbane that it also menaces the health of the people of that city.
Recently the people of Queensland were warned by the press that the month of October is very dangerous because during October the heat brings disease - carrying flies. Yet here the Queensland government not only allows unhygienic conditions to exist, out also prevents its own inspectors from condemning the conditions that it has brought about itself. Among the organisms in this sewage there are those causing dengue fever, which are carried by mosquitoes who breed freely in this area. Any honorable member whose child has suffered dengue fever will know what faces the parents in the area about which I am speaking. Brisbane is an endemic area for gastro-enteritis. Each year the infant death rate from this disease is alarming, and yet the Queensland Labour Government is permitting the existence of the very conditions that favour the spread of gastro-enteritis. “Written reports have reached honorable members of this Parliament, in one of which a mother stated that before she and her husband and children moved to the Zillmere housing settlement they had never suffered any illnesses, but that since they had been there they had suffered from successive attacks of dysentery. Not only do the micro-organisms that cause dysentery, diarrhoea and gastro-enteritis exist in this area, but there are also the organisms that cause the amoebic type of dysentery. They are of the same class of germs that caused the black “flu” which raged throughout the world after the 1914-18 war. The Labour Government of Queensland is allowing these conditions to persist in the heart of a settlement where people have been sent to live and rear their children. Surely in the name of humanity and in the name of all that we are trying to do for our children, this thing cannot be allowed to stop where it is. The Government should appoint the royal commission for which the honorable member for Lilley has asked and for which I also ask. In the meantime, honorable members opposite who may have some influence on the affairs of the Queensland Government should try to make the Queensland Ministers for Health and Housing face up to their responsibilities, clean up this settlement and ensure that all the housing settlements in Queensland are made as healthy as possible for the people who have to live in them. This Government is shouldering the responsibilities that fall upon it under the legislation that we are considering. I wish that I could say the same of the Queensland Government.
.- This bill raises some vital issues in relation to our economy. The average sum that has been made available to the States by the Commonwealth for housing over the past seven years has been about £16,000,000. This year, the amount to be made available is £30,000,000. That is in keeping with the inflation that is still distorting our economy. The principal object of- the bill is laudable. It is to provide finance for housing projects that will assist high priority activities, such as food production, coal-mining, power generation, transport, and defence production. I find no fault with that object, which was stated by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) in his second-reading speech. Although the pernicious system of the Commonwealth providing money which the States have the responsibility of expending applies under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945, there is ample authority in that act for the Commonwealth to supervise the activities of the States. Therefore, much of the loose talk that has been indulged in by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) loses its point.
The Commonwealth is equally responsible with the States for housing projects that are undertaken by the States under the terms of the act. Certain honorable members have asked the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into housing activities of the Queensland Government and, as this Government is involved with the State Government in the matter, there appears to be no reason why the request should not be granted. I do not know of any imported prefabricated houses that have not been thoroughly unsatisfactory. Therefore, I believe that the Government ought to appoint a commission with wide terms of reference to make a thorough-going examination of the housing situation. I emphasize that, as I have already stated, the Commonwealth is authorized by the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945 to play an important part in relation to State housing activities. Clause 4 of the agreement under the act provides that- (1.) Each State shall establish and shall advise the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of minimum and maximum standards to be observed in the carrying out of its housing projects in respect of the following matters: -
Clause 8 provides that -
The Commonwealth shall use its best endeavours to enable the State to obtain supplies of building materials and labour required by the States for the carrying out of their housing projects.
Those provisions show that there is a dual responsibility, which applies in relaton to the housing project in Queensland that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) have discussed. This Government, therefore, should accept its share of the responsibility for any shortcomings of that project.
Clause8 refers specifically to the obligation of this Government to help the States to obtain labour. The Commonwealth Employment Service should enable it in future to play an increasingly important part in the housing activities of the States. Unfortunately, all the advantages of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are being largely offset by disadvantages that arise from our present economic situation. The housing scheme was designed mainly to benefit workers on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, but rising costs have almost entirely priced them out of the market for houses, either for purchase or for rent. We must not overlook the social aspect of housing. Rising costs are reducing the demand for houses. Many people cannot afford to buy houses now. The forced reduction of the demand for houses leads, in turn, to unemployment in several fields. The first to be affected by this trend, of course, will be the artisan builders, and workers who are concerned with the production of building materials and home furnishings. Unemployment has reached serious proportions. Some honorable members have stated that approximately 100,000 Australians are now unemployed, but an examination of official figures proves that to be a considerable understatement.I have made a close analysis of statistics that have been published in the Employment Bulletin, an official Commonwealth publication, and my research has shown that employment figures in July, 1952, were 61,000 below the total for June, 1951. To that total must be added the natural increase, together with the immigration intake, which represent an addition of about 80,000. These figures would suggest an unemployed total of 141,000, but we must subtract the 26,000 persons now engaged in defence production and national service training.
– What has this to do with the bill?
– I shall tell the honorable member if he will be patient and allow me to develop my argument. The figures that I have stated leave a net total of 115,000 unemployed persons. 1 have reached that figure after making careful calculations but, if I have omitted any important factors, I shall be glad to have the fact pointed out to me.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement clearly provides that the Commonwealth shall have power to rent buildings. It also provides specifically that the loans must be made good over a term of 53 years. Applicants for State houses come from the ranks of those who are likely to be affected first by unemployment. The intention that underlies the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act - or at any rate, the interpretation that has been placed upon it by the States - is that the houses built under the terms of the agreement shall ultimately be sold to the occupants. That certainly is the view that has been taken in Victoria. A few years ago I took part in a deputation to the then Premier of Victoria, which asked that houses built under the agreement be made available for sale. The State Government agreed to the proposal and, as a result, many houses have been sold to tenants. The number is much higher than that mentioned by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer). Costs and. rents are of prime importance in relation to the proposed loans to the States for which the bill provides. If State houses become too costly to purchase, they will also become too costly to rent. Rising costs are causing a serious problem in Victoria. I know of houses built under the scheme in that State for which a rental of £3 8s. a week is charged. State housing schemes have been a boon to the workers, notwithstanding the criticism of them by honorable members on the Government side of the House. I hesitate to imagine what the housing situation in Victoria would be like to-day but for the excellent work done by the Housing Commission of that State. There has been some minor dissatisfaction with the Victorian scheme, but most of it has been associated with the acquisition of land and even that has almost died away recently. The project has prevented a social tragedy from occurring in Melbourne.
Unemployment has reached such serious proportions that I am justified in asserting that the Government should enact legislation to provide for the issuing of moratorium regulations. For the information of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) that is the point to which my earlier arguments were leading. The suggestion is closely related to the subject of the bill. The tragedy to the individual of the loss of a home, either under this scheme, .under a co-operative scheme or under a private mortgage arrangement, is too obvious to require elaboration. But that is the prospect that threatens many workers who occupy houses that they have undertaken to purchase under State housing schemes. They face, the twin tragedy of unemployment and the loss of their homes. This is a serious aspect of the present economic situation that has not been sufficiently stressed during this debate. Rising building costs may price many applicants out of the. field, and, in addition, rising interest rates may debar others from purchasing State houses. Clause 6 (3.) of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement states -
Each advance shall bear interest at a rate not exceeding the rate payable in respect of the long term Commonwealth Public Loan last raised prior to the date of the advance, or if a Loan is being raised at the date of any advance then that advance shall bear interest at the rate of interest to be paid in respect of the long term Loan then being raised.
The vital point is that only a short time ago the long-term Commonwealth loans were issued at 3.J per cent. During the last two or three years the rate has been increased to 3$ per cent., and undoubtedly the rate for the next loan will be even higher. Co-operative building societies have gone to some pains to estimate the effect of the increase on the home purchaser. I shall cite a typical example. An advance of £1,998 for a term of 30 years at 4£ per cent, requires a total repayment of £3,971 6s. 8d. The same amount of advance, at 4 per cent, for a similar period, would total £3,687 13s. 4d. In other words, a reduction of i per cent. makes a difference of £283 13s. 4d. Those figures are in keeping with the percentage that I quoted in connexion with Commonwealth loans. It is sufficient to drive home to me that what I have said about persons being “ costed “ out of homes by the increased interest rates is material.
The Commonwealth has a grave responsibility in approving any housing scheme adopted by a State. It is not sufficient for an honorable member to say, “ The scheme in Queensland is a complete failure, and the State Government is entirely responsible for that position”. That is not the point. The Commonwealth shares equally with the States the responsibility for the success of the schemes. The Minister must agree that the Commonwealth has a real responsibility in the matter. Food production, to which he has referred, is important. I believe that the Commonwealth should seek a specific statement regarding housing on farms so that a definite guarantee will be given, when the States are seeking a loan, that the objectives envisaged in this bill will be attained. A definite programme of decentralization should be insisted upon, because the Commonwealth has a responsibility to ensure a rational distribution of the population throughout Australia in the interests of defence and defence production.
Again, I insist that the Commonwealth should take cognizance of the arguments that have been advanced in this debate, because the Minister has stated that the Government will grant this money with certain specific objectives in view. Unless the Government does more than merely make the money available, it will fall down on the job which it sets out to do and which according to the impression that it has given to the House, it intends to do. The Housing Commission of Victoria has shown bias towards homebuilding in the. metropolitan area, greatly to the detriment of the economy of the State as a whole. I believe that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act is, in the main, satisfactory. Under this legislation, the ‘Commonwealth can achieve all the objectives that it has in mind, particularly those stressed by the Minister in his second-reading speech. The economic conditions of our times make it possible for us to regard the loan of £30,000,000 with some degree of critical observation. The amendment that has been submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne is worthy of serious consideration. I believe that the Government should withdraw the bill, and announce emphatically what it expects to get from the States in return for making loan money available to them for housing. The Government should also indicate precisely how far it will accept its logical responsibility in relation to making loan money available to the States for the purposes, which it presumes to be substantial, outlined by the Minister in his second-reading speech.
– This debate has been most interesting to me, because I was a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission, which inquired into and reported upon housing a few years ago. Some of the comments that have been made by honorable members about advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are rather wide of the mark. When I make that statement, I have particularly in mind the speech of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer). He is bitter about the agreement because it gives authority to the New South Wales Government, through the New South Wales Housing Commission, to erect houses for renting. The honorable gentleman has made it plain that if he had his way, this agreement would be abandoned. In those circumstances, the people of New South Wales would have to depend upon private enterprise to erect houses for renting.
The honorable member for Bennelong also mentioned a loss of £500,000 on housing projects in New South Wales. I could not understand from his remarks how such a loss occurred, so I have referred to the report of the AuditorGeneral for the year ended the 30th June, last. One paragraph in that document states that the total amount advanced under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is £111,009,000. The Auditor-General gives the repayments of principal, and proceeds from the sales of houses &c, and says -
The position at the 30th June 1952 of annual settlements between the Commonwealth and each State with losses on sale of dwellings and losses on administration was as follows: - New South Wales nil, Victoria nil, Queensland not yet determined, Western Australia £5(14, . . .
The Auditor-General has stated, in his report, that the loss sustained by New South “Wales either from the sale of houses or in administration is nil. That bears out the claim that the New South Wales Housing Commission has been doing a fairly responsible job. In my opinion, that authority has fixed rents which amply cover all the commitments that have to be met.
Reference has also been made in this debate to the number of houses that have been sold by the various States. According to the honorable member for Bennelong, the proceeds from the sale of a house are paid to the Commonwealth. Of course, at the present time, not many people are able to borrow sufficient money to enable them to purchase houses. T give credit to the New South Wales Government and housing commission for their policy of providing houses for renting.
Estimates of the number of houses required throughout Australia are illuminating to me. The Commonwealth Housing Commission, of which I was a member, made a definite statement in 1944 about the housing requirements of Australia. In its view, the shortage by the end of 1945 would be approximately 400,000 houses. If honorable members will take the trouble to read the report of that commission on the needs of Australia, they will see that its estimates are proving correct. We recommended to the government of the day that home building should be stepped up so that during the first year after the end of the war, 50,000 home units would be either completed or in the course of construction. The figure of 50,000 regarded each flat in a building as a separate unit. We recommended that the number of 50,000 be increased to S0,000 per annum within the following three years. Our contention was that, on the basis of 80,000 units a year, it would require about ten years to overtake the housing needs of the people. As we had no knowledge of what the immigration policy would be after the war, we stated in our report that we could not make any recommendationsregarding the housing requirements of immigrants.
We found that the position throughout Australia was such that many persons were unable to obtain homes, not to purchase, but in which to reside. We considered that a great need existed to provide houses for renting. The honorable member for Bennelong is bitterly opposed to the provision of money by the Commonwealth in order to enable the New South Wales housingauthorities to build cottages for renting. The honorable gentleman considers that the money should be paid to co-operative building societies and similar organizations in order to enable houses to be built for sale. He loses sight of the fact that Sydney has a number of bad slum areas. When I was a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission, I saw sub-standard housing in Sydney, and I knew the position of many of the tenants of those dwellings. They wereoccupying houses which were not fit for human habitation. They thought that we were inspectors who had come to condemn the buildings, and they begged us not to do so, because, they had no alternative accommodation.
– An indictment of the State Labour government.
– Not at all! It was a legacy of the war period. While our energies were concentrated upon the prosecution of the war, home building lagged. The Commonwealth Housing Commission recommended that efforts be made to appoint building commissions in the various States. The honorable member for Bennelong suggests that the New South Wales Government should not construct houses for renting and has complained about the policy of subsidizing rents. It appears to me that he has not examined the position closely. Before New South Wales started to build houses for renting, the system had been introduced into Victoria. Many inhabitants of sub-standard houses were moved en masse to a new settlement at Fisherman’s Bend. I asked members of the Housing Commission of Victoria whether the transfer had been a success, and they informed me that 95 per cent. of the people who had been moved from the worst slum areas of Melbourne were good tenants, and were most satisfactory in the new houses. I assume that the honorable member for Bennelong is in favour of slum clearance. He should know that private enterprise will not build houses to accommodate persons transferred from condemned buildings. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has referred to the housing position in Queensland. He criticized the Queensland Government for building houses -in unsuitable places and he said that some of them were flooded. Honorable members on the Government side have praised the South Australian Housing Trust. Apparently, they do not know that twelve months ago, houses that had been built by the trust were flooded in the winter. People could not get out of them and the houses had to be shifted to other places. It does not matter what government has control of housing or whether it is Labour or Liberal. Mistakes will be made in the siting of temporary houses.
When the honorable member for Lilley referred to the money that this Government has made available to the Queensland Government, an honorable member on the Government side interjected properly that the Australian Government has no executive power with regard to those houses. However, the £300 subsidy that was granted under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and to which reference has been made was provided because this Government wanted houses built quickly. It was prepared to subsidize any State government that was prepared to bring houses to Australia to the extent of £300 for each house. If any one is to blame for the type of house about which the honorable member for Lilley has complained, this Government has that responsibility for not making sure that the money it advanced as a subsidy was spent properly.
I am most deeply concerned about the endeavour of honorable members on the Government side to have the agreement revoked. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr, Cramer) said he would not wait until 1955 but would Beal with it now. He meant that he would ter minate the agreement at once and throw the States back upon their own resources. South Australia is not associated with the loan for which provision is made in the bill that is before the House. South Australia is finding the money for its own programme. It has no responsibility to the Australian Government in that respect although to some degree it has to conform with the standards that were set up under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. But the £30,000,000 loan is not sufficient. I am confident that no State can deal with the housing problem adequately unless this Government can do something more for it. The matter goes beyond the provision of £30,000,000. As I have said, South Australia is not in the agreement, but any one who read the newspapers closely a few months ago knows that the South Australian Government was endeavouring then to sell 500 imported houses to New Zealand. It stated publicly that it would be unable to erect them. If it could not sell them to New Zealand, they would have to be left for a time. That indicated clearly that it is not only the housing agreement or the contemplated loan that is affecting housing in Australia. The problem goes much further.
An extra burden will be placed upon the people by the interest rates that are to be charged. The money that is to be provided by this bill will not be a charge on persons who are building homes for themselves. Generally, it will go to the housing authorities in the States that are building houses for rental. Every extra pound of interest that is charged on a house will mean additional rental. When honorable members discuss the effects on the economy of inflation, increases of the basic wage and the cost of living, they should consider the costs that will be involved in the erection and letting of houses. Ultimately they are considered by the relevant authority when the basic wage is being adjusted. A person who borrows money to build a house and pays interest on his loan does not influence the basic wage, but the rental that is charged for houses is a prime factor in the basic wage level. The States will have to pay on this loan ‘approximately the long-term rate of interest that will be fixed by the Australian Government on the next loan issue. The effect that such payments will have on the rents that are to be charged for houses erected under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is obvious. If higher rates of interest have to be paid to encourage people to invest in Commonwealth loans, the rental charges for houses that are erected by State authorities will be increased.
The honorable member for Bennelong referred to the rent subsidy to-day and said that a man should not have to pay more than one-fifth of his income for rent. He implied that a man who was in a good position could get a house cheaply. If a man were receiving £20 a week, he would have to pay £4 a week rental on that basis and he could not be said to be getting a house cheaply. Others may reap a benefit. I believe that the effect of unemployment upon the housing agreement will be evident soon. If the workers who obtain houses in the housing estates suffer unemployment and consequent loss of income, the Australian Government may have to increase its rental subsidies. The honorable member for Bennelong suggested that the New South Wales Government was responsible for building houses for rental. He was entirely wrong. South Australia has been held up as, a model in the provision of housing. Up to 1936, the South Australian Government did not build any houses for rental. In 1936, the South Australian Housing Trust was formed and for eight years, every house that it built was constructed for rental. It did not build one for sale. The trust has been building houses for sale only over the last three or four years. I give the Liberal Government of South Australia of the day credit for ruling that the houses could be rented only by people who would be receiving low wages. A person who was receiving a few pounds above the basic wage could not get one. The thousands of homes that were built over a period of ten years were all constructed in pairs and they are still being rented. The trust has not been losing on its investment. Yet honorable members on the Government side have suggested that the agreement should be ended simply because houses are being built for rental and not for sale. I support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). One honorable member opposite said that nobody knew what it meant. This is the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne -
That the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for- and I ask honorable members to take particular notice of this -
Adequate funds to enable the States to meet housing requirements of the people of each State.
– Order! If the honorable member professes to be reading the amendment, he is quite wrong.
– I beg the pardon of honorable members. The Standing Orders prevent the details from being included in the amendment. I am sorry if I made a misleading statement in declaring the terms of the amendment. The honorable member for Melbourne wants the bill to be withdrawn and provision to be made for -
Honorable members will note that the Opposition has something very definite in mind with regard to this bill. We want the Australian Government to use all its resources to assist the States so that they can maintain continuity in the construction of houses for the people and to meet the needs of those who are coming to Australia. In 1943, it was estimated that this country required 40,000 new housing units each year. It is said that for every four immigrants that come to this country, one additional housing unit will be required. The Government is talking about bringing 160,000 immigrants to Australia each year. For their accommodation, we should require another 40,000 houses annually. That was the number that we required each year before the war to provide accommodation for newly-married couples and to replace condemned houses that should be demolished.
I hope that the debate upon this measure will make the Government and its advisers realize more than they do now the great need of the people of this country for houses. I do not suggest that the Government does not realize that need to some degree, but I hope that it will take to heart our remarks said in this debate and, in future, make better provision for the housing of the Australian people than it has done in the past. In every capital city of the Commonwealth, thousands of people are waiting for houses. It has been said that the number of houses built in South Australia has increased by a certain percentage in recent years, but in that State more people are waiting for houses today than were waiting five years ago, before the big building programme was put into operation. That fact proves conclusively that those who are responsible for the provision of houses should take a broader view of this problem.
Doubtless, the Government will tell us that it is easy to talk about providing houses, but to find the necessary money is a very different matter. When the need is sufficiently great, we can get the money that we require. Past experience proves that when the people of this country believe that the Government’s need for money is urgent, money is made available. The deposits in the savings banks amount to nearly £1,000,000,000, but it was reported in the press this morning that a small loan floated by a State government had been undersubscribed. It seems to me that the people are not sufficiently aware of what they should do for their country. Much of the responsibility for the present state of affairs must be accepted by the Government, because of the way in which it has handled the finances of the nation. The sum of £30,000,000 referred to in this measure will be raised only if the people are prepared to back the Government and thecountry. We know that there is enough money in Australia to finance an expanded building programme. I urge the Government, not only to pull its socks up, but also to put its thinking cap on and to consider the real needs of Australia. Let it think, not of what will be popular but of what is necessary, and then let it do what is necessary. If the Government acted in that way, I am certain that there would be no further complaints of the kind made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), or of people not having houses in which to live. If the Government got to work and did the job as it should be done, I am convinced that many of our present difficulties would become less acute.
Question put -
That the words proposed to he left out (Mr. Calwell’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Patents Bill 1952.
Tariff Board Bill 1952.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Government-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Maules Creek, New South Wales.
Post and Telegraph Act -Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 78.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination - 1952 - No. 61 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The following types of artists have been brought to Australia for concert tours by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the past five years from sterling area and dollar are countries: -
Sterling Area Countries. - Conductors, 9; sopranos, 3; pianists, 5, including 1 Australian; duo-pianists, 1, tenors, 4, including 1 Australian; violinists, 1; quartets, 2 (fares in both cases paid by British Council); organist, 1, Australian (fares paid by Jubilee authorities, as tour arranged in connexion with celebrations) ; total, 26.
Dollar Area Countries. - Pianists. 3. including 2 Australians; baritones, 2, including 1 Australia; tenors, 1, Australian; sopranos, 2, including Australian; contralto,1; folk-singer,1 : violinists, 2; total 12.
As America is now one of the most important world musical centres and the opportunities available there attract a large proportion of the world’s best artists and conductors, it is very difficult to avoid engaging some artists from dollar areas. The artists and conductors selected in any one year depend on many factors, including the standard of their work, the types of artists required (soprano, tenor, pianist &c. ), whether the artist is available at the time required, agreement satisfactory to the Australian Broadcasting Commission regarding fees &c. However, it will be noted that over the period concerned 26 artists, conductors or ensembles were brought to Australia from sterling area countries and twelve from dollar area countries and that of the latter twelve, five were Australians who had gone to the United States of America to further their musical careers, it being the Commission’s policy to arrange, whenever possible, for the artists brought to Australia each year to include at least one Australian.
d asked the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
August, 1947, to April, 1948. - Director of Drama, Mr. F. D. Clewlow. - To secure programme material make contact with artists and writers, investigate developments in broadcasting technique in his own field, investigate the British Broadcasting Corporation Staff Training School (Mr. Clewlow then being Director of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s school). Part of the period shown was at Mr. Clewlow’s own expense, being recreation leave.
November, 1947, to February, 1948. - Director of Rural Broadcasts, Mr.J. Douglass. - To attend, at the invitation of the association, a conference of the National Association of Radio Farm Directors in the United States of America, to secure programme material for Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes, and to investigate rural broadcasting in the United States of America where outstanding progress has been made in this field. During this short visit Mr. Douglass obtained 70 programmes for broadcasting in Australia, made 33 broadcasts from United States stations and addressed ten conferences among officers in the United States of America concerned with rural broadcasts.
March to October, 1948. - Federal Sports Supervisor, the late Mr. D. Leggett. - To provide for Australian listeners a coverage of the 1948 Olympic Games in London and of the Australian cricket team’s visit to Britain in that year.
March to April, 1949. - Director of Youth Education, Mr. R. Bronner. - To attend, at the invitation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a conference at Montreal among representatives of British Commonwealth broadcasting organizations in the field of youth education. As a result of this conference arrangements were made for the exchange of programme material for use in broadcasts to schools, an important means of bringing about a better understanding among Commonwealth countries.
January to February, 1950. - Federal Sports Supervisor and Acting New South Wales Sports Supervisor, Messrs. B. Kerr and T. Duckmanton. - To provide a coverage for Australian listeners of the British Empire Games in New Zealand.
April to July, 1951. - Director of Music, Mr. W. C. James. - To audition and negotiate with artists who might be considered for Australian tours, including seeking outstanding young artists, to make personal contact with artists, agents and organizations likely to be of assistance to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in its work, to seek music, recordings, &c, for use in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes, &c. The value of Mr. James’s inquiries has been demonstrated by the successful tours arranged as a result of his personal contact with the artists concerned who might otherwise have been reluctant to come to this country.
June to July, 1951. - Director of Rural Broadcasts, Mr. J. Douglass. - To attend conference of National Association of
Radio Farm Directors, United States of America, to obtain programme material and investigate rural broadcasting in the United States of America and during a brief visit to Britain. Apart from other activities, Mr. Douglass obtained 99 programmes for use in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s service to the man on the land.
June to September, 1952. - Federal Sports Supervisor, Mr. B. Kerr. - To provide for Australian listeners a coverage of the 1952 Olympic Games at Helsinki. A total of 43 different countries sent broadcasting commentators to obtain a coverage of the games.
June to July, 1952. - Director of Youth Education, Mr. R. Bronner. - To attend the meeting of the educational subcommittee of the British Commonwealth Broadcasting Conference in London, which discussed important developments in the exchange of programme material for use in broadcasts to schools. This meeting was attended by members of school broadcasts staff of six British Commonwealth national broadcasting organizations.
June, 1952 (now overseas). - General Manager, Mr. Charles Moses. - See question 2 below.
March to October, 1949. - Variety Producer, New South Wales, Mr. T. Whitelock. - Exchanged with British Broadcasting Corporation Variety Producer, Mr. Howard Lockhart.
August. 1949, to May, 1950.- Federal Talks Assistant (News Talks), Mr. F. Simpson. - Exchanged with British Broadcasting Corporation Senior Assistant in NewsTalks, Mr. Edwin Hinchcliffe.
January to September, 1950. - Senior Producer, Drama, Mr. P. O’Loughlin (now Assistant Director of Drama and Features ) . - Exchanged with British Broadcasting Corporation Drama Producer, Mr. Ayton Whittaker.
April to October, 1951. - Writer/Producer, Features, Mr. J. Thompson. - Exchanged with Mr. Robin Richardson, of British Broadcasting Corporation’s Features Department.
March to December, 1950. - Associate Conductor, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Mr. J. Post.- Exchanged with Mr. Charles Groves, conductor of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Northern Regional Orchestra.
October, 1949, to January, 1950. - Controller of Programmes, Dr. K. Barry. - Selected as Australian delegate to Unesco Conference in Paris. Return fares to Europe and expenses at Conference not met by Australian Broadcasting Commission, but advantage was taken of the visit to arrange for him to spend a short time investigating broadcasting in Britain and making personal contact with artists and others who might usefully contribute to Australian Broadasting programmes.
May to June, 1948. - Federal Talks Assistant (Outside Broadcasts), Mr. R. A. MacGregor. - At the invitation of the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines was selected as Australian Broadcasting Commission representative on early flight to the United States of America. Australian Broadcasting Commission not responsible for fares but advantage was taken of the visit to arrange for him to spend about three weeks in the United States of America obtaining programme material.
October, 1950, to April, 1951; April to May, 1951; December, 1951, to January, 1952; September, 1952 (not yet returned). - War Correspondents, Korea - Mr. D. Telfer and Mr. F. Simpson (officers of Talks Department). - To obtain programme material about the activities of the Australian troops in Korea, messages, including Christmas greetings, &c, from members of the Australian forces for broadcasting to their families in Australia. Some of these visits were made at the suggestion of the Australian military authorities who considered all of them to be of value and who in most cases provided transport facilities, &c.
September, 1952. - Supervisor of Talks, Victoria, Mr. W. H. Newnham. - At invitation of Qantas was selected as Australian Broadcasting Commission representative on inaugural flight to South Africa. The Australian Broadcasting Commission was not responsible for fares, but the opportunity was taken to obtain programme material from South Africa as well as about the flight.
Other members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s staff have been abroad at their own expense (on leave without pay) and as holders of the scholarship awarded annually by the Imperial Relations Trust of Great Britain to an Australian Broadcasting Commission officer; these scholarships provide return fares to Britain and a living allowance, &c, for a period of three to six months during which the officer concerned works as a member of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s staff.
February to May, 1945. - To attend, at the invitation of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the first British Commonwealth Broadcasting Conference in London, which was attended by the chief executives or other senior representatives of the national broadcasting organizations of the British Commonwealth and was arranged to discuss closer collaboration on matters of common interest, including the exchange of programmes, information, with the aim of bringing about a closer understanding among the peoples of the British Commonwealth and also joint action in various aspects ofbroadcasting work. After the Conference, the General Manager spent a short time in Europe as a British Broadcasting Corporation war correspondent on the Western Front.
February to May, 1951. - At the direction of the Commonwealth Government, the General Manager was sent abroad with representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, to investigate television overseas. In accordance with their terms of reference, this party visited the United States of America, Canada, Great Britain and France and the General Manager also spent two days in Germany, one day in Switzerland and two days in Italy observing local television services.
June, 1952 (not yet returned) . - To attend, at the invitation of the British Broadcasting Corporation and with the approval of the Prime Minister, the second British Commonwealth Broadcasting Conference. This Conference was also attended by representatives of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. At the conclusion of the Conference, the General Manager was sent to Finnish national broadcasting service, Yleisradio, in connexion with facilities for the broadcasting of the Games,this information being required in view of the fact that 1956 Games will be held in Melbourne. The General Manager is now on recreation leave although he has been using this leave, at his own expense, to investigate developments in broadcasting overseas, &c.
The total cost of the General Manager’s two visits overseas in 1945 and 1951 was £2,350. The cost of his present visit is not vet available.
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What would be the estimated cost to the Commonwealth of each social service if the permissible income were increased by 100 per cent.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
In the absence of reliable data concerning the incomes of persons not already in receipt of pensions any estimates of the cost of increasing the permissible income must necessarily be very approximate and based on assumptions, the validity of which cannot he verified. This point is important, as any increase in permissible income would permit persons who are now excluded because of their incomes to qualify for pensions. It should also be remembered that we have no statistics on the numbers of persons in the community who would be regarded medically as 85 per cent. incapacitated for work and on this ground qualified for invalid pension. Subject to these limitations, my department has estimated that the cost of increasing the permissible income for age, invalid and widows’ pensions, and for wives’ allowances, from £78 to £156 a year, would be -
In the case of unemployment and sickness benefits, and again based on inadequate data, the estimated cost of increasing permissible income from £1 to £2 a week is £100,000 a year.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice - 1.Has an agreement been reached between the French and Japanese governments whereby 2,000 young male Japanese are to be sent to New Caledonia as indentured labour for the nickel mines?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Minister obtain for the information of honorable members advice in regard to (a) the number of jute mill looms that have been ordered by the Government of Pakistan from the United Kingdom and other countries and
details of the ten-year jute processing expansion programme in Pakistan and the capacity target set for mills for this period?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
According to published figures from Pakistani sources available in Australia, (a) Pakistan ordered 6,000 jute mill looms from the United Kingdom. A small order has also been placed for German equipment as a trial. Of this quantity 3,000 looms are at present being installed and it is proposed that the balance be installed by 1954; (b) although details of the ten-year processing programme are not available, it is understood that the Pakistan Government envisages a manufacturing capacity of 15,000 looms in ten years.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the salaries and allowances paid to the chairman and members of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and what are the amounts paid, respectively, to the occupants of similar offices in each of the States?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The salaries and allowances paid to members of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and (so far as the Government is aware) to occupants of similar positions in each State are as follows : -
Commonwealth Public Service Board. - (i) Chairman - Salary, £4.100. (ii) Commissioners (two) - Salary. £3,350.
New South Wales State Public Service Board. - (i) Chairman - Salary, £4,500; allowance (entertainment). £350; total, £4,850. (ii) Other board members (two) - Salary, £3,350.
Victorian State Public Service Board. - (i) Chairman - Salary, £2,860. (ii) Other board members (two) - Salary, £1,960.
Queensland State Public Service. - (i) Commissioner - Salary, £2,300.
South Australian State Public Service - (i) Chairman - Salary, £2,300; allowance as member of Teachers Salary Board, £150; total, £2,450. (ii) Two other board members - Salary, part-time members (no salary paid); allowance (as members of Appeal Board), £200. (iii) Fourth board member (appointed by State Government) - Salary, part-time member (no salary paid) ; allowance (as member of Appeal Board), £150. (/) Western Australian State Public Service. - (i) Commissioner - Salary, £2,080; allowance (as Chairman of Superannuation Board), £200; total, £2,250.
Tasmanian State Public Service. - ( ii ) Commissioner - Salary, £1,828 ; allowance, £150; total, £1,978.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 September 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520930_reps_20_219/>.