20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers. i PEARLING.
Dr. EVATT. - I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government proposes to enforce the law, which .was passed unanimously by both Houses of this Parliament, to restrict the operations of the Japanese pearling fleet in the vicinity of Australia. It was clearly competent under the Australian Constitution for this Parliament to make that law.
Mr. MoEWEN. - I can say quite clearly that the Government intends to achieve the wish, which has been stated by the Parliament, to assure the regulation and conservation of pearling operations in the waters for which we are responsible. I take this opportunity of saying, in order to clear up the matter, that the Japanese Government has apparently announced that it intends to ask the Australian Government to agree to an approach to the World Court in relation to the issue. The Australian Government has received a certain communication from the Japanese ‘Government over the week-end, but it has not yet had an opportunity to consider the position. I wish to add that I think that this is a matter in which Australian interest is not merely directed towards the regulation and conservation of pearling, which we concede, but also in ensuring that there should be no impairment of our relations with our Pacific neighbours.
. Dr. Evatt. - And also in ensuring our defence.
Mr. MoEWEN.- The defence aspect alao has to be kept in mind by the Government. I take this opportunity of saying that I do not believe that any contribution will be made to a matter of some delicacy by conducting diplomatic exchange* through the medium of public statements, and that I, for my .part, do not propose - to follow such a course. I am sure that it will he agreed that this is a matter that nobody in Australia would wish to have resolved on party political lines, or wish to see lent to exploitation along those lines. With that in mind, I have the authority of the Prime Minister to inform the Loader of the Opposition that I, or the Prime Minister, will be prepared to acquaint him with any suggestions that come from the Japanese, and also with the actions and intentions of the Government.
Mr. DAVIDSON.- My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Is the Minister aware of reports that within recent weeks fishing luggers, not of Australian origin, have been flighted over the continental shelf east of Mackay. In view of the fact that these areas, rich in trochus shell and beche-de-mer, were extensively fished by the Japanese before the last war, will the right honorable gentleman confer with the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Air in order that arrangements may be made for regular policing of this area, so that the provisions of die act recently passed by this Parliament may be enforced in the eastern portions of the Great Barrier Beef as well as in our northern seas?
Mr. MoEWEN. - I had heard nothing of the suggestion made by the honorable member until just before the House met to-day,, when my attention was drawn to a report published during the week-end. All I can say is that I shall have inquiries made about the origin of thic report, and shall -endeavour to discover whether it has any foundation in fact. If it has, then the honorable member may rest assured that adequate steps “will be taken to observe what is going on, and to enforce the law that this Parliament has; approved.
– As the honorable member says, quite rightly, there have been rumours, some of which 1 regard as rather foolish, about that matter. We have had the advantage of talks with Lord Cherwell, who is PaymasterGeneral of the British Government and who, of course, as honorable members know, is an eminent scientist. Those talks were purely exploratory. The United Kingdom, is materially interested, as we are, in uranium not only because of its war potential, which has so far, very naturally, occupied the central place on the stage, but also because of its peace potential, and the possibilities of the production of power from uranium. We, naturally and properly, facilitated for Lord Cherwell his inspection of Bum Jungle and Woomera, a.nd, with the very willing co-operation of the Premier of South Australia, Radium Hill. After those inspections had been made by him, we discussed some of the future problems associated with the search for uranium, and the production, of uranium to see whether there was some common advantage to be obtained out of our communications with each, other. I want to make it. perfectly clear that we have made no contract, other than the contract already made with, the Combined Development Agency, for the 3ale of uranium. We have, as honorable members know, entered into arrangements, as has the Government of South Australia, with respect to the uranium to be obtained, because there is a good deal of futurity about this matter, with the Combined Development Agency, which is an agency that is dealing with uranium primarily for the purposes of defence, and in these agreements, the South Australian Government, with our concurrence, and the Australian Government, have made proper reservations designed to protect our own requirements for the future. I want to take the opportunity given to me by the honorable member for Boothby to make it clear to the House that the first task which confronts us with relation to uranium is exploration and development. That is a long and difficult task, and having regard to the nature of the country in. which indications of uranium have been obtained, honorable members will not need to be told by me that it may he a very expensive one, and one presenting enormous difficulties of development. The plain faff, is that we do not yet know, and we cannot ..yet know what uranium we -have in Australia, and I should like- to add., for myself, that I rather distrust the making of extravagant estimates in this field. It will take a long time, with the very limited resources that we have of skilled and experienced manpower, to find out how much uranium we have, and to bring it to the point of development. We are pressing on with that work with all speed, and I am happy to say that Lord Cherwell himself was most favorably impressed with the work that had been done at Rum Jungle during the last twelve months.
– It is nice to know that.
– It is, because his opinion is worth something. I want to make it clear on behalf of the Government - and I am sure that it would operate in respect of any government in this country - that we would not dream of entering into any arrangement for the future which would deprive our own country of its requirements of this valuable material. From first to last it has been clear to us and to all those with whom we have discussed “this matter, that our first obligation, subject to the defence requirement, which, every honorable member will agree, has an urgency and importance of its own, is to see that we do not denude our own country of what may turn out to be of immense significance to its future industrial development. Therefore, nobody has at any time contemplated that any such thing would occur. All these rumours referred to by the honorable member are rather idle rumours. They are purely speculative, and, as I have indicated briefly to the House, they happen to be quite wrong. The second question that the honorable member asked me related to the price, and I shall take the opportunity to say a few words on that matter. The price of uranium, or uranium oxide to be more precise, under the arrangements that we, and the South Australian Government, have already made with the Combined Development Agency, which is a combination of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, cannot be disclosed and will not be disclosed for two very good reasons, In the first place, one of the terms of our arrangement with those two predominant powers is that the price is not to be disclosed. It is on the secret list. We do not commonly break our arrangements with other countries. In the second place, it will be clear to honorable members that, if the price of uranium oxide were to be disclosed, it would be a simple piece of mathematics thereafter for somebody to divide the total receipts of the uranium authority in Australia by the price and so ascertain the quantity with precision. We do not know how much uranium the potential enemy is securing. If we did, we should be in an infinitely better position to evaluate certain enormously important international problems. I am bound to say - and I think I can do so on behalf of all members of this House - that there is no earthly reason why we should give to the potential enemy information of a kind that we cannot obtain from him. That is why this is a matter of security. It is not due to some childish idea that everything must be hush-hush. I say quite frankly that whatever can be made known ought to be made known because it is the people of Australia who pay for these developments. It is the money of the people that is involved and, to the very limit of security, I should be all in favour of the people of Australia knowing. But I am not in favour of telling the Communist countries in this simple fashion how much uranium is being produced in Australia - or will be produced in Australia, which is a more accurate way of putting it - any more than I should expect that the same information would be given to them by the United States of America, Canada or any other country in the producing field. But I can say this about price: the only uranium we have entered into a contract to sell in the future is for the purposes of the Combined Development Agency.. It is, therefore, to be used for all-important, indeed vital, defence purposes. . Therefore, we have applied a perfectly simple rule, as the Premier of South Australia also has done. We do not propose to sell our uranium at a loss, nor do we propose to become profiteers at the expense of the common defence effort. On those principles, a proper and reasonable price has been fixed.- It is neither a bargain price nor, I am happy to say, an extortioner’s price. It is a price tha-t will enable us to go on producing uranium for defence purposes and, at the same time, enable defence projects to be carried out, quite possibly to the ultimate salvation of the people of this country.
– I have been told there is an acute and growing shortage of bran and pollard in some parts of my electorate, especially in Goulburn. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the shortage is general? If it is not, can arrangements be made to transfer supplies? If the shortage is general, can the Minister give any information about how long it is likely to last and the steps he is taking to relieve the position of farmers and poultry-keepers ?
– I do not believe there is a general shortage of bran and pollard, because I have not received any requests for assistance or advice on the subject. In recent months, there has been a serious falling off of the demand from overseas for Australian flour. At, the present time, there is a general pause in international trade in wheat and wheat products. Consequently, there has been a big reduction of Australian flour-milling operations. I think that is the explanation of the shortage of bran and pollard in some districts. Some months ago, on the suggestion of the New South Wales Government, exports of bran and pollard were approved but, when it appeared that there would be a shortage of those products, the New South Wales Government was consulted and an embargo was placed upon exports of mill products. Speaking from memory, I think the embargo was imposed as far back as last June. I shall cause inquiries to be’ made to ascertain whether anything can be done to alleviate the position to which the honorable member has referred.
– In view of the fact that one of the Royal Australian Air Force Canberra bombers was held up at
Cocos Island during the England-New Zealand air race because a spare tyre was not available, will the Minister for Air say whether it is the intention of the Department of Air to establish an adequate stock of spare parts at that base?
– It is not intended to establish an adequate stock, or any kind of stock, of spare parts on Cocos Island. The island is not generally used as a base by the Royal Australian Air Force. The answer to the question raised by the honorable member hinges on whether the Air Force, knowing that the EnglandNew Zealand air race was about to take place, should have established a stock of spare parts on Cocos Island. In the pre-night discussions - that is, the discussions that took place before the race - the fullest consideration was given to the question whether stocks, not only of tyres but also of other spare parts, should be established on Cocos Island and at other places on the route. It was decided not to have spare parts at those places. The reason for the decision was that the Air Force made up its mind that time in the air was vital, and that time lost on the ground, probably, would put a contestant out of the race. As there was only seven minutes’ difference in air time between all the contestants in the speed section who completed the course, we realize that time lost on the ground was an extremely important factor. It was considered that roughly two hours would be needed to change a tyre. It was considered also that if the tyre of an aircraft burst, other things would happen to the aircraft and that the period of delay could be very much longer than two hours. In the pre-flight discussions, the Air Force decided not to have spare tyres at Cocos Island, for the reason that, if an aircraft had trouble with its tyres, the crew could consider themselves as being out of the race. That is the answer to the honorable member’s question. After the post-mortem on the race, I was advised by the Chief of the Air Staff that, if the Air Force were considering the matter again, it would come to exactly the same conclusion. I think we had a little bad luck in the race, but I am certain the Royal Australian Air Force would like to pay tribute to the British teams who did so magnificent a job. Above all, I think the House would like to compliment the air crews and ground crews of the Royal Australian Air Force on their magnificent performance in staging and carrying out this flight under very difficult conditions.
– Will the Minister for Health inform’ the House whether the blood that is donated by people and placed in the blood banks is tested, or whether it is merely grouped? If the blood is not tested, will the right honorable gentleman indicate whether any protection from disease and impure blood is afforded to persons who are given transfusions?
– I have not examined this matter as it applies to every State in Australia. However, I know the position very well in New South Wales, and I believe that the action taken there is typical of the action taken in other States. In New South Wales the blood is both grouped and tested.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Army. The Army camp at Bathurst, New South Wales, was used by the Government with marked advantage and success during the recent war. Is the Minister prepared to utilize this camp for the training of national service trainees who come from the western districts of New South Wales? Such an arrangement would decentralize army training and be of benefit to the trainees from these western districts.
– At present the Bathurst camp is surplus to army requirements, but I shall take into consideration the request made by the honorable member. However, I do not know whether there are enough national service trainees in that area to justify the use of the camp. At first sight I would not think that there are enough, but I shall take into consideration the representations made by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether there is to be a demonstration in Sydney next Saturday week by the Royal Australian Navy of anti-submarine weapons? If such a demonstration is to be held, who will be invited to it? Will honorable members of this House be invited?
– A demonstration will be held in Sydney on Trafalgar Day, which falls on Saturday week, in order to display some of the wares of the Royal Australian Navy. I do not know who will be invited to the demonstration, although I know that I am not being invited myself. If any honorable member would care to be invited - and I know that the demonstration would be much enjoyed by any honorable members who attend: - I shall be very happy to have an invitation extended to him. In particular, I assure the honorable member that, if he desires to attend the demonstration an honoured place will be reserved for him.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to give to the House any information on when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is likely to publish the reasons for its recent decision suspending automatic quarterly cost-of-living adjustments of the basic wage ? In view of the widespread interest in this very important matter, can the Minister inform the House whether there is any special reason for the court’s delay in publishing the reasons for its decision?
– I cannot give that information offhand. I shall make inquiries to see whether there is any information that I can pass on to the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate .whether the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will continue to make periodic adjustments of the basic wage in accordance with fluctuations in the cost of living? The Minister has made no statement on the matter apart from the fact that the information for which he has benn asked has not yet become available to lim. I should like to know whether he has any information to give, the House in relation to that aspect of the matter.
– I am in much the same position as is the honorable member. The only information which comes to the Government from the court is the information which is published in the court’s decisions. We, too, are awaiting publication of the reasons for the court’s decision and clarification of those other matters to which honorable members have referred.
– On the 17th September last, I directed a question to the Minister for Supply in which I sought information in respect of the Go,vernment’s intentions in relation to the disposal of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. The Minister replied that he would bring my question to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and that he would see that I was furnished with ran answer. As I have not yet received the information for’ which I asked, will the Minister take up the matter with his colleagues so that I may receive a reply without further delay?
– I am sorry that the honorable member has not received a reply. I shall see that he gets one as soon as possible.
-Order! I again point out that questions of this description should be placed on the notice-paper. That is the proper place for them.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether, in his opinion, any useful recommendations were contained in the report of the American health insurance experts who were brought to Australia some months ago? If so, has the right honorable gentleman taken any steps to give effect to them, particularly to those which relate to the placing of medical benefit organizations on a more sound and economical administrative basis and of ensuring that control of the organizations and any profits that result from their operations will remain with the members of the organization?”
– Practically all the suggestions made by the visiting American experts were of extraordinary value, and they have been put into operation. The whole of the moneys obtained from premiums by the organizations are used for the purpose of providing benefits for their members.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he stated, about three months ago, that the Government was confident that all remaining chronic sufferers from ailments, who at that time had not been approved for membership of medical benefit societies under the Government’s health scheme, would be accepted for membership at an early date. Ishe aware that many persons of that type are still being refused membership in such societies?
– On several occasions I have indicated exactly the societies that are willing to take such persons as members. The names of those societies have been published, and if the persons who desire to join them apply to them they will be accepted as members.
-Is the Treasurer aware that dismissal notices, to take effect to-morrow evening, have been issued to a number of women employees of the Taxation Branch of the Commonwealth Public Service? Will the Treasurer issue immediate instructions that these notices be withdrawn, if not completely, at least in respect of employees whose husbands are in receipt of war pensions, as totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, or as invalid pensioners ?
– I have no intention of interfering with the administration of the Taxation Branch. I shall investigate the reason for the action that has been taken, but I am positive it is a sound one.
-I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have noted the fact that the Prime Minister made a very important, and somewhat lengthy, statement in answer to a question that was asked him early this afternoon about Australian uranium. Is it not correct that a statement such as that, particularly one of such importance as the Prime Minister made, should be made after question time has passed, instead of being allowed to consume time during question time? The making of such a statement after question time would permit an honorable member on this side of the House to move a motion for the printing of the paper and enable perhaps another honorable member on the other side of the House to make a further statement by leave.
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that I am fully aware of what is taking place in the House. There is only one standing order which deals with the answering of questions. It simply says that a question that has been fully answered may not be renewed. Matters such as what a Minister shall say in his answer to a question, or how long his answer shall be, are for the Minister concerned.
– As question No. 1 on the notice-paper was asked by me, on notice, more than twelve months ago, will the Prime Minister say, when, if ever, I may expect an answer to it ?
– I am very grateful to the honorable member for directing my attention to the question. I shall see that it is answered as soon as possible.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if and when you, or some other occupant of the Speakership, exercises the right to speak in committee of this House, where Mr. Speaker will be sitting if he is to be called by the Chair from his correct seat, and in accordance with your ruling and the Standing Orders? In other words, will you continue to occupy your high chair when the House is in committee ?
– The honorable gentleman can rest assured that I shall deal with that position very adequately and effectively as soon as it arises.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that one of the recommendations in the Nicholas report on parliamentary allowances, which was adopted by this Government, was for the payment to Ministers of a tax-free allowance of £1,000 per annum as compensation for the failure, of the Government to provide a dwelling in Canberra for each Minister? As the Minister for Territories has succeeded, with the cooperation of the Australian National University, in securing a suitable home in Canberra for himself and his family at a rental of £8 a week, will he now be expected to refund the balance of the £1,000 allowance, which is £584, to the Commonwealth Treasury?
– I think not. After all, even my colleague, the Minister for Territories, must live. I know that the honorable member for East Sydney does not recognize that necessity, but I certainly do.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received a communication from the Tasmanian Premier regarding his request for approval to be given for several Dutch cargo vessels of from 400 tons to 4,000 tons to operate on the Tasmania-New Zealand and Tasmaniamainland trade routes? Is it a fact that the resulting competition-
– When was this?
Honorable members interjecting,
– The Tasmanian Premier is supposed to have sent the right honorable gentleman a communication over the week-end. I am sorry that I have been rudely interrupted.
– Order !
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the competition from this special type of ship would help to reduce the crippling freight charges now dangerously affecing Tasmania’s economy? I might mention that the Dutch companies which own these ships are prepared to charter them or to run the vessels themselves.
– I am not aware of any such communication as that to which the honorable gentleman has referred. One may have arrived, but I have only just arrived myself, as the honorable member very well knows, because he was a passenger on the same aircraft. If, however, there is a communication from the Premier of Tasmania, I shall follow my usual practice and send an answer to the Premier of Tasmania.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state whether plans and detailed engineering drawings for the proposed new swimming pool near Constitution-avenue, Canberra, which resulted from the full-time work of an architect and an engineer of the Department of Works for a period of eighteen months, and which were approved by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, have now been vetoed on the decision of a designing architect in the Melbourne office of the Department of Works? Does this mean that completely new plans, specifications and engineering drawings must be made ? Will the Minister also say by what period this change has delayed the completion of the swimming pool, and by what sum it has added to the estimated cost? Could this delay and expense have been avoided? Will the Minister prepare for publication a full statement on the matter?
– I have noticed in the Canberra Times to-day a statement that something happened at the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council regarding the swimming pool, and I personally made inquiries about what had happened to the plan. I found that, for some reason or other, the plan is being carried out piecemeal. In other words, separate contracts have been let for the pouring of cement or the concrete, in one instance,- and for the tiling work in another instance. I do not regard such a system as being either economic or efficient. I have asked the Department of Works this morning to let me have the facts regarding the swimming pool, but I have not, yet received them. When I receive them I shall be pleased to ask the honorable member to examine them.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question concerning the additional British immigrants that he is reported to be arranging to come to this country, and who are to be accommodated in hostels. Are the immigrants to be accommodated in hostels conducted by Commonwealth Hostels Limited and, if so, are they to be notified in writing or printing of the full conditions under which they will come to this country, in order that we shall not have a repetition of claims by immigrants that the conditions that they found on arrival here were different from those that were notified to them before they came?
– There may be some misconception in the honorable member’s mind, to judge from his reference to an additional number of British immigrants who are to come to Australia. What we are seeking to do is to attract to this country British immigrants additional to those who have already decided to come to Australia and those for whom we have already planned. As honorable members know, we have made immigration from the United Kingdom a top priority in our planning. Because there has been some diminution in nominations in Australia for British immigrants, in order to keep up the numbers we have introduced this new development under which people will be nominated, in effect, by the Australian Government, much as they were previously nominated under the Commonwealth nomination scheme. We are not restricting the nominations to particular categories of tradesmen as was done previously. We hope in this way to provide opportunities for some very desirable people who have been most anxious to settle here but who have, up to the present, lacked suitable nominees in this country. It is intended, in the first instance, that they will be housed in the hostels operated by Commonwealth Hostels Limited, but I have given full instructions, which I am satisfied will be carried out, that complete information will be given to them before they embark regarding the conditions that apply in the hostels, the rates of tariff, and the opportunities that will develop from them. More than 90,000 immigrants have passed through these hostels, the great majority of them having become successfully established in community life. As a result of experience, I have no fears that this new development will be anything but a complete success.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet able to advise the House of the final composition of the official party that is to attend the unveiling of war memorials in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea ? “
– I can give the honorable member full details of the composition of the official party. It consists of 23 relatives, with a possible addition of another one, of servicemen buried in the area, in addition to other relatives who may be in the territory at present. If the honorable member wishes to see the details, I shall be glad to supply him with them.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether an estate earmarked for war service land settlement at Oaklands, which is known as Nowranie, has been withdrawn because the Australian Government did not agree to its resumption ? Will the Government review its decision in view of the fact that the Oaklands branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia recommended its resumption and considered that it was suitable for settlement ?
– I have no knowledge of the particular land to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall obtain the information from the War Service Land Settlement Bureau, and supply him with the full details.
– Has the Prime Minister yet made up his mind whether he will join the Royal procession through the streets of Sydney after the Premier and Ministers of the New South Wales Government? If he has not yet reached a decision on the matter, will he, when he has made up his mind, inform the House of his decision as soon as possible?
– I think, broadly, that the answer to the honorable member’s question is “No”. If that does not prove to -be the right answer, I shall correct it in my Hansard proof.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Last Friday, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) complained about the ventilation in the chamber and. the operation of the airconditioning plant. I have in my hand a report from, the Chief Engineer on the matter. I shall read only a brief passage from it in reply to the question asked by the honorable member. It is as follows : -
Further to my reports dated 15th January, 18th August, and 16th September, 1953, with regard to the above installation I wish to advise that to date no action has been taken by the Contractors to complete the work or to rectify faulty workmanship to my satisfaction.
The contract was let on 20th October, 1947, to Messrs. Robt. Hackett & Co. Pty. Ltd. of Sydney for the installation at a Contract Price of ?30,127 and to date the amount paid on the Contract is ?33,277 plus extra work by Department of Works, making a total cost of ?40,574.
The principal of the firm of Robert Plackett & Co. has died since the contract was let and I am led to believe that the Executors of the Estate have instructed the local firm of F. M. Higgins Pty. Ltd. to finalize the Contract.
I have had at least three visits from Mr. Higgins who has promised on each occasion to have the work completed but these promises have not been fulfilled.
Debate resumed from the 9th October (vide page 1265), on motion by Sit ARTHUR Fadden -
That the bill he now read a second time.
.- As my time has almost expired, I shall not attempt to repeat the arguments that 1 advanced against the Government’s taxation policy last Friday. I emphasize that the bills we are considering do not satisfy the Opposition, but we are thankful for small mercies. We accept the benefits, if they may be so described, but we assert that they are most inadequate, and do not represent .the fulfilment of the Government’s preelection promises to reduce the income tax and social services contribution. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, made a scathing attack on the Government’s taxation proposals and has shown clearly in this debate that the Treasurer and his colleagues have put it over the workers. The remissions of tax really benefit only the wealthy sections of the’ community. The great majority of the people will derive only a negligible amount of benefit from these reductions. I shall compare briefly the benefits that will be received by the basic wage earner with those that will be received by the wealthy and influential sections of the people. The basic wage is now slightly in excess of ?600 a year. A basic wage earner without dependant? will receive a tax reduction of ls. 6d. a week, or 2Jd. a day. A man with a dependent wife will receive a benefit of ?5 12s. a year or, in terms we all understand, 3id. a day.
– He will be able to buy a 3?d. stamp with it.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) illustrates the point that I am making that the Government is not fulfilling its pre-election promise to reduce the income tax and social services-contribution. A basic wage earner with a dependent wife and one child will receive a tax ^concession of 3d. a day. A man with a dependent wife and two children “will receive a concession of £3 4s. a year ot 2d. a clay. A man with a dependent wife and three children will receive a tax reduction of 2d. a day, and a man with a dependent, wife and four children will receive a reduction of Id. a day. A man with a dependent wife and five children, which is a great family unit in any community, will receive the magnificent sum of a day. Yet the Government claims that it is fulfilling its pre-election premise to reduce the income tax and social services contribution. The people will continue to be taxed directly and indirectly in a manner unparalleled in out history. A. single nian in receipt of an income of £5,000 a year will receive a tax remission of £4 5s. a week. Let honorable members compare that reduction with the benefit of a -Jd. a day accorded to a man with a wife and five children by this Government that describes itself as .a tax-reducing government. 1 have stated these facts in order that the people will not be misled into believing that the Government has fulfilled its promises.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) returned from one of his many jaunts to the Isle of Capri, or somewhere else, and told the populace that war might occur “within twelve or eighteen months. Similar warnings were given by other members of the Government, which used the threat of Avar as an excuse for an immediate and substantial increase of tax rates. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) was one of the Ministers who said that taxes had to be increased so that we could prepare for “war. He said that war might occur within eighteen months or two years. The more unpopular the Government became, the closer it brought the date of war. In other words, it kept postponing the date of the possible conflict in order that it could continue as long as possible to use this excuse for the repudiation of its election pledges. Notwithstanding the reductions we are now considering, Ministers must explain to this Parliament and to the people why over £270,000,000 more will, be collected in. tax revenue this year than was being collected when it was elected to office in 1949. The truth is that this legislation doe3 not provide for genuine tax reductions. Instead, ii. provides merely for a partial rebate of huge additional imposts that were levied by this Government after it came into office. The Government still collects £270,000,000 a year more than it should collect from the people if it wishes to qualify as a tax-reducing government. 1 do not wish to discuss this issue at length.
GOVERNm but SUPPORTERS. - Hear, hear !
– I always like to bear the welcome that Government supporters give to my ‘announcement that I am about to conclude a speech. Government .supporters dislike more than anything else the exposure of the sins of omission and commission of this Administration to the Australian electors from this Parliament.
No government in our time has been more vulnerable than the present Government to the charge that it has completely repudiated the promises that it made to the electors on the subject of taxation. The real test that determines whether the Government lias, in fact, reduced taxation since it has been in office is a comparison of the amount of tax collections to-day with the amount in. 1949. The test shows that approximately £300,000,000 more is being taken from pay envelopes to-day than was so deducted when the Government was elected to office.. So well is the Government paying off its wealthy supporters that, under the present budget, va.°t concessions are being granted to them at the expense of men and women on low incomes with as many as five, children. Basic wage earners and others in the low income groups are called upon to make a much greater contribution to revenue b~r way of direct tax than are people in a much more favorable position, who are leniently treated by the Government. I shall conclude on that note. I know that the Government wishes to curtail the debate because it wants to dodge the criticism to which it has been subjected on this important issue. I hope that I have succeeded in driving home to the
Australian people the fact that the Government has put it over them in the matter of taxation. Even at this late stage it is trying to unload the blame on the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). It wants to convince the people that he is responsible for the nation’s economic ills and for the Government’s general unpopularity. “We on this side of the House are thankful for the small mercies that have been extended to the people by the Government. However, we say that the relief afforded is not nearly adequate. The Government has dishonoured its promises to the electors, and this measure will not be sufficient to save it from their ire when it faces them in the near future.
– The question is-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Those in favour say “ Aye “-
– Mr. Speaker!
– I understood that the debate was to conclude at this stage.
– Mr. Speaker!
-Order ! I am on my feet.
– An honorable member on the other side of the House was on his feet. I did not rise at first because I expected that you would call an honorable member on that side of the chamber.
– “Well, I call the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). However, as I said on Friday, I want to hear new material.
. - I thoroughly agree with you, Mr. Speaker, that new material should be introduced into the debate. As you said earlier, we have heard old arguments over and over again. I think you will acknowledge that I shall introduce new material when I reply to some of the statements made by honorable members opposite which have not yet been answered. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), in his characteristic way, made all sorts of statements that he described as facts although we on this side of the House knew that they were absolutely untrue. The honorable gentleman said that . the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), upon his return from overseas, had declared that war might occur within twelve months. That is true. In fact, the Prime Minister said that we had about three years in which to prepare for war. Is the honorable member for Grayndler disappointed that war did not occur? The action of the Government in making money available for the proper defence of Australia probably did much to avert a war. The honorable member for Grayndler also said that the more unpopular the Government became, the further into the future war receded. It is true that the Government had to perform unpopular acts, not the least ofwhich was the raising of a great deal of money for defence purposes. Naturally, the more unpopular the Government became in this matter, the further the danger of war receded. Everybody knows that the best way to avert war is to prepare for defence. In fact, the honorable member for Grayndler has spoken as though he were a Government supporter, because he has truly described events. We believe that, as a result of those events, war may be averted altogether. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to reply to those statements by the honorable member.
Various members of the Opposition have quoted from a booklet issued on behalf of the Prime Minister in which the right honorable gentleman declared that taxation would be reduced as national production and incomes rose. That is exactly what has happened. When this Government came into office, Australia was in a state of industrial chaos. The first measures the Government had to take in order to honour its promises to the people were to restore the full volume of national production and to promote higher incomes. Surely every rightthinking person in Australia will admit that the Government has now achieved those objects. The Prime Minister did not say that he would reduce taxation before they were achieved. But success has now attended the Government’s efforts. Everybody in Australia knows that incomes have risen and that national productivity has increased. Everybody knows that there is a different spirit in the community. One needs only to watch men working on jobs in Canberra to-day and to remember how they behaved in 1948 and 1949. In those days, one had to take a sight on them with a tree or some other object to discover whether they were moving. But the other day I watched with great interest some work near the Hotel Kurrajong, and I saw men working with a zest that we did not see while the Labour party was in power. People are working harder. Therefore, production has risen and incomes have increased. The national economy is on an even keel and the Government has been able to reduce taxes substantially.
This Government, since it came into office, has presented four budgets - not three, as the Opposition would have the people believe. Under the first of those budgets, taxes were reduced slightly. Under the second, income tax was increased by 10 per cent. Under the third, that increase was eliminated. Under the budget for this year, the average reduction of income tax will be 12^ per cent. The Labour party says that that reduction will just offset the 10 per cent, increase that was imposed previously. Honorable members opposite would like the people to forget that the 10 per cent, increase was eliminated under the budget of last year. Income tax last year was slightly lower than it was in 1949, and now it is being reduced by another 12$ per cent. The Opposition wants the people to forget the budget of last year and the tax concessions that were given to the Australian people then. When dealing with taxation, members of the Opposition refer to total tax collection, but . when they deal with pensions they refer to payments made to individuals, not to total expenditure on pensions. Surely they should compare total tax collections with, total expenditure on pensions or other social services benefits. In 1949, total expenditure on war pensions was £22,000,000, and in this year it will be £39.000,000. In 1949, total expenditure on social services benefits was £93.000.000, and in this year it will be £184,000,000.
– Order! The honorable member is getting right outside the scope of the bills before the House, which deal with assessment of taxes and the rates to be charged.
– Total tax collections this year will be very little greater than last year, but valuable concessions have been given to individual taxpayers. Let me refer again to the remarks made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I believe, Mr. Speaker, that in so doing I shall obey your ruling. It would be almost impossible to introduce new matter into the debate at this stage, but I assume it is permissible to refute arguments already presented. The honorable member for Grayndler dealt with the income tax paid by a man with £600 a year. In 1949-50, under the Chifley Government, a man without dependants and with an income of £600 a year paid £51 13s. income tax. This year he will pay £43 19s. - a definite reduction. This Government has been very mindful of the interests of taxpayers with dependants. It proposes to increase the allowable deductions for income tax purposes in respect of children and a dependent wife. In 1949-50, a man on £600 a year, with a dependent wife and two children, paid £26 5s. income tax. but this year he will pay only £13 ls.
Some honorable members opposite have complained beecause the income tax paid by some taxpayers will be reduced by only £2 or £3 a year. If we reduced the income tax of such persons to a. greater degree, the Government would have to pay money to them.. A taxpayer on £400 a year with a wife and two children will pay £1 2s. income tax this year, compared with £2 8s. last year. His income tax could not be reduced by more than another £1 2s. a year. As a result of child endowment payments and other social services benefits, he is receiving much more from the Government than he is paying in income tax. Honorable members opposite have pointed out that a man on £2,000 a year will enjoy the benefit of a reduction of his income tax by £53 18s. a year, whilst other taxpayers will have a reduction of only £2 or £3. As I have already explained, if a man is paying only £1 2s. a year in income tax, the greatest amount by which his tax could be reduced is £1 2s. A man on £2.000 a year paid £375’ 17s. income tax last year, and this year he will pav £321 19s. It is rot to suggest that the very small income tax paid by a man on a very low income could be reduced to the same degree as that of a man on a high income.. I should not have referred to that subject but for the fact that members of the Opposition do not appear to appreciate the true position.
We have reached a stage of our history when the Government can make tax reductions. Perhaps the House will remember that when members of the. Opposition asked last year or the year before why the Government had not reduced taxes, I pointed out that people who went to a football match did not expect their team to win in the first quarter of the match, and that people who went to a race meeting did not expect their horse to win in the first furlong of the race. If a horse goes; to the front too early, it often fades out near the winning post. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that taxes would be reduced as national production and income rose. The people realize that that promise has been fulfilled.
.- For the last week or so, I have listened to members of the Government parties defending the budget. Having listened to them, I am reminded of the answer to the old saw that figures cannot lie. Unfortunately, honorable members opposite have argued as though the continual depreciation of the purchasing power of the Australian £1, which has been a feature of the reign of this Government, had not taken place. I do not know whether they believe they can get away with an argument of that type,, but, if they do harbour that illusion, let me assure them that the Australian people are not stupid enough to be taken in by it. The Australian people have had direct personal experience of the continual decline of the purchasing power of the £1.. Because they have had that experience, they will not accept the contention of members of the Government’ parties that income tax has been reduced considerably because a man on £600 a year paid so much income tax in 1949 and a man on a similar income will pay less income tax this year. The people know that a man who was earning £600 a. year in. 1949 was receiving many hundreds of pounds more than the basic wage, and, in terms of real money, was getting much more than a man who earns £600 a year at the present time; It is completely misleading to attempt to compare the financial state: of a man who earned £600 a year in 1949 with that of a man earning £600 a year to-day. The only way by which an adequate comparison can be made of the relative severity of taxation rates in 1949 and the present time, is to reduce the figures, to terms of real money. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) knows that since this Government has been in office, the basic wage, as a result of the continuing inflation, has increased from £6 17s. to about £12. In fact, the £1 to-day is equivalent to 12s. at approximately the beginning of 1950. A consideration of that kind is the only measuring stick by which a comparison can be made of the tax rates as they were at the end of 1949 and as they are now. By comparing the rates in 1950 with the rates, to-day, when a. £1 is worth 12s., honorable members will readily notice that in terms, of real money wage-earners are paying more in tax now than they were paying in 1950, and even after the reductions contemplated in the current budget have been made, they will still be in that position.
Reducing the figures quoted by the honorable member for Mallee to their true percentage of real money, and considering that each £1 that he mentioned is now worth only 12s., after it has been operated upon by the Menzies Government, honorable members will see that to-day the average wage-earner is paying more in taxes than he paid before this Government assumed office. That is despite all the promises made in 1949 that the Government would reduce taxes, not in 1953, but immediately after it assumed office. If the Government parties harbour a belief that they have obtained some electoral support because of the tremendous burst of propaganda that preceded this budget, and because of their attempts to convince the people since its presentation that it will benefit them, they will be sadly disillusioned. They have only to refer to the results of a recent gallup poll to perceive quite clearly that the people of Australia have not been deceived, by the Government propaganda, or by its socalled taxation reductions. The majority of the electorate-
– Order ! We are not discussing the thoughts of the electors. We are concerned with the views of the House on these two bills. If the honorable member has something to say that is relevant to the debate I shall hear him. ff not, if shall ask him to resume bis seat.
– I suggest that I gained my place in this House to express the views of the people who sent me here. I am not speaking as an individual, but as a representative member of the Parliament. Therefore, I believe that I am quite in order in expressing the views of the people about these measures.
-Order! It is my opinion that the honorable member is not doing .so.
– If it is your opinion that I cannot continue, I suppose, in view of the numbers, I cannot, but [ shall .attempt to pursue the argument against these bills through some of the other matters that have been mentioned during the debate.
– Will the honorable member vote against the bills?
– The honorable member for Mallee will see what we shall do when the time comes. I can assure him that the people will vote against him and his Government when they get an opportunity to do so.
– Order! I have ruled that matter out of order.
– The people will- rule the Government, out of order, too.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) must not interject.
– The next matter that I wish to bring before the attention of honorable members is the educational allowance, about which such a great fuss has been made by the Government. 3 have been amazed to discover that this Government has been prepared to make such a blatant provision for an allowance of a nature which will apply to those only on the higher incomes, and which will give no benefit to those on lower incomes. According to communications that I have had from the Commissioner of Taxation, the Government has now arranged to allow deductions of taxation in respect of school .uniforms if children axe required to wear them at their -schools. The vast majority of the .children of this country do not go to schools which require that the pupils should wear special uniforms, because their parents cannot afford to send them.
– That is utter rubbish. Every high school throughout Australia requires its children to wear, uniforms. Moreover, they are free schools.
-Order* The honorable member for Yarra has the floor.
– If a man is sending his children to the Geelong Grammar School, or some other school in the Commonwealth, which I may call higher clasp for the purposes of description, he can claim the uniform allowance, because uniforms are required to be worn by the pupils of those schools. But in the vast majority of schools in my electorate, anr! in the electorates of a majority of honorable members, pupils are not required to wear school uniforms. People in the industrial suburbs, who receive lower incomes, and who send their children to private schools, are required to pay for their children’s education, but will not be able to take advantage of this concession because those schools, knowing that the parents cannot supply uniforms, do not insist upon the children wearing them. This taxation concession will mean nothing to the vast majority of the Australian people, and the Government well knows that. It is a deliberate class concession to the persons who support the Government parties, and is of little use to the great majority of the Australian taxpayers. Moreover, if the graduated scale of taxation is considered, it is immediately noticed that the higher the income the greater will be the concessional allowance. A wealthy squatter who is paying taxes at the rate of 15s. in the fi will receive a reduction of “75 multiplied by 15s.. whereas a man on a lower income who is paying, say, 3s. in the £1, will get, a concession, of 75 multiplied by only 3s. The concession is plainly designed to benefit those who have the most money. I should have thought that the Government would at least have paid lip service to the principle that the people receiving ordinary incomes, who are the people who, by and large, have the most children in their families, should get some relief.
This concession will apply only to a limited group of people, and to those who are least deserving of it. If the Government expects gratitude from the community and from those who send their children to private schools, then it is going to be seriously disillusioned; because the vast majority of the people, apart from those who send their children to tony colleges, will receive no benefit from this concession at all. It would he far too pessimistic for me to - ask this Government to give consideration to my remarks in the future, and to direct more taxation benefits to the lower wageearners, because this is undoubtedly the last budget that the Government will ever bring down. However, I hope that the next Labour government, which will assume office about May of next year, will bear in mind the fact that taxation relief of this nature should be given to those who require it the most - that is the people receiving the lower incomes. I invite honorable members to contrast the . tender solicitude of the Government for those who are able to afford to send their children to the betterclass schools and pay for their very nice uniforms and all the rest of it, with its attitude to the man on the basic wage. T also invite honorable members to reduce the figures in the schedule to terms of real money and then contrast the attitude of the Government to the worker with its attitude to those who have more of this world’s goods and who support the parties which constitute the Government.
An examination of the reductions proposed in respect of company taxation will reveal the interests and influences that dominate the parties on the other side of the House. Every honorable member knows the terrific battle that the ordinary family man has to make both ends meet. If anybody needed relief and was entitled to it, it was the married man with a number of children. The family man has to wage a continual battle from one’ week’s end to another to provide food, clothing and shelter for himself and his family. “While the Government was contemplating the provision of this much-needed relief one would have expected that its first thought would have been of the family man and his requirements because, as honorable members on the other sideof the House have already admitted, he is the person who most needs the relief and is most entitled to it. Ashas already been pointed out during this debate, those who stand to gain most from this legislation are people who haveshares in the big companies, and the big companies themselves. We ha ve been told by Government spokesmen that the burden, on .industry had to be lightened, that company tax was so oppressive that they were unable to carry on, and that production suffered because so much of” their income was taken from them.
Let us have a. look at to-day’s press in order to ascertain the position of some of the companies to which hundreds of thousands of pounds of relief has been given. In to-day’s issue of the Daily Telegraph it is reported that in 1952-53. Australian Consolidated Industries Limited and its subsidiaries made a record profit of £991,906, or £100,000 more than in 1951-52. These are the companies which the Government tells us need relief running into millions of pounds. These are the companies, we are told, which cannot go ahead with plans for expansion, and could not possibly have gone ahead with production at full pressure unless they received the concessions that are about to be given to them. The balance-sheet of one of the largest Australian combines, Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, shows that last year, despite what the Government calls the onerous burden of company tax that was levied upon it, the company was still able to increase its profit by more than £100,000. I was interested to read a report which relates to Elder Smith and Company Limited, woolbrokers and merchants, a company in which members of the Government have interests. The report takes the form of an imaginary conversation between a client and his broker in relation to the company in which the client sums up the company’s position in this way -
If you reckon last year’s tax represented 9s. in the £1 on true profit, and if you reduce the tax to the current 7s. in the £1, then last year’s profit would be something like 40 per cent, on capital.
These are the companies who are to be granted the real relief in this legislation. They are to receive a benefit of approximately £30,000,000 in taxation reductions.
– The struggling little companies !
– Yes, the struggling little companies which are attempting to make both ends meet! As I have shown, last year one of them made a profit of approximately 40 per cent, on capital, even after having paid tax at the rate of 9s. in the £1, and another was able, after paying a similar tax, to increase its profit by more than £100,000. These are the companies which, we were told, had to be granted relief if production was to be increased. The Government’s story is fantastic. If we examine the financial columns of the daily press we shall find that, in almost every instance,despite the payment of tax at the rate of 9s. in the £1, large companies have been able to increase their profits. In the face of the vastly increased profits earned by the companies I have mentioned, this Government proposes to grant to companies approximately £30,000,000 in further relief. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who is temporarily in charge of the House, whether he would not agree that, instead of relief being given to companies, it should have been given to the family man in receipt of a wage at or near the basic wage, who is still required to pay income tax by this Government. Would the right honorable gentleman not agree that instead of giving concessions to those wealthy companies the Government should have left the basic-wage worker completely tax free? After all, the basic wage, as everybody in this House knows, was originally determined by Mr. Justice Higgins as the barest minimum on which a worker and his family could live in a civilized way.
Mr. Turnbull interjecting,
– Despite anything the honorable member for Mallee, who is interjecting, may say about this matter, but for the industrial laws of this country, most of the members of the Australian Country party would pay rural workers only 30s. a week and their keep. The basic wage is still considered by the Australian people to be the minimum wage needed to maintain a worker and his family in a civilized community, yet the Government still insists upon levying income tax on basic-wage earners. I suggest that, instead of giving relief to companies, the Government would have done much better for itself and for the Australian people had it granted relief to the basic-wage earner and the worker who earns a small margin above the basic wage.
My final word is in relation to the figures which the Government has cited in support of these bills. The first point I make is that the reductions outlined must be considered in terms of real purchasing power. We must remember that on the basis of the C series index figure during the three years in which this Government has been in office, the value of the £1, by comparison with its value in 1949, or in the early months of 1950, has fallen to 12s. Thus, the position of the Australian taxpayer, and particularly that of the small income earner., is now very much worse than it was in 1949. The Australian people have not been deceived by this juggling of figures by the Treasurer and members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties, and when they are called upon to pass judgment on the tax reductions outlined in this legislation, they will do so in the manner so convincingly demonstrated by them in a public opinion poll that was taken a few days ago. They will send the Government into oblivion and reinstate on the treasury bench a Labour government which will relieve of the burden of taxation those who are most entitled to relief and levy taxes at the rate at which they ought to be levied upon companies of the kind to which I have referred, which are making profits of 40 per cent, on capital, and, as was the case with Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, earning profits more than £100,000 in excess of the profit for. the’ preceding year. Tha Labour party will levy taxes upon those who- ave most able to pay, and. lift the burden of taxes, from the people- who- ane- least able- to . pay, particularly the family man. on a small income who to-day finds it such a terrific struggle to- make ends meet.
’. - The measures we are discussing are designed t,o give effect; to a major aspect of the Government’s tax. relief programme as outlined in the budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on. the Oth September. The budget forecast tax relief that will, amount to more than £118,400,000’, a proposal that one would have thought would have been received with commendation and satisfaction by all sections of the community. However; there is one persistent and discordant clement which is spoiling the otherwise general appreciation that has been given to this programme by the community.
– Public opinion.
– I would not agree that it was public opinion, because we find that the trade unions, in placing arguments before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in. the hours audi wages case, gave glowing accounts of the economic situation of the country. We find also that the New South Wales Labour Premier and Colonial Treasurer, when he brought down that State’s budget, endorsed the Government’s view, which is apparently also the view of the trade unions, about, the buoyant state of the economy, the high degree of employment, and the promise of real tax relief. Yet on the other side o.f this chamber we have, a team of professional sob sisters. They have come here month in and month out since the introduction of what they are pleased to call the horror budget of 1951. and have turned this National Parliament into a sort of private wailing wall before which they daily beat their breasts and shed crocodile tears over the state of the poor workers of this country, in an endeavour to convert the nation to utter and unparalleled gloom. Unfortunately for them, the average Australian realizes f lint he has never been better off than he is now., It is on the practical basis of the amount of prosperity that- the average citizen is able to enjoy in the way of community amenities and private conditions that I am prepared to analyse these- measures.’
I shall take the test suggested by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). He asked whether’ there1 had no* been, so serious a depreciation, of the purchasing value of the- £1 that: the taxpayers who ostensibly derive tax, relief from the Government’s programme will obtain no real relief. T agree entirely with him thai the real test o£ the success of a governments economic policy is the prosperity and the material benefit’s that: the people enjoy as a result of that policy. I think, before I pass- on to’ other aspects of the measure, that it would be of interest to the House to have before it, a. comparison of the prosperity enjoyed by the average citizen,, including thefamily man and the other elements in the. community to whom the honorable member for Yarra has referred,, during the term of office, of the Chifley Labour Government, of which the honorable member was a supporter, and during this Government’s administration. For the purposes of comparison I shall compare the last three full financial years under Labour administration with the last three full financial years under this Government. The honorable member expressed great solicitude, which I entirely share- with him although our reactions may not be the. same, for the family man. If there is one section of the community which will benefit materially as the result of the Government’s programme it is the section with, family responsibilities.
A comparison of statistics relating to motor vehicle registrations, the manufacture of refrigerators, and the provision of houses in the last three full financial years of the Labour Government with the last, three full financial years of this Government will indicate how the family man has fared under the two governments* I shall even be able to give the House a comparison in relation to a commodity which may interest the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) because I recall that during the budget debate he interjected and asked, “What about beer “.. I shall even be able to tell him something about the beer situation under the two governments. I am taking full financial years for the purposes of my comparison because the Chifley Government and this. Government shared the financial year 1949-50 between them. In the last three, full financial years of the Labour Government 130,452 new motor ears were registered in Australia compared with 345,804 in the last three full financial years under this Government.
– Aided by the a bandonment of petrol rationing.
– Yes, aided very materially by the fact that people were able to use their cars’ to the full because this Government lifted petrol rationing, an action which honorable members opposite said it could not take. The figures for the same periods in relation to commercial vehicles are S1,000 registrations under Labour rule and 203,000 under this Government’s administration. Many family men use commercial vehicles in small businesses and farms, and. are therefore’ interested’ in this matter. The family man has also a very real interest in government assistance in relation to the provision of houses. In the last three financial years under Labour 127,000 houses were built, in Australia compared with 222,000 under this Government. In the same two periods 326,000 refrigerators were manufactured in Australia under the Labour Government compared with 571,000 under this Government. The Australian working man has certainly not- come to. any harm, under this Government as far as beer consumption is concerned.
– I rise to order.
– Surely the honorable member can take it.
– I should like to know, Mr. .Deputy Speaker, in which clause of these bills beer is mentioned. The Minister has wandered through, the subjects of motor cars, houses and Various other features of economic life, and has not yet referred to the bills. I. should like the question whether beer comes under this, measure to be resolved now.
– The decision of the House was that the Income Tax and Social Ser vices Contribution Bill and the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill should be considered together. The scope of debate, on these bills, however, is not wide enough to permit another speech such as is made during the debate on the budget, and I ask the Minister for labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to confine his remarks more strictly to the bills.
– I appreciate the point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I do not intend to continue for long on the line. I am taking. However, the honorable member for Yarra attacked the Government’s tax proposals on the ground that depreciation of the purchasing power of the £1 had reached a point at which there would be no worthwhile relief to taxpayers under the measures. I am giving the House a comparison of .the prosperity that the community is enjoying at present with the position under the Labour Government. The final illustration I wish to give is that in Labour’s last three full financial years of office 401,000,000 gallons of beer we’re consumed, and in this Government’s last three full financial, years 551,000,000 gallons were consumed.
We do not find it so easy to understand exactly what honorable’ members opposite would do were they now in office, because all of them, from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) downwards, say in one breath that this relief is too little and too late, and in the next breath criticize us for not providing’ for sufficient expenditure in some directions. We are therefore entitled to ask what alternative steps would he taken by the Opposition, which purports to be the alternative government of this country. We might have thought, having listened to the proposals for increased expenditure that have come from honorable members opposite, that if they were in office they would achieve tax relief by some, device not yet disclosed ; but they went on to ma.ke their hypothetical task of giving greater tax. relief, whilst increasing expenditure at the same time, appear even more impossible by giving us. details of the increased, expenditure that they had in mind. I have gone to the trouble to conduct some research regarding the additional amount of money that a Labour party government would find necessary to carry out the undertakings in relation to social services that the Leader of the Opposition indicated in his speech on the budget.
I have found that social services commitments in which he involved his party would cost an additional amount of about £191,000,000 a year. An amount of about £71,000,000 would be necessary to meet additional expenditure on items of social services on which, he said, expenditure should be increased. Increasing the pension rate to £4 a. week, which he said should be the minimum standard, and abolishing the means test, would cost another £120,000,000. If effect were given to the Labour party’s statements in relation to social services it would cost the country an additional £191,000,000 a year. But the right honorable gentleman went a good deal further than that. He talked about the special initial depreciation allowance which, he said, should be restored. The restoration of that concession would cost another £21,000,000 a year, which would make the increased liability £211,000,000 a year. He then claimed that the Government bad made inadequate provision for the States. The programme which the States submitted to the Treasury this year was £73,000,000 above the amount actually allocated. I have never heard the Leader of the Opposition criticize the claims that the States made. On the contrary, he has argued that they are necessary for the development of this country. When he says that more should be done for the States it is reasonable to assume that he had in mind bringing the allocation of the States at least to the level of the original requests made by them. To do so would cost another £73,000,000.
Therefore the Leader of the Opposition has condoned additional financial commitments that would cost another £294,000,000 a year. Having done so, he then claimed that our proposed tax relief of £118,400,000 a year was too little. If the people have to face the prospect of an alternative administration, led (by the Leader of the Opposition, who can come before this Parliament with proposals that are so utterly irresponsible and fantastic, the depreciation of the purchasing power of the £1 under this Government, about which the honorable member for Yarra has spoken, will be only a fleabite compared with the state of the £1 by the time the right honorable gentleman is finished with it. The Leader of the
Opposition has always referred sneeringly to the horror budget of 1951, as be calls it, and has made it clear that had he been Prime Minister his government would never have subjected this nation to the conditions prescribed by that budget. Yet it is because of the very fact that the Treasurer, supported to a man by the Government, was prepared to introduce, proposals to restore stability, that not only is Australia now in a state of solid prosperity unequalled in its history, but the Government is also able to offer the substantial tax relief provided for in the measures before us. Although I have no doubt that the Treasurer takes a great deal of satisfaction in the fact that the state of the economy permits the introduction of these measures at present, he and his colleagues in the Cabinet will always be proud of the fact that it was the 1951 budget that really placed the economy of this country in the stable position in which it should be. We shall hold it there as long as this Government is in office. On the other hand, what sort of stability would there be in financial affairs under a government, led by the present Leader of the Opposition, trying to carry out a programme involving additional expenditure of £284,000,000 while giving much greater relief than that provided in this budget? Having regard to the commitments that have been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, it might be profitable to ask the Australian Labour party how it would finance its proposals. Although the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues have not been lacking in words to tell the people how much relief they would give to the pensioners, the family men and those who have been described by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) as “ the poor unfortunate wage plugs “, they have not indicated so far how those measures are to be financed. The responsibility has been thrown on the Government and its supporters to try to discover from past Labour history and current Labour policy just how the Labour party would go about financing its programme.
Honorable members on the Opposition side have already stated that the Government is not giving enough relief to the taxpayers. On the other hand, they would be faced with enormous commitments if returned to office. How would they finance them? A Labour government has not held office in this Parliament since 1949 and I remind honorable members of the happenings of those days. I direct the attention of honorable members particularly to the way in which the Labour party tried to raise finance by measures that this Government has always regarded as completely objectionable. I believe that it is supported in that attitude by the Australian people. As a starting point, I shall take the extraordinary .measure that was introduced by the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Chifley, whose policies have always been referred to by honorable members opposite with full appreciation and approval. I was in this Parliament when Mr. Chifley, in an endeavour to obtain additional revenue, introduced a measure under which the income of the husband and wife were pooled or amalgamated. The tax rate that they would pay was then to be levied on the aggregate income of the husband and wife. One does not require much knowledge of public finance to realize the effect that that measure would have on women and their status. Many women in Australia have incomes of their own, either as a result of inheritance or their own efforts and thrift. Sometimes their income . is small by comparison with the income of their husbands. I suggest that honorable members consider the effect of tying that income in with the income of the husband, and then levying on the two incomes the tax rate that was applicable to the aggregate income of the two persons.
– In what year was that measure introduced?
– That was in 1941.
– Was there a war on at that time?
– Yes, and I am not attacking the fact that great sums of money had to be raised by taxation for war purposes. Similarly, great sums have to be raised now for defence, social services, repatriation benefits and the development of Australia. Each government has its own responsibilities, but the Labour Government never attempted to qualify the proposal to which I have referred by claiming that it was purely a war-time measure. That qualification was made about uniform taxation, but it had no effect upon the attitude of honorable members opposite. Uniform taxation has endured until this day and it will continue for ever if honorable members opposite have anything to do with it. That proposal was the first item to which I wanted to refer. It was only by the efforts of honorable members who now support the Government and those who sat with them then in Opposition that we were able to avoid what would have been a calamitous development.
The second matter to which I wish to refer was another method, of finance about which little is heard publicly from, members of the Australian Labour party, although some of their senior members are indiscreet enough to talk about it from time to time. I refer to the capital levy. I invite any honorable member opposite to state where the Labour party stands in the matter of the capital levy, because experienced senior members of the Labour party have stated publicly that, they favour the imposition of a capital levy when the Labour party is returned to power as a government. I am thinking of former senior Ministers of the Labour Government that occupied the Treasury bench before this Government was returned to office.
– Minister or Ministers ?
– Not only one Minister. Does the honorable member’s interjection mean that he is opposed to the proposal of a capital levy? If a Labour government does not propose to introduce a capital levy, where will it get revenue? Surely the right honorable gentleman will not suggest the issue of Treasury-bills on a greater scale than that maintained by this Government? I believe that there is support for ‘the belief that a capital levy is contemplated by the Opposition. That is indicated by the attitude of the Opposition and the Labour party generally to the land tax. This Government removed the land tax because it is one form of capital levy but as soon as it did so, the State Labour governments stepped into the field and reimposed it.
– Quite right.
– The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) supports the re1411 position of the land tax. I hare no doubt that he would be in favour also of a capital levy to finance some of those ambitious programmes -that the Leader of the Opposition has outlined to the Parliament. I .shall mot have the time to deal fully with all these matters, but there is another of which mention should be made in passing as an indication of the kind of frantic finance that can be expected from the Labour party if it is returned to office. I refer in particular to the measures that are now under consideration in Victoria under which the State Government hopes to raise £1,500,000 by attracting ,to itself the lottery formerly conducted in Tasmania by Tattersalls. The proposition should command some attention from this Parliament as an indication ! of the Labour party’s approach to the problems of finance, and to expose the humbug that is behind the Opposition’s plans to help “ the unfortunate wage plug “ to whom .the honorable member for Yarra has referred. In speaking of this matter, the honorable member could .not have selected a worse example than when he criticized a well-known company which he attacked because he said it had made a profit of 40 per cent, on its capital. In the case of Tattersall’s consultation, the Victorian Government does not propose to make the subscriber to the lottery pay 40 per cent, on capital. It will go much farther. The subscriber to Tattersall’s will pay 40 per cent, on turnover. There is not a private organization in the history of Australia that could point to such a profit. But the Victorian Government has stated that of the total subscriptions that are paid for tickets in the proposed lottery, 31 per cent, will go to the State Government and 9 per cent, to Tattersall’s. By the beneficient actions of the Labour Government of Victoria, Tattersall’s is to be given a private monopoly for a period of at least ten years so that, in partnership, .thu Government and Tattersall’s can plunder “the unfortunate wage plugs” to the extent of 40 per cent, of turnover.
– I rise to order. Will speakers who follow the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) be entitled to discuss Tattersall’s consultation and the proposed percentage return to the State Government of Victoria? If not, I. suggest that the Minister is out of order.
-Order! The Minister’s remarks have been quite relevant to the question of collection of taxes.
– While debating this measure, honorable members obviously are entitled to analyse the methods that might be adopted by a Labour government to raise finances for the remarkable proposals that have been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. The persons who would subscribe to Tattersall’s consultations are principally those on the lower wage levels. In that way, they hope to get a fortuitous return for the outlay of a small sum of money, but the Labour Government that is in office in Victoria plans to take for itself and Tattersall’s, £4 in every £10 that they subscribe to the lottery for a period of at least ten years. Honorable members have already recalled in this debate, that when the Chifley Government was in office, a man with a wife and two children and receiving an income of £600 a year paid £26 a year in income tax. An income of £600 was the equivalent of the basic wage to-day. Under the present Government’s taxation proposals, the basic wage-earner on that level of income will pay £13. That is equal to 5s. a “week over a year. If a basic wageearner decided to invest in Tattersall’s the 5s. a week that he saved by way of income tax concessions, more than £5 of the £13 that he subscribed to the lottery in a year would be taken from him by the Victorian Government in taxation. That is .the Labour party’s attitude to the wageearner.
The honorable member for Yarra suggested that taxation should be lifted from the basic wage-earner altogether. He said that ,a basic mage:earlier -with. :a wife and two children tad -to pay £13 a ,year in income .tax. That is only part .of the story. He ,did not remind honorable members .that a taxpayer in ‘.that .category would receive from .child endowment alone £39 a year. Li effect, a basic wage-earner with a wife And two children who contributes £13 in taxation gains to the .extent of £26 from the welfare proposals of this Government. Time will not permit mc to reply in detail .to other arguments that have been advanced by Opposition members, but I shall say that they are all equally specious.
The Leader of the Opposition said that little money was available for the State governments because of the actions of this Government. He claimed that as a result, employment was down and economic conditions were depressed. I invite honorable members to compare the position in the three years preceding 1950 under a Labour government with the succeeding three .years during which this Government has been in office. Tax reimbursements under the Labour Government totalled £16,9,200^000. Under this Government they have totalled £398,400,000. Under its works programme, the Labour Government provided £224,000,000 and this Government has provided £6:15,000j000. The Government has been watching the economy carefully and has maintained the purchasing power of money. As a result, Australia is enjoying a condition of full employment and stable prosperity and has every prospect of sou-rid development.
– I have ‘listened with the greatest confusion to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who spun stories of millions paid here and millions paid there, ,and of benefits tha’t the 1953-54 budget would confer upon everybody, especially the small man and the family man. I. shall not find it necessary to refer to many figures in order to expose the fallacy of the right honorable .gentleman’s boasts. I pay tribute to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur .Fadden) who, in private life, is an accountant. Apparently he is .a most astute accountant, and he must have the assistance of financial wizards when he prepares tax measures. He and his advisors are so skilled that he is able to pretend to .give something .-to every one in the community when, in reality, .he is .depreciating the position of .a large section of the community in the interest of the wealthy .and privileged section that he represents. A few figures only need be cited in order to make the facts clear .to it-he ordinary man. A person whose nominal income last year was £1,000 had £906 left after the payment >of income tax, if he had a wife and dependent child. This year he will jha.ve £925 left .after the payment of tax. In other words, the effect of the measure now before the House will be to increase his actual income by .approximately 3 per cent. Persons whose nominal incomes are less than £1,000 a year will benefit by less than 3 per cent. But a person whose nominal income is £5,000 a year will gain an advantage of 6 per .cent. A taxpayer whose nominal income is £1.5,000 a year received approximately £5,S04 last year after the payment of income tax. This year, he will receive £6,709, which represents an increase of £90S, or about £18 a week. In other words, his net income this year will be 17 per cent, higher than it was last year.
The Government has a clever method of concealing the facts in order to deceive the people. The ;effect of its budget .proposals this year will not be to ‘give nothing to the man on the basic wage;’ .£18 a year to the man whose income is less than £1,000, and £18 .a week to the man -whose income is £15,000. It says, in answer to our complaints, “ There is nothing wrong with our proposals because the tax schedules show that the tax on .an income of £800 a year will be reduced by 22 per .cent, whereas the tax on ,an income of £15,000 a year will be reduced by only 9 per cent.” That, certainly, is stated on ‘the tax ‘schedules. However, in reality the man on the higher income will be granted a 1.7 per cent, increase of his net annual income whilst a. man receiving less than £1,000 :a year will receive .a 3 per cent, increase -of his net income or less. In fact, the Treasurer proposes to -take something away from -one section of the community while he pretends to be giving something to it. The productivity -of the community .will not increase as a result of the right honorable gentleman’s manipulation of taxes. The consumable commodities available for purchase will not become more numerous. If we assume, for the purpose of illustration, that 50 units of consumer goods were purchased during 1952-53 by the man with less than £1,000 a year, and that 50 units were purchased during the same period by the man with more than £1,000 a year, the result of this tax measure will be that, during the current year, the man on the lower income will be able to purchase slightly less than 53 units whereas the man on the higher income will be able to purchase 67 units.
This is a financial sleight-of-hand trick. Those who are least able to bear the burden of taxation will not be in a better position as a result of this Government’s manipulation of the finances of the community. On the contrary, their position will become worse relatively and in fact. That is the truth, and it cannot be evaded. All the red herrings drawn across the trail by the Minister for Labour and National Service, and all his talk about Tattersall’s lottery, which operated in Tasmania for years under anti-Labour governments, will not affect the issue. They have as much to do with the matter as the flowers that bloom in the spring. Apparently the Minister’s purpose was to pretend to the people that the Liberal party did not stand for the raising of public money by means of lotteries and that such methods of raising finance were employed only by the Labour party. That, of course, is untrue. In ‘Western Australia, antiLabour governments levied a turn-over tax on betting under which not only the people who won but also those who lost were taxed. The method of raising revenue from lotteries and other forms of gambling has operated in various States under governments of various political colours. The Minister should not try to divert attention from the weaknesses of the Government’s budget proposals by introducing such issues.
– Will the honorable member tell us how he proposes to increase expenditure and reduce taxation at the same time? The Government has been waiting to have this point explained by some member of the Opposition ever since the budget was presented to the Parliament.
– I am flattered by the right honorable gentleman’s inquiry, but I point out that I have never suggested that taxes should be reduced while expenditure is increased. I have said that, if the Labour party were in power, it would not grant tax remissions worth £18 a week to a man whose income was £15,000 a year while it granted only £18 a year to. the man on £800 and only £6 a year to the man on £400, and at the same time pretend that this would improve the conditions of taxpayers with low incomes.
The Minister in his speech tried to deny the assertion by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) that the Government’s tax proposals provided for more favorable treatment of companies than of the ordinary man in the community. Nevertheless, the statement by the honorable member for Yarra was correct. I refer, for example, to the Standard Motor Company (Australia) Limited, which has declared dividends at the rate of only 35 per cent ! The rate of dividend not long ago was about 100 per cent., but the last dividend declared was at the relatively low rate of 35 per cent. I suggest that such companies will not reduce the prices of their motor cars as a result of tax reductions. The community generally will not gain the advantage of any remissions granted to them. The companies will continue to sell their products for the highest prices they can obtain. Prices are determined by supply and demand. If goods are in short supply and the demand is great, prices rise; but if competition becomes keen, prices come down. Obviously, tax reductions will not lead to price reductions. Had the Standard Motor Company (Australia) Limited wished to sell its cars more cheaply, it could have done so by reducing its rate of dividend below 35 per cent, before the ‘Government introduced its tax proposals for 1953-54. But companies do not operate in that way. They extract as much as they can from the community, and they will continue to do so. The Government should withdraw this bill and consult the Opposition with a view to re-drafting the tax schedules for personal incomes. It should, with our cooperation, devise schedules that would give the maximum benefit to the little man with responsibilities. An examination of the schedules shows that a single man on £800 a year, for example, will receive the benefit of a tax reduction of £12 14s. a year. A married man on the same income, with a wife and two children, will receive a reduction of just over £10 a year. Therefore, in the £800 a year income range, a man with a wife and two children will be treated less beneficially than a single man. At the present time, £800 a year is an average income. Therefore, the average man with family responsibilities is being treated more harshly than the average single man. Such is the capacity of this Government to administer justice ! Furthermore, not only is the married man in a worse position relatively than the single man but, as his responsibilities increase, his position becomes even worse. The little man is in a worse position than the big man, and the married man is in a worse position than the single man. In my opinion, the Government’s taxation measures will throw upon the ordinary members of the community a burden that is neither just nor desirable. I conclude on the note that the object of statesmanship is to bring about a re-allocation of the national income under which, as far as possible, a greater share will be given to those who have major responsibilities, who are performing the national task of bringing up families and making provision for the future of the nation. That will not be done by the present taxation measures and, because it will not be done, the measures will not be welcomed generally by the people of Australia.
Question resolved in theaffirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Section 78 of the principal act is amended -
Amendment (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That in paragraph (b) the words “Queen Elizabeth the Second Coronation Trust Fund for mothers and children “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “Queen Elizabeth the Second Coronation Gift Furd “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill -by leave - taken as a whole.
.- The remainder of the bill deals with the main features of the Government’s income tax proposals. The Opposition points out that they will not give effect to any of the promises made by the Government parties in earlier years. Nor do they follow the canons of taxation practice or fiscal policy. The taxation proposals to which the bill will give effect will be neither equitable in their operation nor effective as a means of achieving the major purpose of direct taxation, which is to counter inflation. The Government has blandly assumed that there is no problem of inflation in Australia to-day, that economic stability has been restored, and that the future is rosy. But that is far from the truth. Threatened price rises are more disturbing than ever before in our history, businessmen are apprehensive and leaders of industry are alarmed at the prospect that faces Australian industry. Family men are in a more difficult situation than ever before. In view of the continual increase of the cost of living, they find it a constant struggle to provide even ordinary amenities for their families, much less the near luxuries that are the right of our people in enlightened times such as these. The Opposition says that the Government has not given effect to its election promises. It has not reduced the burden of taxation on the people.Rising prices and wages have brought ordinary wage-earners into the higher income tax brackets, and, consequently, they are paying more income tax to-day than they paid during the height of the war. I quote the words of the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden)-
– He should resign.
– He should have resigned long since. If he had done so, the country would not have been called
– He is resigned to the fact tha.t he is going- to- stay, in office.
– The right honorable gentleman is very optimistic, but I remind him that the public is very irate. The gallup poll shows that, despite this budget,, the percentage of the people who aire dissatisfied with the Government is as high a& it. was in the days of the socalled horror budget. The Treasurer said some time ago that direct taxation was the- best antidote to inflation,, but, by his taxation measures, he is neither treating -the people equitably nor providing an antidote for the . increased cost of living or the gravely alarming price rises that occur from, day to day. In those circumstances, not only this bill but the taxation proposals of the Government as. a whole must be condemned. There is every reason to believe that the Government^ in view of its. past record, will, if it. succeeds in deceiving the Australian people again, proceed with complete composure-
– Order! The honorable member must relate his remarks to the clauses before the committee.
– There is no doubt that the Government, in view of its history, is quite capable of reversing- its taxation policy after the next general election has been held if the people are gullible enough to permit’ themselves, to be deceived by it once more.
-. - I have never heard more humbug talked about an important measure than I have heard talked about this one-. It is time to say so plainly and without equivocation. Again and again,, honorable gentlemen opposite have risen and referred to the man on £600 a year-
– Order! The honorable member must not discuss something that happened during: the second-reading debate.
– I shall’ content myself with saying that,, in view, of the concessions proposed in this bill, the income tax paid by a man on. the basic wage will be considerably less than the
.- The honorable member- for New England (Mr. Drummond) is a classical example of a man who blindly follows the Government’s lead, irrespective of the consequences. He. has overestimated the benefits that the bill will give to various sections of the community. I have been impressed by submissions made in recent months by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.. Crean). From time to time, he has. directed, the attention of. the Parliament to the necessity to give income tax- concessions to certain people who earn large incomes for a limited period. If my memory serves me correctly, lie referred particularly to boxers. Clause 15- of’ the bill refers to abnormal incomes- of authors and inventors. It is true that authors and inventors may receive in a certain year a large sum as a result of their efforts. To tax an income of that kind at the ruling rate would be unfair, and provision is to be made for a spreading of the incomes of authors and inventors. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has suggested that a similar concession should be extended to boxers. A boxer might earn £10,000 or £20,000 in a year, and then lus career might finish abruptly. Yet be might lose a substantial proportion of his income because he earned it in a year of high taxation.
Mr. Leslie interjecting,
– I do not mind enlightening the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), if that is at all possible. If the honorable member listens carefully, and if what I am saying can thoroughly penetrate, he will gain some knowledge. I believe that footballers, tennis players and other sportsmen should be covered by this clause. Many such sportsmen earn abnormally high sums within a short period of years during the time that they have reached the pinnacle of their skill, but then they return to comparatively low-paid occupations. Although they earn large sums of money foi: a short time, they also pay out large sums for income tax. I commend the Government for bringing down this measure ; but, in all sincerity,. I submit to- the Treasurer that he might give- consideration to my proposal.
L now wish to refer to the concessional allowance in respect of a dependent wife. The measure proposes to increase the allowance from £104 to £130. It would be interesting to honorable members if the Treasurer would explain why that sum has been increased to £130, and why it lias not been increased to, perhaps, £200. If it were increased to the latter figure then the Government would be able to afford some real relief to those who have low incomes. I make these submissions in a co-operative way, and would be very glad to hear the Treasurer’s views about them.
.- The concessional allowance for a dependent wife- has been increased from £104 to £130, as the honorable member for
Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has stated. However, he did not say that the concessional allowance also applies to a wholly maintained parent, husband, daughterhousekeeper or housekeeper having the care of children under sixteen years. The cost to the revenue of the proposed increase of the allowance will be £5,500,000 in a full year, and £3,600,000 in 1953-54. If the honorable member for Grayndler desires to find out what a concessional allowance of, say, £200 would cost, he has merely to perforin a simple arithmetical calculation. A further concession to be allowed by the Government is an increase from £52 a year to £65 a year of the income which a dependent wife may have before the concessional allowance is reduced. That reduction of liability will cost about £450,000 in a full, year and about £100,000 in 1953-54. The concession will apply much more widely than has been indicated by the honorable member for Grayndler, and he can quite easily establish the cost to the revenue of any further increase of this particular allowance.
– I desire to draw the attention of the committee to clause 8, by which the concessional allowance in respect, of a dependent wife will be increased from £104 to £130. The definition of “ dependant “ has been extended in certain ways to cover other persons. I draw the attention of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to section 82q of the Income Tax Assessment Act which deals with a taxation allowance in regard to funeral expenses. In that section a “ dependant “ is defined by reference to section 82f, Part 3, of the Income Tax. Assessment Act. There are also references in that section to sections 82b and 82c. The latter section provides for the allowance to a taxpayer of maintenance expenses in connexion with a parent. However, there are many cases in which a taxpayer’s wife may be the only support of her parents, but in the event of the death of a wife’s parents no taxation allowance is’ provided in respect of the taxpayer’s income. I believe that that is an anomaly which should be rectified. Moreover, the allowance of £30 for funeral expenses is inadequate, considering present-day costs.
I am pleased to see the Treasurer back in the chamber after having been laid low for some time, and I therefore take the opportunity of asking him to give consideration to my remarks. He should widen the definition of dependant, so that it will cover not only the parents of the taxpayer but also the parents of his wife. If they be dependent on the taxpayer, they, like his own parents, should come under sections 82c and 82a of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Last year, I raised the matter of certain sporting sections of the community which might be brought within the scope of section 15. Last week, I pointed out certain anomalies in connexion with expenses incurred by work people for special types of clothing that they are required to wear in order to carry on their occupations. I suggest that the definitions in section 51 (1.) of the Income Tax Assessment Act should be widened to embrace those persons. I also suggest that when the Treasurer again reviews the matter of income tax allowances, or when this measure is reviewed in another place, some consideration should be given to the submissions that I have made.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th October (vide page 1198), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 8th October (vide page 1162), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure will bring up to date, and make some amendments to, the Service and Execution of Process Act 1901-1950. It is particularly important from the view-point of legal procedure, because it will make provision for additional processes of the courts to be made effective, not merely within the Commonwealth, but also within the external territories of the Commonwealth. This bill will make use of a number of powers given to the Parliament under the Constitution. The first is the power to make laws for the provision of the service and execution of process of the courts of the States throughout Australia. It will make the enforcement of the processes of a court of any State effective, where a defendant, or a person accused or charged, may not be in that State. But for this power it would not be possible to make the judgments and proceedings of the courts of the States effective outside their own borders. Times have changed, and because of the greater facility with which processes can be executed, this bill has become necessary.
In addition to that power, there is a power within the measure to bring the Australian territories, such as Papua and New Guinea and Norfolk Island, within the scheme of the execution of process so that not only will the judgments of the courts of the States be effective in the States, but they will also be effective in the external territories. Moreover, judgments of the federal courts in those territories will become effective throughout the Commonwealth. The Parliament has these powers under sections 122 and 51 of the Constitution. Having given great consideration to this measure, both in another place and through detailed personal examination, the Opposition believes that it should be supported.
.- This is the kind of bill that is commonly described as a machinery bill, and it may be thought that it relates merely to the dull dry bones of the law, but that is quite an erroneous way of looking at such an important piece of legislation, because its sole object is to enable the principles of justice to be applied. As has been well said, man always thirsts after justice. When one says that one thinks not simply of the outward trappings of the law - the wig and the ermine - but to justice as a living thought, embodying a series of principles and existing as a spiritual ideal which stems from the heart, which pervades men’s minds, which is innate in their beliefs, and which encompasses and possesses their whole nature. Because of that, let us look at the principles of justice that underlie this bill. It is described as the Service and Execution of Process Bill. “ Service “ means provision for enabling legal process to. be brought to the knowledge of the persons against whom legal action is proposed. It is a fundamental principle of justice that a person against whom legal proceedings are to be taken should not have orders made against him under those proceedings unless he is able to contest them and to defend himself. If that principle were not applied, an order of the court would not be recognized but would be set aside because it had been wrongly made. Although it is essential as a fundamental principle of justice that a person should be served personally with a process if possible, another fundamental principle of justice requires that a person who has a right shall not be deprived of that right, because he is prevented from serving a process upon the person against whom that right exists - for example, because that party has disappeared and is not able to be found. Under the act provision can be made for dispensing with service, or for substituted service, so that the person with the right may get his proceedings before the court.
The provisions of the principal act relating to the execution of a judgment also uphold the principle of justice that a successful litigant should be entitled to obtain the fruits of his judgment and that, although the person against whom the judgment was given may have left the State in which the case was heard find gone to another State, the judgment should be enforceable against him in that other State, or, as provided in the present bill, in a territory of the Commonwealth, including Norfolk Island and Papua and New Guinea.
We see a further example of the extension of the principle of justice in the provision for limiting the period of service. Owing to modern inventions such ns the telegraph, telephone, wireless, and the aeroplane, it is now possible to serve a process much more expeditiously than was formerly the case. Consequently, the principle that justice shall not be delayed, a principle which is referred to in Magna Carta itself, is preserved. We propose to reduce the time in which service must be effected in order to bring matters more promptly before the courts. We can do that only because of the modern scientific improvements in communications.
If we turn to clause 7, which embodies a proposed new section 18, we find that when a person has been arrested he shall immediately be brought before a magistrate or justice and not sent back to the State or territory from which the warrant against him has been issued if the charge is of a trivial nature, if the application for his return has not been made in good faith in the interests of justice, or if, for any reason, it would be unjust or oppressive to return him. There must be a. definite case against an arrested person before he can be handed over by one State to another. It is not sufficient that it be based on suspicion or even on the finding of a royal commission. Evidence must be placed before the magistrate who deals with the matter which indicates that the charge is not of a trivial nature, that the application is made in good faith and in the interests of justice, and that it is not unjust or oppressive. Indeed, it is clear from decisions based on the provisions of this legislation that judges and magistrates will not make orders if they consider that the original order has not been made under just circumstances. For example, if an order has been made against a man ex parte, without his having been served with the proceedings and having had the right to appear, and an enforcement of a warrant is sought subsequently, the judges of the State in which enforcement of the warrant is sought have said, “ No, that is not just. He has not had a proper opportunity in the first instance to defend himself. Therefore these proceedings will not be enforced against him “. As this bill is based entirely upon principles of justice, it is to be commended to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
[ CUSTOMS BILL 1953.
i Second Reading.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make certain amendments to the Customs Act 1901- 1952. Section 4 of the act defines “ officer “ as “ all persons employed in the service of the Customs “. It has been the practice in terms of section 4 to appoint persons as acting officers of customs at certain outports to perform part-time duties on behalf of the Department of Trade and Customs, but doubt has been cast on the legality of the appointment of these persons because the wording in the definition of “ officer “ in section 4 does not specifically authorize the appointment of acting officers of customs. The proposed amendment will enable the Minister to make these appointments and at the same time will remove all doubt about the status of the persons so appointed. The terms and conditions of the appointments will, of course, still be determined by the Public Service Board.
Section 12 of the act provides that all persons acting in the service of the customs at the commencement of the Customs Act shall be deemed to have been duly appointed as officers of customs. There are now no persons in the service of the customs who were appointed in terms of section 12. The section does not therefore serve any purpose and it is desirable that it be repealed.
Under section 130a (1) the master or owner of a ship or the pilot, or owner of an aircraft may make application to the Collector of customs for permission to take on board out of warehouse, under drawback or by transhipment from the stores of another ship or aircraft, stores for the use of the passengers and crew and for .the service of the ship or ‘aircraft. If these provisions were strictly enforced it would not be possible for owners of ships or aircraft to take on board stores by transhipment from the cargo of another ship or aircraf t, thus causing unnecessary inconvenience. The proposed amendmen t willi .enable owners, with the permission of the Collector of customs, to take on board under-bond stores from any source of supply, and will thus bring the provisions of the section into line “with current, practice.
Section 163 of the act makes provision for refunds of duty to be made in certain circumstances. It is the practice for the Department of Trade and Customs to grant refunds of duty where goods aru imported in a faulty- or defective condition caused by faults or damage in manufacture. In these circumstances the goods cannot be used in the manner in which they are intended to be used and the manufacturer or supplier makes an allowance commensurate with the extent, of the fault or defect. The section does not specifically provide for such refunds and consequently there is some doubt whether refunds can validly be paid. The proposed amendment will remove all doubt about the legality of these payments.
Another amendment to section .163 is to ma.ke provision for the payment nf refunds of duty in cases where the Minister has granted a Tariff concession under a by-law tariff item in the form of a ministerial determination as provided for in clause 6 of this bill. Appropriate provision for the .making of the consequential refund where applicable has been included in paragraph (d) of clause 5 of the bill.
As section 163 is considered unsatisfactory from a drafting point of view, the introduction of this amending bill provides an opportunity to repeal and remake the section. The terms of proposed new section 163 will not alter the policy or the practice in relation to refunds which are allowed at the present time.
Section 271 of the principal act authorizes the Minister to grant tariff concessions by means of by-laws in certain circumstances. The by-laws are of two main types, namely “ continuing “ bylaws which operate on and after a specified (lute until cancelled and “ one day “ bylaws which operate only on the day specified in the Commonwealth Gazette, It has been found that, in connexion with “ one day “ by-laws, the departmental procedures subsequent to the granting of approval for the tariff concessions have tended, due to the increase in volume of Australian manufacturing processes, to become cumbersome and wasteful of manpower and material. In order to simplify the procedures, it is proposed to amend the act to enable the Minister to grant these concessions by means of ministerial determinations instead of by means of “ one day” by-laws. The effect of this amendment will be that the administrative work in relation to the entry of the goods at the concessional rates of duty will be reduced to a minimum.
It has been found in practice that compliance with certain of the provisions of section 271 - (a) requires importers to enter goods under a by-law tariff item whether or not a concession is conferred by the by-law; (b) prevents the Minister from making by-laws under Customs Tariff Proposals: and (c) prevents the Minister from making by-laws relating to matters and things, for example, to such matters as determination of horsepower. Therefore, in order to protect the interests of importers, provisions are to bc included in the act to remove these anomalies and to bring the requirements relating to by-laws into line with current practice. In order to facilitate the incorporation of these amendments section 271 has been re-drafted as sections 271 to 273F as set out in clause 6 of the bill.
I commend the bill to honorable members for favorable consideration.
.- There are only two points to which I wish to refer. One is the enormous power, which is not new, which the bill seeks to confer upon the Minister. The proposed new section 271. deals with the power of the Minister to make by-laws. Proposed new section 272 will give to the Minister power to specify, in a by-law, the classes of goods concerned. T think that the intention of proposed new section 273 is clear. It reads - (1.) The Minister may determine, by instrument in writing, that subject to the conditions, if any, specified in the determination, an item, or a proposed item, of a Customs Tariff that is expressed to apply to goods, or to a class or kind of good’s, as prescribed by departmental by-laws shall apply, or shall be deemed to have applied, to the particular goods specified in the determination. (2.). The Minister may make a determination under the last preceding sub-section for the purposes of an item, or a proposed item, of a Customs Tariff whether or not he has made a by-law for the purposes of that item or proposed item.
That means that the Minister may make a determination, which really means an administrative decision, that the provision shall apply to particular goods, not iu the future, but at any antecedent point of time. The proposed new section continues - (3.) Where, under this section, the Minister determines that an item, or a. proposed item, of a Customs Tariff shall apply, or shall be deemed to have applied, to goods, that item or proposed item shall, subject to this Part and to the conditions, if any, specified in the determination, apply, or be deemed to have applied, to those goods as if those goods were specified in a by-law made for the purposes of that item or proposed item and in force on the day on which those goods are or were entered for home consumption.
It is just as well for the Parliament to remember the enormous law-making power conferred upon the Executive Council under this branch of the administrative law. Two kinds of provisions may be made. One is the power to make by-laws to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has referred. Proposed new section 273b provides as follows: - (1.) A by-law made under this Part -
The result of that provision will be that neither House of the Parliament will have any control over the matter. The case made for this provision - and it does not seem to be answerable - is that the enormous detail of the administration of Customs makes any other procedure impracticable. However, sub-section (‘2.) of proposed new section 273n provides as follows : -
Notice of the making of a determination under this Part shall be published iu the Gazette as soon as practicable after the making; of the determination and thenoticeshall specify -
the kind of goods to which the determination applies;
the conditions, if any, specified in the determination ; and
the item or proposed item for the purposes of which the determination was made.
That provision may mean that a determination may operate retrospectively for a considerable time. Indeed it may not be practicable to specify the goods, conditions and items through the Gazette until a considerable time has elapsed after the determination is made.
– There isno limit regarding time.
– The only limit is expressed in the provision that notice shall be given as soon as practicable after the making of the determination. The argument advanced on behalf of this provision is that it would be impossible in that type of determination to fix a specified number of days, and I accept that. The only provision which we consider should be inserted in the bill is a safeguard in connexion with retro-active determinations dealing with goods of a certain type. The power to make refunds of duty is exercised normally, I understand, in relation to capital goods. An illustration was given in connexion with capital equipment, such as machinery which is imported for, say, the use of municipalities and shires, and. after a considerable time a request is made that the particular goods be covered by a determination and that the duty be refunded. That is a simple case, because the goods are still retained by the importer or, at any rate, by the first purchaser from the importer, so that there is no difficulty about refunding the duty. The point that we wish to be considered is the operation of the measure in relation to consumable goods. One such case arose in connexion with timber some years ago soon after the Government came into office, and was debated on a motion for the adjournment of the House. A refund of duty on certain timbers had been granted retrospectively, but in the meantime the goods had been disposed of down the line, from importer to retailer. I think I am correct in stating that the result was the benefit of the refund was not carried down the line, and could not have been carried down the line at that stage, to the consumer, in an orderly progression from importer through wholesaler and retailer. In consequence, that refund of duty was not sound from the administrative point of view. We propose to move at the committee stage for the insertion of an additional provision that refund of duty under a by-iaw is to be made only in cases where the Minister is satisfied that the benefit of the refund will be passed on. Even that proposal may require some further amendment in order to ensure that it will be effective. The point is that if a refund is made with profit to the importer it should be coextensive with the actual course of business in dealing with the items that have been resold. Otherwise it may simply be a windfall, or portion of a windfall, for the importer. Subject to that, I have no further comments to make at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Clause 6 of the bill reads as follows : -
I move -
That, after proposed new section 273f the following new section be inserted: - “ 273g. No refund of duty under a by-law or determination shall be made unless the Minister is satisfied that, in the case of goods imported for re-sale, the benefit of the refund will be passed on to the purchaser or purchasers of such goods.”.
The power to make a refund may be exercised a considerable time after the duty has been paid. The application for the refund would be made by the importer, who would have paid the duty. This amendment is designed to deal, not with capital goods, but with goods which have been sold between the date of importation and the date of the refund. There should be some limitation of the power to make a refund. The limitation I propose is that the Minister should be satisfied that where an importer has added to the price at which he sold the goods the actual amount, or part of the actual amount, of duty that was paid, he should not be entitled to a refund to thi extent to which that price was increased. I submit that the additional provision that I have moved is just and reasonable. It will have no reference to machinery or such capital goods that were not imported for sale. It will refer to such goods as the timber that I have mentioned, in relation to which a refund was made. In that case I believe that the importer alone received the benefit of the refund after the goods had been sold and he had passed the duty on in the price he had charged. That is substantially the point we are making, and I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to consider it, even if it is necessary to make some further amendment of my amendment to ensure that the principle is adopted.
, - The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) dealt with this matter in greater detail in his second-reading speech. I refrained from answering him at that stage because he had foreshadowed an amendment, and I considered that I should answer his argument in committee after he had moved the amendment. This is a matter which has been discussed in another place, and it might be as well for the committee to understand clearly the implications of the amendment, its possible results and why it is not acceptable to the Government. There is no need for me to re-state the clause itself, beyond saying that it will confer no greater power on the Minister than his present power in relation to the making of bylaws. Let us examine for a moment the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition and see what effect it would have. It would mean that the department would be required by law to refuse all refunds in respect of by-laws or determinations unless it had evidence that the full benefit of the concession had been passed on to the consumer of the goods. I believe that that is the point about which the right honorable gentleman has shown concern. It is conceivable that some persons who had actually passed on the concession to consumers would be unable to furnish proof of such action and the department would have no option but to refuse a refund of duty.
I shall make some further observations to show that the proposed amendment would be impractiable to administer. In practice, it is found that importers incur expense in obtaining benefits under by-laws in that they employ customs agents or staff to make representations to the department and to prepare the case for by-law admission. Further expense is incurred in the application for refund of duty particularly if an agent is employed, as is often the case. If the full benefit of the concession were passed on to the consumers, the importer concerned would lose the cost of the overhead and work involved in obtaining the concession. He could not recover the money that he had laid out in the first place to get the concessions. In addition, the onus of proof that the concession was passed on would lie with the importer. In the case of consumer goods, which one importer may sell to many consumers, it will be readily appreciated that there would be considerable increase in the overhead expense to the importer in following through the transaction from himself through several intermedia to the final purchaser. The cost of obtaining the evidence could amount to a sum exceeding the amount of the concession, and a similar cost could be incurred by the Department of Trade and Customs in verifying the facts.
The term “actual purchaser” is also considered to be vague. Does the term mean the ultimate purchaser, such as the man in the street, or the immediate purchaser from the importer? The wording of the proposed amendment would imply the former, as it refers to “purchaser or purchasers “. The amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition undoubtedly would require increased staff to police and completely negative the proposed economy in staff and materials envisaged when clause 6* of the bill was first suggested by the department. It may be pertinent to draw the attention of honorable members to the two legal instruments now provided for in the bill. They are the ministerial determination for single transactions and the by-law for general and continuing transactions. .Section 273 (b) (2.) (6) of the bill provides for conditions, if any, to be imposed by the Minister. Although the imposition of conditions is not mandatory, the question as to the price at which the goods have been costed and sold by the importer is an important factor. It would be investigated as a matter of course by the department before making a determination. Only in exceptional cases in the case of consumer goods, where it was clear that the goods had been costed by the importer without the duty component or sold by the importer on the basis that a refund would be granted, would a determination be made. Even in such a case, obviously the department cannot follow the goods right to the consumer. Further, if the goods have been sold to an intermediary who has not yet sold the goods and the duty is remitted and passed to the person holding the goods, how can an assurance be obtained that the intermediary will then sell the goods without the duty component? Obviously, he will sell at the best price he can obtain on the market, and in accordance with the law of supply and demand.
When a standing by-law is made, it is considered that the date of operation should not be ante-dated for more than a short period. In any case, if this bill as drafted becomes law, it would be useless to ante-date a by-law more than twelve months because the customs regulations restrict applications for refunds in such cases to twelve months from the date on which duty was paid on the goods. It is also pointed out that a by-law concession would not be granted in respect of any goods in cases where the landed cost under the concession of those goods would fall below the wholesale selling price of comparable locally produced goods. It follows that the landed cost of goods imported .under by-law is always equal to or higher than the wholesale selling price of the local goods. Importers v.-ould therefore be obliged to pass on refunds of duty to enable them to compere with local ‘manufacturers.
I summarise the objections to the proposed amendment in these terms. First, who is the purchaser of the goods, the man in the street or the person who purchased the goods from the importer? It is highly doubtful if the department oan interfere with the business of a merchant many times removed from the importer. The cost of obtaining the necessary evidence by the importer and the subsequent verification by the department would be considerable. One of the purposes of this bill was to simplify departmental procedures. Further, are the overhead costs, such as staff and agents’ fees, involved in making a by-law application, and the subsequent obtaining of a refund, to be allowed as a debit .agains^ the refund? How can the fact that the duty has been passed on be verified? Goods are sold according to the law of .supply and demand. Is the wholesaler’s margin on the duty to be refunded also.? Carrying out the terms of the proposed amendment, would result in an interference with trade and be a form of prices control. By-laws were issued in 1949-51 with provision for duty that was refunded to be passed on. but they were found to be quite unworkable and were discontinued. Provision is being made to insert such conditions in determinations as in Section 27.3b (2.) (b), but in the ease of ‘consumer goods, no determination would be made unless a.t the time of the inquiries as to local manufacture, it was clear that the duty had not been included in the selling price by the importer.
I point out also .that; .ante-dating of by-laws is limited to twelve months under regulation 126. Delays of years could not occur with permanent or limited by-laws if this bill became law. More than one year’s delay before a decision could .be given on ministerial determinations would occur only in isolated eases :and would refer to capital equipment. Therefore, only one person would be involved. The duty refunded in that case .would be reflected in the price of the completed article if the manufacturer desired to stay in business. If concessions are to be given, we do not want to be unduly hampered.. Therefore the Government, cannot accept the proposals.
– -Methinks the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric S. Harrison) protests too much. He has stated that the objectives that t,bf amendment seeks are already operative where they are applicable. I accept that statement. The Minister did not deal with the position with which we are faced. We believe that if a power is conferred upon a Minister, it’ is quite reasonable to limit the exercise of that power. In this case, provision should be made to prevent refunds being made when they will be enjoyed by or benefit the importer in the case of goods that have been sold by him. That is all that the amendment proposes to do. Its provisions would not require policing in the ordinary sense. If the Minister is honestly satisfied that the benefit has been passed on that is well and good.
Mir. ERIC J. HARRISON - The Minister lias no means of discovering whether that is so.
– In the ordinary case, the Minister would have every means pf doing so. That would have applied to.the importation of timber to which reference has already been made in the committee. In that case, a retrospective refund was made and in many cases every parcel of timber affected could have been traced. The benefit, however, was .not passed on to the buyers. Money was paid by way of a refund and because the payment was retrospective money went into the pockets of the importer. Neither the wholesaler, the retailer nor the -ultimate consumer received any benefit. An importer should not get a refund in such cases. He should get an allowance for the future, but in the case to which I have referred the allowance was made for a past transaction. The question is whether there should be a refund once money has been paid, I should have thought that a good administration would require the department to advise the Minister in such cases. The department could recommend against a refund because the whole duty had been passed on. Is that not the normal way to approach such a matter? T.f such is the case why should it not be included in the legislation? It is not a matter for a court of law. The proposed amendment states -
No refund of duty under a by-law or determination shall bc .made -unless thu Minister is satisfied that in the ouse of good* imported for resale, the benefit of the refund will be passed on to flic purchaser -or purchasers of such goods
It is proposed to apply the measure not only to by-laws but to determination* by a Minister. The amendment also provides that the provision shall not apply to goods that are to be used by an importer, but only to those imported for re-sale. If the Minister wishes to amend the proposed amendment in a broad way, I suggest that he consider the matter fully. The Opposition simply asks thu committee to ensure that in the case of a refund operating retrospectively, any excess money that accrues as a result to the importer does not remain in his pocket. That is plain. I am not referring to the ordinary prospective operation of determinations or. by-laws. I refer to retrospective cases in which the goods have been resold and the importer has paid the duty and seeks a refund. The first question to be asked in such a case would be, “ What has been done with the goods? Have yon passed the duty on to the purchaser?” The Opposition suggests that there .should be no refund unless the Minister is satisfied that the benefit of the refund will be passed on. I can see no objection to such a provision. The Minister might have difficulty in meeting every case, but the Opposition provides for that by the amendment . under which it is proposed to leave action to the discretion of the Minister. He must address his mind to the question whether a refund would simply be money given to the importer when he has already been paid for his outlay. In such a case, the importer would be paid twice. That should not be allowed and the .amendment appears to me to be reasonable. I believe that it is an important matter involving a vital principle.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. McEWEN. and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill bc now i-i.n.i.1 n acc/ind time
The purpose of this bill is to provide tinlegislative ‘backing that is necessary to enable the Commonwealth Government to play its part in a proposed joint Commonwealth-State plan for the orderly marketing of Australian wheat of the next three crops, including that about to be harvested. This plan requires the collaboration of the States and, before it can become operative, the States will need to pass legislation that will be complementary to the Commonwealth legislation. This course of action has been agreed upon between the Australian Government and the governments of all the States after a long series of negotiations covering the stabilization of the wheat industry, the. orderly marketing of wheat, and the question of Australia’s adherence, to the new International Wheat Agreement. It is a continuance of orderly marketing on lines which, in the marketing sense, are almost identical with the system under the Australian Wheat Board of the last five years, but without the provision of stabilization.
It is appropriate at this point to explain the fundamental difference between plain orderly marketing, as such, and stabilization. Orderly marketing, so fatas wheat is concerned, is now accepted to mean one central authority, authorized by legislation to accept all Australian wheat, to market it to the best advantage within Australia and overseas, to pool the returns from all sales, and to pay all suppliers for wheat delivered on the basis of the net per bushel pool return. In wheat industry usage, stabilization goes beyond this. The organized marketing machinery is the same, but there must then be imposed upon it specific uniform State domestic price provisions, and the stabilization features of a Commonwealth guaranteed price for exports, a stabilization fund, and an export tax to support the stabilization fund up to a certain point. When the stabilization fund is exhausted, the guaranteed price must be supported from Commonwealth revenue. The current five-year plan ends with the marketing by the Australian Wheat Board of the 3952-53 crop.
Negotiations between the Commonwealth Government, the six State governments and the wheat industry, through the medium of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, have been aimed at devising a further plan for the stabilization of the industry to commence with the harvesting of the 1953-54 crop. This legislation is the outcome of protracted negotiations with the States and the wheat industry. The negotiations commenced on the basis of an expressed desire of the wheat industry for an orderly marketing and stabilization scheme, and an agreement by the Commonwealth Government and each of the six State Governments that they were, in principle, in favour of that arrangement. There was one clear qualification to this: That stabilization legislation, which involves a tax upon growers’ wheat and the withholding of their funds, would be subject to approval of growers through a ballot. The Commonwealth stipulated that, and the growers desired it. As was the case in the original scheme in 1948, the ballot would, of course, be in the form of a vote for or against a comprehensive legislative programme, including State and Federal legislation. This obviously necessitated agreement between the Governments as to the legislation they were prepared to pass.
The Commonwealth made clear in detail its position in this regard. The conditions of such an arrangement are highly important to wheat-growers, who would have the protection of a guarantee, but also the obligation of a financial contribution to a stabilization fund. The taxpayers are at least as interested, as they, finally, are the guarantors. Therefore, the terms upon which the Commonwealth was prepared to assume this guarantee responsibility were worked out in close consultation with the wheatgrowers’ representatives and also were at all times under the close scrutiny of the Treasury. Final responsibility rested always with the Commonwealth Cabinet. The States, .although not party to the guarantee obligation, were at all times kept fully informed of all these negotiations, and given full opportunity - in fact, they were invited - to express their views upon the provisions.
The Commonwealth’s offer to guarantee a return of cost of production on 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported in each of five years, and the conditions attached to that offer, were set out in quite definite terms, and the offer was explained to the representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation in the presence of the State Ministers at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. This offer was, of course, subject to approval of growers through a ballot. Another organization, the Australian Primary Producers’ Union, which has a wheat-grower section, has been informed of the agreement reached between governments in these negotiations and has taken the opportunity to advise the Commonwealth and the Australian Agricultural Council of the views of its wheat section.
The States desired that any ballot should be taken by them, as was done on the last occasion, and the Commonwealth agreed to this. All the States were in agreement on their legislation except on one point only - the local selling price, [t is common knowledge that this point produced a deadlock which lasted for months. The fact that a ballot has not been taken on stabilization is, therefore, due not to any unwillingness of the Commonwealth to assume the guarantee, but to the fact that practical circumstances not concerning the Commonwealth’s position, and over which the Commonwealth had no control, prevented a ballot from being taken.
Once it became clear that, due to the time factor, it was no longer possible to conduct a ballot, and pass the legislation and have it operative in time to handle the incoming harvest, all the governments and the growers then turned their attention to the kind of orderly marketing structure which could be established without a ballot, that is, orderly marketing without the stabilization guarantee provisions. The Ministers of the Agricultural Council decided on the 16th June that the possibility of having legislation passed after the conduct of a ballot, and before the harvest commenced, could no longer be relied upon. The council unanimously decided by resolution that, to meet this situation, there should be concentration upon an orderly marketing plan of a kind which could be established without a ballot of growers. That explains why a guaranteed price stabilization arrangement is not part of this legislation.
The difficulties and delays which attended the endeavour to reach unanimity between the States on the question of a domestic selling price as a part of this orderly marketing plan are so well known that I have no intention of dwelling upon them. The important point is that unanimity has been reached and enables this legislation to be presented to the Parliament. It provides the basis upon which it will be possible to maintain orderly marketing and ratify the International Wheat Agreement. Passage of the legislation, both Commonwealth and State is, therefore, of the utmost urgency because, pending the passage of this bill and complementary State legislation, no statutory authority exists to receive for realization the coming wheat crop. I am informed that wheat is already being harvested in Queensland and the harvest will be in full swing in Queensland and northern New South Wales within the next few weeks.
Upon a request made by all the States some months ago, the Commonwealth authorities drafted for their consideration a suggested State bill of a uniform character which would be complementary to the Commonwealth bill.
The States have had this draft legislation for some time, and Commonwealth and State officials have had an explanatory conference. The Commonwealth Government, the Australian Agricultural Council representing all the States, and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, have all held the view that it is in the best interests of wheat-growers and of the Australian economy that the International Wheat Agreement should continue and that Australia should be a participant. In fact, one of the prime objectives of the whole negotiations has been to provide a basis for participation. A separate legislative proposal will deal with this matter, but I point out that, without a. central marketing authority for export wheat, the obligations devolving upon Australia through membership of the International Wheat Agreement are considered not to be capable of practical administration. Therefore, the continuance of the Australian Wheat Board in the terms of this and complementary State legislation will make it possible for Australia to ratify the International Wheat Agreement. Indeed,, thethree-year period’ of this legislation is designed to synchronize with the period of the extension of the International Wheat Agreement.
Before proceeding to explain the bill, I wish to make it clear that, without some arrangement of this kind, an impossible marketing situation would have arisen. Therewould have been different wheat prices for flourand bread in the several States, different prices again for stock feed, and strong pressure from every quarter for the export of maximum quantities of wheat at the higher export price. There would have been no authority competent to regulate exports, and, in any case, the satisfactory administration of an export quota and permits arrangement would have been an almost impossible task. The problem of who would bear the cost of supplying wheat to Tasmania at the Australian domestic price and foregoing the higher overseas export parity could not be equitably resolved. Moreover, the patterns of interstate trade generally in wheat and flour would have become distorted owing to the operation of varying wheat prices, and the problem of carrying over stocks would have been unmanageable. Generally, a most disorderly marketing situation would have been createdand the industry itself would have been split asunder. As against this spectacle of chaos, the Australian pool now contemplated provides order and equity.
The AustralianWheat Board, with years of experience, in which general satisfaction has been given to the wheatgrowers and the flour-milling industry, will provide a stable basis upon which the financing of the crop can be calculated. Further, the pool realization assures an equitable return to each grower, Tas- mania can be supplied at the Australian price without problem, flour-millers have a convenient and assured supply, and’ the International Wheat Agreement can be ratified and administered. These comparisons give some picture of what was at risk in the recent deadlock. In such circumstances, it would have been quite impossible for Australia to accept any commitments under the International Wheat Agreement. The joint Common wealth-State marketing arrangement now intended is, as honorable members will see, not embodied in a completely new act, butprovided by an amendment of the old act.
Complementary legislative action will need to be taken by the States to ensure, first a uniform home-consumption price for wheat, and. secondly,, the direction of all wheat to the Australian Wheat Board for receiving and marketing on a common pool basis.
I shall make a few comments on the details of this orderly marketing plan. The plan is intended to cover the marketing of the next three Australian wheat crops, commencing with the crop now about to be harvested. In that period the States, by individual legislative action, will direct all wheat to the Australian Wheat Board, established and maintained under Commonwealth legislation, for marketing for consumption within Australia and for export realization on a common pooling basis. Growers will be paid a first advance by the board after delivery of their wheat and will receive further payments as sales of wheat take place. When the pool has been wound up, ‘‘they will have received the full net per bushel return available from the operations of the pool. A part of the negotiated arrangement under which’ the Western Australian growers and the Western Australian Government were willing to come into the common pool, is that Western Australian growers will receive from the pool realizations an additional amount above other States equal to 3d. a bushel on the quantity of wheat exported from Western Australia overseas. This sum represents approximately the freight advantage which normally attaches to overseas wheat exports from Western Australia, due to the shorter freighthaul from that State to the main overseas markets.
It is common knowledge that there was delay in reaching unanimity between the States on a uniform domestic selling price. Finally, the following price formula was agreed upon. The price in respect of a wholesale sale of bulk wheat of fair average quality, free on rails at a port of export, will be the International Wheat Agreement price, or fourteen shillings- a bushel, whichever is the lower. However, if that price should be less than the- cost of production, the price then will be an amount equal to the cost of production. The ways in which the International Wheat Agreement price and the cost of production are to be determined” for the purposes of the plan are outlined in the bill. Should there not be asn- International Wheat Agreement to which Austrafia is a party, the price is to be- 14s. a bushel, bulk, or the- prevailing parity for export wheat at the- beginning of ‘ the season, whichever is the lower. But it is never to be- less than the cost of production. The figure of 14s* provides some incentive to attain the very desirable objective- of further expansion of this great industry, which has a very important bearing on the economic welfare of this country. Before I conclude, I shall make- some- further comments on that aspect. I invite attention to the important fact that, whatever the Internationa] Wheat. Agreement price may prove to be, the assessed cost of production is still the rock basis of the plan. If, for instance, the International Wheat Agreement price should fall to the minimum of the price range provided in. the agreement, and if the assessed cost of production should exceed that figure, the cost of production would become the home.consumption price for the purposes of the plan. lin the course of these general negotiations, a special arrangement was approved to meet the difficulty of enabling wheat produced on the mainland to be sold in Tasmania at the common Australian price. For years this has .presented a most difficult and unresolved problem. On occasions-, the wheat board has met the freight at the cost of wheat-growers, who have bitterly, and with justification, resented that being done. On occasions, the Tasmanian Government has met th.freight, and, a,s an emergency decision, on a number of occasions, the Commonwealth has done so. This freight is extraordinarily high. I understand it has been about 3s. 6d. a bushel. If tbv price c£ bread in Tasmania “.vere loaded by the freight, the price of bread there would be considerably higher than anywhere else, ih Australia. The arrangement which has now received general approval is that the agreed price at which wheat wilT be sold’ on behalf of growers shall be loaded by a further 1½d. a bushel, which sum shall be kept in a separate fund ih which wheat-growers will have no equity whatever; the fund being used to meet the cost of Tasmanian freight. This loading will attach to all wheat sold on the Australian mainland and in Tasmania.
– The price of wheat used by all consumers in Australia will be loaded by another 1½d. a. bushel?
– That is so- The selling price, of sugar in; Australia is loaded by an- amount which enables sugar to be delivered and sold at the. same price in all States. That arrangement has enjoyed the support of all political parties and it is, I think,, an equitable arrangement.
– This has never been done before in connexion, with wheat.
– It has never been done before in connexion with wheat. There has always been the- unsolved, problem of Tasmanian freight.
I feel it is worthwhile to examine the basis on which the cost of production is actually assessed. The cash costs involved in wheat production have been assessed by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics on the basis of a comprehensive Australiawide survey carried out on soundly established survey techniques. The bureau Assessment of these costs has been scrutinized and endorsed by a representative of. the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and also by a representative of the Agricultural Ministers of all States. There is, however, a second category of cost items which includes such things as the amount to be allowed as remuneration for the farmer himself, the rate of interest ou asset values and judgment on the appropriate yield to be used for the purpose of determining a fair cost of production per bushel of wheat. These are mattei’3 on which governments must make judgments, but the growers have been given an opportunity to express their views. As the cost of production was to be the basis of the Commonwealth stabilization guarantee, the Commonwealth made its decisions, on these matters. The State Ministers who are members of the Australian Agricultural
Council accepted those decisions also as the basis of the cost of production. To the extent that the cost of production is in the formula for State domestic price determination, the States also had an interest in this calculation. There is no dispute about it. The final figure derived as a result of these decisions, together with the technical assessment of cash costs, is lis. lid. a bushel as at November, 1932. This assessment has been agreed to be reasonable by all State Ministers of Agriculture. The figure will be varied annually in accordance with annual movements of the costs of production as assessed by a Wheat Costs Index Committee, and approved after consultation between the Commonwealth Minister and the six State Ministers of Agriculture.
I hardly need to refer to the fact that, traditionally, wheat has always been Australia’s second greatest industry. Unfortunately, at a time when additional Australian production has been urgently needed and export prices have been so highly remunerative, it has declined in relative importance to some other products, particularly wool. En the immediate pre-war years, 1.936-37 to 193S-39, wheat contributed 19 per cent, of the total export earnings of Australian rural industries, and 14 per cent, of Australia’s total export income. In the post-war years there has been, a decline in the relative values, both of production and exports. In 1952-53 earnings from wheat constituted 13.1 per pent, of all rural export earnings and 10.6 per cent, of all export income. The decline would have been even more noticeable and serious were it not for the fact that we had a run of good seasons which enabled the effect of a serious decline in acreage to be offset, to an extent, by high yields.
Last year, wool provided almost exactly a half of our total export income. Traditionally, wool has been subject to sharp price variations. Since the end of World War I., wool prices have fallen over one or two’ year periods by more than 20 per cent, on six different occasions. To-day, a 20 per cent, fall in wool values would represent a reduction of our total overseas income by about £80,000,000. That amount would certainly cause some repercussions through- out our economy. It is obviously in the national interest that, without reducing the value of our wool production, we should plan to lessen our dependence upon it by stimulating production of alternate income earners. Wheat is obviously the outstanding alternative. It is clear that wheat production could be increased without reducing wool production. It has been calculated by agricultural experts that wheat acreage could be increased to at least 13,000,000 acres, without a return to cropping in marginal areas. On present knowledge such an increased wheat acreage would largely come in new high-yielding areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales, and in other districts where ley-farming methods can be practised with high yields. It is clear, therefore, that it is in the best interests of the Australian economy as a whole to restore and expand the wheat industry to a position of greater importance than it has ever had before.
In addition to what wheat means to our export income and our ability to finance essential imports, we must remember that more wheat from Australia would mean a positive contribution to easing the major economic problems of the sterling area as a whole. It would mean a saving of scarce dollars, which can best be used to finance essential development equipment rather than immediate consumption needs. The dollar expenditure of the sterling area as a whole on wheat alone was the equivalent of £140,000,000 sterling in 1949 and £119,000,000 in 1950. It was £245,000,000 in 1951, the year of the Indian famine, when over £100,000,000 sterling worth of dollar wheat had to be imported into India. It is clear that an expansion of our wheat production would be of great value both nationally and internationally.
During the post-war years, until 1951-52, the wheat-farmers sold enough wheat to meet Australia’s own flour needs and an ever-increasing amount for stock-feeding purposes at bare cost of production. The stabilization plan introduced in 1948 necessitated a great concession, or, indeed, a sacrifice by the wheat industry of Australia through the provision for home sales at the cost of production as determined from the original formula of the Simpson Cost of Production Committee. Until 1952-53, these sales were at figures consistently less than 50 per cent, of those ruling for free wheat in the world market. In the four-year period up to and including 1951-52, the net pool returns f.o.r. ports per bushel have actually been less than the 14s. 3.7d. figure for the 1947-48 pool, although costsof production increased during the fiveyear period following 1947-48 from 6s. 3d. to lis. lid. a bushel. The wheat acreage declined from 13,900,000 acres in 1947-48 to 10,100,000 acres in 1952-53.
Because of the initiative of this Government, and its provision, in those circumstances, of a subsidy to the stockfeeding industry, some improvement was effected both in the 1951-52 net returns and in the 1952-53 season. The final return per bushel f.o.r. ports for the 1952-53 season is expected to be about 15s. 5£d. There is striking evidence of a recovery in the wheat acreage to an estimated 10,800,000 or 11,000,000 acres for the coming season, partly due, no doubt, to expectations of more equitable treatment in respect of home-consumption sales. The case for an incentive price to induce further expansion of this great industry is clear-cut, and as I mentioned earlier, the home-consumption price, formula under this new plan is intended to go some way towards providing that incentive. At the proposed price, wheat will be still available for use in Australia at a price at least 20 per cent, less than current export prices.
I know that it is a great relief to all Australian Governments and to all sections of the industry to know that an orderly marketing plan has finally been evolved, and that its adoption will place Australia in a position to ratify the International Wheat Agreement without misgivings. I believe that even though it covers a period of only three years, this plan will provide a sound foundation on which governments and the wheat industry can consult regarding the longterm future of wheat marketing in this country. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pot/lard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. MoEwen, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for the ratification of the 1953 International Wheat Agreement. That agreement is the outcome of negotiations between wheat inporting and exporting countries which commenced in the International Wheat Council in April, 1952, and terminated at a meeting in Washington in April, 1953. The object of those negotiations was to endeavour to ensure a healthy and stable international trade in wheat for a further period after the 1949 four-year international wheat agreement expired on the 31st July, 1953. Following the Washington conference, Australia became a signatory to the new agreement, as did also 41 importing countries and three exporting countries, namely, Canada, the United States of America and France. The signing of the agreement did not in any final manner commit Australia or any other signatory country to adherence to the agreement, which is dependent upon the lodgment of a formal instrument of ratification to follow the constitutional or legislative requirements of each individual country.
The price and other operative provisions of the new agreement have been in operation since the 1st August, 1953, but Australia, in common with several other countries, sought and was granted an extension of time until the 31st October, 1953, in which to make a firm decision regarding ratification. The Government would not proceed to ratification without parliamentary approval, and the approach to the Parliament has unfortunately been delayed until now because of the inability of the seven Australian governments to agree upon a comprehensive orderly marketing plan for wheat, which was essential before the Government could accept obligations under the International Wheat Agreement. Unless such a plan were in operation. Australia’s commitments under the agreement would be quite unmanageable.
As honorable members are aware, it is only a matter of days since all governments have agreed to the principles of a. joint Commonwealth-State orderly marketing plan, to which I have addressed myself in my second-reading speech on another bill at present before the Parliament. I wish to make it clear at this point that the Government intends to proceed to ratification of the International Wheat Agreement only after the States have legislated for the new orderly marketing plan, or it has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Government that there is no room for doubt that the necessary State legislation will be enacted in the immediate future. All State governments have already given assurances on that point. Copies of the new agreement have been circulated to honorable members for their information and reference. I have also arranged for the distribution to all honorable members of copies of a publication by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics entitled The Wheat Situation. This includes a very useful summary of the International Wheat Agreement.
The agreement will operate for a period of three years from the 1st August, . 1953, and except for amendments to certain important provisions, to which I shall refer later, it is substantially the same as the four-year agreement which preceded it. I believe, therefore, that it is unnecessary for me to elaborate on the historical background or on the general nature of the agreement. Its most important features are -
The principal objectives of the agreement, as stated in article (a), are to assure supplies of wheat to importing countries and markets for wheat to exporting countries, at equitable and stable prices. They must be regarded as very worthy objectives, and important stabilizing factors in relation to a commodity which, in unregulated trading times, has been notorious for the violent and unpredictable manner in which its prices have fluctuated. Moreover, the stipulation of prices in the agreement over a three-year period will provide a valuable basis for the calculation of risks in which the Commonwealth would involve itself in respect of a guarantee under a stabilization plan. This agreement comes at a time when marketing conditions and arrangements are changing. Government trading is giving way, in important markets, to openmarketing, and after a period of shortage there are now very heavy world stocks of wheat. Australia’s quota under the agreement could therefore prove important to the welfare of the industry within the three-year period of the agreement. Although enforcement of the conditions of the agreement would present a problem if the necessity should arise, the experience of the four years of the last agreement has shown that it should work.
The determinationof maximum and minimum prices under the International Wheat Agreement has beena major issue, and because of the unwillingness of the United Kingdom Government to accept a maximum price of 2.05 dollars a bushel - equivalent to 18s.31/2d. in Australian currency - raider the new agreement the United Kingdom is not a partyto it.
– Would the Minister indicate the price to which the Government of the United Kingdom was willing to agree?
– From memory, I should say that it was 2 dollars, but I am. not sure. This maximum price represents an increase of 25 cents a bushel - 2s. 21/2d. in Australian currency - over the maximum price in the previousagreement. The fixed minimum of 1.55 dollars - 13s.10d. in Australian currency - under the new agreement, compares with a minimum price under the old agreement of 1.50 dollars - 13a. 41/2d. in
Australian currency - in 1949-50, which price declined by 10 cents a year to 1:20 - 1.0s. 81/2d. in Australian currency - in the fourth year 1952-53. The maximum price under this agreement must be regarded as satisfactory on present-day world wheat trade conditions, while the minimum price is well above the assessed cost of production of wheat in Australia. The withdrawal ofthe United Kingdom, which is Australia’s biggestcustomer for wheat, has affected the original quota provisions. Therefore, it is necessary for Australia to ensure that her traditional wheat and flour markets can be supplied, andto adjust her commitmentsto the International Wheat Agreement accordingly. In this connexion a reduction of the quota allotted to India, and the inclusion of four new countries must also be taken into account.
The total of the quotas negotiated at Washington was 595,000,000 bushels. The adjustments necessitated by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom and the other factors to which I have just referred, will reduce the total quotas to about 421,000,000 bushels. Some further adjustmentsmay still be required if several countries which have not yet ratified should fail to do so. After consideration of all factors, the Government has applied to the International Wheat Councilfor a reduction in Australia’s quota from 75,000,000 bushels to 48,000,000 bushels.
The urgency of this measure lies in the fact that the International Wheat Council will meet at Madrid on Tuesday next, the 20th October. The Government, must be in a position to indicate where it stands in the matter by that date; Otherwise, thereis a realdanger that the otherexporting countries may take advantage of any indecision on the part of Australia to press for the re-allocation to them or our quota under the agreement.
I wish to make it very clear that the present stage in the International Wheat Agreement has been reached in the closest collaboration with the wheat industry in this country. Unlike the 1949 procedure, when the government of the day proceeded to a very late stage without taking the industry into its confidence, this Government has maintained the closest collaboration with the industry throughout. There has been continuous consultation with the grower-controlled Australian Wheal Board and with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. At the London meeting last year, which was the first meeting to discuss the new agreement, and at the Washington conference this year the Australian delegation had the benefit of the service and advice of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, and a representative of the Australian Wheat GrowersFederation. In London, the chosen representative was Mr. Pearce, an elected grower-member of the Australian Wheat Board, chosen not because he was a member of the Australian Wheat Board, but because he was nominated by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
– What was the natureof the consultation in Australia?
– The Australian Wheat Growers Federation is the recognized body representing the growers. On thesecond occasion, in Washington, the growers were represented by Mr. Stott, M.H.A., the joint secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, because he had been nominated by that organization. In fact, I may say that the Government’s proposal to accede to the new International Wheat Agreement, hasthestrong support of all State governments, as indicated through the Australian Agricultural Council, and of the Australian wheat industry.
– As did the last agreement.
– Ratification, asI have pointed out earlier, will be subject to the Governments being satisfied that there has been, or will be, State legislation that would enable us to carry out the obligations of the agreement.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Incommittee:Consideration resumed (vide page 1301).
Upon which, Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment to Clause 6 -
That after proposed new section273F, the following new sectionbeinserted - (vide page 1298).
– I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I shall read it again because it has not been printed. He has proposed an amendment to provide for a new section 273o. It reads -
No refund of duty under a by-law or determination shall bc made unless the Minister is satisfied that in the case of goods imported for re-sale the benefit of the refund will be passed on to the purchaser or purchasers of such goods.
Honorable members on this side of the chamber feel that there is no logical argument against the acceptance of this amendment. The by-law provision is very wide in its operation, and is governed by section 271. As was pointed out, there was a division between what are called continuing by-laws and what are called one-day by-laws. Now there is a further division dealing with determinations. The by-laws are not subject to the same kind of controls that cover most items published in the Commonwealth Gazette, and they are not subject to the operation of the statutory rules procedure, which means that a by-law is not subject to the normal scrutiny of Parliament. This system places great power in the hands of the Minister, and there has been considerable discontent over the way in which the by-law powers have been exercised.
This provision for a refund of duty in certain circumstances’ is supposed, according to the Minister who introduced the bill, to benefit the importer, but it seems that the benefit will not go to the importer in the sense of the person who ultimately uses the goods, but rather will go in some circumstances to import agents, who are simply go-betweens. There is no moral case for the rejection of the amendment. This afternoon, we beard a. fine discourse by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) about the abstract principles of justice. It seems that these by-laws will vitiate the’ abstract principle of justice through the operation of administrative techniques in the Department of Trade and Customs itself. No information has been given by the Minister as to the number of appli-cations under this section, but it seems that they amount to many thousands a year, and that in the aggregate refunds of duty to the extent of many millions of pounds are involved. Therefore, it is a very wide power to be exercised without any statutory safeguard. “We suggest that the proposed amendment should be written into the customs law.
This measure was discussed at great length in another place. Unfortunately honorable members in this chamber have not been given an opportunity to give to this bill the consideration that it deserves, but a similar amendment was moved in another place, and in answer to objections the Minister for Trade and Custom* (Senator O’sullivan) stated that, in many ways, what was proposed in the amendment was, in fact, being done by the department. If it is being done now at the discretion of departmental officers, why should there be any objection to giving legislative .sanction to what is done in practice? If that is done, he who runs may read and the various interests in the community that are worried by the operation of these by-law provisions could feel that the community was being protected.
As I said, there has been silence in this chamber as to the number of applications involved and also as to the large amounts of revenue that are involved. When it is borne in mind that goods to the value of £600,000,000 or £700,000,000 a year are imported into this country and that, technically, all of them are subject to the operation of these by-law provisions, we realize how important it is to put matters on a proper legal basis. Therefore, I urge that the Government give serious consideration to the proposed amendment and that, if need be, the bill be deferred until more serious consideration has been given to the proposed amendment. When it was before the Senate the bill was modified, at the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition in that place, in such a way that the gazettal provisions, which are one of the safeguards, were made more definite in their operation. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate succeeded in having written into the bill clause 273b (2), which reads -
Notice of the making of a determination under this Part shall be published in the Gazette as soon as practicable.
The last four words were not included in the bill as it originally went to the Senate. We suggest now that the Government should go further, and that it should accept the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House.
This afternoon, the Vice-President of the Executive Council read out a very lengthy and involved explanation as to why he could not accept the amendment, and I suggest that the haste in which this legislation has been conceived is not in keeping with the importance of the Customs Act to large sections of Australian industry. In the act itself one cannot find any distinction between what is called a continuing by-law and one that has come to be known as a one-day by-law. The distinction is purely administrative, and departmental action is supported, not by legislation, but by regulation. These particular by-laws lack the authority of other regulations in that section 271 of the Customs Act provides that they shall not be deemed to be a statutory rule within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939. Therefore, I suggest that in this very important matter the Government should give some consideration to the amendment proposed on this side of the chamber.
Question put -
That the amendment (Dr. Evatt’s - vide page 1298) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 9th September (vide page 88), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of certain moneys for the purposes of housing. On behalf of the Opposition, I move an amendment to the bill in the following form : -
That all words after “That” be left out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ this House is of the opinion that the moneys should be advanced to the States but the Government should call an immediate conference of the parties to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement 1 945 and announce its intention of carrying out the Commonwealth’s financial obligations under the agreement and endeavour to secure an amendment to the agreement which will enable tenants to buy their homes on easy terms, and which will secure a substantial reduction of the interest rate “.
The moving of the amendment will enable the Opposition to discuss the problem that has arisen over’ the development of housing in Australia. It will give to Opposition members, and, indeed, to Government supporters, an opportunity to examine the Government’s decision in relation to its financial responsibility under the Commonwealth and State
Housing Agreement. It suggests that the agreement should be amended to enable tenants to purchase their homes on easy terms. It will enable consideration to be given to the problems of. an economic rent to be charged, to the need for the reduction of the interest rate, and to the writing off of certain debts contracted by the States under the agreement, which arise out of the existing inflation.
The whole of the Opposition’s case in regard to this matter rests upon the amendment which I have proposed. The Opposition contends, first, that both in the spirit and the letter there has been a breach of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement by the Commonwealth. It contends that the advances to the States should not have been curtailed without due reference to paragraph 6 of the agreement to which I shall refer later. The- Opposition considers that a conference should be held at the earliest possible moment between the Commonwealth and States in relation to the housing agreement in order to remove the shocking anomaly under which tenants who are already in occupation of houses for which they have paid rent for some years are unable to purchase their homes cm easy terms. The ordinary citizen engaged in an ordinary trade venture between a landlord and himself may have all these considerations extended to him, but a tenant of a house under the housing agreement in most, if not all, of the States - some special considerations may apply in South Australia and Tasmania - is unable to purchase his house on easy terms because of conditions in the agreement, which is now, after almost nin? years of operation, displaying certain strains. The most urgently required amendment is an alteration of the agreement so that tenants of housing commission homes may be able to buy them on easy terms. To-day, unless the necessary lump sum is forthcoming, no arrangement for purchase can be made. A conference of the parties to the agreement should be held as speedily as possible to consider the rights of tenants who are renting housing commission homes.
The Opposition believes that the bill, which deals only with the grant, is unnecessarily short and inconclusive. In the face of a housing frustration- that is grievous, extensive- and heartbreaking,, there is nothing in- the bill to cure this preventable, misery of the home seeker. The Government directs attention to the money expended or to be expended under the agreement, but this sort of political strip-tease fools nobody. All the figures on housing, the amounts to be given to the States, must be cut -back to size because of careering inflation. The figures must be read alongside the houses that can be built with costs at their present extraordinary high level. I shall prove by a comparison of the figures in the days of the administration of’ the Chifley Government and the current figures how inflation has priced out of existence the possibility of implementing a housing plan of vigour, speed and numerical strength. The real position is not disclosed by a mere citation of the number of pound notes given in revenue grants under this scheme, nor is it disclosed by the bales of Treasury-bills that are used to buttress the economy. It is disclosed by the amount of real money that has to be expended to-day in order to build the same number of houses as it was possible to build for considerably less money in the early days of the agreement under the Chifley Government. If the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) will come down to earth from his platform in space among the inflated millions of which he talks, and give us not only the number of houses he has built, but also their rental, their erection cost and their purchase price, we shall be getting somewhere. We shall then be able to compare the record of this Government with the record of the Chifley Labour Government in connexion with this matter. The hard facts of the housing crisis to-day are that housing commission homes, particularly, in New South Wales where the position is very serious, are becoming too dear to rent and out of the question to buy. Any winner of a housing ballot in New South Wales to-day is confronted with a mixed blessing. For months, and perhaps years, he has been waiting to win in a ballot, and when he has won a house he is confronted with the fact that the economic rent is too high for him to pay. If he decides to make an effort to pay the rent, and settles- in. the house with ids .family because of his desperation for a home, and in due course desires to purchase it, he finds that purchase is right out of the question, because of the inflated prices that are the result of this Government’s policy. So he has moved from one frustration to another. He has moved from .poor housing into a home with a ruinous rent, which he cannot buy even if he had the long-range vision of owning his own home, because the price is £3,000 or £4,000. The spectacle of a home for a basic wage earner costing more than £3,000 is the result of three evils and is the reason why we demand that there be a conference of the signatories to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The first evil consists of the inflated prices of homes, and falls fairly and squarely on the shoulders of this Government. As statistics show, that evil was not in existence when the Labour Government left office, and I can prove it later by producing comparative figures relative to housing costs. The cost of houses is to-day one of the most inhibitory factors in relation to housing construction. The second evil is the existence, over a long period, though not so much at present, of the cost-plus system. The third evil is the fatuous belief of the Government that, if left alone, prices will find their own level.
There is another reason why the housing position is so -chaotic to-day. It is that non-Labour governments, both now and in the past, have acted like dilettanti in relation to housing. To anti-Labour governments housing is something to fiddle around with, grow all pious and unctuous about, and then hand back to private enterprise. That has already been stated explicitly by the honorable member for Lilley (.Mr. Wight) and by other honorable members with whom. I shall deal later. But the Labour party is dedicated, to housing. It believes that housing is the business of the government. Honorable members opposite also say so, but they are trying to get out of the housing business as fast as they can. We say that the provision of housing is a social service, and that it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that a house is made available at a reasonable rental to everybody who is unable to purchase a house. We believe that the first objective in <a .government housing policy should be a fair rental and a fair shelter for the tenants. Another objective should be the abolition of slums and sub-standard housing. The Government, of course, has no concern with these two things. To-day, under this -Government bouses have been priced by inflation out. of the reach of the worker. It is beyond understanding why the Government is 30 immeasurably smug about the housing situation. Liberal governments have never been successful with housing projects. Because their record was so tragically bad Mr. Curtin, when he “was Prime Minister, appointed a committee to investigate the position. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) was a member of it, and hi? contribution to debates on housing in this chamber have been of immense importance to us. Later on in 1945, the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was signed under the Chifley Government, with the aim of repairing the damage done by previous anti-Labour governments.
Who will ever forget what happened when the Lyons Government was in office, in 1934 ? In order to win an election, and in the face of an abysmally great housing shortage, it went to the people with the slogan, “£10.000,000 for housing”, and another slogan which, I believe, was coined by the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) - at least he was the first to give utterance to it - which was “ A million homes for a million souls When the Lyons Government was returned to office as a result of that promise about bousing, it suddenly decided that it had no constitutional power to do what it had promised to do and, as a result, it built not one house. There has never been such a tragic denial of policy, although we have had some pretty fair examples of such denials in other directions under this Government. The great. £10,000,000 housing scheme was. just a figment of the imagination. Because not one house was built under that alleged scheme the housing position deteriorated so badly during the war that the Chifley Government was forced to take resolute action to deal “with it. The Commonwealth and State housing agreement was the result. In the years before the war the anti-Labour Stevens Government in New South Wales, now happily out of existence, was driven to desperation by the protests of the people, including the secretary of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Dalziel, whose welfare work in relation to housing was truly remarkable, and was needled into putting up at least some show. This great mountain of a party in labour produced 47 small flats at Erskineville, a suburb of Sydney. Those flats are the remaining memento of 50 years of occupancy of the government benches in New South Wales by anti-Labour parties. After performing this gigantic feat under pressure, Liberal government in New South Wales expired, and, so far, it has never been resurrected and, happily, never will be. The same position occurred in relation to housing in Victoria. The relation of this history is necessary because of the facts that I intend to bring forward later on. In addition to real housing experts there were a few well-meaning committees and desultory do-gooders in Victoria. It was left to a Commonwealth Labour government to attack with vigour, imagination and courage the terrific social evil of slums, bad housing and the lack of shelter which had been a running sore in the nation from the early days of its settlement. Nothing had- been done about it until the Labour Government acted. The Labour Government regarded it as an immense social evil requiring adjustment, and not as a favorable investment. Private enterprise in those days saw housing as a profitable field of investment. So it was hands off the landlord after the Lyons Government had been returned to office. The jerry-builder, the investor looking for a fair thing, and the enterprising real estate agent with his pockets bulging with blueprints of new developments miles from transport, were is their hey-day. But still no houses for the people! Statistics indicate that even in 1939 few houses were being built for rental. Overcrowding was the natural order. Ownership of slum property was considered “ the thing “ for dear old ladies of Vaucluse and Toorak, provided an agent handled the matter for them and they were not personally embroiled in vulgar demands for bath tubs, drainpipes, gas stoves and lavatory basins.
After the war the full horror of the housing position hit the nation between the eyes. When the .Chifley Government decided to do something about housing, despite its limited constitutional power, the commission that it appointed discovered that the nation was short of 300,000 houses, and that 60,000 houses a year would be required to meet new housing demands. Add to that the 12 per cent, of new people Australia had acquired by immigration, and the size and difficulty of the problem is readily grasped. We maintain that that problem is not now being vigorously tackled, and that a planned approach to solve it is not being made by the Government, which is ready to bail out at the slightest provocation. Up to date 57,220 dwellings have been, completed under the housing agreement, a number which, added to private building, has not taken care of current yearly requirements. The Chifley Government, however, built plenty of houses at a price at which the worker could afford to rent or buy them. It did a marvellous job, although it was faced by shortage of man-power and materials, because those were the days of restriction. The position is different to-day, when there is. a wealth of man-power and materials available, and the inhibiting factor in relation to housing is money and money alone. The Chifley Government could not get soldiers out of the Army to build houses and could not get the saw mills and brickworks working at once. Yet in the face of these difficulties it dotted the landscape with houses. It did not, and could not, do as much as it hoped to be able to do, but at least it gave an earnest of its desire to provide houses for the people. To-day the shocking thing is that the only factor that is keeping housing in such a stranglehold as it is in at present is neither the lack of men. nor shortage of material, hut money.
The Labour Government did not solve the vast housing problem, for the reason? that I have stated, but it cleared the debris, opened the road and was set fair to reach its yearly housing target when it left office. It was a game which took patience, care and, above all, good faith. The incoming Liberal-Australian Country party Government faced an infinitely easier problem. Man-power and supplies were becoming easier to obtain. Costs were not unduly inflated at that time, but soon became so under the rule of liberalism. Here was a chance for the Government to cope with the housing problem by carrying on the good work of its predecessors. But what did it do ? It began by slashing the housing grants by millions of pounds. It talked of money when it should have been concerned with humanity. It threw the plans of the State housing authorities into confusion and set back the housing plan in this country for at least ten years. But here is the grievous and unforgivable thing that it did. It threw carpenters, bricklayers, builders’ labourers, plumbers, electricians, plasterers and painters out of work and put them on social services relief. It threw ^overboard the old axiom that a progressive and fully employed building industry is the best indication of full employment. It preferred to put skilled tradesmen on the dole for the first time in fifteen years. That was the beginning of the decay of the housing programme in this country. The job that was tackled with great pride and vigour by the Labour. Government has become the plaything of this Government.
Because of the inflationary problems it faced, the Government did not want its share in the housing scheme. It believed that houses could not be usefully built in a time of inflation. Cheap money is ^ essential, but the Government has neither the wit nor the wisdom to follow the dominating policy of the Labour party and the trade unions that cheap money is the requisite basis for the development of Australia. For that reason the Government is in a cleft stick. Having created the wrong climate for a great housing programme, it decided to starve the scheme to death. Here are the reasons for, and the evidence of, that fact. The figures that I shall cite relate to New South Wales, where the problem is most acute and costs are highest. However, the problem in New South Wales is a fair sample of the overall problem. The figures that I shall give are extremely interesting and I hope they will convey the whole of the balanced argument that the Labour party makes in relation to this matter. In 1949 the Chifley Government gave £16,748,000 to the States for housing. With its share of that sum the New South Wales Government, whose figures I am quoting, built 3,403 houses at an average rental of 32s. 6d. a week and at a cost of £1,93S for a three-bedroom house and £1,773 for a two-bedroom house. These were reasonable prices and reasonable rentals. They meant that the purchase’ of a house was within the reach of a worker aggressively determined to own a home. How different are the figures and the prospects under the Menzies Government, which expended £30,000,000 on housing in 1952. With its share of that money the New South Wales Government, which I am again taking as my yardstick, built 3,842 homes. According to statistics, the houses built by the New South Wales Housing Commission cost £3,246 for a three-bedroom house, and £3,060 for a two-bedroom house, and the average rent is between £3 15s. and £4 a week. These figures show dramatically the deterioration that has occurred as a result of inflation. The results of inflation could not be illustrated more poignantly than by a comparison of the prices of houses in 1949 with the prices to-day. I reiterate these prices briefly. In 1949 the cost of a three-bedroom house was £1,938 and the rental was 32s. 6d. a week. Practically the same number of houses was built out of a huge grant in 1952 but the cost of a three-bedroom house had then risen to £3,346 and of a two-bedroom house to £3,060, whilst rents had risen to between £3 and £4 a week. These figures are from the research data provided by our own admirable service in the Parliamentary Library, and by the reports of the New South Wales Housing Commission and other housing authorities. In the firstplace, the Liberal party-Australian Country party coalition, by inflation, has made the winning of a housing commission home an extremely mixed blessing. In the second place, it has starved the scheme of money in a desperate attempt to deal with the inflation that its own policy has created.
The Government boasts of 10,264 homes completed as being the best record of construction to date. Let us see how it achieved this target. In New South Wales again, the housing figures were cut by £6,000-;000 for local building, and die programme for prefabricated bouses was reduced from 8,000 to 851. The target of 3,S42 bouses for New South Wales in 1952 was made possible only by an additional grant of £2,000,000 which the State- Government made when it saw the spectacle of the Housing Commission gearing itself for a gigantic effort to take up the- housing lag in this, the most populous State of the Commonwealth. Tt saw the programme fall to pieces when the Commonwealth granted- only £8.000;000, although it had asked for £14,000,000 for housing. The Housing Commission had planned to spend £14,000,000, and,, most important of all, it had the. men and the materials with which to carry out its plan. Had that money gone into the channels through which it was intended to flow, the whole scheme would have sung on to success. As if was, a blight descended on it. The remnant of the plan was held together, but there was tragedy in the camp and the bousing position deteriorated and. has continued to do so. The sabotage of the housing plan has been thorough and consistent. Three factors are required for housing to be efficient. First. there must be control of the present unbridled inflation. Secondly, the States must have ample funds with which to carry on* their building programmes. Thirdly, there must be plenty of men and materials with which to do the work. In the first place, inflation has not been checked, even by the crude device of freezing the workers’ quarterly cost-of-living adjustments and letting1 costs in industry go unchecked. In- the second place, the Treasurer’s belief that he can cope with inflation by sabotaging housing and public works has proved disastrous and the people showed that they were aware of the position in a recent gallup poll which indicated that the Government was facing certain defeat. Tn the third place, the States had the men and the materials and were ready to go on with the work.
But shortage of money, not for the first time in our rough island story, was the means by which frustration and decay were again to become the watchwords. My belief, as a layman, which is shared by many legal men of experience and distinction, is that the Commonwealth and State
Housing Agreement has been- sabotaged by this Government. The- breach occurs’ under clause 6 of the- agreement, iii which- the Commonwealth agrees- to find’ the money and the States agree to build the houses. There is’ no. ceiling to- the amount to be provided, except’,, of course, the general productivity and’ income of the nation. I shall quote clause 6 so that honorable members will realize that the Treasurer has far exceeded his rights in his cavalier treatment of the States. It states -
The Commonwealth will advance to each State the moneys expended, in the carrying out of a housing project or1 the moneys that shall hereafter be required as. notified to the Commonwealth. Treasurer.
It is obvious that the States have- much wider rights than may be dictated by the Treasurer’s whim in making handouts. The Treasurer has imposed a- limitation by tacking housing on to the loan programme and cutting the* grant up like so much ready-cooked sausage, so much here and so much there. while the Premiers and Housing Ministers gather around like Oliver Twists to ask for a little more. In the light of clause 6 of the agreement, it is clear that the States have not received fair’ treatment. The Treasurer’s conduct has not been in accord with either the spirit or the letter of the clause. If this matter were tested - and perhaps some day it will be tested* - there would be a surprise in store for the Government.
Many honorable members on the Government side of the House do not believe in this housing agreement. They have inherited it from the Chifley Government, and therefore they do not like it. It is interesting to note the opinions- of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) on this issue. He, perhaps, expresses the tory Liberal point of view. He would like to see the end of the housing agreement. He addresses the House on this issue like a good Rotarian, waves his glasses in. the air. and tells us that the agreement is monstrous. He has been in a frenzy about it for years. Is it that his professional pride is piqued that so much real estate is out of his reach, or is it that he is ignorant of the social implications on this subject? At least he is honest, because he said elsewhere long ago, when lie was frenziedly campaigning for a sat in this Parliament -
The Commonwealth and State Housing -Agreement is an insidious national tragedy
. intended to be the basis of the Chifley socialist State.
That being his view, how can the honors able gentleman sit behind the Government and support the expenditure of millions of pounds under the agreement? lie is one of the sound men of the Liberal party - I might even say one of the sound and fury men. His contention about the bousing- agreement makes my argument all the- stronger, and therefore the proposed amendment carries greater weight. There should be a;n investigation by the proper authority to determine whether, in fact, this Government has not broken the terms of the housing agreement. There is an atmosphere of bad faith about the matter to-day which should be investigated in the interests of all. Perhaps the. quaintly phrased view of the honorable member for Benelong- that the housing agreement is a national tragedy is now the view of the Government and it is trying to escape by the back door - in short, by cutting down on money and raising the interest rate. Both acts, or either, would do the trick. And, presto, something else would be handed back to private enterprise, along with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Common wealth line of ships, TransAustralia Airlines and the rest of the Government-run projects whose only sin was that they were profitable and of use to the people. If the Government is trying to escape from the housing agreement, it should say so. If not, it should arrange for a conference on housing problems and’ straighten out the situation.
There: is another problem which re> quires a considerable amount of thought and an honest, human’ approach. I refer to home-purchase. In New South Wales there are 26,000 tenants of t he Housing Commission!.. I understand, although the figure cannot be. checked, that there are 50,000 tenants of. such home* in: the various States. Ninety per cent, of them at least,, to hazard am estimate, would like to own their- homes, oven at the inflated prices of some of the more recently built cottages: However, they find themselves in an extraordinary and intolerable position when they seek permission to purchase their homes, because they are required to pay cash on the knocker. They are not accorded the facilities that are provided in ordinary commerce. The Opposition asks that this gigantic and scandalous anomaly be removed immediately. I ask the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) to give consideration at least to this aspect of the proposed amendment so that these people> many of whom have- written to every honorable member in this House, .may be given an opportunity to pay for their homes on reasonable terms, including provision for them to be accorded some equity for the rent that they have already paid. As. the Government has said, ‘< contented home-owner- is a good citizen. Here is an opportunity for the Government to help to make good citizens. The State Housing Ministers have asked, not once but on five separate occasions, that ft. conference be called to iron out these difficulties that arise under the terms of the housing agreement. However, this Government has ignored or evaded their requests. It still has not made up its mind. On yet another point on housing and the agreement there appears to be some confusion: I have seen advertisements in Sydney newspapers which urge the people to invest their money in the next Commonwealth loan so that the Government can build beautiful blocks of flats. That is absurd. The funds for housing do not come from loans. They are provided from revenue. When the Chifley Government was in office, it opened loan campaigns secure in. the knowledge that they would be oversubscribed in a few days without the adventitious aid of snide advertising.. The Government should put an end to this sort of misleading advertising. I wish the loan every success, and I believe that it will be successful, but there is no need to befog the weary people of Australia any further about the housing problem.
T come now to the nub of- the situation, the interest rate. The original agreement provided that the interest rate should be 3 per cent Under the terms, of the agreement the interest rate to-day is 4-J per cent. This is: a crippling charge. The honorable member– for
Bennelong and several other Government supporters have expressed an opinion on this issue that I should like to quote. The honorable member for Bennelong said on one occasion that the only factor that deterred any man or woman from owning a home was the high interest rate. Then let us have a conference on the subject if we are dedicated to the building of houses for those who need homes. Let us see what we can do about the interest rate instead of allowing it to rise with inflation so as to make it impossible for any ordinary person to own a home. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) has expressed views which, for a Government supporter, are even more radical than those of the honorable member for Bennelong. He has suggested that all housing loans should bear interest at ihe rate of 3 per cent, initially, 2 per cent, after five years, and 1 per cent, after ten years, finally becoming interest-free after twelve years. I wonder whether the honorable member, when he returns to this House like the gloomy Dane to-morrow, will be prepared to eat his words or to vote with the Opposition in support of the amendment.
I repeat again our demand for an immediate conference of the parties to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and appeal to the Government to be reasonable with the States, especially in relation to its interpretation of clause 6 of the agreement. The Treasurer should not say in a loud and angry voice, “ Take it or leave it “. He has a solemn obligation to honour the terms of the agreement under which the States do all the work and the funds are provided by the Commonwealth from the revenue from uniform taxation. I maintain that there has been a definite breach by the Commonwealth of both the letter and the spirit of the agreement. The interest rate under the agreement is too high whether it is applied or not, and the whole housing structure will crash, as it has crashed before, and as this Government probably wants it to crash finally, unless money is made available cheaply for housing. It is futile to talk about an interest rate of 4£ per cent, or 5 per cent. The Minister for Works, in a fit of frankness recently, spoke of white elephants in Canberra, with particular reference to the new administrative building, which, he said, would cost more than its utility would ever justify. The same result will emerge from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement unless the interest rate is reduced. There will be “ Menzies Mistakes “. “Fadden Follies” and “Kent Hughes Kennels “ all over the country unless the costs of housing commission homes, and interest rates, are reduced. The Opposition, I repeat, fears that there has been a serious breach of faith in relation t>> the housing agreement. It refers the Minister to clause 6 of the agreement and invites him to say whether he, too, believes there has been a breach of the terms of the agreement which has resulted in a grave disservice to the States. We ask him to convene a conference so that he can obtain the views of the State Premiers and Housing Ministers on this most important matter. We ask him also to consider urgently - he could do that without holding a conference of Ministers - the desirability of permitting workers to purchase on easy terms the houses in which they are living, so that they will be on all fours with the rest of the community and will not continue to suffer under a disability because of their inability to buy their houses on a cash-down basis. They should be assisted to buy them. We point out to the Minister the urgent need to do something about interest rates on money for housing. The housing programme of this country should be above party politics, because it is founded on the wants and needs of the people. The Government cannot shelter behind inflation or outmoded nonsense about banking. The Labour party can show the Government the way to reduce interest rates, if it is prepared to listen to our advice. A meeting of authorities charged with the control of housing in this country would be of great value. Housing schemes are being delayed because the Government has priced itself out of the housing field. Rents are too high. Houses are too dear to buy on a cash basis, but tenants are prohibited from buying them on easy terms. The interest rate on money for housing is so high that, in the final analysis, it may be the last straw that will break the camel’s back. If the Government continues on its present path, houses will not be built. We appeal to the Minister to consider the suggestions contained in the amendment that I have moved.
– Is the amendment seconded ?
– I second the amendment.
– I call the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) to speak to the amendment.
– I listened with great interest to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). If I replied in the same style as that in which he attacked, I should make a speech along the Hues of what might be called “ Haylen’s hooey “.
– I rise to order. I submit that the Minister cannot speak at this stage, except to close the debate. Normally, a Minister rises and states his case, a debate ensues and then he replies to the debate. In his reply, he deals with any amendment that has been proposed to the original motion. I submit that the Minister should not be permitted to deal with the amendment at this stage.
– I rule that the Minister is entitled to speak to the amendment.
– The amendment proposes that all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting other words in their stead. The honorable member for Parkes knows that if the amendment were accepted, the bill would fall by the wayside. It would not be read a second time, and no money would be allocated for housing for a very long time. The amendment states -
This House is of the opinion that the moneys should be advanced to the States but the Government should call an immediate conference of the parties to the State Housing Agreement 1045.
That part of the amendment is antagonistic to the part that follows. If the House is of the opinion that these moneys should be advanced to the States, the bill must be passed very quickly, but if the amendment were carried, the bill would not be passed and the moneys would not be made available to the States. The amendment suggests also that the Government should call an immediate conference of the parties to the agreement. Doubtless the honorable member for Parkes realizes that at the present time not only this Parliament, but also practically every State parliament is in session and that the chance of an immediate conference of this kind is ‘very remote. In fact, one might say an immediate conference is impossible. Therefore, the acceptance of the amendment would not help us in any way. On the contrary, it would delay housing construction considerably during this financial year. The amendment goes on -
The Government should . . . announce its intention of carrying out the Commonwealth’s financial obligation under the agreement and endeavour to secure an amendment to the agreement which will enable tenants to buy their homes on easy terms, and which will secure a substantial reduction of the interest rate.
I am glad to see that at last the Labour party as a whole is in favour of people owning their own houses. That is a very pleasant variation of its previous policy. We are in agreement with that part of the amendment, which is in line with the policy that the Government parties have stated clearly for many years. The Government is not opposed to a conference of the kind suggested. That subject was raised at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and was discussed very fully. The Government does not disagree with the suggestion to hold a conference to discuss an alteration to the agreement, although it is doubtful whether that could be done before the agreement expires. The Government is certainly in favour of people being enabled to buy their houses on the easiest possible terms.
Although the amendment appears to be harmless, if it were accepted the bill would be thrown out and no money would be allocated to the States for housing. What good purpose would be served if that situation occurred? It is obvious that the Government cannot accept the amendment. It refuses to delay the distribution of the £37,000,000 which it has allocated for housing purposes this year and to hold up the housing programmes of the States. The honorable member for Parkes spoke about .a .breach of faith by this Government. Let me remind him that we are providing this year over £9.0 ,’000,000 for housing through this hill, the war service homes scheme and by other means. The Opposition has talked .about breach of faith, but it has moved an amendment, the .effect of which would be to stop the allocation of £37,000^000 to the .States to enable them to go on with their housing programmes.
– The amendment would not stop that allocation, as the Minister would realize if ho read the amendment. The amendment states that the House is of the opinion that the money should be advanced to the States.
– How could the money be advanced if we accepted an amendment that killed the bill which made provision for the advance to bc made? I am sorry that the honorable member for Parkes does not understand parliamentary procedure better than that, although he has been in this House for much longer than I have. His statements about a breach of faith by this Government reminds me very much of a .statement made by Mr. Olive Evatt at a housing commission conference that I attended .some time ago. The honorable member must have been briefed by the Premier of New South Wales. All his quotations and figures relate to New South Wales. There has been no breach of faith on the part of this Government. When .1 .attended .a -conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers as the representative of a State, the late Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, said, after a certain proposition had been put to the conference, “ Gentlemen, the vote is in the affirmative but the answer is in the negative “. Did the honorable member for Parkes consider that to be a breach of faith on the part of Mr. Chifley? Mr. Chifley was then Prime Minister and Treasurer. When a man holds those responsible .positions, he has to make certain decisions. This Government decided to make more money .available for housing. Taking inflation into consideration, more .money has been made available :f or that purpose and more houses have been built than was the case during the regime of the previous Government. The honorable member for Parkes has .said that .although more money has been granted, fewer houses have been built, because houses are more expensive now. In 1948-49, the number of houses and flats commenced was 60,’947, and in 1952-53 it was 65,532. Those figures do not relate only to State housing programmes. They relate to building generally. In 1948-49, 52,684 houses and flats were completed, and in 1952-53, 79,236. I know that inflation has -increased the price of houses, but I know also that, compared -with previous years, the number of houses and flats completed in Australia increased greatly last year. If I gave the figures for 1947, the year about which the honorable member -spoke, the comparison would be even more favorable to this -Government.
The honorable member has said that we have sabotaged the whole of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. If he regards sabotage as granting the States so much money that they can build more houses now ‘than they could under the regime of the previous Government, then we have sabotaged the agreement. The honorable member’s statement about sabotage was just as incorrect as his statement about interest Dates. The money that has been made available under the agreement has been made available at 3 per cent, interest, notwithstanding that the Commonwealth is entitled to charge the interest rate applicable to long-term Commonwealth loans. Once again, the honorable gentleman went .astray. The people who have briefed him have given him incorrect figures. He can check my statement wherever he likes, but he will find -that it is correct.
At the last conference of Commonwealth -and State Ministers there was a long discussion about the desirability of calling a conference of Housing Ministers. The Prime Minister discussed the matter with the Premiers at some length. He said that there was no need to sell bian or his ‘Government on the idea that people should be encouraged to ow,n their own houses. Be went on to say that that was common ground .and that this .Government believed very .strongly in home ownership. Then he pointed out that the terms of the agreement, including the provisions relating to the sale of houses, were drawn up, not by this Government but by another government, of which the honorable member for Parkes was a distinguished supporter. That Government was responsible for the terms of the existing agreement, but the honorable member for Parkes has condemned this Government for not altering those terms.
– The Minister is not interpreting the provisions of the agreement correctly.
– I am interpreting them correctly.
– You should have a yarn with-
– I will have a yarn with anybody you like. You were wrong about the interest rate, and you were wrong about sabotaging the agreement.
– Order ! The Minister must address the Chair, not the honorable member for Parkes. Exchanges across the table must cease.
– The honorable member for Parkes was wrong about sabotage and about the interest rate. He was wrong also in most of his caustic comments about the attitude of this Go- eminent to a conference to discuss an (.Iteration of the agreement. The Prime Minister explained very clearly to the Premiers that, if we were to have a conference on housing, it would be necessary, not only for the Commonwealth but also for the States to clarify their ideas and decide what alterations of the existing agreement they wished to be made or what they wanted to be included in a new agreement. He said that it would be useless to sit round a table and discuss the matter in wide and general terms. He suggested that the States should clarify their thoughts, as the Commonwealth was doing, and that just before the agreement expired, a conference could be held to discuss the sale of houses to tenants on easy terms and the provisions of any future agreement. He said that the intention of his predecessor was that the Commonwealth, while it would find the money for the building of these houses, would not enter into the business of financing their purchase. The previous Government therefore said that if the houses were to be sold they were to be paid for in cash by the States, and that the States were to arrange for their financing, whether under ordinary market terms and conditions or under special terms laid down by the State governments. The honorable member for Parkes was one of the men who drew up the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. He was in the Cabinet at that time-
– I was not a member of the Cabinet. The Minister appears to have promoted me before my time.
– Then perhaps the honorable member for Parkes should have been in the Cabinet. At any rate he was a very strong supporter of the then Cabinet, and agreed to the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement when it was put before the caucus of the time. Whether he was in the Cabinet, or whether he was merely a member of the caucus, he was certainly one of the people who approved the agreement in its present form. The number of houses sold under the agreement has not been very remarkable. Not many have been sold, and I do not believe that it was ever intended that many should be sold. The intention was that the agreement should be part of the socialist programme to encourage the renting of houses and not their ownership.
– That is not true.
– If that were not so, and my statement seems to be causing a lot of comment from the Opposition, then surely more houses would have been sold under the agreement than has actually been the case. Only 1,102 houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement have been sold in New South Wales. In Queensland, 37S have been sold ; in Western Australia, 1,412, and Victoria, 84. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, also said at the conference to which I have already referred that there were many aspects of this housing agreement which the then Government considered! to be most unsatisfactory. He said that it could not be put right in the last two or three years of the contract merely by dealing with one particular aspect, but it would have to be dealt with as a whole, and after due consideration by the States as well as the Commonwealth. He said that the then Government was examining the whole matter so that it would have some plans available as to what the future organization of the Commonwealth and the States in that field ought to be. Every one at that conference recognized that the matter was extremely complicated, and, moreover, no agreement was reached between the State Premiers themselves at the conference. It should be remembered that the agreement cannot be amended until it expires if the State Premiers do not agree among themselves to amend it.
Mr. Chifley also said that the attractiveness of any scheme would depend to a large extent on the rate of interest on the money that people believed they ought to pay in order to own their own homes. He pointed out that he had no desire to see any government become a universal landlord in either the Federal or the State sphere. He further said that his Government was taking a very active hand in the business of home ownership, and that more than 40 per cent, of the homes provided under the war service homes schemes had been provided in the preceding four years. He said that that was because the Commonwealth Government undertook the responsibility of finding the loan money. As Minister for the Interior, I have personal knowledge of the difficulties in the housing field that face us in Canberra, and although they are possibly of greater magnitude than most of the States have to face, nevertheless they indicate the nature of those common difficulties. The problem associated with adequate housing is not confined to Canberra, and it must be solved for the whole of Australia.
I could put other arguments before honorable members, but I do not think that I need take up any more of their time in discussing this measure. I believe that I have said enough to, show that the Government has no particular quarrel with the principles of the amendment except that it is impossible to hold an immediate conference. The Government cannot accept the first two lines of the amendment, because it requires this bill to be passed so that while State Premiers are deciding how they should amend the scheme and while the Commonwealth is also considering the matter, the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will continue in force. If the agreement should not continue, then there will not be merely a few persons out of employment as the honorable member for Parkes mentioned; there “will be large-scale unemployment because of the stoppage of all work under the Commonwealth and State housing schemes. For those reasons I have not been impressed with the arguments of the honorable member for Parkes, and the Government cannot accept the Opposition’s amendment.
Mr. Haylen. - I rise to make a personal explanation. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) stated that I misled the House about the rate of interest charged on houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. He said that I said that the rate of interest charged should have been 3 per cent, and not 4J per cent.
– No, I said that all moneys had been lent at 3 per cent.
– I said that each advance should 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 were being raised, at the date of any advance, then that advance should bear interest at the rate paid in respect of the longterm loan then being raised. They are practically the exact words that I used and consequently I say that the Commonwealth is bound by the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and that the Minister misrepresented me.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I did not misrepresent the honorable member for Parkes at all. I said that all advances under the agreement had been made at the rate of 3 per cent., although the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement entitled the States to charge longterm Commonwealth bond rates. If the honorable member took exception to thai. statement I am afraid that I cannot help it.
– The Minister said that I misrepresented the facts.
– The honorable member said that the interest rate had been raised, and it has not been raised.
.- Despite the statements made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) the Labour party has always supported the principle that the people should own their own homes. At various times misleading statements have been made by honorable members on the Government side to the effect that the Labour party is not in favour of home ownership. That is not correct, and it has never been correct in the history of the Labour party. No party has done more in the interests of home ownership than the Labour party, and t]ie records of this Parliament prove that quite clearly. Therefore, when this measure came before us to authorize the raising of £37,200,000 for housing purposes under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, honorable members on this side were of the opinion that the measure was capable of improvement. Our amendment seeks to improve the bill, and to carry further our objective of encouraging home ownership.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been of great assistance to people who wish to acquire their own homes, and the Minister himself has stated that thousands of people have taken advantage of it. The agreement has also been instrumental in housing a large number of people who in normal circumstances would have been forced to live in tents in various parks throughout Australia. They would have been forced into that position because, since the depression, private enterprise has failed to provide enough homes for- the people to rent. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) apparently wants this agreement to be scrapped, and the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has devoted about half of the total time that he has spent speaking in this House to criticizing government housing schemes. Judging by the enthusiastic reception of his speeches by supporters of the Government, there is a considerable body of, opinion on that side of the House in favour of scrapping the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The people of Australia should realize what such an attitude on the part of Government supporters might mean. If the agreement should be scrapped, the States would be forced to raise money on their own account because the Commonwealth loan-raising facilities would no longer be available to them. Of course, if the States had to raise the money very few houses would be built in the future, and that would have a very bad effect on housing schemes throughout the Commonwealth.
The Labour party has nailed its colours to the mast. We believe that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been successful, although the passage of time has demonstrated that it is capable of improvement. This amendment has been put before honorable members in an attempt to so improve it. Before the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Victorian housing authority, raising money through the Victorian Government, was able to build only 1,300 houses at a cost of £1,250,000 in the first five years before the agreement. However, from 1945 to 1953, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Victorian Government has been able to build 19,500 houses at a cost of about £53,000,000. Therefore, the Victorian people who have received assistance under this agreement have much for which to thank the last Labour Government.
Honorable members on the Government side have stated on numerous occasions that the housing authorities of the various States have proved to be failures and should be scrapped. I can say quite unequivocally that the Victorian Housing Commission has been an outstanding success. Although the State housing authorities would be the first to admit that there are certain anomalies in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and that because of those anomalies they cannot give ‘ the people the service that they wish to ‘give them, nevertheless those authorities have done outstanding work in housing the people. The Victorian State Housing Commission has done all that is possible under the existing legislation, and I should like to pay public tribute to the particularly fine job it ha3 done for those who found it extremely difficult to obtain houses. The Minister has put before us to-night the minutes of the conference held in Canberra in February, 1953, when the Victorian Government made certain representations to the Prime Minister in relation to tenants being able to purchase their own homes. I am satisfied that the policy of this Government is one of procrastination. It just cannot make up its mind whether or not it wants to alter the act along the lines suggested by the Victorian Premier. The reasons for that procrastination are not very difficult to find. It is because of the division within the ranks of Government supporters, many of whom want the agreement scrapped altogether. Therefore, the Victorian Government or other State governments that want to make the purchase of homes by tenants much easier than it is under present conditions cannot hope for much from this Government. The Labour party is the only party in this Parliament that has a worthwhile scheme for meeting the needs of prospective home purchasers.
When it made submissions to the conference in February, 1953, the Victorian Government said that it was prepared to guarantee the repayments of prospective purchasers, the tenants of to-day. If the purchasers defaulted in their hirepurchase payments over the years, the Commonwealth Government would lose nothing, because the State guaranteed that the instalments would be paid to the Commonwealth authority. At present, it is practically impossible for a tenant to buy a home unless he happens to inherit money. If a tenant wants to buy a housing commission home, his ability to obtain finance depends upon the current trend of the money market, and also on his possession of a substantial deposit. Under the Labour party’s proposals, it would be much easier for a tenant, be na use we propose a low deposit, and the money would be repaid over a number of years. The Victorian Housing Commission is in agreement with the proposal of the Labour party in this Parliament that tenants should own their own homes. The commission has another reason, and a very good one, for wishing to sell its houses, because the cost of maintaining its properties is continually increasing. Housing commission homes in Victoria are maintained at a high standard. They are repainted frequently and all the plumbing and other repairs are done promptly, but the maintenance bill is assuming very large proportions. Consequently, the Victorian Housing Commission, which is a very businesslike undertaking, wishes to ensure that the cost is kept to a minimum. Last year, it cost the Victorian Housing Commission £320,000 to maintain existing properties.
In Victoria, our experience in regard to the purchase of homes by tenants has not been very happy. Only 96 sales have been effected. It is imperative that ways and means should be found of increasing the number of house sales. The present position is simply crying out for reform. While this Government is in power, the present position will not be improved, because half of the honorable members opposite do not believe in a housing agreement. The position might be different if they were really sincere in their protestations that they stand for all sections of the community, and that they stand for home ownership. However, because of their opposition to the proposed amendment I do not think they do. This proposed amendment merely seeks to accelerate a policy that will enable the tenants to buy their own homes under an easy purchase plan. The Government should immediately discard its policy of inertia, and realize that there are many thousands of tenants who pay rent without the slightest prospect of ever owning their own homes. This system, which prevents a tenant from owning his own home, produces mass frustration and is insidious in its effect on individual and national morale. It is time the National Parliament reorientated its idea of housing and amended the agreement as proposed bv the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in order to provide every encouragement to the potential home-owner.
Another problem confronting the Victorian Housing Commission, and concerning which the Premier of Victoria made representations at the conference held here last February, relates to shop construction in housing areas. In Melbourne, at any rate, the housing commission developed large areas of land as housing settlements, in some cases comprising SOO or 1,000 homes, but they are far from the existing shopping facilities. The housewife is compelled to travel long distances in order to make purchases to maintain the home from day to day. In the planning of such areas sites have been reserved by the commission for shopping centres, but it has been possible to develop very few of those centres because State funds that were available at the inception of the agreement are now exhausted. If, as has been suggested in Victoria - but only half-heartedly, because even private enterprise is not very keen about it - private enterprise were allowed to develop these shopping centre reservations, further delay would be involved, and extreme difficulty would be experienced by the commission in ensuring a proper range of tradesmen to meet local needs. It would be difficult to ensure, also, that shops so erected would not be of a mixed design or subsequently neglected and thus constitute permanent blemishes within the estates. The housing commission informed the State Government of this difficulty. In my own electorate, I was called upon to explain to about 300 tenants of housing commission homes that the housing commission could not build shops to save their wives travelling up to distances of three miles to shopping centres. I had to explain also, that the Victorian Government, at the request of the housing commission, had made representations to the Commonwealth Government as to the admissibility under the .agreement of expenditure upon shopping centres, but the Commonwealth Government rejected it on the rigid interpretation of the agreement which makes no provision for shopping facilities, although they are a natural concomitant of any housing project. Certainly, the act should be amended to provide for shops in housing settlements, because at present great hardship is inflicted, particularly upon the housewife. The position in Victoria is very acute as a result of this rigid interpretation by the Commonwealth Government which prevents the Victorian Housing Commission from erecting shops on its estates. The problem has assumed serious proportions, and there is great discontent amongst the tenants of very many settlements. For example, the settlements at Heidelberg, Maidstone, Ashburton, North Jordanville, East Reservoir and East Preston are crying out for shopping centres. I suggest that, without drifting very far from even the most rigid interpretation of the agreement, the problem of the development of these shopping centre reservations could be solved by the erection by the housing commission of two or even three story structures with lock-up shops on the ground floor and flats let to tenants in the normal way on the upper floors. In this way the residential purpose of the buildings would be retained to a very considerable degree, whilst at the same time catering for local shopping needs.
The housing commission in Victoria has not been able to satisfy quite a number of people. I understand that there are about 14.000 or 15,000 people whose names are on the housing commission books who have not yet received much satisfaction. It is quite easy to understand just why those numbers are very high, because the greatest obstacle to people acquiring their own homes, metaphorically speaking, under their own steam, is the high rent or purchase price required. Present home prices have risen by 350 per cent, to 400 per cent, above those of 1939. In that same period, the basic wage has risen by 212 per cent., retail price’s have risen by 146 per cent., and food prices have risen by 192 per cent. As I mentioned, home prices have increased between 350 and 400 per cent. The intending home purchaser who wants to purchase a house without the assistance of any government-constituted authority such as the War Service Homes Commission, finds that the loans for building have not kept pace with the steady rise in the cost of living. In 1939, the State Savings Bank in Victoria allowed a maximum loan of £1,500 for a house. To-day, it is only £2.000, an increase of 33^ per cent. The War Service Homes Commission allowed £950 in 1939. It now allows £2,750, an increase of 190 per cent, on the 1939 figures, but even that is not enough, because to-day the intending home purchaser finds that the cost of an average two-bedroom timber or veneer suburban villa is between £2,650 and £3,500. With the cost of fencing and paving and the cost of land, the price of the house and its surroundings jumps to between £3,000 and £4,000.
In Victoria, as in quite a number of other States, there are co-operative bousing schemes, but they have received absolutely no assistance because of the credit restriction policy of this Government. In Victoria, the maximum amount that home-builders can borrow under the cooperative housing scheme is only £2,400. Therefore, if they want to build a house they have to provide a deposit of £1,000 in hard cash, as well as provide for furniture. It can be seen that it is practically impossible under existing conditions for a young couple to commence the battle of life without considerable difficulty . If they do get a home under the conditions I have mentioned, when they pay back the loan in weekly instalments and pay rates, insurance, and perhaps pay for roadmaking and sewerage, they must find at least £5 a week. That means that, with an average wage of £15, the modern home-builder must be prepared to pay between 25 per cent, and 35 per cent, of his wages in liquidating his debts. That figure is far in excess of the 15 per cent, which was regarded as a safe maximum prior to the war. Those are frightening figures, and they show in no unmistakable manner why the housing commission in Victoria has such a large number of applicants, because it is not possible for the ordinary person to get a house by any other method. He must first obtain a loan. That was comparatively easy during the administration of the Chifley Government, but to-day, because of the credit restriction policy applied by this Government, it is a difficult, slow and frustrating business. The borrowings of the co-operative housing societies in Victoria reveal how difficult it is to secure finance for home building notwithstanding the fact that the borrowings of these organizations are authorized by the Government. In the year ended the 30th June, 1951, the co-operative housing societies of Victoria borrowed for the purposes of their members £6,250,000. For the financial year ended the 30th
June, 1952, they borrowed £6,525,000, but in the year ended the 30th June, 1953, they were able to borrow only £5,050,000. The borrowings were reduced as a direct result of the credit restriction policy applied by this Government. The figures recently published by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Carver, make one shudder at the future of housing in Australia. To say the least they are most disquieting. Mr. Carver stated that 64,457 houses were commenced during 1952-53, which represented a fall of almost 20 per cent, from the 80,000 houses commenced in 1951-52. That decline was the direct result of the maladministration of this Government in applying its vicious credit restriction policy. Mr. Carver also said that 76,000 houses were completed during 1952-53, or 1,289 fewer than in the preceding year, and that the number under construction at the end of June, 1953, was 70,891, or 12,187 fewer than at the 30th June, 1952: Surely the Government cannot be pleased with those figures. It is merely paying lip service to the ideal of home ownership. The figures I have cited conclusively prove that its much-vaunted solicitude for the potential home owner is so much eye wash.
Not only has the number of homes built in Australia decreased as the result of the policy applied by this Government, but also the number of persons engaged in the home-building industry has considerably dropped. According to the Commonwealth Statistician 99,611 persons were engaged in the building industry at the 30th June, 1953, compared with 114,900 in the preceding year and 123,000 at the 30th June, 1951. The future of the industry will be very black indeed if the Government continues its credit restriction policy. The Government is forcing building workers out of the industry because its credit restriction policy prevents intending home purchasers from building homes. The Housing Commission of Victoria, is facing extreme difficulty because of the high rents it has to charge to many of its tenants. Building costs have risen very considerably as the direct result of trieGovernment’s inability to control inflation. According to a brochure issued by the Victorian Housing Commission rentals fixed during the quarter ended the 30th June, 1953, were as follows:–
The commission is very perturbed about these high rentals. It realizes that many people who have been living under deplorable conditions for years cannot afford to take the opportunity of securing a housing commission house because of the high rent charged. The commission desired to find a method of reducing rentals. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement rents are calculated in accordance with a formula set out in the first schedule to the agreement. Thu formula contains six items, only one of which is constant, namely, annual amortization, which is the amount which the housing authority is required to pay annually at the appropriate loan interest rates on the capital cost of the dwelling over 53 years. The remaining five items are dependent upon conditions which are outside the control of the Commonwealth. As the sole revenue of the Victorian Housing Commission is obtained from rents, which are calculated in accordance with the formula, no reduction of rent can be made unless it is accompanied by a reduction of the commitments of the commission. The commission has made representations to the Commonwealth that the period of the amortization allowance be extended from 53 to 73 years. If that were done the rental of a house which is now fixed at 40s. a week could be reduced to 37s. 5d., and a rental of 60s. could be reduced to 56s. Id. a week. These are not large reductions, but they would constitute a move in the right direction and would be of some value to the tenants who experience difficulty in paying the high rents required of them. The Victorian Government has submitted a very good case to the Commonwealth urging that the amortization period be extended to 73 years. The period of 53 years was originally fixed as the estimate of the life of a house, but events have shown since the agreement was made in 1945 that the life of a house may be considerably extended by proper maintenance and repair. The houses owned by the Victorian Housing Commission are maintained at almost 100 per cent, efficiency. The commission expended more than £300,000 on maintenance work alone last year. Thus, depreciation is but a very minor item and the amortization period might well be extended to 73 years.
– Has the honorable member any figures to show how maintenance costs compare with the rent paid by the tenants?
– No. The commission has assured me that maintenance costs are increasing, but that it regards such expenditure as good business and it is confident that the houses which it has erected will last for possibly much longer than 73 years.
We should make a concerted effort to reduce house construction costs. The Victorian Housing Commission has shown laudable endeavour in that direction. It is always looking for better and more economic methods of construction. Recently the commission built a new group of flats with pre-cast floor slabs and load bearing walls. I am assured by the commission that this innovation will result in a reduction of rental of the flats from £3 lis. to £3 6s. a week. The commission is adopting the very latest construction methods.
Another grouch that the Victorian Government has against the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is that it is unable to obtain sufficient money to provide for slum clearance. The Victorian Housing Commission has commenced the rebuilding of a slum area .in Fitzroy.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It was interesting to hear the extraordinary remarks that were made by Opposition members on the subject of housing, particularly when one realizes that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which was so extensively discussed by the two Opposition members who have spoken on the bill to-night waa the direct product of the Labour party and that it was intended to provide money for the creation of a tenant community. When the agreement was first proposed by the Chifley Government it was challenged by the then Opposition. The bill to give effect to the agreement was piloted through this House, by none other than the well-known socialist, Mr. Dedman, who then occupied the position of Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. When the then Opposition challenged Mr. Dedman on the question of home-ownership he replied in the phrase which has become known to every person in Australia, “We do not want the people to become a nation of little capitalists “. That statement is on record and cannot be denied by Opposition members, no matter how they may try to wriggle out of it. The Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) has very effectively replied to the amendment so proposed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). We see nothing obnoxious in the proposal that a conference of Commonwealth and State representatives be held to consider the agreement and in the people who are now tenants becoming the owners of their own homes. Indeed, that is in complete accord with the ideals of this Government. But to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parkes would be completely foolish. I do not know whether the honorable member realizes that money for the housing programme comes from loan funds and that the amounts allocated to the States for that purpose were agreed to by the State Premiers at meetings of the Australian Loan Council. To all intents and purposes the amounts allocated were the amounts approved by the State Premiers themselves.
I do not think that it is necessary to reply in detail to the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) because obviously neither of them know very much about the housing problem. Indeed, the honorable member for Parkes knew so little about it that he read almost the whole of his speech. Both honorable members merely repeated the parrot cry of the States. The housing agreement and the position in which we find ourselves to-day in relation to it is the visible evidence of a hangover from the previous Labour Government’s socialist orgy. The honorable member for Parkes paid me the compliment of repeating statements which I have made in connexion with housing in Australia and the application of this agreement. I have repeated those statements over and over again ever since J have been a member of this House. In every speech I have made on housing I have urged the Government to cancel or alter this obnoxious agreement. I make no secret of the fact that I believe that it is most dangerous and objectionable. I shall give honorable members some examples of the inherent dangers of the agreement. First, it is a most powerful instrument that one could imagine to bring about complete socialism. Secondly, it creates a frustration to home ownership and encourages irresponsible citizenship. Thirdly, it discourages personal expression and pride in family life and ultimately lowers the national standard of housing. Fourthly, it places private citizens at a complete disadvantage to compete with the State governments in the acquisition of land, the supply of building material, the provision of services and the employment of labour. Fifthly, it creates an atmosphere of insecurity in the investment of private capital in real estate and building. Sixthly, it is wasteful and uneconomic and places an unknown liability upon the taxpayers. Seventhly, the provision of and commitment for large sums of money for renting projects by the States curtails the availability of finance to assist home ownership. Eighthly, in the hands of unscrupulous Labour governments it can, and has in fact, been used for manipulation of electorates and for preferential party political purposes, and finally if the agreement is allowed to continue over a number of years, the State Government organization that provides maintenance for these properties will, by reason of the conditions of the agreement, be immense and cause colossal losses to the nation. Those facts are sufficient to show that this is a very dangerous agreement. Only a year ago the Labour party in this Parliament and in all the States was full of praise of the achievements of the agreement and of the State housing commissions that were established under it. While the Opposition was sounding these praises, however, the housing position in Australia was becoming progressively worse. I shall not deal with the position in Queensland at length, because the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) will no doubt deal with that subject, but it is public knowledge that the Queensland Housing Commission, particularly in relation to its handling of prefabricated houses with money provided under the agreement, has -engaged in action that is little short of a public scandal. Only recently the New South Wales Government appointed a special committee to investigate the operations of the New South Wales Housing Commission, and was shocked by the state of affairs disclosed by the investigation.
– That is nothing new.
– I admit that it is nothing new. It was such a shock to the Labour Government in New South Wales that it is completely divided about what it ought to do with this socialist baby. Some members of the New South Wales Government want to hand the Housing Commission’s activities over to the Rural Bank, and others want to hand it over to the State Department of Public Works. Still others want them abandoned altogether. The investigation disclosed that there was a backlog of more than 33,000 unsatisfied applications for Housing Commission homes. While that backlog has been in existence the commission has been wasting money in . resuming land unnecessarily, and it has been stated that it is holding, in subdivided and unsubdivided areas, up to 50,000 lots. Cumbersome overhead and the general cost structure have reached a stage at which it is impossible for the people who are offered such homes, after having waited for them for a long time, to pay the rents that the commission is obliged to charge. The committee disclosed that the commission expects to finish 900 homes in the next six months, but that 540 of them would have to be rented to people who are now in housing settlements, and only 360 could be made available to meet the backlog of 33,000 unsatisfied applications.
The honorable member for Parkes mentioned the great block containing 309 flats which the New South Wales Housing Commission has built at Milson’s Point in Sydney. That block will cost more than £1,250,000 and the rents that will be asked for one-bedroomed flats will be as much as £4 a week. The New South Wales Government has made regulations to prevent families with children from occupying such flats. It is little wonder, therefore, that there is at present a demand for the amendment of this piece of socialistic legislation. The New South Wales Auditor-General recently disclosed that the losses incurred by the New South Wales Housing Commission had reached the colossal total of £1,228,923. No wonder the people are revolting against the operation of this socialist measure and against the socialist idea of building houses. Because housing is a politically popular subject and because the Labour party knows that this Government stands for home-ownership and will no doubt do something about it before the expiration of this agreement, we have heard ceaseless propaganda from all over Australia in the last six months about housing. We should not forget that this agreement is the brain child of the Labour party, and that all that this bill seeks to do is to give effect to the agreement, which does not terminate until 1956, ten years after it was adopted. That is the only reason I shall vote for the measure. But now we have our Cahills, our Cains, and our Gairs in the various States crying out to the Commonwealth that they want to finance the sale to the tenants of housing commission homes. They have been a long time thinking about it, and have done very little about it. I challenge their sincerity, and the sincerity of the Labour party generally, in regard to that matter. The facts do not justify the claim that the State Labour governments wish to sell these homes to the tenants, but show that since the inception of the agreement the total amount of money expended, excluding the amount this bill provides for, is more than £141,000,000. More than 57,000 houses have been built by the various States. Each State has said from time to time that it would sell these properties to the tenants, but in New South Wales only 4.5 per cent, of the properties built by the Housing Commission have been sold.
– The sales cannot be’ financed under present conditions.
– I shall deal with that matter presently. In Victoria, which is under a Labour government also, only 44 per cent, of the properties built by the Victorian Housing Commission have been sold to the tenants. Queensland has done a- little better, with 6.6 per cent. The comparable figure in Western Australia which, until a year ago, was under a Liberal government, is 20 per cent. The South Australian Premier was wise enough to disdain to take any money under this agreement, and established a housing trust to deal with the housing problem, and in that State 53 per cent, of the properties built by the government agency have been sold to the tenants.
Those figures prove my contention that the protestations of the Labour party regarding this matter are not sincere. It has no intention, other than to achieve what political value it derives, to try to make Housing Commission tenants homeowners. Its original idea, which is also its ultimate idea, is nothing less than to produce a nation of government tenants who will be subservient to the State. That is its aim. We can see plenty of evidence of the Labour party running away from its traditional socialist principles, and no greater example of it can be found than the example of housing. The figures I have given are most illuminating. I wonder when the people will wake up to the gigantic fraud that has been put over them by the Labour party in respect of housing.
– The honorable member was guilty of that as a member of the Sydney County Council.
– I shall not waste my time replying to the interjection of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue). Because of the Labour party’s false economic doctrine the various States are responsible very largely for the present housing shortage. The honorable member for Parkes has talked a great deal about the shortage, and it seems to me that the Labour party has the idea that the shortage can only be cured by building more houses. Does it know what the shortage really is?
Does it know why tens of thousands of” people are homeless? It is not prepared to get down to fundamental matters. It talks airily about building houses asthough that were the only cure for theproblem. There are other cures.
The Labour party has the sole responsibility for the situation that exists to-day. In 1947 a census was held and it disclosed that the population of Australia was 7,579,358. The number of dwellings was- 1,879,204 excluding hotels, guest houses and other forms of accommodation that people use. An analysis of those figures discloses that in 1947, fewer than four people were occupying each dwelling in Australia. That is not an unreasonable number. There was no shortage of houses in 1939. The principal problem that affected housing in that year was the number of substandard houses that existed,, particularly in the bigger cities of Australia. Since 1947, 425,000 houses havebeen built in Australia and the population! has increased by about 1,300,000. The accommodation that has been built between 1947 and 1953 is sufficient to provide, onan average, housing for 3.06 persons to each house. That is quite reasonable, and statistics show that if every home unit was occupied to its capacity there would be no great shortage of homes in Australia. The fact is that the apparent shortage is brought about by maladjustment and maldistribution of population caused by the insidious controls that were exercised and imposed by the Australian Labour party. As a result, the country is in a pickle and tens of thousands of young married couples are walking the streets looking for homes. These facts can be ascertained by anybody who really wants to know the truth.
In 1939 when World War II. began, certain controls were enforced including rent pegging. Most of those properties are still rented and are still under control, but the distribution of persons occupying them has changed materially. That has been brought about by the general movement that takes place in families as a result -of marriages, births, deaths and transfers. The majority of rented homes throughout Australia have fewer persons living in them now than they had in 3939. A minority of the houses have more people living in them, but generally ft maladjustment of accommodation is evident. Nobody who occupies a rented cottage that is still subject to control ever gives it up even if only one person lives in it where one lived before or vice versa, because they dare not lose it. That is the result of the obnoxious controls that exist in Victoria and New South Wales in particular.
Another type of housing accommodation consists of the owner-occupied houses that are not subject to controls. They are affected by the same vital changes in the disposition of families as time passes. A house that was not subject to control in 1939 could not possibly be let now to the satisfaction of the owners. No one will let such houses because they will not subject themselves to existing controls. In all the suburbs of the capital cities and throughout Australia there are numbers of homes that have always been owner-occupied. The accommodation in many of them is not occupied to 25 per cent, of their capacity because of controls. An authoritative calculation indicates that 70,000 more families throughout Australia could find homes if the housing that is available could be adjusted properly to the requirements of the people. I make it clear to honorable members that I arn not advocating an arbitrary removal of rent controls in their present form. That would cause a great deal of difficulty and much injustice to certain persons who are not able to pay the rents that would be asked, but the matter could be adjusted gradually within the economy. No harm would be done if rent controls were removed immediately from all new buildings and all old buildings that were not previously subject to controls. If those controls were removed, the use of those buildings would be obtained. If that action is not taken, the dwellings will not be available for the people generally. No new dwellings for rental will be built.
Another problem associated with housing is the financing of houses by the issue of new money. The idea has been held by all governments and by those within this Government that new money should be applied to new homes and that preferential treatment should be afforded that class of housing finance. That has I lie effect of freezing the free transfer of existing homes to such a point that it has had a detrimental effect upon the building industry and the proper use of homes. All those factors are operating against the welfare of the people. If the housing problem is to be solved and, if the building industry is to be stabilized and costs reduced, those objects will be attained only by the free transfer of all real estate in a competitive market and the restoration of confidence in private investment. Unless that is done the housing problem will not be cured except by a socialist State.
It is of no use to cry that the problem cannot be solved. All that is required is an honest approach to the problem by the Australian Government and the State governments together. The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, urged recently that this matter should be taken out of the realm of party politics. 1 agree that housing is too important to be made the subject of party political argument. The happiness of many people is at stake and so also is the future of this country. It is time that the Commonwealth and the States approached the problem honestly together. I believe that a pledge should be given by all governments that every citizen shall be given the inalienable right and opportunity to own his own home. That is the most worthwhile charter that could be given to the people. It can be done if we have courage and longsightedness. I believe that a national housing fund should be established as part of the activities of the Commonwealth Bank and that it should make money available to the people for home ownership at a low rate of interest.
– How low ?
– Not more than 3 per cent, and 2i per cent, if possible over a long term of years so that the finance would reach the people directly, not through housing commissions and State governments, but through agencies that had contact with the people, such as the building society movement throughout Australia, which was initiated by a nonLabour Premier, Sir Bertram Stevens, and has done magnificent work. It is not fully developed in States outside New South Wales, but it could be one of the agencies to provide money for the people. I emphasize at once that I should not agree in any circumstances to the States being appointed the constructing authorities because, above all, the people must have a free choice to decide where they shall live and the kind of home they shall have. That is of great importance if we wish to preserve the proper freedom of the people. Only in that way can justice be done.
As a first step, there should be a national conference on housing. However, before the conference is held, the Premiers and the representatives of the Australian Government should obtain the advice of experts who are familiar with housing problems. I am afraid that many individuals at the head of affairs in the States - I do not want to mention names - are ignorant of matters in relation to housing with which they are required to deal. Often, when they speak at conferences on the national housing problem, they do not know what they are talking about. The housing problem should be discussed in complete honesty. A conference to deal with specific difficulties that have arisen should be called at the earliest possible moment because the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement cannot be effectively amended unless the relationships between the Commonwealth and the States are completely overhauled. Many matters are at fault under the housing agreement, and these must be set right. There is much more at stake than the sale of Housing Commission homes. “We are in agreement on that point. There is no dispute about it. The governments of Australia should ascertain at a national conference the means by which widspread home-ownership can he made possible under conditions that people can afford to meet. There should be a frank discussion at the conference of the fundamental causes of the obvious but, not necessarily real housing shortage. The delegates should get down to tin-tacks and ascertain the full facts. Finally, there should he a proper uniformity of approach by the States to existing controls. The present system should be examined with a view to inducing confidence in the investing public. Unless this is done, our housing problems will never be satisfactorily solved. I sincerely trust that Ministers who take part in such a conference will obtain expert advice from men who thoroughly understand the subject of housing and its associated difficulties. The Ministers themselves are likely to get right off the track unless they heed such advice.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Two honorable gentlemen on the Government side of the House have participated in this debate. The first to speak was the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes), who did not speak with very great conviction on this subject. All one needs to point out about his administration of the portfolio is that he held it for no more than a year before its title was changed from that of Works and Housing to Works. This was because his first year of office nearly coincided with the conclusion of the first financial year in which the present Government so gravely flouted, defied and broke the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was inaugurated under a Labour government in 1945. The other honorable gentleman, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), I concede, spoke with great conviction. He spoke with all the conviction and frustration suffered by people in his trade who have been baulked and irked by the fact that housing commissions result in fewer commissions for the sale of land and fewer continuing commissions for the collection of rent. He referred to a nation of tenants. That aptly describes the condition of this nation before World War II. One of the most significant social changes of the last decade has been the increase of the proportion of home-owners in Australia, which has been a direct result of the policy of Labour governments in making finance readily available for those who want to build homes and finance them over the course of their working years. We believe that it has been a desirable change.
If there are to be landlords in Australia, the inevitable tendency is that they shall be public instrumentalities, and public instrumentalities alone. The day of the private landlord is gone. Private enterprise has failed. It did not provide decent and economic housing for the people.
– Socialism !
– If the provision under a public guarantee of adequate opportunities for people to build their own homes is socialism, I believe that that form of socialism commands the support of 90 per cent, of Australians. The honorable member for Bennelong used such grandiloquent terms as “ this obnoxious agreement “, “ this dangerous scheme “, and “ this gigantic fraud “. But, in the four undistinguished and frustrated years that h(! has spent in this Parliament, he has (lone his part, perhaps unwillingly, to perpetuate this obnoxious agreement and to perpetrate this gigantic fraud, lie is in the same position as were his predecessors in 1945 when the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act was passed. They criticized but did not venture to vote against it. Honorable members on the Government side of the House have never done anything to provide housing for the people. They believe that private investors should provide bousing. If the honorable member for Bennelong is sincere in his criticism of this measure, he can easily do his part to bring the housing agreement to an end. Or has he not enough influence with honorable members on that side of the chamber to achieve that result?
This agreement can be put to an end by twelve months’ notice by any of the States, or by the Commonwealth itself. This is made plain by section 16 of the First Schedule to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945. If twelve months’ notice is given, no public housing project started after the end of that period can be financed under the agreement. Tasmania gave notice four years ago, and it has not drawn any funds under the agreement since August, 1950, It was done by that State, and it can be done by any other State or by the Commonwealth. But the present regime lacks the courage to end tin’s agreement. Instead, it wants to freeze it and restrict it by failing to carry out its provisions.
A few months ago the Government, guaranteed the Victorian Government that sufficient funds would be . found to erect an Olympic village in the financial year 1955-56 which will be the last year of operation of this agreement if it runs its normal course. In effect, all that the Government did. was to undertake that it would carry out its obligations to the Victorian Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. If these houses were to bo used as public housing the Commonwealth was pledged to provide the money for their construction under clause 6 of the agreement. But the Victorian Government was wise to seek that undertaking from the Government in view of the record of the Government during the last two financial years and in thi? financial year.
The honorable member for Bennelong referred with some satisfaction to the Government of South Australia, the only surviving Liberal Government in the Australian States. A novel feature of this bill is that it provides for an advance by the Australian Government to the South Australian Government of money under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act. Although the South Australian Government entered into the agreement in 1945, together with the other five States, it has never operated under the agreement. After some years of experience of conducting its own building enterprise, the Housing Trust, the South Australian Government has found itself unable to continue without Commonwealth assistance. So the only surviving Liberal Government in Australia has had to take advantage of this agreement.
The advisability of State governments abandoning rent control and restriction on evictions was also mentioned by the honorable member for Bennelong. It is an extraordinary fact that of the three Liberal Premiers in Australia at the beginning of the year, and of the Liberal leaders of the Opposition in the State parliaments, not one has ever fought an election on such a policy. The honorable member for Bennelong can advocate that policy hero because he is not in a position to carry it out. He knows that bis own ilk in the State parliaments never espouse it. They would not have the courage to fight an election on such a policy. It is well known that the restriction of evictions and the control of rents has benefited Liberal voters as much as it has benefited Labour voters. Liberal voters, whether they have houses and shops in the suburbs or rooms in the city, have the occupancy of their premises secured by the landlord and tenant legislation of the various States and they rejoice in the opportunity of having to pay only prewar rentals. Liberal businessmen would be the first to object if any Liberal party leader advocated the removal of rent controls and the removal of restrictions on evictions. Surely that is the test of the sincerity of the honorable member for Bennelong on this subject.
I shall now indicate the breaches of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which have been committed by the Government. In 1951-52, the State of Victoria claimed and, under clause 6 of this agreement, was entitled to receive £16,000,000 for public housing. The present Government refused to give the Victorian Government more than £9,000,000. In the same year, the State of New South Wales sought, and should have received under the agreement £14,000,000. It was given £S,500,000. In the last financial year the States asked for £47,000,000. They said that they could spend that amount and therefore they were entitled to it under the agreement. The Government fobbed them off with £30,000,000. In this financial year the States have asked for and are entitled to receive £50,300,000, and they have been fobbed off with £37,200,000. Honorable members will notice that this year the South Australian Government will receive £4,500,000 under the agreement. That allocation will reduce the amount available to the other four States - New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia- to £32,700,000, which is only £2,700,000 more than they received in the previous year and which represents the smallest increase that the Government has ever made in allowances under the agreement. It is the smallest proportional increase that has been made in any of the eight years in which the agreement has been in force. It is plain that the Government has broken this agreement. The right honorable and learned Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the honorable and learned Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who passed through the chamber a few minutes ago in such splendid regalia, and the honorable and learned member’ for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) will not deny that fact. They are tongue-tied because the agreement has been breached.
South Australia will not fare very well in this, the first year that it has benefited from the agreement. It asked for £5,000,000 and will receive £4,500,000. New South Wales asked for £17,900,000 and will receive £12,450,000. Victoria asked for a similar amount and will receive £12,000,000. Queensland asked for £5,400,000 and will receive £4,500,000. Western Australia asked for £4,125,000 and will receive £3,750,000. The States asked for those amounts at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council. The Minister for Works said in his second-reading speech that these allocations had been approved at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council. This matter has nothing to do with the Australian Loan Council. The Commonwealth is bound by an agreement to provide this money and the Minister has merely endeavoured to evade the issue by stating that the matter was approved at the meeting of the Australian. Loan Council. If the Government does not like this agreement it can put an end to it. However, this subject was considered at the Australian Loan Council meeting, where the Commonwealth CoordinatorGeneral of Works reported on it and stated that the States could carry out works to the value of £284,000,000 if they could obtain the necessary finance. He recommended the approval of that sum. He said - ‘
Funds arc sought primarily to meet commitments and to enable work in progress to continue. Works in progress require £210,071,000 in the coming financial year an;l continuance of housing, even at the present tempo, involves a measurable quantity of new works.
The Commonwealth Co-ordinator-General of Works recommended the allocation of £2S4,000,000 to the States for housing and other works. The Government will allow the States only £200,000,000. It has reduced the allocation for housing from £50,300,000 to £37,200,000.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following papers were pre- sented : -
Australian National University Act - Report of the Council for period 1st July, 1051, to 31st December, 1951.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 85.
Defence Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 87.
Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property ) Regulations- Order - Inventions and designs.
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 86.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
CivilAviation - I. D. Odgers.
Postmaster-General - T. A. Birtwistle,
R. E. Bogner, S. J. Catravas, R. B. Farr, L. J. Gleeson, R. F. Hempel, R. M. Hislop, R. L. Hopkins, R. R. Hulbert, B. Ray, L. H. Say, J. R. Walklate, C. Wilhelm, J. D. Young.
House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
i asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information : -
Section 65 (4.). - The two members of an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, other than the Chairman, shall be selected in the prescribed manner from lists of medical practitioners approved by the Minister.
Regulation 47. - From the lists of medical practitioners approved from time to time by the Minister under section 65 of the act, the Chairman of an Assessment Appeal Tribunal shall select, as members of such tribunal, two medical pr actitioners who have the necessary knowledge of the nature of the disability from which the appellant or appellants is or are suffering.
News and Information Bureau.
n asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Thi; details do not include staff who provide the normal office services. -. Four. Tins figure does not include staff who have left, who provide normal office services.
n asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
Will the Government make available - ( 1 ) the report on the .then projected programme of the Victorian State Electricity Commission made by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Power prior to 1951, did (2) tho report of the Commonwealth Hank on the application of the State Electricity Commission for special assistance in 1952-53!
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
N asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - On the 15th September, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr.
Wentworth) asked the following question : -
Is the Prime Minister aware that a technical report was recently presented to the Congress of the United States of America regarding the possibility of producing newsprint from residues left after the extraction of sugar from sugar cane? If the Prime Minister is aware of this report will he have it examined by thu Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial liesearch Organization with a view to ascertaining whether its conclusions are adaptable to Australian conditions?
I now advise um honorable member as follows : -
I presume that the report referred to was a statement made by the Secretary of Commerce (United States) and reported on page 4924 of Chemical and Engineering News of the 24th November, 1952, which reviewed investigations into the manufacture of newsprint. These investigations were made at the request of the Anti-Trust Sub-Committee of the House Judiciary Committee. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has seen the statement and has reported on the possibilities of the project from an Australian viewpoint. The United States Bureau of Standards studied seven existing procedures including four preparatory processes for the manufacture of paper from bagasse. The work was carried to pilot plant stage and the newsprint produced was used by the United States Government Printing Office to run 100 copies of a sample issue of the Congressional Record. The samples were considered satisfactory by a panel of newsprint executives of leading newspapers. Production costs, including costs of raw material, electric power, steam and chemicals were estimated to be about 1.0 per cent, lower than the corresponding figure for newsprint made from wood. The De La Ron process produced a satisfactory paper and the other processes showed promise for successful development. Newsprint is produced to-day on high-speed paper machines usually operating in the region of 1,500 feet per minute. The requirements for such1 high speed operation are exacting and during the process of formation of the paper, particularly when it is in the wet web form, careful control must be exercised. It was therefore felt necessary to cany out further investigations into the producing of bagasse newsprint on a standard paper machine at commercial speeds and its use in fast runs on a standard newspaper press at economic speeds. It is also considered necessary to study more carefully the economic factors affecting availability of bagasse in the United States and its territories, including demand, storage, falling and transportation of the raw material. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is watching the development of bagasse newsprint with interest,- but it is considered that further development overseas would be necessary before the installation of plant in Australia should be contemplated. Until a larger measure of success is achieved overseas the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization does not think it desirable to spend time investigating in Australia such matters as availability of bagasse for newsprint, cost of replacement of bagasse by other fuels and other facts affecting the cost of the raw material. The position regarding surplus bagasse has changed appreciably over the last few years in some areas due to the introduction of different ‘ types of nane, and further changes could easily take place before it is necessary to consider the installation of an actual plant producing newsprint from bagasse. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is taking steps to see that it is kept fully informed of overseas developments in this respect.
On the 15th September, the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) asked the following question : -
The question that I wish to ask the Prime Minister relates to his promise to investigate a report made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to the honorable member for Mackellar. I assume that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization would not make a report on a subject without furnishing all the facts. I ask the Prime Minister to find out whether the report furnishes an estimate of the cost to the millers and the growers t.li rough the loss of the bagasse as a fuel. I ask him to ascertain what the cost would be to the millers of completely altering the boilers in order to use other forms of fuel.
I refer the honorable member to the answer I have made this day to a similar question asked by the honorable member for Mackellar.
s. - On the 2nd October ‘ the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) asked the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government will re-consider the terms of the current Commonwealth loan? The terms of the loan provide for the issue of long-term and abort-term investment, but in the case of the short-term loan the minimum amount that may be invested is’ £1,000. Many persons are prepared to subscribe to the short-term loan, at the lower rate of interest, because they do not want to tie up their money for a long period. Will the Government consider reducing the minimum subscription, to the short-term loan from £1,000 to £100 at the same rate of interest?
I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
All short-term issues of public loans raised since 1947 have been subject to the condition that the minimum subscription is £1,000. It was evident, from analysis of the results of short-term issues prior to that date, that short- term securities did not appeal to small investors and that printing of bonds of the smaller denominations was not warranted. Therefore, the minimum subscription for shortterm issues after the date stated was fixed at £1,000 with the approval of the Australian Loan Council. This limitation can, of course, be removed or modified by the Loan Council, and is in fact already under review, but it is now too late to do anything in this direction in connexion with the public loan now open.
s. - On the 1st October, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) asked the following question: -
Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement on the refusal of the Capital Issues Board to approve of a capital issue to a coal company in the Lithgow district which desires to mechanize and extend its operations? If the Prime Minister is not in a position to make a statement on the matter at present, will he cause inquiries to be made, with the object of providing an adequate answer to be made to the charge that coal development in the western New South Wales district is being retarded by lack of finance?
It appears that the inquiry relates to a certain company formed in 1951 and which applied for permission to raise capital for expansion of coal production in the Lithgow district. The Capital Issues Board deferred a decision pending production of evidence that the proposal had the approval of the Joint Coal Board. Up to date such evidence has not been forthcoming and, accordingly, no formal decision has been given by the Capital Issues Board.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In explanation of the increase in .staff during the period it might be pointed out that the board’s staff had been reduced during the war and in 1946 had not been adjusted’ to its postwar task.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Government .Loans and Finance.
z asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. In October, 1047, the Jondaryan Shire Council purchased through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, for £6,000, a 157,000-gallon water storage tank, water mains, pump houses and equipment associated with fivebores, less the bore casing, sewage treatment works and sewerage mains on the Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome at Oakey, Queensland. The estimated cost of the installations was £40,000. Under the conditions of sale, the council provides water and sewerage services to buildings purchased by the State Government and such similar services as required on the aerodrome site by the Department of Civil Aviation. Ownership of the bores was retained by the Commonwealth, but the council, by reason of the sale, has the right to draw water from the bores. The council is at present arranging with my department to obtain easements over Commonwealthowned land for pipe lines and the sewage treatment works.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 October 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531013_reps_20_hor1/>.