21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Was the Government prompted to intervene in the present margins case only because the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration had previously expressed a view that could be construed as meaning that but for economic considerations a prima facie case for the re-assessment of margins existed? If so, will the Minister inform the House why theGovernment intervened in the present hearing merely to present argument on the question of wage disparity as betweenskilled workers and other workers, instead of to present factual details of the nation’s economy for the court’s information and consideration?
– Instructions have already been given to counsel who has put the case for the Commonwealth before the court. I do not propose at this stage to add anything to what has been said publicly. I shall examine the text of the honorable member’s question.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service’ a question about the margins case. A little time ago I asked the Prime Minister whether the House could be’ informed of the views that were tobe and are being put to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration by the Government, for which the AttorneyGeneral, under the law, is acting. Will the Minister now try to inform the House broadly of the view being put to the court by the Government, so that the House may, if necessary, make suggestions about submissions to the court? Otherwise, there will be no check upon the views that the Government might put to the court until it is too late and the court has given its decision. That is the point of the intervention of the honorable member for Swan, the honorable member for Blaxland and other honorable members on this side of the House. “Will the Minister consider the matter from that point of view?
– Order ! What is the question?
– Give him a copy of the transcript.
– Will the Minister make available to the House a copy of the written submissions that are to be placed before the court, as well as of those that have already been put before it?
– I understand that a copy of the official transcript, in which the case put to the court by counsel for the Government is set out in detail, was or was to have been made available to the right honorable gentleman.
– It was not made available to me.
– I understand that an offer to that effect was made by the Prime Minister.
– But it was not done.
– I shall see that it is done. I shall have to examine and discuss with my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, the question whether wecan go further and put before the Parliament in more detail the instructions that were given to counsel.
– I am now able to amplify a reply that I gave to the Leader of the Opposition earlier in relation to the margins case. I have made inquiries, and I find that roneoed copies of the relevant extracts from the official transcript of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, which included not merely the submissions made on behalf of the Commonwealth, but also the comments of judges and counsel, were circulated to all members of the Parliament on Thursday of last week. If the right honorable gentleman inquires at his office he will no doubt find that a copy has been received there.
– I ask the Minister for
Social Services whether it has been decided to establish a regional office of the Department of SocialServices at New castle. If such a decision has been made, will the Minister inform me when it is expected that the office will come into operation?
– Some time ago, a decision was made to expand the activities of the Registrar of Social Services at Newcastle, and, in truth, to expand the office to the size of a regional office. I am not quite certain of the present position, but I shall make inquiries and let the honorablo member know.
– Does the Minister for Social Services intend to issue a new booklet showing the increased rates of pensions paid by his department and giving particulars of the other social services which he administers, and, if so, when may it be expected? I remind the Minister of earlier booklets issued by his department which have been of considerable use to social workers. In view of the wide increases recently made in pensions, an up-to-date version would now be specially useful.
– It is intended to issue a new booklet dealing with up todate information on social services.
– If the honorable member will wait a moment I shall tell him. The booklet is in the course of preparation, and I understand the first draft is now ready to be looked at by myself and by the Director-General of Social Services. There has been somedelay because it is intended to carry out certain other changes. It is thought it might be wise to separate the pension part from that relating to rehabilitation and family allowances. I will have a look at the matter within the course of the next few days and will advise the honorable gentleman when the booklet can be expected.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it a fact that approximately five weeks ago he received a telegram from the honorary general secretary of the United Original Age and Invalid Pensioners’ Association requesting increases in. the totally inadequate rates of age and invalid pensions in order that citizens who are too old and too sick to work, and have no income other than the pension, might be enabled to obtain necessary food? Is it a fact, also, that the Prime Minister, up to the present time, has not replied to the association? “Will he now state whether the Government proposes to comply with or reject the association’s request to afford urgently needed relief to those very deserving citizens?
– Whether such a telegram was received, I cannot say, but I shall find out. I should think that the Government’s decision in relation to this problem was made abundantly clear in the budget and was approved by the Parliament. I know of nothing to lead me to suppose that the position has materially changed since the budget was brought down.
– What about the price of tea?
-Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney will cease interjecting.
Mr. Pollard interjecting
-Order! I shall name both the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for East Sydney if I hear another interjection from them.
– I know of no circumstance that has altered the validity of the budget provisions. On the contrary, the last cost-of-living figures to be announced reveal a very healthy maintenance of the stability that has existed in Australia for almost two years.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior. Can I be informed, please, whether it is intended to bring legislation into this House during this session concerning the raising of the capacity of the Hume Reservoir to 2,500,000 acre feet?
– The legislation has been drafted and is ready for submission to this House, but it cannot be submitted until official approval has been given by letter by the Premiers of the three States concerned to the Prime Minister. A conference was held on, I think, the 19th July last between Commonwealth and State Ministers on this matter, and the representatives of the States on that occasion were in complete agreement on the proposal to raise the capacity of the reservoir from 2,000,000 to 2,500,000 acre feet. Since then, the various wheels of the machinery have been turning. The Victorian Government’ gave its official approval about the middle of last month, and a reply was received from the :South Australian Government on the 8th October, but a reply has not yet been received from the Premier of New South Wales. I do not think that there will be any difficulty about getting the approval from New South Wales, unless the approval given by the two New South Wales Ministers who attended the original conference has -been altered. I am not anticipating any disagreement on the part of New South Wales, but until the reply is received from the Premier of that State, the Parliamentary Draftsman cannot complete the engrossing of the agreement, which is to be a part of the schedule to the bill. I hope that we shall receive a reply from New South Wales, if not this week, then certainly next week so that the bill can be introduced, and everything put in order.
– I desire to direct a question to the Prime Minister and, in doing so, I refer to the important part that South Australia is playing in the uranium field generally. I have in mind the uranium deposits in that State, the treatment plant at Port Pirie, and the. general development, for which credit must be given to the Premier, Mr. Playford, for his persistency. In view of the importance of South Australia in the uranium field generally, will the right honorable gentleman direct that every consideration be given to the establishment of a nuclear power plant at Port Pirie, which is undoubtedly the logical site for it? The Prime Minister is reported as having said that decisions on the matter were made on the advice of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which assigns as a reason against the erection of the plant in South Australia the lack of technicians in that State. If that is the case, why does the commission persist in advertising in the
South Australian press for large numbers of key men and technicians?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for Grey has already been the subject of long personal discussion between the Premier of South Australia and myself and other Ministers, and I have nothing to add on that point to what has already been said by the Minister for Supply. I hope that there will not be any further misunderstanding on this matter. What is proposed under the scheme announced by my colleague a few days ago is the erection, not of a reactor for the production of power, but of a piece of experimental work which has to do entirely with research in this field, and, therefore, it is not to be treated as if we were building a power station. That is not in contemplation at all. Undoubtedly, in respect of an atomic power station, South Australia has the strongest possible claims to consideration as soon as it is practicable, but neither the Premier nor I, at this moment, thinks that the building of a power house could be put in hand tomorrow, or, for that matter, this year.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has made a grant of £12,500 to the Australian Equestrian Federation. If this is a fact, can he say whether that body is truly representative of Australian equestrianism? Has it amateur status?? Is it recognized by the Australian Olympic Federation ?
– The answer to each of the honorable member’s question is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, “ Yes “.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say whether an approach has been made by his department to the British Government with a view to securing large-scale immigration of British families and industries to this country? If this is so, can he indicate what stage those negotiations have reached?
– There has been in operation for many years now a scheme of assisted passages in relation to persons in the United Kingdom who are nominated by residents in Australia. There have been no negotiations recently, other than a renewal of that arrangement. We, ourselves, have placed no limit upon the number of persons of British origin within the United Kingdom who can come to Australia under that arrangement, and we shall welcome all who can come to this country under it. We shall also welcome any action that can be taken by the United Kingdom Government to encourage suitable settlers and industries to establish themselves in Australia.
– By way of explanation of my question to the Minister for Immigration, may I say that, recently, an English settler in this country expressed concern to me that a friend of hers had been assisted to come to Australia by the Government, but had left this country within a short time very much wealthier than when she came here. In fact, she took about £3,000 out of the country. Is there any limit to the sum of money that an immigrant or other person can take out of Australia ?
– I am not aware that there is any limit upon the amount that can be taken out of Australia by a person who leaves the country permanently, but I shall have some inquiries made about the matter. I do not believe that we should discourage people from taking with them to other parts of the world resources which they have acquired here. The honorable member’s question at least indicates that there are opportunities in Australia for the accumulation of wealth, which fact should be an encouragement to people to stay here permanently, rather than to leave this country.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the recent second increase in the price of tea has imposed an added burden on persons on fixed incomes, particularly pensioners? In view of this fact, will he give serious consideration to supplementing pensions in order to offset this added burden that has been placed on pensioners ?
-The Prime Minister, on a matter of policy.
– I wa3 about to say, sir, policy.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that the Government brought about a reduction in the price of spirituous liquors by reducing the rate of customs and excise duties on such liquors. Is it not also a fact that the beverage of the people, tea, is now at a prohibitive price for those on small incomes, including pensioners? Does the Government propose to take any action to ensure that supplies of tea shall be available to the community at a price within the reach of all consumers, or does it reserve its consideration for those who are more fortunately placed?
– Omitting any reference to the restrained rhetoric in the question, I point out one fact which concerns tea, and tea alone. The Government has subsidized tea for some years in order to avoid the maximum increase in price to the consumer, an increase which arises from a circumstance entirely outside Australia and entirely outside the Government’s control, that is that the price of tea in the countries that produce it has been under a strong upward pressure for some time. For this financial year, under the budget which has just been passed, the Government has made provision for the payment of a subsidy of £4,500,000 under this head.
– Not enough.
– I am indebted to the honorable member for Lalor, because, when another increase occurred in the cost of tea in Ceylon and other countries, we came to the conclusion that a subsidy of £4,500,000 for this purpose was not enough and, therefore, within the course of the last few days, we decided to increase it to £6,500,000.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Australia has any official colours. I ask this question because, during the course of preparations for the Royal visit, when the same question was asked of me, I made inquiries from the National Library and other authorities but was unable to find out whether Australia had any officially ‘ recognized colours. It is true, of course, that our sporting bodies, such as cricket and football teams, use the conventional gold and green when they are abroad, but, as far as I can learn, there seems to be noofficial recognition of those colours as the national colours of Australia. Are there any national colours for Australia?
– I cannot say that I have ever bent my mind to this great problem. If anybody said to me off-hand, “ What are the national colours of Australia?”, I think I would say, “Red, white and blue “.
Air. Ward interjecting
– I did not expect the honorable member for East Sydney to agree with that. I think that, in the sporting world, it has’ been a well established practice to use the colours referred to by the honorable member for Yarra.
– Is the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General aware that the trunk line service to towns iti the midwest of New South Wales is very often unsatisfactory? In fact, it is frequently impossible to hear the party at the other end of the line. Will .the honorable gentleman examine the ..position with a view to improving the service, either by the provision of additional. and effective trunk line channels, or, if. .that is impossible, by radio links ? By way of explanation, I inform the Minister that Cowra, Grenfell and Quandialla are very often without a trunk line service, and that the service which is provided is most unsatisfactory. It is difficult to hear the party at the other end of the line. I consider that the position should be improved as early as possible.
– Knowing the honorable member’s interest in the areas he has mentioned and the problem with which they are faced, I have obtained information in relation to trask line services in that region. Calls between Quandialla and Sydney . are routed through Young at present, but, when two carrier wave channels are provided between Grenfell and Cowra within six weeks, such calls will be connected through Cowra. Two extra carrier wave channels will be installed between Cowra and Sydney within two months. The new facilities will improve the transmission and expedite the connexion of calls. Two. additional trunk lines between Quandialla and Grenfell have been approved, but some time must elapse before they can be provided. The possibility of installing trunk services by radio has not been overlooked, but the provision of circuits by normal means will be much quicker.
– My question is directed to the. Prime Minister, who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs. Has the right honorable gentleman’s attention been drawn to a statement by the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry to the effect that hostility has been shown from time to time in Indonesia towards Australian tourists? Because it is urgently necessary that good relations should exist between us and our neighbours of the free world, will the Prime Minister confer with our representatives on the various bodies through which we contact Indonesia, in order to overcome this situation with a view to building up friendly relationships? Perhaps there could be an interchange of delegations between the two countries the membership of which could embrace representatives of the trade union movement of this country.
– I shall direct the attention of my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, to the honorable member’s question. The right honorablemember has just returned to Australia, and will be in this House next week.
– As I have indicated in this House on previous occasions as the representative of the Mallee electorate, I’ am most anxious that primary products and other goods should Be despatched and received through the decentralized south-western Victorian port of Portland. The Minister for Supply has been helpful to me about this matter on previous occasions, and I now ask him whether he, as Minister for Supply and as the representative in this House of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, will make an investigation into this matter with a view to increasing exports and imports through the port of Portland.
– I am not the representative of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I believe that that Minister is away ill at present. I most certainly shall examine the matter raised by the honorable member, and I shall see that whatever can be done to help him will be done.
-Order! I again draw the attention of the House to the fact that questions should be directed to Ministers responsible for administration, and to nobody else. The last question should not have been directed to the Minister for Supply at all.
– Will the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General give instructions to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to play our Australian anthem “ Advance Australia Fair “, as an introduction to all news sessions?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “.
Conversation being audible,
-Order! If honorable members do not remain quiet, some of them will be advancing outside.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for Supply that the report of the Commonwealth Investigation Service on the Bell Bay-
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! Because of the loud conversation in the House the honorable member should repeat his question.
– In view of the Minister’s statement that the report of the Commonwealth Investigation Service on the Bell Bay aluminium project was ‘being examined by him in conjunction with the Crown Law officers, is he able to inform the House whether any conclusions have been reached? If possible, will the Minister arrange for an early visit by a limited number of interested members of the Parliament to view the progress of the work ?
– Yes. I have had a conference with the Attorney-General in relation to this matter, and I am now able to state that, with one possible exception which is still under consideration, no case of criminal wrong-doing has been established. In view of the fact that this is a £10,000,000 project, and that the Commonwealth Investigation Service has been examining its affairs in detail for more than six months, I suggest that that is not an unsatisfactory result.
– Although £1,250,000 is unaccounted for?
– However, that does not alter the fact that, at one stage, there was unsatisfactory administration, particularly in relation to defective costing and stores control. All of those shortcomings have been rectified and nil of the matters that have been raised will be investigated, in due course, by the Public Accounts Committee, which will present its conclusions to the House.
Mr. WARD When?
– I am bound to state, in answer to the interjection of the honorable member for East Sydney and for the information of other honorable members, that the charges that have been made in the House over the last few days have been grossly exaggerated, and that, for the greater part, they have been based on information which was either false or twisted.
– Why does the Minister not table the report of the Commonwealth Investigation Service ?
-Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must not interject.
– I gave to the House an illustration of the exaggeration to which
I have referred when I stated that it had clearly been shown that the sum of £1,200,000, which was alleged to have been lost was, in reality, accounting practice as the result of a very defective costing system which was operated in 1951 and 1952. There have -been other allegations in relation to unallocated expenditure, establishment expenses, and the alleged manipulation of the cost of the Wessel Island survey, all of which indicate a misreading of, or an ignorance of, elementary accounting principles, I repeat that all of these matters will he examined, and that the true position will be made plain in due course.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Supply a question which is supplementary to the question that lie has just answered and which seemed to have been pre-arranged. The honorable member for Bass and the honorable member for Wilmot raised this subject in the House, and the Minister undertook to have it referred to the Public Accounts Committee. Is it not essential that such action be taken quickly, because the Minister is now pre- judging some of .the matters that the Public Accounts Committee will have to determine?
– I do not control the activities of the Public Accounts Comm 1 t tee. I have already had a discussion with the chairman of the committee, but I shall ask him to make the investigation as soon as it is convenient for the committee to do so.
– Can the Minister for Defence state whether the proposed survey of the waters to the north of Australia, which the Government originally intended to carry out with Japanese personnel, has yet been put in hand? If so, will the Minister have prepared a statement showing the number o”f “personnel to be employed, and the percentage of each nationality engaged or to he engaged on the survey? Will he also state how long it is expected that it will take to complete the survey, and what proportion of the cost ‘ will be met by the Commonwealth?
– Except for the inaccurate observation relating to the employment of Japanese-
– You know that you agreed to it.
– I shall obtain the information sought and shall give it to the honorable member.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which are government-owned, have made profits. Can the Prime Minister or the Minister for Civil Aviation, to whom I should perhaps have directed my question, say whether the annual reports of the Australian National Airlines Commission in relation to TransAustralia Airlines, and of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, will be presented during the current session so that honorable members may have an opportunity to learn what revenue those government-owned airlines are making, and so that they may discuss the position?
– I shall be glad to inquire into the matter. I cannot deal with it offhand. I shall ascertain the facts and shall inform the honorable member when the. House resumes on Tuesday next, if that would be agreeable to him.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to-
That leavebegiven to bring in a bill for an act to amend the WarService Homes Act
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr.McMahon (To we- Minister for
Social Services) [11.4]- by leave - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
This bill contains two important changes in the benefits provided for in the War
Service Homes Act 1918-51 and alters some sections to clarify the meaning and to accord with practices which have been followed from the commencement of the act in 1919. The changes in the benefits are -
So many inquiries are received concerning war service homes that I came to the conclusion it would help honorable members if I give a general outline of the purposes of the act and the influences which determine Government policy relating to war service homes. The preamble to the War Service Homes Act 1918-51 states that its purpose is to make provision for homes for Australian exservicemen and female dependants of Australian ex-servicemen. An Australian soldier is defined in section 4, and includes one who was enlisted or appointed for, or employed on active service outside Australia or on a ship of war. This definition indicates in a general way the main qualification of male and female members under the act. The section is, of course, wider in scope than I have indicated. The purpose of the act is, therefore, to provide homes, old or new, and whether built by the War Service Homes Division or by private contractors.
Under normal circumstances, the exserviceman has the right to choose the type of home he wants, and the War Service Homes Division restricts itself to ensuring that the home proposed to be purchased or built is a sound investment within his resources. In his interests, precautions are taken to see that the price is reasonable. The raising of the maximum amount for existing homes will give greater freedom of choice to Australian soldiers as to the type of home they wish to purchase than they have at present with the existing limit. The increase in the maximum amount was approved m order to give effect to the promise in the joint policy speech for the recent general election campaign to increase from £2,000 to £2,750 the advance available under theWar .Service Homes Act for the purchase of existing homes. The decision means that the maximum loan for all types of assistance, for which the act at present provides a maximum of £2,000, will be increased to a maximum of £2,750. This includes both the maximum loan for existing properties as well as for the discharge of mortgages on existing properties.
In certain conditions, as, for example, where there is an extreme housing shortage or full employment in the building industry, the Government may decide to adjust the annual programme of the War Service Homes Division to accord with overall Government economic and social policy, and, consequently, priority may be given to certain types of the division’s activities. As an example, during the period of acute housing shortage from January, 1950, to June, 1954, emphasis was placed on new construction as it was considered that this ‘ policy would help both to solve the problem of housing shortages and at the same time provide homes for ex-servicemen. Whilst the provision of new homes, as distinct from financing old ones, is a greater contribution to a reduction of the general housing shortage, the stage has now been reached at which the inflationary trend has been arrested and an optimum building rate achieved. It is now desirable to give persons who are not able to have new homes built for them an equal opportunity of becoming homeowners by purchasing existing properties. The change will also reduce the demand for building materials and building labour. The administration of the act must therefore he flexible and adjusted to both the annual appropriation and the state of economic health of the country.
Since 1949, two of the main problems of the Government have been to control inflation and rising prices, and to restore stability in the economy. By June, 1953, these objectives had been achieved, and the problem then became one of maintaining that degree of stability which was consistent with a steady rate of, progress. This applied particularly to the building industry. Evidence of the success of the Government’s policy is shown by the C series index of retail prices, six capital cities, which remained practically stable throughout 1953-54. Since the date men’tioned changes in prices have been small and, from the Government’s point of view, satisfactory.
Recently. other trends have appeared in industry which point to the need for caution in expenditure lest inflation be given another undesirable boost. Labour is in short supply. By the 2nd October, 1954, recipients- of the unemployment benefit had fallen to 3,559; there were’: 42,000 in January, 1953. Over 55,400 ‘ jobs were unfilled on the 24th September 1954: there were 22,500 in June, 1953. Skilled building labour was becoming, increasingly difficult to obtain. Employers are resorting increasingly to working overtime and to payment of wages above award rates. During 1953-54, production reached high levels over a wide range of industries. In the building industry, near record figures were achieved in the production of such building materials as clay bricks, cement, terra cotta tiles and paints. Despite these increases, tha supply of many materials fell behind demand, and increasing delays in the delivery of building materials are occurring.
There is a general tendency for demand to edge forward throughout industry with increasing competitive tightness of resources, and a readiness to sharpen competition for supplies of labour and materials. This trend may continue. A lot depends on the 1954-55 wool sales, seasonal conditions, and Australia’s favorable or unfavorable balance of payments for that period. At the present time, the tendency is for the prices of buildings to edge forward, and the turnover of building labour to increase. Therefore, unless caution is observed, those tendencies could increase, and undesirable delays in completions occur.
One of the most important and con.trollable influences on inflation and prices i3 the quantity df government and government-controlled- expenditure. If the Government, is to continue to succeed with, its policy of controlling inflation, it must guard against taking action which would substantially increase the supply of. money and effective demand for goods and services. The 1954-55 budget is designed to keep the economy healthy and resources fully employed. It attempts to prevent inflationary pressures from developing a3 a result of excess spending.
For. the past two years, total public spending has been relatively stable. This has. been a strong influence on the general stability of the economy. This year, State, governments will probably have as much to spend as in 1953-54. They start with substantial cash balances, and whilst they may not receive quite as much loan money, their revenues may be somewhat higher. These and other facts point to the conclusion that, if the policy of the Government is to remain successful, and if inefficiency and inflation are to be prevented, restraint and careful management are needed both in the building industry and. with public works. This generalization applies in particular to the War Service Homes Division.
The provision of war service homes is but one part of the Commonwealth’s act 1.vities in the housing field. Under our federal system of government, the powers of the Commonwealth are limited. General responsibility for providing homes for the civil population rests with the State governments. The Commonwealth can help directly under its defence and repatriation and certain other powers, and in the Commonwealth Territories. It can help indirectly by supplying funds to the State governments under section 96 of the Constitution. t Tenancy laws and building restrictions PlaY an important part in determining the extent to which private individuals will invest in houses. These matters are solely within the province of the State governments. In addition, a concerted attack must be made on the problem of getting better quality homes at cheaper prices. This is one of the real problems of to-day and of the future. Building methods, and the use of new and different materials, are being constantly examined by the division in an attempt to find an answer to tins difficult problem.
It has been estimated that, at present, about 60,000 new dwellings are required to meet the need arising from new families and immigration, apart altogether from the back-log caused by the war, replacement of sub-standard houses and slum clearance. The back-log is being overtaken at the rate of about 15,000 to 20,000 homes a year. Houses have been provided as follows: -
Mi-. McMAHON.- I ask the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to. listen to the next piece of information.
In the June quarter, 1954, 20,008 houses and flats were commenced. That is, commencements were made at the rate of 80,000 a year. War service homes comprise a tidy percentage of the total number of homes built annually. This year, there will probably be an increase in the number of applications for loans under the War Service Homes Act for the purchase of old homes, and some reduction in the number desiring to build homes, but it is thought that the increase will not be as great as it was in 1950-51 and 1951-52. The number of effective applications for war service homes is about 15,000 a year, which is 60 per cent, of the total number of 25,000 applications. There is an accumulation of 20,000 applications on hand, and it is thought that a total of about 150,000 applications will be received in the future, of which 90,000 will be effective. If present trends continue, it is expected that, at the end of five years, there will be about 130,000 homes on the books of the War Service Homes Division. It is hoped this year that war service homes will be provided as follows : - .
The number under construction at the 30th June, 1955, will be greater than at the 30th June, 1954, and the benefit will be evident in the increase in the number of homes completed in 1955-56. The waiting periods for homes will not be materially affected. For building applications, the average period over the Commonwealth is twelve months. In New South “Wales, difficulty has been experienced in obtaining satisfactory tenders, and again there has been in the past year an unprecedented increase in the number of building applications. In this State, the waiting period has been sixteen months. If 7,000 contracts can be let during 1954-55, it is expected that the waiting period will be reduced over the Commonwealth to an average of eleven months, and in New South Wales to fourteen months. In other States the waiting periods are reasonably the same, and the director’s programming has always been planned in an endeavour to provide a uniform period throughout the Commonwealth.
This waiting period is from the date of receipt of the application to the date the division commences processing the case. Process involves valuation, search and survey of land, preliminary discussions with the applicant regarding the design required, preparation of plans and specifications, invitation of tenders, &c. This takes, on an average, about four months, particularly as applicants frequently do not make up their minds promptly regarding the type of home they require. Added to this, the average construction period is eight months so that the building applicant has to wait approximately two years from the time he lodges his application to the time he obtains possession of his home.
In cases involving the purchase of existing properties, the waiting period during 1953-54 for both new and old homes was six months. This waiting period was suspended iri March, 1.954, because of the unavoidable disruption of the building programme. The waiting period will have to bc re-introduced as from the 1st November, 1954, as a consequence of the large increase in the number of applications now being received for this kind of assistance. There has, so far, been no waiting period for dis charge of mortgage cases on new homes in respect of which the application is . submitted before building commences. With the increase in the maximum loan to equal that of building cases, it will be necessary to introduce a waiting period of six months as from the 1st November, 1954. Otherwise, the fortunate applicant who has sufficient resources to obtain temporary finance from outside will have an unfair advantage over other types of applicants. It is not practicable to reintroduce the discharge of mortgages on old homes as a general policy. The argument that a man who owns a home, even if it is encumbered by a mortgage, is better off than the man who does not own a home, cannot he refuted; and it is essential that the money available should be used to help those who do not own homes.
In addition to the decisions to increase the maximum loan for existing properties, it has been decided to remove the present administrative limit of £3,500 on the total purchase price of an existing property. That limit was determined previously on the basis that an applicant who had at least 40 per cent, of the value of the home he desired to purchase was in a better position to make arrangements for outside finance than was an applicant who was not so fortunate. With the increase of the maximum loan to £2,750 it would have been necessary to increase .the limitation to £4,500 to maintain the same 40 per cent, equity. It is considered that to place a limit of £4,500 on these homes would not result in any worth-while saving in total expenditure and that, therefore, it would be better to remove the limit altogether. In- other words, .the limitation of £3,500 did save expenditure at the expense of those who were reasonably well off and, therefore, enabled a greater number of the less fortunate to be assisted, but a limit of £4,500 would not now serve any useful purpose.
In my opening remarks, I referred io the two main changes in the benefits provided for in this bill. In the subsequent general survey the reason for the first’ benefit, that is, the increase in the maximum loan for the financing of existing properties, was explained. The other benefit aims to extend the provisions of the act to eligible persons residing in the
Territories of Papua and New Guinea and Norfolk Island. This question has been, considered by the various governments since 1945, but certain problems have, delayed the adoption of the proposal. It is now considered that the benefits can be extended with advantage to eligible persons who reside there and desire to become home-owners. Honorable members will, I am sure, heartily approve of this proposal. The object of the other amendments is to clear up certain doubts in the interpretation of the act relating to the practices which have been followed from its inception. They will be dealt with in detail at the committee stage. Briefly, they seek to ensure, first, that an applicant, who is eligible at the . tune his application is lodged, shall not lose that eligibility because of something happening during the waiting period which is beyond his control; and, secondly, that applicants shall receive the benefit of the full period of repayment provided for in the act from the date the home is available for occupation, despite the time taken in building a home.
In the 1954-55 budget the vote for the “War Service Homes Division has been increased to . £30,000,000. This is £3,100,000 more than was expended in 1953-54. Family, life is the foundation of a vigorous, .contented and healthy community. Homes are essential if the family is to live a dignified and full life. This Government, . within its constitutional powers, accepts the responsibility of encouraging. home-ownership and home building; and it kill do whatever it reasonably can in-order to ensure that this great responsibility pf establishing the basic conditions of . family life shall be discharged. The good work of past years is being continued. The provision of homes is a proud and continuing responsibility. It is confidently expected that during the current financial year at least as many homes will be provided throughout Australia’ as has been provided in each of the last, few financial years, and that the “War Service Homes Division will make a worth-while contribution to the provision of homes for the people of Australia. .
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 14th October (vide page 2001), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That thu bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports- this bill. I desire to refer to only two aspects of it. The purpose of the bill is to establish a system of law for the great territory known as the Australian Antarctic Territory, and the law to be applied there is the law in force from time to time in the Australian Capital Territory. At first glance, that might appear to be odd, but if there is to be development in our territory in the Antarctic it is essential that there should be a definite system of law, and, for that purpose, one may as well take the system in force in the Australian Capital Territory as any other system of law available in the Australian Commonwealth. Possibly, the law in force in Tasmania could have been applied. Certainly, Tasmania is much nearer to our Antarctic Territory. However, no objection can be taken to the proposal made under the bill in this respect, because if any alteration, or adjustment, of the law becomes necessary, it can be effected very simply under the flexible method of law-making that now applies in the Australian Capital Territory.
Under this bill two matters arise which are of very great importance. The first of them is that our Antarctic Territory extends over nearly 2,500,000 square miles. It comprises all that portion of the Antarctic continent which is immediately south of Australia, except for a small strip of French territory known as Adelie Land. That territory is Australian by reason of the work of the great Australian pioneers in polar exploration. Not only the name of the great British explorer, Scott, comes to mind, because he was assisted in a large measure by Australia, but also the names of Australian expeditionary leaders, Douglas Mawson, Professor David and others who contributed enormously to our knowledge of the Antarctic. I shall say nothing more on that point except to remind the House that the claim of territorial ownership is not, by any means, universally recognized. The southern borders of several countries are contiguous to the polar seas and finally abut upon the Antarctic continent; and in international law it is not enough simply to have a claim based on discovery because, in the discovery of portions of the Antarctic continent, nationals of many countries played a part. The first discoverer of the South Pole itself was Amundsen, and many great navigators and discoverers - British French and the subjects of other nations - played a great part in that work while there was some aerial discovery with which the names of great Americans will always be associated. In order to make good our position in this territory, two things must be kept in mind. One is the necessity to develop the Territory, because international law does not recognize acquisition of territory unless discovery is followed up by effective occupation. There cannot, in t.b>i nature of things, be any effective occupation of a vast continental area like this, but there can be development. Now i* seems to be generally agreed that the resources of the Antarctic continent may hu of tremendous significance to the wellbeing of the whole world, and Australia has a right, and also a duty, to play its part there. If it does not follow up legislation of this kind, which in itself may not be very important, by effective development, then we shall gradually lose the status that we should occupy in connexion with the Antarctic. So, on behalf of the Opposition, 1 support, as I have done before, everything that tends towards the development of the resources of that area. It is an idea that would capture the imagination of the least imaginative to think of Australia playing an important part in development, as undoubtedly it has played in discovery through the exploits of our great pioneers, navigators and explorers. That is the first point.
The other point, which is equally important, is that the world is narrowing. There are many countries especially interested now in the Antarctic. One is the United States of America, which is undertaking an important expedition at present. There must be co-operation be tween all nations concerned with the Antarctic continent, including the vast region which we regard as Australian territory and which we must develop. It should be possible for all questions of disputed boundaries to be submerged in a common effort by the nations concerned to develop the resources of the polar sea3 and the continent for the benefit of all their peoples.
Those are the only observations that I wish to make, and I think they will appeal to all honorable members. Here, in this bill, is a little legal stop towards the objective to which I have pointed. I suppose that, without this legislation, the common law, which Australians, like the British people, take with them, would apply and all the minor matters that might arise in connexion with the setting up of stations in the Antarctic south would be settled by the common law of England, which is the common law of this country. However, the bill will put the matter on a more satisfactory footing. We shall have legislation, and we shall have the power to alter it, subject to the approval or disapproval of the Parliament.
That is the immediate purpose that the bill will achieve, but behind it is the vast question of the Antarctic and the need for developing our part of the territory. If we do not develop it, we shall not be able to make good our claim to it, and we should be recreant to the duty that we owe to the great Australian explorers who, in company with great British explorers like Scott, did so much-
– And Shackleton.
– Yes, and Shackleton. I am glad that the honorable member has mentioned Shackleton, with whom David was associated. I think also of men like Mawson, and Hurley on the technical side. The universities of Australia contributed greatly to exploration in that territory through the work of great geologists zoologists anc, c ./ Gr scientists. We owe a duty to those men, and to our people, to develop the Territory. Unless we develop it, we shall have only a paper claim on it which, in international law, is not very satisfactory. Finally, there is the need for Australia to co-operate with the other nations concerned in the Antarctic. The conditions that apply to ordinary territorial claims do not apply in those vast spaces. The United States is keen on development in that region, and there are other nations with interests in the south. That is the real issue behind the formal issue of setting up a system of law in the territory, and the Opposition gives the legislation its support.
– I agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and also support very strongly this bill which the Government has brought before the House in furtherance of its applied policy for the development of Australian territory in the Antarctic and the establishment of Australian institutions in it. The hill will repeal the sections of the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933 which make provision for the application of ordinances as law in that territory. I am not certain that any ordinances have been promulgated there. Indeed, I believe none have been, and therefore it is a little uncertain which law applies. It is an exceedingly good thing that the Government has seen fit to bring forward this bill in order to regularize the position concurrently with the establishment of a permanent Australian base in the Australian territory.
As the Leader of the Opposition has said, Australian sovereignty in that area is not yet. universally accepted. I understand that France, Norway, and the territories of the British Commonwealth have ratified our position hut that some other countries have expressed a certain amount of doubt. Now, Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that these doubts are defensible. I believe our title is indefeasible but, as the right honorable gentleman has said, it is up to us to make our claim good by development and by the establishment of permanent bases because, without permanent occupation, there would always remain some shadow of doubt which could be raised, perhaps not in law, but in the courts of public opinion in other countries. I think, in the first place, that it is important that the House should realize that this bill will in no way interrupt the continuity of the sovereignty which was embodied in the 1933 act. It will, indeed, repeal the 1933 act, but, under section 8 of the Acts Interpretation Act, as honorable members are well aware, the validity of the past action of acceptance will be in no way affected by that repeal. I am certain that that is right in strict law.
It may be, however, that some exception will be taken to the repeal of the 1933 act by people who are not familiar with the technicalities of Australian law, and, although I am quite convinced that the Parliamentary Draftsman is correct, it may be that we can make the position a little plainer by an amendment of certain provisions in the bill now before the House, an amendment which would not, I think, have very much legal consequence, but which might have a consequence upon public opinion, particularly the public opinion overseas which does not understand Australian law. I therefore foreshadow an amendment, which I have had an opportunity to discuss with the Government and which I shall move at the committee stage. It is a small amendment designed only to clarify that position, although, as I have said, I do not think it will have much legal consequence.
Now I turn to the more substantial issue of our occupation of the territory. I believe that our occupation of permanent bases on the territory is justified on double grounds. The first is that it is a valuable territory which cannot be developed without a permanent occupation. The second is that by such permanent occupation our sovereignty can be put beyond question. I am glad that this Government has been able to establish a permanent base at Mawson in our territory. Mawson, as honorable members probably know, is situated on about the sixty-third degree of longitude on the coast of the continent. That is to say that it is almost directly south of Heard Island and south-westward from the westward tip of Western Australia. I believe, and I trust, that that base, having been established, will be permanently occupied, but I do not believe that this by itself will be sufficient. Therefore I want to discuss, if I may, this practical question of the permanent occupation of bases in the territory and the hest means by which it can be carried out. I believe that the developments of modern science and technology might be more freely availed of, and there are opportunities open to us which I am sure the Government is contemplating taking.
Let us consider first the position of the bases. All bases have been more or less on the coast, for the obvious reason that they are serviced from the sea. Let us look at the conditions under which they are so serviced. The Antarctic continent, as honorable members know, is more or less fringed all round with a vertical cliff of ice known as the barrier, which is the edge of the outward pressing ice sheet which presses out as snow falls on the higher ground behind on the mainland of the Antarctic continent. The forward edge of this barrier ultimately breaks off from time to time and forms icebergs. Around the edge of the barrier is a zone 300 miles wide filled by the ice packs and by sea which is frozen in winter, but which tends to break up into floes during the summer months. The interior of the continent is elevated, and ranges up to about 10,000 feet. Because of that elevation, strong catabatic winds sweep down from the centre in ail directions towards the periphery of the continent. The wind.-? are beyond average strength, because of the different grades of the slope up to the centre, and because of other reasons. But, in general, there are winds blowing outward from the South Pole with great force towards the periphery. Because of that fact, in summer the ice pack tends to split away from the land, leaving between the ice pack and the land a fair sized lake of water which is perhaps 30 to 50 miles wide, and around that lake are broken ice floes, partly melted during the summer months, with tortuous channels between them. Outside that is the southern area or sea, not far south of Australia, which is a very stormy sea and one difficult for navigation.
In consequence of all those factors, a ship can approach the Antarctic continent only during the summer months. When it approaches the outward limits of the ice, its captain docs not know whether there will be a channel inwards towards the more sheltered and open water around the rim of the continent. That makes approach by sea difficult, and also difficult to arrange in advance, because it is by no means certain where the open lanes of water through the ice pack will occur. Therefore, approach by a ship to a predetermined point always has an element of chance and difficulty about it.
I suggest to the Government that we should use a ship from time to time to get through that ice pack and service a permanent base, and that that ship should carry stores in large volume. The ship need not go to Antarctica more than once every several years, but when it does go it should land years’ supplies of stores, as well as food, which can be kept fairly easily in the cold conditions of the Antarctic. However, for personnel and lighter equipment I believe that we should have an air service operating inwards to the base in order to enable contact to be maintained with the people of the Antarctic, in order that changes of personnel may bc made, and in order that light stores may be carried. A fairly frequent air service should be maintained so that people in the Antarctic will not be isolated. There is no difficulty in landing an aircraft at most places in the Antarctic, because there are large flat open spaces covered with snow, which are available as landing places pretty well all the year round except when meteorological conditions are very bad. Those landing strips would not be usable during conditions of blizzard, but if meteorological stations should be established on the mainland so that the aircraft, could fly to known points where meteorological conditions were known, that difficulty would not arise, or at any rate would only arise in a not very acute form. One could, more or less, pick one’s weather, and bring the aircraft in to suit the weather.
There might be two alternative kinds of short range air services operating from vessels outside the pack; the first, a service by seaplane, and the second a service by helicopter. The helicopter could fly from a ship outside the ice pack, inland to the continental base. The practicability of the use of a seaplane is probably limited by the rough seas which obtain outside the barrier, although they do not obtain inside the ice pack. The use of a helicopter is a possibility, because it will have to travel only 200 or 300 miles from the outside of the ice pack to the base on the mainland. Recent developments in regard to the helicopter may make such a use of this machine quite technically possible.
Another possibility is that an aircraft could start from the Australian mainland some 2,000 miles away, and carry out the return journey to the Antarctic. Recent aeronautical developments have made a round trip of 4,000 miles entirely practicable. In earlier days that was not so because the pay load of an aircraft that travelled 4,000 miles was relatively small. But at the present time a reasonably good load can be carried that distance. If that should be done, we should be able to give a fairly frequent -service from the mainland of Australia to a base established on the Antarctic continent, where, even for heavy aircraft, there should be no lack of landing facilities.
As honorable members know, the American air force has recently been engaged in developing aircraft for operations in the Arctic regions. Those aeroplanes are now able to take off on wheels from a normal airfield, and land by means of skids on a snow field at the end of their journey. Such aircraft are already operating, and there is no reason why the Government should not be able to obtain one to service its permanent base.
Now I come to a fundamental point. The weight of stores to be carried in is very largely made up of the weight of fuel. Once we have our permanent base established, probably as much as 80 per cent, of the total weight of required stores will simply be the weight of fuel. If we could eliminate the need for carrying such fuel, the logistics of the whole operation would become much easier. There are two ways in which we could do that. The first is by better utilization of. the abundant wind power in the Antarctic - and I am glad to say that experiments are being made in that direction at the present time - and the second, which is perhaps the more practicable, is by using the abundant coal resources available in certain parts of the Antarctic area.
Honorable members may be aware that the Australian Antarctic Territory is divided into two sectors) each consisting of a wedge reaching from the coast to an apex at the Pole. The western, or larger sector, extends from about 45 degrees longitude to 136 degrees longitude. Then comes the small French sector of Adelie Land, extending from 136 degrees longitude to 142 degrees longitude. Eastward from this is the other and smaller portion of the Australian sector, extending from 142 degrees longitude to 160 degrees longitude. The western part of our Territory, which includes the present base of Mawson, is very largely pre-Cambrian land and, as far as is known, it is unlikely that any coal will be found there. I say “ as far as is known “, because it is a very big area, . and it is very little known. On the whole, it seems unlikely that any coal will be discovered in that area.
I invite honorable members to consider the area to the east, which includes Commonwealth Bay and Cape Gray, where previous expeditions had their head-quarters. In that area, there are immense coal reserves on the surface. Honorable members probably will remember the report of Sir Edgeworth David in which he stated that he was of the opinion that a more or less continuous coal seam ran from the South Pole along the range of mountains to the west of the Eoss Sea, with long exposures of good quality and easily mineable coal. If Australia were to establish its base near such a coal deposit, there would be no need to bring in fuel. We could get our coal locally, and the weight of stores that would need to be carried in could be reduced by approximately 80 per cent. A base in that area, which, after all, is less than 2,000 miles south of Hobart, would be fairly easily serviced by a long-range aeroplane. It would not be a very expensive proposition. Such a service should be inaugurated in any case, because the Royal Australian Air Force needs some kind of training under rigorous polar conditions. The air force may not be required to operate over such territory, but it needs that training. The establishment of a small wing for the purpose of obtaining experience under polar conditions, is justified as an air training proposition, quite apart from any question of developing the Antarctic.
It seems to me that Australia, without abandoning its present base at Mawson, should establish, near the other sector to the east of Adelie Land and perhaps near the site of its former base at Commonwealth Bay, a permanent station which would have its own coal supplies and which could be serviced by an aeroplane shuttling backwards and forwards from Hobart. Such a scheme is within the bounds of possibility, and the expense that would be involved would not be large by any means. I stated that the winds blow from the centre in all directions. One of the reasons why the Commonwealth Bay area was abandoned as a base was that the land slopes in that area bring about particularly high average wind velocities. If Australia were to establish such an air-serviced base as I suggest, there is no reason why it should be right on the coast. We could select a position slightly inland where the prevailing winds would not have a similar intensity and where the disadvantages that a ,-ere experienced at Commonwealth Bay would be obviated.
There are two areas which appear to have outstanding mineral possibilities. One of those areas surrounds the existing permanent base at Mawson which, 1 think, has been established at a very promising and good location. A good choice has been made. In MacRobertson Land and in adjoining Princess Elizabeth Land, there are large exposures of rock. As honorable members know, most of the continent is covered permanently by ice and snow, but in this particular regionthe relief is rugged, and there are large rock exposures that would permit good work to be done. The rocks are old preCambrian rocks which may be expected to yield good mineral results. A geological, survey of that area might be of great theoretical and practical interest. The other known promising area lies along . the western coast of the Eoss Sea. It runs into both the Australian Antarctic territory and the adjoining New Zealand dependency along the Boss Sea.. That area, also, has high mountains and a rugged relief, but in this case. the rocks are more recent sedimen tary rocks which would contain coal rather than metals. There is also a good prospect of geological discovery in this area. If a base were established in that locality, it would have the advantage, not only of being directly south of Hobart ana therefore very near to Australia, but also of having coal seams. It would have the added advantage of being near rock that was exposed above the ice, and for that reason it would provide a very fruitful field for geological investigation.
I suggest to the Government that Australia, as a means of further establishing the indefeasibility of its sovereignty over these territories, and as a means of expanding the development to which the Leader of the Opposition so wisely directed attention, should establish, in addition to its permanent base at Mawson, a permanent base a little distance inland in the other sector of its Antarctic territory which lies to the east of Adelie Land. I wish to make only one other observation. I understand that the expedition that is concentrated on Mawson at the present time has not the benefit of an aeroplane for reconnaissance purposes. I believe that it is a grave mistake not to provide it with that facility, because, very often, it requires a month’s journey by sled or even by “ weasel “, which is the mechanical device that is used to cross the snow, to reach the areas that ought to be examined. Such distances could be covered in a few hours by aeroplane. I emphasize the fact that, over the whole area, there are ample landing facilities for light aeroplanes. I believe that, if we wish to obtain full value from our present base, we should make use, without delay, of a light aeroplane for general reconnaissance purposes.
I apologize for delaying the House, but I suggest that this is a valuable territory, and that the Government has a duty to Australia,_ and to the rest of the world, to develop it. I emphasize also that, unless Australia develops it, its sovereignty may be questioned at some future date. It would not be a justifiable challenge, because I believe that our title is good. Although we believe that we have a good title, let us remove any possibility that would give to other people a pretence for questioning it. I support the bill. As I stated earlier, I intend, for the purposes that I have outlined, to move a minor amendment at the committee stage. I congratulate the Government upon its practical approach to the whole question of Australia’s Antarctic Territory, and I hope that it will persevere with its efforts.
– The bill has been introduced for the purpose of applying a body of law to the Antarctic territory. Although the bill may not appear important to many honorable members, there are many important reasons why we all should support it. Before I say anything in relation to those reasons, I should like to join with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in congratulating the Government. I think that all honorable members extend their congratulations to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) who has done much work over past years in relation to the Antarctic. We might well record our appreciation of what he has done for Australia in relation to the Antarctic as well as for his other great services to the country. The honorable member for Mackellar, with his usual thoroughness, explained to the House in great detail how we can maintain our claim to the Australian Antarctic Territory. I think that is the aspect which appeals to all of us - the importance not only of sending an expedition to the Antarctic, but also of maintaining our claim to the very large area which is Australian Antarctic Territory. I think the importance of this lies in. perhaps, two directions. One is the material importance that the Territory may have for us, first of all in the extension of knowledge which exploration work and scientific activity in the Antarctic territory will bring to the world as a whole. Australians have played a great part in previous expeditions to the Antarctic, as members of both Australian expeditions and expeditions sent from England. In sending further expeditions to the Territory, we are carrying on the work which eminent explorers and scientists from this country have already done, and the extension of human knowledge is in itself a most important thing.
But the other aspects - the material aspects - may mean that, in the years to come, in connexion with our ability to maintain activity and life in those rigorous climates, we shall very greatly extend material activities of those who go there and thus promote the enrichment of our nation, and perhaps, of other nations as well, by extending our present claims. The value of the Antarctic Territory in the scientific knowledge in the field of meteorology that can be gained there, is of immense magnitude, not only in forecasting weather from the point of view of aviation and travel and transport generally, but perhaps, also, it may have some effect on weather forecasting in the fields of agriculture and pastoral pursuits in Australia. It may help to extend the flying routes of the world and of the southern hemisphere, not only, as the honorable member for Mackellar pointed out, with military significance, hut with civil significance, too. When we come to the question of the geology of the region, it may be that we have the opportunity now of opening up fresh fields, not only of coal, but also of other minerals such as uranium, gold and others that may become valuable in the steadily advancing scientific development of our modern civilization. These are all material reasons for extending our knowledge of and claim to Antarctic territory. I think we owe it also to our country to do this, because Australia is a vigorously developing power in the south Pacific, and if we are to develop ourselves as a nation of steadily increasing importance, it is essential that we should extend our claims in this region, which, I believe, will come to be more and more important as time goes on.
Finally, I think there is another reason to send expeditions to the Antarctic to continue exploration there and to engage in scientific work which, apart from any material reason, is still extremely important. It is the reason that we shall be carrying on the great tradition of the explorers of our race who have been therebefore. and who established epics of courage and endurance in the cause of knowledge and adventure. It is a fine thing to think that there are Australians to-day who are willing to carry on that great tradition of adventure and bravery in the Antarctic regions, lt was Australians who discovered the south magnetic pole. Australians have been associated with almost every major expedition to the Antarctic. There were Australians in the epic expedition of Scott. There were Australians with Shackleton’s expeditions. His final expedition, as the House probably knows, approached the Antarctic from the Weddell sea side. T am not sure whether there were any Australians with that expedition, but at least we can claim interest in it by the fact that Shackleton, on his previous expedition, had been associated in large measure with scientists and explorers from this country. On Shackleton’s final expedition, which came to grief in the ice of the Weddell sea, he and a few companions sailed in a small boat right across the South Atlantic, finally arriving at a small island with a settlement on one side. Unfortunately, they arrived at the side opposite the settlement. They then had to cross the island and complete their journey by sliding down a frozen waterfall. These are instances of the courage and endurance that have been displayed in the Antarctic, and, with almost all of them, Australians have been prominently associated. It is for these reasons that I think, perhaps above all, the House will be glad that we have now established a base in the Antarctic. I am sure that we all support the measure and hope that it will lead to the establishment of a permanent base and the steady expansion of Australian work and interest in the Antarctic.
]. - It is very gratifying to have the unanimity of the House on this bill, which, small though it is, is nevertheless significant, and is a page in the history of Australia and its relations with the Antarctic-. I agree entirely with the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron). The era of exploration in the Antarctic in which Australia has been so closely associated through its own brave citizens has been one of which we all may be proud. 1 shall never forget the words - almost the last words - in Scott’s diary -
Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale . . .
Those words ring round the world. They ring especially in Australian ears, because Australians themselves have been prominent in expeditions to the Antarctic. I agree entirely that it is a fine thing that Australia should continue to associate itself with an area that has been the scene of the activities, work, and death of so many brave men. The honorable member for Mackellar . (Mr. Wentworth) will mention in committee the matter to which he has already referred, and then perhaps I shall have the opportunity of speaking about it. I commend the bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The Australian Antarctic Territory Accepta/ice Act 1033 is repealed.
.- I move-
That the word “The” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “Section three of the”.
The object of the amendment is merely to clarify any possible doubt that might exist on the continuity of Australian sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory. As honorable members know, the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933 contains three sections. The first is formal. The second is the acceptance section. The third relates to the system of law applicable in the Territory, and it is that section only that we wish to repeal. The bill, as it is drafted, is thoroughly good in law because section 8 of the Acts Interpretation Act provides -
Where an Act repeals in the whole or in part a former Act, then unless the contrary intention appears the repeal shall not . . . affect the previous operation of any Act so repealed, or anything duly done or suffered under any Act so repealed . . .
I agree entirely that, in the strict technicality of law, clause 3 of the present bill does not imply any interruption of the continuity of Australian sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory. However, it is necessary for us. not only to be legally right, but also to try not to give, to a person who might appeal to those who do not understand the technicalities of Australian law, a pretext to say at any future time that we have in any way abandoned claim to continuity of sovereignty over ‘ the Australian Antarctic Territory. Consequently, it is important, not from the legal point of view, but from the point of view that I have mentioned, to maintain in operation sections one and two of the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933. particularly section two which reads -
That part of the territory in the Antarcticseas which comprises all the islands and territories, other than Adelie Land, situated south nf the 60th degree south latitude and lying between the 100th degree east longitude and the 40th degree east longitude, is hereby declared to bo accepted by the Commonwealth as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, by the name of the Australian Antarctic Territory.
I agree with the remarks of the honorable members who spoke at the secondreading stage about the heroism thai Australians have displayed, the interest that. Australia has exhibited in the Australian Antarctic Territory, and the claims of discovery and other claims that have been made, which, I think, make Australia’s title to the Australian Antarctic Territory indefeasible. But it is important that we should not give any ground to any one who might say that in this bill we have in any way renounced or impugned our right to continuous title to the Australian Antarctic Territory. I therefore suggest that, instead of repealing entirely the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933, we repeal only section three of that act, which relates to a system of law that shall operate in the Territory. After all, we wish only to alter the system of law in the Territory. We shall lose nothing by retaining the other provisions of the 1933 act. In law. the amendment will gain nothing. Neither will it lose anything in law. But in the sphere of public opinion overseas, not in Australia, it might perhaps improve our position a little, l therefore move the amendment as bringing possible loss under no head and bringing possible gain under one head, and I trust that the committee will agree to it.
.- The view of the Government and of its law officers, with which I heartily agree, is that the bill in its present form completely preserves Australia’s claim to sovereignty in the Australian Antarctic Territory, which was asserted by the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933. It is a well-established practice in this Parliament, as most honorable members know, to rely on other statutory provision, notably section eight of the Acts Interpretation Act, to preserve the validity of things that have been done under acts that are repealed. That practice is abundantly clear, in this instance, I think, to honorable members and to all lawyers and others who are familiar with our legal system. To that extent, the draftsman, in putting the bill in its present form, was completely right. But, as the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has said, persons outside Australia who an- not familiar with our system of law and with the particular mechanism that we use so universally in our law-making, may be inclined to think that, by repealing the 1933 act. we abandon our acceptance of and our claim to sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory. That being so, even though the amendment is, legally speaking, quite unnecessary and will, indeed, make the statute-book a little untidy, for the reasons that I have advanced, the Government accepts it.
– The amendment is useful. Section two of the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933 denned the Australian Antarctic Territory, and authorized its acceptance in the following words : -
I am certain that the mere repeal of the 1933 act, unexplained and without the inclusion of a similar declaration in the measure that effects the repeal, could easily be, and probably would be, regarded by other claimants or possible claimants as, protanto, a surrender or even an abandonment of Australia’s claim to the Australian Antarctic Territory. It would not be conclusive, but in international law a little point like that might prove to be important, and, therefore, I consider that the Minister is right in accepting the amendment. I should add that some of the suggestions made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), in his second-reading speech, are most valuable and enlightening.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the18th August (ride page 365), on motion by Mr. Hasluck-
That the bill he now read a second time.
– The Opposition will seek to amend this bill, because we believe that the measure, in its present form, can do little to promote the settlement and development of the Northern Territory, particularly the pastoralindustryand the agricultural industry there. We refrain from outright opposition to thebill, because we feel that some persons may be assisted by its provisions, but we believe that the legislation, in a broad sense, can do little to develop the pastoral and agricultural industries on a large scale. We consider that the bill should be wider in scope, so that it may be used as an instrument of policy for the development and settlement of areas in the Northern Territory which are capable of development and settlement to the advantage of the Northern Territory and Australia as a whole. The bill in its present form will not have that effect. The most that the bill can do is to enable relief to be granted to a few persons engaged in the pastoral and agricultural industries who may find themselves in financial difficulties. The bill will enable them to overcome their short-term difficulties, and to proceed with the development of their properties for a short period.
We believe that the Government, instead of bringing in a bill of this kind, would have been better advised to introduce a comprehensive measure which would take into consideration some of the matters that I shall mention in my speech, and in particular, afford financial assistance on a long-term basis at a reasonable rate of interestsoas as to encourage people tosettle in the Northern Territory. Settlers should be given worth-while assistance by the Government to enable them to place their propertieson a sound footing. The bill will be of little use in that respect. I propose, in committee, to submit some amendments which will seek to achieve the objectives that 1 have mentioned.
The Minister for Territories’ (Mr. Hasluck) made the following statements in his second-reading speech: -
The bill, therefore, proposes to add to the credit facilities available to the Northern Territory settler by giving a guarantee to the banks for advances additional to the amount which a bank might be expected to advance in the ordinary course of business without the guarantee. An upper limit is to be set by the value of the lease plus permanent improvements or a total advance of£30,000 whichever is the lesser.
In effect this means that a leaseholder will be able to obtain credit up to 100 per cent. of his security exclusive of his herd, whereas banks would customarily only go to60 per cent. of his security, subject to the provision that his total debt at any one time will not exceed £ 30,000.
An objectionable feature of this bill, in the opinion of the Opposition, is the fact that any loan which will be granted under the guarantee provided by the Government will be only of a short-term nature. A loan will be in the form of an overdraft granted by a banking institution or a pastoral house in the Northern Territory. It is futile to plan largescale development in the pastoral industry or agricultural industry, ifa loan can be called up at a moment’s notice, and thereby cause financial embarrassment to the settler. It is of no use to say that banks would not call up loans at short notice. We know perfectly well that the branches of banks in the Northern Territory receive their directions from their head-quarters in the south, and that banking policy changes from time to time. Credit restrictions may be introduced suddenly, and a policy of credit expansion may be adopted at another time. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that branches of banks in the Northern Territory might receive a direction from their headquarters to call up at short notice overdrafts granted to pastoralists or agriculturists. If that were done, embarrassment and even hardship would be caused to the settlers. Therefore, the Opposition contends that a really worth-while developmental policy or scheme of assistance must be based on the granting of long-term loans at a reasonable rate of interest.
It appears certain from the bill that the Government will guarantee only shortterm loans. I point out that a primary producer cannot undertake long-term improvements, such as water conservation and fencing, if a loan granted to him is likely to be called up at short notice. A settler has to contend with seasonal conditions and market fluctuations, both of which are uncertain factors, and he cannot, with any degree of safety, borrow money beyond his immediate requirements for the improvement of his property. A settler who borrows on the basis of a long-term policy of development would place his whole future in jeopardy because of the possibility of adverse seasonal conditions and market fluctuations. Therefore, a pastoralist would make only the improvements that he needed for his expanding herds in the near future. A settler would also make only those improvements for an expansion of agricultural pursuits that would normally be made from year to year.
A long-term policy of expansion would be out of keeping with safe and sound management if only a short-term loan was granted. The settler would be compelled to restrict his activities to shortterm objectives. He would always need to bear in mind that he must be able to make his assets liquid without delay, if a financial institution should call up his overdraft. The sale of stock would enable him to keep his assets reasonably liquid and he would not be able to finance developmental work beyond a certain point. He would not attempt to develop his property to the maximum in the shortest possible time. The provision of waters would have No. 1 priority, and that work is fairly expensive. The settler would not be able to put down numerous bores and tanks, because of the uncertainty of his financial position. Hewould provide only sufficient water for the needs of his expanding herd in the near future. It would be advisable and desirable for him to carry out the majority or the whole of his improvements at the one time. Under such an arrangement, he could take advantage of the most favorable conditions of labour and contracting, and could make improvements to his property more cheaply, and on a more satisfactory scale, than if he had to undertake them piecemeal. But this bill will restrict his opportunities to short-term developmental work. The settler would always have the fear that if he were to reach beyond a certain point, he could get into financial difficulties in the event of unfavorable seasonal conditions and market fluctuations. Therefore, any effective scheme must take into consideration not only his immediate but also his long-term requirements. The bill should be broadened to provide for the adequate financing of improvements and also for the purchase of stock to enable the settler to get maximum value for his improvements. If that were done, the new settler could complete improvements within a comparatively brief period and under the best possible conditions and immediately proceed to purchase stock. That would enable him to utilize his property to its Utmost capacity, and such conditions would be to the advantage not only of the settler individually, but also the country as a whole. He would also be enabled to discharge his obligations earlier than he could do otherwise, and he would have greater security than is the case when he is obliged to proceed on the basis of shortterm developmental works.
This bill does not measure up to requirements as a means of encouraging settlement in the Northern Territory or elsewhere. It will not be the means of attracting one additional settler to the Territory. As I have said, it will benefit only established primary producers who already have certain improvements on their property which they can use as security for loans from banks or pastoral houses. Although the Minister, in his second-reading speech, would have us believe that the measure -is intended to encourage new settlers, it does not contain any provision that will achieve that objective. It will not serve to open up land for settlement and it will not provide finance under conditions that would encourage persons to take up land in the Territory. It is true that, at present, no land is available in the Territory for new settlers. During the last twelve months, little, if any, pastoral land has been made available. Some years ago, certain land was made available for that purpose, but land is now a scarce commodity in the Territory, and it is not being made available to new settlers as quickly as should be the case. I am aware that certain leases have been surrendered by Vesteys, but land which has been resumed from those interests has been re-allocated to them in the form of grazing leases. The development of the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory will depend upon the area of land that is actually resumed as leases expire during the next few years. It is up to the lessees concerned to surrender land if they wish to convert it to another form of title, but they are not compelled to convert title. Many leases have from eight to ten years to run, so it will be some time before any worthwhile development by new settlers can be undertaken in the Territory.
Even if a new settler were able to obtain a lease in the Territory he would not necessarily be able to obtain finance for the development of the property. In fact, a man who takes up virgin country has no security in the property to offer and, therefore, that class of settler will not be able to qualify for benefit under this measure. Whilst he will he given water that will be a charge against him, and he will not be able to use the asset as security in obtaining finance. If he has not any improvements to offer for security he will be unable to qualify for any advantages being provided under this measure. Yet, that class of settler’ is most deserving of consideration. The mere fact that he may obtain a lease will not be of value to him because land, in its unimproved condition, is worthless as security for finance.
– Is the honorable member basing his argument on the assumption that this bill refers only to overdrafts?
– Generally speaking, that will be the case.
– No, the bill refers to loans.
– In practice, it will be found that loans will he granted on the basis that I have indicated. I shall be pleased if this matter works out differently; but, invariably, banks and financial institutions in the Territory have made loans available only on an overdraft basis and for only short terms. I believe that that practice will be continued in the future. As I have said, a lease on which no improvements have been provided will be of little value and a new settler will be obliged to find the necessary finance to effect improvements and to stock his property. On the Minister’s own figures, that expenditure will be as high as £50,000. The necessary stock will cost about £30,000, and improvements, sufficient to provide security for a loan, will cost from £15,000 to £20,000. Thus, at present, the capital required for land settlement in the Northern Territory is beyond the reach of the average settler of the type who should be given the greatest encouragement. I refer to the young energetic man. Provided he has sufficient funds to purchase his initial herd and carry out preliminary developments, he should be able to obtain loans from the Commonwealth Bank on a long-term basis to enable him to proceed with the full development of his property. He will not be able to do so on a short-term basis. Very few persons will be prepared to take up land in the Northern Territory at a minimum- cost of approximately £50,000 when much more attractive propositions are available in the south.
The area of individual leases that are how made available in the Territory i3 too large and such properties require great capitalization to bring them into maximum production. This whole problem should be tackled on the basis of it being a part of a general scheme for the development of the Northern Territory. Such a scheme would envisage the construction of first-class railways and roads which would provide essential communications and, in the event of droughts, escape routes for pastoralists and those engaged in mixed farming. All of us are aware of the hazards, such as seasonal conditions, that are involved in primary production. If greater rail and road facilities were provided in the Territory it would be possible to make available leaseholds in sizes that would involve the expenditure of a much smaller amount of capital, and resident settlers would thus be enabled to play an active part in the development of the Territory. At present, resident lessees find it virtually impossible to compete with pastoral companies, syndicates and partnerships because too much capital is required to develop the blocks under the conditions under which they are made available at present. I agree that lessees should be obliged to observe certain conditions, but the conditions which are now prescribed are too onerous and offer no encouragement to young men who possess a certain amount of capital and who, as a result of experience in primary production, would be prepared to stay on the land and do most of the work on their properties. I repeat that, at present, land is being made available in areas far too large to enable resident lessees to engage in economic farming. The Government should consider the provision of first-class railways and roads with the object of eventually making land available in blocks that can be operated economically by resident lessees.
The Minister referred to the agricultural aspect of development in the Northern Territory. The objections that I have already raised to this measure insofar as the encouragement of pastoral development is concerned apply also to
Ifr. Nelson. agricultural development. I repeat that the scope of the measure should be broadened to make available long-term loans at a nominal rate of interest. The Minister referred to the Primary Producers Board in the Territory. That body now has power to advance loans up to £600 as assistance in agricultural production, and it is proposed under this measure to increase such loans to £3,000. That board could be used to a greater degree as an instrument in the development of agriculture in the Territory. It should be empowered to make available loans in excess of £3,000 for agricultural purposes.
Sitting suspended from 12.k5 to 2.15 p.m.
– As I said earlier, the; Government already has at hand in the Northern Territory an instrument that could be used to finance various primary production activities. The Primary Producers Board could do the job that the Government seeks to have done under this measure, and furthermore it could probably do so much more effectively because, as it is constituted, it can provide longterm finance as opposed to the shortterm loans for which the bill provides. The services and resources of the board should be used to finance agricultural, pastoral and small mixed farming development in the Northern Territory. All that is necessary is an extension of the’ board’s credit facilities and an enlargement of its funds. A maximum grant could be fixed by regulation. The board could then promote the development of such agricultural pursuits as the growing of rice, tobacco and peanuts. The prospects for the production of these crops in the Northern Territory are very promising. There is an estimated area of 2,000,000 acres suitable for the growing of rice, which could be brought under cultivation within a very short period.
The Minister has announced that the Government intends to call in American interests to exploit the rice-growing potentiality of the Northern Territory. The Opposition contends that this work should be undertaken by the Government itself, which should be in an excellent position now to assess the agricultural possibilities of the area. Basic experimental work lias already been carried out by its instrumentalities, and it should have in its possession enough sound information to enable it to draft an agricultural programme that would enable some hundreds, or possibly thousands, of land-hungry Australians to establish themselves in the Territory. The Opposition fears that, if the introduction of American capital into the area is permitted, the few opportunities that exist there for the settlement of Australians, particularly exservicemen, will be lost. We have no land settlement scheme for the ex-servicemen of the Northern Territory, and this would he a glorious opportunity to help those men, who have not been able to take advantage of our re-establishment legislation simply because they live there. We should do our utmost to make it possible for them to enjoy the advantages that have been made available to ex-servicemen in the southern part of the continent. The establishment of the rice-growing industry would provide an excellent means of extending to them the advantages that are enjoyed by their southern brothers.
There is unlimited scope also for tobacco-growing and peanut-growing in the Northern Territory, and credit facilities should be made available to settlers who wish to engage in these forms of agriculture. The Opposition is apprehensive of the possibility that American interests will tie up large areas of land and eventually subdivide them, at the expense of Australians, and make huge profits for themselves in the process. It would bc untruthful, of course, to say that Australians cannot handle rice development. They have done the job in New South Wales with .great credit to themselves and much benefit to Australia. Neither can it he said truthfully that funds are not available to the Government for such development. It has means of acquiring capital for the development of the agricultural districts’ of the Northern Territory.
I give notice to the House now that I intend to move in committee an amendment designed to broaden the scope of the bill. The Minister said this morning, by interjection, that the loans to be made available under the hill would not be confined to overdrafts and short-term loans. If that is so, it is remarkable that the honorable gentleman did not refer to the fact in his second-reading speech. Certainly, it is not made clear in the bill. However, in view of the honorable gentleman’s assurance, I am sure that he will have no objection to my proposal to clarify the situation so that the bill will state in definite terms that finance may be provided, not only by way of shortterm loans, but also by way of long-term loans which will permit of widespread and worth-while development in the pastoral and agricultural industries of the Northern Territory. I hope that he will support my move to put the matter beyond any possibility of doubt.
– I take the opportunity at the outset of my speech to compliment the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on the foresight that he has displayed in framing this legislation and, furthermore, to applaud him warmly for his vigorous approach to the problems of the Northern Territory since he assumed the portfolio which he now holds. I consider that a breath of spring and a burst of energy have been brought to those problems, which, in conjunction with the altered economic circumstances of the Territory, will have a material effect on the general development of that area. At the same time, I consider that we who hold positions in the National Parliament, and who have the responsibility for the development of the Northern Territory entrusted to us, would do both the Territory and the nation as a whole a disservice if we tried to establish in the minds of people overseas a belief that the Territory is a land flowing with milk and honey. If we cast our minds back to 1911, when the sagacious and acute politicians of South Australia quitted that area for a financial consideration from the Commonwealth, and breathed large sighs of relief as a result, we must realize that the Northern Territory is not going to be the Mecca of Australians of the future. However, its problems are our problems, and they must be tackled vigorously. That is why I applaud the. approach that is being made to them by the present Minister.
In order to support my contentions in relation to the prospects of the Northern Territory, even though they have been altered slightly by recent economic developments, I refer honorable members to the report of the Payne committee, which inquired into the land and land industries of the Northern Territory in 1937. The members of the committee stated in the outline of their report -
The Northern Territory as it exists to-day is a national problem, a national obligation, a challenge to other nations, and a detriment to ourselves. . Nature has not been lavish in bestowing resources on the Territory. It possesses tracts of good pastoral country but they are widely separated from one another by huge belts of inferior and often useless land. Not more than 50 per cent, of the lands of the Territory are suited for pastoral occupation or development.
In one of the suggestions made in its general programme, the committee stated -
Industries must, so far as possible, be granted conditions that will place them in a position not less advantageous than that enjoyed by similar industries operating in more favoured ‘parts of Australia . . . Some new transport facilities must be provided to overcome the present isolation of much of the Territory’s most favoured pastoral lands, and thus enable increased development, increased production, and increased settlement to take place.
Those remarks are as true to-day as they were when they were written, and therefore I welcome this legislation, even though admittedly it will be of a slightly experimental nature in its approach to the problem of financing pastoral and farming development in that great area. As I have said, the economic trends of the last five or six years have altered the nature of the economy of the Northern Territory, and of other large areas of our unoccupied north. I have some connexion with the cattle industry. Members of my family have been engaged in it in western Queensland for many years, and I know the practical result to the industry, especially in Queensland, of higher prices for meat. “What was a borderline existence in the past has now become a reasonably profitable livelihood, and one on which capital may be expended with a fairly good chance of recoupment, with great profit to the country as a whole in addition.
One of the basic problems with which we are faced is that of trying to entice capital into our undeveloped northern regions, not merely for exploitation pur poses, but for use in a way that will attract population and make living conditions better for the people who live there. Unfortunately, in view of the present international situation, other eyes turn naturally to what are called “ large unoccupied areas “. Therefore, I believe that we must, in fairness to the Northern Territory and the people of Australia, make some comparison between that region and similar regions in other parts of the world. If we cast our eyes around the world, we see many areas in heavily populated countries where desert conditions exist and where settlement is non-existent. For instance, I refer honorable members to the desert areas of the great country of China, and the large desert areas of New Mexico, Arizona and other parts of the United States of America, where settlement is almost nonexistent. We cannot readily move enormous numbers of people to the Northern Territory merely by waving a wand or by passing legislation in this Parliament. Therefore, it is well for us at this stage; to consider the problems that face us in the Northern Territory and adjacent areas. As I have said, the whole complexion of the pastoral industry, and particularly the cattle industry, has been altered materially by increased prices. This change has made the industry profitable. It is now possible for cattlemen to develop their properties and so add to the national assets. However, in recent years, mineral discoveries in the Northern Territory have further altered the complexion of its economy. We have heard hints of the existence of large deposits of uranium ore. There has also been much development in gold-mining and other branches of the mining industry. Therefore, we now have two strings to our bow.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has referred to experimental work in connexion with the production of rice and certain other cash crops. That work is being watched with interest by overseas investors. This line of activity also offers a means of increasing the population of that great open area. However, I think it would be wrong to assume that either of the two principal industries I have mentioned will bring a large population to the Northern Territory. The history of mining in Australia has shown that it is often a direct incentive to settlement, particularly where operations are conducted in districts with reasonably good land and rainfall. But the fact that people engage in mining activities will not mean that they will remain in the Territory after the deposits of ore have been worked out. One has only to look at places like Cobar, the northern coast of Queensland and other old mining districts, to see what happens after the mines have given out. Old mining towns become ghost towns. Therefore, mining itself will not bring a permanent population to the Territory, although it will induce people to go there, and some possibly might decide to stay permanently if conditions are sufficiently attractive.
Let us consider the main problems that face the people of the Northern Territory. I completely agree with the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory about transport. I believe that the provision of proper transport facilities is probably one way in which the Government could increase settlement in the Territory. But I do not agree that railways will provide the answer to the Territory’s transport problem, although the value of a railway system should be closely examined when the general transport scheme is being examined. I believe that a good roads system, together with, perhaps, a subsidized road-transport system, would cater for the needs of the Territory in a far more elastic way than would a railway system. Moreover, because of the extraordinary expense of building a railway in the Territory, it is hard to see how it would ever pay for itself. The main traffic at present out of the Territory, which is likely to be the main traffic in the future, is in beef cattle. I have not the latest figures available, but in 1950-51 approximately 145,000 head of cattle were sent out of the Territory. It would need about 6,000 K-type vans, such as are used on the Queensland railways, to carry that stock, and I hardly think that that volume of traffic would justify the expenditure on a railway system of perhaps the £20,000,000 that has been mentioned by other honorable members. Therefore, I do not believe that a railway is necessary, although, from the viewpoint of the residents, it would be a tremendous asset in the event of a serious drought. I fall back on the suggestion that has been made by other honorable members, that better roads, and an extension of road transport services or road trains, will solve our major problems in the Territory. The elasticity of road transport, and its ready availability make it a far more profitable proposition than a railway, especially when the type of traffic available is considered.
The financing of leasehold land in back country areas has never been attractive to financial houses, and it is too uncertain an investment for normal long-term loan policies. That position is further aggravated in the Northern Territory because the rainfall there is very uncertain. In the Alice Springs area the rainfall can vary from 2 inches in one year to 28 inches in another, and while the average for a period of years might be 10^ inches, the variation from one year to another is so great that the average rainfall is not any guide at all to the rain that might fall in that area each year. The variation of rainfall from year to year is one of the main reasons why the Territory has not developed more than it has, and perhaps it will continue to remain sparsely populated whatever we do. However, certain areas lend themselves to farming activities, and I believe that the Government has done valuable work to conduct experiments in those areas, both on its own account, and in association with the Western Australian Government.
This bill will enable a step forward to be taken in regard to Northern Territory finance, but I believe that the honorable member for the Northern Territory made a pure assumption when he said that it will provide finance only on a short-term basis. While overdrafts certainly can be called up, the Treasury guarantee covers the whole situation, and I believe that the success of the new provisions will largely depend on the attitude of the Treasury officials concerned. As custodians of the public purse we must ensure that public money is not wasted, but we also have a responsibility towards the Northern Territory. However, the advancing of money to those in the Territory involves a risk, and unless the Treasury is prepared to take that risk the legislation will lose some of its effect. Perhaps when this matter is being reviewed, the Minister will consider that in addition to the conditions on which the guarantee can be applied, he should lay down conditions for the advancing of money where, after a serious drought, restocking is necessary. Unless finance is available for purposes such as that, the legislation may fail, to some extent, in its long-term effect.
What are the factors leading to success in the development of the Northern Territory? The first is security of tenure; and during his term of office the Minister for Territories has made great strides towards obtaining security of tenure for landholders in the Territory. Secondly, the taxation policy to be adopted towards the Northern Territory should be constantly under review. The decision to re-impose the tax on incomes in the Northern Territory was perhaps hasty, and one that might prove to be unwise. I believe that it may be necessary to subsidize the system of road trains, and the wise financial assistance which may be given under this legislation will be a further attraction to the right type of settler to live in the Northern Territory. I remind honorable members that we must face up to the position in the Northern Territory, and while it would be unwise to anticipate huge expenditure which could not be recouped, even at some ‘ risk to the Treasury we should encourage settlers to go there. I commend the Minister for introducing this legislation.
.- One is always interested when a bill comes before the Parliament to deal with some aspect of the development of any part of Australia, and one is particularly interested when such a measure deals with the northern part of the country which is in such vital need of development. Therefore, it wah with some interest that I listened to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) developing his second-reading speech. I must say that in the beginning I was very much interested, and thought that he would say something worth while. However, as his speech proceeded, it became weaker and more anaemic until he finally said that it was a relatively small measure for the purpose of tackling this great problem of development. Therefore, the Minister has brought a measure before the House which he himself is ashamed of because he believes that it is anaemic. We have just heard the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) say how the bill could be improved, and the Minister will now apparently try to improve its health by giving it a transfusion of amendments. I hope that he is successful.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) is an experienced cattle man. He pointed out that the financial provisions of the bill should be wider in their scope, and should be applied to such things as restocking after droughts and the purchasing of bulls to improve the quality of the herds. I hope that the Minister will listen not only to the suggestions of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, but also to the suggestions of the honorable member for Corangamite. I believe that this measure is shockingly inadequate. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) said, in a recent press statement, that one of our most urgent problems was to fill up the empty north. It is contrary to the Standing Orders to refer to the representative of the Queen for the purpose of influencing the House in its deliberations, but I may say that a distinguished soldier from abroad has stated that there are 1,200,000,000 Asian eyes looking south to the vacant areas of this great continent. Therefore, I condemn the hill for its narrowness. Why should it apply only to the problems of the Northern Territory?
A few days ago the Minister for Defence said that development was the responsibility of the States, but I say that development in the Northern Territory, and, indeed, in the whole of the northern part of Australia, is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament. Consequently, this . bill should apply, not only to the Northern Territory, but also to the Kimberleys district, the northern part of Queensland, and, in fact, to all Australia -north of the 26th parallel of latitude. All that area should be the responsibility of this Parliament. The honorable member for Corangamite said that the Treasury should take a risk, and I entirely agree with him; but I point out that there is very little risk in making advances to the cattle industry in northern Australia if those advances are made sensibly and under proper administration. One of the best properties in the northern part of Australia is Rosewood. In all of the Government’s reports, that station has been upheld as an example of the best developed areas. The gentleman who owned the property told me that he had invested money in the golden mile’ of Kalgoorlie and in newspaper companies, and that he also had shares in a brewery. He added, “ If you want to make money, invest your capital in a well in the northern part of Australia”. At that time, a well cost approximately £2,500, but, as a result of the administration of this Government, a well now costs £4,000. The gentleman to whom I referred stated that he had tried almost every form of investment, but that the best form of investment was the investment of money in northern Australia. The Government could not invest money in a better programme than that of giving support to private persons for the provision of stock, water, fencing, and the improvement of herd3 for the development of the Northern Territory.
I now direct the attention of honorable members to properties in northern Queensland that have been in the course of development for very many years. An examination of those properties would reveal that they have been developed to only one-third of their potential capacity. In the Northern Territory, properties such as Ord River, Brunette Downs, Wave Hill and Ivanhoe have been developed to only one-fourth of their capacity. Further west, in the Kimberleys district of Western Australia, the position is much worse. Existing properties in that district are developed to only one-sixth of their capacity. In other words five-sixths of the work on those properties still remains to be done. Those figures give some idea of the enormous amount of developmental work that still remains to be done.
This measure provides for the underwriting by the Government of 40 per cent, on existing mortgages, with a limit of £30,000. The effect of the Government’s policy is that either it is making available blocks of land the sizes of which are excessive, or the degree of its financial assistance is far too small. When the Minister for Territories introduced the bill, he made the following statement : -
We are hoping that, as a result of the passage of the Crown Lands Ordinance of the Northern Territory, pastoralists will convert their leaseholds to the form of perpetual leasehold known as the pastoral homestead lease.
The honorable gentleman must have read the song that is entitled ‘’ Hope, hope, hope “. He is like the elderly spinster of 60 years of age who continues to prepare her glory box. He made very many expressions of hope in his second-reading speech. He also stated that the Government hoped that this legislation would attract to the Territory young men with energy, who would be prepared to make their homes in that area. He stated that, in many cases, the assets of these young men consist in their knowledge, their physical stamina, and their pioneering spirit, plus sufficient capital to acquire a few thousand head of cattle. What does the Minister mean by the words “ a few thousand “ ? I remember one occasion when my mother, who was apparently, reading a good novel, asked me to play outside. She said, “ Yon may have a few lollies “, I said “ How many are a few?” She said, “Two”. I thought two were not very many.
For the purposes of my discussion, I have taken a minimum of 2,000 head of cattle. I think the Minister should have been more specific when he used the words “ a few thousand “. Breeders would cost, at the very least, £10 a head. They may cost £12 or £13, or even more, but I do not wish to draw a long bow. For a start, we shall say that a man would need 2,000 breeders at £10 a head. That number of cattle cannot be handled without a minimum of 4’0 or 50 horses, which would cost another £1,000. In addition, one would require a truck, which would cost another £1,000, plus all the other equipment that is ‘ necessary for the handling of 2,000 breeders. It means that a man would need £24,000 in capital before he started. If a man had £24,000 in his hip pocket, perhaps he could obtain terms from some firms. At least, he must be credit-worthy to the extent of £24,000. There are not many young men in the Northern Territory, or in Australia, who have the skill, the experience, and the courage, and who are prepared to take £24,000 into the north of Australia for the purpose of developing a block of land. The conditions for re-stocking require that, if a mau takes over a property, he must increase his stock from 2,000 to 5,000 head within a period of five years, and to 10,000 head within a period of another five years. In addition to paying £10 a head for breeders, he must allow £6 a head for calves, yearlings or steers. I think any one who knows anything about the cattle industry would acknowledge that that is a very low figure. Under the conditions that have been proposed by the Government for the holding of a lease, the lessee, within a period of eleven years, must increase the value of his asset to £10S,600. But the Minister comes into the House and introduces a bill for the purpose of lending 40 per cent, of £30,000. That is just ludicrous.
The Northern Territory must be developed. Why does the Government not come to grips with the problems, and develop it? It has adopted a policy under which, in effect, the Treasurer may be financing six, seven or eight banks. Each bank may have a different policy in relation to advances. I was on a property during the period of the depression, and I had the experience of not knowing where I would obtain the next gallon of petrol with which to start the tractor. I shall not mention the name of the firm, but I know that one wool firm was calling in bills of sale over stock. But another wool firm stated that it would stick to its clients, who had stuck to it. The same conditions still apply in relation to the financing of these properties. The Bank of New South Wales might adopt one policy, the National Bank of Australasia Limited might adopt another policy, and the Commercial Bank of Australia Limited might adopt yet another policy in time of drought. The position could arise in which there were five or six different policies in relation to advances to settlers in the Northern Territory. I know that the Minister is a member of only the “ second eleven “ in the Cabinet, but, if he desires to do something for the Northern Territory, he should say to the gallant knight on the ministerial bench, “ Take this bill back to the ‘ first eleven ‘ and give us something worth while. I am not prepared to pilot such an anaemic bill through the National Parliament of the country “. He should further state, “I want a bill that will cover the whole of the north of Australia. I want a bill that will cover the development of the Kimberleys, the Northern Territory and the north of Queensland “. He has the capacity to do it; all he needs is the courage.
In addition, the Government should inform the Commonwealth Trading Bank that it wants a policy for the purpose, not only of opening up new leases, but also for the development of leases that are already in occupation, and that it is prepared to underwrite loans amounting to £50,000,000, such loans to be for a period of 25 years. There should be a cheap money policy for the purpose of developing this area. If money can be found for war service homes purposes at an interest rate of 3J per cent., it can be found for the development of Northern Australia at the same rate of interest. There could be no better investment, not only for the purpose of obtaining a return on the capital investment, but also for the purpose of defence and populating the northern part of the continent. I suggest that the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that the Government will underwrite loans made by the Commonwealth Trading Bank for the purposes of development. It would then have at least a uniform policy of credit advances. There would not be competition. There would not be a withdrawal by one bank of its assistance, and the adoption of a different policy of administration by another bank. These things should be done in the interests of the country, and they should be done immediately.
I have already stated that the development of the Ord River and Daly River areas, and of areas in Queensland, could be brought, and should be brought, within the scope of this bill. I hope the Minister will give further consideration to these problems. We have the land in the north of Australia, and we have the young Australians who are prepared to develop it. The only thing that is retarding its development is the lack of an effective credit policy. In an effort to tackle the problem the Government has brought down a hill that is quite inadequate. I think it should be withdrawn and redrafted to include the conditions that were suggested by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson).
.- I am disappointed at the fact that the Opposition has seen fit to criticize this bill instead of welcoming it. It is true that perhaps it does not go quite as far as we should like. The immediate reaction of the Opposition, whenever a finance measure is introduced in this chamber, is to say that it does not go far enough. The Government has made a move in the right direction. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) has told the House that the north of Australia is crying out for development, hut he did not tell us why, during the long period in which he was a Minister of the Crown, action of the kind that the Government has now taken was not taken for the assistance of settlers in the Northern Territory. The Labour Government did nothing to make advances’ or guarantee loans; yet the honorable member for St. George criticizes this progressive measure, which should be acclaimed from both sides of the House, and states that it does not go far enough. Of course the north is crying out for development. The south also is crying out for development, but should every one in the country areas who wants to borrow money for the development of his property be able to obtain a loan from the Commonwealth Bank at 3f per cent, interest? I could spend a lot of money on my own property. Why should I obtain it at 3$ per cent, interest when the taxpayers would obviously have to make up the difference between the sum represented by that interest rate and the ruling rate? This hill is a move in the right direction, and half a loaf of bread is better than none.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has done an excellent job in administering the Northern Territory. He has introduced many progressive measures that have been of great assistance to settlers in the Territory. He has increased the mileage of roads in the Territory by 25 per cent., and has been responsible for the sinking of bores and the establishment of water-supply schemes that have helped to ensure that in most seasons no difficulty shall be experienced in walking cattle out to market. The Minister and the Government have been responsible for considerable improvement of the railways in the Northern Territory, although we know that their capacity is still far short of what is necessary. Diesel trains have been put in service in place of the old steam trains, and the railways are gradually being brought up to proper standard. I trust that in the future the length of line will be considerably extended. The Governor-General, in his opening Speech, told the Parliament that the Government intended to consider extending the railways in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, the same sort of thing has been promised for the last 50 years, but the promises have not been fulfilled. I am anxious to see that promise translated into action. It may be, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has said, that nowadays it is better to subsidize road transport and construct well-made roads than it is to extend railway lines. Whichever policy is the better, let us act and realize that we shall never increase the degree of closer settlement and development generally in the Northern Territory until ample transport for the movement of stock to the markets in the south is available to the residents of the Territory. We trust that the discovery of large deposits of uranium and other minerals in the Territory will hasten that development.
This Government has assisted the airbeef scheme in the Kimberleys region of Western Australia, and it has recently appointed a committee to study the prospects of introducing an air-beef scheme in the Northern Territory. My only criticism of that action is that, though the committee appointed is excellent, it includes no resident of the Territory. I am aware that a number of members of the committee have been associated with the Northern Territory, but I consider that some residents of the Territory should have been appointed to the committee. I am afraid that the Government is rather inclined to take the attitude that it should tell the people of the Northern Territory how their affairs shall be conducted instead of asking the residents of the Territory what they want. I have repeatedly referred to the Minister for Territories the matter of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, most of the members of which are nominated by the Government. All the nominated members are public servants who have no roots in the north. They are stationed in the Territory for a term of tropical duty, or whatever one likes to call it, and immediately their tour is finished they return to the south. I appeal to the Government to consider nominating residents of the Territory for appointment to the council and to other bodies concerned with the development of the Northern Territory.
– Order ! I shall not allow a discussion about the Northern Territory Legislative Council in the debate on this measure.
– I am sorry that my remarks were a little wide of the bill. I want to point out, in answer to the honorable member for St. George, the development that has taken place in thi? Northern Territory under the administration of this Government, which realized, when it took office, that one of the greatest problems in the Northern Territory was the fact that enormous areas of laud were held by absentee lessees. It has constantly tried to make finance and land available to settlers to enable them to take up and develop smaller properties. Vestey’s, the Bovril company, the Scottish Australian enterprise, and other pastoral companies hold between them thousands of square miles of land in the Territory. In the opinion of myself and of Colonel Rose, who is in charge of the agricultural services in the Northern Territory, the lack of development of the areas held by those companies is a tragedy for the Territory. In an attempt to promote development, the Minister, some time ago, altered the conditions in relation to leases in order to give preference to persons who are resident in the Territory or who will remain resident in it. The Minister also introduced a scheme under which many of the large leases were converted to leases for a term of 50 years, and under which provision was made for the promotion of development. The Minister informed me, in answer to a question that I asked in this House some six months ago, that Vestey’s had surrendered for closer settlement a large part of the area that it formerly held. and had agreed to expend the sum of £250,000 over a period of five years on the remaining land held by the company on a 50-years lease.
The availability of additional land for settlement is not enough. We must ensure that people who take up the land shall have the necessary finance to undertake essential development work on it. Many people, both in the Northern Territory and elsewhere in Australia, have the necessary finance to take up and develop land in the Territory. A friend of mine in Melbourne fairly recently went to the Northern Territory and has invested a considerable amount of money in the development of two properties there. But, by and large, Australians are not sufficiently wealthy to do that. This measure will assist settlers whose finance is limited by extending considerable credit to them. Members of the Opposition have stated that advances should be made by means of government, loans, which they consider are unlikely to be called in so as to cause hardship. I disagree entirely with that view. I remind Opposition members that two years ago war service land settlers in New South Wales experienced considerable difficulty because they found it impossible to obtain additional funds by way of government loans. The New South Wales Government declared that it was being starved of funds. We all recall the tale that was spread throughout the country. The result was that war service land settlers in New South Wales could not obtain the funds that they needed for the development of their land. I should much prefer a governmentguaranteed bank overdraft to a government loan. Opposition members have stated that this bill prescribes no limit of the time for which credit may be given. Of course it does not. The Government will continue to guarantee overdrafts for unlimited periods. As no time limit is specified in the bill, a settler’s bank overdraft will be guaranteed by the Government so long as he does not exceed the specified overdraft limit of £30,000.
All honorable members realize that large sums of money are necessary for the proper development of properties taken up by settlers in the Northern Territory. 1 shall not discuss that aspect of the matter in detail, because other honorable members have done so, and have ‘ mentioned the amount of money that is needed. Funds are needed for the purchase of stock, tools and equipment. The Government has assisted in the transport of good shorthorn stud stock from southern Australia to the Northern Territory by subsidizing rail and ailtransport. Two years ago, it subsidized the transport by air to Brunette Downs of some of the best shorthorn stud animals in Australia. I congratulate the Government on that action, and I hope that it will continue that policy. Considerable sums of money are needed for the sinking of bores and for fencing. When I was in the Northern Territory, I was informed that the boundary of only one property there is completely fenced. The average size of properties in the Territory is approximately 500 square miles, and at least 90 miles of fencing would be needed for the boundary of such an area. The Minister for Territories, in his second-reading speech, pointed out that the estimated cost of fencing in the Territory is £400 a mile. Consequently, it would cost at least £36,000 to fence completely the boundary of a property of average size.
It is essential that everything possible be done to make additional finance available to settlers in the Territory. No mention has been made of the need for reserves of funds to tide settlers over droughts. Most residents of the Territory consider that the prime need is to sink bores, and then to undertake a limited amount of fencing. I remind the House of the experiments that have been made by Colonel Rose, at Alice Springs, and by Mr. Geddes at Badgery’s Creek, in New
South Wales. Those experiments have demonstrated that it is profitable to irrigate small areas by pumping water into dams and then irrigating from those dams, or by constructing dams to catch run-off water, which may be used for irrigation. I am sure that in the near future such measures will make an important contribution to the development of the Territory. I am not sure how much itcosts in the Northern Territory to obtain fodder from the south, but I believe that rail transport from Adelaide to Alice Springs costs about. £20 a ton. It is obvious, therefore, that fodder from the south is too costly for pastoralists in the Northern Territory. Consequently settlers must be provided with finance to develop fodder conservation schemes in the Territory. I have pointed out that very few people have sufficient funds for proper land development. Not long ago, a resident of my electorate who is anxious to take up land in the Northern Territory informed me that he could put about £20,000 into a property in the Territory. On making inquiries, I learned that he would certainly need considerable financial assistance to enable him to take up a property of reasonable size.
I commend the Government for having introduced this measure.. I should like to point out, at this juncture, that the Government must proceed cautiously. This measure is merely a first step, and I trust that it will be only the herald of considerably increased assistance. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated -
The Government has had no direct experience of this kind of assistance to settlers in the Northern Territory, and consequently we shall watch very closely the application of the provisions of the bill. If necessary, in future, other steps will be taken to help to ensure that the measures are adequate to achieve the result desired. The scheme can be adjusted to meet new needs or new opportunities. At the same time it must be watched closely. Although we want to encourage development, we do not want to reach that stage of careless expenditure and financial light-heartedness as a prelude to financial misery which characterized some of the earlier schemes of assisted settlement in Australia.
I repeat that this measure is only a first step. As has occurred in relation to many other first steps taken by this Government, it will probably be found, in a year or two, that the assistance given under this bill can be increased. The Government will incur a liability under this measure, and it must be careful that its liability does not become too great.
Many banks in the Northern Territory are ready to assist settlers. I understand that the Bank of New South Wales has recently opened a large branch at Alice Springs and I feel it is right that we should use the existing financial houses rather than set up a government scheme. The financial houses have trained servants. A bank manager’s training in life is to assist the possibility of success of the person to whom he lends money. Often, governments lend money without any regard to the ability of the borrower to repay it, and, therefore, in the long run, money that has been lent by a government sometimes has to be written off.
This bill will go a long way to help settlers in the Northern Territory. I hope that the financial provision that is to be made will be increased in the future. This is one of a large number of ways in which the Government has assisted, and will continue to assist, the north. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite on the application of the taxation laws to the people who derive income from the north. I thought at the time, and I did not hesitate to say at the time, that the Government did a wrong thing by abolishing the measure under which persons in the Northern Territory did not pay income tax. At the same time, the old system which was introduced by the Labour party was, in many ways, unsatisfactory, and I believe that even mem bers of the Labour party will admit that to be so. However, I have in mind that Lord Vestey, in London, received money from the Northern Territory which was not taxed, whilst his employees, who were working in Australia, very often under dreadful conditions, were paying tax. Obviously, there is room for an alteration of that law, but I thought that the Government did the wrong thing when it abolished the exemption completely. I understand that a committee has been examining this matter, and it is time the Minister informed us how far this committee has progressed, and what recommendations it has made. I hope that some system will be introduced whereby employees will be granted an exemption from tax on a certain proportion of their earnings, and that a percentage of the profits of employers will be tax-free. They do not ask for too much, but they are living under conditions under which we are not prepared to live, and I believe that they deserve some assistance in that way.
This bill will make a considerable amount of extra assistance available to people in the Northern Territory. I feel that the measure is going the right way about it by using the existing financial organizations instead of setting up a government organization. For that reason, I wholeheartedly support the bill.
Mr. LUCHETTI (Macquarie) [3.17 J. - This measure does not meet the challenge for the development of the Northern Territory. It will not place another settler on the land, and I do not believe that it will keep on the land any settler who is financially embarrassed at the present time. For that reason, I consider that the amendments that are to be submitted by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in committee should be accepted by the Government. The honorable member speaks with an intimate knowledge of this area, and of its requirements. I commend his remarks to the House. I also applaud the forthright speech of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon), who has indicated to the House the steps that should be taken if the Northern Territory is to be developed as it should be in the onward march of this country.
I do not blame the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for the provisions of this bill, because I realize that he, like members on the back benches on the Government side of the chamber, can do no more than the Government permits with its present financial policy. That represents the division between the Government and honorable members on thi3 side of the chamber. The Labour party believes in a full, imaginative programme for the development of the Northern Territory. The north cannot be developed unless vast sums of money are made available for that purpose, and unless there is a reorientation of feeling and policy in respect of the development of this important area.
This morning, we discussed at great length the frozen south, and we pegged our claims in the frigid area inhabited by seagulls and penguins. This afternoon, we have an opportunity to consider a torrid area vital to Australia, inhabited by people such as ourselves, vital to the development of this country, and vital to its security. I should have thought, in view of all those circumstances, that the Government, when it produced a plan for the development of that area, would submit proposals that would greatly develop the Northern Territory and enable the present residents to continue to live in the northern areas. I also thought that the proposals would include an arrangement for the provision of finance, and the formulation of a policy so that people who desired to settle in the Northern Territory would be able to do so, certain in the knowledge that they would have financial assistance equal to the responsibilities that they would shoulder in the frontier work of this country. It is regrettable that the bill falls short of those objectives.
When the honorable member for the Northern Territory was speaking, the Minister suggested, by interjection, that the daily balances would not be the order, and that it would be possible to keep the moneys to a certain figure. I speak to you, Mr. Speaker, as I speak to honorable members who have had experience on the land, when I ask : Who is to say that the circumstances of the time, the vicissitudes of fortune on the land, may not require a person to seek assistance in excess of what is considered by financial institutions to be reasonable and just, to maintain his equity in the land? Because of that, I believe that it is necessary for this chamber to go beyond the limit set in the bill. I am not finding fault with any financial house which sets up a bank at Alice Springs, Katherine or Darwin. I welcome that development in the area, and I say that it is as desirable as it is necessary. But something else is required.
This Government, which, is pledged to the development of Australia, and the maintenance of its security in accordance with the cry of one flag one destiny, should formulate a plan that will encourage people to go to the north and ensure that when they go, their future will be secure. For that reason, I support the remarks of the honorable member for
St. George who has said that the Commonwealth Bank should have a plan to under-write loans in that area. What is actually required is a form of bank similar to the Rural Bank of New South Wales, which would have the responsibility and charter to develop the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth Bank could play an important part in that type of development.
Let us see what i3 required by settlers to enable them to remain in the Northern Territory. Confronted with the hazards of drought, fire and flood, they are urgently in need of funds to enable them to maintain and improve their properties. As the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) knows only too well, most properties in that area, are completely unfenced, and stock are running wild over vast tracts of country. Land which is occupied is being leased, and a good deal of land belongs to the Crown. Fences must be erected. Money is also required for the provision of water and transport. All those form integral parts of a developmental plan. I go beyond that, and think of the needs of people who intend to go to the Northern Territory. During my recent visit to the north, I became aware of certain land which is being made available for settlement, but I understand that any person with capital of less than £40,000 need not apply. He would not be in the picture. He would not have the reserves to go into that area. Is the country to be developed under those conditions? When this country was being pioneered, a man needed capital in the form of energy and courage. He took his wife and children to a new area, and was prepared to roll up his sleeves, fell the timber, grub and burn the stumps, and clear the land. Yet we learn that a person must have capital of £40,000 if he wishes to settle on the land in the north merely to earn a living, merely to help to build Australia’s frontiers in the north against the problems that beset our country at the present time. This Government now comes forward with this innocuous bill, which betrays a lack of knowledge and appreciation of the vast problems facing our country. Money is required to encourage people to go to the north. I have asked the authorities in the north what land is available for those who would like to settle’ there, lt is true that there are young men with courage and energy who would go north and develop that land for Australia, and 1 also feel that immigrants would come from the United Kingdom and other parts of the world who would be willing to throw in their lot with us in the development of that area. But no adequate financial scheme has been formulated to help them, and there is no land policy which would fit in with this legislation. Because of that, I feel that the Government should withdraw this measure, and re-draft it with a view to submitting it in a form which will be acceptable, to this House and the nation. I am particularly concerned about the development of the Barkly Tableland. That rich part could he made enormously productive, but it can only be brought into production if the areas are substantially reduced, more people are settled on them, and finance is available to enable them to go ahead with water schemes so that they will be able to keep their stock through the “dry”. That matter is most important.
Another important subject is the growing of rice. As the Minister has stated, rice-growing has been tested on a number of occasions. At Humptydoo, the experiment has proved satisfactory, to a greater degree than many honorable members may believe. Here is a wonderful opportunity foi’ this Government to come forward with a plan for the development of a vast area for the growing of rice, and to build a satellite town nearby. The necessary finance could be made available by this Parliament through the Commonwealth Bank to ensure a substantial increase of population in the north of Australia. It cannot be done under this bill. It cannot be done if we are to continue with piecemeal legislation of this sort, which seems to beg the question entirely. I much prefer the Australian Government to come forward with measures for the development of this country rather than depend upon some foreign power, however friendly it may be, to develop those vast tracts of country.
In the long run, what is required? The food that the settlers will eat is grown in Australia. The currency that will be required to purchase it will be Australian money. The materials, in the main, are manufactured in Australia. Nearly everything can be done here. But money is needed as the means to set the machinery in motion for the development of this country. I urge the Government to have another look at this matter and to do something really worth while for Australia as a whole.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory has suggested that loans should be made available for periods up to 25 years with the object of giving to new settlers continuity of tenure and also to free them from any fear that th.j bank will call up their overdraft practically overnight and say to them, in effect, “ You have gone so far - no further; not another £1 for you”. That is an important consideration because persons who have had experience on the land know that there are times when the provision of another £500 for the development of a property may make or break the owner. Such aid may enable him to make vast improvements or, eventually, may lead to financial ruin. For this reason, loans should be made available to new settlers in the Territory on a long-term basis. The Australian Government makes leases available for long periods and it should adopt a similar policy in the provision of finance for developmental purposes of this kind. At the same time, it is . necessary that the rate of interest should be no higher than is actually essential. The development of Australia is far too important to permit persons who settle in the Territory to be saddled with heavy financial commitments that may prove intolerable and eventually compel them to leave the land. I repeat that a special organization similar to the Rural Bank of New South “Wales should be established to deal with the development of the Northern Teritory. As the honorable member for Farrer has said, the opportunity should be given residents of the Territory, who understand its difficulties, to express their views on these problems for the guidance of the Government.
The same honorable member, however, also said that we should proceed cautiously. We have been proceeding cautiously for far too long and it is now necessary for us to go ahead with a scheme that will really achieve something in our time. It i.s useless for honorable members to say that other countries are looking with predatory intentions at Australia if they fail to realize that those countries do noi. proceed cautiously. They will be bold and imaginative, and they will not proceed cautiously in doing anything thai, they want to do. We must go ahead and provide adequate transport facilities in our undeveloped areas. That improvement will strengthen our security. We must appreciate the importance of undertaking such work not in the future but now. If it is sound that we should provide financial assistance for the development of backward countries, surely it is equally sound that we should look first to the requirements of the north of Australia which, I suggest, provides a classic instance of the need to provide adequate finance immediately for developmental purposes. It is all very well for honorable .members opposite to sit smugly in their seats in this chamber and say that such action is not necessary. It is necessary. This problem presents a challenge to this country. However, honorable members opposite, particularly members of the Australian Country party, who are allied with the financial octopus consisting of organizations which hold vast tracts of land in the Northern Territory to the detriment of the Australian people as a whole, are delighted with the existing state of affairs. I trust that the Government will change its approach to this problem. Perhaps, it is too much to expect members of the Australian Country party to join with us in tackling this problem effectively, but I believe there are stouter hearts in the ranks of the Liberal party who appreciate the need to do the things that I have indicated. The challenge that confronts us in this respect is great, and I sincerely trust that the Parliament will do something about it. It is most important that new settlers in the Northern Territory should not become slaves of financial institutions. The Government, through the Commonwealth Bank, should arrange to have made available the finance needed to do this job without delay. We shall attract an adequate population to our northern regions and develop them, and thus give greater security to Australia as a whole, by following the policy of the Australian Labour party in this respect.
– I have listened with interest to the speeches that have been made by honorable members opposite in the course of this debate. When speaking in this House shortly after my election to the Parliament, I pleaded for the development of the northern parts of Australia, particularly the Northern Territory and the Channel country, and when I did so honorable members opposite - I exclude the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) - said, in effect, “ Your attitude is parochial. It is the usual bovine attitude of members of the Australian Country party. You are looking after the beef barons, and that is all you are here for “. The criticism that honorable members have made on this measure is not sincere. Under this bill the Government proposes to do something effective in the development of the Northern Territory. When the Labour Government was ejected from office it left only a few blueprints for the development of that Territory, and one of those prints was for a square in Darwin. I congratulate the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on his practical approach to this problem. I also congratulate the Government on appointing Mr. Wise as Administrator of the Northern Territory. I have no doubt that he will do much for the development of the Territory. I know that his expert advice is greatly appreciated by the Government.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory is one of the few honorable members who are able to speak from experience in the Territory. I have not actually had very great experience in that part of Australia, but I have some knowledge of country that is similar to the Northern Territory. The honorable member outlined certain financial proposals for the encouragement of settlement in the Territory. I agree with his view that finance should be made available on a long-term basis in order to enable settlers to plan ahead. I do not agree with the statement of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) that a person who draws a block of land in the Northern Territory requires capital of at least £24,000 to take over the property. Each participant in ballots for land in western Queensland is required to possess sufficient security to enable him, if he be successful in the ballot, to obtain the requisite finance for the purchase of stock and the provision of essential improvements. Each of those persons is required to have sufficient to be able to pay the first year’s rental and the survey fee. In fact, there is a saying in Queensland that a person who draws a block of land in a ballot has won the Golden Casket. In that State, banks and other financial institutions will readily finance the drawer of a block of land. When I went on the land I did not object to taking the risk that was involved, and I did not object to persons taking a risk in financing me because they believed in my personal ability to make good my commitment to them. More new settlers would be attracted to the Northern Territory if they were assured of greater security of tenure. Quorum formed.’]
I doubt whether, at present, sufficient security of tenure is provided for lessees to warrant them going ahead with improvements. These leases can be varied from time to time in accordance with ordinances that may be passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council. I should like the Minister to explain that position more fully. Quite a few persons, some of whom I know, are anxious to have that matter clarified. Whilst the conditions of a lease can be varied at any time no provision is made for the payment of compensation to lessees in instances in which they suffer loss through disturbance. In these circumstances, I suggest that the perpetual lease conditions which operate in Queensland could be applied in the Northern Territory. All parties in the Queensland Parliament have accepted the perpetual lease system under which a person knows, when he takes a lease, exactly the conditions that he will be required to observe. He knows that at certain periods the land may be resumed. That is not the case in the Northern Territory. I ask the Minister to con- sider that situation with a view to deciding whether the position of the leaseholder in the Northern Territory cannot be made more secure.
As I have said, I have little knowledge of the Northern Territory, but I claim to have knowledge of pastoral conditions in similar remote areas. We have heard a great deal from the honorable member for St. George on the subject of the development of the north and the growing of rice and other tropical farm products there. The honorable gentleman may know more about that sort of thing than I do, but I leave the matter to the wise administration of Mr. Wise. I saw something of the work that had been done by the Administrator when T visited the Northern Territory. I inspected the experimental pineapple crops, but not the experimental work with rice. However, I understand from reports that the progress that has been made with rice production is remarkable. I believe the experiments have now advanced far enough to prove that rice and many other crops can be grown efficiently. But has the Government investigated the markets for such products of the Northern Territory? It is not of much use to encourage people to settle on the land if they cannot find markets for their products.
Reference has been made to the investment of foreign capital for the development of the Northern Territory. Personally, I do not care one hoot whose money is used for the development of the north as long as we protect our own rights. There is no need to mortgage our country, and it does not matter whose money is invested, provided that the country is developed. We have been trying for a long time without much success to develop the Northern Territory, and therefore I welcome investments for developmental purposes from any source. I congratulate the Government, and in particular the Minister for Territories, upon this bill which will encourage the development of that important part of Australia. It represents a practical approach to the problem that we wish to solve. In fact, it is the only practical approach of which I know, although I have heard talk about the need to develop the Northern Territory and the rest of northern Australia ever since I was a kiddy. This bill seems to be the only measure that offers some prospect for the development of the north, and therefore I congratulate the Minister and commend it to the House.
– in reply - Before the motion for the second reading is put to the House, I think that I ought to remind the House what this bill is about, and perhaps the shortest way of doing that is to read its title, which is -
A bill for an act to facilitate the borrowing nf money by the holders of certain Crown leasee of land in the Northern Territory of Australia.
That is all that the bill is for. That is all that it professes to do. Listening to the debate, one might have imagined that the hill was a proposal for a comprehensive scheme of land settlement. One might have been pardoned for thinking that it was the beginning of a great national development scheme for the whole of northern Australia. As I tried to make clear in my second-reading speech, this bill is tackling only one particular problem and does not profess to tackle any of the other problems of the north. Now, if it were the only measure which this Government had taken for the development of the north, there might have been some ground for the sort of criticism that was made by at least two honorable gentlemen opposite to the effect that it is inadequate. But this is not the first measure that the Government has taken. It certainly will not be the last measure which this Government takes for the promotion of development in the northern part of Australia. It is only one of many measures, and, seen in that context, I submit to the House that it should be judged simply on its merits as a means of doing the particular task - one among many tasks - which it professes to do and should not be judged as though it claimed to be a self-contained and comprehensive attempt at northern development. It is nothing of the sort. It is just to deal with one particular aspect of the problem.
Now I feel that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who on matters such as this must he listened to with respect because of his intimate knowledge of that part of Aus tralia, while saying many things which were directly relevant to this measure, did rather tend to fall into the role of the man who, asked for his opinion of a horse, said that it was not a very good bicycle. It seemed to me that the honorable member in his remarks had very much in his mind the idea of a scheme of assisted land settlement of a kind familiar to many of us in the southern parts of Australia, under which a governmental institution makes long-term lowinterest loans of a fixed amount for the promotion of land settlement. If this bill had propounded such a scheme, his criticisms would have been valid. But it does not do so. Rather, it attempts to deal with an existing situation, and I should like to draw the attention of the House to the essential nature of that situation.
The present condition in the Northern Territory is that there are something over 300 pastoral leases occupied, and the customary way in which that sort of pastoral activity is financed is twofold. First of all, what might be termed the current activities of a station are usually financed by the taking of a lien over the stock by a stock and station agent, and there is at the present time very little difficulty for a man in possession of a herd in obtaining finance for his current operations by that means. What might be termed the long-term operations and the development of his lease are financed through one of the financial institutions making an advance of credit on the security which the property offers. It seemed to us, as a government, that at the present time the facilities available in the Northern Territory, as contrasted with the facilities available in other parts of Australia, were not adequate to provide the credit necessary for the development of these existing properties, and it was to that problem that we addressed ourselves at the same time as we were addressing ourselves to other problems of northern development.
The first way that we attempted to tackle it was to improve the tenure which the lessee had over his land and to give him a better security. In direct reply to the questions asked by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) i would say that, as a result of the pas sage of the Grown Lands Ordinance through the Northern Territory Legislative Council, it is to-day possible for the pastoralist in the Northern Territory to obtain a form of tenure and a leasehold that is every bit as good as that obtainable in any other part of Australia. Having done that and having, to our mind, improved the security of tenure of the leaseholder, we then addressed ourselves to the question, “ Are the banking institutions likely, following their own methods, to provide enough money for the credit facilities required for the development of these properties ? “ This bill is the answer to that question, and it does not attempt to answer any other question. The way we approached the problem was first of all to say that, so far as possible, and until it proved unsatisfactory, we as a government would prefer to use the existing institutions of the country in preference to setting up yet another piece of governmental machinery. We saw no reason for creating some totally new board or some totally new department or branch of a department or institution.
We thought that we could use the existing institutions, and so, working through the existing financial institutions, we applied ourselves to finding the terms under which a guarantee given by the Commonwealth Treasury would help to induce those financial institutions to make more liberal credit facilities available than they would otherwise do. Now. some one has said in the course of the debate that the provision made is inadequate, and the sense of what the honorable member for the Northern Territory said, in foreshadowing his amendments, was that this bill did not provide enough assistance. I should like to say one or two words on that particular point. The first point I should like to make concerns the way in which the financial institutions customarily operate in the rural areas of Australia and in the Northern Territory. By and large, they take as security the land and the existing improvements, and advance only on that security. Perhaps to members of southern constituencies I can make my point, clearer if I call to their minds the customary practice if you want to build a house in the suburbs. You have a block of land worth, say, £500, and you propose to build a. house on it worth £4,500, making a total completed value of house and land of £5,000. It is on that £5,000, even although the house is not yet completed, that you can arrange your finance. But, in the rural areas, the customary practice of the institutions has been to take as security only the existing improvements, and so you may have a man with a pastoral property whose leasehold and such improvements as are on it are only worth, say, £S,000. If he goes to tin; bank and tries to give that as security, the only security he has is £8,000.
The chief consequence of the scheme which is put forward in this bill is that, as a result of the Commonwealth Treasury’s guarantee, not only the £8,000 of existing security will be taken, but added to that will be the value of the improvements which he intends to make. If he intends to make developmental improvements of another £12,000, then the total security that he offers will be £20,000, and’ it is on that £20,000, not only the £8,000, that, as a result of this measure, the advances will be made. So honorable members will see that, just in the method that this bill introduces, there will be a very great increase in the capacity of any leaseholder in the Northern Territory to obtain credit facilities and to obtain them in a greater amount.
Reference was made to this scheme as though it were something quite small and trivial. Now it is true that, when the honorable member for St. George was a member of a government which had four, post-war years in which to devote itself to the problems of northern development, the total amount of assistance available to anyone for primary production in the Northern Territory was £600.
– But it was worth a lot more then.
– Wait until I state the figures. The amount was £600. It is also true that, on that limited scale, the total of advances made in the Northern Territory for the assistance of primary production was something under £2,000. A total of governmental aid of less than £2,000 in the whole Northern Territory ! Under the present scheme, the advances which are possible will be up to at least £3,000,000. I ask the House to have a look at those two figures, and I ask the honorable member for St. George in particular whether, looking back on the days when he was a member of a government which could make a total of £2,000 available for the encouragement of primary production, he can stand in his place here and dismiss as trivial a measure which can make anything up to £3,000,000 available for development in primary industries. I want to indicate the way that I have calculated that figure of £3,000,000. There are more than 300 leases which could qualify for assistance under this scheme as pastoral homestead leases in the Territory. The upper limit of the advances to which they may have access is £30,000, which makes a total of £9,000,000. If we take a modest calculation of the section of that £9,000,000 which will be the subject of Commonwealth Treasury guarantees, we get the figure of one-third of that sum, which is £3,000.000, which could be made available as the result of Commonwealth guarantees under this scheme. That is not a trivial sum. It is a substantial contribution towards providing credit facilities for the type of lease covered by this measure.
One or two other remarks were made by honorable members, with which I desire to deal as briefly as I can. The honorable member for the Northern Territory made two assumptions in making his criticism of the bill. The first assumption, which was .based on his opinion of current banking practice, was that the only advances which would be covered would be overdrafts. That is not so. The definition in the bill makes it clear that the word “ loan “ includes a bank overdraft. The definition does not say that the word “ loan “ means only a bank overdraft. It says that a “loan” is a loan in the customary meaning of the term, and also includes a bank overdraft. Therefore, if a bank is prepared to make a loan on a longer term that could come under this system of guarantee. The other assumption that he made is that all these advances will be short-term advances and can be called up at a month’s notice. We do not think so. The guarantee will be made available under an instrument of guarantee that will be negotiated between the Commonwealth Treasury and the hank which makes the advances, and the existence of the instrument will make almost impossible such a sudden foreclosure, without notice, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory feared. In our estimation, the effect of the scheme will be to prevent that sort of sudden closing down without notice. The fact of the existence of an instrument of guarantee will mean a greater disposition to make longer-term loans, and to prevent loans from being called in at short notice.
I now want to justify some remarks that I have made to the effect that this is not the only measure that we are taking for northern development. If it were, it would still be worth while, but it might be criticized as being inadequate against the picture of the whole of the needs of northern development. But while we have been giving attention to this particular problem of the pastoral industry, and primary production in the north, we have been giving attention to other aspects of development. First, we have increased the advances made by the Primary Production Board from £600 available under the previous government, to £3,000, in order to make each advance more nearly adequate for its purpose. Then we have taken exceptional measures to facilitate and financially assist the introduction of stud stock to the north. There is a comprehensive system of freight subsidy to assist people in the north to build up herds by the importation of cattle from elsewhere. In addition to that, we have greatly increased the public works expenditure on a great number of facilities, particularly the stock routes of the north, and have greatly increased the services available in the -Animal Industry Division for the assistance of the pastoral industry.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) raised another problem which he said was not dealt with in this bill, and which, in his opinion, should have been dealt with in it. That is the problem of restocking after a serious drought. In fact, during the term of office of the present Government, the Northern Territory has endured quite a serious drought, and great stock losses have been caused because of a bad season. This Government chose to deal with the problem of restocking after drought as an entirely separate question. In the case of pastoral lessees, badly hit by the drought and needing financial assistance, we had money available from the Commonwealth Treasury to make long-term low-interest loans to them as a measure of drought relief. Our thinking in that matter is that that is not a matter which needs to be covered by a measure of this type, but will always be dealt with as a separate problem. Therefore, this measure should be judged as only one among many measures which have been taken by the Government. Judged as a measure directed solely to the one problem of improving the credit facilities for certain types of leaseholders, we submit that it is a good measure. We submit that it is a measure which will make it possible for the holder of a pastoral homestead lease in the Territory to get money for its development far in excess of the money available to him previously. We firmly believe that as a result of the passage of this measure, the development of those properties already occupied in the north will be greatly facilitated and encouraged. It is an act of political faith on our side to use our existing institutions, and to work through the banks already functioning, rather than to create a governmental instrumentality and make the leaseholders of the north the debtors of the Government. I commend the bill to the House, and believe that it will have the good effects that are claimed for it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears . . . “ loan “ includes an advance by way of overdraft.
.- I move-
That after the word “ overdraft “ the following words be added: - “and loans for a fixed period of not less than 25 years with »n interest rate of ;jj per cent.”.
I put that amendment before honorable members because of the uncertainty that exists in the measure about the Government’s intentions under the bill. I consider that the measure falls far short of what is needed to develop and settle the vast areas of the Northern Territory. Indeed, the Minister has just chided me with being like the man who, when asked his opinion of a horse replied that it was not a very good bicycle. The Minister would have us believe that the measure is a thoroughbred instead of a broken down crock. In his secondreadingspeech the Minister said -
We are also hoping that, as more land becomes available for application in the Northern Territory, we may be able to attract to the Territory young, energetic and practical people who will make the Territory their home, fu order to promote that objective, we not only have to make the land available, but we shall also try to see that those who obtain pastoral homestead leases will have the capital resources necessary to develop them.
This bill will not do that, and I suggest that my opinion is shared by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), who have all had a great deal of pastoral experience, and who have some knowledge of the financing of land settlement schemes in their own States. The Minister has stated that this measure is only one step in a developmental scheme, and is not a comprehensive programme of land finance. I ask him whether this is the most important step that will be taken to finance the Government’s land settlement scheme. Although some settlers will welcome this scheme, their number is not as great as the number of those who desire to settle in the north and whom the bill will not benefit. I suggest that a really comprehensive scheme should be worked out by the Government, and then steps, such as envisaged by this measure, should be taken. The whole of the north of this country must be developed, including the north-west of Western Australia and northern Queensland, as was pointed out by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon). But different steps should not he taken in different directions, and a properly unified policy should he worked out for the whole of the north. Even if the Government must use the private banks to finance this scheme, conditions should be laid down to ensure that there shall be uniformity in respect of advances and repayments. The Minister himself said that he did not think that the loans would be of a shortterm nature, so apparently he hopes that something will be arranged between the banks and the Treasury at some time in the future. Honorable members will therefore see that there is nothing definite about this measure.
– That matter will have to be thrashed out in the case of each advance.
– That may be, hut there is nothing definite in the measure to ensure that long term advances will be made available. Therefore, in order that there will be some definiteness about the measure, I have moved my amendment, and I ask honorable members to support my view that this measure should be more definite than it is, and, consequently, to support my amendment. If the amendment were incorporated in the measure, it would ensure that long-term loans would become available. If the proposed amendment were accepted, those persons who wished to obtain finance for longterm development would be assured of the period of repayment, that they were obtaining the loans under the most favorable conditions, and that it was the cheapest money that the market could supply. I commend the amendment to honorable members.
– The effect of the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) would be to add certain words to the definition of the word “loan”. The definition now reads as follows: - “ Loan “ includes advance by way of overdraft.
As I stated earlier, the fact that the term “ loan “ includes an overdraft does not mean that a loan is not a loan in th? conventional sense of the term. It is a loan within the conventional sense of the term, and it may also he an overdraft. The effect of the amendment, if accepted, would be that the definition would make specific provision for a loan for a fixed period of not less than 25 years, with an interest rate of 3f per cent. The first part of the amendment seems to be unnecessary. It is possible, already, for a financial institution to make a fixed loan for any term, if necessary longer than 25 years. That part of the amendment which relates to an interest rate of 3f per cent, would make an effective alteration of the definition. To accept that part of the amendment would change the nature of the proposed scheme, the operation of which depend* upon the normal operation of the financial institutions of this country. The Government is not prepared to accept that part of the amendment. As I stated, the scheme relies upon the operation of the financial institutions of Australia, including the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the other trading banks.
.- I very much regret the fact that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) will not accept the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), because it is essential that, if the Government desires to implement a form of development, and if it wants the settlers to use this money, it should introduce legislation to provide that the loan would be for a specific period. The country in question is good country, and the loan would be well secured. If a settler experienced two bad years within the first four or five years, and if tha financial institution decided to apply restrictions or call up the loan, he might be .forced off the land. The statement by the Minister that the bill, if agreed to, would make possible a total borrowing of £3,000,000 assumes that every lease-holder would borrow the maximum sum that is available to him. Only by doing that could a total sum of £3,000,000 be borrowed. If a daily balance system were applied, nothing like £3,000,000 would be involved. I am prepared to state that not more than £500,000 would be borrowed.
– I rise to a point of order. I draw the attention of the committee to Standing Order 294 which states -
No Amendment whereby the charge upon the people will be increased may be moved to any such Resolution, unless such charge so increased shall not exceed the charge already existing by virtue of any act of the Parliament.
I submit that, if the proposed amendment were agreed to, it would increase the charge against the Crown and that, consequently, it is out of order.
– This is not a money bill in the sense that it has been introduced as a result of a message from the GovernorGeneral. Therefore, debate on the proposed amendment is in order.
– If the Minister really wants people to avail themselves of the facilities that are provided in the bill, he should indicate beyond doubt that the money will be available for a specific period. The honorable member for the Northern Territory stated that the proposed system, in effect, wa3 a daily balance system similar to that used by the banks for ordinary overdraft purposes, but the Minister replied that he did not think it was. The Minister, at least, ought to know whether or not that is so. Surely he would not introduce a bill if he did not know what the conditions were. Should the Minister not have stated, “ That is not so. Provision is made for a specific period. The Government, by regulation under the bill, will endeavour to ensure that the loans shall not be called up If the Minister were to state that the conditions would be such that the loans could not be called up within a certain period, the Opposition would be prepared to accept his statement. As one who has had practical knowledge of agriculture since sixteen years of age - I have been farming since I was sixteen years of age, and I am still farming - I point out that there is always a fear, if one has an overdraft, that the money will be called up. I have had many overdrafts, and I still have some. If a settler has a loan for ten or twelve years, and if he knows that it will not be called up, he is able to outline his programme. He can say, “ On the law of averages, if I have two bad years, I will still come out on top “.
The Opposition is not asking for anything different. It is directing attention to the fact that the Northern Territory is an area that is in need of development. The Opposition asks the Government to make provision for a special interest rate, because it believes that to do so would encourage settlers. It would have a psychological effect. A settler would say to himself, “ The current rate of interest on money borrowed for other purposes is 5 per cent., but if I put down another two watering points, and if I construct another five miles of fencing, I can obtain the money at an interest rate of 3f per cent. I am going to be in on this scheme”. That would he an encouragement to the settler. The Opposition is simply trying to assist the Government. Even though the measure is a small one, let us use it to the full, and let us encourage the settler to use to the full the benefits for which it provides. Let us give the settler a guarantee that the money will not be on short call. If a specified rate of interest were provided for the purpose of encouraging development, 1 am certain that the settlers would take advantage of it. If the Government will not accept the amendment, the Opposition asks the Minister to give a definite undertaking that, in any agreements that are drawn up, provision will be made to ensure that the money shall not be on short call but that it shall be lent for a reasonable period.
– As I understand the procedure, a client would negotiate with his banker for an advance. The client would have complete freedom to negotiate for a loan in the sense of a long-term loan or a fixed term loan, or an overdraft if he so chose. The negotiations would be conducted with the knowledge that there was a Commonwealth guarantee. After the banker and his client agreed on the course to be followed, an instrument of guarantee would be drawn up by the Treasury.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Nelson’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mb. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause asrreed to.
Clause 4 - (].) Where the Treasurer is satisfied that a loan nf an amount not exceeding Thirty thousand pounds is proposed to bc made by a bank toaneligible person and that theloan is reriuiwl. and is intended to be used, by the elizih person -
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after paragraph (a), the following new paragraph be inserted: - “ (aa) for the purpose of financingstock and plant;”.
If this measure is to assist in the development of properties and of the pastoral industry generally in the Northern Territory, it is essential that lessees shall have the opportunity to obtain finance to purchase stock and plant so that they may get the utmost advantage from the investment in improvements that they have made or will make. The amendment merely seeks to broaden the scope of the clause to make provision for finance for the purchase of stock and plant as well as for improvements. I am sure that no honorable member will quibble at it. As the clause stands, a lessee who requires finance will have to obtain an advance for improvements from a bank against the security of the improvements, and will then have to obtain an advance for the purchase of stock and plant from a pastoral finance company. He will be unable to take advantage of the improvements unless he is able to purchase stock and plant. It is reasonable that the lessee should be able to obtain advances for both purposes from the one institution. The amendment will not alter the system of borrowing for which the bill makes provision, except to make it possible for the lessee to obtain both advances from the one financial institution. I ask the committee to accept the amendment.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment, as it can see no necessity at the present time for this form of assistance to lessees.
Question put -
That the new paragraph proposed tobe inserted (Mr.Nelson’samendment be so inserted.
The. committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Bowden.)
Ayes . . . . . . 45
Noes . . . . 50
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the sale and supply of meals and alcoholic refreshments to passengers travelling on Commonwealth Railways. It is now accepted as a matter of service to passengers on modern transport systems that first-class meals and alcoholic refreshments be provided. However, the Commonwealth Railways Act does not provide for the sale or supply of alcoholic refreshments on trains or in refreshmentrooms. The principal lines of these railways run through the States of South Australia and Western Australia. The railways commissioners in those States have legislative authority to sell alcoholic beverages, but there is no provision in the licensing acts of those States whereby the sale of liquor in refreshment-rooms of Commonwealth Railways may be authorized, and to confer this authority it is necessary for the Commonwealth to amend its own legislation.
There is a steadily increasing passenger traffic between Port Augusta and the Woomera rocket range, the Leigh Creek coal-field, Alice Springs, Port Pirie and Whyalla. For the convenience of these patrons the Commissioner has erected at Port Augusta a modern refreshmentroom in which meals, light refreshments, smokers’ requisites and miscellaneous articles, such as magazines, newspapers, cosmetics, souvenirs, playing cards, &c, are to be sold. The service to be provided should include alcoholic refreshments, which are available in all State railway refreshment-rooms. It is not expressly provided in the Commonwealth Railways Act that the Commissioner may sell meals, refreshments, smokers’ requisites, &c, to passengers on the railways, and provision for these powers has been included in the bill.
It is intended that Commonwealth Railways refreshment-rooms will be operated under lease, and provision has been made in the bill for the Commissioner to grant to any such lessee an authority to sell and supply meals and refreshments, including alcoholic refreshments, and smokers’ requisites, &c. I consider these powers to be essential for the proper administration of a modern railway system, and I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 13th October, (vide page 1920), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment of £12,300,000 to South Australia, “Western Australia and Tasmania, which are known as the claimant States. I should like, at the outset, to express my sympathy to the relatives of the late Mr. J. J. Kenneally, who was a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. After a long period of public service in “Western Australia, Mr. Kenneally was appointed to the commission, and made a valuable contribution to its work. We all deeply regret his passing.
The grant that is recommended for South Australia this year has been reduced because of the surplus shown in that State’s accounts for the last financial year. Whilst this reduction appears to be justified on the figures, I point out that there is a great deal of work to be done in that State. With increasing supplies of man-power and materials, the recommended grant this year may not he sufficient for the needs of South Australia. If that position arises, I trust that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to any request from the South Australian Government for special additional assistance.
South Australia has developed rapidly in the last decade. Its potentialities are great, and the State, if it is given generous consideration by the Commonwealth, could easily achieve the position in which it would not longer have to make annual claims for special assistance. Special features of the development of South Australia are the production of uranium at Radium Hill, and the establishment of plant for the treatment of the ore at Port Pirie. Uranium is vital in peace as well as in war, and I should like the Government to give special consideration to South Australia and assist it, wherever required, in its efforts to produce and refine this raw material. I regret that the Government was unable to agree with the proposition of the South Australian Premier for the building of a nuclear reactor in that State. With the apparent supplies of ore available, it would appear that the claim of South Australia could be justified. In addition, in order to make the Australian federation strong, decentralization is a vital need. On those two grounds, it seemed to me that the request of the Premier was justified.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission points out, in paragraph 50 of its report -
In South Australia important advances were made in the chemical industry (particularly in the production of superphosphate), in the engineering industry (in which output oi motor vehicles and agricultural machinery increased), and in production of building materials. Cement production was expanded from 80,000 to 210,000 tons a year.
The main development projects financed from State funds in 1953-54 were electricity supply, railways, waterworks, public buildings and the production of uranium. The great expansions, which the grants commission details, include an electric generating plant for the South Australian Electricity Trust. It is planned to raise the generating capacity of the units at Osborne and Port Pirie to 500,000 kilowatts by 1962. Railways meet a vital need to a State such as South Australia but they impose the greatest single financial liability on the State Treasury. The commission points out that whilst additions to rolling stock have enabled the railways to handle a considerably greater volume of traffic and have contributed to a marked improvement in results, the shortage of unskilled labour has held up maintenance work on the railway system. This would account for a part of the surplus in the State’s accounts for the last financial year, and adds point to my request for special additional assistance should the State require it later in the year.
South Australia, in common with other States, has extreme difficulty in specifying the exact amount that it will need to balance its budget in the current financial year. With prices still rising and the economic situation subject to the constant change, that is quite understandable. This makes it necessary, however, for the Government to watch the situation and be ready to give further assistance, if and when it is required. The Opposition supports the bill, but suggests that there is vital need for greater co-operation between the States, claimant and nonclaimant alike. Australians accept the federal system, with its disadvantages and shortcomings. In order to make that system function as smoothly as such a system can, the seven governments in Australia should keep in close touch with one another, and operate as partners rather than separate entities with conflicting aims and ideas. If we accept the ideal that a citizen of Australia, regardless of where he lives, is an Australian seeking to further the welfare of the people and develop the great continent which is our heritage, we can expect less bickering than we have known in recent years, and more steady development of the great Australian continent. South Australia has made, and is making, rapid industrial progress. It would be a great tragedy if such development were held up through lack of funds.
In the great uranium development, South Australia has been in the forefront. Uranium can and will play a major part in our industrial expansion in future years. That being so, we should not lose sight of the part played in this field by South Australia. I appeal to the Government further to encourage thi? development by giving freely and fully both financial and moral support to South Australia. I stress, too, that the grant to South Australia recommended by the commission on this occasion has been reduced because the State had a surplus of more than .£1,800,000 at the end of the last financial year. Much of that surplus was brought about by the fact that whilst there were many developmental works to be undertaken, the shortage of labour and materials retarded progress with them. It was the money which otherwise would have been expended on labour and materials for those projects that produced a surplus.
Some of the activities of South Australia will eventually be great assets to this nation. In years gone by, South Australia was dependent on other sources, particularly New South Wales, for its coal supplies. I acknowledge that the development of the Leigh Creek coal-field has been financed to a large degree by the Australian Government. That expenditure is justified because the undertaking will be a valuable national asset. At present. South Australia is expending hundreds of thousands of pounds in changing over from diesel fuel power to steam power generated by the use of Leigh Creek coal. That process is costly. In the near future, a change-over will be made at Port Lincoln from diesel fuel power to steam power, and I understand that a similar change-over will shortly he effected at Mount Gambier, where it is intended to use Leigh Creek coal instead of diesel fuel. As a result of this changeover to steam power a substantial saving will be effected in the cost of diesel fuel, which is imported. At the same time, development of coal-fields in South Australia, will ease the drain on coal produced in New South Wales. The development that has already taken place in South Australia will be substantially expanded. Should the amount of this grant during the current financial year be found to be insufficient for that purpose, I trust that this Government will not hold up that development, which is of value not only to that State but also to Australia as a whole, by refusing to increase the amount, but that it will act generously and provide increased funds to enable the South Australian Government to utilize additional manpower and materials as they become available. The greater the aid that is provided under this measure to a State - in this instance I speak of South Australia - the sooner that State will cease to be a claimant State. Development in South Australia has been so marked that every consideration should be given to its requirements. I support the bill.
– I direct attention to the state of the House.
– Order! There are twelve honorable members on my right, and twelve on my left. Ring the bells. Between now and 6 o’clock, I shall see to it that a quorum is maintained in the House. [Quorum formed
– As soon as the number of honorable members present falls below 40, I shall order the bells to be rung.
.- The purpose of this bill is to provide a sum of £12,300,000 in the form of special grants to the three claimant States, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. On that amount, the sum of £7,450,000 is to be allotted to Western Australia. I have been particularly interested to read in the last report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that it has departed from the basis on which these grants were originally assessed. Referring to this matter in its report, the commission states -
In its Third Report (193(>) the Commission finally rejected compensation for disabilities arising from Federation as a basis, and chose instead the principle of financial need, which it expressed in the following terms: - “Special grants are justified when a State through financial stress from any cause is unable efficiently ti discharge its functions as a member of the Federation and should be determined by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for that State by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of the other States.”
At first glance, that basis may appear to be a proper basis for the determination of grants of this nature; but, frankly, I am not happy about it. I agree that from time to time circumstances may arise in a State and cause it grave disability, I instance the disastrous railways strike that recently occurred in Western Australia and caused severe financial loss to the State.
– Order! Will the honorable gentleman resume his seat. There is not a quorum present. Ring the bells.
– We have not a very big audience.
– I am not concerned about the audience. The Constitution deals with the House. [Quorum formed.’]
– I repeat that from time to time special circumstances may arise in a State that imposes a grave disability upon the taxpayers in that State. The commission takes such circumstances into consideration and, as compensation, increases the grant that would ordinarily be made to a State. I agree with that procedure. However, the commission disregards disabilities which a State may suffer as a member of the federation and simply assesses the needs of a claimant State on the basis of the expenditure that is incurred by non-claimant States. I am not happy about that procedure, because, in effect, it means that should the standard of social services, such as hospitalization, education and transport and other facilities, fall in any of the nonclaimant .States, particularly New South Wales or Victoria, the standard of such services in the claimant States would be automatically reduced to conform to that lower standard.
The basis of assessing grants to the claimant States, which I have mentioned, does not seem to be reasonable. It is difficult to calculate the degree to which any State suffers disability solely by virtue of the fact that it is a member of the federation. That was the basis on which these grants were assessed originally. It cannot be denied that a State like Western Australia suffers a severe disability under the fiscal policy of this country. Under that policy Western Australia is debarred from buying on the open market to the best advantage materials that it urgently needs but which are not produced in that .State. It suffers a financial loss in that respect. The Commonwealth Grants Commission, in its last report, states -
In the Kwinana area extensive work has been carried out in providing State services. Construction work on the comprehensive watersupply scheme for agricultural areas has been retarded by inadequate supply of steel plate for pipes.
That statement is more significant than would appear at first glance. The fact is that the Australian Government has entered into an agreement to provide special assistance to Western Australia to enable it to complete one of the most valuable water supply schemes in that State. It was intended to complete that scheme last year, but, in fact, owing to the shortage of materials, it has hardly been started, and, consequently, Western Australia so far has claimed from the Australian Government only half the amount which it is entitled to draw under that arrangement. However, had Western Australia been prepared to obtain such materials at world parity prices wherever they were offering, that scheme would have been completed by the previous Government and, possibly, at a much lower cost than it will ultimately cost. Western Australia is obliged to buy its requirements in Australia at prices that are largely determined under our protection policy. That is a disability which Western Australia suffers because it is a member of the federation. The commission simply assesses the needs of the claimant States on the basis of a comparison of the standard of social services provided in such States with that of the services provided in the non-claimant States. That is an entirely wrong basis on which to assess the help that a claimant State requires. To what degree are lack of finance and the other disabilities of Western Australia causing a reduction of the standard of its social services and public amenities below those of the non-claimant States? That is a factor that ought to be taken into consideration. Frankly, I am not happy with the idea that Western Australia should have to accept the social services standards of the eastern States. They are not the best standards to use as a gauge. In fact, I believe that Western Australia provides various facilities and services at a higher standard than those provided on the eastern side of the continent, and probably at no higher cost.
What will happen if Western Australia, like South Australia, becomes au industrial State? Such a development h likely to occur in the not far-distant future, although the industries will not be so much manufacturing industries, like those of South Australia, as new primary industries, like oil production. In that event, as a result of the additional revenue that may accrue to it, Western Australia may be able to maintain a standard equal to that of the eastern States. But it will continue to be subject to the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, it will still suffer from the disabilities caused by that policy. South Australia is to have its special grant seriously reduced, but it is now in the happy position in which it can endorse the protective policy which forces non-industrialized States, by limiting their opportunities, to depend entirely for their secondary requirements on the eastern side of the continent. Thus South Australia now supports New South Wales and Victoria, because it is profiting from the Commonwealth’s fiscal policy. It is not in the position that it occupied when it received large grants. This development has been a natural result of progress, and it is inevitable that Western Australia will reach the same position eventually.
Western Australia without doubt contributes the greatest amount per head of the population to the national wealth of Australia. The truth of that statement cannot be denied. Turn up any reliable statistics, Mr. Speaker, and you will find that it is correct. I do not claim that Western Australians produce the greatest amount in terms of volume, but certainly they are the greatest producers, . individually, in the Commonwealth. As most of the State’s products are exported, honorable members need not be expert mathematicians or highly qualified economists in order to understand the real value of the work done by Western Australians. Notwithstanding that circumstance, I still consider that Western Australia deserves a greater measure of assistance than will be provided under this bill. Although we in Western Australia contribute so much to the national economy, too much is taken from us because of the country’s national policy. It i3 taken from us, not directly, but indirectly through the additional costs imposed on us as a result of the protective policy of the Commonwealth and the determination to uphold a standard in industry which for many years, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, from your own experience, has been far higher than the standard enjoyed by those who actually produce the wealth of the nation.
I hope that the Government will not regard the special grant to Western Australia as the final measure of assistance to be rendered to it this year. That grant will not be sufficient. I point out that the Commonwealth Grants Commission, in its inquiries, does not take into consideration the particular disabilities suffered by the State in providing additional facilities for its people. For example, I wonder whether the commission takes into account, when it compares the standards of the various States, the fact that Western Australia now is most definitely and emphatically in need of a medical school. We have no such school at our university, and the universities of South Australia and Victoria, where our medical students have been trained previously, have now informed us that, because of the increasing demand for training by local students, they cannot take any more students from Western Australia after next year or the succeeding year. We have a plan to establish a medical school where students can obtain a full course of instruction. We need such an institution, first, in order to provide opportunities for young men who want to become doctors, and, secondly, in order to ensure that the State shall have an adequate number of doctors. We are already short of medical practitioners.
Submissions in support of this plan have been made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Government with the object of obtaining financial aid in addition to special grants, but so far our efforts have been without success. I hope that the matters will be reconsidered, and I also hope that the fact that Western Australia is in the unique position of having a free university will not be a handicap to us. The commission, when it compares the standards of the different States, and examines the severity of taxation and the various avenues for the raising of money, must not deprive Western Australia of benefit because its university does not charge fees. We cannot help that. The constitution of the university provides that it shall be a free university. Frankly, I consider that the same principle should be applied to all universities and other institutions of higher education. There is an urgent need for a medical school in Western Australia, and that is a factor which ought to be taken into account in the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s calculations.
Another factor which ought to be considered, but which apparently does not come into the picture under the present system, by which assessments are made merely by a comparison of standards of social services, is Western Australia’s need for development. That State is undertaking great development schemes. These schemes are entirely apart from the search for oil. I refer especially to the development of new agricultural areas. Western Australia is an ideal part of Australia for agricultural development. Such development can be carried out there in a shorter time and at lower cost than in any other State. However, the capital resources of the State governments are limited, and honorable members will readily understand that young men, even though they are eager to settle on virgin land, lack financial resources with which to establish themselves. These young fellows still have the pioneering spirit that motivated their fathers, but lack of finance is holding them back. Honorable members should remember that, in the early days of agricultural development, all sorts of financial help were available to settlers. The situation has changed radically in recent years, largely as a result of the demands made upon us during World War II.
This Government could do a great deal to help young men who want to settle on the land in Western Australia. I have already made representations to it in favour of the re-introduction of the Wire and Wire-netting Act of 1927, for example. The re-enactment of this legislation would help young men on the land to meet an inescapable cost, which is the first charge that they must bear if they are to develop their land successfully. I do not believe for a moment that the Commonwealth Grants Commission takes such factors into consideration as disabilities when it compares Western Australia’s standards with those of other States. Therefore, I submit that this
Government should, on its own initiative, provide financial help for Western Australia in order to promote its development for the benefit of the whole nation. It should look at this matter from the point of view of the need of Australia as a whole, instead of in a parochial light. As I have already explained, any development that takes place in Western Australia is of immense benefit to the nation. That State produces many of the exportable goods which are required in order to maintain national prosperity. In other words, the Commonwealth depends to a tremendous degree upon the welfare of Western Australia.
The Treasury must come into the picture and grant assistance to Western Australia because the rules which the Commonwealth Grants Commission has laid down for its inquiries leave out of consideration the facts that I have mentioned. I repeat that we are grateful for the aid that the commission has recommended for Western Australia and acknowledge its efforts on behalf of our State. However, I submit that, if it had continued to use the original disabilities basis as the basis of its assessments, that State would have benefited much more than it has done from the commission’s recommendations. Our social services standards are high, but our costs in providing those services are naturally higher than those of other States, and they ought to be taken into consideration. Furthermore, as we progress to a higher degree of efficiency, those costs are bound to be reduced. It is not fair that our claims on behalf of Western Australia should be discounted because, although our standards of social services and public amenities are higher than those of the eastern States, our costs also are higher. There is only one fair rule for these grants. They should always be made on account of special disabilities suffered by the claimant States, as was originally intended.
I concur with the expressions of the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) occasioned by the death of Mr. J. J. Kenneally who was for so long a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Mr. Kenneally played a very important part in the public affairs of Western Aus- tralia. He was a member of the State Parliament and for some time a Minister. In addition to being a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, he was also the chairman of the State Lotteries Commission. As a result of his public service, we have monuments that will remain as visible and tangible marks of his work for the State. I am deeply sorry to know that we have lost such a fine member of the Western Australian community. I support the bill.
– In discussing this bill, I should like to bring to the attention of honorable members the results that have been achieved by legislation of this kind over the years. I have regarded the special grants to the three less populous States as one of the best of our achievements in Australia towards raising the standards of social services and payments to public servants in the recipient States. I look back over the years, and try to compare the position as it existed years ago in the States, particularly in my own State of South Australia, with the position as it exists to-day. Before the present financial system was introduced, the people of South Australia laboured at a great disadvantage because they could not pay their professional public servants, such as school teachers in thu education department, as much as other States were paying similar employees. We did not have sufficient money to do so. This legislation will stabilize South Australia’s budgetary position, because the amounts granted year by year tend to prevent surpluses and deficits of State budgets. For example, the grants made to South Australia two years ago were taken into consideration when grants were allocated for the present financial year, as I shall demonstrate later.
The grant recommended to be made to South Australia this year was £3,350,000, but South Australia will not get that sum of money. That State’s budget has been made out for the current year, and in order to deal equitably with the States the Commonwealth Grants Commission said in effect to South Australia. “You will require £3,350,000 in order to balance your budget this year. But for the year ended the 30th June, 1953, your income was £1,100,000 more than we had anticipated for that year, so we shall deduct that £1,100,000 from the £3,350,000 and give you £2,250,000 “. But that seems to indicate that the commission was of opinion that South Australia has the surplus of £1,100,000 available for expenditure this year. Probably that is not the case.
Recently honorable members were dealing with tax reimbursements to the States, and grants additional to the grants due under the established formula were discussed in this House. Now the Commonwealth Grants Commission, after taking into account all the factors likely to influence South Australia’s budget for 1954-55, including an increase of £363,000 as an income tax reimbursement, decided that a substantial reduction of the grant to the State would be justified. Therefore, even an increase- of £683,000 as an additional tax reimbursement, will affect the grant that will be made to South Australia under the measure before the House. I agree with some of the remarks of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) about the expenditure of States. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) also mentioned this matter, and said that certain costs that the State was liable for might increase in the coming financial year. The population of South Australia, according to the last census, has increased, and because of that increase there has been a tremendous increase of the cost of education. Honorable members will realize that, we cannot recoup the cost of education by charges, and that that cost must be met out of tax revenue. We have had to send teams of men throughout the country areas and outer metropolitan areas to build new schools and to make additions to existing schools in order to cope with the greater number tiren til rt f- r» -i -i-> rr nl /Vp rf “f T> one small section of my electorate three very substantial schools have been built in recent years, and more will be built to deal with the increased number of children who must be educated.
-Order! There is not a quorum present. Bing the bells. [Quorum formed.]
– Honorable members will realize that new schools represent only part of the cost of education, because professional workers must be appointed to staff new schools, and equipment must be bought. A great amount of money is required for those purposes. This Government accepts the decisions of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and makes available the amounts recommended by the commission. But because of an over-payment of more than £1,000,000 in the financial year that ended on the 30th June, 1953, although this year’s grant was estimated by the commission at £3,350,000 that sum was then reduced by the commission to £2,250,000. Let us compare that amount with the amount granted to South Australia last year, and attempt to discover the difficulties that may face that State next year. Two years ago there was a surplus in the State finances of about £1,100,000. Last year £6,100,000 was granted to South Australia, but at the end of that year there was a budgetary surplus of £1,810,000. Therefore, if that latter amount is to be deducted from the grant that will be made next year. South Australia will have to battle along without any special grant at all next year. I have not received any notification from the State authorities about whether the South Australian Government is content with the way the Commonwealth Grants Commission has worked out the figures upon which it bases its recommendations, and I am now wondering whether some difficulties may turn up that will make it very difficult for the State to carry on.
The system of making grants to the States applies also to Western Australia. A grant of £7,100,000 was made to that State two years ago, but there was a deficit in the State’s accounts of £350,000. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has added £350,000 to this year’s grant. The honorable member for Adelaide re.erred to tile rc:duction of the Brant to
South Australia, and said that that State might not be able to carry on in the ensuing financial year. He requested the Government to make a further grant. A deficit in the State’s accounts will be provided for, but apparently it will not he paid this year or next year, but the year after next. The figures of the grants made to South Australia prove that that
State is gradually being lifted out of the position of a claimant State, or as some honorable members have said a mendicant State, into a position comparable to that of the other States.
– That is because of South Australia’s good Liberal government.
– I would not say that, because the most useful reforms in South Australia have been carried through because the Premier, Mr. Playford, had sufficient support from the Labour party to nullify the actions of his recalcitrant Liberal members. Because of those circumstances, he was able to bring into operation some of the legislation that the honorable member claims is so useful to that State, The honorable member for Adelaide said that South Australia was now not so dependent on high-priced coal from New South Wales, but was able to get Leigh Creek coal. Then he mentioned the money that the State requires in order to restore power stations. While speaking of power stations, may I say that I believe that we are ahead of most other States in that respect. I did not intend to bring politics into this discussion, but the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) did so. I say to him that if it had not been for Labour members of the South Australian Parliament, we should not have had a State Electricity Trust, or a State coal mine at Leigh Creek. I wish to make it clear that I do not desire to charge anybody with responsibility for the present state of affairs in South Australia. In that State, the Opposition has been able to help the Government to pass its legislation, but the Australian Government has not needed similar help in passing its different forms of legislation.
I have referred to the grants system in particular, because it is one of the matters in which I have been very interested. Honorable members frequently refer to the need for national development, and increased production in the various States. Honorable members who live in country districts have complained frequently that one of the reasons for the drift of population to the city is the absence of provision, in country areas, of amenities which are similar to those that are provided in the city.
If we were able to provide equally satisfactory living conditions for people who live in country areas, many_ of them would be willing to stay in those districts. I contend that the smaller States will not be able to achieve the desired standard of production until they are placed in the position of being able to provide such amenities. The honorable member for Adelaide referred to the work that is being performed in South Australia in relation to uranium. I give much of the credit for the work that has been done in that direction, not to the Liberal party or to the Parliament of that State, but to Mr. Playford himself. I went up into the Flinders Range with him, and I have seen the efforts he made to prove whether it was possible to produce uranium. The South Australian Government was forced, eventually, to abandon its efforts in that area, but the progress that has been made in the development of our uranium resources, not only in South Australia, but also in other parts of Australia, has been achieved largely as the result of the efforts of Mr. Playford.
If the Commonwealth Grants Commission were to go to South Australia and were to discover that the Premier, or that the State Government, was wantonly wasting money on some hair-brained scheme, it would not be prepared to take the scheme into consideration in deciding what would be a proper expenditure for that State. The progress that has been achieved in the search for uranium has been achieved, to a degree, with the assistance of the New South Wales Government. I am pleased to note that, in addition to the legislation that has been passed by the Australian Parliament, the New South Wales Government has been willing to assist in the development of the uranium mine that has been opened in the far north of South Australia by the provision of a water supply from Broken Hill. Although the Government may have thought at one time that it was giving something to a mendicant State, it may now feel that by so doing it has done something that has enabled South Australia to carry on without very much assistance in the form of a special grant. If South Australia can get through this year with the special grant of £2,250,000, it will do very well indeed. As one who knows the cost of development, and of the legislation that the South Australian Parliament has been obliged to pass to provide for the police force, the Education Department and the State public service generally, I am a little doubtful about whether the proposed net grant for this year will be sufficient to enable that State to conclude the year with a balance in hand, or whether it will be obliged to approach the Commonwealth for more money to cover a deficit.
I refer now to the introduction by that State of diesel-electric locomotives. I think South Australia was well to the fore in introducing that type of locomotion. South Australia, like other States, was suffering very heavy losses each year on its railway system. When I was a member of the State Parliament, the annual State deficit represented the deficit on the railways. Since the introduction by that State of dieselelectric locomotives, there has been a very large reduction in the cost of hauling freight on the overland line to Melbourne. A diesel-electric locomotive can haul twice the weight that a steam engine can haul on the run from Adelaide through the hills into Tailem Bend, and on to the level country on the other side of the ranges. A diesel-electric locomotive can do two trips in the time that it takes a steam engine to do one. That has been the greatest single factor in the improvement of the State’s finances, and in the reduction of the amount of the special grant that has been made to it under the Commonwealth grants system.
There has been no opposition to the bill, and I do not think that any will be offered. I think most honorable members, if they are able to do so, will gild the lily. The honorable member for Moore did so, and the honorable member for Adelaide commenced his speech on the same lines. The Opposition is not attacking the Government in any way. Honorable members who represent, in particular, the more populous States, realize that those States are not losing anything by making grants to South Australia. Such grants benefit, not only South Australia, but also Australia as a whole. I support the bill.
.- Tasmania is the third of the three claimant States. I am sure that honorable members who represent Tasmanian electorates should make their contribution to this debate, otherwise it might seem that Tasmania is very ungrateful for the assistance that it has received. I pay tribute to the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which was established in 1933 to inquire into the economic conditions of the three claimant States, namely, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. I, too, extend sympathy to the relatives of the late Mr. J. J. Kenneally, who has passed away since the printing of the twenty-first report, which bears his signature. We have lost a very valuable member of a very valuable committee, and I hope that his successor will gain inspiration from his devoted service in this sphere.
The commission performs a very great amount of detailed work. When one reads the report, he is amazed at the extent of the commission’s operations. At the end of the report, the commission has set out the number of people whom it has interviewed, and where it has interviewed them. It called witnesses in each State. The majority of those witnesses were State Premiers, Treasurers and public men in various departments. During last year, the following numbers of witnesses were sworn and examined : In South Australia, 26 ; in Western Australia, 22 ; in Tasmania, 22 ; and there were four Commonwealth witnesses. A total of 74 people gave evidence before the commission. The list of the witnesses in each State, and their official positions, appears on page 119 of the report. The commission held public sittings in South Australia on the 5th, 6th and 9th November, 1953 ; in Tasmania on the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th December, 1.953: in Western Australia on the 15th,’ 16th, 17th and 18th February, 1954; in Melbourne on the 31st March and the 1st April; and in Canberra on the 3rd and 4th May. Tasmania pays great tribute to the commission for its faithfulness in performing its duty in the interests of the three States in relation to which the Commonwealth accepts responsibility for building up their economies to the level of those of the three more populous States.
On page 24 of the report, the commission has set out, in the following words, a summary of the conditions in the three claimant States: -
In each of the claimant States, the relatively high rate of population increase was maintained in 1952-53 and 1953-54. The rapid increase in population and the expansion of primary and secondary industry have resulted in heavy commitments for the provision of essential services for which the States are responsible such as housing, schools, hospitals, water supply, power and transport.
That statement displays a recognition by the committee of the need for continued assistance to those three States. As other honorable members have stated, it is proposed that £12,300,000 shall be given to the three States during this year. Tasmania will receive £2,600,000, which is more than the grant that will be made to South Australia. I shall state later the reason for that state of affairs. The provision of social services in the States has been a vexed question for some considerable time. I shall outline the relative positions of the three claimant States and of the other States in the field of social services, and the expenditure per capita, of the population. In the field of education, Western Australia, with a per capita expenditure of 163s. 2d., had the highest expenditure. Tasmania, with a per capita expenditure of 162s. lid., was second. In the field of health services, hospitals and charities, Queensland, with a per capita expenditure of 135s. 9d., had the highest expenditure. Tasmania, with a per capita expenditure of 121s., was second. In the field of law, order and public safety, Tasmania, with a per capita expenditure of 44s. 2d., had the highest expenditure. Western Australia, with a per capita expenditure of 42s. 7d., was second.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
– In the few minutes that are left to me I should like to discuss the splendid performance of the Tasmanian Government over many years in the fields of primary production, industrialization, hydro-electric power, health services and education. The test of any government’s success or failure is its policy and efforts in the fields of educa tion, health and economic welfare, and a government stands or falls on itsrecord in those fields of activity. In thematters of hydro-electric power and industrialization, Tasmania has been helped considerably by the annual grantthat, for the last 21 years, it has received from the Commonwealth, in common with Western Australia and South Australia, in accordance with the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Tasmania is spending a little more than £1,000,000 a month on hydro-electric works. The twenty-first report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission states that by Junelast the total generating capacity of the hydro-electric system in Tasmania had increased to 389,000 horsepower. It continues to increase, and by the end of this year, or early next year, the new scheme at Trevallyn will be producing power for the aluminium works at Bell Bay. Tasmania’s development of hydro-electric power is greater than that of any other State. The quick-flowing streams there lend themselves admirably to the construction of dams and the installation of hydro-electric machinery. Approximately 92 per cent, of homes in Tasmania are now served by hydroelectric power. That is one way in which Tasmania is trying to justify, before the Commonwealth Grants Commission and this Parliament, the grants that it receives. We must bear in mind that the grants that the Parliament is asked to approve by agreeing to this measure will he paid out of the taxpayers’ money. They are paid by the Commonwealth out of the proceeds of taxation to help the smallest three States, in terms of population, to maintain an economic strength comparable with that of the three largest States.
I should like to point out that remarkable growth in industrialization has occurred as a result of the efforts and planning of the Tasmanian Labour Government. In the financial year 1938-39. 13,802 workers were employed in Tasmanian factories. In the financial year 1.952-53, the number had increased to 23,495. The percentage increase of the number of factory workers in Tasmania has eclipsed that of the two most populous States - New South Wales and Victoria. Tasmania has put np a splendid performance for a small State with a population of only 30S,000 people. I should like to mention briefly the great difficulties that are experienced in Tasmania, as in all the other States, in relation to railways finance. The Tasmanian Government, in an effort to cope with the financial burden of operating the railways, has had to increase freights. The Commonwealth Grants Commission, at page 53 of its report, stated -
Freight rates were increased from 17th November, 1952, by from 5 per cent, to 15 per cent, and fares were increased from 16th November, 1952, by from 10 per cent, to 23 per cent.
Most of the States have had to act similarly. Nevertheless, the freight rates on the Australian railways are at a level that allows great industries to develop and primary production to increase with the least possible burden in freight charges. That is only right. The railways systems have been, and for years to come will he, a tremendous burden on State finances. The figures tell the story plainly. The net losses on the railways in all the States in the financial year 1945-46 totalled £3,643,000. In the financial year 1952-53, they totalled £22,179,000. The commission took into consideration the railways finances of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The commission, in its report, mentioned the fact that those States have tried to reduce costs and, by many ingenious methods, have improved their railways systems considerably. That fact is a great credit to South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. The railways in those States have put into service diesel-electric locomotives, which have reduced operating costs tremendously. They have improved the carriages and rolling-stock generally, freight vans, and tracks. The commission paid a tribute to the three claimant States for their efforts in improving their railways systems. It is interesting to note that the losses decrease each financial year. A State that is prepared to tackle its problems manfully deserves assistance, in the eyes of the commission, which commended the claimant States for the administration of their railways systems.
I should like to mention briefly Tasmania’s work in the field of war service land settlement, which depends substantially on the Commonwealth grant paid to Tasmania. A number of large settlement schemes have been undertaken. They include one on King Island and one on Flinders Island. Before long, Tasmania will have settled on new farms 19S soldier settlers. It has opened up new areas of land for primary production, as the other States have done. This development has considerably helped Tasmania’s economy. The Tasmanian war service land settlement scheme, though it began slowly, will pay hig dividends in the future. It is based on the principle that everything shall be ready for the settler when he goes onto the property. A home and sheds are built, fences are erected and sheep and cattle are provided. The settler takes over what might be called a going concern. The scheme is much better than that which was undertaken after World War I., when settlers were placed on properties before, everything was ready, with the result that within about ten years, in the depression years of 1930 and 1931, hundreds of them had to walk off the land and tramp the roads.
In the field of education, Tasmania has done wonderful work with its area schools. The Commonwealth grant has helped considerably in that work. Thirty-eight area schools are now established in the State to give a comprehensive education to Tasmania’s children. The Tasmanian Government expends £250,000 a year on transport services to take the children to school. Tasmania leads Australia in health services, and in this work, too, the Commonwealth grant has been of inestimable value. Dr. Turnbull, the Tasmanian Minister for Health, has brought terrific energy to bear on every phase of the health services, Better general hospitals, more maternity hospitals, mobile dental clinics and X-ray units, which tour Tasmania, and a host of other ancillary facilities that are necessary to public health, have been provided.
The Tasmanian members on this side of the House - the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and myself - welcome the increase in the grant to Tasmania in the current financial year. Government supporters who hail from Tasmania may speak for themselves. The reason for the increase of £1,100,000 in Tasmania’s grant is that the original Tattersall’s lottery has moved to Victoria. Tasmania has established its own Tasmanian lotteries, which will return in revenue about £400,000 a year. As the original Tattersall’s returned to the Tasmanian Government about £1,400,000 a year, the net loss from the removal of Tattersall’s to Victoria will be approximately £1,000,000 a year. I am not sorry, in one sense, that Tattersall’s has moved, but the removal was a terrific blow to the State’s finances and its economy, and this fact was taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in recommending an increase of the grant.
– Tasmania will gain in other ways.
– That is so.
– The children will have more food to eat.
– That may beso. The House unanimously supports this measure, as it did the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1954, which it passed yesterday. Certain people outside the Parliament seem to have the impression that parliamentarians always attack one another in the debates in this institution. It is the experience of all of us that 95 per cent. of the measures considered by the Parliament are supported by both the Government and the Opposition. Unfortunately, it is the other 5 per cent. of legislation that receives all the publicity.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I join with the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) in. expressing regret at the sad death of Mr. J. J. Kenneally, who, as a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, did a wonderful job for the Commonwealth and the States. He left that position about a fortnight before his death, and his place was taken by Mr. A. J. Reid, who had recently retired from the position of Under-Treasurer of Western
Australia. I feel that Mr. Reid will be an acquisition to the commission.
This hill provides for the payment of £12,300,000 to the three claimant States, South Australia, “Western Australia and Tasmania. The amount to be paid to “Western Australia is £7,450,000.
– Order ! There is too much audible conversation.
– That amount is based on the formula laid down by the commission and, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, is inadequate for the requirements of Western Australia. It is known that the method by which the commission determines-
– I rise to order. I direct the attention of the Chair to the audible conversation on the other side of the chamber.
– Order! I ask honorable members to remain silent.
– It is well known that a claimant State, in order to comply with the formula adopted by the Commonwealth Grants Commission for assessing these special grants, must maintain its taxation at its level of taxation in the three so-called standard States, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, and at the same time keep its expenditure down to the level of expenditure of the three standard States. A grant based on such a method of computation is inadequate for a State such as Western Australia, which is passing through a stage of rapid development. It is not easy for the State Treasurer to meet expenditure associated with that development with the moneys available to him, such as reimbursements of income tax from the Commonwealth, and revenues from the limited sources of taxation available to him within the State. The Western Australian Treasurer estimates that the deficit for this financial year will be £141,071, compared with a deficit of £103,000 in 1953-54. The commitments of the State clearly indicate that the grant to be made to Western Australia by the Commonwealth this year, on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, is inadequate.
One of the main problems of the Western Australian Treasurer, in common with some other State Treasurers, is the losses incurred on the operations of the railways. Last year, those losses amounted to approximately £4,000,000, and it is expected that the deficit will be reduced by £1,000,000 in the current financial year. Honorable members will realize, from those figures, that the railways impose a heavy burden on the State Treasury. I emphasized in another debate the necessity to proceed immediately with the standardization of railway gauges. This work should not be left until some time in the future. I am pleased to know that the matter has been considered in another place, and that something is being done about it. I believe that the time is ripe to re-open negotiations with the States on this important matter-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! There is too much audible conversation. I must ask for silence.
– I emphasized in an earlier debate that negotiations should be re-opened with the States for the standardization of railway gauges, not only in the interests of the nation generally, but also because I knew the state of the Western Australia railways. There are approximately 4,200 miles of line in Western Australia, and as those people who understand railway workings will realize, the average life of rails is about 40 years, and re-sleepering and reballasting requires to be done every twenty years. From 1942 to 1952, due mainly to the war and the lack of man-power, only 43 miles of rails were re-laid each year. It is necessary, in order to keep the track up to a reasonable standard, for 105 miles of rail to be handled every twelve months. From that information, honorable members will understand how far behind the State has got with this work. Three-quarters of the track is more than 45 years old, and requires re-laying. But what is the use of waiting until the State has re-laid a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge track and then talking about standardization? The standardization work should be done now, and not at some time in the future. Honorable members may get an idea of the state of the track from the following figures: - The speed limit of passenger trains in Western Australia is 45 miles an hour. There is less than 950 miles of track capable of carrying trains travelling at that speed. Trains on the rest of the track are limited to a speed of from 40 to 15 miles an hour. If standardization work cannot be commenced immediately
– I rise to order. What relation has this indictment of the Western Australian Government railways to the hill ?
-Order ! I have been allowing the honorable member for Swan a little latitude. I now ask him to relate the subject-matter of his speech to the clauses of the bill.
– I shall not discuss that particular aspect further, but I should like to emphasize the disabilities from which Western Australia suffers in respect of rail and other forms of transport. I propose to read an extract from the report on the standardization and modernization of the Western Australian Government railways, issued in March, 1949-
– Order ! I am afraid that has nothing to do with the consideration of the bill.
– The details which I shall read are interesting-
– Order ! They are not.
– You do not know, Mr. Chairman, what I am about to read.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1934.
States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill 1954.
Without requests -
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill 1954.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Debate resumed from the 14th October (vide page 2006), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill seeks to authorize the provision of £32,000,000 of loan funds for the housing needs of the States under the terms of the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement of 1945. To my mind, the second-reading speech of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) was marked by an extraordinary complacency. Any one who listened to the Minister gained the impression that there was no housing shortage in Australia, that there was no longer any problem to be overcome, that on the whole the people of Australia were adequately housed, and, indeed, that in housing matters we were far in advance of almost any other country in the world. That, of course, was a most extraordinary proposition for the Minister to have advanced and one which bears its own refutation on its face. Even in this city of Canberra, which the Minister himself administers, a period of two and a half years is the waiting period between the time of registration of a family for a house and the time they enter into occupation of it. In the national capital of Australia in which this Government, has complete housing and financial power, it is necessary for the average applicant, for a. home to live for two and a half years in a garage, shed or rooms or whatever accommodation he can find, before the Government, which in most cases is his employer, can provide him with the ordinary amenities of a home. Yet the Minister said, in effect, that no housing problem exists in this country. The facts of the situation, the desperate plight of many hundreds of thousands of Australians who lack homes or decent residential accommodation entirely refute the claims that he has made. However, he based his claims upon figures which, upon examination, have no basis in fact to support them. The figures which he quoted were as follows : - 1952-53: Houses commenced, 04,000: houses completed, 77,000; houses under construction, 70,000.
I933-M : Houses commenced, 75,000; houses completed. 75,000: houses under construction, 71,000.
The Minister then proceeded to say -
An interesting fact is, as’ was pointed out in a statement recently issued by the Department of National Development, that the number of houses at present being built in An* tralia is tending to level off at about 75,000 a year us against an estimate that 60,000 a year are required to meet the normal growth of our population and its increase in immigration. In other words we are catching up with the backlog of housing by about 10,00” or 15,000 houses a year.
There are several things wrong with the figures that the Minister cited. The first of them is that even if his figures were correct and the housing lag is being overcome at the rate of between 10,000 and 15,000 houses a year, it is acknowledged that the shortage of houses in Australia to-day is in the region of 300,000. So, taking the highest figure that the Minister cited it would still take twenty years before the people would be adequately housed. Even if that were correct, there would be no reason for complacency on the Minister’s part but rather compelling reasons for urgency and overwhelming drive to overcome this housing shortage. But the facts are entirely different. The normal needs of the Australian people in housing, including provision for immigrants, are not 60,000 houses hut a minimum of 90,000 houses a year and, possibly, to-day, 100,000 houses. That figure of 90,000, or 100,000. has not been conjured by me. It is a figure which representatives of the Government, over and over again, have put to the Australian people. As the Minister quoted a statement that was issued by the Department of National Development, I shall quote an official statement that was issued by that department as long ago as the 22nd June, 1950, when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) was Minister for National Development. On that occasion, he said -
In 1951 we will have to have 90,000 new houses to accommodate the 45,000 couples who will marry in 1951, and to cope with 200,000 immigrants who will need accommodation.
Therefore, to meet the normal housing needs of the people on the basis of figures that have been cited over and over again by representatives of the Government, and which have been accepted by housing authorities, including the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) who, I hope, will speak again in this debate with the drive and fire he exhibited on a previous occasion for a bolder housing policy, we shall need in order to cope with current requirements not 60,000 but 90,000 houses a year. Apparently, the Minister invented the figure that he cited because I cannot find any authority whatsoever for it. Looking at the matter on the basis of a requirement of 90,000 houses to meet ordinary needs, plus those of immigrants, and having regard to the present construction rate qf 70,000 houses a year, it is clear that instead of overcoming the lag at the rate of 15,000 a year, we are, as the Minister should have said, falling back in respect of ordinary requirements by at least 15,000 a year and, therefore, we are doing nothing to overtake the existing lag of 300,000 houses which has piled up in this country.
A number of honorable members opposite will admit the existence of an acute housing shortage in Australia, but those honorable members blame the shortage on government intervention in the housing field and government control of investment and rents and other factors which come into the housing field. Those honorable members say that if the Government had not intervened, that if the great law of supply and demand had been allowed to operate, private enterprise would have met the needs of the Australian people before this, and we would not be faced with the present shortage. In other words, they blame the shortage of houses on government intervention in this field, and argue that if the Government had not intervened but had left the field to private enterprise the present shortage would not exist. Examining that argument, if we look back into the housing position in Australia, it will be generally agreed that there was practically no Government intervention of any kind before the outbreak of World War II. Whatever intervention there may have been at that time was of the most minor character. Yet, the housing shortage in Australia in the days when the housing field was left entirely to private enterprise was probably more serious than it is today. Certainly, in 1906, there was no question of the slightest interference with private enterprise or with the law of supply and demand and the profitable investment of capital for the purpose of meeting the needs of the people. At that time, the position was so appalling that the Government of New South Wales found it necessary to introduce legislation to provide for minimum building standards. In 1912, a few years later, the housing position was so acute that a royal commission was set up. That body, as the honorable member for Bennelong will recall, was known as the Irvine Royal Commission. It reported that there was a complete housing famine in Sydney and some of the country towns in New South Wales. That was in a day when there was not the slightest interference with private enterprise in its task of meeting the housing needs of the Australian people.
The agreement in respect of which this bill seeks to provide loan funds was made by the Labour Government in 1945. That agreement is not a creation of the presentGovernment but something which this Government has merely inherited. This Government can claim no credit in respect of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It must be accepted by all who are conversant with the record of anti-Labour parties in housing matters that if they had not inherited this agreement there would not be, even to-day, any direct Commonwealth provision for housing of the Australian people, because the record of those parties throughout the whole period of Federation is that they have consistently refused, when they have been in office, to make any effort whatever to house the people.
– Rubbish !
– I shall cite the facts. I am not denying that the anti-Labour parties, on the hustings, have been rich in promises of what they would do to provide houses if they achieved office.
– What about the position in South Australia?
– This is the National Parliament, so let us look at this problem as Australians. In 1925, when the present Liberal party, which was then known as the Nationalist party, one of the many aliases under which it has existed throughout the years, issued a manifesto in which it stated that £20,000,000 would be provided to ensure that those desiring a house would be assisted by means of finance. That promise was made by Mr. S. M. Bruce, now Lord Bruce, when he was Prime Minister. In due course, the Liberal party of that day was returned to office, and in 1927 the government of the day passed the Commonwealth Housing Act and loudly proclaimed that persons could borrow money at a reasonable rate of interest for the purpose of erecting a home. That legislation provided for a maximum advance of £750, and a minimum deposit of 25 per cent., with interest at the rate of 6 per cent. That was the housing plan that was placed before the Parliament and carried into legislation at that time. Less than £1,500,000 was expended, and that plan then folded up and was not brought into operation again. In 1934, when the parties opposite were operating under the alias of the United Australia party, they promised to build homes for workers and to embark upon a progressive slum clearance and housing policy; and those anti-Labour parties, having been reelected, the then Prime Minister announced that it was impracticable to carry out the project that had been contemplated because the Australian Government lacked constitutional authority to provide the necessary finance for housing.
– And there were 300,000 unemployed then.
– As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) reminds me, at that time there were hundreds of thousands of unemployed in this country. Unemployed building workers were anxious and ready to do the work. There were, within 300 yards of this Parliament House, hundreds of building workers in what was then known as the No. 4 Camp, unemployed and living on the dole of 7s. a week.
– That was when Mr. Scullin was in power.
– I am talking of the year 1934, but it also applied in the days when Mr. Scullin was Prime Minister of Australia but not in power, because power was then completely exercised by a Commonwealth bank board, controlled by Sir Robert Gibson, and an anti-Labour Senate. The responsibility for the deplorable history of Australia in 1930, 1931 and 1932, in housing and all other matters, rests with the private controllers of the financial system of this country, who operated at that time for their own profit instead of for the good of the Australian people, and with the benighted, if not worse, representatives of the Australian people who sat in the Senate and thwarted every attempt of a Labour government in this House to legislate for the needs of the Australian people, both in housing and in other matters.
– That was when the Minister for the Interior was a fascist without a shirt.
– As the honorable member reminds me, the Minister who introduced this bill proudly proclaimed himself in the Melbourne Herald as a fascist without a shirt, an admirer of those great dictators in other lands whom, apparently, he hoped to emulate in this country.
– Order ! The honorable member must get on with the bill.
– Labour lost six seats in the State that year.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will be without a seat if he does not cease interjecting.
– The history of this matter, for which the honorable gentleman opposite has asked me, is not complete.
We take the year 1936. It became necessary, as a result of the insistent demands of church, social welfare and other civic bodies, which were concerned with the acute housing shortage then in existence, to set up the Housing Conditions Investigation Committee. The committee reported that there were, in the metropolitan area of Sydney alone, 30,000 sub-standard homes, unfit for human habitation and covering about 2,000 acres within the close radius of the city itself. The Stevens IT.A.P. Government - I think it was then the U.A.P., which might have represented, “ All Up for Australia Party”, or something like that - enacted the Housing Improvement Act of 1936, under which it erected a block of 56 flats at Erskineville, and that was the end of that! The erection of 56 flats at Erskineville represents the total contribution of anti-Labour governments in Australia to the solution of the housing problem right up to the day of the outbreak of World War II. An honorable gentleman who interjected earlier about what South Australia has done may contradict me there if he can find the facts to do so. I assert that the erection of one block of 56 flats was the complete contribution of all Australian anti-Labour governments towards the solution of the appalling housing position right up to the outbreak of World War II.
– You do not know what you are talking about.
– Well, perhaps the honorable member for Bennelong will, when he rises to his feet, mention any other housing project engaged in by any other non-Labour government in New South Wales right up to the outbreak of World War II. Of course, the anti-Labour parties have not been in power since, and they are not likely to be in power again there so long as the people know their true nature.
Mr. Cramer interjecting,
– Order ! I am going to insist on an uninterrupted hearing for the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. The House is tending to get out of control. The honorable member for EdenMonaro will continue his speech on a bill to authorize the raising of money for certain States for the purposes of housing.
– The interjectors are all on your right, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! The honorable member will remain silent.
– “Well, the interjectors are all on your right.
– Order ! I am not going to he contradicted like that. 1 have already threatened one member who sits near the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The honorable member will withdraw that statement.
– -I will withdraw and apologize if you are right.
-Order! Not another word.
– I had got as far as the year 1934. It will not take me very long to cover the remaining period of the housing record of the anti-Labour governments in the federal sphere, because, in 1936, Mr. Lyons, again bidding for votes as the leader of the antiLabour forces in Australia, repeated his housing promise, and, having been reelected in the year 1937, he issued this statement on the 18th August, 1938 -
Financial considerations associated with the Government’s very extensive defence programmes and other inescapable commitments render it extremely difficult for any policy foi slum clearance and re-housing to be content plated at the moment.
He had found a. new alibi. So, of course, nothing whatever was done, although the flow of promises and comforting statements from the anti-Labour benches continued to be made. Indeed, the present Deputy Leader of the Liberal party, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), in 1939, said this -
I can think of no better way of preserving our democratic ideals than by making it possible for every man, woman and child in Australia to have a stake in their country and to be housed in a manner that will make for national fitness - physical, mental and moral.
They formed another government, and, early in 1940 Mr. Menzies, as Prime Minister, refused to make available any money for a re-housing plan on the grounds that the provision of housing was a responsibility of the States. “When we look at the extraordinary record of the anti-Labour parties in this matter, a record of continuous promises continually repudiated in office, we can come to only one conclusion, and that is that the anti-Labour parties have no interest whatever in the housing of the Australian people and are unwilling to take any other step than they are compelled to take towards that objective. The reason is to be found in the words of Mr. “W. 0. Burt, whom the Minister for the Interior will know very well, because he was a member of the Housing Investigation and Slum Investigation Board in Victoria in 1937. He came to the reluctant conclusion, in the days of an antiLabour government there, that vested interests had created opposition-
– It was not an anti-Labour government in Victoria in 1937. “Was not Mr. Dunstan the Premier then?
– Tes, I believe Mr. Dunstan was the Premier in 1937.
– He was an antiLiberal.
– He was an anti-Labour Premier. You cannot get away from that. Mr. Burt, after his experiences on that board, found it necessary to come to the reluctant conclusion that vested financial interests prevented governments of that character from tackling the housing problem. That, of course, is borne out by their history in the matter. The present Government is operating the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. As I said earlier, it inherited that agreement. The antiLabour parties had no responsibility for its initiation. They can be given no credit whatever for the fact that it is in existence and that it has provided housing for many thousands of Australian citizens. But, once again, their record in office has been consistent, because it is clear that, ever since they came into office, they have operated even that agreement with the utmost reluctance and have done all in their power to sabotage its operations.
– Rot !
– I am not sure which honorable member interjected.
– I did, for one.
– Perhaps the honorable member will not deny that it is a fact that clause 6 of that agreement provides that the Commonwealth shall provide the finance needed by the States in each year for the carrying out of the housing programmes which they deem proper.
– Without strings.
– That is so.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes is interjecting.
– Very helpfully, sir. There is no doubt whatever that that clause is in the agreement. There is no doubt whatever that the Government has repudiated its obligations under that clause and has refused year after year to provide the finance needed by the governments operating under this scheme so that, by that step, it has reduced the provision of housing for the Australian people. It dare not repudiate the agreement as a whole. Et therefore adopts the role of a saboteur and endeavours to render the agreement
Mr. Haworth interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Isaacs must remain silent.
– It might have been a helpful interjection, but I did not hear it.
– Order !
– The antiLabour parties, therefore, have done nothing to assist the carrying out of that agreement. They have been unwilling, or afraid, directly to repudiate it, but they have done all in their power to sabotage it by keeping to a minimum the provision of finance, and, despite protest after protest lodged by the Labour Government of New South Wales, they have consistently refused the finance necessary to enable that Government to carry out a full housing programme for the needs of the Australian people.. Nevertheless, what has been achieved in housing as the result of the operation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been notable indeed and stands as an everlasting monument to the Labour Government which originally shaped the agreement.
I have pointed out that, up to the outbreak of World War II., the total contribution of anti-Labour governments in New South Wales to the provision of housing for the people was the erection of one block of 56 flats at Erskineville. The Labour Government of New South Wales, through the Housing Commission of that State, and operating under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement established by the Chifley Labour Government in 1945, has, up to September of this year, provided a total of 31,000 homes for the people of New South Wales. A total of 138,000 people have been provided with homes as a result of the operations of the New South Wales Housing Commission under the auspices of the New South Wales Government! That, then, is the record of the Government in housing in New South Wales. The achievements of Labour in this respect contrast with the promises and unfulfilled pledges of the anti-Labour parties. Complaint ha3 been made against that agreement on the ground that it is a rental agreement.
– Hear, hear!
– I am not sure who interjected.
-Order ! That is no concern of the honorable member.
– If I get an encouraging “ Hear, hear ! “ that is very much my concern, and I am very glad to have it. The fact is, of course, that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was made in 1945 because of the demonstrated failure of private enterprise to deal successfully with the housing programme. It became imperative for governments to enter the field and to do something to assist those people who were in no position to build their own homes or to purchase their own homes.
History will show, if we look at the facts, that that was the reason why the agreement was made for the construction of houses for rental. Those honorable members opposite who complain that it is largely an agreement for the provision of houses for rental forget this: that the agreement provides for the purchase of homes by tenants, and that that provision is only inoperative because, on the day that a tenant purchases a home, the State must pay the Commonwealth in full thu price of it, which means that the tenant must be able to provide on the day of purchase the full finance for the total purchase of the home.
– And Labour put that provision in the agreement.
– Order !
– I remind the honorable member for Bennelong that the agreement was made in 1945, when governments were just entering this field because of the complete failure of private enterprise to meet the very urgent needs at that time of people who had no possible means of purchasing houses because finance could not be provided. I remind him also that, for the last five years, the New South Wales Labour Government has been consistently pressing this Government to alter that provision of the agreement. What is sacrosanct about it? Is it because Labour originally put it in the agreement that this Government dare not alter it? If the Government agrees with us that the widest possible fie”.” “ home-ownership is desirable, what is preventing it from meeting the requests of the States to alter the agreement so as to provide that the present tenants of those homes can purchase them on low deposits, on reasonable interest, and on an extended term of repayment? If the Government claims that it is moving in that direction, I can only say that it is moving extraordinarily slowly, because it is exactly twelve months ago this month since the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), on behalf of the Opposition, moved an amendment to a similar bill seeking an instruction from this Parliament to the Government to do exactly that thing. Those on the Government side rejected the amendment on the grounds that to carry it out would prevent the provision of the housing money required by the States. But they said that they themselves were wide awake to the need for such a provision, and would do something about it. They have done nothing about it since then. There have been conferences on the departmental level, and renewed representations from the New South Wales Government to the Australian Government, hut nothing has been done and no one is in a position to give a date when something will be done about that matter.
As a rule I am happy to find myself in complete disagreement with the Prime
Minister (Mr. Menzies) in any views that he expresses, but I find myself in agreement with a view that he expressed a few months ago, v/hen he said tha t he did not want to see the Government as the universal landlord in this country, and that that would be a shocking thing for the people of Australia. I quite agree with him. That is so. The ideal position is to enable as many people as possible in this country to own their own homes. But let us consider what is preventing them from owning their own homes. After this Government came to power, for a few months it completely lacked any financial policy. Then it embarked on a policy of most savage credit restrictions as applied to housing, and in 1950, 1951 and 1952 it was practically impossible for anybody to obtain, at reasonable rates, the finance needed to erect, build, acquire or buy a home in any of the Australian States. That was directly the result of the financial restrictions imposed by the Government. By that savage and utterly foolish policy of housing credit restrictions, the Government almost destroyed overnight the great co-operative housing movement which had gained strength in New South Wales in the few previous years. So much so, indeed, that even to-day it is impossible for the cooperative housing societies in New South Wales to obtain even half of the finance that they want to meet the needs of the people who seek, through membership of those societies, to obtain homes for themselves.
The position is always the same in regard to housing. When materials and labour are available, the people are told that they cannot have houses because no money is available. Then when funds are available, the people are told that they cannot have houses because labour and materials are in short supply. At the same time, the representatives of this Government continue to make, by word of mouth, the most extraordinary protestations of their interest in the housing of the Australian people. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is one of those who, during the course of years, has issued the most eloquent statements about the need for a concerted attack by Australian governments on the housing problem in this country. The Minister has said -
The challenge of the housing shortage is directed to every Australian. Perhaps Australia’s survival as a white democracy can depend upon the way in which that challenge is met. The building lag is something of the character of a snowball. If it is allowed to roll on it can become an avalanche.
But the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has sponsored a bill to provide an inadequate number of homes throughout Australia, and then he tells us that everything in the garden is lovely, and that our housing lag is being overcome at the rate of 15,000 houses a year ; when the shortage of houses in Australia is about 300,000, and when the official figures show clearly that our housing lag i3 increasing at the rate of 15,000 a year. I agree with the statement which was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service, that I have just read. Perhaps Australia’s survival as a white democracy can depend upon the way in which we meet the challenge of the housing shortage. Certainly, the success of our immigration programme depends on it. We cannot continue to bring here, as we certainly should, every healthy European of goodwill who is prepared to come here and help us to develop this country unless we accept and tackle the challenge of our housing shortage.
Unless we can continue bringing immigrants to this country I believe that the Minister’s statement will probably come true. We are faced, without doubt, with the probability that we shall not continue to hold this country for very many more years unless we can populate and develop it. At present the whole of our populating and developing programme is being held up by the refusal of this Government to do what is within its power to do, that i3 to make finance available at reasonable rates of interest to meet the housing needs of the people. The Government can, and should, honour the terms of clause 6 of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It can, and should, provide the finance which the governments of the States require to carry out the housing programmes which it is within their power to carry out. Recently the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, was com pelled to announce that the New South Wales Housing Commission will build fewer homes this coming financial year than it built in the previous financial year. He had to announce that, not because materials or labour are not available, but solely because this Government has refused to provide the finance necessary for the task.
– Why does the honorable member say that?
– Order ! The honorable member for Petrie must not interject.
– I should like to be able to reply to the honorable member, but Mr. Speaker will not allow me to do so. The position as stated by the Premier of New South Wales is that this Government will provide less money to New South Wales this year for housing, in terms of the real value of money, than it provided in preceding years. In every preceding year it provided the New South Wales Government with less money than that Government usefully could have spent on housing the people. There is available a Commonwealth Bank, which I am sure the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) will agree should be used to provide every penny which can be usefully used in housing the Australian people. The money should be provided, first, through the State governments for the construction programmes of their housing authorities. It should be provided, secondly, for the co-operative building society movements in Victoria and New South Wales ; and it should be provided, thirdly, to assist the establishment of similar movements in every State because there is no more valuable way of housing the people than through the operation of these great co-operative building societies which arc free from any taint of government bureaucracy and control. They represent a true co-operative movement, which already in New South Wales has enabled tens of thousands of young people to acquire homes which they otherwise would not have been able to get.
I remind honorable members that on figures supplied by Mr. Pooley, the general secretary of the building societies organization, those societies would have been able to provide homes for twice the number of people than they have been able to provide for, hut for the restriction of finance by this Government. I refer the Minister for the Interior to the official statements of the co-operative building societies in New South Wales. If he is so remiss that he has not studied this matter as he should have, I refer him to the memorandum on housing supplied by the Association of Co-operative Building Societies to the Prime Minister, and therefore available to every member of the Cabinet.
– What is the date of the memorandum?
Mr. Kent Hughes interjecting,
– It is dated the 16th September, 1952. I refer the Minister to that memorandum, and I refer him to a statement issued by the same organization as recently as last month, in which it was announced that the finance available to the societies ha3 been reduced from £12,000,000 in the previous year to £7,000,000 in the present year. Let the Minister laugh that off.
– He is not allowed to comment.
– Not when it is inconvenient for him to do so. But when it is convenient for him he does comment.
– Order ! The honorable member will address the Chair instead of fishing for interjections. The honorable member is not being provocative, he is fishing for interjections. I ask him to confine his remarks to the bill, and to address me.
– I am addressing you, Mr. Speaker, and despite what you have said, I am not fishing for interjections. That is an incorrect statement. I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, are in error in thinking that I am fishing for interjections. I suggest that I should not allow interjections to be made without replying to them when they are pertinent to the matter I am discussing. I provided the Minister with further figures, and he did not laugh or interject any more. The record of the anti-Labour Governments in housing, is that they have continually made promises to the people, most of which have not been fulfilled. The agreement that the Government is now operating is an agreement that was made by a Labour government, and no credit accrues to anti-Labour governments for whatever has been done under that agreement. The agreement has been of the utmost value to the people, since in New South Wales alone it has been responsible for housing 1S0,000 people through the provision of 31,000 homes. It could have been of far greater value if it had been operated in the way in which the Labour Government which introduced it intended it to operate. Its value has been reduced by the deliberate sabotage of the agreement by the present Government in refusing to honour clause 6, and provide the finance necessary for the construction of homes in the numbers which the State governments and State housing authorities are willing and able to erect.
The value of the agreement has also been reduced by the obstinate refusal or dilly-dallying of the Government on the requests from the States to amend the agreement to enable the tenants of the house to purchase them on low deposits, reasonable interest and extended terms. Australia is short of more than 300,000 houses at present. On the figures advanced by the Minister as to the rate of construction - 75,000 a year - and the figures quoted by previous representatives of the Government as to the extent of the housing needs of the Australian people - 90,000 a year - the lag is increasing by 15,000 houses a year. On the evidence of all State governments, on the evidence of the Association of Cooperative Building Societies, and on the evidence of many thousands of young Australians who have sought finance to erect their own homes, the solution of the housing problem is being hampered and hamstrung by the refusal of the Government to make available the finance necessary for a full attack on it. In the words of the Minister for Labour and National Service, our failure as a nation to meet the challenge of the housing shortage can, in due time, cost us our occupancy of this country.
.- I have been a member of this House for almost five years, but I have never before heard a speech containing more balderdash, nonsense and utter hypocrisy, than that just delivered by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser). His whole theme was hypocritical. He commenced his speech by accusing the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) of speaking in a complacent manner. The information that the Minister gave was very valuable, and it indicated the true position. It revealed the magnificent job that the Government has done in relation to housing. The honorable member stated that there was a shortage of 300,000 houses. He just pulled that figure out of thin air. If he had the slightest understanding of this problem, he would know that there is no authority in Australia or elsewhere that is able to state exactly what the shortage is. The figure is certainly not anything like 300,000. The honorable member also stated that Australia’s normal needs each year were 90,000 houses. Between 1947 and 1954, the increase of population was 1,400,000 persons. Under normal conditions, 90,000 houses would house approximately 350,000 people, but that figure does not represent the normal annual rate of increase, which is under 250,000. In my opinion, the honorable member’s statement was quite foolish. The theme of his speech was a criticism of non-Labour governments. He stated that no effort whatever had been made by such governments to house the people. It was convenient for the honorable member to forget the magnificent job that has been done in South Australia, a State which has had a non-Labour government for a longer period than any other State. Its housing problem has been overcome much more quickly than that of any of the other States. That record is proof positive of what a nonLabour government can do.
A similar improvement was being effected in Western Australia until the Australian Labour party assumed office. When the honorable member stated that a non-Labour government in New South Wales built only one block of flats at Erskineville, did he forget the magni ficent building society movement to which he himself referred, and which was launched by the Stevens Government at a time when Australia was being pulled out of the depression that had been caused by Jack Lang, who was a predecessor of Mr. Stevens, and who was of the same colour of politics as is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro? Does the honorable member not remember that 13,000 houses were built at. that time and that the building societies have been the main providers of houses since then? Does he forget that, in the majority of eases, the people who live in those houses in Sydney have just reached the stage of having completed their payments? That scheme was introduced by a non-Labour government, and the people of Australia know it. It would be just foolish to waste time in countering the false statements and the utter hypocrisy of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
There is a problem in Australia in relation to sub-standard houses, just as there is in many of the big cities elsewhere in the world. It is a pity that people should be required to live in sub-standard homes, but, if a Liberal government were given sufficient time, the problem would be dealt with in a proper and responsible manner. There is no doubt that this Government, and previous non-Labour governments, have done a magnificent job in relation to housing. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro stated that this Government had refused finance to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I ask honorable members and the people of Australia, as a matter of plain common sense, what kind of inflationary conditions would have existed to-day if all of the money for which the State Labour Premiers had asked had been given to them. I am amazed when I see responsible men rise and try to tell the people that this Government has starved the States of houses when they know that, if thousands of millions of pounds more were placed in their coffers, they could not find an extra tradesman to build more houses. Such statements are utter nonsense. Why should honorable members try to mislead people who do not give thought to these matters and who, unfortunately, are suffering because they are not able to obtain a home?
The honorable member stated that the Government should give the States more money. Thank God that there is in office a government of the calibre of this Government which is prepared to restrain those people from completely destroying this country, or am I correct in suggesting that it was the intention of the Labour Government to destroy the basic economic features of this country? Let us examine the legislation that the Government, is obliged to obey, and for which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro claimed great credit. It was introduced by the Australian Labour party. He may have the credit, but the Labour Government introduced an obnoxious piece of legislation which this Government, by force of law, must obey. It is for that reason that this bill is now before the House.
– I knew the honorable member hated that legislation.
– I do hate it, and I hope that, when the period of its operation expires in 1955-56, something will be done to reverse the intention that lies behind it. The intention of the legislation was that State housing commissions should build rental houses. If those houses are sold, they must he sold for the full cash amount. No opportunity or encouragement is given to the people to become home-owners. Proof of the intention of the Labour Government is provided in a pamphlet entitled Reestablishment Pamphlet No. 2 - Housing, which was produced by the Department of Works and Housing immediately after World War II.
– Mr. Dedman was Minister for Works and Housing at that time.
– Yes. The pamphlet contains the following paragraph : -
The Commonwealth-State Housing Scheme. Nature of Scheme:
The Commonwealth Government and the Governments of all the States-
Labour governments- have agreed to co-operate in the provision of dwellings for rental. The States, who have the constitutional powers for civilian housing, will be responsible for building operations and will administer the scheme. The Commonwealth will assist the States by meeting threefifths of any losses incurred.
Rental only ! I emphasize that feature of the scheme, because it is the feature that we must watch. The loans are for a period of 53 years, at an interest rate of 3 per cent. That was the then current rate of interest. The agreement provides that the rate of interest shall he the current rate on long term public loans. That rate of interest could be 4-J per cent., but it is still only 3 per cent, through the generosity of this Government.
Provision is made also for the fixation of a formula for the payment of rent. If the rental exceeds one-fifth of a person’s income, it is adjusted accordingly. The minimum rental is 8s. a week. What was tha intention of the Labour Government when it drafted the agreement? We know that, in 1943-44, the Labour party was inspired by the thought that, at last, it had the opportunity of completely socializing Australia. However, it discovered that there were constitutional difficulties, and a referendum was held in 1944. It referred to the people questions which, if they had been accepted, would have enabled it to socialize completely the lives and homes of the Australian people. It announced that it would establish a Commonwealth housing commission, not State housing commissions. The intention underlying the proposal for the establishment of a Commonwealth housing commission envisaged the destruction of private investment. Private enterprise, and with it home-ownership, have been effectively destroyed. Only within the last two or three years has the Labour party, because it. has thought that it would be politically propitious to do so, urged a system of home-ownership. But it is the same party that sought to destroy the possibility of people becoming home-owners. In other words, it intended to make the workers of Australia vassals of the state, and to obtain complete control over land, buildings and materials. It was for that reason that, under the agreement, the sale of houses was not encouraged. After its defeat at the referendum, the Labour party made this agreement with the States to carry out its intention.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro has charged the Government with not having provided sufficient money to the States. In fact, it has provided £210,200,000, and with that money the States have built a total of 68,773 houses. New South Wales has built 29,257 ; Victoria has built 22,765; Queensland has built 7,234; Western Australia has built ?,511; and South Australia, which has only just commenced to benefit under the agreement, has built 1,006 houses. Reference has been made to the wish .of the Labour party to sell houses. It is interesting to note the figures that relate to this matter. Tn South Australia, which has a Liberal Government, Premier Playford has utilized the services of the Housing Trust to build houses for rental and for sale. More than 50 per cent, of the houses that have been built in that State have been sold. During the time that a Liberal government was in office in Western Australia, 30 per cent, of the homes that were built under the agreement were sold, but since the Labour party assumed office in that State the percentage has fallen to 1.7 per cent, and very few houses have been sold since Labour came into office. In New South Wales, a State which has a very volubleLabour Premier, who has referred to the sale of homes over the last few years, because he thought it was good politics to do so, only 1,250 houses, or 4.28 pe, cent, of the total number that were built, have been sold. In Victoria, another socialist State under Premier Cain, &6 of the 22,765 homes that have been built, or .34 per cent., have been sold. In Queensland, the position is a little better. Perhaps a better kind of socialist government exists there. In that State, the Government has sold 5.3 per cent, of the total number of houses that have been built.
The legislation at present in force makes provision for rental rebates for people who cannot afford to pay the full economic rent. Already, the Commonwealth has contributed £718,817 for rental rebates. Of that sum, New South Wales has received £465,983. That is an enormous amount to contemplate at a time of full employment. Though it is good to give people roofs over their heads at any time, it is tragic to force them to be tenants of governments. That is the way of the totalitarian state and the socialist set-up. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, 250,000 people are tenants of the State governments. It makes me shed tears of blood to think of it. The entire concept of the agreement and the entire principle of encouraging a tenant community are bad. Let us sell homes to the people. This Government is trying to enable the people to buy home3, in accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech before the recent general elections. Building by government and semi-government authorities has been proved repeatedly to be uneconomic and wasteful. Overhead costs are incalculable. Any one with any sense knows that if the’ £210,000,000 that I have mentioned had been expended properly in a system of private enterprise, the number of homes built in Australia would have been much greater than it is.
Mi Davis. - And they would have been hotter homes.
– They would have been a thousand times better. Let us see what has happened in the much talked of State of New South Wales. The New South Wales Housing Commission, in the current financial . year, will have approximately £12,000,000 to spend. Its administrative costs alone totalled £870,653 in the financial year 1952-53. In the relatively short period of its existence up to the 30th June, 1953 - I have not the figures for the financial year 1953-54, but they will be at least £1,000,000 - it had accumulated losses of more than £1,250,000. That overhead cost is altogether distinct from the cost of the homes constructed. That is not the way to build houses effectively. The operations of the New South Wale? Housing Commission do much to prevent private builders from obtaining labour and materials. It helps to prevent people from helping themselves because tl ey cannot get the materials that they require. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement should not be perpetuated. It does nothing to help people to obtain the homes that they urgently need. Every honorable member knows where I stand on this matter. My views on it have gone on record over and over again.
– The honorable member does not run away from it.
– I do not run away from it. I am fundamentally in favour of a widespread programme that will enable every decent citizen who wishes to become the owner of a home to obtain one. If I had my way, I should make a bold effort to achieve this object at the earliest possible moment. When I last spoke in this House on this subject, I suggested that the Government should, through the agency of the Commonwealth Bank, constitute a national housing fund from which to make loans at a low rate of interest through the agency of the building societies and so forth, to people to buy or build homes on low deposits. At present, of course, any attempt to do that would he hamstrung by this housing agreement. Funds should be made available for assisting local authorities, and even the State governments, to undertake slum clearance. It is not essentially the function of the Australian Government to concern itself with the details of such an activity and it should not do so. It should concern itself primarily with the provision of money for loans on attractive conditions for home ownership.
What is the present housing situation in Australia? The honorable member for Eden-Monaro stated that there is a shortage of 300,000 houses in Australia. That statement is utter nonsense, as a study of statistics in relation to other countries will demonstrate. The number of people relative to each home unit in Australia is one of the lowest in the world. The 1947 census figures are extremely interesting. They show that, at the 30th June, 1947, 7,579,358 people were resident in Australia, and that there were 1,S79,204 home units. There was one home unit for every four persons, approximately. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures relative to the census taken on the 30th June last, reveal that from the 30th June, 1947, to the 30th June last, 460,231 new home units had been provided for an increase of population of approximately 1,400,000 people. In other words, the proportion of new home units provided since the 1947 census to the increase of population in that period is one unit for every three persons.
– Will the honorable member explain the meaning of a home unit?
– A home unit is either a house or a flat.
Mr. -Allan Fraser, - Or a room?
– Not a room. A unit is complete with bedrooms, dining-room and the other usual rooms. The figures that I have given do not take into account hotels, guest houses and other premises where large numbers of people are accommodated. Those figures are conclusive proof of the truth of the remarks made by the Minister for the Interior in his second-reading speech. Notwithstanding the statistics, there is an obvious shortage of houses. Young married couples find it impossible to obtain homes. Why are they not able to rent them? The number of homes in respect of which rents have been controlled by State Labour governments since 1947 is continually shrinking, because no intelligent person who owns a property will re-let it when it becomes vacant. He will sell it.
– That is because he cannot get an increased rent.
– A thought has occurred to me, in response to the interjection, but I must not express it in words. In the past, owner-occupied homes would normally be subdivided when the family size was reduced by marriage or deaths, but that does not happen at present, because restraints have been imposed by the State governments. In consequence, tens of thousands fewer people are living in the same number of homes as before. Let the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and other Opposition members who represent inner city electorates study the rolls for their constituencies. If they do so, they will learn that the number of electors enrolled in their electorates is diminishing. The number of houses in their constituencies remains the same, but they are occupied by fewer people. The major factor in this artificial but obvious shortage of homes is the controls that have been imposed by State Labour governments. The housing problem cannot be solved merely by building homes. The existing dwellings must be made freely available to the people who need accommodation. I do not want to be misunderstood. I do not suggest that rent controls should immediately be abandoned and that people who occupy rented premises that are at present subject to control should bc thrown on the scrap-heap. However, let us cease to impose rent controls on new dwellings, and let properties that have not yet been controlled be completely free of any threat of restraint. Let us give people an incentive to invest their money as of yore.
– That is the intelligent way.
– That is so. People should be encouraged to invest their savings in property to give them an income in their old age. The restraints that have been imposed by State Labour governments affect many thousands of millions of pounds worth of properties. Those restrictions cause an artificial situation, which the State Labour governments are making no effort to improve. They cannot improve it in the way that they think they can. Their policy amazes me and I sometimes wonder whether the State Labour Premiers are stark, staring mad to allow the people to remain in need of homes as they do at present. Young people are unable to set up homes when they marry. The State Labour governments impose rent restrictions well knowing that they thereby prevent people from obtaining homes that they urgently need. Throughout the suburbs of Sydney, many hundreds of large homes that contain up to twelve rooms and lend themselves admirably to subdivision into flats, are occupied by only two persons. The socialist approach to this situation is to impose more controls in an effort to make the owners let rooms. The socialists will do anything to destroy the liberty and privacy of the individual, but that is not the remedy for the existing situation.
The economy must be freed in order to give people an incentive to invest. At present no builder is willing to invest money in property for rent. The State governments are expending millions of pounds on home construction and are charging rents much higher than would be charged if private enterprise were encouraged to invest money in property for rent. I have had many years of experience in real estate, and I know that that statement is true. The State governments ought to wake up to themselves and realize that the existing problems cannot be solved by retaining controls. The continuance of the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the building of homes by governments for rent, will do nothing to remove the existing difficulties. They merely serve to frustrate private individuals. Government landlords on a large scale serve only to hamper the free working of the economy by destroying the rights of individuals and by taking from them all incentive to invest.
– Also, the maintenance costs are terrific.
– There is no doubt that that is so. Can honorable members imagine the immense maintenance organization that will be needed in the future to keep in order government-built homes the total cost of which might be £500,000,000 ? At present, the homes built under government housing schemes are no more than nine or ten years old, and up to the present they have required very little maintenance, except perhaps painting once and a new lock on the front gate. The present policy will promote slums instead of clearing them. “We must make a bold bid to encourage widespread home ownership throughout Australia instead of dissipating our money in schemes of the kind that the Australian Labour party favours.
.- The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has made a typical real estate agent’s address. I am satisfied that if the provision of housing is left in the hands of landlords and real estate agents, the calamitous situation that has existed in relation to the nationally important subject of housing for a number of years, will be perpetuated. The honorable member stated that Labour would give to the people for the building of homes all “the money that they sought, and that that would cause terrible inflation. Why does this Government not do something to halt inflation? It has the opportunity to act now. I know that the cost structure in respect of housing is most important, but this Government does not make any attempt to reduce building costs. Indeed, it encourages the maintenance of the cost structure at the existing high level, because it believe.– that people should have an incentive to invest money in housing. That policy means that people should be given the right to charge higher interest rates on the money which they lend, to home builders.
The honorable member also complained bitterly about the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. What is the position? The Menzies Government has been in office since December, 1949. Why has it not taken action to amend the agreement, if it is such a bad arrangement? The honorable member also considers that a plan should be formulated to enable people to obtain bigger loans at lower interest rates. He supports a government which could pursue a policy of that kind. The Labour party, during the last, general election campaign, told the people that if it were returned to office, it would arrange for a loan of £3,500 at 3 per cent, to be available for a person who desired to build a house. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy r speech promised that the Government would provide a loan of £2,750 at 4£ per cent. The kind of incentive about which the honorable member for Bennelong has spoken is responsible for killing home ownership in Australia. The honorable gentleman has also suggested that people should be accommodated in units. We are not in favour of units. We require homes for the people. How are our children to be brought up properly if they are to be condemned to live in units? Too many people are living in units now. We believe that every family should have a house.
The present Prime Minister, during the general election campaign in 1949, made promises to the people in respect of housing and this Government has broken those promises. The honorable member for Bennelong condemns the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, yet he continues to support a government which does not attempt to’ improve the agreement. The present
Prime Minister made the following statement in his policy speech in 1949 : -
There is already a Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement. We will seek its amendment so as to permit and aid “ little capitalists “’ to own their own homes.
The Prime Minister has not honoured that promise. But, then, he has no qualms about breaking promises. He made another statement on housing policy as follows : -
We have always stood for home ownership. The agreement expires over the next two years. We will require that a new agreement encourages ownership, and leaves ample opportunity for iiic work of building societies and co-operative societies.
I shall examine the scheme which the Government promised during the general election campaign last May. The report of the Commonwealth Bank on this important matter of housing makes interesting reading. The Commonwealth Bank is the principal source of all the finance provided for home ownership in Australia. However, the assistance that the bank has given in respect of housing over a long period has been completely inadequate. The bank admits an accumulation of outstanding applications. The report reads, in part, as follows: -
The year was notable for the strongly increased demand for financial assistance for housing, and as in the past, considerable sums were made available for this purpose. In spite of this substantial support, an accumulation of outstanding applications from co-operative building societies and housing societies lias assumed large proportions.
So the Commonwealth Bank admits the truth of all the allegations that the Labour party makes about the housing situation and contradicts the claims of the honorable member for Bennelong, who hat pretended there is not a housing shortage. He has evidently counted all the sheds, motor garages and enclosed verandahs and has classed them as units, and, on that basis, declares that there is not a housing shortage. I should like to condemn him to live as many people are living at the present time, and see how long he would stand those conditions. People have complained to me about the treatment they have received from real estate agents. They say that agents are getting round State laws by signing some sort of occupancy agreement under which they do not let a house in the ordinary way. They say in effect, “ You can have a room, and put a couple of beds in it. The rent will be £8 8s. a week “. That demand is made of persons in receipt of the basic wage. When the tenants complain, they are told, in effect, “ We only let the room. We did not put the beds in it. We thought that the room would be used for a business “. That is how landlords and real estate agents, whom the honorable member for Bennelong represents, treat people in search of accommodation. That is the kind of thing he stands for. The assistance thai has been provided by the Commonwealth Bank for housing is quite inadequate. The following statement appears in the bank’s report -
Since August, 1044, loans approved for building and housing societies have totalled £(io,0O0,000.
That sum would finance the erection of approximately 22,000 houses on the basis of present-day costs. The total amount made available to building societies has been £31,000,000 since 1946, when the bank began to provide finance for those organizations. That amount would finance the construction of only about 13,000 dwellings. The money that has been available for housing is infinitesimal compared with the demand for accommodation each year by newly married couples. I shall examine some of the figures later, but the annual report of the Commonwealth Bank clearly indicates a substantial housing shortage.
This bill makes provision for the payment of £32,000,000 to the States for housing purposes in the current financial year. That amount will provide only 10,000 houses on the basis of presentday cost3. I agree with the estimate of the honorable member for EdenMonaro that we require between 90,000 and 100,000 houses each year in order to overtake the backlog. The 10,000 dwellings that will be financed by the provision in this bill will be a small contribution to the over-all requirements. I believe that the housing shortage exceed.– 300,000 dwellings. The position is becoming worse. Last year £37,000,000 was provided for housing, so the States are to receive £5,000,000 less this year than in 1953-54. The report of the Commonwealth Bank indicates that the demand for housing is growing. Any one who lives and moves among the people knows that to be a fact. Last year, the States asked for £52,000,000 for housing and were granted £37,000,000. The result was that the States constructed 5,000 fewer houses than they were capable of providing. That is typical of the situation ever since this Government has been in office. The States ask for a certain amount, according to their work force, so that they can build houses, but their requests are repeatedly reduced by the Commonwealth, and over the years, the effectiveness of their competent work force has been partly destroyed.
The Commonwealth has violated the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It is the Commonwealth’s business to provide money for housing. It is the State’s business to build houses and attend to the housing needs of tha people. The requests of the States for finance have been continually pared down, and as a result, the housing shortage has been accentuated. This is a violation of the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Obviously, the Government is neglecting an important national responsibility, and it continually attempts to pass the buck to the States. We know perfectly well that the number of houses that the States can build is governed by the finance provided by the Commonwealth for that purpose. If the States applied all the moneys that they received from the Commonwealth to housing, the shortage would not be overtaken. New South Wales is to receive £56,000,000 from the Commonwealth as income tax reimbursement this financial year. If that State applied the whole sum to housing, the backlog would not be overtaken. Approximately half the revenues of the .States are expended on education, and, therefore, cannot be expended on housing.
We speak of the backlog of housing. We know that the shortage of houses has existed for a long time. It began during the financial depression in the early 1930’s, which continued for at least six years. A typical depression year was 1931. There were 39,000 marriages in that year, and only 5,000 houses were built. That is to say, 34,000 married couples did not get houses. I do not know whether they were accommodated in the units which the honorable member for Bennelong has mentioned, but they certainly did not get homes. I believe that it is important that every family should have a home. The primary needs of every family are food, clothing and shelter. People continued to get married during the depression years, but building was severely curtailed. A similar position existed during the war. The Labour Government was compelled to cease building houses, because it had to undertake an all-out war effort. Man-power had to be directed to the conduct of the war. A typical war year was 1943, and in that year, there were 79,000 marriages, but only 5,000 houses were built. I do not know where the other 74,000 married couples went to live. Those conditions prevailed for approximately six years. I believe that the estimate of the housing shortage made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is, if anything, too low. I consider that the shortage is well over 300,000 homes.
– Why not make it millions ?
– Housing does not matter to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who is a bachelor, hut it is important to married couples. The figures that I have cited are not exaggerated. The housing shortage is most serious. Some homes become available as the result of natural causes such as deaths, hut the number would be only a small fraction of the requirements. Not many homes would become available through that cause. Another typical year is 1951. This Government has claimed record figures in respect of building in that year. There were 77,000 marriages, and 30,000 married newcomers. That is to say, 107,000 families required homes in that year. The statistics quoted by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro showed that only 70,000 houses were built in 1951, so that the number was 37,000 short of the requirements in that year. All the facts and figures that can be gathered from any source indicate that there is a serious lag. If this Government assumed its proper responsibility and adopted a national outlook in this matter, it would make an effective effort to provide the 100,000 additional houses that are needed each year to house our people. But it “is doing nothing worthwhile about this problem. No doubt, we shall find that the plan that it proposes to introduce in the near future will represent but a trivial effort to deal with the situation. The remarks that I have made about the position that existed in 1951 apply equally to the positions that existed in 1952, 1953 and 1954; and, no doubt, it will remain true about the position that will exist at the end of 1955. Until this Government accepts its real responsibility in this matter, the same sort of thing will continue.
I shall now deal with the total finance that will he made available for housing this year from various sources. It is expected that the Commonwealth Bank will make available the sum of £5,000,000 and that co-operative building societies will provide £8,500,000, whilst the sum of £30,000,000 is to be provided for the construction of war service homes, an increase of £2,000,000 over the amount provided last year. War service homes will be provided only for ex-servicemen, most of whom, I venture to say, have now married. No provision is being made for ordinary young couples in the community. Under this measure, the sum of £32,000,000 is being provided. Those amounts in the aggregate will be sufficient to build only 24,000, whereas, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has pointed out, it is expected that from 70,000 to 80,000 marriages will take place this year. Where will those people, for whom no provision is being made, obtain finance for houses? “ Apparently, they will be obliged to depend upon the old stalking horses that are trotted out by the honorable member for Bennelong, “Mr. Private Enterprise” and “Mr. Landlord “, who have been responsible for the present unsatisfactory housing position. I sincerely hope that never again shall we permit homeseekers to he exploited by such interests. I admit that the war service home3 scheme is being expanded, and I am pleased about that fact. However, houses that will be constructed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will be provided only for tenants. Up to the present. this Government has failed to make provision for the purpose of enabling tenants to purchase their homes. I have shown clearly it is not making adequate provision for housing. Whereas, this year, we shall require to provide J.00,000 homes to meet existing needs, finance is being made available to build only 24,000 homes. That is a poor outlook for the family man who really wants a home.
To-day, a three-bedroom house costs, on the average at least £3,000. A family man requires a house of that size, but under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement provision is being made only for two-bedroom houses. The family man requires a three-bedroom house as a minimum. One bedroom is needed for the parents, one for the girls and one for the boys in the family. The Government, according to the honorable member for Bennelong, who speaks on its behalf in this matter, obviously desires to abandon the housing field to private enterprise. The landlord, who is the Government’s pal, has failed in this sphere in the past. Although construction costs of houses are too high, the Government refuses to do anything about the problem. According to the latest information that I have been able to obtain, those costs, which increased last year, are still increasing. The deposit that the Commonwealth Bank requires in financing the building of houses is beyond the reach of the ordinary family man. The bank is prepared to advance only £1,850, whereas the cost of building a house to-day is, on the average, £3,000. Very few workers have the means to bridge the gap between the amount of that deposit and the total cost of a house.
I shall show that, according to figures issued by the Treasury, present interest rates are far too high. The Prime Minister in the joint policy speech of the government parties, promised that this Government would advance for houses, but only in certain instances, the sum of £2,750 at a rate of interest of 4£ per cent., the loan to be repayable over a period of 45 years. I have no doubt that when that plan is brought down it will be found that such assistance will be provided only for persons who are not eligible to acquire a home through a housing authority. The Treasury figures show that over a period of 45 years the proposed loan of £2,750, plus interest at the rate of ii per cent., will be repaid at the rate of £2 14s. lOd. a week, and on that basis the total cost of such a home to a purchaser will amount to £6,415.
– What will be the original cost of such a house ?
– The original cost will be £2,750, but, in fact, over the period of 45 years, the repayment period, a purchaser will have paid £6,415 for such a home. Of that sum, interest will amount to £3,665 which will be more than the nominal cost of the house. The evil that discourages home-ownership is the charging of high rates of interest. As the Commonwealth Bank, last year and this year, made a profit of over £10,000,000 it should be required to reduce that rate, and I suggest that the rate should be not 4-J per cent, but 2£ per cent. Interest charges are the bugbear in home finance. I repeat, as I have said on previous occasions, that the. prime objective of the average Australian family is to own a home. That is elementary. It is the first target of the young married couple. The ownership of a home is regarded as the passport to family happiness. It has been the chief social incentive in life for most Australians, and it has produced more healthy and robust effort than has any other factor. The breadwinner, who is in the process of buying a home, has always been regarded as a solid citizen and good worker, because ownership of a home makes for happy and contented family life. However, that is not the position to-day. Yet the Government fails to deal with this problem. The fact is that families who would like to have a happy home are being broken because they cannot obtain a home which would serve to keep them together.
Divorce statistics show that from 7,000 to 8,000 divorces are granted each year. Most of those divorces arise from the fact that the young husband and wife cannot get a house in which* to live together. Consequently, they drift apart. That is a tragic state of affairs. Yet, the Government refuses to take cognisance of it but simply lets things float along while itpasses the buck to the States. The States cannot meet the housing needs of the community because they are unable to obtain the requisite finance. This Government must take a greater interest in this national problem. I repeat that this measure is totally inadequate to meet the housing requirements of the community. The shortage of homes is a real problem and the number of couples who will be unable to obtain homes will, on the basis of marriages taking place each year, continues to increase annually. I sincerely trust that on no account will the people permit this, or any other government to allow, as the honorable member for Bennelong has urged, the housing field to revert to the landlord and the estate agent.
.- Listening to the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) one might be led to believe that the Labour party, if it had. the opportunity, would really do something to meet the housing needs of the community.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) says, “ Hear, hear ! “ ; but the statistics do not prove that claim. The honorable member for Banks said that the average Australian wants to own his own home. When he made that statement none of his colleagues applauded it. Indeed, it was left to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) to express approval of it. The fact is that the Labour Government, after it initiated the agreement with which this bill deals, did surprisingly little to implement it during the following four years for which it remained in office. The Minister in that Government, who was in charge of the bill under which this agreement was initiated, in 1945, said that Labour did not believe in the workers owning their homes, because home ownership made “ little capitalists “ nut of them.
– He did not say anything of the sort.
– Yes, he did ; and when that gentleman made that statement none of his colleagues, who are now in Opposition, refuted it. Although the term “little capitalists” was not attributed to that gentleman in the report of the speech that appeared in Hansard, the fact remains that when he corrected his proof and deleted them, he inadvertently failed to delete the following paragraph which proved up to the hilt that that thought was in his mind all along the line. The honorable member for Banks said that last year the States asked for the sum of £52,000,000 for housing, but that only £37,000,000 was made available to them for the purpose.
– That is correct.
– As proceedings at the Australian Loan Council are held in camera, the honorable member’s informant on that point is probably mistaken. Indeed, his story in that respect is like the rumours that are now current about legislation that will be introduced by this Government in respect of the stabilization of the wheat industry. Some persons already have said that the plan that will be introduced under that legislation will be the “ Graham plan “.
– The “ Pollard plan “.
– The honorable member, apparently, is referring to the “ offal plan “, which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) advocated. The honorable member for Banks is aware that the Australian Loan Council, in which the State representatives are in a majority, determines the loan programme each year and that after that programme has been determined the States can have allotted to them for housing the amount which they themselves determine they require for that purpose.
– The Australian Government determines the amount that will be made available for housing.
– It is not the Australian Government hut the States themselves that determine that amount. After the borrowing programme has been decided upon, the Australian Government asks the States how much they will re- ii:i-p for certain purpose,, including housing, and the States determine the allocations of the funds available.
– Last year, the State? asked that £52,000,000 be made available for housing, but only £37,000,000 was allotted for that purpose.
– If the States had asked for £52,000,000 to be provided out of the approved borrowing programme for housing, that amount would have been made available for that purpose. 1 did not rise to waste time in dealing with the remarks of the honorable member for Banks. I wish to comment upon those of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) who opened this debate for the Opposition.
– Which Opposition?
– I do not know which section of it the honorable member for Eden-Monaro claimed to speak for. * Quorum formed.]*
When the honorable member for East Sydney interrupted proceedings by calling for a quorum, I was about to deal with some of the remarks made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro. The honorable gentleman commenced his speech by accusing this Government of having a complete disregard for the housing needs of the people, and went on to say that every anti-Labour government, to use his own expression, back through the ‘twenties and the thirties had the same attitude to the housing problem. Then he declared that the Australian Government had repudiated the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement by refusing to honour the provisions of clause 6. Amongst other things, he said that it was the work of saboteurs to refuse finance to State governments.
Let us examine the real position. If this Government, in fact, had no regard for the housing needs of the people, if it had repudiated the agreement by refusing to honour clause 6, and. if it was composed of saboteurs who refused finance to the State governments, how were all the new houses built in Australia during the last few years? I direct that question to the honorable member through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Let him also answer this question : If this Government has a complete disregard for the housing needs of the people, how was it possible, during the three years of the Menzies-
Fadden Administration immediately preceding the last general election, to build 227,565 houses in Australia whereas, during the last three years for which the Labour party was in power - and I remind the House that that period was frequently referred to by the Labour party as the “Golden Age”- only 140,016 homes were built? As honorable members can see, the number constructed in the second period, under this Government, was 50 per cent, higher than the number constructed during the period under Labour. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who, I suppose, is endeavouring to elevate himself within some section of the rabble that constitutes the Opposition, tries to discredit this Government knowing full well that the position is as I have explained it, because he has beard the facts time and time again. .
I have said that the honorable gentleman accused this Government of having refused to provide the States with finance for the purpose of home-building. As I explained earlier, it is not the Commonwealth that decides the amount to be set aside from the loan programme for housing. The States make that decision, and, if they have any complaints to make about the funds made available to them for housing, they must shoulder most of the responsibility. Unfortunately, I have figures for only two of the States, but I note with interest that, according to the New South Wales Auditor-General’s report for 1952-53, that State, which has been governed for a long time by Labour - too long in my opinion -had almost. £36,000,000 salted away. Where did that money come from? The honorable member for Banks a few minutes ago said, by interjection, that the New South Wales Government was very keen to build schools and advance education and that, therefore, it could not afford to build homes. Well, if it is so keen to do so, why does it not use some of the £36,000,000 it has socked away? In 1953-54, the amount of that reserve grew to almost £40,000,000. The last report of the New South Wales Auditor-General shows that the State had, at the 30th June, 1953, £26,300,000 in cash and £9,300,000 in securities. Most of that money was provided by the
Commonwealth, in response to requests made on behalf of New South Wales at conferences at Canberra at which Ministers of that State presented fantastic figures in respect of development and the need for funds.
The members of that Opposition from New South Wales who have taken part in this debate so far have tried to discredit this Government by making what they know to he deliberate misstatements of fact. The honorable member for EdenMonaro knows very well, because he has seen the figures published time after time, that, during the three years of this Government’s administration prior to the last general election, 227,565 houses were built in Australia compared with 140,016 in the last three years of the Labour Government’s regime. Just in case any Queenslanders on the Opposition side of the House would like to join in this argument on the ground that has been adopted by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Banks, I remind them that, earlier this week, it was disclosed that the Government of that State had £10,000,000 socked away in Commonwealth bonds and £15,000,000 in cash. Yet honorable members opposite turn round and say that this Government repudiates agreements !
– So it does.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), of course, would ape anybody, and that is why he says “ So it does “. The rabblerouser from Watson will liston, to anything and repeat it as the truth. He is one of the men who will pluck a figure out of the air and use it whenever he is allowed to raise his voice in this chamber.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro disputed the figures stated by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) in relation to Australia’s home building requirements. The Minister pointed out that we needed 60,000 new houses a year and were now building 75.000 a year, so that the lag was being overtaken at the rate of about 15,000 a year. The honorable member for EdenMonaro added the 15,000 to the 75,000, instead of subtracting the figure, and claimed that the Government should be building 90,000 houses a year, and, when he was twitted by interjection, he referred back to 1950. Very well ! Let us examine the position that existed in 1950. The formula for calculating the nation’s housing needs, which has been used by the former Labour Government as well as by this Government, is based on the number of marriages and the rate of immigration each year. This system disregards entirely such matters as slum clearance, which is another proposition. In 1947-48 and 1949-50, there were approximately four persons in each home so that, for the purpose of the formula, Australia needed 95,000 houses in 1950. On the same formula, we need 58,000 a year now in order to satisfy the demand that arises from marriages and immigration. Yet the honorable member for Eden-Monaro says that we need approximately 90,000 a year.
– What about the back lag?
– The back lag is being overtaken. I am sure the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) heard the Minister explain the situation when he introduced the bill.
This Government has no need to conceal its record in respect of housing. It has made £70,000,000 available annually for housing. That figure leaves out of account entirely .the £20,000,000 a year that has been provided by the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member for Banks complained to-night that the bank would make only £5,000,000 available for housing this year. I asked him, by interjection, where he obtained that information, but he made no reply. The Prime Minister stated in this House only recently that he would obtain information on this point for an honorable member who asked a question in relation to co-operative building societies. I have no doubt that a considerable sum will be provided for housing by the Commonwealth Bank, as well as by the Government, this year. The honorable member for Bennelong told the House earlier to-night that, including the £32,000,000 to be provided this year, a total oi £210.000,000 has been made available by the Commonwealth for housing since the inception of the present scheme. The total to the 30th June last was £178,000,000. Since then, although this legislation has not yet been passed, I understand that £6,000,000 has been handed out for home building.
The Commonwealth must watch closely the activities of some of the State governments. In Western Australia, for’ example, the State Housing Minister, instead of concentrating on the building of houses so that the tenants may perhaps be able to buy their homes in the future, is planning the building of large blocks of flats. I believe that there will be 252 flats in one of these blocks. This Minister glibly told the people that the flats were to provide accommodation for age and invalid pensioners, but, when he was tackled on that point, the Premier entered the field and said that the three top stories of these ten-story buildings would be made available to pensioners.
– There will be lifts in the buildings.
– Certainly. They will be very modern structures, and they will have electric lifts. But, as the honorable member knows, all lifts have a very bad habit of breaking down from time to time. This wonderful Labour Government in Western Australia, which has such sympathy for the people whom it describes as the poor, unfortunate pensioners, will put such people in flats on the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of its new buildings, so that, if the lifts break down, they will have to climb all the way ro their flats ! What wonderful treatment for aged people and invalid pensioners! That is the sort of thing that is done by a Labour government which is always talking of the work that it does for the underdog. When this sort of thing is going on in the States, it is up to the Australian Government to examine closely the payments that it makes to the States for various purposes.
Wv nave Deen told ±11 »» Catani, Aus. tralia that no money ordinarily allotted for housing will be used for the construction of the flats I have mentioned. From what source will the money come? The projects that I have mentioned will cost £400,000. If that sum is not to come from moneys ordinarily advanced to the State Government for housing purposes, it must come from moneys advanced to it for other purposes, lt could easily be money intended for expenditure on water supply schemes, schools, hospitals, and so forth. Unless there is some honesty on the part of State governments in the expenditure of funds received from the Commonwealth, it will be the bounden duty of this Government, when the term of the present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement expires, to frame a new agreement under which the Commonwealth itself will deal with the people who want to build or buy homes. It should be something similar to the war service homes scheme, under which exservicemen are dealt with directly and given opportunities to build. For example, an ex -serviceman can be his own contractor, or can work under a self-help scheme, and so save himself a few hundred pounds.
– That is not right.
– The honorable member for Watson does not know what is going on. He would not have a clue, because he does not move around and see what is happening in respect of the building of war service homes. If he did so, he would probably know more about housing. If the State governments are going to try to play ducks and drakes with the money supplied to them by this Commonwealth, then it is the bounden duty of the Australian Government to ensure that the money it raises from the people shall be properly applied to the objectives for which it was raised. That is to help people to own their own homes. The members of the Labour party in this House talk about what they would do if they were in. power, but we all know that when the Labour party was in office and had an opportunity to do things, it did very little.
– The Labour party won the war.
– The Labour party constructed a pretty good building on a very solid foundation that was laid by a non-Labour government. When a Labour government assumed office in October, 1941, its leader, the late John Curtin, said that he paid a tribute to the previous government for the foundations that it had laid in respect of Australia’s war effort. It is this Government’s intention to ensure that the moneys paid to the States for housing shall be applied in the right direction. On the 4th May, during the last general election campaign, the Prime Minister said that advances would be made to the people up to £2,750 for the pur chase of existing houses, built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, to be repaid over a period of 45 years at 4 J per cent. Undoubtedly, the Labour party will say that we were forced into that declaration. If it does so, it should consider the action of its leader (Dr. Evatt), who, on the 6th May, only two days after the Prime Minister’s declaration, made a fantastic statement about what he would do for the people in the way of housing. He was apparently treating the election campaign as an auction, and was trying to outbid the Prime Minister. But the people did not accept his bids, and the Labour party is still the Opposition. Honorable members opposite can shed crocodile tears as long as they like about what they would do if they were in office. They had plenty of opportunity to do something, but they did practically nothing. This Government has been perfectly honest with the people, and while it continues its sane and solid policy for the benefit of the people it will continue to occupy the treasury bench.
.- The matter before honorable members is the important one of housing. The activities of this Government in the housing field constitute a national tragedy. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton has tried to excuse the Government by talking about how much money it is allocating for housing, how the States can vote in the Australian Loan Council, and so on. However, in regard to that matter the most important point to remember is that clause 6 of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement reads -
The Commonwealth will advance to each State the moneys heretofore expended in the carrying out of a housing project or projects, and the moneys that shall be hereafter required for the carrying out of the State’s housing projects as notified to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth from time to time.
Therefore, whatever money a State may have for housing must be supplied by the Commonwealth. But this Government has repudiated that housing agreement, and no honeyed words by the honorable member for Canning will make the people believe otherwise. I hopethat the electors of Canning noticed the wording of clause 6 of the agreement that I read just recently.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) also spoke in this debate. He said that there are now less people in city electorates than there were nine years ago, but that there are still the same number of houses, or even more. Therefore, he said, the people should be better housed than they were nine years ago. However, he did not tell honorable members that the New South Wales Labour Government has been feverishly building houses throughout all that time in an endeavour to get married people out of tin shanties, back rooms and garages, and out of their parents’ homes, into new housing settlements in outer suburbs.
– Order ! Reading in the galleries is out of order.
– The honorable member for Bennelong who, in private life is an estate agent, has an axe to grind in this debate. He would like to see us go back to the good old days of private enterprise. Indeed, he said, “ Let uhave fair competition “. Well, let us consider how private enterprise and fair competition- operate to-day. Consider the business of estate agents who are in competition with each other. To-day, key money racketeers are flouting all the laws of the country, and preying on the misery and poverty of the poor people who cannot find homes for love or money. People who want accommodation must pay high premiums for a few curtains, a carpet, or a few pieces of old furniture in order to get some sort of dwelling that the honorable member for Bennelong calls a housing unit. That unit which the honorable member spoke about could be anything. It could be a garage, a tin shanty or a caravan, and estate agents that prey on home seekers from day to day charge key money and premiums for all sorts of places that no intelligent person would care to live in.
To-day, our housing is in a deplorable state. There are 400,000 families in Australia who are homeless. Assuming chat an average family is composed of three people, then there are about 1,200,000 people in this country who at present need homes. The Government has to face up to that position, whether it likes it or not. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) no doubt has a good home, with wall-to-wall carpet in it and a telephone at his bedside. He lies back in comfort in his home and gives no thought to the person who is living in a shed or a back room, and who cannot pay the high prices demanded by racketeers for better accommodation. There are many phoney auctions of property in this country, at which agents have stooges bidding in order to force prices of property far beyond the amount that ordinary individuals can pay. After the prices have been forced up they claim that the reserves have not been reached, and then the properties are turned in. We are tending to build up, in housing, one of the worst monopolies that could exist.
I heard to-day about a block of land in an undeveloped area with a 40-ft. frontage to a back street in my electorate. That land was sold for £1,700. Yet the Minister for. the Interior has said that this measure will give the ordinary people a chance to build a home. If a man has to pay £1,700 for a block of land and, say, about £4,000 to £5,000 to build a house on it, his total cost would be about £6,000. He would need at least half the basic wage to pay his interest, without paying one penny off the capital and without paying his rates and electric light, gas and water service fees. Ordinary men cannot afford to build houses under those circumstances. The Minister should wake up to these facts, although I see that he is asleep at the table at present.
– Order! The honorable member had better confine his remarks to the bill.
– I am doing my best to keep the Minister awake.
– All sorts of pious platitudes are spoken by Government supporters in this House, but the housing position is now worse than it has ever been before in our history. Ex-servicemen and women are anxiously looking for accommodation in which they can live and rear their children in a happy and contented atmosphere. This Government is supposed to be a champion of the exservicemen. Indeed there is an exservicemen’s committee among its supporters, to look after the interests of exservicemen. Honorable members on the Government side love the ex-serviceman - before he goes to war.
– Order ! This bill does not deal with war service homes.
– I rise to order. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that half the homes built under the agreement shall be made available to ex-servicemen.
– Order ! There is a separate bill dealing with war service homes.
– An ex-serviceman who has not a block of land, has to buy an existing dwelling under the war service homes legislation, or has to approach a State housing authority and try to get into a ballot to get one of its homes. Therefore. I suggest that my reference to ex-servicemen is in order. I am fed up with the protestations of Government supporters in relation to their efforts on behalf of the ex-servicemen. I suggest that the Government should give to New South Wales, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, a sum. shall we say, of £60,000,000 to enable it to build, through the instrumentalities that are already established, homes for the people. That could be done quite easily, because the Government is able to hand out money to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and to other vested interests that are in close liaison with it, especially at election time. It is able to protect the interests of such companies as airline companies, and to prevent them from collapsing. It should hand out a lot more money under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agree.ment to prevent a collapse of the country’s economy.
I refer now to the problem with which young married couples are confronted. The recipe, shall I say, for obtaining a home is that one must first provide a deposit of £1,000. It would be humorous, if it were not so tragic, to ask the ordinary working man, after his wages have been frozen, to save that amount of money. Under existing conditions, young married couples are precluded from obtaining a home. What a wonderful outlook confronts a man and his wife and children who have to live in a back room, and who are forced to realize that, during their lifetime, they will not be able to obtain a home in which they can live. The necessity to find such a large deposit rnakes it possible for the financial shark to prey upon such people. He steps in and, if one has a large deposit, he is able to make all the financial arrangements. He will arrange, possibly, for a first and a second mortgage. The unhappy victim is led to a building society or money lender, or to any other source that will afford him a ray of hope. He is then completely in the net. He is bound by first and second mortgages, and later, because of worry and stress, he becomes ill and perhaps unemployed. We know that unemployment is prevalent at any time. If the would-be home owner fails to pay his weekly instalments, he is faced with a foreclosure, eviction, and ruin. This Government does not give the people any hope. It is acting, more or less, in collusion with vested interests.
Day after day so-called phoney auctions are held and they are forcing up the prices of land and homes to an unheard of level. If one goes to any suburb in any city of Australia, he will discover that there are flats and cottages for sale, with vacant possession, at exhorbitant prices. There is nothing unreal about that. Such places remain vacant day after day, week after week, and year after year. Why does the Government allow such things to happen? Why does it allow properties to remain vacant for six months and twelve months at a stretch when people, are living in caravans, shacks, tents, sheds, shanties and other forms of shelter? It is time that the Government did something about it. All it thinks about is profit, and protecting the interests of those who are in search of profit. When a satisfactory percentage of profit is not available, the Government, and the interests that support it, are not interested in the welfare of the people. The “ spec “ builder, who is nurtured and pampered by the Government, is the architect of the blueprint of misery and despair that is presented to the poorer classes of people who are searching for homes. Because he is building huge blocks of flats on the smallest possible areas, he will be responsible for the slums of the future. He breaks all kinds of laws and regulations in doing so.
– Who does?
– The jerry-builder, who is pampered and nurtured by the Government, and the real estate institutes which have poured thousands of pounds into the coffers of the Liberal party to ensure its re-election to office. The jerrybuilders, who are responsible for the erection of slums, sell them to unwary people on all sorts of terms, the implications of which the victims fail to realize until they are in the net. One of the rackets that is being practised is the building of blocks of six or eight flats. Tho builders form companies and obtain their money by snide methods. They say to the prospective tenants, “ You may join the company if you take out a £4,000 share “. The builders do not sell the property; they sell shares in the company. If they sell one share for £4,000, and if there are twelve shares, they obtain £48,000 for a block of flats that they have built for approximately £S,000 or £10,000. The Minister for the Interior may smile, but the fact remains that such things are occurring. Such companies will make arrangements, also, for finance. They state that easy terms can be arranged. In 1920, there was in existence a racket under which a person was offered a home on a deposit of £50 and easy terms for the balance. In 1923, there was a depression, and the sharks walked in and evicted people from their homes. The same pattern is being followed to-day. Supporters of the Government do not know of any other pattern than that which provides for fabulous riches on the one hand, and poverty and despair on the other hand.
Australia’s economy is deteriorating from day to day. One of the greatest rackets that ever plagued this country is the housing racket. The racketeers, the black marketeers and the real estate institutes are all in the racket, and I make no hones about saying so. There may be one or two honest persons, but the majority of people associated with the provision of homes are in the racket. They prevail upon the timber monopolies not to sell timber to small builders, and they prevail upon the brick monopolies to work hand in hand with them. I know that such things are happening, because people continually come to me in my official capacity, and ask me whether I can help them to obtain 8,000 or 10,000 bricks with which to commence the building of their homes. The huge brick monopolies are working hand in hand, the timber monopolies are working hand in hand, the tile monopolies are working hand in hand, and those people who control the other commodities that are necessary for the building of homes are working hand in hand.
Mr. Osborne interjecting,
– The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) belongs to a certain profession, the legal profession, which ties up all the contracts for the racketeers so that they may trap the unwary. The honorable member, with smug complacency and smiling countenance, well fed and contented, is willing to assist the racketeers to cause more misery and poverty to the unwary.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable gentleman to return to the provisions of the bill.
– Another vicious racket is the key money racket.
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to deal with the bill. He has spent a long time on extraneous matters.
– That is the key to the bill, Mr. Speaker.
– I am trying to develop the argument that the Government should make available more money so that the State housing commissions may build more homes and provide for fairer competition. Let us provide £60,000,000 to the State governments, and use the organizations that are already in existence. The Government could use the State brickworks to obtain bricks, and it could use the State timber mills to get timber. Let the Government honour the agreement, and pay to the State governments the money to which they are legally entitled. The influx of immigrants year after year is making the housing position more difficult. In 1949, the £1 had a much greater purchasing power than it has to-day. To-day, £37,000,000 will purchase only what £1S,000,000 purchased in 1949. The Government boasts that it has done one thing this year, and another thing in a previous year. As a result of the restrictions the Government has imposed upon the payment of money to the States, 4,000 fewer homes have been built this year than were built in the corresponding period last year. The Minister for the Interior may take note of that. Perhaps he could discuss the matter again with the Cabinet, and place these facts before it. Then it may decide to allocate a little more money to the States for building purposes. The New South Wales Government is doing a wonderful job in housing the people. Through its huge organization, the Housing Commission, it has alleviated much of the misery that prevailed a few years ago. However, it is subject to much frustration by this Government’s continual financial restrictions, which are beginning to take toll even of the great New South Wales Housing Commission, which is available fo’ the building of homes if this Government has the people’s welfare at heart. Let us also make money available on easy terms so that it may be advanced by building societies at an interest rate of, say, 3 per cent. Let us pour money into homebuilding and build houses on every vacant block of land, so that young married couples shall be able to rear families in proper living conditions.
This Government takes pride m the number of immigrants that it brings to Australia each year. It estimates the cost at about £1,000 for each immigrant. People who come from overseas to make their homes in Australia are good citizens, and we need them. But it would be better to encourage Australians to have more children and increase the natural-born population by 1,000,000 bonny young Australians. We could help to achieve this objective by giving £1,000 to each Australian family to enable it to pay a deposit on a home, instead of spending that sum on each immigrant. Australians should be encouraged and given an incentive to rear more bonny little Australians by being afforded better opportunities to obtain homes and ensure security for their future. If this were done, married couples would have no hesitation in having up to eight children, and the population would increase accordingly.
– Ha, ha!
– This matter seems to afford amusement to honorable members opposite, most of whom are married and have no children.
– That is better than being unmarried and having a lot of children.
– If the honorable member is a man of the type that is unmarried and has a lot of children, that is no fault of mine.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I fervently appeal to the Government to assist Australia’s young married couples. I sincerely believe that many thousands more homes could be built than are being constructed at present. Let us not build blocks of Hats. Let us give the people cottages on blocks of land of adequate size so that the children may be reared and play in a healthy atmosphere. Central bank credit should be used effectively. It could be made available at a low rate of interest, and it would represent a gilt-edged security against all forms of communism. We in this chamber hear much talk about the evils and dangers of communism. The greatest bulwark against communism is hip,v homes and contented families. Let this Government, in tradesman-like fashion, do the job that it should be doing. If it sincerely wishes to forestall the development of communism it can best do so by ensuring that Australians may live in healthy and happy homes.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. WHEELER adjourned/
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Wine Overseas Marketing Bill 1954.
Without requests -
Wine Grapes Charges Bill 1964.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Motion (by Sir ERIC Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- 1 desire to raise a question-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Government Loans and Finance.
Mr.Wentworth asked the Minister acting for the Treasurer, upon notice -
What loan moneys have been made avail able to the State of New South Wales for each financial year subsequent to 1950-51?
What is the exact date and amount of each drawing of loan moneys by New South Wales since the 30th June, 1951.
All the above amounts were paid over to the State before the 30th June each year.
rke asked the Minister acting for the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that there has been some tightening in the availability of bank credit, intended apparently to counter mounting inflationary pressures, will he indicate in general terms the nature of the new instructions issued by the central bank to the trading banks on credit policy?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Commonwealth Bank advises that no detailed instructions have recently been issued to the trading banks concerning their lending operations. However, the Commonwealth Bank in the later months of 1953-54 sought the co-operation of the banks in the exercise of greaterrestraint. This was referred to in the Commonwealth Bank’s recent annual report which also mentioned the encouragement given to the banks to support business activity early in 1953-54. The financial needs of the economy are kept under continual review by the Government and the Commonwealth Bank, and the Commonwealth Bank keeps close touch with the trading bankson the broad characterof their lending activities in the light of the need to maintain full employment and, at the same time, to prevent the emergence of inflationary conditions.
z asked the Minister acting for the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19541021_reps_21_hor5/>.